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How To Optimise A Site's Potential

Maximising the land in the early stages of planning will result in a high-value end product that will yield a successful return on your investment, writes Anthony Corin.

By: Anthony Corin

1 January 2023

If you are interested in developing land, optimising the site in order to achieve the best return on investment is key.

Whether your project intentions are for terraced housing, standalone homes, additional dwellings, duplexes or apartments, there are several factors that contribute to the land development process.

Some key considerations for property development can put a spanner in the works for your project if not addressed early on. Unlocking site potential and maximising the land in the early stages will result in a high-value end product that will yield a successful return on your investment.


The best starting point is to thoroughly assess your site and look out for key information such as the size, location and zone. The total square metre size, direction of north in relation to the site, and site shape can provide a good estimate for how many units will fit within the site, subject to change during careful planning stages.

The site zone reflects the activities permitted within the area, which in turn determines several building constraints unique to the zone. Another important factor to take note of is how the front of the site appears.

This can be achieved either by Google Maps street view or noted from a site visit. Trees and poles located in the council berm (the area between the road and your property) will impact the development design.

Vehicle access shifted to a desired position to accommodate a more preferable build layout cannot be obstructed by council berm trees and poles. This can cause several complications and needs to be addressed in the early stages of concept design.


When viewing the satellite imagery of your site within websites such as GeoMaps or Relab you will be able to view site overlays that show underground services, overland flow paths and floodplains.

It is very important to locate the position of these services and to take them into account for concept designs as they have a direct impact on where you are able to build within your site. Avoiding these services in the design process is preferred as building over these areas can result in complications during the consent process.


You will need to comply with the district plan in order to obtain approved resource consent from council. These rules exist in order to protect the surrounding environment and control the influence the development has on the character of the street. The closer you adhere to these rules, the higher the chance your consent application will succeed.

The district plan also governs what type of building can be constructed within each zone ie some zones allow for the construction of high-rise apartment buildings, some do not. Additionally, the district plan will detail setback requirements, outdoor living and outlook requirements, safe pedestrian design and traffic design. Having a good understanding of the district plan is crucial when maximising the land.


The most effective way to visualise and calculate what can be achieved on the site is by engaging property development professionals to carefully plan a bulk and location design and a feasibility report. The bulk and location assesses the opportunities and constraints present at the site and blocks out compliant building and
traffic positioning.

With a thorough understanding of the site itself and the district plan, a designer should be able to maximise this space and deliver a design that is compliant and considers pedestrian safety while meeting coverage allowances.

Comparing alternative options for build types such as terraced versus standalone homes you will notice a difference in costs dependent on the type of build ie a smaller cost per square metre for smaller builds in a feasibility report. These comparisons will help you visualise the project and come to a conclusion on which is the optimal design to pursue for a greater return on your investment.


Being aware of these key factors will help push you a step ahead of the rest in the early stages of property development. Understanding your land and knowing what you can expect when engaging a property development team will optimise the site, streamline the process, and steer the project towards success.


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