AucklandAugust 9, 2016

The planners strike back: on the latest twists in the Unitary Plan


A thoroughly snackable summary of the late changes to Auckland’s doorstop rulebook being sought by the wonks at the Auckland Council

The dizzying dramedy of the Unitary Plan has spun through one last plot twist before it lands in front of the ladies and gentlemen of the Auckland Council this morning.

The council planning wonks have delivered their feedback on the latest version of the Unitary Plan, aka the rulebook for the future of Auckland, in a pithy six hundred and something page document (PDF). These will inform the councillors’ discussions which run from tomorrow through to August 18.

The most photographed USB stick in Auckland

To recap: the Council conducted a zillion consultations and notified a plan; the Independent Hearings Panel took a zillion submissions and went back with their own version of the plan, which injected some steroids into the intensification and ambition for housing growth; now the council staffers (ie not the elected councillors but at the same time probably not the ones who are routinely uniformed in Council high-viz) have looked at that and said, Yeah, we think that’s pretty good but there are a dozen or so bits we don’t think are that super, such as these.

Here are some of the crucial such bits, and their alternative suggestions:

Minimum dwelling sizes for apartments

The IHP wants to erase the minimum dwelling size requirement in the city and business zones, justifying such a deletion in part because, it says, such concerns are covered by the Building Act.

Council staff say NO

“The Building Act does not address social or design quality effects associated with small dwellings. It is therefore necessary to manage these through the district plan. Intensive living environments require internal living spaces which are functional and which provide for amenity to meet the day- to-day needs of residents. This will assist to maintain the social wellbeing of the community, support social cohesion and thereby support further intensification within urban environments as these areas become desirable places to live.”

Māori heritage provisions

The IHP recommended removing the Mana Whenua overlay which provided a special status for more than 2,000 sites of Māori cultural and historical significance, saying the basis for determining the sites was a bit rubbish.

Staff say NO

“Reinstatement of the Sites and Places of Value to Mana Whenua overlay will enable the council to better meet its statutory obligations [under the Resource Management Act]. The Panel’s recommendation to withdraw all sites and places of value was based on an inaccurate understanding of the Council’s Auckland Development Committee resolution of 12 November 2015 and subsequent withdrawal of 593 sites. There is evidential basis for the inclusion of 2213 sites and places of value in the overlay, as established in the evidence, legal submissions, closing statement and post-hearing report provided by the Council to the Panel … There is a risk of ongoing loss and degradation of sites and places of value to Mana Whenua in the absence of [Unitary Plan] protection. The Panel incorrectly indicates that ‘while those sites of value were identified in the notified [plan], no criteria had been applied to be able to evaluate them or verify that the sites actually existed and what their values were.’ This work was undertaken as part of the evidence base for Topic 037.”

The 70/40 ratio

The Panel version of the plan removed the target of up to 70% growth within the rural-urban boundary and up to 40% outside.

Staff say, oi, NO

“The lack of a specific objective and policy that indicates the primary location for growth is within the existing metropolitan area means that there is little or no guidance for where future growth should be enabled and encouraged. The Panel’s recommendation does not have sufficient regard to the Auckland Plan’s Development Strategy resulting in a misalignment with the council’s strategic directions. Focusing intensification within the existing urban area delivers the benefits of a quality compact urban form, which include better public transport, proximity to amenity and services, efficient infrastructure servicing, environmental protection, reduced carbon footprint.”

Queen Street 1940 rule

The IHP wants to delete the pre-1940 building demolition control relating to the Queen Street Valley precinct,

Council staff say, NO, not the Queen Street Valley Precinct, leave it, please

“The maintenance and enhancement of the pre-1940 buildings in the Queen Street Valley Precinct is integral to maintaining its special character. The retention and protection of special character buildings constructed prior to 1940 maintains the integrity and coherence of the built form and architecture, and the streetscape within this area. The pre-1940 trigger and its application was determined as a result of survey work.”

Crater Hill

The IHP seeks to scrap the Rural Urban Boundary protection at Crater Hill, as well as Pukaki Peninsula, Puhinui

Council staff say yeah, nah

“The Crater Hill area is not suitable for urban development because it lies within the Outstanding Natural Feature overlay, it is a significant geological feature and has significant cultural heritage and landscape value to Mana Whenua. It also contains prime soils. The Pukaki Peninsula is not suitable for urban development because it has significant cultural heritage and landscape value to Mana Whenua, lies partly within the ONF overlay for Pukaki Crater, and contains significant areas of elite soils, all of which would be extensively compromised by urban development.”

These are only a selection of the council staff recommendations.

For more details see the report itself, or the reports in the Herald, on RNZ, and on TransportBlog.

Keep going!