Environment Minister Nick Smith & Housing NZ Corp joined legal proceedings yesterday over appeals lodged against the $1.2 billion redevelopment of the Three Kings quarry in Auckland.
In his role as Environment Minister, Dr Smith said: “I am taking this unusual step of joining proceedings to support the Auckland Council and Fletcher Residential Ltd because of the size & significance of the project and to make a firm stand in favour of these sorts of plan changes that are needed to address Auckland’s growth & housing problems.”
As Building & Housing Minister, Dr Smith said: “Housing NZ Corp has joined proceedings because the appeals would adversely affect the corporation’s ability to improve the supply & quality of housing in the adjacent areas and because of the environmental & other community benefits of the development.”
Harry Doig & Michael Wood, representing the majority Roskill Community Voice group on the Puketapapa Local Board, described the legal move as “central government bullying”.
“Attractive conversion of ugly, disused quarry,” says minister
The council’s Auckland development committee voted 15-5 on 12 November to approve the land exchange with Fletcher Residential Ltd which forms part of the transaction.
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.
Dr Smith said: “This $1 billion Three Kings development converts an ugly, disused 22ha quarry into an attractive community of 1500 apartments & townhouses, retail space & new sportsfields. It is exactly the sort of development we need to overcome Auckland’s growth problems by providing intensive & integrated housing on key public transport corridors only 8km from the city centre. Fletchers has already demonstrated at Stonefields that quarries can be converted into highly successful & attractive housing developments. This is the largest brownfield site in close proximity to the city that is suitable for housing.
“Community consultation on the redevelopment of the Three Kings quarry began in 2008 and has involved over 70 public, community & local board meetings & hui. The plan change application was lodged in September 2014, with 237 submissions – of which two-thirds were in support. Hearings were held before 4 independent commissioners appointed by Auckland Council in May, and approval was granted for the plan change & development on 2 November. The commissioners concluded it would provide the opportunity for a ‘quality built environment’.”
SHA law designed to prevent this kind of appeal
2 incorporated societies, the South Epsom Planning Group and Three Kings United Group, filed Environment Court appeals on 11 January, seeking to overturn approval of the development and requiring the site to be restored to pre-quarry levels, with only low-rise housing allowed.
Dr Smith commented: “The practical impact of these appeals is that they would reduce the number of new homes by 1000, make them much more expensive and significantly delay the project. The most likely outcome if the appeal is successful is that this disused quarry will remain vacant for another decade while Auckland families struggle to find suitable homes to buy or rent.
“We have been able to avoid these planning problems on dozens of other Auckland housing projects through the use of the Government’s special housing areas legislation that preclude these sorts of appeals. A 1.4ha corner of the Three Kings site has been declared a special housing area, all consents have been granted and 78 homes are now under construction. The special housing areas legislation could not be used for the bulk of the Three Kings development because it exceeds 6 storeys.
“The Three Kings case confirms the need for Resource Management Act reform and the impact it has on Auckland’s housing development. The Resource Legislation Reform Bill currently before Parliament contains specific provisions that would enable future residential developments of this type to be streamlined, but this bill is not due to be passed until later this year.”
Dr Smith said Cabinet decided the Government should join the Environment Court proceedings at its first meeting of the year, last Tuesday, and lodged its notice yesterday. The minister said he’d also instructed his counsel, Dr Claire Kirman, to explore with other parties to the proceedings this matter being given priority by the court, noting its importance.
“Joining the proceedings is about the Government using every tool available to help address Auckland’s planning & housing problems,” Dr Smith said.
Board members call it standover tactics
At the local board level, Messrs Doig & Wood said: “Yesterday’s extraordinary announcement from Nick Smith that central government will join legal proceedings in the Three Kings development case brings central government bullying & standover tactics into plain sight.
“Senior Auckland councillors have told us for some time that central government has been threatening the council with action unless it agreed to the developer’s proposal, and now it is clear that the Government wishes to also intimidate local residents who are utilising their legal rights through the courts.
“It is important to remember that in this case, the proposed development is not simply a private concern. It involves the use of large holdings of publicly owned reserve land. Given this, it is entirely appropriate that local residents have the right to have their case heard without heavy-handed Government intervention.
“We also find it utterly extraordinary that Minister Smith & the Government would take this action at the same time as another Government minister is supposed to be considering the critical & related question of whether an exchange of public reserve land should proceed. The minister, Maggie Barry, is supposed to make that statutory decision with an impartial mind, only taking into account the best interests of the reserve. How can she possibly do that when the cabinet she has collective responsibility within, has now taken an entrenched legal position on the development?
“A responsible & competent housing minister who actually wished to advance the situation would use his influence to broker a mutually agreeable outcome. Local residents have championed an alternative development plan from a leading landscape architect that would see a significant medium-density apartment development, integrated with the neighbouring town centre, and in sympathy with the adjacent Big King volcano. An opportunity for an outstanding, integrated residential development is here, but it will languish in the courts while the developer, Auckland Council & the minister collude to ram their preferred plan through. Our local board is willing to sit down and work through an agreeable compromise, but the minister will need to move into a more constructive mode.”
Links:Fletcher Residential Three Kings proposal documents(pdf 2.36 MB)
Auckland Council decision of the hearing commissioners on proposed plan change 372(pdf 1.42 MB)
Appeal against plan change 372 by South Epson Planning Group Inc. and Three Kings United Group Inc.(pdf 255.37 KB)
Section 274 notice from the Minister for the Environment(pdf 428.56 KB)
25 November 2015: Three Kings development protest continues
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: Ministerial & board members’ releases.