Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Milford high-rises step closer despite locals' opposition

The plan for 250 apartments gets extra time after missing deadline. Photo / Richard Robinson
The plan for 250 apartments gets extra time after missing deadline. Photo / Richard Robinson

A high-rise apartment plan for the Milford Shopping Centre has taken a step forward despite a community move to get Auckland Council to reject the application.

The NZ Retail Property Group's proposal for a zoning change stalled after drawing 1300 objections in November 2008.

Council officers say the application missed a statutory two-year processing deadline while they awaited answers to requests for more details on traffic effects and the number of apartments.

On Friday, the council's hearings committee granted an extension of time so the plan could be publicly renotified and the council issue a decision before October next year.

NZ Retail Property Group chairman Mark Gunton said he looked forward to putting the proposal to a public hearing.

Changing the North Shore District Plan would allow 250 apartments in three blocks that exceed the present zoning's 9m limit.

The buildings would be between eight and 15 levels and the site was big enough for them to be positioned to minimise any negative effect.

"There has been a lot of misinformation, but nothing has changed in our plan."

Operative plans manager Warren Maclennan said the applicant had been tardy in supplying information but the council was obliged to process. It could not ask the applicant to start again.

Renotification was fair to all parties, though the applicant would bear all reasonable costs.

"We will be informing all the 1296 who made submissions two years ago so they can make a new submission or have their existing ones used in the process.

"We are also keen to hold public meetings on the plan change before the public submissions period ends."

But Devonport-Takapuna Local Board member Joseph Bergin said the applicant had not shown good faith to the community.

"A good year has passed since they were asked to provide information, without any communication from the applicant to people who made submissions."

The board felt that the applicant had caused unreasonable delay, and an extension to the statutory timeframe should not be granted without consultation.

This was supported by Milford residents and business associations and its village forum.

North Shore councillor George Wood said the project had been hanging over residents' heads for two years.

"People have a lot at stake here. You are talking about skyscrapers - for our village - and people's property values are affected."

Local board member Mike Cohen disagreed with the council's legal advice on whether the council had discretion to extend the process period.

Regional and local planning manager Penny Pirrit said a refusal to process an application which was complete would be open to a High Court judicial review and could make the council liable for substantial costs.

Mr Cohen said the council had given in to the threat.

"It begs the question: Who looks after the community? How can a pensioner who has lived in a house nearby for 30 years afford a judicial review?"

Mr Gunton said the project had taken three years - an inordinate amount of time - and he understood it stalled because "for some reason the [former North Shore City] council failed to adequately notify it".

However, he said, the Auckland Council was showing "a degree of professionalism in terms of its approach to development and the cohesive planning of Auckland".

- NZ Herald

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