Banks: Tank Farm a high-rise 'lemon'

By Bernard Orsman

John Banks says plans for the Tank Farm are hideous and is promising a five-storey limit on buildings at the 35ha waterfront development.

Mr Banks, who is leading the race for the Auckland City mayoralty, last night slammed the bulk and size of commercial and residential development proposed for the Tank Farm, which includes five towers of up to 14 storeys high.

It was the second promise Mr Banks has made on the hustings to rev up his bid to regain the mayoralty. A little over two weeks ago, he vowed not to spend ratepayers' money on upgrading Eden Park, but said he could live with a council contribution to infrastructure around the park.

Speaking at a mayoral debate organised by the St Marys Bay Association, Mr Banks said the Tank Farm was "not a cherry, it's a lemon".

"I'm not going to be told by the rich and powerful developers that they can have 14-storey buildings on the Tank Farm. I'm proposing five storeys, max," Mr Banks said.

Building heights have emerged as one of the most controversial issues for rezoning the bleak marine industrial precinct into a mix of public open space, and commercial and residential buildings over the next 25 years.

The issue is particularly sensitive among St Marys Bay residents and residents on the Freemans Bay and Ponsonby ridgelines, whose homes would lose harbour views from tall buildings at the Tank Farm.

Mayor Dick Hubbard was caught off guard by Mr Banks' firm stand on building heights, and told the 60 or so local residents that he was not making any promises on heights.

Mr Hubbard said Viaduct Harbour Holdings, the private company that owns 7.8ha at the Tank Farm, opposed council plans to rezone the land. The company wanted more intense development and fewer urban design controls.

Mr Hubbard said Mr Banks' right-leaning friends on the council, Citizens & Ratepayers, had voted for the proposed heights at the Tank Farm.

Mr Hubbard asked his arch-rival if he had made a submission on the council's plan.

"No. I'm working very hard to see you sacked as mayor so I can make a difference," Mr Banks replied.

Mayoral candidate Alex Swney said Mr Banks' promise for a five-storey limit was unsustainable.

Mr Swney, who as Heart of the City chief executive ran a successful campaign to increase public open space at the Tank Farm, supported a variety of heights to create interest.

There could be a couple of taller "point" buildings that protected view shafts and sunlight for local residents, he said.

"This is modern, urban planning principles."

Another mayoral candidate, Steve Crow, said he supported a Tank Farm development that was environmentally and Western Bays friendly. Height limitations were needed.

The council has received about 600 submissions on its plans for the Tank Farm.

Public hearings are due to begin about March next year.

After last year's public uproar over apartments dominating the 8ha headland jutting out into the Waitemata Harbour, Auckland City Council and the Auckland Regional Council's investment arm, Auckland Regional Holdings, agreed in June on a 4.25ha park.

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