15 Apr 2013

David Thornton: Rush to rezone: an open letter to the mayor

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Written: David Thornton
Photo: Sarah Ivey
Published: The New Zealand Herald – 15 April 2013

Property owners’ rights are under threat.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

Dear Len Brown,

I have been to many meetings on the draft Unitary Plan (UP) and have had innumerable discussions with residents, ratepayers, small businesses etc. I have concluded that the process and timetable towards formal notification and operative status in September is causing as much concern as any of the actual details in the plan.

I realise the council, and indeed the Government, are both concerned with the need to provide affordable housing – but that issue must not override the property rights of every property owner in the Auckland region, which the current process of the Unitary Plan threatens to do.

Presentations currently made by council’s planners are introduced by way of explaining how brilliant this new plan will be, because it will apply everywhere in the new SuperCity, and the rules for development will be the same everywhere.

There is recognition that this is good for developers and those who are involved in business across the city, but of only moderate interest to residents and ratepayers whose main interest is centred on their local community.

This project is of such scale because it affects every piece of land in the Auckland region. And most of those pieces of land are individually owned by over half a million ratepayers – including 474,484 residential and rural ratepayers and 39,188 business ratepayers.

Changes to property zoning inevitably result in changes in value – a critical issue to home-owners for whom the home is their major asset. And of course such revaluing affects the incidence of rates.

One of the obvious problems with the current round of “engagement” is the sheer size of the whole plan – 7000 pages including the overlays in the e-plan and almost 2000 pages in the printed versions.

There is a growing lobby questioning the need to act now to rezone the whole city in one fell swoop, to specify and control exactly where an extra one million people will be accommodated in 2041 – 28 years away.

There is also a growing lobby looking for more information on planning the infrastructure needed to supply and service this wholesale intensification, and how that infrastructure will be paid for.

The Unitary Plan follows from the claimed acceptance of the Auckland Plan – but that plan’s acceptance is untested. The Auckland Plan is the “vision for the future” but did not go through a formal process of submission, response and appeal.

To rezone the whole city on the basis of an untested vision, and then try to give that rezoning legal status almost immediately, is a step too far.

There is enormous distrust in the community generally – the plan is too big to grasp in one round of engagement.

My proposal to you is:

•Treat this round of engagement as a first draft of the plan and continue the schedule of meetings explaining the UP and encouraging submissions.

•At the same time announce a revised process which includes a commitment to prepare a response to all submissions made, and then prepare a second draft UP for a second round of engagement prior to any move to a legal proposed unitary plan for formal consultation, submission and appeal.

•That response to the current round of engagement must address honestly the concerns submitted, and the council should explain its reasons for accepting or rejecting the submissions made.

•This round 2 engagement should be based on 112 draft neighbourhood plans to encourage each neighbourhood to concentrate on the specific plan for its local community. While many individuals will comment on the plan as a whole, it is the impact at local level which matters to most people.

I believe that it would be a great mistake to push ahead with the present timetable of aiming to notify the Unitary Plan in September. To do so would provide fertile fields for increasing anger and distrust within the community.

Kind regards

David Thornton
Founder – NoMoreRates.



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