3Landform features and topography

Design Outcome

Subdivisions respond to the landform and its features, and minimise any changes needed.


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Auckland has a unique and internationally significant natural environment that is a result of many interacting geological processes. 

This has resulted in a wide choice of living options for Aucklanders, from flat and well connected, to elevated and outlook-based. Subdivisions should celebrate and reflect these differences instead of hiding or removing them. The most important features of a site should influence the subdivision design. This means that very sloping land will not suit a flat-site-based development, and a development that wants to capitalise on views will not suit a flat plain. For both landform scenarios the designer/​​developer should anticipate different residential amenities and design accordingly.

Better Design Practice

  • Integrate excavations or retained fills in the land into the building platform. 
  • Undertake all earthworks at one time, instead of leaving lots that need further earthworks b​​efore they can be developed.
  • Undertake significant environmental changes only when necessary to protect human health and safety, or when focusing works and activity into one part of a site will be better for the environment overall.

Rules of Thumb

1. Aim for changes to sloping land to appear as ‘natural’ as possible:

  • try not to create straight vertical or horizontal planes that stand out when looking at the site 
  • include space for planting and vegetation to soften the view of retaining walls 
  • try to balance cuts into the land with fills, instead of only using cuts or fills alone 
  • make stormwater ponds appear like natural bodies of water, not as artificial-looking ’boxes’ with straight sides.​

2. Distribute small retaining walls and sloped batters across a site rather than using very large individual structures​.


3. Limit the vertical rise across a building platform to avoid the need for excessive retaining structure.


4. Ensure retaining walls and fences (including the likely provision of future fences) arising from the subdivision allow adequate sunlight to reach the building platform and outdoor living areas on each lot.