The Unitary Plan debate is long and complex. Even the councillors sometimes look like they’re wishing for death. But it’s incredibly important. Thankfully, Niko Elsen of Generation Zero has put together a list of the reasons why the plan should pass, in GIF form.
The final skirmish in the five-year Unitary Plan battle is underway this week. Most of us really don’t have a clue what’s going on, but the most important thing to remember through all the council bloodsport is that while the plan won’t be perfect, it’s still worth passing, and it’ll pretty damn great for the future of Auckland. To see that, you need to zoom out past the quibbles over whether to apply heritage protections to a plaque in central Howick and look at the big ways it’ll change Auckland. Here are 5 simple reasons that explain once and for all why this plan should pass.
Reason 1: More Homes
Planning Rules are pretty boring and super detailed. They’re often so complex it’s not easy to understand what’s going on. But once they’re added all together planning rules are just a big invisible spider’s web that spreads across Auckland that stops homes being built in certain ways.
The Unitary Plan lifts up and loosens that web of rules so more homes are allowed to be built. It doesn’t actually build homes – that’s for architects, developers and the Government, but it’s a super important step to let them get on with it.
So old plan = more spiders web = less homes. New plan = more flexible web = more homes.
Reason 2: More Choice
When people argue about the Unitary Plan, the debate seems to focus on only two types of housing. A lot of opponents end up saying, “We should keep our single story houses because we hate shoebox apartment towers”.
The irony is that the whole point of the plan is to focus on allowing other types of homes that aren’t allowed to be built under current rules.
Instead of only being allowed to build big single houses, the new plan allows tiny houses, loft apartments, townhouses, and terraced housing – exactly the kind of housing that is more affordable without being in big towers.
A study last year showed that more and more New Zealanders want to live in smaller houses and apartments, especially in the younger and older age groups. This Unitary Plan provides homes for the majority of Aucklanders.
Reason 3. Better Public Transport
Public transport is awesome when the bus or the train comes often. In a proper grown up city, people expect to be able to turn up to a station or a bus stop and have something turn up every 5 or 10 minutes.
One of the major problems with Auckland is that – because of the old plan – we aren’t really a proper grown up city. We’re more an awkward stunted teenager, stuck between small town and big city density rules. In some parts of the city there aren’t enough passengers living near public transport corridors to warrant frequent trains and buses.
However the new plan focuses higher density housing choices around transport routes. With more passengers per route this means we can have better buses, trains and even new light rail lines.
So in short the the Unitary Plan really really helps our public transport problems which of course helps us reduce our carbon pollution.
Reason 4: Less Urban Sprawl
Another of the really great things in Unitary Plan is that it says 70% of our growth should come from existing urban areas. That will help to limit housing sprawl which always comes with high infrastructure costs (new pipes, roads, rubbish truck trips) and just leads to increased rates, congestion, and carbon emissions.
This again shows the massive irony in many of the NIMBY arguments against the plan. They hate higher rates, more traffic and badly designed houses, but that’s exactly the opposite of what this plan does for the city overall. Encouraging less urban sprawl is almost the most effective way of achieving a more affordable, congestion-free, well designed city.
Reason 5: Creates the kind of city we all want
Cities are meant to be where people can live close together. That’s the whole point. Together to share ideas more easily, to make life more exciting, and so that we can be more efficient and less impactful on the environment beyond the city limits.
The Unitary Plan sounds really boring and it really actually is if you read it (so don’t). But the result of it all is pretty exciting and creates exactly the city that most Aucklanders want.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.