Two Auckland councillors are calling on the Government and National to rethink their plans for greater intensification after the city’s infrastructure shortcomings were exposed in the flood disaster.
Christine Fletcher, a former National Party MP, says the terrible flooding across Auckland continues to break hearts and homes.
“We must stop those who are determined to foist more and more housing in Auckland, well in excess of the provisions of the Auckland Unitary Plan. Their plans are flawed. Auckland cannot cope now,” she said.
Councillor Mike Lee said the ideology driving plans by the Government and National to allow anyone to build up to three houses up to three storeys high without resource consent and minimal green space just about anywhere in Auckland is facing a reality check from Mother Nature.
Lee said the new law needs to be withdrawn for a more considered and smarter approach to intensification.
“We need to intensify where suitable, not intensify everywhere and every which way because that will only lead to more disasters,” said Lee, saying the approach needs to be grounded on wrap-around infrastructure, particularly when it comes to stormwater.
On Monday, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said there will be more extreme weather events and part of building resilience would be looking at where houses and businesses are built.
The Herald is seeking comment from the Prime Minister about whether this will involve a rethink on Government-imposed rules for greater intensification.
National’s housing spokesman, Chris Bishop, said the party remains committed to the construction of more homes in large cities “and our belief in well-planned, functional cities designed to be resilient against natural hazards remains unchanged”.
“The bipartisan Housing Supply Act provides councils with the power to exclude areas from further development if they are prone to a natural hazard, such as in an identified flood flow path. The responsibility is on councils to use the powers they were given to ensure intensification is only occurring in places where it is safe to do so,” said Bishop.
Under the act, cooked up between Labour and National, the two parties have effectively trashed the council’s Unitary Plan for the construction of more than 900,000 new homes by 2051.
Auckland Council figures show if Labour and National’s plans for more intensification just about anywhere, any time are implemented, up to 3,289,00 more homes could be built over the same period.
Under the new rules, people can build three houses per site, and sections can be subdivided to create more houses. Houses can be built 1m from the boundary and the minimum landscaped area is 20 per cent.
Auckland Council is seeking to exclude large areas of suburban Auckland from greater intensification because water infrastructure cannot handle more housing.
Council papers show areas on the Hibiscus Coast, lower North Shore suburbs, including Devonport; Henderson-Massey, Howick, Mt Eden, Herne Bay, Grey Lynn and Ponsonby have serious water, wastewater and stormwater constraints.
Last year, Auckland councillors voted to make these constraints a “qualifying matter”, a get-out-of-jail card from the Government’s intensification rules.
An officers’ report said the new rules pose a threat to the council’s plans for a compact city and climate outcomes.
Work done by Watercare shows it could be the mid-2030s before new water connections make it feasible to intensify around Devonport and Northcote Point, and a pump station serving Henderson and Massey is already over capacity and causing sewage overflows. It is not due to be fixed until 2035.
The council’s Healthy Waters stormwater division has also identified sites in the central isthmus that have no ability to connect to the public stormwater network and constrained ground soakage capacity.
The new intensification rules do not apply to settlements in rural areas with a population of fewer than 5000 people - Helensville, Clarks Beach, Glenbrook Beach, Karaka, Maraetai, Riverhead, Snells Beach, Algies Bay, Wellsford, Kingseat, Te Hana, Parakai, Matakana, Whitford, Waimauku, Patamahoe, Stillwater, Kawakawa Bay, Omaha, Point Wells, Waiwera, Clevedon, Okura, Kumeu-Huapai.
There have been strong views around the council table for and against the new 3 x 3 law, with councillors Shane Henderson and Josephine Bartley strong advocates for greater intensification, particularly closer to the central city in the case of Henderson.
Fletcher said Auckland is a slip of land between two harbours that has grown without thoughtful planning and very little investment in infrastructure.
“We need the Government and the Opposition coming together and saying, ‘let’s get some good scientific evidence on what can be sustained’. It is time for a serious debate and rethink on the future and planning of Auckland,” she said.