Court rules against Unitary Plan zoning appeals

Monday 13 February 2017

Progress with Auckland’s Unitary Plan has inched forward further with a High Court ruling that the Independent Hearings Panel’s approach to zoning “scope” was lawful.

By Miriam Bell

In a decision released today, the Auckland High Court has found that the Panel’s approach to “scope” for residential zoning, under the Unitary Plan, was lawful in key test case areas.

At a preliminary hearing in November, the court was asked to rule on seven agreed questions of law relating to the final version of the long-contested Unitary Plan.

The issue at the heart of the preliminary questions potentially affected approximately 29,000 properties, which were originally zoned Single House and Mixed Housing Suburban in the notified Unitary Plan.

In its decision, the court considered whether the Panel approached the matter of “scope” correctly in relation to certain areas of residential zoning.

It focused on residential zoning in a number of test cases in Mt Albert, Glendowie, Blockhouse Bay, Judges Bay, Grey Lynn, Takanini, Howick and Parnell.

The court has ruled that the Panel approached the matter of “scope” correctly – with the exception of two site specific test cases.

Those exceptions are 117-133 The Strand, Parnell and 55 Takanini School Road.

Justice Christian Whata said the purpose of resolving the test cases was to provide affected appellants with guidance on the issue of scope.

“It will be for them to decide whether and to what extent they wish to pursue their appeals in light of my decision.

“It should be evident that I consider the appeals concerning residential up-zoning should be dismissed on the question of scope.”

The ruling has come as bad news to Auckland 2040 and the Character Coalition who lodged the appeal.

Character Coalition chairperson Sally Hughes has told media they are disappointed by the decision and that the character of Auckland will be destroyed as developers move in over time.

She said they will now look for other ways to strengthen Auckland’s heritage.

But the ruling is good news for those who favour the greater intensification of inner Auckland.

This includes the Government, the Auckland Council, the Productivity Commission, Housing NZ, the Property Council, youth group Generation Zero and a range of other key groups and commentators.

Auckland Council director legal and risk Katherine Anderson said the council will not be making any further comment at this stage.

This is because the decision has implications for appeals that are still before the courts.

To date, the appeals have held up full implementation of the Unitary Plan as it cannot become fully operative until all appeals have been resolved.

As there are still further appeals going through the court system, only the parts of the Unitary Plan which are not impacted by any appeals are currently operative.

Read more:

Zoning appeal to impact on development 

Unitary Plan moves forward 

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