Support waning among councillors for rezoning plan.

Chris Darby has become the latest councillor to have second thoughts about dramatic housing density plans in Auckland suburbs.

The North Shore councillor told the Herald he was "undecided" and that natural justice and opportunity for public participation by those affected were key issues for him.

Mr Darby and Whau councillor, Ross Clow, have indicated in the past 24 hours that they could vote with 11 councillors who want to dump a proposal to rezone thousands of homes for more intensive housing without consulting affected property owners.

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That would bring the number of councillors opposed to the proposal to 13, leaving just Mayor Len Brown and seven councillors supporting the controversial proposals.

On February 10, Mr Darby said resetting the council's "decision-making to square zero is to turn our backs on addressing Auckland's housing crisis.

"We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility by throwing in the political towel now.

"I'm not coivnced we've got the balance right but at this stage I'm prepared to see things tested through the public hearings process and reserve my final position for mid-year," he said.

Since then, public outrage has increased at "out of scope" changes, meaning residents did not ask for them in the proposed Unitary Plan, and there is no formal right of reply.

Mr Darby, whose ward has large numbers of affected property owners, said he had asked for external legal advice of advice provided to councillors yesterday on the issue at a workshop behind closed doors.

Mayor Len Brown has called an extraordinary council meeting tomorrow to discuss the issue.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said further intensifying the inner-city suburbs, knowing it would disenfranchise most property owners of the right to respond, was provocative.

It was stupid, he said, to destroy the special character of the inner-city suburbs when large areas of Auckland's south and west were seeking to intensify and grow their population and business opportunities.

"You'd think that given the huge changes Auckland is going through, the council leadership would want to operate in a way that ensures people are comfortable with its processes," Mr Barnett said.

Mr Clow told the Herald that he supported intensification but was not happy with the process and natural justice was not being served. Two weeks ago he had reservations but supported the process.

He had not made a final decision but was leaning towards withdrawing the changes from the Unitary Plan process.

In Blockhouse Bay, a suburb in his Whau ward, the out-of-scope changes were substantial and hardly anyone had been informed, he said.

Councillors yesterday received a second briefing on the proposed changes behind closed doors, described by one as a "brow-beating".

Councillor Chris Fletcher said she had received a veiled threat from officers that she may not be able to vote on the plan at the final stages in August.

She said there was a suggestion that councillors who oppose parts of the plan and take a public position may have a conflict of interest when the council makes final decisions on recommendations from an independent hearings panel.

Penny Pirrit, director of regulatory services, said councillors were reminded of obligations to come to decisions with an open mind so there can be no allegations of predetermination.

"They were not told that speaking out on changes could lead to them being unable to vote on the Unitary Plan, nor was this implied."

The mayor declined to comment.

Changes to suburb 'huge'

Ross Clow said when he looked at Blockhouse Bay and New Windsor, big changes had been made and residents had not had the chance to express concern or support. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Ross Clow said when he looked at Blockhouse Bay and New Windsor, big changes had been made and residents had not had the chance to express concern or support. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Blockhouse Bay is substantially impacted by proposed housing density changes.
"It's huge. What we are looking at is a complete change in the character of Blockhouse Bay," says local businessman Brom Breetvelt.

"Where there are one- and two-storey houses you are going to get three-storey apartments popping up everywhere," he said.

Whau councillor Ross Clow said that when he looked at Blockhouse Bay and New Windsor, big changes had been made and residents had not had the chance to express concern or support.

"How have the people of Blockhouse Bay been informed? The reality is hardly anybody has been informed," Mr Clow said.

Mr Breetvelt said the maps showing the proposed changes to the post-war, single-house suburb were now embedded in a 500-plus page document that people could not find.

The council has not informed affected residents of the proposed changes but they were made public on zoning maps in December.