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Run for your lives, O leafy Aucklanders! The bulldozers are coming (they’re not)

Thousands of ordinary homeowners in Auckland’s affluent suburbs are about to be torn from their historic homes, which will be forcibly demolished. That’s the impression you’d get from a string of stories published under a particular byline, at least. Take, for example, this morning’s scaremongering codswallop …

In some of the wealthy suburbs of New Zealand’s biggest city, the paper of record must land on the doorstep like a stick of dynamite, sending terrifying explosions rippling down the leafy avenues.

In the considered view of the Spinoff, the Herald coverage following the return of the Unitary Plan has been impressive. The editorial was especially refreshing.

But then there’s the Nimby balderdash, exemplified perfectly by this morning’s report from the paper’s Chief Nimby Balderdash Correspondent Bernard Orsman.

“Residents fear for city history,” runs the headline.

And the opening paragraph:

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Rachel Tynan feels a bit guilty owning a 970sq m section close to the city

Good start.

but the thought of her 1912 villa being demolished or carted off for townhouses is beyond comprehension.

That didn’t last long.

This conjures images of black-clad council operatives kidnapping people’s houses and replacing them with apartments. That provision is not in the Unitary Plan, and if it happens to you, our War For Auckland team’s advice is to call the police immediately.

All this plan does is allow people to replace villas like the ones on Fairview Rd with compact three-storey housing – if and only if Tynan and her neighbours ever feel they don’t need to keep living on 40 hectare farms within spitting distance of the Sky Tower. No one is seizing their land or forcing them to sell up. As Tynan surely knows, despite the way she’s portrayed in the story, if she doesn’t want her 1912 villa demolished or carted off for townhouses, all she has to do is not demolish it or cart it off for townhouses.

Fairview Road, tomorrow. Photo: iStock

Fairview Road, tomorrow. Photo: iStock

The report continues …

Tynan understands the need for intensification, but not at the expense of losing the history of Mt Eden.

Under the plan for intensive housing close to town centres, scores of villas and bungalows near Mt Eden village have been rezoned for townhouses and small-scale apartments.

If Tynan wants a rough idea what the Unitary Plan allows on Fairview Road, she could do worse than looking at this photo we found on Google Earth of current day Fairview Rd.

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Or from the video accompanying Orsman’s story.

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Just add an extra level and you’re in the ballpark. It’s not so scary.

“I understand we are fortunate being here on big sections so near the city when people are being pushed further out,” says Tynan.

Being pushed out. Facing the prospect of never owning a home, renting in overpriced, sub-standard accommodation, and in some cases living in your car. Tomato/tomato.

“But if someone came and lifted these homes off there would be an uproar. They are beautiful homes and part of what Auckland is.”

You can stop this but only by carrying out the difficult task of not selling your home.

A nameless developer explains to a homeowner what they're going to do to their property

Property owners always face the risk of a metallic giant lifting up their homes but this is not expressly covered in the Unitary Plan

The Fairview Rd resident would happily give up space at the back of her section for infill housing, but that is not possible.

Another resident on the same road, Judy Ashby, also sees the need to build more houses on big sections in a desirable suburb like Mt Eden.

She, too, found the thought of demolishing her home – an 1895 villa-turned-bungalow she and her husband, John, have lived in for 27 years – quite distressing.

To repeat, no matter what you might read in the newspaper, the Unitary Plan will not force you to raze your house to the ground. Why do these people seem to think it will? Did Orsman tell these people the plan was going to force them to tearfully bulldoze their houses before a horde of cackling council planners? Did he produce a slideshow showing a maniacal Len Brown slamming wrecking balls into Mt Eden? Did he destroy little plastic Monopoly houses on their doorsteps under his steelcap boots?

This is starting to feel like the Auckland homeowner version of those people in the US who think Obama is going to seize their guns. No-one wants to steal your house! We just want to introduce some common-sense regulations to stop your houses doing so much harm to other people. thecastle

It would provide more houses, she said, but radically change the amenity and mix of villas, bungalows, infill and sausage flats.

Trees would be lost, there were no plans to increase green space, traffic would get worse and it would not reduce house prices, Ashby said.

This feels like a lot of assertions without any evidence.

Harcourts Mt Eden real estate agent Mike Robson said the jury was still out on the impact of the Unitary Plan locally, but believed prices in the leafy streets that have escaped intensification would rise in value.

Land values in the rezoned streets would increase depending on how many houses could be built, he said.

Across Auckland, about 84,000 villas, bungalows and other old properties covered by a pre-1944 demolition control and character status have been whittled down to about 23,000 properties with character status protection.

Character Coalition spokeswoman Sally Hughes said the recommendation to drop the pre-1944 demolition control opens the city up to ad hoc development that will destroy the character that makes it unique.

We put this to economist Shamubeel Eaqub.

He said:

“Just because a property is pre-1944, doesn’t automatically make it character or heritage. The Independent Hearings Panel version of the Unitary Plan does not take character rules away, it just removes the blanket rule. It still protects character and heritage. To suggest that all of that is about to disappear?

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