Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Auckland's Unitary Plan could be delayed

A new city blueprint allowing for apartment living could be delayed after a late flurry of appeals in the lead up to a 5pm deadline on Friday.

More than 100 appeals were lodged in the Environment and High Courts against different parts of the Unitary Plan, which was passed by Auckland Council on August 15 and due to come into effect by September 29.

The plan takes Auckland into a new era of intensification on a scale never seen before. It turns towns like Kumeu and Pukekohe into small satellite cities and allows for 422,000 new houses to accommodate another one million residents by 2041.

Last night, Housing Minister Nick Smith said the large number of appeals was going to make implementation of the Unitary Plan quite complicated.

He said his officials would be working with Auckland Council this week to get an understanding of the significance of the appeals. Some would be site specific and have little impact.

"The ones that would be most concerning are those that are citywide and impact on the capacity to bring new housing on stream," Smith said.

He said the Government would be considering how it might join appeals where there was a strategic interest to see them resolved quickly. Legislation to make the plan operative was unlikely, Smith said, "but I'm not going to rule out any option".

Most of the appeals are to the Environment Court on issues of substance. They cover about 30 topics. A handful have been made to the High Court on points of law. The courts has given no indication of when the appeals will be heard.

The Character Coalition and Auckland 2040 have appealed late changes made without public consultation on nearly 30,000 suburban properties.

Forest and bird Forest & Bird are appealing sections of the plan relating to Significant Ecological Areas [SEAs] on land and in marine areas.

Housing New Zealand, Vector, Transpower and a number of large property developers have lodged appeals.

Smith said it was a key priority to get as much of the plan operative as quickly as possible to address Auckland's housing challenges.

The Government, he said, had extended the term of the Special Housing Areas legislation to provide some new housing in the event of the Unitary Plan being held back.

Mayor Len Brown said he had received a cursory briefing on the appeals, but at this stage he did not know the full extent or type of appeals that had been lodged.

Brown said until he received appropriate advice from officers he would not know what impact the appeals could have on the implementation of the plan.

"I hope we would be able to move forward and put the plan substantively in place," Brown said.

The council had worked toward implementing the plan before next month's local body elections, Brown said, "but it is now really out of our hands. It's a legal process".

A council spokeswoman said: "We'll be releasing a statement tomorrow in regard to next steps."

What happens next

• Council and Government official assess impact of appeals on Unitary Plan
• Depending on assessment, the plan coming into effect could be delayed
• Environment and High Courts hear appeals

'I feel we have been dumped on the dung heap'

Onehunga resident Stephen Lasham at his home stands with neighbours, Nick and Juliet McKinstry after appealing a change of housing zone. Photo / Nick Reed
Onehunga resident Stephen Lasham at his home stands with neighbours, Nick and Juliet McKinstry after appealing a change of housing zone. Photo / Nick Reed

"This is the biggest swifty I have seen the planners pull," says Nick McKinstry, whose 120-year old villa in Onehunga has been rezoned for intensification.

Nick and Juliet McKinstry are supporting an appeal by the Character Coalition and Auckland 2040 to "protect" the city's housing heritage.

"Onehunga has tremendous history and all of a sudden I feel we have been dumped on the dung heap from on high," Nick said.

The McKinstrys and their neighbours, Stephen and Deearna Lasham, believed their properties had heritage protection, only to learn they had been rezoned for townhouses and three-storey apartments late in the process without them having a say.

"People living in suburbs like Onehunga, Westmere, Glendowie, Grey Lynn, Henderson, Grafton and Blockhouse Bay woke up one morning to find their rights had been completely trampled on," said Character Coalition spokeswoman Sally Hughes.

Forest & Bird are appealing three sections of the plan relating to how Significant Ecological Areas [SEAs] on land and in Auckland's marine areas are identified and the policies that will be used by the plan to protect them.

- NZ Herald

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