Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Westfield allowed to pick its planners

Westfield. Photo /  Richard Robinson
Westfield. Photo / Richard Robinson

Shopping centre giant Westfield has asked for - and got - the planners it wants for a huge expansion to its St Lukes centre.

The Auckland Council has agreed to Westfield's request for one of its planners and a consultant planner to consider resource consents.

It nominated the two planners because both had previously worked with the company.

Westfield was given permission in 2010 to rezone residential land to double the size of the St Lukes shopping centre, despite residents' protests.

It is now preparing resource consents to create New Zealand's biggest shopping centre.

The Herald has obtained council emails showing that senior staff in the planning department agreed last month to the request from Westfield.

In one email, senior resource consents project manager Graeme Mitchie said Westfield had approached him to begin discussions on resource consents for the expansion, which was the subject of a contentious plan change.

"They have asked if I will oversee the consenting process based on my previous relationship with Westfield (including previous developments at St Lukes) and are keen for Andrew Wilkinson from Blakey Scott to be the processing planner, again based on his previous relationship with them."

He asked another senior resource consent manager Ian Smallburn if "you are happy with this arrangement or raise any concerns with the proposed approach".

Mr Smallburn said given how busy senior planners were in the central unit and Mr Wilkinson's previous dealings with Westfield, "this seems an acceptable proposition".

Council resource consent manager Heather Harris said applicants could request specific planners. Requests were assessed, and the council was under no obligation to agree.

Ms Harris said it was sensible to assemble a team with experience in large-scale retail. Mr Mitchie had worked on retail developments in Newmarket and Sylvia Park.

St Lukes Community Association spokesman Will McKenzie said it was inappropriate for Westfield to ask for particular planners and wanted the council to review the decision.

The group said Westfield had always had the inside running.

- NZ Herald

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