Richard Burton: Unitary Plan zone changes insulting

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A last-minute change to Auckland’s proposed housing controls could be overturned at a council meeting today. Richard Burton calls the proposals unfair.
Whole suburbs have been up zoned to higher density zones. Photo / NZME.
Whole suburbs have been up zoned to higher density zones. Photo / NZME.

To all residents of Auckland, ask yourself this question: If the council proposed to rezone the street you live in to allow buildings of a completely different form, would you expect to be notified and would you expect a right of submission and a hearing?

Aucklanders have in their thousands answered with a resounding yes.

Why then has the council, in the very late stages of hearings on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan, abandoned the consultative process it has been following to date and proposed radical changes to the zoning pattern across Auckland?

The answer is in a small group of councillors influenced by senior council officers who wish to radically transform Auckland suburbs and know that if they did it by the normal consultative process they would face stiff questioning on the merits of the planned zoning changes. Instead this subcommittee propose what are called "out of scope" changes to the zonings.

Out of scope means no submissions were lodged asking for the changes and there is no opportunity for the property owners affected by these changes to make submissions or be heard by the Independent Hearing Panel. They are completely cut off from the consultative process undertaken to date.

This is the real issue. This is not about the merits of a compact urban form or intensification. It is about the Auckland Council ignoring the proper process of consultation, submission and hearing, trying to introduce radical zoning changes by stealth. It has been caught in the act and held accountable.

It was not the actions of all councillors but a bare majority in a subcommittee who adopted some of the out of scope zoning resolutions and only with the committee chair's casting vote.

The council has been considering the future form and composition of the city for the past three years guided by the Auckland Plan's vision of a quality compact urban form. The process adopted by the council and the Independent Hearing Panel until recently has involved extensive public consultation, firstly on the draft Unitary Plan, then through submissions and further submissions and finally workshops, mediations and hearings.

This is also not about the capacity of Auckland to accommodate future growth. The Independent Hearing Panel, early in the hearings, sought guidance from the council as to whether the Proposed Unitary Plan had provided for sufficient dwelling capacity to accommodate the expected demand for new dwellings to 2026 and beyond. The results of an exhaustive study have been given by the council's own expert, Dr Fairgrey, in evidence to be presented to the panel.

He said, "[The results] confirm the earlier conclusion that the estimated capacity for dwellings within the metropolitan urban limit and for all of Auckland in the period to 2026, is considerably greater than the projected demand for dwellings." The Proposed Unitary Plan therefore is providing ample opportunities to more than meet the demand for new dwellings for the next decade and beyond.

The out of scope zoning changes sought by the council are radical, whole suburbs have been up zoned to higher density zones including large areas in Glendowie, Kohimarama, St Heliers, Orakei, Westmere, Blockhouse Bay, Panmure, and Takapuna. The council has provided no justifications for these changes. No neighbourhood area studies have been undertaken. The residents in these areas have not been consulted and have no right of submission or hearing. This is wrong and the full council meeting today should reverse the subcommittee's decision and rescind the out of scope zoning changes.

The depth of feeling across Auckland can be seen in the near 700 Aucklanders who attended a public meeting last week to discuss the changes in the eastern suburbs.

Depriving residents of their right to have their say is anti-democratic. The way the council has gone about this is contrary to natural justice and an abuse of process. I call on all councillors to listen to the residents of Auckland and withdraw the proposed out of scope zoning changes.

Richard Burton is chairman of Auckland 2040.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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