• 03 Te Rimu sculpture
  • 02 Great North Road Grey Lynn Mural
  • 01 Our Hood

Plan Change 26 – which rules apply in Special Character areas?

Plan Change 26 - which rules apply in Special Character areas?

We submitted on proposed Plan Change 26 and by the time you read this, we will also have attended the hearing. So, what’s Plan Change 26 all about?

Well, that’s a long and complicated story that goes back to the way the way the Unitary Plan was formulated and how it has been interpreted.

Evolution of the Residential 1 zone

Grey Lynn’s residential Special Character areas were originally identified in the 1990s when they became part of the Residential 1 (Isthmus A) zone. The Residential 1 zone had specific rules aimed at preserving the historic character of these neighbourhoods.

The subsequent Auckland Unitary Plan that succeeded the legacy district plans after the  formation of the Auckland super city, replaced the Residential 1 zone with two things: the Special Character overlay and an underlying zone. In Grey Lynn the residential Special Character areas have the Single House underlying zone.

Problems have arisen due to the Special Character overlay having one set of rules and the Single House zone having another.

Auckland Council initially determined that the Special Character overlay rule would apply where there was a corresponding rule in the underlying zone, but inconsistencies in the wording of the Unitary Plan created confusion.

The matter was dissected in three Environment Court cases and the court ruled that Auckland Council’s interpretation of the rules was flawed, and that both the Special Character overlay rules and the underlying zone rules should apply. This made things as clear as mud.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. A report on the matter noted that:

“It would not be appropriate to introduce a general rule that makes the overlay provisions always prevail over zone and Auckland-wide provisions. This would create issues when the overlay provisions are more permissive than their equivalents elsewhere in the plan, but the overall intent of the overlay is to be restrictive. In such cases the overlay is not meant to enable particular activities where there are other reasons for a zone to restrict that activity.” (Coombes and Williams Overlay Analysis Report, December 2018)

So, a number of amendments are needed to clarify the rules and this is where Plan Change 26 comes in.

Plan Change 26

Many of the provisions in the proposed Plan Change 26 will result in rules that closely resemble the original Residential 1 rules from the former Auckland District Plan, though there are also other changes.

Grey Lynn Residents Association lodged submissions on Plan Change 26 last year. We supported the intent of the plan change to clarify the rules, but raised concerns over several matters.

We expressed significant concerns about the decision making process with regard to notification, demolition, and there being no consideration of neighbours’ amenity in granting consents.

Since the Unitary Plan came into effect we have seen many instances where consents have been granted without any consultation with affected parties, be they close neighbours or the wider community.

We are also concerned about rules that allow planners to approve the demolition of up to 30% of original built fabric when they may lack the necessary experience in the heritage field to properly assess such applications.

The lack of any consideration of amenity values of neighbouring sites in the Special Character overlay rules (despite this being a consideration in the Single House zone rules) is also worrying.

Given that houses within the overlay are often built close together, the effects of additions or alterations on neighbours’ amenity can be significant and this should be considered. We believe that these matters should all be addressed in Plan Change 26.

We also urged Council to undertake a heritage survey of streets in Grey Lynn that are not currently covered by the Special Character overlay, so that other parts of Grey Lynn that exhibit the same intact character may be included within the overlay.

Plan Change 26 communications ‘appalling’

Our submission also noted that Council had done an appalling job of communicating with the public about the Plan Change 26 – letters sent to residents living in Special Character areas were extremely technical and hard to understand.

If Council is to meaningfully consult with residents, they must ensure that the information they provide is clear and easy to comprehend and we hope they will do a much better job with future consultations.

After submissions on Plan Change 26 were lodged, we heard from the Herne Bay Residents Association (HBRA) who are just one of a number of local groups we correspond with on matters of mutual interest.

The HBRA submission on Plan Change 26 raised the issue of access between buildings for maintenance. They pointed out that as existing buildings are often very close to side boundaries in Special Character areas, any new development should take into account the need for adequate space between buildings to allow painting and other maintenance work to be carried out.

This is not something that had occurred to us when we lodged our submission on Plan Change 26, but it’s another good point and we are grateful that HBRA got in touch with us about it.

You can read our submission here


  1. I am in Ardmore Road. My neighbour has consent to lift his house up and shift it back and to build an extension at the rear which, with the lift and shift, will extend 8 metres down my northern boundary. The two will block all sunlight to the northern side on my house in winter. The northern side is a small flat tenanted for the last 8 years by a 78 year old widow. She loses all winter sun. After three years of useless argument in and out of court I am right now writing an appeal to the Court of Appeal.
    I’d like to speak to any of your members about how I might address some of your issues in the Court.

    • Kevin Miles says

      Keith – I’m over in Devonport and picked this up in a Google search. Like you, our neighbour is in the process of building a two story extension behind a small bungalow which stretches the total length of the rear garden but for the 3 m set back. Completely out of character with the area, and with excesses in height to boundary, set back and coverage (and numerous areas of process) and objections from 11 neighbours and a planner consent was waived through on a non notified basis. Very happy to share any info it will help your cause. kvmiles@xtra.co.nz

  2. David Buckley says

    Obviously no rules apply in special character areas when the developers of 11 Surrey Crescent can build this monstrosity in an area zoned single dwelling with a special character overlay.