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Smooth passage of Unitary Plan in doubt

The long-winded battle over Auckland’s Unitary Plan looks set to continue after Council staff reject 14 of the Independent Hearing Panel’s recommendations.

Tuesday, August 9th 2016, 12:00AM

by Miriam Bell

Auckland Council staff yesterday released a full review of the Panel’s recommended Unitary Plan, which is intended to assist Councillors in their decision-making on the Plan.

While Council staff support the majority of the Panel’s recommendations, they have rejected a number of quite significant recommendations.

Some of the Panel recommendations that Council staff have rejected are:

• The removal of minimum dwelling sizes
• The removal of a mandatory consenting requirement for fewer than five dwellings (up from three in the notified plan)
• The imposition of height in relation to boundary to the Mixed Use zone
• The removal of reference to the Auckland Plan’s “70/40” growth split between brownfield and greenfield growth
• The loosening of rural subdivision controls
• The removal of a precinct plan from locations like Wynyard Quarter and Takapuna that would have reduced the amount of development allowed there
• The removal of the schedule of Maori heritage items

If the Council staff’s position on these issues is adopted by the wider Council, it will mean the passage of the Unitary Plan is likely to be much slower and more cumbersome.

This is because Council must suggest an alternative to the rejected recommendation, which will then become part of the Unitary Plan.

On top of that, any relevant submitter can appeal the Council’s decision to the Environment Court.

More significantly, if the Council staff’s rejections are upheld and become part of the Unitary Plan they are likely to impact on the pace and degree of intensification possible in Auckland.

This, in turn, will have an effect on the provision of necessary housing supply for a city struggling with a shortage at a time of growing demand.

NZ Property Investors Federation executive officer Andrew King said some of the Council staff rejections are understandable.

But he strongly disagrees with their stance on minimum dwelling sizes, mandatory consenting requirements for fewer than five dwellings, and the loosening of the rural urban boundary.

“We have a supply shortage and we need more dwellings for real people to live in. That includes both smaller dwellings close to town and dwellings in more rural areas.”

Insisting on dwellings over a certain size cut a large number of people out of both the buying and renting market, he said.

“There is a definite market for smaller apartments. In rental terms, there is big demand from students, for example.

“Imposing a certain size on apartments will stop people, in particular younger people, from buying properties they can actually afford and getting into the property market.”

In King’s view, the Council staff’s position on minimum dwelling size, mandatory consent requirements and the rural urban boundary is simply too controlling.

Part of Auckland’s supply problem stems from the fact the city has a supply response that isn’t flexible, he said.

“We need a supply chain that responds to demand and to market fluctuations effectively.

“If the Council removes provisions from the Unitary Plan that will allow this it will simply make the supply problem harder to resolve.

“Simply put, we need more places for people to live in Auckland and, to that end, we need fewer restrictions on the supply of housing.”

On Wednesday, the Council's Auckland Development Committee embarks on a week of deliberation on its response to the proposed Unitary Plan.

The Unitary Plan will then be voted on by the Council's Governing Body.

The Council must make a decision on the Unitary Plan by August 19 – although it can ask the Government for a 20 day extension.

« Balancing act: how to handle the housing marketBoosting supply crucial to final Unitary Plan decision »

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