Developer plans to strike contracts with many providers to put up 2500 homes
Private developer Todd Property Group wants to have its first housing sections ready for sale towards the end of this year at its 160ha Long Bay development on Auckland's northern outskirts.
An information office with a cafe will be the first building to rise at the site, which is 25km from the central business district.
But instead of awarding most of the housing contracts to Fletcher Residential as it did at Stonefields, group chief executive Evan Davies said the business intends to strike contracts with many housing providers to put up the 2500 residences.
Different housing is needed so a wider choice of house builder is appropriate, Davies said, although he envisages Fletcher Residential also being at Long Bay.
Driving through the residential area north from Torbay and dropping over the brow of the hill at Beach Rd down towards the entrance to the Long Bay Regional Park, the northern ridge is now covered in machinery, earthmovers, scrapers, cranes, diggers, roading equipment, pipes, infrastructure gear and trucks.
Beach Rd marks the boundary where Auckland finishes. Houses run out right at Todd's boundary and for years those residents have enjoyed green vistas across farmland and wide open paddocks. That is all changing.
Earthworks are on the south facing slopes below the Awaruku Ridge and Todd has completed three seasons, initially creating wetlands, then moving to the Awaruku face and now civil works, bringing infrastructure to the site.
Stephen Martin, Todd senior development manager, said these seasons traditionally ran in the drier months from October to April although Auckland Council had allowed an extension of this season until the end of July.
That will allow Todd to contour land for stages one and two of the project, each around 3.5ha.
Extensive civil earthworks are needed because the land has ridges and gullies and some steep gradients and Davies cites remediating geotechnical hazards as the main reason for big earthworks.
Hick Bros Civil Construction are at the site and civil contractors Dempsey Wood have been active there. That business cited the steep terrain in the area bounded by the Awaruku Stream and Long Bay Reserve.
"Key aspects of the scope of works include 400,000 cubic metres of complex earthworks, shear-key construction, a 2ha stormwater detention pond and wetland," Dempsey Wood said.
Shapes of roads are beginning to form and one section near the southern end has the first kerbing and roadside parking bays formed.
Attempts have been made to minimise the effects of intensive new housing estates on the beachfront and regional park by creating a buffer between the public and private areas.
In 2010, about 23ha of Todd land went into public reserves to form a green buffer when the former North Shore City Council reached agreement with the company for public ownership of 18.7ha zoned for protecting archaeological sites, as well as 4.6ha for parks.
About 20m below ground, sewage pipes are being laid and the first of two bridges will be up soon.
Level areas are being contoured for many kilometres of roading and Todd is creating a new vehicle access to the Long Bay Regional Park and a pedestrian access to the back of Long Bay College.
Water supply is also being upgraded. Todd is installing a new water main running about 3km from the site at Glenvale Rd because the area was under-served.
Davies said planning for the big project began in about 1998 but work did not start until last year, showing the almost insurmountable difficulty of creating housing in a city desperate for more supply and with generations of future residents facing renting.
Westpac's Dominick Stevens cited low interest rates and years of severe under-building as reasons why some Auckland houses were selling for double the capital valuation.
Davies agreed and said that Long Bay was an example of a project where environmental factors were put ahead of people's housing needs.
No prices for the land or houses have been discussed yet but Davies says the smaller sections could be around 400sq m. Townhouses will face reserve areas.
Davies said much of the outright opposition to any housing there "had dropped away and it's more now about folk trying to preserve as much open space as they can and their attention is more on the effects of the construction works".
Last January, clay wash-off for the second time in a month raised fears for the Long Bay-Okura Marine Reserve when residents complained of a muddy stain over the waters of the reserve, adjacent to the regional park, although Todd spokesman Sifa Taumoepau said then there was no breach to sediment containment devices.
Martin has been on the site for six years, initially working there when former developer Greg Olliver planned the project.
Davies began around the same time the Environment Court delivered its decision and so was not embroiled in Olliver's fight with the Auckland Regional Council and other organisations.
North of the 160ha Long Bay project, Todd also owns 113ha of farmland, outside the existing metropolitan urban limits, at Okura.
"This stunning land holding has a rural zoning and is made up of 26 separately titled lots," Todd said.
"The value of the Todd Property Group Okura land holdings rests in its location.
"Okura has an amazing coastal outlook to the Long Bay/Okura Marine reserve and the islands of Auckland's gulf in the east, bordering on the Okura Estuary in the north, and the new Long Bay Community in the south."
LOCALS UNHAPPY DESPITE CHANGES
Bernard Stanley, Long Bay-Okura Great Park Society deputy convener, said his organisation remained unhappy about the area's development, despite winning some concessions.
"Overall, we think that green slope shouldn't have been developed at all between Long Bay College and the regional park," Stanley said.
"Council should have bought that and retained it all as open reserve land for recreational purposes for the future and the burgeoning population," he said, citing predictions of 400,000 people living on the North Shore.
That growing population should not go to areas like Long Bay, Stanley said.
"They should go somewhere else, obviously.
"How do you provide for that growing population's recreational needs?
"We would have preferred to see it all as reserve," he said, dismissing Todd Property Group's pride in a reserve area of 23ha being created near the park's entranceway.
"That cost us $500,000 in the Environment Court," Stanley said of the society's fight against former developer and land owner LandCo.
"LandCo advertised for 25 rich beach bums to buy sections facing the regional park," he said.
In 2002 the society collected 57,000 signatures asking the city council and the ex-Auckland Regional Council to protect the Long Bay-Okura Peninsula by creating a great park.
The pressure resulted in the city paying $23.4 million to LandCo for 35.8ha alongside the marine reserve and the regional council spending $8 million to buy 5.8ha to extend its park.
Opponents of the housing project remain concerned about site runoff but Stanley praised the new lake and extensive native planting.
"We can't tell how the end result will look yet but we're very pleased with the wetland development area," he said.
* Largest new housing estates in Auckland:
* Stonefields, Mt Wellington.
* Long Bay, North Shore.
* Hobsonville Point, West Auckland.
* Millwater Estate, near Silverdale.By Anne Gibson @Anne Gibson Email Anne