Auckland Council Seeks To Extend The Housing Crisis, Delaying Supply Of More Homes

Late last week it was revealed in the Planning and Environment Committee agenda that Auckland Council staff have written to the Minister for the Environment, Penny Simmonds, requesting to extend the deadline for implementing the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) through the Independent Hearings Panel process (IHP) by another year to February 2026.

Today’s announcement from Minister Bishop regarding the Wellington IHP is a timely reminder about the importance of these processes to tackle housing affordability through supply in our cities.

For Auckland, Plan Change 78, which is implementing the NPS-UD, will provide much needed development opportunities in the ideal locations for density including around train and bus stations, and close to existing centres. Mayor Wayne Brown commented at the opening of The Greenhouse apartments last week, locating more homes close to existing centres reduces infrastructure requirements and supports vibrant town and city centres. Critically, this is about enabling housing choice and addressing the large gaps in the existing Unitary Plan. Auckland desperately needs the homes that PC78 will enable.

“This is the second time Auckland Council have sought to delay implementing the NPS-UD but it is unlikely to be the last. The Auckland Unitary Plan is due for review in 2026 and we expect Council will again seek to delay Plan Change 78 and incorporate it into a wider review of the plan” says Scott Caldwell, spokesperson for the Coalition for More Homes.

Auckland Council have sought the latest extension for a range of reasons but, primarily, in order to accommodate the opt-out process for the MediumDensity Residential Standards (MDRS). A policy to let Councils opt-out to the MDRS has been directed by the new National-led government, but we are yet to see any progress on it. While the Coalition for More Homes do not support any opt-out of the MDRS for Auckland, there is no reason that the Independent Hearings Panel process for Plan Change 78 cannot continue for topics specific to the NPS-UD only. Progressing hearings for topics regarding walkable catchments will mean the plan change can be completed sooner, enabling more new homes faster.

The Coalition for More Homes are calling on the Minster for the Environment and the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Resource Management Reform to not approve the delay that Auckland Council has requested, and direct progress on PC78 matters related to the NPS-UD to enable more homes in the right place, sooner.

The NPS-UD was meant to be a fast track process when released in September 2020, and PlanChange 78 (without any delays) was scheduled for completion in March 2024. With the first delay approved in 2023 and if this delay is approved, we are unlikely to see any effects on housing supply due to zoning changes from the NPS-UD until 2027 at the earliest. This situation, exacerbated by a changing political and regulatory environment, highlights the importance of timely Resource Management reform to make plan changes easier and provide strong policy direction from central government.