Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Land values up - and still no houses

A special housing area on the old Smales quarry site by Lake Pupuke is still vacant 16 months after Housing Minister Nick Smith told the landowners to "hurry up". Photo / Google Images
A special housing area on the old Smales quarry site by Lake Pupuke is still vacant 16 months after Housing Minister Nick Smith told the landowners to "hurry up". Photo / Google Images

Landowners on three Auckland sites who were told to hurry up or lose fast-track building rights 16 months ago have sat by while land values have skyrocketed - and have still not applied for a single building consent.

Owners of Smales Farm in Takapuna, Woodhill Forest near Helensville and a site once tagged for a shopping mall at Karaka are three of the four landowners who received "hurry up" letters from Housing Minister Nick Smith in June last year.

None have applied for any consents yet, while average Auckland residential property values have jumped by 22.7 per cent since the letters were sent.

Only the fourth landowner who received a letter has applied for consents - for 31 homes opposite the Avondale police station.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford, who drew the facts out of Auckland Council under the Official Information Act, said the inaction on three out of four sites showed that the special housing areas "ended up encouraging landbanking instead of actually building affordable homes".

"It shows Nick Smith made only the most half-hearted, belated and ineffectual attempt to hurry the landbankers along," he said.

But Smith said the fast-tracking rights speeded up construction of "hundreds of homes" in Weymouth, Hobsonville and other special housing areas (SHAs).

Prime Minister John Key said in April last year that Smith would write to landowners in 14 SHAs where no progress had been made.

But Auckland Council told Twyford that Smith sent letters to landowners in only four SHAs in June 2015, and the council had "no record of any responses sent to council following the minister's letter".

The only one of the four who has applied for resource consents, Jeremy Wild, said he hoped to start building 15 townhouses and 16 apartments within the next year in a three-storey project at 1806 and 1812 Great North Rd, across Walsall St from the Avondale police station.

"Resource consent has been granted. It's all full steam ahead," he said.

The other three landowners cited various reasons for delays.

David Smale, whose family has owned an old quarry site between Taharoto Rd and Lake Pupuke in Takapuna for more than 60 years, said housing was on the backburner because of the cost of a new $60 million five-floor office building and refurbishing of the Vodafone building at nearby Smales Farm.

"That has taken a significant amount of time and resources, so timing hasn't been good," he said.

Asked if the housing would be built in the next 10 years, he said: "Absolutely!"

Margaret Kawharu, a trustee of a Ngati Whatua o Kaipara trust which acquired the Woodhill Forest in its 2013 Treaty of Waitangi settlement, said the trust planned to help whanau members build or move 16 homes on to the site of the old forest workers' village, but it would take time.

"We have whanau who need to get the finance and need to get plans made," she said.

And Mark O'Brien of Karaka Centre Ltd, which owns an SHA that was earmarked for 200 to 300 new homes on the north side of Hingaia Rd next to the Papakura motorway interchange, said the housing was planned as part of "a Sylvia Park" shopping mall which was refused council consent.

"The council is terrified about any impact on the Papakura town centre," he said.

He said the land would now be available for lighter commercial use and would "just develop organically over time".

The last council update said only 82 of Auckland's 154 SHAs had applied for consents by the end of June. A further 47 were working with council staff on project plans, and 25 - including Smales Farm, Woodhill and Karaka Centre - had not yet approached the council.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 29 May 2017 16:19:03 Processing Time: 696ms