Land covenants in Auckland and their effect on urban development

Craig Fredrickson
Auckland Council Research and Evaluation Unit, RIMU
Publication date:

A covenant is a contract or promise between parties that binds them to obligations in a contract for a fixed period of time, or in perpetuity. Covenants ‘run with the land’, meaning they bind owners of the land to a covenant’s condition. In recent decades they have become a common method for developers to control how future owners of land develop and maintain land in New Zealand (Quality Planning, 2013; New Zealand Productivity Commission, 2015). As such, covenants create a private planning regime that is enforceable in the civil courts (Mead & Ryan, 2012; Toomey, 2017).

Strong population growth in Auckland is expected to remain high in coming years, putting pressure on housing supply in the region. Council’s high-level strategy, The Auckland Plan, and the Auckland Unitary Plan seek to use both urban intensification and expansion to supply new dwellings to accommodate the increasing population. But will property level constraints such as land covenants affect the city’s ability to grow as and where is needed?

Land covenants in New Zealand are commonly used in modern residential subdivisions, which are the focus of this research. They are used as a mechanism to control land use and development, and to create and maintain neighbourhood amenity. There has been little research on land covenants on residential land in New Zealand, and this report seeks to understand their numbers, location, and nature in Auckland. The effects of land covenants include acting as a barrier to development and redevelopment, increasing house prices and decreasing affordability, and being used to stifle competition, as a method of social exclusion, and as a form of land control. While covenants present a number of disbenefits to some parties, they create benefits to others, including increased property value, and maintained or increased amenity. Land covenants are also used to protect heritage, and for conservation purposes.

Land covenants are spread across the Auckland region, where there are 151,170 land covenants on 96,261 titles. ...

The analysis undertaken and reported in this study explores the location and quantity of property affected by land covenants across the entire Auckland region. The focus of comment and discussion in this report is on how covenants may affect urban development, redevelopment, expansion, and change, and understanding how the possible future effects of covenants may impact on the city’s long-term growth strategy and the planning rules.

This research was conceived of by Dr K Saville-Smith as part of the Architecture of Decision-making Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities programme, funded by the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge and developed and executed by Craig Fredrickson, RIMU, Auckland Council.

Auckland Council technical report, TR2018/013

See also

Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge


Last updated: 2018-07-18