The battle of Mission Bay is heating up. Plans for a $200 million housing and retail project which promises to rejuvenate an appealing Auckland seaside suburb are shaking the comfort of some property owners stunned to discover the scale of the development, and particularly its height. At a shade over 28m at its highest point — the corner of Tāmaki Drive and Patteson Ave — the design stretches beyond the permitted limits of its Unitary Plan zone.
It is of course not the first development to push the envelope in terms of what is allowed and what is sought, and no doubt a consent hearing will provide an answer to the tension inherent in the plan. It would be desirable get some better guidelines around these issues because it is senseless for developers and neighbourhoods to get locked into costly disputes where the only winners can be lawyers.
The standoff in Mission Bay reflects what is happening across Auckland. The city is going up, and space and views are being shaded, squeezed and in some cases lost. It is a price of growth, and a response reached after a long and democratic process. But it need not be growth at any price, and communities should have a reasonable expectation that what they have come to enjoy cannot simply be snatched away without satisfying some broader objectives.
A panel which reviewed the Mission Bay project concluded that if was going up beyond what the rules permitted, then its design needed to be exemplary. That may be the hurdle to be jumped — to be granted special privileges, it needs to look very good indeed.