Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Auckland housing rezone loses council support

A man takes pictures of planned zoning changes at a public meeting in Kohimarama earlier this week. Photo / NZ Herald
A man takes pictures of planned zoning changes at a public meeting in Kohimarama earlier this week. Photo / NZ Herald

Auckland Council's proposal to rezone thousands of homes for more intensive housing and apartments has lost the support of a majority of councillors, with councillor Sir John Walker today speaking out against the changes.

"If the mayor wants my vote we are going to have to come to a compromise," said Sir John, who did not spell out what that solution would be.

"I'm on the residents' side. I don't want to see high rise buildings towering over Auckland.

"I don't trust the town planners. They present one thing and change their mind and do another," said the Olympic gold medallist.

Sir John said he supported calls to withdraw the changes, which see large swathes of suburban Auckland rezoned for multi-storey buildings, terraced housing and apartments in the council's latest submission to the Unitary Plan.

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Under the "out of scope" changes to zoning, meaning no residents asked for them in the proposed Unitary Plan, there is no formal right of reply for affected property owners.

Sir John's position means 11 of the 21 councillors want the council to withdraw the out of scope changes from the Unitary Plan process.

The other 10 are Cameron Brewer, Cathy Casey, Chris Fletcher, Denise Krum, Mike Lee, Dick Quax, Sharon Stewart, Wayne Walker, John Watson and George Wood.

Mayor Len Brown, deputy mayor Penny Hulse, Arthur Anae, Bill Cashmore, Ross Clow, Linda Cooper, Chris Darby, Alf Filipaina and Calum Penrose told the Herald they support the changes proceeding through the Unitary Plan process.

Councillor Penny Webster has not responded, but is believed to be in Brown's camp.

Hulse, who is steering the Unitary Plan through council, yesterday said she was sure there would be a legal process to withdraw the council's latest submission on zones.

"But I fail to understand why we would do so and effectively remove our ability to participate in the discussion and comment on other submissions which may call for much more intense upzoning than our council submissions does," Hulse said.

Watch video - Meeting on Auckland's housing squeeze:

Video

Withdrawing the council's out of scope zoning submissions would also mean withdrawing other zoning submissions to increase heritage protection, she said.

Why ruin the city with three-storey apartments? They might not be very high but I wouldn't want to live next door to one.
Auckland Councillor Sir John Walker

She released a directive from panel chairman, Judge David Kirkpatrick, where he stated the panel would consider the principles of natural justice on whether or not to make recommendations that are out of scope.

The independent hearings panel is currently considering submissions on the Unitary Plan and will make recommendations later this year to council for final decisions.

Sir John said he had seen what happened at Flat Bush in South Auckland, where he lived for 25 years.

He said the development of the area was sold to people as a nice housing area with bush walks and the like. Now it was becoming full of apartments.

Eight years ago he sold up and moved to a lifestyle block in Bombay "where you can't build a single house".

Sir John said the city should stick with low rise housing.

Seven hundred people turned out to that meeting and people were concerned. They should be concerned.
Sir John Walker

"Why ruin the city with three-storey apartments? They might not be very high but I wouldn't want to live next door to one".

The Manurewa-Papakura councillor was also critical of Unitary Plan process, saying there was talk about fair consultation, "but where was the consultation" on out of scope changes.

"Seven hundred people turned out to that meeting and people were concerned. They should be concerned," he said.

A public meeting in Kohimarama on Tuesday night drew a large crowd of mostly eastern suburbs residents to hear what changes could be in store.

Members of the Auckland 2040 community group accused the council of being "devious" and "hijacking the democratic process", which several residents and ratepayers groups said would change the character of their suburbs.

A spokesman for Mayor Len Brown yesterday said he was keen to let the hearings process runs its course and get recommendations back from the panel.

"He has nothing to add at this stage," the spokesman said.

Brewer yesterday said if there was any inkling of an opportunity to overturn the changes "some of us will be testing that fully and pushing for withdrawal".

Fourteen new Special Housing Areas that will provide more than 4500 new homes across Auckland have been announced, but plans at one SHA in Birkenhead is not going down well with residents.

This latest tranche will bring the total number of SHAs in Auckland to 120, with a combined potential yield of more than 52,000 new homes.

At Zion Rd in Birkenhead, residents are concerned about the traffic and parking impact of plans for 50 new homes.

Jane Allpress, who has lived in Zion Rd for 21 years, said the street was a narrow, no exit street less than 100m from the main Birkenhead intersection. Parking was already a problem for residents.

"In all honesty the traffic report, if done, should have been enough to veto this piece of land from the get-go," she said.

Another resident, Mike Pratt, echoed her concerns, saying the street was almost a one-way street, the intersection onto Birkenhead Rd was a massive concern and had a high accident rate.

Ms Allpress questioned how the SHA had "popped up" after questioning council planners three weeks ago who, she says, did not have the property listed for any consents or fast-tracking for development.

The Auckland Housing Accord, which was agreed in October 2013 by Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith and Auckland Mayor Len Brown, provides for the creation of SHAs by Auckland Council with the approval of the Government.

Qualifying developments in these areas can be streamlined and fast-tracked.

- NZ Herald

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