By Stephen Forbes, Local Democracy Reporter
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says plans by developers to use the Government's Covid-19 recovery legislation to fast-track a rural redevelopment are a step too far.
Oyster Capital, Fulton Hogan and Kiwi Property are seeking to rezone about 330ha in the Drury East area, in rural south Auckland, from future urban to a mix of residential, business and open space zones.
Auckland Council's planning committee voted to accept the three private plan change requests in July 2020. They have since gone out for public consultation before a series of hearings, which are expected to start in July.
The council is opposing the plan changes on the grounds it cannot afford the $1 billion needed to fund the infrastructure for the works to go ahead.
Under the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020, the Minister for the Environment can refer resource consent applications to an expert consenting panel and bypass the normal council and public consultation process.
Local Democracy Reporting understands Kiwi Property, Oyster Capital and Fulton Hogan have all now filed fast-track applications.
Goff said he won't support any attempts by developers to use the legislation to try to circumvent the normal council-led process in Drury.
He said the redevelopment of the area is complex and will require billions of dollars in infrastructure investment and careful planning.
"The speed of a fast-track process will not allow sufficient time to negotiate with developers to ensure they contribute an appropriate level of funding to the development, as well as successfully negotiating an infrastructure funding and financing agreement."
Goff said a more collaborative approach is needed to ensure the timing of the investment matches the development and public funds aren't squandered.
He said otherwise it will only lead to increased costs for both the council and the Crown.
His thoughts are shared by Auckland Council planning committee chairman Chris Darby, who said using the Covid-19 recovery legislation to bypass the normal planning process is wrong.
"The Drury of the future will be the size and scale of modern-day New Plymouth. Shaping that future community requires a high level of collaboration with all landowners and many other stakeholders.
"It can't be left to an exclusive few."
But Kiwi Property general manager of development Ian Passau said with the city facing a major housing shortage, the redevelopment of Drury is important for Auckland's future.
"We're keen to help alleviate some of the pressure, by providing high-quality, medium density housing in an area that's set for significant population growth."
Passau said if the company's fast-track application is successful, it will unlock thousands of houses and jobs.
The Ministry for the Environment confirmed it had received an application from Kiwi Property, but would not verify whether it had received applications from Oyster Capital and Fulton Hogan.
In a statement, it said: "We are unable to confirm the details or provide comment on any application that is currently under active consideration."
A spokesman for Environment Minister David Parker said he had received a fast-track application for the Drury redevelopment.
But he would not answer questions about the council's concerns over the developments, which companies were involved and when a decision was expected.
Oyster Capital and Fulton Hogan were both approached for comment.