Debunking Orsman

Someone had to…


Before I start debunking Bernard Orsman of the NZ Herald, a note first in regards to the Unitary Plan and me:

Let me make this very clear to Auckland with Mixed Housing Zones. I live in Papakura on an area zoned up for Mixed Housing Zone, 100 metres north of the Metropolitan Centre (18 storeys) and 2km east of the Mill Road Corridor (4-lane expressway).

Thus I know extremely well what I am in for with the Unitary Plan and the potential in any upset to my property and community. I also know the upsides if this can be pulled off right as well. So I know what is at stake and can feel what is also at stake with other residents in Mixed Housing Zones – both the good, the bad and the ugly…

To say otherwise is not particularly fair nor honest as we are all affected and are all in this together


Now to the matter at hand


Yesterday I got a bit of heat for having a go at New Zealand Herald’s Bernard Orsman while debunking Mixed Housing Zone myths he and others were purporting yesterday. I also said I might be conceding in the fact I was strong in the attacks against Orsman and I could be backing down from them today. Well after some research last night and today it seems I won’t be conceding anything to Orsman but, rather the opposite and ramping up the debunking of his material. Hence today I am going to debunk Orsman.

The Council released this yesterday which triggered this mornings post:

Auckland Council @aklcouncil 5h
Misleading @NZHerald story today, unitary plan allows 2-3 storeys in suburbs, as is norm now, for basements/attics. Heights remains 8m.


The fuss yesterday over Mixed Housing Zones was the apparent fact that the Council had “lied” and you could go to three storeys or 10 metres when it has been saying two storeys all along. I posted straight back in my “DEBUNKING MIXED HOUSING ZONE MYTHS” post and reminded both sides of playing loose with the English Language. Supporting material was posted on the Mixed Housing Zone – to which I have more today from the draft Unitary Plan.

In saying that I am aware draft Unitary Plan broad brushing with the zones, and my work with the; Special Character Zones, Centralised Master Community Plans and Semi-Liberal Plan Districts in an attempt to restore planning oversight back down to the local level. What I am looking at here though is rules and provisions for the Mixed Housing Zones thus far under The Clunker – so lets take a look.



Rules and Definitions


Thanks to Luke Christensen who went looking up the rules last night on Mixed Housing, I was able to look them up last night and this morning to check rules out to Mixed Housing Zones. In short the eight metre – two storey rule with Mixed Housing Zone is correct, in the fact it is a permitted activity under the Unitary Plan. 10 metre – three storey residential buildings would be deemed a restricted discretionary activity controlled by the planners in Council.

The restricted discretionary activity part has been mentioned by Council just not very well – so some issue there. There is also an issue with me that restricted discretionary activities are controlled by the planners often with no public input on the decision-making process there. I disagree with this entirely and will be submitting against it very strongly in my submission to the Unitary Plan. I believe that kind of decision should be given to the Local Boards and controlled through the CMCP and SLPD processes I have drafted up. Local Boards are more “switched on” to their community needs than central planners and the two methodologies I devised would better foster the needs to the local communities.


As for rules and definitions proper, time to consult the Clunker.

From Luke who looked this up last night and published it on Facebook:

Restricted Discretionary activities are very difficult to explain to the public, and have a very wide range of meanings. For example demolition of Residential 1 houses in the Auckland City Isthmus Plan is Restricted Discretionary, however there is a very long list of assessment criteria, so is very rare to see one demolished. Currently in the plan anyone is allowed to apply to breach the height limit by any amount they want. Also note the objectives and policies for the mixed housing zone say it is intended to be 2 stories. That tells me the council will not look favourably upon a 3 storey development, but that the modification is to allow for small breaches such as extended rooflines, or attics.




ok seems its a bit hidden. Infringements – Rule: A permitted, controlled or restricted discretionary activity that does not comply with one or more land use or development controls is a restricted discretionary activity unless otherwise stated in the Unitary Plan. 4.3.1 Building height
Purpose: manage the scale of buildings to generally maintain the low-rise suburban residential character of the zone (two to three storeys).
1. Buildings must not exceed 8m in height. Notification
1. Buildings greater than 10m in the Mixed Housing zone are subject to the normal tests for notification under the relevant sections of the RMA.
This rule is all about reducing bureaucracy believe it or not. People get so annoyed when they infringe a rule for their roof or a minor infringement by 0.5m.


The links to the information at hand


All those links will open up in separate windows or tabs and available to print at your leisure which I recommend doing while consulting piles of documents.


So the information was always there just buried among the 7000 pages and maps. One just had to know where to look and gives reason on how consultants can come to the play in such a situation as we had with the Mixed Housing Zones this weekend. Yes as Orakei Local Board Chair Desley Simpson said on Facebook yesterday; “99% of Aucklanders are not planners.” That I know very well indeed. This is the reason why I established my own consultancy firm and offer Unitary Plan advocacy services; to assist the 99% through the complexities of the Unitary Plan.

It brings me to a rather bitter truth here for the city and a realisation as well. The Unitary Plan and planning is complex – that is a known and a truth. It is also a truth that no way I could expect every Aucklander to wade through the Unitary Plan to find stuff, heck it can take me long enough to go find stuff in the plan as well. It is also a truth that Aucklanders are busy people and have lives/households to run (I do as well) and keeping abreast of planning would be difficult. But it is also a truth that we do have those out there that can help with planning matters such as the Unitary Plan for the residents of Auckland.


Consulting Orsman and the NZ Herald for your Unitary Plan information is not particularly wise. That might sound patronising but after debunking Orsman now five times personally via the blog I would be looking at other options for UP information. Again today I just debunked Orsman and the myths around the Mixed Housing Zone which gets frustrating as people get mis-information and causes wide upset through the city. But the Council is not particularly any better in getting information out in a clear and concise manner to the public either (so Council better brush up there thus they don’t want Rudman dropping another stinker like he did on Thursday which was legit and I agree to wholeheartedly). So it is going both ways here which frustrates me even more…


So where does the 99% turn to for Unitary Plan help?

Okay a bit of promotion here but the blog is tied to TotaRim Consultancy now so you could say I am speaking as the Managing Director of the firm.


Your Councillor and Local Board (especially your Local Board) would be your first port of call for all things Unitary Plan. I know personally some Councillors, Local Boards and their members who are dedicating time and resource to wade through The Clunker and provide assistance to their residents. They have been great with the help and (while not naming names as they know who they are) deserve medals for their efforts.


Fail that this is where private consultants like myself come into play. We make it our professional business to wade through 7000 pages of Clunker and turn it into plain English information that the 99% would understand. Is that patronising? No! It is providing a professional service to people seeking assistance as people do. TotaRim Consultancy Limited provided specialist Unitary Plan services to assist those out there deciphering the massive UP document. A private firm can also be deemed neutral and apolitical compared to a public official in situations such as the Unitary Plan consultation period under way. Okay as a private enterprise we charge (we can also do pro-bono from time to time), but last I looked this was a western liberal democracy and free enterprise is at play.


As for the NZH, enough said although how long before the next round of debunking is done…



So if anyone would like help with Section Four – The Rules in regards to Mixed Housing Zones, drop me a line at totarim[dot]consultancy[at]totarim[dot]co[dot]nz and lets talk Unitary Plan. The flyer can be found below



TotaRim Consultancy Limited

Talking Unitary Plan