Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

We're not a park, says Unitec boss

Locals love open space on campus and object to intensive development plans.

The Unitec campus is regarded by people in the community as a public park, complains Unitec chief executive Rick Ede.
The Unitec campus is regarded by people in the community as a public park, complains Unitec chief executive Rick Ede.

It is regarded by people in the community as a public park, complains Unitec chief executive Rick Ede, heading back to his office from a stroll around Mt Albert campus.

"We're happy for them to make use of the campus and find better ways to do that.

"It's not our core business to be a park. We're an education provider," he emphasises, returning to the Academic Service Centre, otherwise known as Building 48, which Unitec says was once a male ward "for less dangerous patients".

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Ede explained the background to plans for the 53.5ha site, much of it now park-like open space which the locals love.

He wants 43.5ha to be leased or sold for intensive residential and commercial development and Unitec squeezed down to 10ha. The deal would use the land to generate money to run the institute and allow Unitec to step out of its seismic building noose, which now concerns him.

Since details of the 20- to 30-year plans emerged last week, residents have complained that Unitec staff and students are using their neighbourhood as a public toilet, an ashtray and a rubbish dump, claiming the campus no-smoking policy forces people on to their streets.

In Mt Albert, people are taking sides: Unitec v residents.

The members-only Mt Albert Community's Facebook page had 158 comments by last Monday morning, after an aerial map published by the Herald showed the extent of the intensification, spreading on to the 3.94ha Mason Clinic site owned by the Waitemata District Health Board, and the big Taylors Laundry site owned by an investor and leased to that business.

Ede said Unitec had long been clear about its ambitions.

"We need to address the high costs of maintaining the current campus layout and many of its buildings and also address the real seismic risk of some buildings. Essentially, we want to create a new education hub, including a commercial and enterprise exchange, surrounded by enhanced green spaces, public parks and residential housing, bringing new value to the Auckland economy and the lift of our surrounding communities."

Residents are fretting about organising themselves, having only a month to lodge a response with Auckland Council to Unitec's unitary plan submission.


An aerial view of the Unitec site showing the proposed mix of educational, housing and commercial redevelopment.

Martin Skinner said the neighbourhood was already regularly grid-locked mornings and afternoons from the huge influx of Unitec traffic. Yet Unitec had not tackled traffic management or implemented public transport or pedestrian initiatives.

"Residents can no longer park cars in the surrounding streets during the day, and it's unsafe for children to walk to schools and kindergartens," he said.

Cathy Casey, an Auckland councillor, said that in the first round of applications for Special Housing Area status in November, Unitec applied to build 800 units on their site.

"It was rejected," she said.

'Bring it on' backing for house plan

Auckland councillor Cathy Casey and Albert Eden Local board member Peter Haynes are concerned about Unitec's plans.

But Derek Battersby, of the Whau Local Board, backs it.

"Bring it on," said the outspoken JP, predicting a big urban revival in the area if Unitec gets the green light.

"The opportunity for Unitec to put land aside for residential housing on their Carrington site is one that should be encouraged and considered as a Special Housing Area.

"It a great opportunity to create something quite special, promoting excellent urban design principles and open space," he said.

However, Casey said Unitec's SHA for 800 places was rejected by the council.

But Battersby said the scheme would revitalise a wide area of the isthmus.

"Carrington/ Unitec is within a substantive residential catchment taking in Point Chevalier, Mt Albert and Avondale. It is also close to St Lukes mall, Lynn Mall and public transport nodes," he said.

A trade analysis study would show a significant opportunity for the local shopping precincts to redevelop into vibrant economic retail areas, yet these places now look unloved, he complained.

"There will be many detractors similarly with Auckland's Council's Unitary Plan process," he said.

Nimbys - "many elderly people who don't like change, comfortably living in their nice homes" - were forgetting about the younger generation who were desperate to find affordable housing and would be quite happy to live in medium-density projects like Unitec's.

"Unitec is responsible, will consult widely with the local community, their views and desires to protect historic buildings and all things to create something quite special," Battersby predicted.

Who's involved

*Unitec with a 53.5ha site to develop
*Friends of Oakley Creek: waterway guardians
*Albert-Eden Local Board: chaired by Dr Peter Haynes
*Dr Cathy Casey: Auckland councillor
*Waitemata District Health Board: owns Mason Clinic
*Gladstone Primary School: opposite Unitec
*Pt Chevalier Social Enterprise
*Mt Albert Residents Association
*North Western Residents Association
*Waterview Primary School (nearby)

See the Unitec plans, including maps here:


- NZ Herald

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