Published 18 November 2009
Waitakere City Council has been acutely aware for more than a decade that it needs more business land to stop the flow of its workforce to jobs outside the city every day, and in 2002 encouraged Westgate developer NZRPG Management Ltd to create a new Massey North town centre across the road from their original project.
7 years & $26 million of development costs down the track, the 156ha new project has been placed inside the metropolitan urban limits but remains stymied by appeals from the Auckland Regional Council over roading and by Foodstuffs (Auckland) Ltd, which wants to be able to build a supermarket box outside the new town centre.
NZRPG directors Mark Gunton & Bryce Donne and their development manager, Campbell Barbour, don’t see the divide between the existing centre, at the top of the North-western Motorway, and the new development across the continuation of State Highway 16 as a big deal.
The regional council wants a link for pedestrians to cross between the old & the new centres, but Mr Barbour says the whole development will spread for 2km, so people will drive to the part they want to.
The development has had the support of the city council all the way through, while the regional council has been keener to see more fine detail in proposals.
Developer & city council frustrations boiled over at the regular meeting of the NorSGA urban development committee on Monday – a committee set up to ensure communication between participants from the city council, the private sector and regional & national agencies involved in Waitakere’s northern strategic growth area, which stretches from Westgate/Massey North across to Hobsonville airbase & Greenhithe at the top of the Waitemata Harbour.
Committee chairman Linda Cooper was disappointed that not only had the regional council appealed against the whole plan change for Massey North – after it had gone through a hearing organised by the regional council and won hearing panel approval in 2007 – but that the regional council had stopped sending a representative to NorSGA meetings.
“The whole tragedy & shame about it is that, at a high level, the ARC & Government do not understand this development is hugely significant. Compared to ‘a few rugby games’ in 2011 for the Rugby World Cup, the North-west development is a $380 million programme.
“People under-estimate the importance of this part of the region in the regional economy. The potential is huge, but people’s prejudice against anything outside the cbd is blinding them to the opportunities here.”
In May, Cllr Cooper said the Waitakere council involved the regional council, Auckland Regional Transport Authority & Transit NZ (now NZ Transport Agency) throughout the planning for the metropolitan urban limit shift. The joint hearings panel decided to incorporate a shift in the urban limit for Massey North, Hobsonville Village & Hobsonville airbase and the regional council confirmed that decision. The appeals against the shifts (plan change 7) have been resolved, but Cllr Cooper said the regional council was still holding out on confirming that plan change 7 was fully operative.
Mr Barbour told the committee NZRPG was “just about at our last straw with the comprehensive development plan process – it’s crystal ball gazing…. One of the lessons I’ve learnt from this process is that we need to reflect the realities of commercial life.
“In property, if you get 80% of it right, you’ve done very well, because you don’t know how the other 20% will pan out. But all the experts here are aiming for a utopia. They want to tell us how many cars are going to turn right on a particular day in 2021.
“You get to a point wher,e mathematically, you can’t get an outcome because you will never get it right. But it’s only bricks & mortar, you can shift it round. That sentiment needs to be explained to the people in this process, otherwise you will get 100% of nothing, and that’s what we’ve got at the moment.”
Mr Gunton said in an earlier interview: “It’s been tortuously slow. We’ve been going through the planning process for 7 years, signed the memorandum of understanding with the council in 2004, and we’re still probably 18 months away from achievable success in terms of any signoff.
“We’ve got this hiatus, and the very scary thing for us is the territorial authority doesn’t have power to do anything. Are we in a holding pattern forever?
“The ARC’s given us the MUL (moved the urban limit boundary outside the development area) and now won’t let us play with it. Their major issue seems to be traffic: We said the problems don’t occur until 2021 and they say you have to provide for it now. Because we’ve got this comprehensive development overlay, you’ve got to plan the whole town in detail.
“But Massey North will develop over time. Westgate started out as 30,000m² and it’s now 45,00m².”
The expansion is planned to have 65,000m² of office & 100,000m² of retail. However, Mr Gunton said another factor in the long delay was that competing interests were able to get consent for smaller projects in the meantime.
19 December 2008: Expanded Westgate a new Newmarket?
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Attribution: Council committee meeting, phone interviews, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.