Unitary Plan myths busted

City park.Mis-information is being spread about the draft Auckland Unitary Plan, which is causing misunderstanding and unnecessary concern amongst our communities.

We welcome your feedback but it is important that it is based on facts and what is actually being proposed, rather than myths. You have less than three weeks – 31 May – to submit feedback.

Below are the most commonly incorrect statements being made about the draft plan and the correct situation.

Myth 1: Your house could be taken off you and be demolished to make way for terraced housing and apartments.
Fact: Nobody will be forced to change their way of living. Auckland Council does not have the power to take your property from you. Nothing will ever change on your property unless you as the property owner decide to renovate, build or sell.

Myth 2: Auckland Council is trying to attract 1 million more people.
Fact: Auckland Council is not trying to attract more people nor does it have a target for another 1 million people. We are however prudently planning for it. The figure of 1 million is based on the Statistics New Zealand high growth rate, which has made predictions about Auckland’s population for the next 30 years. Most of the growth will be from Aucklanders having children and migration from within New Zealand.

Myth 3: Apartments are planned in every neighbourhood.
Fact: Apartments won’t appear in every neighbourhood. In fact the proposed terraced housing and apartment building zone will make up only 7% of Auckland’s total residential land use.

Myth 4: High density = high rise.
Fact: No. The majority of future Auckland housing will remain at two storeys. Increased density will be achieved by allowing for well-designed housing options on smaller lots. Multi-level dwellings in residential areas will be between four and six storeys, not high-rise which is considered over nine storeys. Some of the areas proposed for terrace housing and apartments already have apartments of this height.

Myth 5: Aucklanders do not want to live in apartments.
Fact: Many Aucklanders already choose to live in apartments. There are 3-4 level apartments across Auckland. Those choosing this lifestyle are not just younger Aucklanders or students but baby boomers who are downsizing their property for low maintenance living.

Myth 6: The draft Unitary Plan will allow for rows of badly designed block buildings and shoeboxes.
Fact: Quality design for our city’s future development and public spaces is a top priority under the proposed Unitary Plan rules. Some of what’s been built in Auckland in the past has been too small, not enough variety, and not well designed. The rules for minimum unit sizes is proposed to be 30sq m plus a mandatory 8 sq m outdoor living space. There cannot be a building solely made up of units of a minimum size as there are limits on how many of one type of unit a building can have. The draft Unitary Plan sets design controls, which will be supported by the Auckland Design Manual.

Myth 7: There is not adequate protection for heritage homes.
Fact: The draft Auckland Unitary Plan provides more protection for character and heritage homes than currently exists. The Plan recognises that a balance is needed for homes of historic character. It proposes a set of rules and controls that acknowledges Auckland’s distinctive villa and bungalow suburbs and that a number of factors are needed to fairly evaluate what homes should be protected from demolition or removal. At the same time, it recognises that some residents want to have the ability to make changes to their home. While these evaluations are being done, the Plan proposes an interim blanket protection for all pre-1944 buildings.

Myth 8: The Council is deliberately creating a divide between the young and old.
Fact: Auckland Council is involving all Aucklanders in the discussion about our city’s future and we are not singling out or favouring any particular section of our diverse community. We are getting feedback from all ages.

Myth 9: Infrastructure and transport are ignored in the Unitary Plan.
Fact: Planned new developments will only occur with adequate infrastructure in place. The draft Auckland Unitary Plan sets out rules to ensure safe, efficient and secure development, operation and upgrading of infrastructure. The Plan has specific sections on infrastructure. However, it is wrong to expect that the Plan deals or must deal with all aspects of infrastructure.

Myth 10: If a terrace house or apartment is built next to me, I will experience shadowing, loss of privacy and sunlight.
Fact: The draft Plan has specific rules that will protect the privacy, sunlight etc. of neighbours that apply to all such new apartment developments. They include height in relation to boundary (daylight access rule) and privacy rules.

Myth 11: We don’t need to change anything.
Fact: When Auckland’s eight councils amalgamated, there were 14 different district and regional plans. The council is still operating under these plans, many of which are out of date, have inconsistent rules and are more than 10 years old. The Government required the new Auckland Council to create a single Unitary Plan for the whole of Auckland under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). It is needed for us to implement the 30-year Auckland Plan and create the world’s most liveable city.

Myth 12: My property has a Significant Ecological Area (SEA) which means everything from trimming a tree or clearing any vegetation will require resource consent and I can never develop the land.
Fact: SEAs are about protecting unique native plants and animals but council recognises that protection must be balanced against individual property owners’ rights to use and manage their land. Minor vegetation pruning and trimming, pruning of trees within 3m of a dwelling, maintaining existing tracks, ecological restoration and emergency works to protect people or property would all be permitted. A consent would be required to clear indigenous vegetation (e.g. for new building sites). A consent for a first house site on undeveloped SEAs where no alternative exists would always be granted. There would be no cost for processing these consents in relation to SEA.

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