Key issues on the future of Auckland, including Ports of Auckland expansion plans and apartments in the suburbs, have been kicked for touch until the final meeting on a new planning rulebook for the Super City.
Instead of reaching a position on the ports, residential heights, heritage controls and other issues, the Auckland Plan committee yesterday delayed debate and decisions until it wraps up the rulebook, or Unitary Plan, for formal notification.
The council had set up a three-stage process to make decisions on feedback received on the draft Unitary Plan - a series of direction-setting workshops behind closed doors, debating and formally agreeing issues at four Auckland Plan committee meetings and wrapping up the Unitary Plan document over three days at the end of August.
The committee, under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, bypassed the second stage of the process yesterday on a raft of issues.
Several groups and individuals who wanted to address the meeting were refused speaking rights on the grounds the meeting was not making any decisions. The committee would hear from people when decisions were being made, Ms Hulse said.
Sally Hughes of the Character Coalition - an umbrella organisation of 60 heritage and community groups - was appalled at the rushed process that, she said, shut out the public.
The meeting heard how legal staff were working 14-hour days and weekends to meet the huge workload overseeing the Unitary Plan, which at 5000 to 6000 pages is so big councillors will receive an electronic version to make final decisions at a three-day meeting starting on August 28.
The "extraordinary pressure" legal staff were under prompted councillor Penny Webster to say councillors should not be bothering them with legal queries.
There was a long debate over a decision by chief executive Doug McKay, chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley and general counsel Wendy Brandon not to give councillor Sandra Coney a legal review of the Unitary Plan.
Instead, councillors will be given a summary of the legal processes and be able to ask for all the legal advice on particular issues.
A majority of councillors voted down an amendment by Christine Fletcher to hold an independent peer review of the Unitary Plan process to assure councillors and the public the city-shaping document was sound.
Mr McKay said staff were not under undue pressure to meet the demands of the Unitary Plan, saying they were energised and motivated to be part of an important piece of history in Auckland.
Last Friday, Mayor Len Brown shelved expansion plans by Ports of Auckland until the consequences for the rest of the city are known.
Unitary Plan issues put on hold
* Ports of Auckland
* Mixed housing and terraced housing and apartment building zones
* Pre-1944 demolition control
* Building heights in Wynyard Quarter
* Education zones
* Genetically modified organisms
* Exotic trees and vegetation controls in significant ecological areas.
Tauranga can take more
Ports of Tauranga says it can handle 100 per cent of Auckland's container growth on top of its own growth for the foreseeable future.
Acting chief executive Sara Lunam says Tauranga is aware of plans by Ports of Auckland to expand into the "stunning Waitemata Harbour".
In an email to Aucklander Michael Cooper, who wants to "preserve the priceless beauty of Auckland harbour", Ms Lunam said Ports of Tauranga had an inland port in South Auckland handling more than 180,000 containers last year, ran up to six trains each day between Tauranga and Auckland, and had 46.5ha of land in Tauranga for future development.
The rail connection could triple the amount of container movements with "some relatively minor capital expenditure", she said.
"In short, we can handle 100 per cent of the container growth Auckland is planning for, plus our own growth for the foreseeable future," Ms Lunam said.
On Monday, Ports of Tauranga announced it had spent $37.2 million buying property in Onehunga to expand its MetroPort inland operations.
Chief executive Mark Cairns said it would be key to expanding access to and from international markets for Auckland.
Ms Lunam told Mr Cooper there needs to be a serious New Zealand-wide conversation about where best to spend infrastructure money.
Ministry of Transport officials are working on a port case study to consider possible future configurations and a national freight demand study on how best to move freight around the country.
Auckland Council is contributing to the national freight demand study, but not the port configuration study, both of which are being carried out by Deloitte and due for completion by the end of the year, said council economic development manager Harvey Brookes.