Some Feedback from the Civic Forum on the Unitary Plan
Saturday I gave up my time (of which would have been in the garden) to attend the Civic Workshop on the Unitary Plan (The Rule Book). From 10am to just before 4pm, the (apparently) random cross selection of residents sat in groups while Te Radar MC’ed and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse “hosted.” Breakfast, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea were all provided so least my ratepayer money went to the most important part of the day .
The topics of the day were: housing, apparently delivery of housing, and heritage and environment (was meant to be physical but the human element was brought in as well) to which each table of residents made their contributions to the table facilitator – an Auckland City Planner. Speaking of the cross-selection of people chosen for this Civic Forum (before I go onto my notes), err Council might want to try a bit better making sure the selection is more representative of Auckland citizens. There were two maps of Auckland by the entrance where participants were asked to place a coloured dot representing where they live. I was the only one (known) from Papakura, with South Auckland looking a little sparse of dots as well. However there was as I expected an over representation on the central isthmus and North Shore clusters which would skewer things in a particular angle. Age wise someone did comment the room was full of err I shall use the word 50+ with my presence (amongst I think four others) capable of lowering the average age of the room by around a third. So not a great representation for South Auckland and the Youth which means arguments would have been skewered rather than balanced.
Representation aside, throughout the sessions I was diligent and took around six pages of back to back notes on refill paper. Furthermore I had my business cards and all three published submissions to date with me and on the table which caused a few eyebrows raised at the table. I just told our table facilitator that I had come prepared with evidence and policy material to make informed and strong opinions on where I want the Unitary Plan to go, I was also taking notes for my blog and for policy formation work next year. Although the business cards were there to be exchanged with others as we networked over the breaks. So hey, least I was armed and prepared!
And so through all my note taking I managed to drill down to three set points stemming from the main point of The Unitary Plan.
The main point of The Unitary Plan is; “Outcomes Based” or rather where do you/we want to be by the end of The Auckland Plan (so 2040)
So with those outcomes the participants at the civic forum basically agreed on three you could say core outcomes they would like to see in the Unitary Plan:
- Strong Urban Design principles in all urban development
- Affordability and accessibility must be fundamental (this included whether you were to own a home or rent your home)
- Natural and Social Heritage and Environments must interlink and intertwine with the above two points
The agreement also extended to accepting and willing to work with the 60:40 (although Council calls it 70:40) Brownfield:Greenfield urban development principles and the fact intensification will occur in Auckland. However that is where the agreements stopped. While we agreed on the three outcomes you could say mentioned above, and accepting the 60:40 situation; what we could not agree on is how to get to these outcomes (the delivery method). And this is where the Unitary Plan has the risk of falling over badly.
It was basically the old conservative verse liberal division in how we commit ourselves to the delivery of the outcomes. In short:
- The Liberal Division wants a thin Unitary Plan that recognises the three outcomes and the 60:40 split. However in delivery to and of the outcomes; a liberal would rather use: incentives, education, and the maintenance of (individual and collective) freedom, choice and responsibility (so private property rights are not trodden on via the bureaucracy). There are times where regulation and the big stick are required, but that should be the exception and not the rule. Guidelines and philosophies would help frame the delivery to the outcomes of the Unitary Plan, with the Local Boards taking the lead (rather than Council and the bureaucrats) in oversight and advocacy of the delivery
- The Conservative Division wants a thick Unitary Plan that recognises the three outcomes and the 60:40 split. However in delivery to and of the outcomes; a conservative would use: regulations, punitive measures in compliance and most often the restriction of (individual and collective) freedom, choice and responsibility (so private property rights are trodden on via the bureaucracy). Effectively the big stick is taken with descriptive rules and regulations rather than incentives and education to determine what you can do or not on your property. The Conservative Division would have you jump through hoops and ticking boxes before you could carry out activities on your private property. Incentives and education would be minimal as the conservative division can not trust an individual to act on their own accord. As I said earlier rather than guidelines and philosophies; you get a strict set of rules and regulations that frame what you can and can not do, with the bureaucracy rather than the Local Boards taking the lead in oversight and advocacy of the delivery towards the outcomes.
I managed to raise the prickles at my first table pitching the Liberal Division when I told our facilitator who is a Senior Planner; that planners get in the road of urban development so stay out of the road. I must have been the only liberal on that particular table. However I moved tables for the heritage and environment session and a more liberal approach (helps when you have Councillor Penny Webster and Orakei Local Board Chair Desley Simpson present) around the topic of trees was apparent. I believed the table agreed to that if you cut down a tree on your property because it was blocking sunlight, then an incentive was given to you to either replace that tree else where on your property or a public park. No big stick rule book stuff pitched there, just simple plain incentives with the owner maintaining their private property rights and the city its natural environment.
But in the end it was a long day and a good forum in general. I could have hammered the planners on urban development all weekend but I shall get my chance next year when the Unitary Plan draft comes out.
Last of all, a Facebook message I posted yesterday:
“Have returned home from the Unitary Plan Workshop hosted by Te Radar and Deputy MayorPenny Hulse. Te Radar for our sceptics amongst us provided intellect, wit and humour in what could have been a very dull affair at the Civic Forum for the Unitary Plan.
Thank you Te Radar and Deputy Mayor Hulse for the Forum and oh the lunch
And as you said Penny, yes us bloggers will be running commentary on today’s forum; Matt will be over at his blog and myself at Ben Ross : Auckland later on today :D”
Yep, us bloggers will be busy thunder-typing away spreading the commentary and debate as far and wide as we can on the Unitary Plan.
Again thank you Deputy Mayor and Te Radar for the Forum (oh and the food), it was an enjoyable event for such a heavy plan.
As a reference I have embedded below my submission to The Auckland Plan. In my submission I have a pretty comprehensive pitch of The Liberal Division that I will be translating over to my submission to The Unitary Plan in due time. Remembering that my submissions stem from my fundamentals for a Better Papakura and Better Auckland!
And a reference to Minister of Finance Hon. Bill English on Housing