By Laura Kvistad, Auckland Council reporter
Funded by New Zealand on Air
Auckland Council has approved proposed changes to the unitary plan and Aucklanders will soon get to have their say.
The changes, called the intensification planning instrument, are Council’s approach to enabling intensification and meet the policy intent of government’s Medium Density Residential Standard (MDRS) and National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD).
At the planning committee on August 4, several last-minute qualifying matters were added to the plans.
The additions included water infrastructure constraints, two Māori cultural heritage sites, Beachlands transport control, open space zones and additions to special character sites.
Electricity distribution assets were also approved for further investigation on whether they could be a qualifying matter.
Members of the committee grappled with how to approach the vote. Many abstained from the vote as a show of protest, others felt they had their hands tied, and some expressed frustration with the lack of willingness for intensification from other members.
Cr Christine Fletcher recalled when the Sky Tower was built 25 year earlier.
Fletcher said it was called a “monstrosity” but was now looked at with fondness.
“I do not think in 25 years’ time we are going to look back at this with fondness,” Fletcher said.
“I know this will not deal with affordability for housing.”
Fletcher said the policies from central government were extreme, hasty and undemocratic.
Cr Shane Henderson said the compact city approach would reduce emissions drastically and the body would be ignoring the climate emergency by not supporting the plan changes.
“We must enable more housing closer to work and study,” Henderson said.
Henderson said that thousands of new homes had been built in Massey despite appalling public transport and there was no opposition from council.
Expanding special character, “meant several hundred more families not being able to put keys into homes.”
Cr Greg Sayers said not passing the resolution would send a strong message in protest to central government.
“The strongest protest that this committee can make is abstaining from the vote,” Sayers said.
“When will this make Auckland’s houses more affordable? This question had never been addressed.”
Cr Linda Cooper said it was about finding a middle ground.
“We are pushing the density out further and further and not allowing enough intensification in the center where people can easily catch public transport,” Cooper said.
While Cooper said she would vote for the resolution because she wanted to have a say, she was also “disgusted” by the way central government had treated Auckland.
“It is about amenity. When you have stormwater flowing everywhere, if you have not got good parks, if you have not got good public transport, that is a nightmare.”
“I hope Aucklanders really understand, we have to do this. We cannot have this taken away from us.”
Member Glenn Wilcox said it was not an easy process and some members would be conflicted.
“Intensification has already happened. It is just unregulated,” Wilcox said.
Cr Wayne Walker said the plan changes would not result in any significant improvement.
“Affordable houses do not make much money for developers,” Walker said.
Walker said that virtually every property value would increase under the new plans which ran “counter to the intention” of the policies.
“We as a council have put up a woefully insufficient fight and as a consequence the government has got away with this.”
Cr Christine Fletcher, Tracy Mulholland, Greg Sayers, Desley Simpson, Sharon Stewart, Wayne Walker and John Watson abstained from the vote.
Public submissions on the plan changes open on August 18 when council will make more information available to the public.