Battle lines drawn over Unitary Plan

Friday 12 February 2016

Controversy over Auckland’s Unitary Plan grows as lobby group begins campaign for withdrawal of the Plan’s zoning maps.

By Miriam Bell

The Unitary Plan has always been contentious but, as the March hearings on the Unitary Plan approach, tensions are flaring

Earlier this week, a pre-hearing community meeting to discuss the Unitary Plan’s proposed zoning changes attracted hundreds of vocal opponents.

Yesterday, it was reported that 11 of the city’s 21 councillors – including the high profile Sir John Walker and Dick Quax - want the council to withdraw the “out of scope” zoning changes from the Unitary Plan process.

Now, the Auckland 2040 group has released a letter it has sent to all councillors and local board chairpersons.

In the letter, Auckland 2040 chairperson Richard Burton called for the Council to withdraw the spatial zoning maps, released in December.

This is because the group sees many of the changes as “out of scope” because the Council received no submissions asking for those changes.

Auckland 2040 believes the Council’s December proposal of new areas for intensification, at a late stage in the Unitary Plan process and without opportunities for consultation, is undemocratic.

In the letter, Burton said this is a fundamental breach of the principles of natural justice and an abuse of process.

“On behalf of the residents of Auckland, Auckland 2040 calls for Councillors to show leadership and withdraw these plans.”

The group also believes there is adequate capacity to accommodate the projected demand for dwelling until 2026 and beyond.

Burton said Auckland 2040 will ensure that all its residents’ groups, individual members and Aucklanders generally are aware of the way in which councillors vote on the issue.

Mayor Len Brown has said he wants to let the hearings process run its course and get recommendations back from the Independent Hearings Panel.

Meanwhile, Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith and Brown’s announcement yesterday of 14 more Special Housing Areas (SHAs) for Auckland has not been greeted with widespread enthusiasm.

The SHAs, which include parts of upmarket suburbs Herne Bay and Birkenhead, will provide more than 4500 new homes.

Smith said they would bring the total number of Auckland SHAs to 120 and that the SHAs now have a combined potential yield of over 52,000 new homes.

“This is the scale and momentum both the government and Auckland Council are pushing for to address the city’s housing supply and affordability challenge.”

Some residents in areas near some of the new SHAs have expressed their dissatisfaction, while Labour Party housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said the government was flooding Auckland with SHAs as opposed to houses.

However, while there is some public opposition to the various intensification measures, the government, Auckland Council, the Productivity Commission, the Property Council and other key groups believe intensification is crucial to tackling Auckland’s housing problems.

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