Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Compact city rulebook hits wall

Govt responds to chorus of complaints and opts for three-year timetable on unitary plan.

Queen St in Auckland is dwarfed by high-rise towers. Photo / Richard Robinson
Queen St in Auckland is dwarfed by high-rise towers. Photo / Richard Robinson

A new rulebook that sets out to build high-rise apartments and turn rural land into housing is becoming a tough ask for Auckland Mayor Len Brown and his deputy Penny Hulse.

Communities are rebelling against high-rise and in-fill housing, Aucklanders are struggling to follow the complex document and nine of 20 councillors have written to the Prime Minister urging him to slow down the process.

Yesterday, a glum-faced Ms Hulse listened as Local Board members opposed the official council line of giving the rulebook legal status on notification at a parliamentary select committee hearing in Auckland.

Ms Hulse, who has led work on the new rulebook, or unitary plan, urged MPs on the local government and environment committee to give the unitary plan legal weight when it is formally notified in September.

"This would be the best and fastest way to deliver earlier supply of land for Auckland's urgent housing needs."

Minister for the Environment Amy Adams has rejected a request to give early legal effect to the rulebook to ensure the community is involved in its development.

The Government has opted for a three-year timetable and with the council has set up a working party of government and council officials to find ways to build more homes in the meantime.

Auckland-wide community meetings have sparked angry reactions to plans in a draft copy of the unitary plan for high-rise and in-fill housing in more than half of the urban area.

Ms Hulse and Mr Brown have promised to listen and make changes, but also believe 15,000 submissions on the Auckland Plan - a 30-year blueprint for the city - gives the council the mandate for a compact city with the unitary plan being the "toolkit" to guide development.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association and Federated Farmers back the push to give the plan legal effect on notification.

Meanwhile, St Heliers residents turned out in force last night to oppose more "concrete monstrosities" destroying the character of the seaside village.

Ms Hulse and senior planner Penny Pirrit were given a clear message that plans for 12.5m and 16.5m buildings were unacceptable.

The destruction of heritage buildings and construction of two concrete commercial buildings in the village have upset the community.

Residents want the 12.5m height reduced to 9m and plans for 16.5m buildings on the fringes of the village dumped.

"Please keep the small, intimate character of this village. While the height remains there is no protection," said Alex Dempsey.

Ms Hulse told the meeting: "You can't put a bell jar over the top of St Heliers and have no change."

But resident Guy King said: "This is a unique community and it is special.

"We have a right to demand what we want within reason."

Calling for slow-down

Councillors who signed letter to Prime Minister:
*Christine Fletcher
*Sandra Coney
*Mike Lee
*Wayne Walker
*George Wood
*Dick Quax
*Cameron Brewer
*Sharon Stewart
*Calum Penrose

- NZ Herald

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