Panel recommendations on Auckland's Unitary Plan released

Nearly two years after hearings began, on 27 July 2016 the Independent Hearings Panel’s recommendations on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (“PAUP”) were publicly released. This represents a significant milestone for the PAUP, which will be Auckland’s planning rulebook setting out what can be built and where, and the wider vision for Auckland’s growth. The PAUP will have significant implications for those with property interests in Auckland, both now and in the future.

Summary of Panel recommendations

The documents comprising the Panel's recommendations include:

  • an overview report summarising the Panel's recommended changes to the PAUP;
  • individual reports for each PAUP topic (e.g. subdivision, historic heritage etc) outlining the Panel’s recommendations and reasons; and
  • a recommended version of the PAUP (i.e. the Panel's recommended Plan text and maps). 

From an initial review, the Panel has not shied away from making a number of bold recommendations, many of which represent significant changes from the PAUP as notified.

Key take-home points, which the Panel has identified as “headlines”, include:

  1. Enable a development pattern to meet demand for the next 30 years and double the feasible enabled residential capacity to exceed 400,000 dwellings.
  2. Retain the Rural Urban Boundary but expand it to include 30 per cent more land and enable it to be changed by private plan changes.
  3. Focus urban growth on centres, transport nodes and corridors to achieve a quality compact urban form.
  4. Remove density controls in residential zones.
  5. Maintain amenity values using bulk and location standards.
  6. Protect historic heritage places and retain special character areas.
  7. Delete the pre-1944 building demolition control overlay.
  8. Delete provision for framework plans and enable comprehensive consenting processes for subdivision, including earthworks and provision of infrastructure.
  9. Remove the mandatory requirement to provide for “retained affordable housing” and instead promote affordable housing choice by enabling a mix of dwelling types, adaptation of existing housing stock and increasing supply.
  10. Remove or reduce requirements for on-site parking.
  11. Streamline network infrastructure provisions in a standalone section.
  12. Enable rural production activities and rural subdivision that supports rural production and the protection of biodiversity values.
  13. Protect identified natural, social and cultural values of significant ecological areas, outstanding natural landscapes and features, areas of outstanding and high natural character and views to and between the maunga.
  14. Delete the Schedule of Sites of Value to Mana Whenua until the evidential basis for it has been assembled.
  15. Delete references to cultural impact assessments, integrated transport assessments, and design statements and rely on the standard requirements for assessment of effects on the environment.
  16. Delete plan provisions where effects are better managed by other methods.

Click here to view the Panel’s full recommendations on the Auckland Council website.

What’s next?

Council decisions

The Council is currently considering the Panel’s recommendations. The next key date is expected to be 19 August 2016, when the Council is due to notify its decisions on the PAUP (recommendations and decisions on designations are subject to different timeframes). The Council can either accept or reject each of the Panel’s recommendations. Where the Council rejects a recommendation - in full or in part - it must decide an alternative solution.

Given the short timeframe for the Council to issue its decisions, and the novel appeals process (see below), we expect the Council to be relatively selective in any departures from the Panel’s recommendations. Key issues the Council may be motivated to take a stand on include: the level of intensification provided for in various zones; the treatment of the Rural Urban Boundary; historic heritage/special character (in particular the recommended deletion of the Pre-1944 overlay); framework plans; and affordable housing.


There are limited appeal rights in relation to the Council’s decisions. Appeals to the Environment Court are generally restricted to those matters where the Council rejects the Panel’s recommendations (and “out of scope” matters). Appeals to the High Court on points of law are allowed where the Council accepts the Panel’s recommendations.

Appeals on the PAUP (excluding designations) must be lodged within 20 working days of the Council’s decisions, meaning that appeals will likely be due by 16 September 2016.


Within a relatively short period of time, parties will need to carefully analyse the Panel recommendations (and the Council decisions, once released) in order to see how the changes affect them.

ChanceryGreen intends to provide tailored analysis of the Panel’s recommendations and Council decisions for a number of clients. Feel free to contact us if you would like to better understand how the PAUP may affect you or your business, or to discuss potential opportunities for involvement in the next stages.

Posted on July 27, 2016 .