Auckland councillors have voted to stick with protecting much of the city's areas of historic housing, while rezoning other areas for intensification.
After a marathon 11-hour meeting councillors voted for a middle ground in a culture war over the city's identity between groups fighting to preserve the city's heritage and those wanting an increase in housing density.
The decision by the planning committee is a preliminary response by the council to directives from the Government to change rules in the Unitary Plan - the council's planning blueprint - to allow for greater housing density.
Waitemata and Gulf councillor Pippa Coom, whose ward has the greatest concentration of special character houses, described the matter as a tricky one to navigate but said it was possible to take an approach that is a win-win.
In 2020, the Government issued a National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) to allow for apartments of six storeys, even on small suburban sites, within walkable distances of the city centre, 10 metropolitan centres and rapid transit stops.
This was followed by a new law, cooked up between Labour and National, allowing people to build up to three homes up to three storeys high on most sites, with few planning rules and without a resource consent.
To qualify for protection, houses in special character areas have been retained within walkable catchments where 75 per cent or more have high-quality values, or five or six on a scale of one to six. Outside walkable areas of the central city, metropolitan areas and rapid transit stops, the threshold is 66 per cent.
The most impacted areas are St Marys Bay, Birkenhead and Northcote, Epsom, Remuera and Parnell. Mt Albert gets some change, and most of Ponsonby and Grey Lynn is unaffected.
After reviewing the city's special character areas of villas and bungalows with heritage values, the council opted to rezone nearly one in every four of 21,000 homes for high-density housing.
An amendment to add houses with a four rating to special character areas was narrowly lost by 10 votes to 11 with one abstention.
Most councillors confirmed the principles of the Government's directives, but were divided over discretion in the law to consider heritage as a "qualifying matter" outside the rules.
Waitakere councillor Shane Henderson spoke in favour of greater intensification, saying he wanted to speak for people who spent last night in a garage or a car or on a couch.
"A beautiful life for Aucklanders. That's the kind of thing we should be providing as the council. What do we offer them as this council? We've just spent months trying to restrict housing supply for these people, in areas where housing is most needed," said Henderson.
Tau Henare, a member of the Maori Statutory board, was interested in homes for his people, saying when he looked out the window of his home there were 16 apartments being built and welcomed the whānau.
"What happened to the special character of Tawa Rd, Te Atatu? Homelessness and affordability is the issue," he said.
Councillor John Watson said the tragedy was that successive generations of Aucklanders were getting shut out of the housing market, but the Government's measures were not going to do anything about it.
Watson's colleague from the Albany ward, Wayne Walker, said the measures would lead to uncontrollable development in areas lacking infrastructure that the council could not afford and poorly served by transport.
Earlier in the day, eight local boards made presentations to the committee with a mix of views on the heritage versus housing issue.
Strongest backing for retaining the Special Character areas was made by the Kaipatiki, Devonport-Takapuna and the Orakei boards, with Orakei wanting to go one step further and retain all the special character areas across Auckland.
Board member Troy Churton said leaving parts out before an independent hearings panel makes the final calls would be "throwing out the baby" and poor governance.
Other boards, such as Albert-Eden, Henderson-Massey and Puketapapa were in favour of greater intensification. Jon Turner, deputy chair of Puketapapa, called for special character areas within walkable distance of town centres to be disestablished, saying places like Kingsland and Morningside will become some of the busiest stations in the city.
Council's general manager of plans and places, John Duguid, told the meeting officers are investigating other issues as a "qualifying matter", such as water supply and wastewater, stormwater disposal and transport capacity constraints arising from greater intensification. Staff will report back to the planning committee on August 4.
Following today's decision, the council will publicly notify changes to the Unitary Plan in August. Once submissions close, an independent hearings panel will consider them and hear from submitters before making recommendations to the council to make the necessary changes to the Unitary Plan.
If the council rejects any of the recommendations, Environment Minister David Parker will have the final say. The process does not allow for appeals to the Environment Court.