16 May 2013

Deb Milliken: Auckland’s rural areas worth fighting for

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Written by: Deb Milliken
Photo: Janna Dixon
Published: The New Zealand Herald – 16 May 2013

Auckland's Unitary Plan proposes setting a rural urban boundar

Auckland’s Unitary Plan proposes setting a rural urban boundar

The continued sprawl of New Zealand towns and cities across productive land is a concern. It is a particular concern around Auckland, where the soils and climate support thriving produce, dairying, and bloodstock sectors.

It was great last year to see Federated Farmers chief executive Conor English get behind Auckland Council’s plans to make Auckland an “up not out” city.

One of the advantages of Auckland’s proposed Unitary Plan for those of us who live in rural areas around Auckland is that it proposes setting a rural urban boundary (RUB) that will hold for the next 30 years.

While around 70 per cent of new housing development is planned to take place within the existing Metropolitan Urban Limit, the RUB consultation will identify additional areas for greenfield housing projects.

The RUB will balance the city’s need to provide room for new housing over the coming decades, with the protection of the region’s rural environment and businesses from erosion by urban sprawl. It will give peace of mind to those who live in places like Karaka or Pukekohe that we are safe from ad hoc development.

Once the RUB is established, our hope is that the days of landbanker-driven development will be behind us.

Consultation on the Southern RUB late last year focused on various options for the areas south of Manukau City. Two of the options proposed development close to public transport options. The other three options seemed to some degree to rely more on car-based transport. Many in our community had their say. It seemed like a good process. Then it all changed.

In February the Weymouth and Karaka communities discovered that a massive bridge from Karaka to Weymouth, which would put a four- to six-lane highway straight through the heart of the Weymouth peninsula, was suddenly on the cards. West Karaka was suddenly on the map for development.

Apparently a “collective” of Karaka landowners had approached the council with this idea. The five options on which the council had consulted were changed. On the council website today, just three options for the Southern RUB are up for consultation. Each carries a dotted line for a bridge across the Pahurehure Inlet from Karaka to Weymouth.

Many Karaka residents feel blindsided. From where we sit, it looks as though the voice of a few individuals has had disproportionate influence on a process to which so many people contributed. This has had a very negative impact on the residents’ trust in the Auckland City Council’s transparency and due process.

At a public meeting in Weymouth many residents there thought that the development proposals would have wide support on the Karaka side of the inlet. It’s true that if north and west Karaka were earmarked for future development, this could be a financial bonanza for those of us who own land in the area.

I was able to say that most of us are not interested in selling off our land, even if it would be to our financial advantage. We want to keep Karaka green. We think it is worth fighting for the preservation of productive farmland. Some of the farms in this area have been in the same families for decades.

It is worth fighting for the continued development of showcase thoroughbred studs, an industry that contributes millions of export dollars every year. It is worth protecting the Manukau Harbour, and building on all the good work done to restore it.

We also see little sense in a development in a car-choked region that is at a distance from public transport, would require enormously costly infrastructure support and would have a devastating impact on two existing communities.

Deb Milliken lives in Karaka on the southern fringe of Auckland.



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