Auckland Unitary Plan – What’s your say?

ANDRE

Good/Bad effects

Good:The good effects are too many to name; intensification by better design has to be better than the old density solution that we have been limited by for the past few decades. In order to have a future which is better for the people who live and work in the city, changes were required. Making design a key consideration of the density means the quality and quantity of our spaces will improve. 

Bad: The changes are going to be almost too difficult for most of the landowners to relate to. I will be happy to be wrong here.

Will it work? Sustainability/Affordability etc!

Sustainability/Affordability is a medium to long-term subject. On a large scale, sustainability is workable, and big thinking organizations like local authorities can make huge savings by thinking sustainably. For the homeowner, it involves a different co-design thought process, and yes, smaller buildings which are designed properly, with sustainably environmental design can make very affordable outcomes for these spaces. It just takes thought of design at the right time and an understanding of what we can achieve. 

Are the new rules/regulations easier to work with (from an architect side)?

No! Better for a design outcome, Yes! The new rules have specifically been created to allow the better design to be promoted, especially with regards to intensification “Intensify by design”. 

Will transport etc be able to handle to growth?

This is a matter of medium to long-term outcomes. Once Auckland and Aucklanders learn that the vehicle might not be required as much as we currently think it is, we can grow as a city. Some of the most advanced and biggest cities in the world don’t rely on private transport like we do. This is why the council has created the Unitary Plan like they have; to allow more people to live in the city of Auckland and allow it to be a happy and functional place for its occupants. There is room for all, just with many different types of living spaces, but yes, most of these are foreign to historical Aucklanders.

SEMISI

Good/Bad effects: 

Good: Allows for more design innovation. Restrictions are not fully prescribed but assessed by performance, i.e At the hand of designers.

Bad: Allows for more bad design. Fill up the site as much as possible and provide the minimum. Daylight, living court etc.

Will it work? Sustainability/Affordability etc!

Environmental sustainability? Not sure. Affordability? we are not sure if we can dictate this component of the industry. We are at the mercy of global economy (trade) which in effect controls merchants (steel and the material prices) and then contractors who are entitled to a profit and material margins and so forth.

Are the new rules/regulations easier to work with (from an architect side)?

Fewer rules mean less control for those who require rules. New rules give designers more control but in return, Council demands thorough assessment of that specific impact.

Will transport etc be able to handle to growth?

It depends, worldwide most growing cities are always having transport and other infrastructure issues, so, by the time these Auckland road infrastructures are completed, we have to work on the next 15-year plan. It seems to be an ongoing process.

ISABEL

Good/Bad effects

Good: I am personally very excited about the Unitary Plan. Auckland is a fantastic city to live in and the new plan means that more people will be able to enjoy what this great city has to offer. I just can’t wait to see all the apartments and terrace houses that we have been talking about for so long popping up everywhere. And, of course, all the opportunities that will come with it. 

Bad: I believe Aucklanders, in general, will have a very hard time adapting to the new plan. I think people are excited about the growth and opportunity factor but there is also a fair amount of compromise. Ask any homeowner living the quarter acre dream how they would feel about living in apartments or in a terrace house and they will almost panic at the thought of living without enough space to put their bikes, boats, and trucks. NIMBYism will always be one of the biggest enemies to the Unitary Plan. 

Will it work? Sustainability/Affordability etc!

There is a great potential for the plan to work, reaching its objective of providing Auckland with the infrastructure capacity and space for growth. If it will work or not, only time will tell.  

Are the new rules/regulations easier to work with (from an architect side)?

The plan has a very direct approach which makes it clear and really easy to understand. Except for the rule regarding Setbacks for Daylight (haha)

PRISTINE

Good/Bad effects

Good: The proposed unitary plan allows for intensified development: increasing the density of houses per land and fewer restrictions on some development controls mean that landowners can get more value for what their capital and that the wider community can benefit from it. Hopefully, it will solve the issues of lack of housing (although this is also dependent on economic issues and major stakeholders (so I digress)). The consolidation of different district plan rules to have one framework to work on is very good. Before AUP, similar lots will have different rules because they have different districts- one district can be lenient on the setback, while the other is not. But in the AUP, a mixed housing suburban lot in West Auckland will have the same controls as one in South Auckland (provided that there are no other restrictions/ overlays/ etc). But what I find really great about this is that it puts everyone on the same equal playing field, every Aucklander enjoys the same right as the other. How the council has categorized the different land areas is also commendable. They identified areas of immediate growth and major transport routes and categorized the areas around it accordingly. They also took into consideration the natural characteristic of the lands and resources and ensured that it is protected while still allowing for intensification.

Bad: Living in this beautiful city and country for more than 8 years now, I find that everyone appreciates the big backyards for the kids, the endless and unblocked summer sunshine, etc; and others might assume that AUP, with its intensification, will reduce access to these amenities. There was news of some families crying upon hearing their zone has changed due to the unitary plan. Reading these stories made me realize that the bad effect of the plan is that it will be hard for the landowners to fully grasp that their property is not an island in the middle of nowhere but part of a collective whole. In putting everyone on the same playing field, of course, we will hear opinions on why it shouldn’t be that way. But this also gives us designers a bigger sense of responsibility, to ensure that everyone enjoys these amenities and in educating that the AUP is not for the benefit of one or two big corporations, but for the city and the community in general.

Are the new rules/regulations easier to work with (from an architect side)?

I find that the consolidation of the different district plan rules into one framework means efficiency in the future. A single lot zone in West Auckland will be the same in South Auckland; unlike before that, I’d focus on lots of documents from the different council. To ensure that amenity values are retained while encouraging development, rules on outlook/ sunlight access/ privacy have been introduced (to be calculated). Some information is still quite unclear, and the lack of “Search” function on the website makes it harder to figure out the terms they are referring too. I think it will take some trial and error from our end, and it will be a lot helpful if the council has a firmer answer on the questions we have about the rules.

Will transport etc be able to handle to growth?

What I find very interesting in AUP is the requirement for bicycle parking areas and removal of carpark requirement for studio/1 bedroom apartment units. The planners must have in mind something the European cities where biking is the main option, or like Singapore where owning a car means a lot of taxes. I remember a lecture in Urban Planning: we were told the massive highways that we construct now are products of the current technology (cars) so we should always think of what will happen when to these infrastructures when the technology improves (cars started flying)- what are we going to do with the highways? However, we do have issues on how reliable public transport is (here in West there is no dedicated bus lane to the city, so it takes longer). The main argument is that cars are convenient, but AUP actually tries to bring this convenience closer to us (home occupation at the end of a residential street). It is an ideal scenario; though it will take more than these plans and proposals. There should be more implementation from governing bodies (Auckland Transport and national government).

PAULINE

Good/Bad effects

Good: From what I have researched about this it looks fantastic, like a good, worked out plan should. And with many years in development, one would assume that the plan has been hashed out, and every logical and illogical aspect of the plan would have been accessed. Theoretically, the Unitary Plan gains my support in solving a great deal of Auckland’s infrastructure issues. Releasing more land, building more houses, making design easier, Higher density etc. It has all the right consistency required to shape Auckland into a more liveable and environmentally sustainable city while adding both economic and social benefits. 

Bad: Auckland has a crisis on its hand, and in theory, the Unitary Plan will work. No, it DOES work. But as a self-proclaimed analytical thinker, my question has to be; Who is going to build these houses? And all the amenities required to go with them i.e schools, swimming pools, gyms, restaurants, shops etc.  Auckland already has a severe skill shortage, right from laborers to civil engineers. There is just not enough skill capacity in NZ to carry out a number of skilled workers required for the new Unitary Plan. On average, 270 dwellings are to be built, per week, if the plan is to be adhered to. I can already see builders sweating bucket loads over the actual mental thought of this. At the moment, it is very near impossible to get a builder in Auckland – more people with skills are needed, which means more immigration.. (quiet snigger to myself…)

Will it work? Sustainability/Affordability etc!

I would love to see more sustainable housing introduced to homes in NZ, rather than the money grabbing heat-pumps or fire starting electric heaters – No wonder insurance is so high. Houses, even new houses, are damp. I live in a new house, and every month the windows are black with mold. Introducing a more passive way of living begins with the design process, and it can have a huge impact, in a good way, to your savings. Affordability issue; I personally would love to see the house market drop, or at the very least even out but honestly, I cannot see myself being able to afford a house in Auckland anytime in the near future, especially with the average being in excess of $900k. Introducing more houses through density has the possibility of steadying the market, but include the outside factors like a majority of materials used to build come from international sources. lack of skilled labor, higher wage costs for good labor. All these get passed down to the client, which adds to the rise in house prices also. 

Will transport etc. be able to handle to growth?

Transport in NZ really needs an overhaul, and I think, with the introduction of this new plan, it is eventually getting one, in all areas, which is commendable. I think the council have really thought about all infrastructure in depth, and have already started major works.

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