26 Jul 2013

John Palino – Unitary Plan

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Unitary Plan


The Unitary Plan is the most important document the Auckland Council prepares. It sets out where people can build houses and where they cannot. It directs where businesses go, which trees are protected, how high buildings can be and in general establishes the regulations for where and how development can occur in Auckland. The Unitary Plan is the rule book for the city.

And it is essential. It will harmonise all the different rules and regulations which confuse residents and businesses in different parts of the city and that add to Auckland’s cumbersome bureaucracy. It will enable the timely release of land on Auckland’s fringe and remove unnecessary restrictions on building heights so that we can house our growing population. It will provide land for industry, providing jobs, and protect our most valuable natural resources. We must get the Unitary Plan up and running as soon as possible.

But developing a good plan is more important than delivering a fast plan. Because the Unitary Plan dictates what the people of Auckland can do with their property, it is a very pervasive document. It touches all of us in a very personal way. It can prevent us doing what we feel is our right and it can allow our neighbours to do things we feel is wrong.

That’s why it is absolutely critical that the Unitary Plan is the best Plan that it can be.

Planning From the Bottom Up

In order for the Unitary Plan to be the right plan for Auckland’s many communities and foster the support it needs to be a success, it must be developed by all of us. I want all the residents of Auckland to get involved in developing the Unitary Plan and I want the rules for individual communities to be developed by those individual communities. I want every local board, every suburb and every neighbourhood to feel unique and feel represented by the Unitary Plan.

But for that to happen we have to completely turn around the Council’s approach. Over the past three years, the recommendations of the Royal Commission have been set aside and the Auckland Council has followed in the footsteps of its dysfunctional predecessors by rejecting early, considered and genuine community involvement in planning for Auckland. Instead of local communities determining the look, feel and future of their neighbourhoods, townships and suburbs, the Council alone determined a one-size-fits-all approach to the regional growth of 1.5 million people for 30 years. Before engaging with any local communities, the Council declared at least 60 per cent of new development would occur in established, distinctive and irreplaceable neighbourhoods.

This is not local democracy and it has to stop. People across Auckland are really hurting from their experience with the Unitary Plan. They feel left out, disempowered, frustrated and threatened.

If local communities want development because they see the benefit of employment, activities and better public services, then let’s do everything we can as a region to ensure they get it. But if those same communities are satisfied with their current circumstances, happy with the level of public ser­vice and want to retain qualities that may be compromised by growth, then as a region we have to be equally committed to protecting their values.

1 Subpart 1-Purpose of Local Government, Local Government Act 2002.

(1) The purpose of local government is—

(a) to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities1

I believe that local democracy means more than just electing representatives to make decisions on behalf of residents. I believe it means local decisions being made by local communities. And more than that, I believe that this is the best way to govern, the best way to lead and the best way to deliver Auck­landers the Auckland they want. By engaging local communities right from the start and understanding their needs and expectations of their townships, neighbourhoods and local areas, we can make better decisions than any planner or politician.

We can get residents excited about the huge opportunity the Unitary Plan offers to develop their local town, park, neighbourhood and suburb. We can get people enthusiastic to engage in local decision making. We can make our communities stronger, better and more liveable. But we have to empower those residents and businesses that comprise our local communities and we have to have faith in our people. I am going to lead a revolution in local decision making in Auckland.

Action

I I am going to revise the Unitary Plan and the process by which it is developed. In my first week as May­or I will initiate a new process to engage local communities. I am going to hand responsibility over to local boards to manage engagement processes and develop individual, fit for purpose plans for each of our distinctive suburbs, centres and neighbourhoods. Local resident and business associations, working collaboratively with local boards, will be responsible for developing their own vision for their local area and then working with Council technical experts to work out how we can best accommodate our region’s many aspirations and desires.

I will make the Unitary Plan development process an iterative one. As the vision for our local communities is revised by those communities, I will direct Council officials to provide expert technical advice on where we have capacity for growth in our region and where environmental, infrastructure or other constraints preventing it. As community plans evolve, I will feed in technical information so that communities un­derstand the costs and the impacts of their decisions. Together we can harness the Council’s technical expertise with resident’s local expertise to attain the best development outcome for our region. This doesn’t have to be a litigious or confrontational process.

And as we develop the Unitary Plan together, I’m going to investigate phasing growth. The current prac­tice of permitting growth to accommodate 30 years of development from day one is going to result in rapid redevelopment of some communities beyond their expectation and leave others waiting for op­portunities. Our infrastructure will not be able to cope in the first instance and in the second we will have capacity sitting idle, wasting limited Council resources. I’m going to channel growth into areas where there is local support and capacity, when there is local support and capacity.

We have three years from notification to get the Unitary Plan right. We must complete the Plan in that time to give our residents and businesses certainty about their property and rights. I am committed to giving our businesses confidence and getting agreement around how Auckland develops. I believe in the people of Auckland and I believe that we can work together to seize the opportunity created by the Unitary plan.


 

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