Two local board members have accused Environment Minister Nick Smith of "bullying" the community to back a Fletchers proposal for 1500 homes in the old Three Kings quarry.
Puketapapa Local Board deputy chairman Harry Doig and member Michael Wood, a Labour candidate at the last election, said Dr Smith's decision to join a legal case over the housing development in support of the developer represented "central government bullying and stand-over tactics".
"Senior Auckland councillors have told us that for some time that central government has been threatening the council with action unless it agreed to the developer's proposal, and now it is clear that the Government wishes to also intimidate local residents who are utilising their legal rights through the courts," the men said.
"The proposed development is not simply a private concern. It involves the use of large holdings of publicly owned reserve land. It is entirely appropriate that residents have the right to have their case heard without heavy-handed Government intervention."
Dr Smith said he would oppose appeals by the Three Kings United Group and South Epsom Planning Group, because of Auckland's need for more affordable housing.
But Mr Doig and Mr Wood said Dr Smith's move was extraordinary given that Conservation Minister Maggie Barry is also required to decide whether to approve a land swap proposed as part of the development, which would give up an existing reserve for housing in exchange for a new soccer pitch on the ground floor of the disused quarry.
"How can she possibly do that when the Cabinet, [which] she has collective responsibility within, has now taken an entrenched legal position on the development?" the men asked.
"Local residents have championed an alternative development plan from a leading landscape architect that would see a significant medium-density apartment development, integrated with the neighbouring town centre, and in sympathy with the adjacent Big King volcano," they said.
"An opportunity for an outstanding, integrated residential development is here, but it will languish in the courts while the developer, Auckland Council, and the minister collude to ram their preferred plan through. Our local board is willing to sit down and work through an agreeable compromise, but the minister will need to move into a more constructive mode."