Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Auckland Council meets to thrash out Unitary Plan

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse. Photo / Richard Robinson
Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Auckland Council is sitting down for a three-day meeting this morning to thrash out the final shape of the Unitary Plan, which will set the rules for a more intensified city over the next 30 years.

The height of buildings in town centres and the suburbs and the level if intensification are among the most controversial issues to be resolved by the council and 21 Local Board chairs, who are participating in the meeting at the Auckland Town Hall.

Councillor Ann Hartley has flagged a number of changes in the mixed housing suburban zone, which caused a chorus of complaints when it was flagged in a draft document that went out for public consultation earlier this year.

The zone was split in two - mixed housing urban near town centres and mixed housing surburban in traditional suburban areas.

Ms Hartley was unhappy when council planners applied the same unlimited density rules to both subzones - and is proposing to remove unlimited density from the suburban subzone.

The New Zealand Institute of Architects Auckland branch and the Property Council are urging councillors not to backtrack on density provisions.

NZIA Auckland branch chairman Richard Goldie said councillors might be better to turn their attention to the issue of the quality of buildings within the two subzones.

"Community concerns about density are often really concerns about building quality.
Auckland has many examples of well-designed and well-built medium-density housing, but unfortunately there is also a legacy of too many poorly planned apartment complexes," he said.

Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend said the council must continue with the current density targets in the draft Unitary Plan.

He said councillors had the opportunity to act with courage, not only for the residents of today, but for the residents of tomorrow.

Auckland developer Mark Todd has emailed councillors to say they have little understanding of how to motivate the private sector to build smaller, more affordable housing in places people want to live.

His company, Ockham Investments, had been working on proposals for three large sites of 2, 3 and 9ha sites for up to 1000 high quality one, two and three-bedroom homes.

"What a waste of time, because if the unlimited density is removed, they will be non-complying under the new plan and hence not eligible to receive preferential consent processing.

"What is happening is a real tragedy. Yet again, the older, wealthy, landed generation is behaving in a short-sighted, selfish manner. This is a huge lost opportunity," Mr Todd said.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the Unitary Plan was all about defining our city.

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, who is chairing the three-day meeting of the Auckland Plan committee, said there was a little bit of trepidation, "but this is what our job is about to make hard decisions and today is the start of that".

- NZ Herald

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