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Auckland mayors unite in plea for more land

By Wayne Thompson

Mayors of Manukau and Waitakere say the region's master plan for growth is throttling economic opportunities in their cities and needs an urgent overhaul.

When it was introduced in 1999, the Auckland Regional Council's regional growth strategy was hailed as the answer to managing the effects of growth such as in urban sprawl.

But Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis says the 50-year blueprint created by the region's eight councils is "out of date and irrelevant".

He said yesterday its strategies to beef up existing commercial centres had failed and the creation of metropolitan urban limits had cut off access to much-needed new business and housing land.

"It's no longer possible to get larger areas of land to cater for major industries," he said.

The shortage of land for housing was pushing prices sky-high and making it difficult for young people to get homes.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said he also wanted a review of the strategy to be completed as soon as possible.

He was impatient about the lack of progress in having potential new development areas at Westgate, Whenuapai and Hobsonville brought inside the metropolitan urban limit and made available.

"Anyone that is in local government is frustrated by long delays, procrastination and the inability to see the big picture - not by this council but by regulatory officialdom that stifles growth and prosperity."

Waitakere was being hampered in trying for sustainable development.

"It's like operating in a sardine tin," Mr Harvey said.

"Waitakere has 3 per cent of the office land available for development in the region, and the urban limit is throttling us."

Rodney Mayor John Law said he was pleased at the agreement on future urban limits by councils in the region's north and west.

"There seems to be general acceptance that Rodney needs a few more hundred hectares of commercial land that is now outside the limit, and I hope a new regional growth strategy reflects this," said Mr Law.

But officials of councils in the north and west are at loggerheads with the ARC over their desire for extra land for a variety of uses, including retail, offices and accommodation.

They want to create work opportunities close to home so their residents do not need to commute long distances.

The ARC's focus is on bulking up existing town centres and for any growth outside the urban limits to be confined to businesses which need large sites.

The strategy and the urban limits were being reviewed, said ARC strategy and planning committee chairman Paul Walbran.

"I would hope the strategy review will be completed by the middle of next year," he said.

The strategy looked 50 years ahead and was meant to be updated every five years.

The original concept of the strategy - long-term sustainability and efficient cities - remained, and the review would be fine-tuning.

Population growth had been at the high end of predictions, which were the basis of the strategy.

This would mean areas being brought in for development that would have been reserved for the growth of 10 years ahead.

Mr Walbran said the reviewed strategy would also reflect lessons learned from recent studies on quality urban housing, transport and available business land.


WHAT WE'VE GOT

Auckland region's business land:

* 1550ha available in 2004.

* 576ha in potential sites.

* 2126ha total available estimate.

* 129ha of vacant land taken up annually.

* Shortage predicted to occur closer to 2011 than 2020.

Source: ARC

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