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Council opts for slower course of accepting rather than adopting Warkworth North plan change

Auckland Council’s planning committee opted on Tuesday for the slower course of accepting a plan change for a potential 1200 houses at Warkworth rather than adopting it. Under the second option, the council would have picked up the plan change and guided it through its regulatory processes.

The difference is a matter of timing. In this case, the slower process means the developer, Turnstone Capital LP (Mark Francis, chief executive of NZX-listed Augusta Capital Ltd), may miss the next earthworks season, pushing housing availability back a year.

The committee also went into a long round of debate on issues not really relevant to this decision, which I may return to later.

Image above: Warkworth’s future urban zone is in yellow, the Warkworth North structure plan area is outlined or coloured in purple, and the Turnstone plan change area is hached.

The cause of council planners’ concern, reflected in the committee debate, was that the council has its own Warkworth North structure plan also going through the hoops, and the planners want that in place first, rather than find differences requiring a variation. The difference in timing is only a matter of months, but in terms of conditions for starting construction could end up being a year.

Council plans & places general manager John Duguid said structure planning was nearing a conclusion for 4 areas around Warkworth, including the north: “We are close to a timeframe for consultation in the next couple of weeks, back to the committee as a final structure plan in May or June for the whole of Warkworth.

“To release all of that land at the same time would be at a significant cost. The decision was made to release the land in the north first, east & south later, in the second & third decades.”

The entire Warkworth future urban area covers about 1000ha, mostly in rural uses, which will be rezoned to residential & business zones.

The estimate is that Turnstone’s 99ha up for rezoning (out of a total 125ha site) could take 1000-1200 new dwellings, 13ha of light industry & a new 3000m² neighbourhood centre.

It’s just over 2 years since the Auckland unitary plan was made partly operative. Since that event in October 2016, the council has been progressively making more of it operative, as appeals are resolved. The unitary plan covers the whole region, covering the area which until 2010 contained 4 cities & 3 districts, each with its own district plan. In addition, the regional council had a regional policy statement, which is also now incorporated in the unitary plan.

Now that most of the unitary plan is in place, developers can be more certain about what’s allowed, and Mr Duguid said a stream of private plan changes enabling development was expected.

Planning committee agenda, 5 February
9, Auckland unitary plan (operative in part) – Privateplan change request from Turnstone Capital LP – Warkworth North
Attachment A – Request part 1 S32 report & appendix 1 planning maps & precinct provisions (78 pages)
Attachment B – Request part 2 appendices 2 – 22 (1239 pages)
FULSS – Future urban area sequencing Warkworth

Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda.

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Corrected: Whenuapai plan change delayed another 6 months as council committee agrees to recommended variation

Published & corrected 8 February 2019 (the Simpson Grierson lawyers mentioned below were the Defence Force’s, not the council’s):
I’ve long been under the impression that the Air Force, as the Navy does with its dinghy, would take its C130 transport plane out for a drive once/month to use the fuel allocation, and the plane would glide back to base using Greville Rd at Albany as the guide.

But there’s more to the airbase than using suburban arterials as a map to guide the plane home. Although the base’s P3 Orions will be replaced by Boeing P8-A Poseidons, to be based from 2023 at Ohakea in the Manawatu (where the State Highways 1 & 3 intersections at Bulls & Sanson are probably good roadmarkers to guide the planes home), in the meantime the Whenuapai planes make a lot of noise from time to time.

The Defence Force produced noise evidence the day before the hearing began last May on plan change 5, to rezone 360ha beside the airbase at Whenuapai, then produced updated evidence on noise contours in November.

When the council’s planners proposed in December either withdrawing plan change 5 altogether, or varying it to take account of the new noise contour research, the QC acting for subdivider submitters Cabra Developments Ltd & Neil Construction Ltd, Russell Bartlett, said in a 21 December letter to the council the Defence Force’s original evidence “had exaggerated the noise effects of engine testing”, but in any case the hearing panel had the skills “to bring policy considerations into the necessary decision-making”.

The Defence Force’s legal advisors at Simpson Grierson, Padraig McNamara & Sarah Mitchell, told the council on 18 January the short way to resolution could be for the hearing commissioners to confirm amended contours & zoning.

The council’s planners responded with a report identifying 4 options, preferring option B (to initiate the variation, based on the noisiest week). That goes against the Simpson Grierson advice, which noted that the testers felt the noisiest week was an outlier and the busiest week represented a more appropriate worst case.

The whole plan change 5 area comprises 360ha. Plan change 5 proposes rezoning 113ha of it to light industrial & the 274ha balance to a range of residential zones, anticipated to enable development of 6400 houses on land currently used for horticulture, rural production & lifestyle blocks.

The proposed plan change variation would restrict development of 410 housing lots until 2023 because they’d be within contours where the noise level would be deemed unacceptable.

The council’s north-west planning team leader, Eryn Shields, said in his report to Tuesday’s council committee meeting that the Defence Force had decommissioned taxiway D at Whenuapai because its surface was in poor condition (and the move to Ohakea relatively imminent), but that taxiway was more central than taxiway F, which was still in use & closer to the future boundary housing considered to be most affected.

The council planners’ preferred option would enable an additional 14ha to be zoned mixed housing urban, providing 370 more houses than under the present variation 5, and more land could be zoned for medium to high density once the Ohakea move has occurred.

Mr Shields said opting for the variation would delay a hearing decision by about 6 months, until late August.

To committee members’ suggestions that the zoning decision could wait until the Defence Force provided more certainty on its moves, Mr Shields said: “We can’t be paralysed, we have to act.“

Mr Shields told Cllr John Watson, who’d said a no-complaints covenant would prevent future residents complaining about noise: “We don’t consider that’s an appropriate way to manage the noise. We continue not to support them [the Defence Force position on covenants].”

Independent Maori Statutory Board members Tau Henare & Liane Ngamene baulked at the suggestion that the final decision on the variation be left to “a sub-group” of the committee.

But that’s what happened. The council planners will complete their work, present it to the sub-group for approval and the variation to the plan change will proceed to public notification & submissions.

The variation’s intent is to change the proposed zoning of about 120ha adjoining the NZ Defence Force airbase at Whenuapai, within the 65dB Ldn noise boundary, or between the 57-65dB Ldn noise boundaries, based on the additional noise data the NZ Defence Force provided the day before the hearing began. The noise data relates to noise effects from engine testing at the Whenuapai airbase.

The hearing on plan change 5 to the Auckland unitary plan began on 4 May 2018, continued on 7 & 10 May and was to have resumed in August, but was postponed.

The commissioners made a site visit in June and chair Robert Scott issued a long list of questions to council planners on:

  • aircraft noise
  • infrastructure funding mechanisms
  • transport infrastructure requirements
  • indicative open space
  • zoning (and potential further intensification) of land bounded by Trig Rd, Upper Harbour Drive & Hobsonville Rd because of its proximity to the Westgate & NorthWest shopping centres
  • the reasons for a lower intensity single house zone at the coastal management area boundary, in addition to coastal setbacks, and
  • out-of-scope submissions on seeking to be added to the plan change, and a light industry zone.

The parties haven’t been back to the hearing room since Mr Scott sent his list, so the answers to all those questions are also awaited.

Original plan change 5 documents
Committee meeting, 5 February 2019 documents:
8, Auckland unitary plan (operative in part) – proposed plan change 5 Whenuapai 3 precinct – next steps 
Plan change 5 area    
Proposed Whenuapai 3 precinct plan 3   
Whenuapai Airbase engine testing locations    
Engine testing scenario 7    
Engine testing scenario 5    
Engine testing scenarios 6 & 8    
Correspondence from Cabra Developments Ltd, Neil Construction Ltd & NZ Defence Force
Plan change 5 variation livestream

Attribution: Council committee agenda & meeting in room where microphones didn’t always work.

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Judge overturns year-old highrise consent next to heritage substation because of non-notification

High Court judge Rebecca Ellis has set aside a year-old resource consent for a 10-storey 39.5m building Equinox Capital Ltd proposes to build in central Wellington because the owners of a 2-storey heritage-listed former substation next door weren’t notified.

In her decision issued last Wednesday, Justice Ellis wrote: “In summary, I consider: (a) Sydney St Substation Ltd should have been given limited notification of Equinox’s resource consent application; (b) there was a material error in the 14 October 2016 decision not to publicly notify Equinox’s resource consent application; and (c) there were material errors in the 14 October 2016 decision granting Equinox’s resource consent application.

“There have been no matters raised which persuade me I should not exercise my discretion to grant relief here. I therefore make orders setting aside the notification decisions & the substantive resource consent decision, all of which are dated 14 October 2016.”

The dispute concerns buildings (heritage & proposed) a few doors from the courthouse, on what was Sydney St until 1993 and is now Kate Sheppard Place in Thorndon, a street noted for its “Elizabethan & Jacobean” architecture.

The category II heritage building is the old Sydney St substation at 19 Kate Sheppard Place, which has historical significance as one of the first substations constructed to distribute electricity in Wellington after the Mangahao hydro power station began operation in 1924.

Justice Ellis said it also had “some architectural significance due to what has been described as its ‘quirky mixture of architectural styles’”.

The lower of its 2 storeys originally housed the transformers & other substation equipment. The upper level has always been a home. “That unusual & experimental combination of utilitarian & residential design is regarded as adding to its architectural interest. A heritage covenant was placed on the building in 2011.”

In 2013 the Government sold the substation building to Sydney St Substation Ltd, owned by Trevor & Jillian Lord. They renovated & strengthened the building to some acclaim, with the assistance of a Wellington City Council grant. The entirety of the building is now used for residential purposes.

Justice Ellis concluded: “There can be no real doubt that the substation’s heritage value was highly influential in the decision to purchase it, and to renovate it at some expense. To suggest that an adverse effect on the substation’s heritage value does not, equally, adversely affect its owner seems unattractive. So if there is a minor adverse effect on the heritage value of the building there is a minor adverse effect on Sydney St Substation Ltd.

“Even if there is some flaw in that logic, there remains the further & more substantive (“anticipated development model”) issue. The views I have expressed about that strongly support the conclusion that the adverse effects on the owner of the substation (in terms of the matters of which discretion is restricted under rule 13.3.4, namely design, external appearance, siting & placement of building mass) have been understated and are at least minor.

“On any of the above analyses, therefore, Sydney St Substation Ltd was an affected person and should have received limited notification of Equinox’s resource consent application.”

In contrast with the judge’s view, the council notification said: “There are no affected persons in respect of this application (sections 95B/95E). It is noted that neighbours have registered an interest in works occurring on the subject site. Neighbour interest does not deem them to be affected parties under the tests of the act or qualify as special circumstances under the act in this case.”

The judge said most other buildings in the vicinity were multi-level office blocks “of limited street appeal”. The Lords sought judicial review of Wellington City Council’s approval of resource consent “authorising the construction of another such building immediately adjacent to the substation, on a site which is presently a carpark. In short, Sydney St Substation Ltd says that the council was wrong to grant the consent and also wrong to even consider it on a non-notified basis. They say that the substation will be significantly adversely affected by the proposed construction.”

Equinox (Chong Du Cheng & Kerry Knight) has plans for 63 apartments, a 39-room hotel with ground-floor lobby and ground-floor commercial space with a total floor area of 32,422m².

An important factor in the judge’s consideration was that the proposed building would exceed the height limit of 35.4m in the “low city” area, set out in the district plan.

According to the district plan guidelines, “Where a new development adjoins a heritage building that is 4 storeys or less, its height should be not more than one storey above the heritage building, over an area extending approximately 5-8m along & back from the street frontage at the common boundary with the heritage building”.

Link: Substation judgment

Attribution: Judgment.

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Minister says monitoring report highlights need for further RMA reform

Environment Minister Nick Smith said yesterday release of the Resource Management Act national monitoring system data highlighted the need for reform of the act. The image above is a slice of the monitoring report infographic.

“This monitoring report highlights how slow our planning system is, with the average time for a council plan taking more than 8 years and for a council plan change 4 years. This cumbersome process means councils cannot respond to changing society needs such as the sharp shift in housing demand from the lull of 2010 to the boom of 2015.

“It is crucial to resolving issues like housing that we have a far more responsive planning system. The Government’s second phase of Resource Management Act reform, currently before Parliament, provides the option for councils to adopt a streamlined planning process which will enable councils to achieve plan changes in 6 months.”

Dr Smith said the 2015 national monitoring system data & a new online tool opened up access to Resource Management Act statistics for the first time: “The data will help the Ministry for the Environment see which parts of the act processes are causing delays, where inconsistency in council practices is a problem, and identify best practice. For the first time, the ministry has detailed information on more than 42,000 resource consent applications & 359 plan-making processes.

“This new, open reporting on the Resource Management Act, alongside the Government’s legislative reforms, also helps improve performance. Councils & communities need to compare their performance around environmental compliance & costs of processing this for plans & consents and help drive better practice.”

Dr Smith said changes in the Government’s first phase of Resource Management Act reforms had improved processing: “We’ve seen the number of late consents drop from 16,017 in 2007-08 to 1260 in 2014-15. We still have some issues with the efficiency of consent processing, with 19% requiring time extensions and 32% further information requests. More than 360 consents received a discount on their consent costs of [a total] $457,321 where councils did not meet statutory timeframes for processing.

“I am also encouraged by the increased levels of compliance with resource consent conditions, with 88% of those monitored being compliant. We still have more work to do in ensuring the act delivers good outcomes for the environment while minimising the restrictions & costs on businesses & homeowners.

“There is also work to do to reduce processing costs of $76 million for the 40,000-plus annual resource consents. There are significant savings to be made from reducing the number of notified consents, which cost 5 times those of non-notified. Even the average $1929 bill for a non-notified consent can be excessive when it involves a minor change in boundary or height rules. The proposal to enable councils to waive the requirement for some consents over many minor issues would be a relief to homeowners, where the consent cost can exceed the building cost. There are also significant benefits for the environment and costs of the Resource Management Act with greater use of national standards.”

NMS Infographic.pdf (pdf 198.29 KB)
Environment Ministry, RMA reporting

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Variation 8 for Flat Bush special housing area approved

The plan change to rezone 195ha at Flat Bush became operative on Friday 19 February. It will facilitate the development of 2500 sites under the special housing areas legislation.

Under plan variation 8, the land will be rezoned from future urban & countryside living to mixed housing urban, mixed housing suburban & neighbourhood centre.

There were 3 applicants for resource consent for qualifying developments at 64 & 84 Thomas Rd, 125 & 125A Murphy’s Rd and 187 Flat Bush Rd – Hugh Green Ltd (now with the late Mr Green’s daughter, Maryanne Green, in charge), Murphys Development Ltd (Brian Hong Biao Chen, Andrew Guest & Dan Xiao) & Eastfield NZ Ltd (Lin Zi).

Link: Auckland Council, variation 8 decision

Attribution: Decision.

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Judge quashes demolition non-notification

An Auckland Council duty commissioner told council staff an application to demolish a 90-year-old Remuera house should be notified – then, 3 hours later, issued a decision not to notify it.

Other commissioners went on to approve the house’s removal, although it’s in a group identified for demolition control.

But, in a ruling last Friday, Auckland High Court judge Mark Woolford quashed the notification decision, and consequently also quashed the substantive decision.

Marche Ltd (Chris Lord) and a neighbour of the Seaview Rd property, Jocelyn Armstrong, sought judicial review of the 2015 notification & demolition decisions, which were in favour of planning consultant Gary Deeney, in his role as a developer.

Mr Deeney sought to remove the house built in 1926 at 48 Seaview Rd. Justice Woolford didn’t go into the merits of Mr Deeney’s application, but focused on the uncertainty & errors apparent from the notification commissioners’ correspondence, and particularly on the failure to give any reason for non-notification.

The judge’s decision is especially apt this month, as a campaign builds to get the council to withdraw revised zoning maps it provided in December to the independent panel hearing submissions on Auckland’s proposed unitary plan.

Justice Woolford released his decision on the last day of a fortnight of evidence to the unitary plan panel on pre-1940 & heritage housing, which rezoning opponents say is under siege in the council’s drive to enable more intensive development on the isthmus.

The unitary plan hearings panel chair, Judge David Kirkpatrick, declined to reopen submissions on the council’s proposed zoning changes, saying in directions issued in January that accepting new submissions on the recent council proposals would very likely mean the panel would miss its 22 July deadline for delivering recommendations on the unitary plan to the council.

Opponents of more intensive development on the isthmus and of loosening of the ability to demolish houses over 70 years old are likely to have their input more severely curtailed under the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill introduced last November, though there will still be scope for judicial review.

In the Seaview Rd ruling, Justice Woolford said he would express no view on whether the application should be notified, but said the council or independent commissioners would have to make a fresh decision: “The fresh decision should make reference to the evidence considered & the key factors taken into account and explain why the particular decision is made.”

Council planner Harry Halpin had recommended Mr Deeney’s application be refused, but commissioners David Hill (chair) & Richard Knott approved it last August. Duty commissioners Mark Farnsworth & Cherie Lane had approved non-notification in May.

The duty commissioners wrote in their decision: “Having read the application, supporting documents, specialist comments & the council planner’s report & recommendations on the application, I [both commissioners] am satisfied I have sufficient information to consider the matters required by the Resource Management Act and to make a decision under delegated authority on notification. Under sections 95A, 95B & 95C of the RMA, this application shall proceed without public or limited notification because:

  • Rule of the operative district plan enables the application to be considered without the need for public notification or either obtain the written approval of affected persons or notify them
  • There are no protected customary rights groups or marine title groups in the region affected by this proposal
  • Having regard to the general discretion to notify under section 95A(1) and whether there are any special circumstances under section 95A(4), we find that there are no relevant reasons to warrant public notification.”

Justice Woolford said the plaintiffs before him alleged that the commissioners made a number of errors of law, failed to take relevant considerations into account, had regard to irrelevant considerations and failed to have regard to natural justice considerations & the right of members of the public to be heard.

Mr Farnsworth wrote in an email to council staff member Celia Chan hours before issuing the non-notification decision: “All of the houses, with the exception of the [neighbouring] house at 46 Seaview Rd, are well maintained and contribute positively to the special character. We came to an initial viewpoint that the demolition of the house 48 Seaview would incrementally detract from what we consider the obvious special character of the area and therefore should be notified.

“In terms of section 95 we are considering whether ‘special circumstances exist’ which would provide grounds for notification.

“The complicating issue for us is the clause in the Auckland district plan which exempts this type of application (the demolition) of buildings in Residential 2C from notification; does this clause ‘trump’ section 95 special circumstances? We are seeking clarification on the above matters.”

Ms Lane commented in another email exchange that a workshop for commissioners would be helpful: “Was good working with Mark on this one. But it was a bit of a tricky one… We found the rule that such activities (demolition in the residential 2 zone) not be notified, to be particularly vexing!… Hope this sort of forum can be organised soon – would be really appreciated.”

Justice Woolford said the email exchanges showed an element of confusion or misunderstanding on the part of the commissioners. He said clause of the district plan specifically provided: “’Except as provided for in section 95A(4) of the act, [demolition or removal] will be considered without public notification or the need to obtain the written approval of or serve notice on affected persons.’ It is inappropriate to refer to that clause as trumping section 95A(4) special circumstances. The provisions sit side by side. One does not trump the other.

“Secondly, it is difficult to understand Mr Farnsworth’s reference in his email of 2:11 pm to proceeding on a non-notified basis ‘as long as the application is amended as per rule’.  Rule does not deal with the amendment of applications.

“Ms Lane filed an affidavit setting out her qualifications & experience and the documents she had before her when making the notification decision. She also confirms that she visited the site the day before with Mr Farnsworth and discussed her initial impressions with him, but does not elucidate her reasons for making the decision not to publicly notify the application. We are left then with the decision itself.

“However, the notification decision itself presents further difficulties. It states that the commissioners had regard ‘to the general discretion to notify under section 95A(1)’. Section 95A(1) is, however, not applicable to the current application. It enables a consent authority, in its discretion, to decide whether to publicly notify an application for a resource consent. The application was, however, to be dealt with under sections 95A(3) & (4).

“In this case there was a rule which precluded public notification of the application, that being rule”

Summing up, Justice Woolford said: “I am unfortunately unable to discern the reasons for the decision. The finding of ‘no relevant reasons’ raises more questions than it answers: What factors were considered by the commissioners? What weight was given to the factors considered by the commissioners? How was the decision on relevance reached?”

Justice Woolford was curious about the reference to marine title groups – given Seaview Rd is well uphill from the harbour in the middle of Remuera – and found “almost exactly the same wording was used in non-notification decisions by commissioners on 31 October 2014 & 23 December 2014 in relation to applications by Ports of Auckland Limited to extend Bledisloe Wharf, where a reference to marine title groups may have more relevance.

“A template can be beneficial to good decision-making, but care must be taken to ensure that it is appropriate to the case at issue.”

Earlier stories:
10 February 2016: Petition heads to Parliament over late recommended changes to unitary plan
1 February 2016: Haynes wants council to turn out-of-scope changes into post-unitary plan proposal
15 January 2016: Unitary plan chair says panel would miss deadline by opening proposed changes to new submissions18 December 2015: Filipaina says zone maps show Auckland housing to stay mostly 1-2 storeys
27 November 2015: RMA reform introduced

Attribution: Judgment, RMA, Council hearing decisions.

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Hamlet that doesn’t fit the rules heads to appeal

Auckland Council’s hearings committee has an unusually difficult consent appeal to consider on Tuesday, the application for a rural hamlet 3km down the coast from Beachlands, the Pine Harbour marina & Formosa golfcourse in the east of the region.

Difficult, because the hearing panel that declined the application in October actually liked the concept, but said it didn’t fit the planning rules.

As is customary, the council committee will consider the position the council should take on the appeal in the confidential section of its agenda.

The development application for Ahuareka Village, at 650-680 Whitford-Maraetai Rd, Whitford, was made by Ahuareka Trustee (No 2) Ltd (Rob Bassett & Brett Russell). The proposal was for a 160-lot village of 186 household units & apartments, a country pub with 10 guest rooms, a 300m² community building, 2 retail lots & 3 commercial service or office lots to be built in a cluster occupying about 5% of what is a 92.8ha cattle farm. The farm would be transformed, with public walkways created, forest regenerated and waterways upgraded.

The hearing ran for 2 days in August and was closed on 7 October, with the decision issued on 29 October. The commissioners were Rebecca Macky (chair), David Hill, Mark Farnsworth & Stephen Udy.

One essential question at the hearing was whether it should be considered as rural or urban in a rural setting. And if it’s urban-rural, how does that fit into the rules of development?

During the hearing, council planning consultant Peter Reaburn, a director of Cato Bolam Ltd, suggested a better course than the resource consent application might be for the proposal to go through a private plan change.

The commissioners raised that prospect again in their conclusion to decline the application for land use consent for concept subdivision plan approval, which would be followed by staged subdivision consents. The commissioners decided this failed to promote the sustainable management framework required by the Whitford rural zone.

Manukau City Council created the rural zone’s rules through plan change 8, notified in 2005, made partly operative in 2010 and fully operative in 2012. The plan change area was divided into 3 zones based on landscape type & the ability for the landscape to visually accommodate development. Each zone had a maximum carrying capacity and the plan change also introduced 4 policy overlays – road corridor, scenic amenity, catchment management & coastal – that would further constrain development density.

Ms Macky wrote in the hearing panel’s decision that the plan change, which became chapter 12A of the new Auckland Council’s district plan, had been carried forward into the notified proposed unitary plan virtually unchanged: “While decisions on submissions on that plan are not due for release until 2016, the objectives & policies have legal effect (albeit with little weight). Furthermore, the fact that public policy regarding this zone/precinct has undergone minimal shift is a relevant matter about which we must take note, as it increases the weight to be given to those provisions.

“While the applicant suggested that the provisions are redundant in the current Auckland growth context, we do not agree. Over the past 10 years the provisions have actually been extensively reviewed, and sealed by the court as recently as 2012. We cannot so lightly set those provisions aside for a non-complying activity of the scale proposed.”

In the panel’s 29 October decision on the Ahuareka proposal, Ms Macky said: “The actual & potential effects on the environment of allowing the activity are minor or less than minor, and the applicant has proposed relevant & effective conditions of consent. In most respects, the proposal will have better environmental outcomes than a complying subdivision.”

However, when it came to assessing the development against the zone requirements, she said: “In respect of the zone, we accept that the application satisfies many of the plan’s objectives & policies when those are read in a site-specific manner but, while the application may have clear merit on a number of attributes, not all the enhancement mitigation required by the policy structure is offered. Nor was any alternative to that mitigation suggested.

“To consent to this application would be to undermine the bonus enhancement policy settled through the Environment Court and would likely result in a precedent effect for later applications also to provide for development without the enhancement planting. We conclude that the proposal is not consistent with a sustainable management framework required by the Whitford rural zone.”

Ms Macky went into some detail about what the plan change was intended to achieve, the carrying capacity, and what that capacity meant for Ahuareka: “As plan change 8 emerged in Its final form, subzones A & C were combined, totalling 2777ha; subzone B remained the same at 957ha; the capacity cap increased to 925; and the subdivided lot:parent lot ratio for the new combined Whitford rural A altered from the plan change 8 range of 1:4-1:6ha (between A & C) to 1:3.5ha (with B remaining constant throughout at 1:5ha).

“The total area of the Whitford rural zone also seems to have remained constant throughout, with Whitford B retaining a land area ratio relative to the remainder of the zone of approximately 1:3.

“If the lot sizes across the whole Whitford rural zone as currently limited are averaged, 3734ha subdivided by 925 = 4.04ha. In other words, for every countryside living lot created, the plan expects there will be in the order of 4ha of unbuilt-on land – whether that is native bush, riparian margin, pastoral farm, planted or replanted vegetation.

“That means that with the 186 lots proposed, minus the 18 lots permitted ‘as of right’ under the 1:5ha rule for the (approximately) 92ha property, 168 lots of compensatory ‘undeveloped’ land is required.

“At its average, this represents 168 x 4ha = 672ha, which is both the average across the zone and also in terms of the bonus lot requirement. Even with the crediting of the 32ha of protected remnant forest & new planting and 41.4ha of open rural landscape that is proposed, a shortfall of about 600ha enhancement potential in the Whitford rural zone remains.

“If approved, the development would leave a shortfall expectation of 3734/600ha = 16% that cannot be recovered underneath the cap. This is even more significant under the Whitford B subzone, representing 957/600ha = 63%.

“The question in front of us is: Does this matter and, if so, can it be cured?”

The panel’s answer was that, in its submitted form, the application couldn’t be cured.

Earlier stories:
12 February 2014: Vote split on Beachlands rural village direct referral
18 September 2005: Regional policy decision could stop Whitford development plans
9 July 2005: Manukau notifies Whitford rural catchment

Attribution: Plan change, hearing decision.

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Committee concludes St Lukes mall expansion effects minor, so hearing non-notified

Scentre (NZ) Ltd’s resource consent application to double the size of its Westfield St Lukes mall will be determined non-notified, which excludes other parties from the process.

Auckland Council’s hearings committee heard the company’s application for non-notification last week, deliberated behind closed doors and issued its decision yesterday.

Committee chair Linda Cooper said in a release yesterday the company had an existing consent to extend the mall, granted in 2011, and the latest application made some amendments & additions to it, including the replacement of rooftop parking above the consented mall and expanding retail areas.

She said the effects in the application were considered less than minor: “The proposal is in line with the St Lukes concept plan, which was developed following extensive public consultation.

“The proposal will have a height & separation distance to neighbouring properties that will avoid dominance, amenity or shadowing effects for neighbours. It also considers all traffic aspects and does not anticipate additional parking demands on surrounding roads.”

The committee has appointed independent commissioners to decide the outcome of the resource consent application.

Scentre Group New Zealand development executive David Drew said the concept plan was originally recommended by independent commissioners, subsequently approved by the council and the St Lukes Residents Association, and was now part of the operative district plan.

One thing not decided is the start of development: “We are still masterplanning and no decisions have been made as to the timing of any development at St Lukes.”

Committee conclusions

The hearings committee said it determined overall effects would be minor on the basis that they would be within the envelope expected by the concept plan introduced by plan change 34, and the mitigation works & assessment criteria.

Onsite parking will be increased by 1479 spaces to 3497 spaces.

The committee said staged construction & staged opening of new tenancies would reduce offsite parking effects.

On requests for public input, the committee said: “The concept plan reflects that past input by setting out the expectations around the level & location of the expansion, roading improvements and mitigation & urban design considerations. In following the broad direction of the concept plan, the application does not introduce unforeseen adverse effects or raise any other matter not contemplated by the concept plan.

“Therefore it is unlikely further information or debate from possible submitters that could like improve the quality of decision-making necessary at the section 104 (Resource Management Act) stage will be elicited.”

Westfield (the Scentre predecessor) got a plan change in 2012 to rezone land adjoining the shopping centre & owned by it to business 8, and enabling the company to double the maximum gross floor area to 92,500m², including 15,000m² for offices.

Earlier stories:
17 November 2015: Council closes doors to decide on St Lukes notification
17 February 2012: Plan change to double St Lukes mall goes through final council hoop
13 January 2012: Court issues consent order for St Lukes rezoning & expansion
19 December 2010: St Lukes: the debate
18 November 2010: Westfield gets St Lukes plan change approval as mayor talks mediation

Attribution: Council decision & release.

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Three Kings development protest continues

Three Kings United Group president Garry Bryant said yesterday the land swap agreement between Auckland Council & Fletcher Residential Ltd around the Three Kings volcanic cone & quarry “is not yet a done deal”.

The council’s Auckland development committee voted 15-5 on 12 November to approve the land exchange

Local community groups say they are likely to appeal to the Environment Court on the plan change.

Fletcher wants to fill in part of the crater and develop up to 1500 homes, including terrace homes of 2 & 3 storeys, apartment blocks of 3 & 4 storeys and 10-storey cascading apartment buildings set against the quarry slope.

The full proposal provides for rezoning of 112ha of the quarry & adjoining land. Under Fletcher’s preferred proposal for 21.6ha, open spaces would include 2 sports fields, recreational parkland & a wetland terrace.

Mr Bryant said local groups were likely to appeal against the land swap to the Environment Court, but would decide on their next move at a public meeting in the Three Kings Primary School Hall on Tuesday 1 December at 7.30pm.

He said: “The community is not against development of the site but are objecting to a number of issues, including lack of sensitivity to the local environment, especially the Big King volcanic cone and poor access & connectivity.”

Earlier stories:
12 November 2015: Propbd on Q Th12Nov15 – 4 sell at B&T Commercial auction, 4 units sell at Ray White auction, 3 Kings exchange approved, Maori sites list cut
11 June 2015: Propbd on Q Th11Jun15 – Auction result, 3 Kings land exchange, decisions on plan changes, council model for elderly housing
14 November 2014: Three Kings debate goes to & fro, council to continue negotiating just with Fletcher
22 September 2014: Fletcher adds detail to 3 Kings plan change proposals
12 September 2014: 3 Kings plan changes approved for notification

Attribution: Three Kings United release.

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“Loopy rules” taskforce lists its top 10

The Government released its “loopy rules” report today, a combination of much whingeing, some clearly unhelpful rules & practices, but also some questionable responses.

The first example from the report’s Top 10: “The rule is not practical: The owners of a bus depot structure that has no walls are forced to install 4 exit signs, just in case people can’t find their way out if there is a fire.”

In the realm of resource management: “The proliferation of policies & criteria add up to a potent brew: A section 42a report done for a subdivision had to be assessed against 59 objectives & policies.”

Under Unnecessary bureaucracy: “Some rules are there ‘just in case’ a problem might arise in future, with little evidence that it will.”

And among the many complaints about building consents, led by the most frequent frustration of a council letter seeking further information being sent on day 18 or 19 of a 20-day legislated timeframe: “Average building consent fee is 1% (including BRANZ fees). This is $5000 on a $500,000 house. How can it cost so much?”

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett proposed a rules reduction taskforce in July last year, selected a 9-member panel in February, and said today their findings showed real opportunities for both central & local government to make life easier for New Zealanders.

The taskforce wrote: “We did hear of rules that protect people, the environment, infrastructure & our heritage but which still enable individuals, businesses & our economy to prosper & grow. But we are struck by the number of instances where the good intentions of the rulemakers are somehow lost in the translation to the real world.”

The taskforce held 50 public meetings and received nearly 2000 submissions. Mrs Bennett said: “We have listened to New Zealanders and the message is clear: there are too many frustrating rules & regulations, and too many are being applied inconsistently, and it is holding our communities back.

“The report outlines practical opportunities for government departments & local councils to improve the level of customer service they offer, and give that clarity people need. We will be embracing these opportunities finding practical solutions.”

The submissions covered 11 ministers’ portfolios, the majority relating to the Resource Management Act & the Building Act.

“Over the next few weeks, ministers will be working with their departments & agencies to progress the quick fixes and what will take a bit longer to tackle. We’ll continue to update and make announcements as this work progresses.

“The Government will also be working with local government to ensure they are providing the right advice to their residents about what rules & regulations mean and how they apply in their communities.

“The members of the taskforce also heard loud & clear that there are several myths about rules & regulations that don’t actually exist. This includes the misconception that lolly scrambles have been banned, and that people can’t use 3-step ladders.

“By breaking through this misinformation, New Zealanders will be better placed to focus on the serious rules designed to keep people safe and our economy growing.”

The main gripe in the taskforce’s top 10 list was, “”Make it easier!” But between doing that for building consents and for resource consents, submitters also told the workforce that regulators needed to lift the building sector’s skills. Question: If a sector can’t lift its skills itself, how can it be trusted to do a job properly without constant monitoring & supervision?

The top 10:

  1. Make it easier to get building consents
  2. Get serious about lifting the skills of building sector
  3. Make it easier to get resource consents
  4. Reduce the cost of consenting fees
  5. Sort out what “work safety” means and how to do it
  6. Make it clear what the rules are
  7. Establish a new customer focus for the public sector
  8. Departments should introduce a stakeholder engagement approach to developing local government policies & regulations
  9. Reform the Local Government Act 1974 & the Reserves Act 1977
  10. Stop making loopy rules.

Links: Loopy rules taskforce
Executive summary
Top 10 fixes
Loopy rules final report

Earlier stories:
2 June 2015: ‘Loopy rules’ submissions open for another fortnight
11 February 2015: Bennett names her taskforce against loopy rules
23 July 2014: Bennett says Begone! to “loopy” rules

Attribution: Ministerial release & taskforce report.

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