Auckland councillors are going behind closed doors today to propose rezoning thousands more houses in the city's leafy suburbs for multiple townhouses and apartments.
The eastern suburbs of Pakuranga and Howick; Glenfield, Birkenhead and Takapuna on the North Shore; Whangaparaoa Peninsula; and Mangere Bridge in South Auckland are among the areas councillors will consider for intensification. All up, tens of thousands of traditional house and garden properties are being rezoned for the council's latest position to put forward to the independent hearings panel considering the Unitary Plan. The panel will make final recommendations to the council next year.
Read more: Secret housing plans for Auckland
The changes have prompted fears about the amenity and character of the city's suburbs, but gained support from groups like Generation Zero who say they allow medium density homes to be built close to the city where young people work and study.
"Locking up existing suburbs from new housing development is a big reason why houses prices are spiralling beyond the reach of young people. We're pleased to see much needed changes to the single house zone in the inner city," said Generation Zero spokesman Ryan Mearns.
Richard Burton, of Auckland 2040, said the community group had already agreed to relax density rules across the residential zones in exchange for tight controls on bulk and location and retaining landscaping and trees.
"We ... need to be satisfied all the things Aucklanders value about Auckland are retained," Mr Burton said.
Epsom MP David Seymour said the proposed intensification had enormous implications for congestion, character and the shape of school zones - and challenged councillors to speak up. Most councillors - particularly those on the Unitary Plan committee approving the changes - were reluctant to speak about the changes and the decision not to notify people whose homes are being rezoned.
One member of the Unitary Plan committee, North Shore councillor Chris Darby, said he could not comment on today's proposed changes, except to say he supported some and not others. He said he would love to take the changes out to Aucklanders, but a Government-imposed timetable to complete the Unitary Plan next year did not allow that.
Councillor Mike Lee said the proposed decimation of the single house zone, without notification halfway through the plan process, completely disregarded Aucklanders' civil and property rights.
Mayoral candidate and Labour MP Phil Goff said the issue needed to be handled with sensitivity. He said he supported intensification in the city and along arterial routes, but the council had to leave aside areas where there were strong objections to townhouses, studios and apartments of up to three storeys.
Mayor Len Brown referred to a council "fact sheet" setting out the Unitary Plan process. It said no changes to zoning have been made and the final decisions will not be made until next August.
Maps showing the proposed changes are expected to be made public next month, but homeowners will not be individually notified.
From leafy suburb to apartment zone
• Thousands more properties to be considered today for townhouses and apartments.
• Community groups fear changes.
• Generation Zero support medium density housing in city suburbs.
• Council says changes are just a proposal.
• Final decisions will not be taken until next year, says council.