Experience from the Unitary Plan – Part Two

Part Two of my reflections of the last 11 weeks with the Unitary Plan

April: Community Meetings and THAT Bridge

 

April would prove to be the busiest of months for me in regards to clocking up the kilometres across the city attending community meetings on the Unitary Plan. By the end of it I would have attended around 14 community Unitary Plan meetings and a Civic Forum right across the city (apart from West Auckland).

April would also prove to me a more “heartbreaking” month as a folly from Auckland Council led to anger and upset for residents down in Southern Auckland. The cause? A (which ended up being called “THAT”) bridge that spanned from Karaka to Weymouth over the Manukau Harbour. That bridge had shown up in  the Unitary Plan – Rural Urban Boundary Addendum as a “possible option” needing to be built somewhere down the track.

The only catch was that the bridge showed up in all three southern RUB options and has not even been “vetted” by Auckland Transport and NZTA yet. When pressed and after a more heated meeting in Weymouth did the Deputy Mayor and Chief Planning Officer realise “oops” and got a new set of RUB maps out with the bridge removed. The only problem was that the horse had already bolted on the issue and was continued to be further fuelled by a group known as the Karaka Collective.

While the Collective would give a presentation in May on their options (and I have their literature as well), it was basically known that certain landowners were looking at having their land come under potential development options through the life of the Unitary Plan. It was also known that they were keen on the bridge to act as a short cut in skipping out State Highway One. However, the negative consequences to both the Karaka North and West development as well as the bridge would be deemed too high on existing Karaka and Weymouth residents. If the bridge was to be built it should have been done 70 years ago before Weymouth was truly established. But, now it is too late and alternatives must be found. In essence we await Council’s decisions on the southern RUB before formal notification on the Unitary Plan. Once known then the next stage of the “battle” begins…

 

While things were heated in Karaka and Weymouth over the Unitary Plan and THAT bridge, things were also running high in St Heliers.

It is of note that in these meetings I would usually sit quietly with my notebook and pen and take notes on the proceedings. These notes would form commentary here on the blog as well as any “battle plans” required in the Unitary Plan feedback round. After the meetings I would talk to people (ranging from the Deputy Mayor to planners, to Local Board members and councillors, to residents) in their thoughts and seeking out dialogue. This dialogue (especially in Weymouth and St Heliers) would form two battle-plans (or rather alternatives) that I later drew up. I would ask questions in the meetings later in the game but, were only done so at the Southern Auckland meetings.

The St Heliers experience was an interesting one. What would be deemed at first pretty much naked hostility towards to main Council and the planners became in fact a community giving a damn and trying to seek out a solution not only for their own place but also the wider city. What would give the initial reaction to St Heliers was a piece from Eye-On-Auckland on NIMBYism that would set the city off. It also woke the Main Stream Media up and set off some of the more shrill-aspects of opposition to the Unitary Plan. Those shrill-aspects would eventually lead to near daily debunking on not only my blog but, else where as well.

With the Weymouth and St Heliers experience though came two alternatives from here. The first was more widely publicised – the Special Character Zone, while the second in staving off THAT bridge was a more quiet and behind the scenes affair.

Both alternatives have landed in my feedback to the Unitary Plan with other people using the Special Character Zone concept as well. Again we await the council to point out what changes they have made to the Unitary Plan prior to formal notification to see what we essentially got.

 

While Weymouth, Karaka and St Heliers would be more “noisy” meetings I did attend the Civic Forum in Manukau which was a more tame affair. In saying that though the discussion was lively as the future of Southern Auckland through the Unitary Plan were debated at length. Four main aspects would come out of that forum which were:

  1. The socio-economic and demographic consequences behind the level of intensification indicated in the Unitary Plan
  2. Height on the Town Centres
  3. Zones and Centres needed a rework
  4. Manukau as the Second CBD of Auckland

While all four points would end up mentioned in my own feedback to the Unitary Plan, Manukau as the Second CBD would be an idea that was picked up and ran with all the way to the Auckland Plan Committee last month.

 

So was April a busy month? In the terms of clocking up those kilometres it sure was. But the final month of the Unitary Plan feedback would prove to be the actual busiest month for me. How? Find out in my next “Experience from the Unitary Plan” post.