Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Environmental group backs Unitec housing plan

Sudhvir Singh, director of the Auckland branch of Generation Zero, a climate-change activist group is backing plans for housing developments on the grounds of Unitec in Mt Albert, Auckland.
Sudhvir Singh, director of the Auckland branch of Generation Zero, a climate-change activist group is backing plans for housing developments on the grounds of Unitec in Mt Albert, Auckland.

An organisation representing 10,000 young Kiwis backs plans for Unitec and Eden Park, saying the city needs more intensive development and young people need housing choices.

Sudhvir Singh, the Auckland director of the anti-car, pro-environmental group Generation Zero, said the 43.5ha bordering Carrington Rd which Unitec wants to sell or lease and land beside Eden Park could provide great choices for young Aucklanders.

"The number of houses in Auckland hasn't kept up with our city's growth, but we face a particular shortage of housing choices close to frequent public transport and the town centres where we work and study."

Aucklanders were sick of being forced to live on the outskirts of town, only to be stuck in traffic and with hefty fuel bills, Singh said.

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"Unfortunately, many of the smaller houses and apartments in Auckland are of poor quality, and we don't have many vibrant neighbourhoods which provide a range of housing types, jobs and community activities."

After the City Rail Link was built, Mt Albert station next to Unitec would be just over 15 minutes away from Aotea Station, with trains running at five- to 10-minute frequencies.

"Instead of stopping the plans in their tracks, we think our community should have a discussion about the potential of these developments, with the emphasis on inspiring great design with plenty of character and green space."

It was also relevant that Auckland's fastest-growing demographic was made up of people living alone or couples without children, Singh said.

"We need to design a city that provides housing choices for these demographics, not more of the same 'big house on a big section' out where everything is a long drive away.

"Young people - as the people who will inherit the city planned today - are particularly fond of ... being close to what's important to them."

Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend is concerned about groups opposing residential intensification in many areas, predicting "disastrous consequences" and new communities forced out into rural areas and possibly environmentally significant habitats.

"Community groups need to think more broadly than merely protecting their own interests and established suburbs from change. Housing the city's young people and new inhabitants and Auckland's economic prosperity are key," Townsend said.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said his party wanted to see ambitious, high-quality urban development.

"Unitec needs to work closely with the local community, and make sure the plan is properly integrated with the surrounding neighbourhoods, that it has enough open green space, and that traffic issues are dealt with.

"We'd also want to see a commitment to including plenty of affordable and social housing in the mix."

Mt Albert MP David Shearer said it was an exciting opportunity.

"The mixture of medium-density housing, innovative industries, top-quality tertiary institution and green spaces could breathe real life into the area. It will succeed if there is genuine consultation with the local community and it is done well," Shearer said.

"For too long, Unitec has been 'fortress Unitec', not really integrating with the local community. In recent years that has changed, but the new development will have a profound impact on the wider community and their concerns are justified."

But he shared locals' concerns, particularly the loss of parks and playing fields, especially those affecting nearby Gladstone school.

Unitec chief executive Rick Ede said Unitec would be working with the local schools and Auckland Transport.


See the Unitec plans, including maps here:


- NZ Herald

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