I am writing this as a resident of Mt Eden (with sympathy and support for similarly affected suburbs) and because I feel strongly that the four political parties who put together the dictates of the Resource Management Amendment Act 2021 developed a blunt instrument to deal with a problem requiring nuance, sensitivity, and care to complete.
The Auckland Unitary Plan was approved just five years ago after going through a rigorous democratic consultation, submission and appeal process.
A great deal of time and effort went into identifying appropriate areas for high and medium-density homes, and this is working well.
Mt Eden has immense heritage value and contributes enormously to Auckland's unique identity. Auckland has one of the best-preserved collections of Victorian and Edwardian wooden houses in the world.
In most countries, architectural heritage is jealously guarded and looked after but, in New Zealand, we are plagued with the curse of modernity leaving us with a comparatively short human development history and, therefore, a lack of sensitivity to the preservation of our small areas of valuable heritage.
So these must be protected by our national and local governments.
The special character areas of Auckland only make up 3.6 per cent of the city's footprint, so should be relatively easily bypassed without too much effect on the city's need to densify. Remember, once lost, these areas will be gone forever.
The Mt Eden special character area is valuable not just for heritage reasons, but also, due to the high level of flora growing in the area. The Mt Eden tree canopy supports large amounts of native fauna, such as riroriro, piwakawaka, tūī and ruru.
Further, this flora acts as a much-needed carbon sink for Auckland city's large carbon production.
Equally, its current below-ground infrastructure will be insufficient to cope with high-level intensification and this will be expensive to remedy due to the large amount of basalt that Mt Eden sits on.
Large buildings without gardens take away natural drainage and, if the artificial drainage is insufficient, then flooding will occur.
Also, large buildings tend to create lots of carbon to build if they have significant levels of concrete and steel in their construction.
The aim in New Zealand is to build net-zero carbon buildings. That is buildings whose greenhouse gas emissions over their life cycle are within New Zealand's commitments to a net-zero carbon economy.
Currently, there are few economic incentives to encourage action, and the New Zealand Building Code does not require buildings to be net-zero carbon.
Even if the demand were there, the industry has significant gaps in the skills and knowledge required to deliver net-zero carbon buildings.
Therefore, on the basis of climate change imperatives, it appears counter-productive and against Government policy to start densifying heritage suburbs for a variety of reasons.
The wholesale destruction of a city's history, architectural heritage, plus native flora and fauna, not to mention people's homes and lifestyles by ill-thought-out, flawed, legislation using blunt tools does not fit with the Government's so-called "wellbeing" or "climate emergency" ethos.
We need a more measured and careful values-based approach to planning the future of our city and responding to our housing shortages.
Remember, the special character areas of Auckland are a very small part of the city's footprint.
• Niall Robertson is a central Auckland resident and chair of the Public Transport Users Association.