A $1 billion scheme to build 1400 apartments in eight tower blocks up to 30 levels high is planned at Takapuna's Smales Farm which has applied to Auckland Council to re-zone its greenfields or bare land so it can go ahead.
But business, schools and residents have lodged strongly-worded opposing submissions, fearing traffic effects, loss of privacy, noise and other negative effects.
The scheme from the Smale's Northcote RD1 Holdings on part of the 10.8ha Smales Farm office park is for what chief executive Paul Gunn calls a "transit-oriented development", leveraging the location beside the Northern Busway terminal alongside the motorway.
"It's an eight-minute journey into the CBD. This is about building high-density on a high-frequency public transport station," Gunn says from his office at the office park's newest block, the $80m B:HIVE shared commercial block.
The application says: "The residential development would largely be in apartment formats, with some buildings up to 100m high, approximately 30 storeys."
NZ Transport Agency supports the development scheme, its consents and approvals principal planner Mike Wood saying it "provides an opportunity to demonstrate in the Auckland context how high-density mixed-use living options can occur in close proximity to local amenities and high-frequency accessible public transport".
NZTA backs cutting private car ownership, encourages walking and biking and supports transit-orientated developments, Wood said.
Smales Farm wants its greenfields site rezoned from the current business park to mixed-use because residential development there is non-complying. Current height controls are also are set at five to six levels.
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Cynthia Gillespie, Auckland Transport planning and investment executive general manager, expressed partial support for the plan change as long as "various transport concerns are appropriately considered and addressed" including further assessment to show how the change would align with transport-oriented design principles.
Gunn said the development plan could be exercised over a 20 to 30-years period. The plan change application cited a massive 300,000sq m or 30ha of end developments once all work there is finished: 162,000sq m business and 138,000sq m or 13.8ha of apartments.
But current Smales Farm tenant and New Zealand's largest life insurer AIA Sovereign opposes re-zoning, its Kirsty Redfern saying that as a long-term tenant, it had anticipated more offices, not apartments: "AIA Sovereign expected that in the future, further office-type business activities would be established, grouping together in a park or campus-like environment."
The apartment towers' heights and dimensions would detract from the existing attractive business park, she told the council.
Residents were vociferous: "This sounds like a planning nightmare for any part of the North Shore," wrote Jungho Hong of nearby Karaka St ."It will be harder for ambulances to access the hospital, they will get stuck in traffic - 1300-plus units housed in multiple 30-storey buildings over such a small area."
Many newly-built apartments in the area failed to sell and if parking was not provided at Smales Farm, people who moved it could jam up local streets, that submission said.
Anthony Kang of Taharota Rd said the Smales Farm bus station was already at over-capacity and "in the morning peak, buses often pass by because they are full and the city-bound platform is full and often overspill." The apartment tower proposal was out of scale and style with other developments and "undesirably high density".
Soon bok Ko, another resident, complained that Smales Farm "does not appear to have a good common sense or consideration towards nearby residents" and feared for patients at North Shore Hospital.
Joy Bradfield, Westlake Girls High School board chair, cited traffic nuisance generated from such a high-density apartment project. She cited the need to address safety and privacy concerns of students from her school but also Takapuna Normal Intermediate School, Westlake Boys High School and Carmel College. High-rise apartments could overlook school grounds and playing fields, her submission said.
But Celia Davison, the council's central south planning unit manager, submitted partial support for the plan change, subject to amendments including reducing planned building heights and increasing landscaping requirements.
Independent hearing commissioners will listen to arguments for and against, possibly later this year, and could rule perhaps next year.