The Plan, which could eventually lead to the transformation of significant parts of the city, was adopted after several hours of debate.
Councillors voted to free up planning rules that restrict building heights in inner-city suburbs like Mt Victoria, Mt Cook and Newtown. They also voted to remove rules that make it difficult to demolish pre-1930s buildings in these areas. Only those high-character areas that were identified in the Draft Spatial Plan will continue to be protected.
The decisions will enable buildings of up to six storeys to be built in these areas outside of the high-character areas. This is a significant change – principally because the emphasis of planning rules over the past three decades has been on protecting the ‘character’ of these suburbs which are highly-populated by single- or two-storey Victorian-era houses.
Councillors voted to overturn a recommendation by Council planners to remove height limits on buildings in the central city including Te Aro and the northern end of Adelaide Road – between the Basin Reserve and John Street. The existing District Plan heights will remain but with 10 or more storeys allowed along Taranaki Street and Te Aro.
They did, however, decide on a six-floor minimum height for new buildings in the same area – the aim of this is to maximise the use of land.
Major housing intensification in key areas with good public transport links – for example, Tawa, Newtown and suburbs along the route of the Johnsonville rail line – was also foreshadowed: the committee voted to allow buildings of six storeys or more within 10 minutes’ walk of stations in these areas.
Thursday’s committee meeting and debate was the latest step in a years-long planning process that formally began in 2017. And it followed public consultation that generated almost 3000 submissions earlier this year.
It would be fair to say that most of the ‘heat’ in the Spatial Plan debate, especially this year, has centred on the inner suburbs and pitted residents seeking the protection of older, ‘character’ neighbourhoods against residents who want to free up these suburbs to allow the construction of new multi-storey housing.
As a result of Thursday’s meeting, the City Council’s planning staff will spend the next few weeks altering the Spatial Plan to accommodate the changes approved by the committee.
The amended Plan will then guide the policy direction for the District Plan review. It is expected that this will be released late 2021/early 2022.
Further details on the Spatial Plan are available here.