Published 6 March 2012
Auckland Council’s Auckland Plan committee got halfway to deciding yesterday whether to stick with a proposal for 70% of new homes to be inside the metropolitan urban limit, then deferred the decision until today.
That was in the plan section on development strategy. Staff also presented councillors with a completely revised chapter on housing (see separate story) and that was accepted, along with some tougher wording sought by Cllr Cathy Casey – and also with removal of the word “intervention” from 2 recommendations on council action, sought by Cllr Dick Quax, who said the less council intervention the better.
Apart from the undecided chapter on development strategy, the committee will have a full draft plan before it when it meets again today to confirm what will be put out to public consultation.
Cllr Quax has run a campaign demanding evidence for the council’s support of a compact city policy, in the belief that the vast majority of Aucklanders prefer to live in stand-alone homes in suburbia, not in more intensive developments.
When he was seeking information in January about reports on the proposed quality compact city concept for Auckland, he said he & some other councillors “are questioning both the viability of the compact city proposal and the process used to justify it…. I don’t think that shoebox apartment living, wall-to-wall townhouses and the denial of suburban living is a viable option for Auckland’s future, and if council officials have information that reflects the same conclusion, councillors need to see it….
“Concepts like ‘vision’ & ‘aspiration’ have been the domain of the council’s public relations machine for nearly a year. But the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act requires us to produce an evidential spatial plan, which is based on rigorous analysis, not assumption.”
That was when the council target for new homes inside the metropolitan urban limit was 75%. For yesterday’s meeting, the target was reduced to 70%, with the possibility that only 60% would be achieved. Cllr Quax said it would take huge political resilience to achieve 70%: “I remain unconvinced that we can actually do it, and if you have a plan you should plan to succeed.”
In response to Cllr Cameron Brewer, who cited Environment Minister Nick Smith last year wanting assurance “that the compact city won’t be too negative on house & land prices”, chief planning officer Roger Blakely said: “We’ve addressed the critical issues from the Productivity Commission and how that impacts on prices. One of their recommendations was you have at least 20 years of land in the pipeline, and up to 10 years of that ready to go. We’ve got the 20 years in the pipeline and 5-10 years – around a median of 7-8 years – to go.
“One of our recommendations in the draft Auckland Plan is there will be release of large tracts of land as needed. We’re also looking at some possible market mechanisms on the way land can be released to developers.
“Another factor they (the commission) raised was councils looking hard at their own costs, consenting & so on, and that’s one of the recommendations in the planning report as well.”
Dr Blakeley said ministerial staff had indicated their ministers were pleased with council proposals.
In contrast to Cllr Quax, Cllr Wayne Walker wanted assurance that the 60:40 model was practical: “Housing is going to become difficult because of resource scarcity, and house sizes are going to drop because present sizes are unsustainable and larger house sizes are becoming increasingly unaffordable. I think we have to work back from it and work out how to do it. It is not business as usual, it is business unusual. I don’t think even 70% (new homes inside the urban limit) is possible.”
Dr Blakeley said the council’s models confirmed that the more dispersed form of development would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions. He said if 40% of new homes over the next 30 years were outside the urban limit, up to 115,000 new homes & 1400ha of new business land could be in “greenfield areas for investigation” & satellite towns. 2 satellites have been proposed – Pukekohe in the south, with a potential population of 50,000, and Warkworth in the north with 20,000.
Cllr Walker questioned the need for that much business land as well, saying: “Everything is getting leaner & meaner & incredibly much more energy efficient. There is not as much space required and increasingly business is going up.”
Cllr Quax wanted to know the density ratio for the compact city as well, but spatial & infrastructure strategy manager Dave Clelland said density shouldn’t be a target as “it almost implies a uniform typology across an area”. He said the region’s overall density would increase over the years, but development would be very place-based.
Deputy mayor & committee chairman Penny Hulse tried to draw the debate away from specific numbers, saying: “This is a very broadbrush document. We don’t want the growth, we’re not pushing for the growth, it’s coming whether we’re ready or not. This sets out a broadbrushed plan by which we can manage that. This (plan) just gives people an idea over the next 20 years of what to expect. This is not tying us down to absolute detail in precise areas. The unitary plan will define this in more detail but if we don’t plan (broadly) we will end up in a shemozzle.”
Cllr Quax: “I agree with that, but we’ve got numbers, we’ve got targets. That looks very prescriptive, it doesn’t look broadbrush at all. It looks like a set of targets we’re aiming for.”
Dr Blakeley said staff were recommending the council provide for more intensive zoning through the unitary plan process over the next 12 months – the implementation plan accompanying the vision of the umbrella spatial Auckland Plan – but councillors would need to know what they were aiming for, both inside the urban boundary and for rural areas.
Ensuring long-term supply of land for urban development would include phasing, releasing & servicing of land, and would require 3-yearly reviews of the supply pipeline, he said.
With some questions on the development strategy still to be answered, Cllr Hulse deferred a decision on that part of the plan to Tuesday’s session and moved on to the housing chapter.
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Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.