21 Feb 2013

Auckland Council rezone plan spurs slum fears

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Written by: Bernard Orsman
Photo by: Kenny Rodger
Published: The New Zealand Herald – 21 February 2013

Plans for suburbs of high-rises to squeeze in a million more people horrify some councillors.

Apartment blocks 18 storeys high will be allowed in 10 'metropolitan' centres.

Apartment blocks 18 storeys high will be allowed in 10 ‘metropolitan’ centres.

More than half of Auckland’s residential land is to be rezoned for apartments and intensification to squeeze in a million extra people by 2040.

The Auckland Council yesterday approved the draft unitary plan that sets out to change residents’ behaviour and expectations when it comes to their love affair with housing.

Councillors heard that apartments and intensification would not only give Aucklanders greater housing choices, but meet the desire of communities to jazz up town centres.

The proposals have not gone down well with some councillors, who fear it will lead to slums and multi-storey “walls” along popular beachfronts such as Orewa and Browns Bay.

Deputy mayor Penny Hulse, who is leading work on the unitary plan, said it tackled many sometimes difficult issues. “We want as many Aucklanders as possible to have their say to ensure we get a plan for all Aucklanders.”

Under the plan, the greatest intensification will occur in 10 “metropolitan” centres, where apartments of 18 storeys will be allowed. This is followed by 37 town centres, where four to eight storeys will be permitted.

Moving out of these centres into residential areas, the council has created a 250m zone for terraced housing and apartments of between four and six storeys.

The remaining residential areas will have a mixed-housing zone, allowing for one house per 300sq m with no density limits when developers landbank more than 1200sq m to build five or more houses.

The terraced house and apartment zone and mixed-housing zone account for 56 per cent of residential land, leaving 44 per cent for a single-house zone and a large-lot zone.

The single-house zone permits one house per 500sq m and includes the heritage suburbs, while the large-lot zone covers large single-house lots, typically on the urban edge.

The unitary plan will become the rulebook of what people can and cannot do on their land.

It is tied to the Auckland Council blueprint to contain 60 per cent to 70 per cent of new houses within the existing urban limits.

Albany councillor Wayne Walker predicted the rules would create five-storey “walls” along the beachfronts of Browns Bay and Orewa and lead to huge community opposition.

Another councillor, Sandra Coney, was concerned about the lack of controls in the mixed-housing zone, saying the past practice of infill housing had seen ghastly results.

“If they are not subject to stringent design controls I really do fear we are setting up areas as slummy as other areas we have already got in Auckland,” she said.

However, Penny Pirrit, the council’s regional and local planning manager, said there were controls and flexibility in place to ensure good quality and an innovative approach in the mixed-housing zone.

The controls, she said, would prevent the construction of sausage flats and ensure minimum living and bedroom sizes.

The draft plan will be released for informal consultation between March 15 and May 31.

Once the council has considered the feedback and made changes, it will go out for formal consultation in September.



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