Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Brown backs down over high-rises

Chorus of complaints over Unitary Plan prompts rethink on some height proposals.

Len Brown. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Len Brown. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is backing down in the face of a citywide revolt against high-rise apartments and infill housing in a new planning rulebook for the city.

Mr Brown says the council will reduce heights proposed in some coastal suburbs and around town centres where apartment buildings butt into residential streets.

"We have had a lot of feedback and concern expressed going from a one- or two-level home to a four- or five-level apartments right on the boundary," he said, adding better rules were needed.

He dropped hints that the coastal suburbs of Milford and St Heliers could see a reduction in eight- and four-storey buildings respectively. The Herald understands Mt Eden could be spared four-storey apartments tucked behind the self-styled shopping village.

Mr Brown signalled other changes after a chorus of complaints from more than 10,000 people attending public meetings in the first eight weeks of feedback on the rulebook - or Unitary Plan.

These include slowing down the pace of change, such as allowing for four-storey apartments in areas earmarked for six storeys.

The heights could be reviewed in seven or 10 years' time, depending on the pace of growth.

The mayor also wants to address concerns of residents living in special ecological areas (SEAs), where strict controls have been placed on development.

The growing opposition to the Unitary Plan has caught Mr Brown and senior officers off guard. The council wants to dispel the notion that homes could be taken off people to build apartments, no one wants to live in apartments and the council is dividing young and old.

George Wood - one of several councillors opposed to the speed and process for the Unitary Plan - welcomed the "realism" shown by the Mayor in listening to concerns.

Mr Brown flagged the changes on a day he broke the ground for the first home at the Long Bay housing estate, which is at odds with the Unitary Plan aims of compact living and affordability. The development is set to provide 2000 expensive homes on large sections.

On Tuesday, the council's Auckland Plan committee voted to set up "collaborative workshops" with interested parties to try to resolve issues after submissions close on May 31.

Citywide revolt

* Thousands turned out to public meetings to oppose high-rise apartments on their doorstep.

* Council has dismissed opposition.

* But now Mayor Len Brown has signalled backdown on building heights and a process will be set up to resolve issues.

- NZ Herald

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