07 May 2013

Transforming Auckland: Plan holds no fear for city chiefs

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Written by: Bernard Orsman
Photo by: Doug Sherring
Published: The New Zealand Herald – 07 May 2013

Councillors on large spreads are unaffected by rezoning scheme to fit in a million more people.

Mayor Len Brown can continue gardening knowing his 6970sq m lifestyle block will not be built out.

Mayor Len Brown can continue gardening knowing his 6970sq m lifestyle block will not be built out.

Auckland councillors are relatively unaffected by a new way of life that includes high-rise apartments and intensification for many of the city’s 1.5 million residents.

Mayor Len Brown can continue gardening knowing his 6970sq m lifestyle block – one of 17 at Tiffany Close on the rural outskirts of Manukau – will not be built out. Fourteen of the 20 councillors can also breathe easy. Their homes and rural properties escape being rezoned for apartments, townhouses, in-fill housing or housing subdivision.

Only a handful face change and the worst affected, Richard Northey, has some comfort. His 1901 villa in Onehunga would need resource consent before it could be demolished for terraced housing and apartments.

All but one councillor – Arthur Anae, who lives in an apartment above his business in Otahuhu – live on generous residential and rural sites.

Christine Fletcher has a large 2950sq m residential property in Mt Eden, several other city-based councillors have sections around 1000sq m, and councillors Sandra Coney, Calum Penrose, Sir John Walker and Des Morrison live on rural properties of between 3ha and 4.6ha.

Hibiscus and Bays Local Board member John Watson, who compiled details of councillors’ existing properties, said it showed an overwhelming preference for detached dwellings on large residential sites and lifestyle blocks or farms.

“There seems to be more than just the passing whiff of hypocrisy in what is being proposed under the Draft Unitary Plan and the living arrangements of its chief proponents.”

Mr Brown was reluctant to discuss his circumstances, but through a spokesman said the Unitary Plan did not say everybody had to live in high-density dwellings.

“With Auckland’s population expected to grow by a million people over the next 30 years, we need to get the right balance between low, medium and high density and rural living. Aucklanders clearly don’t want urban sprawl, they want sensible choices for housing, whether it’s apartments closer to the centre or more land further out of the city,” the spokesman said.

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, who is overseeing the Unitary Plan, is one councillor prepared to put her money where her mouth is.

She has sold her 5248sq m rural property in Swanson and plans to rent an inner-city apartment while she and her husband look for a smaller property in West Auckland within walking distance of the railway line.

Michael Goudie, the 28-year-old councillor encouraging young Aucklanders to speak up on the Unitary Plan, has moved out of a granny flat on a 1012sq m section on the Hibiscus Highway at Orewa earmarked for four-storey terraced housing and apartments. He supported the plans for the property, saying three- and four-storey apartment blocks were already “kind of happening” on the Hibiscus Highway on the southern approach to the seaside town.

Mr Northey, a Labour councillor and strong supporter of the Unitary Plan, said he was quite happy with the planned terraced housing and apartment zone in Arthur St, where he had lived for 20 years. He said that either side of his property were a block of sausage flats, but the villa would need a heritage assessment before it could be demolished.

What is the unitary plan?

The new planning rulebook for the Super City that asks Aucklanders to adapt to a new way of life that includes apartments and more infill housing in urban areas and freeing up rural land for more houses. It tells Aucklanders what they can and cannot do on their property and sets out how villages, towns, suburbs and rural areas will play a part in squeezing another one million residents into the city.

Who is affected?

The rulebook affects every one of Auckland’s 1.5 million residents and a projected one million immigrants and new residents expected to call Auckland their home over the next 30 years.

Most affected are those Aucklanders living on more than half of the city’s residential land being rezoned for apartments, townhouses and infill housing; young Aucklanders who will grow up in the new “compact city” and pockets of rural land earmarked for new housing.

What will the changes mean?

The plan allows for high-rise apartments of up to 18 storeys in 10 metropolitan centres, eight-, six- and four-storeys in town centres and greater intensification in the suburbs. Under the plan, 44 per cent of urban Auckland will remain largely unchanged – 35 per cent for single houses and 9 per cent for “large lots” on the fringes. The other 56 per cent – from Orewa in the north to Pukekohe in the south and most suburbs in between – is earmarked for “intensification” under which building density will be increased to accommodate more people. New residential zones are planned to accommodate 280,000 new homes, leaving new subdivisions around three main rural areas – Warkworth, Silverdale-Dairy Flat and Kumeu-Huapai-Red Hills-Brigham Creek – to take the bulk of 160,000 new homes outside the urban boundaries.

What has the reaction been?

Communities have voiced concerns and put forward alternatives. North of the Harbour Bridge, the suburbs of Browns Bay, Milford and Orewa have opposed apartment blocks; the suburbs of Devonport, St Heliers and Mt Eden have rallied to protect their character; while Helensville residents want more attention paid to boosting the population of the rural town.

What happens next?

Public submissions close on May 31. The council will then consider the submissions and make any changes before formally notifying the unitary plan in September. It would then go through a special hearing process set up by the Government before it becomes operative in three to four years’ time.



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