Major fight brewing over Auckland housing intensification as special character decision looms for council

A big fight is brewing in Auckland over which areas will lose their special character status to make way for terraces and multi-storey apartments.

Heritage groups are dismayed large areas will no longer be protected under a new council proposal. But others believe the change is long overdue.

Don't let the peace and quiet fool you. The sleepy suburb of Northcote Point is only six kilometres from Auckland's CBD.

It's the pace of life - and heritage beauty - residents desperately want protected.

"People live here because this is what they like, and you can see here how much effort these people are putting into restoring their beautiful home," Erica Hannam, from the Birkenhead Heritage Society, told Newshub.

Under a new council proposal though, much of this area would lose its special character protection.

If the plan is approved as-is, it will see massive change. Up to 7000 now-protected properties could be bowled to make way for terraced housing or apartments.

Northcote Point isn't the only one. Auckland Council is proposing to remove character protection for big parts of many central suburbs like St Mary's Bay, Freemans Bay, Parnell and Remuera.

But our biggest city is 25,000 homes short and a law-change passed with National's support is forcing local councils to free up more land for houses between three and six-storeys high.

But the council gets to decide which areas will do the heavy lifting.

So which houses remain protected and which don't is upsetting many living in the central suburbs.

"They're not NIMBYS, they're just proud of their patch. And they want to keep it that way because of its importance to the history of Auckland," St Mary's Bay resident Brian Putt said.

They argue homes could easily be built elsewhere, because of the small landmass in question.

"If we were to retain the 3.6 percent character area, it would make no difference to enabling greater housing supply," said Troy Churton, from the Ōrākei Local Board.

But these character suburbs are mostly central. And Waitakere councillor Shane Henderson.. says that's where housing is needed.

"In the central isthmus of Auckland, you're looking at 15 rapid-transit bus routes. In Waitakere, where I live, we have zero. It's important to build houses where people are close to their jobs, their study, and where people can get around in," he told Newshub.

He believes it doesn't make sense that outlying suburbs are bearing the brunt.

"We're intensifying hugely in west Auckland and in south Auckland, in areas that are very poorly accessible, whereas the accessible land is not being intensified," he said.

So, character, intensification, or both. Aucklanders have until Monday to submit their views on the draft plan. Then, the council will make its final call in August.