Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Unitary Plan: 'Shoebox' apartments out of Auckland blueprint

Councillors are expected to take up to seven days to make final decisions on the Unitary Plan. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Councillors are expected to take up to seven days to make final decisions on the Unitary Plan. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Some rough edges have been removed from the new blueprint for Auckland - among them a possible return to the days of "shoebox" apartments.

Council officers yesterday released a number of "major policy shifts" to the latest draft of the Unitary Plan, but kept the key provisions for a new era featuring apartment living and fewer traditional single homes.

Controls around the number of dwellings allowed to be built in mixed housing zones as of right, around fences, and the deletion of pre-1940 demolition control in the Queen St valley precinct are other measures that look set to be reinstated when councillors meet tomorrow to adopt the plan to accommodate a million more residents by 2041.

Outrage over proposals to build homes on one of Auckland's most prized volcanos, Crater Hill at Papatoetoe, and near a pristine estuary north of Long Bay, has led to council officers recommending rejection of these plans.

Geologist Bruce Hayward, who has been fighting to preserve Crater Hill, said it was good news but was not celebrating victory until councillors made their final decision.

He said if the councillors reject the recommendation, the crater could be returned to the way it should have always been.

Volcanic Cones Society spokesman Greg Smith hoped the councillors would follow the officers' advice. A 149-page report for councillors recommends they accept most of the proposals from an independent hearings panel, which has permitted 422,000 new homes in the next 25 years compared with 213,000 in the original council draft plan.

It has achieved this partly by rezoning more than 30,000 single houses for more intensive housing. The central isthmus has lost 42 per cent of the single house zone for a mix of terraced houses and small-scale apartments.

Officers are recommending councillors support this level of intensification but want to tighten controls to guide where growth should occur in urban areas, and rules for rural subdivisions to avoid the loss of farmland and manage extra demands on infrastructure.

Alan Johnson, social policy analyst for the Salvation Army, said he believed there needed to be a minimum dwelling size for housing, and it was naive to think that not having them would lead to good outcomes.

"Relying on the market to set acceptable standards has been shown not to work in Auckland already."

Councillors are expected to take up to seven days to make final decisions on the Unitary Plan. Decisions are due to be notified on the council website on August 19.

Officers say the volcano is a significant geological feature with significant cultural and landscape value to Maori. Photo / Dean Purcell
Officers say the volcano is a significant geological feature with significant cultural and landscape value to Maori. Photo / Dean Purcell

Late changes to the Unitary Plan*

Reject the recommendation to abolish a rule requiring owners to seek iwi approval for work on their land

Council officers say reinstating this rule will enable the council to better meet its legal obligations to Maori. They say there is evidence of 2213 sites and places of value to Maori and a risk of ongoing loss and damage to sites without protection.

Reject the recommendation to abolish minimum-size apartments

Officers say leaving this to the Building Act does not address social or quality effects and minimum sizes will provide positive social outcomes.

The council favours minimum studio apartment sizes of 30sq m in the central city and 40sq m elsewhere.

Reject the recommendation for housing on Crater Hill, a volcanic tuff in Papatoetoe

Officers say the volcano is a significant geological feature with significant cultural and landscape value to Maori.

Reject the recommendation for housing north of Long Bay on the southern slope of the Okura estuary

Officers say the Okura precinct does not have appropriate provision to address transport requirements.

Reject the recommendation to delete a front fence rule

Officers say this would default to 2.5m high fences and lead to poor streetscapes.

Reject the recommendation allowing up to four dwellings to be built in the mixed-housing zones as of right without a resource consent

Officers saying there is a high risk of poor design outcomes. The council supports resource consent for three or more dwellings.

Reject the deletion of a pre-1940 demolition control in the Queen St valley precinct

Officers say this should remain to maintain special character buildings in downtown Auckland.

Reject the recommendation to delete additional height and site intensity at Wynyard Quarter

Officers say it would significantly reduce development potential.

Reject the deletion of the objectives and policies to focus growth within the existing metropolitan area

Officers say the lack of specific objectives and policy would lead to little or no guidance as to where future growth should be encouraged.

Reject loosening the objectives and policies for rural subdivisions

Officers say this could lead to inappropriate rural subdivisions, loss of rural production, rural character and place extra demands on infrastructure.

*The above are proposed changes to the recommendations of the independent hearings panel released nearly two weeks ago. They will be debated by councillors from tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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