Residents against a social housing development in Maunu have taken their fight to the Whangārei District Council as they seek public notification of the consent for the development.
A full council meeting was held yesterday at Forum North - the public gallery was filled to capacity with 40 people and the meeting was livestreamed to the exhibition hall downstairs where around 150 people watched on.
The planned development is on former Ministry of Education-owned land on Puriri Park Rd, Maunu, that is now zoned for housing development. The land has never been part of the Whangārei District Council-owned Puriri Park which it adjoins.
Four of the residents spoke during the public forum. Dr Lisa Dawson talked about the negative health effects of removing green space, Fiona Halliwell spoke largely about how the high-density social housing "estate" is a backwards development for both the community and those who will live in it.
Nicci Webb talked about the objectives and policies of the district plan that were relevant in this development, before Kerry Grundy summarised and delved deeper into wanting public notification on the resource consent.
"Over and above the requirements of the RMA, this is simply a common courtesy to the people of Maunu."
Councillor Stu Bell had also filed a notice of motion on the topic. His notice, which had five recommendations, sought to get councillors to note both a report on social housing from the UK which was published in 2009 and the information compiled by the Save Puriri Park Committee.
It also sought councillors to inform Parliament that the council does not welcome the development of social housing projects like the artist depiction for Puriri Park, and to ask the government to implement measures to mitigate contributing factors influencing demand for housing and housing affordability.
Bell's final recommendation was to revoke the delegation to council staff to determine if an application is publicly notified.
Mayor Sheryl Mai sought legal advice from lawyer Graeme Mathias. He reiterated an earlier point to councillors that there is no application from Housing New Zealand before them at this stage.
"You cannot predetermine the process by which an application will be considered."
He said by passing the recommendations there would be "clear indication or predetermination" before the application has even been filed or formally considered.
Mathais said that would give the right for Housing New Zealand to apply for judicial review.
Mai said if the council chose to revoke the "delegation for this particular piece of land, there would be an expectation from our community that we will publically notify it".
She also warned that if they did revoke the delegation and then later chose not to publically notify the consent, councillors would be vilified.
Councillor Innes said he wanted to see Housing New Zealand in the council chamber speaking with councillors.
Councillor Morgan suggested a constructive conversation between the residents and Housing New Zealand, perhaps with an independent facilitator.
Bell's first two recommendations were passed, as was the fourth one. The third and fifth, the most contentious - were lost.
After the council had voted Kerry Grundy said it was a bit disappointing.
"But we would hope that we would revisit the question of deciding public notification by councillors once the formal application by Housing New Zealand is received by council."
Mai said the council still has options available.
"When the application comes in, we will expect our staff to bring an item to the council for a decision on whether or not to invoke our authority."