Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Neighbours: City let us down over bigger mall

Photo / Richard Robinson
Photo / Richard Robinson

Community could not raise money to test Auckland Council's approval in court

St Lukes residents say they feel let down by the Auckland Council's approval of Westfield's plan to double the size of its shopping mall.

"We are disappointed at the effect on the area, which is due to our inability to raise enough funds to the test the decision of the council in the court," said St Lukes Community Association committee member Barry Colley.

As councillor Mike Lee saw it, residents had ample grounds to appeal.

"But the locals were understandably unwilling to take on the world's largest mall operator, Westfield, and the Super City in court."

Mr Lee said the process leading to council approval not only let down the residents but compromised the future of Auckland itself.

Another councillor, Cathy Casey, said approval "goes against all the principles of the Auckland Plan in terms of designing people-focused town centres and building resilient communities".

The giant mall would suck the life from local shops in Sandringham, Balmoral, Three Kings and Mt Albert. "Since when did we allow global companies to design our town centres?"

Mr Colley said the council's approval forced residents to try to come to an agreement with Westfield.

"Westfield has experts and their pockets were deep, and we were a bunch of residents holding garage sale, raffles and picking up Christmas trees for $10 a time to try to pay the legal bill. It was a bit of a joke.

"It's cost the association $50,000 and we are still fundraising for it."

The association and St Lukes Gardens Apartments body corporate did appeal to the Environment Court after the new Auckland Council endorsed the company's "master plan" for expanding the site.

Court action stalled while Mayor Len Brown offered the prospect of an informal mediation between the parties and himself.

Mr Colley said the mayoral mediation was a spectacular failure and a waste of money, because residents had to come to the table with a lawyer to give their best response.

The court has now made an order for consent for the plan-change based on the agreed settlement.

Mr Brown said mediation between Westfield and residents ensured the best outcome in the circumstances.

"Attempting to delay the matters until the Auckland Plan process had been completed was legally not an option and would not have materially altered the outcome."

WESTFIELD PLAN
- Forms core of high-density town centre.
- Links Exeter Rd and Aroha Ave.
- Limits building heights to 30m on corner sites.
- Expands floor area to 92,500sq m.
- Allows retail, entertainment, taverns, cafes, offices & apartments.

- NZ Herald

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