Susan Fainstein has called on planners to resume advocating for disadvantaged communities in their urban plans and policies to create the ‘just city.’ Such an approach would assess land-use policy against the principles of equity, diversity and democracy. However, planning systems strongly influenced by the ‘new public management’ ideology characterised by decentralisation, privatisation, and deregulation subordinate these principles to economic efficiency and sustainability goals. Affordable-housing access policy illustrates the challenge planners face if they are to champion the just city. Urban growth boundaries, designed to achieve a compact city to increase social welfare are seen as constraining the market, creating affordable-housing shortages that disadvantage those on low- or moderate-incomes and increase social injustice in the city. Analysing discourse in Auckland’s statutory spatial and land-use planning documents, we explore these tensions as Auckland seeks to become a compact city. Results confirm a reliance on zoning to provide land for housing supply, and the dominant understandings of a compact city, as being sustainable and necessary for urban revitalisation and economic growth, are naturalised within the plan text. Social justice in Auckland appears to be a material consideration within the compact city discourse, although somewhat unintentionally. This represents a lost opportunity. We conclude that to achieve ‘just’ cities we need plans that explicitly consider access to and distribution of housing in the compact city.