Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Quax 'gobsmacked' at Birkenhead plan

The architects' image shows how the Birkenhead waterfront could look in 30 years. Photo / Supplied
The architects' image shows how the Birkenhead waterfront could look in 30 years. Photo / Supplied

High-rise apartment blocks lining historic Birkenhead's picturesque waterfront could be one of the results of the Auckland's Council's plans to intensify housing over the next 30 years.

An expert report to the council showed a startling image of the transformed area, which left outspoken critic and councillor Dick Quax saying he was "just gobsmacked".

Patrick Fontein of Studio D4 and Alistair Ray and Tim Robinson of architecture practice Jasmax prepared a report to the council after the Property Council complained about lack of detail in the draft plan being considered by the council and due to be completed within the next two months.

Those plans are to contain 75 per cent of all development within the existing city boundaries and allow only 25 per cent into new areas, a proposal criticised last year by the Government's Productivity Commission inquiry into housing affordability.

Mr Quax said he was left almost speechless that Birkenhead could be ruined.

"There will be so much community resistance to this. It's shocking to have so much high-rise on the waterfront, you can imagine what it will do to viewshafts.

"I'm absolutely horrified. Intensification should only occur where it's embraced by the community," Mr Quax said.

But the council's planning chief, Dr Roger Blakeley, said the Birkenhead image should not be misinterpreted.

"These are scenarios that have been developed," he said. "That's not saying that's what will happen. It's like asking what-if questions.

"It's saying that if the 75:25 split is in the final document, that's the sort of intensification that will be needed to deliver that.

"You're putting too much emphasis on what the future of Auckland will look like. That's one input about the future ratio of intensification versus greenfields development of Auckland.

"You should not take anything in those documents as fixed in stone."

The Studio D4 Jasmax report criticised the draft plan, saying "intensification to the target levels will not be achieved. Intensification will require significant amendments to the plan.

"Even with amendments, enormous political and community issues will almost certainly prohibit intensification to council's desired targets.

"Without major re-zoning, only 45,000 to 65,000 extra dwellings are able to be provided in intensified form in the next 30 years. Major rezoning and sticking to town centres and corridors could provide 90,000 to 120,000 extra dwellings.

"With major rezoning in most current urban areas - requiring huge political resilience - could provide 200,000 to 270,000 extra dwellings".

The report studied 14 diverse neighbourhoods from South Auckland to the North Shore.

- NZ Herald

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