National Policy Statement on Urban Development – what does it mean for Remuera?

Under threat. 37 Upland Road, Sholto Smith arts & craft design, July 2021 (Remuera Register)

Under threat. 37 Upland Road, Sholto Smith arts & craft design, July 2021 (Remuera Register)

44 Ventnor Rd new townhouses July 2021

Gone. 44 Ventnor Road, 1930s dwelling, 2020.(Barfoot & Thompson)

Gone. 44 Ventnor Road, 1930s dwelling, 2020 (Barfoot & Thompson)

Gone. 44 Ventnor Road, 1930s dwelling, 2020.(Barfoot & Thompson)

Auckland Council has released proposed approaches for implementing the government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) including the policies requiring more intensification across the city. The NPS-UD is government policy aiming to improve housing supply and affordability. It directs councils to plan for more housing and businesses to be built in places that give people good access to jobs, community services and public transport and in response to market demand.

As directed by the government, unless a ‘qualifying matter’ applies, Auckland Council must:
• allow unlimited development capacity in the city centre.
• enable at least 6-storey buildings within metropolitan centres.
• enable buildings of at least 6-storeys within walkable catchments around the city centre, metropolitan centres and existing and planned rapid transit stops.
• allow higher-density buildings in other parts of the city to match either the level of active and public transport access to jobs and services or the demand for housing in an area, whichever is greater.

Qualifying matters include things of national significance in the Resource Management Act, such as protecting historic heritage and the relationship of Māori to their ancestral lands and taonga. Where justified, the council can apply other qualifying matters.

Given many of Auckland’s special character areas are located where the NPS-UD requires higher-density housing, it’s proposed that residential areas with high-quality special character be added as a ‘qualifying matter’ to retain the existing zoning, mostly single house, of up two storeys.

As required by central government, walkable catchments around Auckland’s city centre and 10 metropolitan centres will allow for buildings of at least six storeys, unless there are ‘qualifying matters’ that may make building to that height inappropriate.

Around the city centre a walkable catchment of around 1,200 metres, or about 15 minutes walking and around metropolitan centres of 800 metres, or about 10 minutes walking, is proposed, which follows Ministry for the Environment guidelines.

Tall apartment buildings will also be allowed within a 10-minute walk of every train station on the western, southern and eastern rail lines and stops along the Northern Busway.

A walkable catchment of 800 metres is proposed around train stations, e.g. Remuera has two railway stations, Remuera station on Market Road and Orakei station on Orakei Rd: 800 metres from Remuera station extends to Remuera Road and from Orakei station to Upland Road.

About 30,000 homes that come under the “special character areas” in the Unitary Plan are not listed in the act and proposed to be an additional qualifying matter. These homes are in suburbs like Remuera, Ponsonby, Herne Bay, St Marys Bay, Grey Lynn, Parnell, Birkenhead and Devonport.

Where the special character values are deemed to be of high quality, the proposal is to retain the current zoning in the Auckland Unitary Plan (which in most cases is the Single House zone with a building height control of generally two storeys). Council officers propose apartment buildings of six stories or more where special character values are of medium or low quality.

Next steps
Once the council’s proposed approaches have been agreed by the Planning Committee, work will begin to prepare changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan for public notification in August 2022.

Next month, proposed approaches for implementing the NPS-UD requirements for building height and density in all other areas of the city will be considered, alongside proposed improvements to urban design standards within the Auckland Unitary Plan.

The Character Coalition is gearing up to evaluate the introduction of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development and replacement of Resource Management Act 1991 with 3 new Acts:
• Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) to provide for land use and environmental regulation (this would be the primary replacement for the RMA)
• Strategic Planning Act (SPA) to integrate with other legislation relevant to development, and require long-term regional spatial strategies
• Climate Change Adaptation Act (CAA) to address complex issues associated with managed retreat and funding and financing adaptation.

All are designed to speed up the intensification of housing. We need to:
• Retain character and identity of the older inner suburbs
• Protect existing historic heritage properties and promote more being added to the Historic Heritage Schedule
• Protect the single house zone
• Be consulted on Mixed Housing Suburban zoned properties where single houses are replaced by up to 20 townhouses
• Build quality housing, design and infrastructure
• Protect the environment, both natural and neighbourhood, social and cultural, and the volcanic viewshafts
• Promote sustainability – it is not sustainable to demolish or remove a well-maintained house to replace it with multiple dwellings.

The Character Coalition’s Response
The Character Coalition has written to all local boards about the NPS-UD, including the Orakei Local Board, and noted that the following Special Character Area (SCA) Overlays apply to the board area and ward:

The Character Coalition supports the need to increase housing supply but holds that Auckland’s housing problems cannot be solved by stripping the city of its identity and liveability.

There are 50 Special Character Area Overlays (SCA) in the city and 9 are in the Orakei Local Board area. These are:
SCA Business
· Ellerslie
· Upland Village Historic Heritage area (added in Plan Change 31, 2020)
SCA Residential – Isthmus A
SCA Residential – Isthmus B
· Mission Bay
· Remuera
· Remuera – Meadowbank
· St Heliers
· Remuera – Epsom

Plus there are 8 SCAs (some overlap) in the Orakei Ward area which are relevant to Councillor Simpson:
SCA Residential Isthmus A & B:
· St Heliers, Mission Bay, Parnell, Remuera, Remuera-Meadowbank
SCA Business:
· Newmarket, Parnell, Upper Symonds St

The Character Coalition says that the Auckland Unitary Plan, which came in only 5 years ago, already provides for extensive housing development and the protection of special character areas, such as in Remuera and neighbouring suburbs.

Auckland Council heritage people are now doing a re-assessment of special character values and areas, property by property, across the city.
However, within the significant uptake of intensification already underway, we believe there is no need for a change of zoning or removal of special character overlays. You can read the NPS-UD here.

The Orakei Local Board (OLB) is providing its feedback to Auckland Council by 26 July 2021. Submissions on the Government Policy Statement and the NPS are very tight and public and community consultation does not feature highly.
You can read the OLB feedback here.

Sue Cooper
Chair, Remuera Heritage Inc
9 July 2021