Independent hearing commissioners have given a controversial state housing development in Whangārei the green light despite 98 per cent of public submitters being opposed to the plan.
The consent has paved the way for Kāinga Ora Homes and Communities to start building 37 mostly one and two-bedroom houses on a section of bare land on Puriri Park Rd zoned for residential housing by the Whangārei District Council.
Kāinga Ora is a new Crown entity that consists of KiwiBuild, Housing New Zealand, and its development subsidiary, Hobsonville Land Company.
It sent letters, dated November 14, to residents along Puriri Park Rd and adjacent streets to advise them that resource consents have been granted and construction was expected to start in March 2020.
Joint hearing commissioners David Hill (chairman) and Alan Withy released their report last week containing a raft of conditions after hearing public submissions in September.
They are independent of both the WDC and NRC and have the final say on the application.
Of the 346 written submissions to WDC, 340 submitters opposed the proposed development and eight of 10 submitters to the Northland Regional Council were against the plan.
Their main concerns were around loss of green space, type of tenants in the new houses, devaluation of properties in the area, and noise and traffic congestion.
The Puriri Park and Maunu Residents Society Incorporated rallied opposition to HNZ's application and chairman Trevor Reader said the whole community was very disappointed at the final outcome.
"Having said that, we've had wonderful success in that we made the whole process publicly notified, we brought attention and galvanised the whole Maunu community so although we are disappointed, a lot of good has come out of it," he said.
The development includes construction of 15 one-bedroom duplexes, four two-bedroom duplexes, a three-bedroom standalone house, six three-bedroom duplexes, eight four-bedroom duplexes and three five-bedroom standalone homes.
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Residents closest to the new development said while they were disappointed with the outcome, there was nothing that could be done.
"There will be too many houses in one street. It would have been all right to put 10 brand new KiwiBuild houses in this area rather than lump together 37 state houses on one piece of land," said a resident who didn't want to be named.
Ray Arthur, who lives on nearby Kotuku St, said he was not totally against the construction of new houses but did not favour ripping off wonderful land when there were other suitable sites available.
The hearing commissioners said the benefit the local community derived from the bare land on which state houses would be built was not a factor that weighed on HNZ's application for resource consents.
Concern from residents about HNZ's ability to manage tenants and housing allocations appropriately was not a basis for declining the application, they said.
The difficulty, the duo said, was with the District Plan that provided very loose guidance on the issue of appropriateness for the zone as well as for the existing environment.
Living 1 environment zone under the plan neither had a stated purpose nor specified objectives, they said.
As an example, they said only two of the 15 single-bedroom units met the 35 per cent building coverage control, only three five-bedroom units met the net site area minimum of 500sq m, and only 11 of the 37 sites complied with the 100sq m minimum building area control.
"The District Plan does not impose a prohibited activity status for non-compliant infringements, which would then make those controls absolute.
"As with the density policy, the Plan leaves the matter open to a consideration of the merits of such non-compliance – typically as a discretionary activity."
The hearing commissioners said they were entitled to give weight to HNZ's submission that demand for social housing was particularly high in Whangārei where 227 applications were on the waiting list.
Puriri Park Rd resident and planning consultant Dr Kerry Grundy told the hearing in September high density housing was more appropriate in two areas WDC has identified rather than in Maunu. Those areas include two large lots in Raumanga and a big site in Tikipunga that did not appear to be in use, he said.
Jeremy Brabant made legal submissions on behalf of Puriri Park and Maunu Residents Society Incorporated and said the proposal could not be consented in its current form, and that the density was far too intense.