Debate: The Case For and Against Malls at the Unitary Plan Hearings #AKLPols

Main point of contention between big submitters and Council

You might remember when I said earlier this year that how we got bogged down for a number of hours at Unitary Plan Business Zones over Integrated Retail Developments or in lay terms the humble shopping mall.

Well the issue has flared back up AGAIN in the current Hearings (Business and Centres Zones) at the Unitary Plan between Auckland Council and Key Retail Group (representing the big retail submitters) before Judge Kirkpatrick and the Panel.

On Monday the Council via its Legal Submission reiterated its anti mall stance to which Key Retailers Group replied yesterday.

As Key Retail Group picked up (as I did as well):

However in legal submissions,counsel for the Council have said that IRDs (Integrated Retail Developments) “should not necessarily be encouraged in preference to alternative configurations such as a main street“.

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I will have both legal submissions embedded through this post

I have previously commented before on malls in Auckland in both my Podcast: Unitary Plan Hearings – Centre and Business Zones and Rebirth of the Mall: Are Council Planners Selling Us Short via the Unitary Plan? #AKLPols.

Given the strong utilisation for most of our malls, the international commentary on malls, and the fact malls are mentioned in my Super Metropolitan Centre zone Objectives and Policies I wrote a memorandum back to the Panel and affected Parties to provide further information given the consequences of the mall debate can have on the Super Metropolitan Centre Zones.

The Memorandum concerning Malls and the Super Metropolitan Centre zone

3.5 to 3.12 of KRG’s Legal Submission around malls being:

Commercial Activities within Centres

Encourage integrated retail developments in Metropolitan and Town Centres

  • 3.5 The KRG seeks that integrated retail developments (“IRDs”) be encouraged in the Metropolitan Centre zone and the Town Centre zone.
  • 3.6 IRDs form a key aspect of Auckland’s main centres, providing vibrancy and vitality to the area and ensuring the economic and social well-being of the community in which such developments sit. The Unitary Plan disregards the existence and critical role of those developments, however. The KRG considers that ignoring such an important form of development risks overlooking the contribution that they make and results in the Unitary Plan failing to identify and address the issues that they raise which should be planned for.
  • 3.7 The merits of IRDs have been acknowledged in the rebuttal evidence of Mr Munro on behalf of the Council. Integrated retail developments can bring many benefits (see also the evidence of Mr Clinton Bird32, with which I substantially agree). While the Plan does not currently discuss the desirability of integrated retail developments within centres, neither does it talk specifically about the desirability of retail “main streets” or many other elements that are commonly associated with centres and which are important. This does not mean that the many other outcomes desirable in centres which have not been so specifically targeted lack significance or have been left behind.
  • 3.8 However in legal submissions,10 counsel for the Council have said that IRDs “should not necessarily be encouraged in preference to alternative configurations such as a main street
  • 3.9 That approach ignores the social and economic benefits associated with these activities, and the positive benefits that they bring to Auckland’s successful centres. As discussed in detail in the evidence of Mr Drew11 and Mr Bird,12 IRDs are no longer just large collections of retail shops, they are hubs of entertainment, medical services, community facilities, local services, and food and beverage activities. The benefits of those activities co-locating within an integrated development include efficiencies associated with transport and infrastructure, and the ability to develop integrated design solutions.
  • 3.10 The KRG considers that Metropolitan and Town Centre zones are the most appropriate locations for integrated retail developments in order to most efficiently accommodate the growth and intensification that will occur in Auckland over the next decade. That ought to be recognised within a Business zones policy framework that reflects the provisions of B.3.1, which seek to:
    • (a) Provide employment and business opportunities to meet the current and future needs of Aucklanders.
    • (b) Provide centres that function as commercial, social and community focal points.
    • (c) Encourage appropriate commercial activities to locate within centres.
  • 3.11 In our submission, IRDs achieve those outcomes. To emphasise the benefits of integrated retail developments, the KRG seeks additions to Policy 9 of the Metropolitan Centre and Policy 6 of the Town Centre zone as follows: Encourage the development location of supermarkets, integrated retail developments, and department stores within town centres by recognising:
    • a. recognising the positive contribution these activities make to centre viability and function, and 
    • b. balancing the functional and operational requirements of these activities with the need to achieve a quality built environment.
    • c. where preferred built form outcomes are not achieved, the development needs to achieve a quality built environment by positively contributing to public open space, including the activation of streets
  • 3.12 This topic will be addressed in more detail when Kiwi and Scentre make their presentation later in the week.

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Manukau City Centre Area
Manukau City Centre Area

Given the history of the mall in Auckland and their urban design and transport integration features often (but not always) left wanting I can understand scepticism around new malls popping up in the Metropolitan and Town Centres. However, Key Retail Group do have a point on the roll of the mall especially in the Metropolitan and Town Centres. This is especially after Judge Kirkpatrick asked the Council legal team and planners where larger sized supermarkets would act as anchor points (thus attract further consumer demand and retail supply via agglomeration effects) to Local and possible Neighbourhood Centres.

What Key Retailer Group have said above in regarding to malls (Integrated Retail Developments) would follow similar logic to why I mentioned malls in the Objectives and Polices of the Super Metropolitan Centre zone. That being the malls in Albany and Manukau City Centre (both candidates for the proposed Super Metropolitan Centre) act as anchor points to both Centres now and well into the future.

I will be watching the debate over malls between Key Retailers Group and the Council before the panel with keen interest given this has consequences if the Super Metropolitan Centre zone is ever adopted into the Unitary Plan.

Council Legal Submission

Key Retailers Group Legal Submission

My Primary Evidence that includes the Super Metropolitan Centre zone

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