Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Independent group could decide Auckland housing stalemate

Council chief executive Stephen Town has floated the idea of an independent consensus group to break the stalemate that has pitted property owners against young people. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Council chief executive Stephen Town has floated the idea of an independent consensus group to break the stalemate that has pitted property owners against young people. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Bitter divisions over housing density in Auckland could be referred to an independent group to find a lasting solution.

Council chief executive Stephen Town has floated the idea of an independent consensus group to break the stalemate that has pitted property owners against young people and damaged political relationships.

Last week's decision by a majority of councillors to pull council's latest proposed housing density plans from the Unitary Plan process has created a blame game in columns, blogs and social media.

"This is another case of council arrogance but this time it over-reached itself," councillor Mike Lee said in his monthly Ponsonby News column.

Peter Nunns, writing in the Transport Blog, said the most likely outcome was Auckland continuing to build too few homes, continuing price rises, crimped opportunities for young people and social ills.

Today, Mr Town said the council had five months to find a solution to the housing density issue before the council makes final decisions on the Unitary Plan, or new planning rulebook for the Super City, in August.

However, he said nothing could be done until the council heard from the independent panel hearing submissions on the Unitary Plan.

Mr Town said the panel may offer interim guidance at the end of public hearings on the precinct and zoning issues.

He believed this could create an opportunity for a group of independent people to go into communities and canvas views.

The idea of an urgent community process, run by an independent work group, was proposed at last week's council meeting, but rejected because it was part of a wider motion to proceed with the housing intensity proposals in council evidence to the hearings panel.

The independent hearings panel is due to release recommendations in July for the council to make final decisions in August.

Prime Minister John Key will not rule out Government intervention to solve Auckland's housing problem after the council scuttled plans for greater density of residential development in the city.

At his weekly press conference this week, Mr Key reiterated Finance Minister Bill English's comment that "all options were on the table" in dealing with Auckland's housing issue.

He said it was a growing city and needed to build "up and out".

Generation Zero spokesman Leroy Beckett said it was smart and necessary for the council to reach out to all sides to find common ground.

"The debate got very heated last week, and there is a lot of misinformation being spread that has got the public and some councillors are worried about the council's proposal. We hope an independent working group will be able to cut through this drama and help councillors make the decision that is best for Auckland based on the evidence."

- NZ Herald

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