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Intensification debate heats up

Everyone agrees Auckland has a housing supply problem, but not everyone agrees with proposals meant to address it.

Wednesday, February 10th 2016, 1:00PM

by Miriam Bell

It is well recorded that population growth in Auckland is booming – at the same time as the city continues to struggle with a significant supply shortage

To deal with the problem, Auckland needs more housing and, ideally, more affordable housing.

The Government, Auckland Council, the Productivity Commission, the Property Council and other key groups all believe one of the key solutions to the problem is intensification.

To this end, the city’s proposed Unitary Plan aims to rezone parts of the eastern and central Auckland suburbs, as well as parts of South Auckland, to allow for more townhouses and apartments to be built.

The Government is also working to free up surplus Crown land for housing development, Special Housing Areas (SHAs) have been created to facilitate the development process and a range of brownfield development projects have official support.

However, a sizeable amount of this activity is being greeted with heated opposition.

The Unitary Plan has always been controversial but, as the Council embarks on a series of pre-hearing community meetings to discuss its proposals, tensions are flaring.

Seven hundred people attended a meeting in Kohimarama last night – and many were opposed to the Council’s plans.

Community news publications are also currently full of vocal disagreement with the Unitary Plan zoning proposals.

Meanwhile, the battle over Fletcher Residential’s large Three Kings housing development project has now gone to court.

The project will convert a disused 22-hectare quarry into 1500 apartments and townhouses, along with retail space and new sports fields.

Consultation has been going on since 2008 but, in January, the South Epsom Planning Group and Three Kings United lodged appeals with the Environment Court to overturn approval for the project.

In response, Environment minister Nick Smith announced that Housing New Zealand would be joining the legal proceedings in support of Fletcher Residential and Auckland Council.

Smith said he was doing this to make a firm stand in favour of these sorts of plan changes that are needed to address Auckland’s growth and housing problems.

“It is exactly the sort of development we need to overcome Auckland’s growth problems by providing intensive and integrated housing on key public transport corridors only eight kilometres from the city centre.”

Government wanted to use every tool available to help address Auckland’s planning and housing problems, Smith said.

Opponents of the development described Smith’s move as bullying and stand-over tactics – but others supported the minister’s actions.

Mayoral candidate Stephen Berry said NIMBY’s were one of the leading causes of house price inflation in Auckland.

“For a truly affordable housing market to develop in Auckland, we need to completely re-think the way planning rules work.”

Berry is not alone in pointing to NIMBY’s as a problem.

For example, the Productivity Commission has said that “homeowners who oppose more development in their neighbourhoods because of concerns about the impacts on the value and amenity of their homes” are a constraint on growth.

Property Institute chief executive Ashley Church said the issue of the need for the city to grow in a way that benefits wider society versus individual property interests was a difficult and vexed one.

“No-one objects to greater intensification of the inner city, but lots of people object to the intensification of the suburbs,” he said.

“In many ways, it is a conflict between different sections of society and different generations and the Council has to do the best it can to build a city that suits peoples’ needs across the board.”

In his view, the lingering impact of unpleasant developments in the 1990s and early 2000s was influencing the opinions of many.

“But Council rules and requirements are tougher now. The reality is that the type of developments built in future are unlikely to be as bad as those built in the past.”

*Hearings on the Unitary Plan zoning proposals will be held in March and April. No decisions on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan will be made until at least August.

« New tax bad for housing developmentBattle lines drawn over Unitary Plan »

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