5Vegetation and landscaping

Design Outcome

Subdivisions provide for vegetation that enhances habitat and ecology and complements the built form.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Vegetation and landscaping contribute to habitat and ecology. Trees and greenery complement built form and soften what can otherwise be bland views of large-scale development. 
They can contribute to a sense of character and new amenity that significantly improves the liveability of subdivisions. Trees are also very effective at promoting legibility and way-finding. If used consistently to strengthen the road hierarchy, people can find main roads and maintain a sense of where they are.​​​​​​​​​

Better Design Practice

  • Provide street trees and landscaping in public spaces as early as possible, to maintain continuous habitat, establish long-term amenity and character features.
  • Use vegetation and landscaping to enhance the positive parts of the site and important future land uses, rather than to hide the negative effects of poor design decisions.
  • Try to use eco-sourced native vegetation, if it fits with the overall landscape design strategy and helps to create low-maintenance and successful planting. This will lead to the most ecologically appropriate and climate-resistant landscaping outcome possible, as well as contributing to local identity.
  • Plant trees in places where they will not block high-amenity views and can grow in a balanced and healthy shape instead of needing to be shaped into an unnatural form. For example, avoid planting trees where they will need to be pruned back from overhead power lines.
  • Use frangible (breakable) street tree species to reduce safety risks to vehicle occupants in the event of a crash. However, consider using non-frangible street trees in areas where very high pedestrian volumes are anticipated, to protect pedestrians from out-of-control vehicles.
  • Plant vegetation as early as possible in the development of a subdivision’s roads and blocks, and ensure the vegetation is protected while engineering and construction works are taking place.
  • Consider concentrating street trees at the entrances to local roads in combination with measures that lower vehicle speeds, such as narrowed carriageways. Use vegetation and planting to signal to drivers that there is a change from a busier road (which vehicles can move through quickly and easily), to quieter roads (which are pedestrian-focused and require vehicles to slow down). 
  • Plant street trees in the berm between the vehicle lane and the footpath. Consider planting trees within the parking lane in formed islands at regular intervals, especially on local roads. This helps to make trees easy to see, creates buffer or refuge spaces and can help to slow down vehicles close to pedestrians by making the carriageway appear narrower.
  • Where road space is limited or too narrow to accommodate trees, provide street trees in the front yard of lots and protect them with legal mechanisms such as protective covenants or consent notices.

Rules of Thumb

1. Consider Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles when planning the location, density, and plant species used within a subdivision.

  • Use good street lighting that will not be obscured by foliage. 
  • Avoid creating places where people could be trapped or taken by surprise (such as behind a cluster of bushes). 
  • Pedestrians should be able to see where they are going and assess the risks they may face (make sure low tree foliage does not block views). 
  • Plant trees that have one main stem, unless there are already many trees that have multiple stems in the area, such as coastal pōhutukawa. 
  • Plant street trees with narrow trunks that will not make it difficult for drivers or pedestrians to see past, or that would create a place where people could be trapped.​​

2. Very large trees are appropriate for planting along major arterial routes and public open spaces.


They help people find their way by having a high prominence in the neighbourhood and being visible from adjacent streets. Small trees are better for local roads.

3. Aim to plant large trees early in the development process, as this can enhance the character of a new subdivision and provide a sense of scale.