ARC chief challenges house jam

By Bernard Orsman

The chairman of the Auckland Regional Council, Mike Lee, is calling for an overhaul of the region's controversial growth strategy, including a freeze on intensification plans in suburbs like Glen Innes in the meantime.

"We have to listen very carefully to what communities want," said Mr Lee, who also chairs the regional growth forum that is responsible for the blueprint to squeeze 320,000 new homes into Auckland by 2050.

He was concerned how plans for intensification in garden suburbs like Panmure and Glen Innes had provoked an angry reaction. Residents in the mainly state-housing suburb of Glen Innes overwhelmingly oppose high-density housing, fearing it will be a social disaster.

Despite community opposition, Auckland City planners and politicians are pressing ahead to cram hundreds more people, including state tenants with the highest social needs, into three- and four-storey town houses and apartments in one of the country's poorest suburbs.

"I believe in intelligent intensification, not a heavy-handed, sledgehammer approach to it," Mr Lee said.

As an environmentalist, he questioned the view that intensification was the way to cater for Auckland's growth and that growth was good.

Mr Lee said the regional growth strategy, which identified 51 areas for growth within existing limits, was started in the mid to late 1990s when Auckland had suffered a long recession and yearned for growth.

"We need to look at those assumptions again. Yes, it is sensible to intensify areas like the CBD and around rail corridors but I would like to look at a more necklace-like approach whereby we look at centres along the rail corridor such as Pukekohe, Te Kauwhata in the Waikato and north to Helensville and Kaukapakapa for a hamlet-type township approach."

The chairmen of the Northland and Waikato regional councils have been invited to take part in the Auckland growth forum.

Mr Lee said a look at growth from a broader perspective was needed, to get a national policy statement on population and development.

Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard and Deputy Mayor Dr Bruce Hucker, who is overseeing the council's growth plans in 19 suburbs, said the growth strategy was basically sound and needed no overhaul.

Mr Hubbard said the ARC was sending out mixed signals. It was taking the council to court for not cramming enough people into Panmure on the one hand yet talking about less intensification in Glen Innes.

Dr Hucker said there was no need to freeze the Glen Innes plan, which he said was a "medium-density" approach to include apartments, terrace and townhouses for a low-income area.

He said for the plan to work, Housing New Zealand needed to provide a good mix of tenants, not just those with the greatest social need.

Tamaki College principal David Hodge said Glen Innes would become the "worst urban slum in New Zealand" unless fundamental issues were addressed first.

Going for growth

* The region's growth strategy involves intensive housing development in 51 areas
* Under the plan 320,000 new homes will be squeezed into Auckland by 2050

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