Debunking that Onehunga Open Letter

It Was Fine – Until…


I caught this open letter on Facebook this morning after the Onehunga Unitary Plan Community Meeting. While the meeting itself was a full house it did seem to fall over on the question of: “What Alternative?” Again like other places the residents took a vote to “reject the unitary plan” due to intensification and mass rezoning. Again they did not like the 8 storeys for Onehunga Town Centre. But, like just about everywhere else they forgot two things (and the Ward Councillor and Local Board should be kicked up the backside for this – for failing to lead the debate properly):

  1. What do you want the Town Centre height lowered too?
  2. What would you put in the Unitary Plan’s place…


And again while they forget this they also forget that taking a vote in rejecting the Unitary Plan will be just considered as one submission to the UP – but with nothing to back it up. So it won’t give the Governing Body much to work on here – as Councillor Alf Filipaina said at the Weymouth UP meeting not so long ago. So Onehunga unless each one of you that “voted” against the UP last night write a physical submission and send it to council (I even have the optimum layout at KARAKA COLLECTIVE HAS BEGUN A MSM PR CAMPAIGN ), your vote is pretty much a waste of time.

For Onehunga’s sake I have considered the area for the Special Character Zone – Centralised Master Community Plan role along with Mt Eden and St Heliers. The SCZ work so far can be seen at my “BACK FROM ORAKEI PRESENTATION” post which has been received favourably in the Orakei Local Board area. Once the SCZ draft has been strengthen it can then be translated across the city with Onehunga and Mt Eden next up for the SCZ designation if I had my way. In the same regard with Onehunga deemed a Town Centre (someone did mention it should be an actual Metropolitan Zone as it is very close to motorway and rail services like Manukau is) it would be limited to 5 storeys per my Housing Mix Simulator – so somewhat less than the 8 storey currently proposed in the UP.



But, as I mentioned I saw this Open Letter to Auckland Council in regards to Onehunga. This it here with my initial reactions:

This is the draft letter that you’re welcome to copy and paste/edit to suit your street and zoning concerns:

Make sure you then send your letter to the feedback form on the Shape Auckland website:

Letter regarding: Objection to the Re-zoning of Grotto Street and surrounds as multi-storey apartments, multi-unit terrace housing.

Community is imperative to a functional and healthy society. A functional and healthy society is defined as a place where people engage, interact, look out for each other and know each other by name. Our community is just that. We love our street. We speak and socialise with our neighbours. We put time, money and personal effort into making our homes and immediate neighbourhood a welcoming one. Our community is strong, connected and one that we are immensely proud of. On the 16th of March your Council issued the Unitary Plan which rezones our street to the highest level of intensive development which would allow its century old character homes to be replaced with multi-storey apartments and terrace housing.

The purpose of this zoning as stated in the Unitary Plan is:

To make efficient use of land and infrastructure, increase the supply of housing and ensure that residents have convenient access to services, employment, education facilities, retail and entertainment opportunities and public transport. This will promote walkable neighbourhoods and also foster a sense of community and increase the vitality of centres.

In what way are we not currently making efficient use of our land? Our children have room to play outside in a safe and healthy environment, we grow and harvest our own fruit and vegetables, compost organic material, we care and maintain our homes with pride and live a distinctly New Zealand lifestyle not too dissimilar from our own childhoods. This is what we value.

How would intensification achieve better walkability, a sense of community and vitality? Intensification will bring busier streets, reduced sunlight, noise and air pollution, a less safe environment, no room for our children to roam and play. Destroying the existing historic character of our street will lead to a community that is disenfranchised and disconnected from the very essence of what a community means.

Who decided for our community that intensification is what we need? Intensification throughout Auckland is on the whole poor. Lifeless boxes or rows of identical housing don’t create “better communities” they instead create an atmosphere of poverty, of transient occupants holed up in the confines of four walls. There is no ‘better community’ than the one we already have in our street.

The Unitary Plan should be about a renaissance of ‘dead areas’ and creating new, better neighbourhoods – not destroying existing communities. There is much wasted, abandoned and cheaper industrial land across the city that is an eyesore, and should be the focus of new housing developments and revitalization for the betterment of all Auckland.

Intensification is not what the people of Auckland want; statistics show that the desire to live in a detached home with your own back yard is increasing rather than decreasing even with changes in demographics. People that live in apartments tend to be the young and restless, the dispossessed, and the transient – what sort of community does that look like, there is certainly no community existing in the inner city right now where intensification exists. An example of this can be seen with the already existing high raised council flats on Mt Smart Road. How many of these occupants are “employed” or “educated” and where are the “retail” and “entertainment opportunities” afforded to these such intensified structures? Consequently, why would the community feel the need to “foster” collegiality with these eyesores and their occupants, when the “vitality” of the infrastructure is reflected by the many empty beer bottles on the grass and the insipid exterior obtrusively forced upon the ‘real’ community of Onehunga?

Economics, household demand, equity, environmental outcomes and liveability demand a lot more imagination and flexibility that comes with simply copying overseas cities like Hong Kong and London. Some intensification is necessary as there is a demand for it, but that is for the minority. For the majority we need to preserve what exists and look outward. We also need robust, researched and quantifiable evidence that intensification actually works in every endeavor, within Auckland. So far, we as a community are not convinced. Nor were we consulted on such atrocious bureaucratic decisions for our street. Shame on you Auckland Council!

Auckland is already liveable. That’s why so many people choose to live here – including many migrants from the sorts of places the Council would apparently have us imitate (Hong Kong as an example).

Auckland needs to focus on harnessing growth in areas like Albany, Manukau, Warkworth or the Airport where people have the option of living and working in these growth areas rather than forcing more people into the already congested central city and surrounding suburbs.

The Council has been negligent in using intensification as its only solution to a housing shortage. Our street, Grotto Steet, Onehunga and other vibrant villages in central Auckland will likely be in opposition to this plan. Community will be united on all fronts to this disregard in what we value. This city which we love is not all about making a public transport system work, or providing future people with substandard housing in existing centres. It should be about embracing what is already good about Auckland and not trying to change its face, because then it’s just not Auckland anymore.

My family vehemently opposes the Unitary Plan rezoning of Grotto Street and the wider Onehunga area and seek the right to be heard in person, in support of my submission.

Draft Auckland Unitary Plan | Shape Auckland
One month left to have your say Posted on 01/05/13 by admin | No comments From today there are 30 days left to give your feedback on what’s proposed in the draft Unitary Plan. We’ve already received 1,272 pieces of feedback since launch on 15 March. Over 60,000 people have visited this website and 8…
  • Nigel James Turnbull and 2 others like this.
  • Ben Ross Nigel – you got a suggestion WHICH industrial land should be rezoned?
  • An open letter to Auckland Council In Onehunga, the land between Church Street and Nielson Street running from Onehunga Mall to Captain Springs Road.
  • Ben Ross Umm not going to happen sorry. I just took a look another look on Google Maps and Council’s GIS system on what is there. That is all light to medium industry with significant employment in there. I can also see the Onehunga Aquifer and Treatment Plant and the NZ Bus – Bus Depot in there as well. Furthermore the entire area will be contaminated with hydrocarbon waste making remedial work very expensive. To make life more fun, NZTA and Auckland Transport are gearing up to to build the East-West Highway link between State Highways One and Twenty as well.

    Also if you are going to flip that over as residential, where will the industry go?

    Best keep the area industrial and look for green space/belts to act as a buffer


That was one reaction from me which was followed up by this straight after:

Just read this. I was nodding to it until I saw two particular sections:
  • “There is much wasted, abandoned and cheaper industrial land across the city that is an eyesore, and should be the focus of new housing developments and revitalization for the betterment of all Auckland.”


  • Auckland needs to focus on harnessing growth in areas like Albany, Manukau, Warkworth or the Airport where people have the option of living and working in these growth areas rather than forcing more people into the already congested central city and surrounding suburbs.

After I read those parts I then took the letter into disregard rather than agreeing with it. This letter mimics Mayoral Candidate who is a restaurateur in most regards which I dismantled yesterday. Yes Manukau and Albany can take the brunt of growth and we welcome it – BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF OUR INDUSTRIAL LAND. If anything we need more industrial land than what the UP is calling for – not to have it chewed up on housing developments – all that will do is kill off employment.

So sorry – while Onehunga was being looked at as a candidate for my Special Character Zone work and still is, this letter as such I will treat in disregard until those two statements in the letter pointed out above are dropped.


Basically I am returning fire rather hard and fast. As I said yes Manukau (the Metropolitan and General Business Zones) can take the brunt (as I push for no height limits and Manukau to become the Second CBD) but not while chewing up our very limited and precious industrial land. NO WAY – NOT EVER unless industry moves out on its own accord.

In my eyes our industrial land is more valuable than most of the residential land in Auckland. Industry (which includes logistics centres) is a very large employment magnet in Auckland and is a true engine house of the city and wider national economy as well. Furthermore we already do not have enough land as it is for expanding industry (even with Takanini and Drury South opening up) – so if anything Council via the Unitary Plan is still short selling our engine house. We have a million more people coming; we need all the industrial land we can get.


But, to reiterate my point – if industry moves out of Onehunga on its own accord then it can be redeveloped. But I doubt it with its links to the road and rail corridors near by.


SO NO TOUCHING OUR INDUSTRIAL LAND for more housing. That is asking for a double whammy in the expensive mass relocation of existing industry – usually to the Wiri and Southern Rural Urban Boundary, which means chewing up land for relocating industry where new industry could have taken its place. Also got to provide jobs – so where are the employment centres going to go? South and force a lengthy commute? I rather think not!


Auckland’s Industrial Land – HANDS OFF!


Onehunga per the Unitary Plan thus far









Legend can be found below




BR:AKL: Bring Well Managed Progress

The Unitary Plan: Bringing Change

Auckland: 2013 – OUR CITY, OUR CALL