The #UnitaryPlan: The One Shot at Securing the Future for Future Generations

Are we planning for yesterday, today or 30 years from now

 

As the vote tomorrow on whether Council withdraws itself from the Rezoning Topic of the Unitary Plan hearings the suspense rises as a City and Government wonders which way Auckland will go.

This kind of suspense should have not been seen until September when the Council votes on the final recommendations thus bringing the Unitary Plan (in whatever shape it may take) operative. However, it seems some Councillors have got themselves in a pickle like they did in 2013 while others are playing petty politics and risking the City losing its voice at the Hearings.

 

At the end of the day it all comes down to whether you want your City for yesterday or into the future 30-50 years from now (as that is when the Unitary Plan reaches full fruition).

 

I believe in the future of the City and my submission points look 50 years into the future rather than the 30 Council goes on and the “yesterday” as the NIMBYs would like to go on. My arguments will reflect that as well through the social media realm.

 

Below is three pieces straight out of the Herald on the consequences of indecision and politics getting in the way of the future of the City.

I start with the piece from the New Zealand Initiative:

Jason Krupp: We need more flexible attitudes to urban development

If you have been living under a rock, you may not have realised there is a war going on in Auckland. There are no guns and bombs involved (at least not yet) but, based on the headlines, the tensions seem to be equivalent to those of a real conflict.

On one side are Auckland Council, central government and first-home buyers, who want to see more housing developed within the city’s existing footprint to cope with a rapidly growing population and the affordability issues.

On the other side are property owners, who oppose any attempt to lift height restrictions in the inner city suburbs.

Who is right? That is a difficult question to answer. Research by the Grattan Institute clearly shows that locking young people out of the housing market saps productive capacity.

That is because it restricts their access to the inner city services nexus, which is vital to increasing human capital.

But it is also important to recognise that the concerns of property owners are not just grumbles against change, but valid apprehension about what impact urban intensification will have on the value of their properties.

After all, a house is a major financial investment that most people will use to fund their retirement and building an apartment complex next door will have a near-term impact on its value.

Seen from this perspective, it is rational to oppose changes to urban policy, especially when the costs seem to be borne by other people. Hence the term Nimby (not in my back yard).

This still leaves us with a wicked problem in Auckland. Making it even more wicked is that you have to solve the Nimby problem before you can increase the supply of inner-city housing, and Nimbys tend to have significant influence over local planning and political matters.

This was made abundantly clear when a number of National Party-aligned councillors opposed Auckland Council’s intensification proposals.

This is in direct opposition to the strategy the National-led central government and the Reserve Bank are pursuing. With local elections on the cards this year, it is clear that local politicos know how to count votes.

We at The New Zealand Initiative have proposed a number of policy tools to free up housing supply. These include introducing new local government financing mechanisms to pay for infrastructure costs, reforming the Resource Management Act to strengthen property rights, and we are looking at ways to incentivise councils and residents to be more open to economic growth.

Unfortunately, these solutions face an uphill battle when the electorate tends to be dominated by older property-owning types. In a democratic society, even the soundest of policies count for little if they cannot win popular support.

What is needed is a means of shifting attitudes. Since “do it for the next generation” appears to have had little effect, perhaps “do it for your bank balance” is the next best option.

…….

Although there is scope for more research in this area, the initial implications suggest more flexible attitudes to urban development and housing affordability are needed to shore up the Auckland housing market.

Of course a robust set of regulatory and policy tools help too. And if Nimbys need a strong incentive to swallow this seemingly bitter pill it is simply this: do it to preserve your wealth.

…….

Full article and source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11593768

 

Long story short if you property sits on a Mixed Housing Urban or Terraced Housing and Apartment Zone when the Unitary Plan goes live your property value goes only in one direction: UP! Given only 7% of the urban area in Auckland will face intensification of four storeys or more (not including industrial areas) the great scourge of high rises across Auckland isn’t simply going to happen no matter what Orsman pumps out into the Herald.

 

Manukau Unitary Plan 081 Super Metro Zone
Manukau Unitary Plan 081 Super Metro Zone

 

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse who has been overseeing the Unitary Plan from the Council’s side had this to say:

Penny Hulse: Quality housing for all at heart of council plan to guide city’s growth

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse replies to critics of the Auckland Council’s latest proposal on the Unitary Plan.

Auckland needs more homes, built more quickly than before without compromising quality.

Since the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan was notified in 2013, Auckland has changed dramatically. Our population is booming. A housing supply shortage of between 20,000 to 30,000 homes is severe. House prices have shot up, renting options are dire and more expensive with many Aucklanders drowning in debt.

A recent Demographia Housing Affordability Survey says Auckland housing is now less affordable than Los Angeles. It’s a problem now. Our children, young families and elderly are locked out from owning homes and from quality, affordable housing.

And we already know current plans cannot supply the 400,000 extra houses needed to accommodate one million more people over 30 years. Issues about natural justice and property rights have been raised but I am equally concerned about social justice and the rights of tens of thousands of people who don’t own property.

The problem is getting worse. It’s not all right that over 200,000 Aucklanders live in overcrowded housing.

The council recently put forward a proposal for zoning to the Independent Hearings Panel, a statutory body appointed to hear public submissions and make recommendations on changes to the Unitary Plan. The main change increases land zoned Mixed Housing Urban from 11 to 17 per cent of residential land. This allows Aucklanders to build more quality housing, up to three storeys in some areas close to town centres and along improving transport links.

It means greater varieties of housing choices – from low-level apartments, terraced/town housing to houses on smaller lots – providing more affordable options. It does not propose wholescale changes scattering “high rises” across suburban areas. Over 75 per cent of residential land in Auckland will be a maximum of two storeys. It also does not mean people can just build what they want.

The Unitary Plan has rules significantly raising the standard of design council requires of any new development.

The council is following a statutory process, where proposals are no more than its current position for independent hearings. No changes to zoning and no decisions have been made. Over two months the Panel will thoroughly examine zoning evidence from council and many other submitters, some who have called for more intensification than council’s proposal.

The Ministry for the Environment’s submission, endorsed by the Cabinet, calls for zoning of higher densities in areas that are market-attractive – areas, frankly, where zoning is most controversial.

Where so-called “out of scope” changes – those based on no direct submission – are proposed the Panel will decide how to treat these. We welcome their guidance.

Further public submissions were not a decision council could make. The legislation established by the Government did not allow for this.

The panel’s hearings process will thoroughly explore all evidence and matters of “out of scope” changes in accordance with natural justice principles. The Panel reports back to the council in July. All councillors will then make final decisions based on its recommendations.

Auckland’s choice isn’t between growing or not growing. It’s between having managed growth with investment in infrastructure and amenity, shaping how growth occurs and making it work or unmanaged growth with costly sprawl and inappropriate development.

We have a plan to manage growth – a balanced and robust plan that provides housing options many Aucklanders are asking for and indeed looking forward to.

…….

Source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11592295

 

Some salient points there from the Deputy Mayor on both the process and what the City is facing.

As I said earlier the great scourge of apartments will not be across the City but rather restricted to a limited amount of areas within the urban area. 75% of Auckland will be as it is now – two storey suburbia under the current proposals.

But as pointed out in red the Government through its submissions (including that of Housing New Zealand) are calling for even greater intensification than what Council proposed (and Council is pushing back against). Heck if you are against intensification for whatever reason you might want to leave Council in the Hearings next month so it can defend its proposals from the Government’s own proposals.

Finally as in the dark blue the processes for the Unitary Plan have been set by Government through legislation (2009 and 2015). If you have a problem take it to the Government!

 

Manukau Unitary Plan ammended res zones evidence 2
Manukau Unitary Plan ammended res zones evidence 2

 

Last piece is from the Property Council who have been most scathing of the politics:

Phil Eaton: Endless sprawl is not an option

Further indecision will only intensify city’s social inequality.

Don’t be fooled. The Nimbys are in full force, hiding behind the lack of process exhibited by Auckland Council as a reason to stop greater intensification in Auckland.

Forget it. We’ve had that debate.

We need a plan that allows for 400,000 houses in Auckland, 280,000 of them within the urban boundary, not greenfields. End of story.

 

Yes, the council bungled the process for the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. But the reasons for this are born largely in the political sphere where the original Unitary Plan (as notified) was watered down thanks to pressure from council politicians who would not support the well-planned intensification required to meet the objectives of the original Auckland Plan.

Council officers reported late last year that the plan would deliver only around 95,000 dwellings within the urban boundary. It is so far short of the target it is laughable.

Regrettably, when the original Unitary Plan was being prepared, the planners did not have the ammunition to fight back.

The council is now developing a tool to help interpret how the proposed Unitary Plan will be converted into housing. I cannot overstate how important this tool is – the council urgently needs to validate, test and peer review it, using the best resources available.

To be the great city we want it to be, Auckland has a long way to go to make up for the seven disparate district plans that governed our part of paradise for far too long. We now have many decades of indecision and lack of master planning to make up for.

This unfortunate period has given us suburbs without appropriate infrastructure, the wrong housing typologies for what most people need (mostly too big), a shortfall of close to 50,000 dwellings and insane house price escalation.

We are only just getting the planning in place for a connected public transport system. We must start now, not next year or the year after. No more backward steps. There seems to be a lack of acknowledgment that in the next 15 years we need to fit a city the size of Wellington into Auckland.

Visualise a map of Auckland, then increase its geographical coverage by a third and you will see the sort of trouble we will be in if we do not create options for smart, intensive housing.

Imagine the motorways that will be required to get people from home to work because of sprawl. Efficient housing and public transport will not be feasible with massive urban sprawl. We will all pay for that inefficiency.

The Auckland Plan is the guiding document we should be measuring progress by. It was published, ratified and agreed by all and brings together housing, roads, public transport and infrastructure.

Off the back of it, local and central government, with the private sectors, set plans in place for growth in schools, community centres, sports fields, retail centres, offices and factories.

There will be sacrifices. We are seeing reports of people who have just purchased a property in a leafy suburb to find it up-zoned. But development in these areas will not happen overnight. To progress we need change, and standing still is not an option.

The councillors who have come out against density proposals are aiding the Nimby mentality of baby-boomers who will leave behind an intergenerational legacy of social injustice and inequality.

There will never be Auckland suburbs covered in ghetto apartments. Fewer than 6 per cent of suburbs will have apartments with more than three storeys.

Many overseas examples of intensification and great design have created outstanding outcomes – look no further than Melbourne or Sydney. This fear is unfounded.

Stop hiding behind the process. The overall wins for our paradise will far outweigh the losses. We are in desperate need of leadership that provides bold and brave decisions which outlive the lifespan of an election term.

…….

Source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11593767

 

It rather sums it up in a nutshell what is going on at the moment with the Unitary Plan as Auckland continues to grow. The people need to be housed somewhere as do the jobs (see: Transport Minister and Auckland Mayor Present Transport Accord. Questions Asked #AKLPols and Getting Auckland to Grow Gracefully #BetterAuckland). The price of sprawl and inaction have been made very clear by the Finance Minister: Bill English to Auckland: Stay the Course with the #UnitaryPlan. Consequences Otherwise. And last but not least even Auckland Transport knows we cant get everyone from Southern Auckland through the Southern Motorway and Southern rail Line at Otahuhu and Mt Wellington as it is just not possible (see: Future of Transport in Southern Auckland).

 

Bikes in Schools - St Marys Source: Auckland Council
The Unitary Plan: Are we Planning for yesterday or for these guys!
Source: Auckland Council

 

Tomorrow it comes down to whether the City’s voice will continue to be heard at the Hearings:

The City Deserves a Voice at the #UnitaryPlan Hearings With Rezoning

Make sure Council keeps that voice for you – the Citizen

 

On Wednesday the City and the Council is faced with a very simple choice:

Do you want your voice to be heard (especially if you are not a submitter) at the Unitary Plan Hearings on the Rezoning Topic over the next two months?

 

If it is yes you want your voice heard at the Panel then TELL the Councillorsthat the Unitary Plan evidence must NOT be withdrawn on Wednesday at the Governing Body. 

If it is no then do the opposite. 

 

You see the Council represents on behalf of the City as a whole to the Independent Unitary Plan Hearings Panel when Council gives its evidence next month on the rezoning exercise. If the Council is forced to withdraw the evidence by a vote on Wednesday then that representation is gone for the topic. Council has no chance to answer nor defend challenges to its evidence by the Panel or submitters on the rezoning topic. Your representation again is just gone.

 

Remember all Council has done is lodge its own proposal alongside other submitters to the Panel for the Panel’s consideration. The Panel then makes its recommendations and sends them back in July. From there Council has the final say on what to accept or reject for the operative version of the Unitary Plan. So let the accepting and rejection of the recommendations be an informed one.

 

Keep the Council at the Hearings on Wednesday

……..

Source: https://voakl.net/2016/02/23/the-city-deserves-a-voice-at-the-unitary-plan-hearings-with-rezoning/

 

Enjoying the views out of Level 26 of the Council tower
Enjoying the views out of Level 26 of the Council tower

 

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