I see Auckland Council CEO Stephen Town has finally spoken out after last Wednesday’s anti-democratic vote in which the planners were effectively hung out to dry by the Governing Body of Auckland Council (see: #UnitaryPlan Vote Fallout: What Went Wrong. Also those Opportunities Presented).
According to the Herald Council CEO Stephen Town wants to set up a consensus building group (like the one dealing with transport alternative funding) to reach out to the various groups in the Unitary Plan debate and set a way forward with housing.
From the New Zealand Herald:
Independent group could decide Auckland housing stalemate6:39 PM Tuesday Mar 1, 2016 – Bernard Orsman
Bitter divisions over housing density in Auckland could be referred to an independent group to find a lasting solution.
Council chief executive Stephen Town has floated the idea of an independent consensus group to break the stalemate that has pitted property owners against young people and damaged political relationships.
Last week’s decision by a majority of councillors to pull council’s latest proposed housing density plans from the Unitary Plan process has created a blame game in columns, blogs and social media.
“This is another case of council arrogance but this time it over-reached itself,” councillor Mike Lee said in his monthly Ponsonby News column.
Peter Nunns, writing in the Transport Blog, said the most likely outcome was Auckland continuing to build too few homes, continuing price rises, crimped opportunities for young people and social ills.Today, Mr Town said the council had five months to find a solution to the housing density issue before the council makes final decisions on the Unitary Plan, or new planning rulebook for the Super City, in August.
However, he said nothing could be done until the council heard from the independent panel hearing submissions on the Unitary Plan.
Mr Town said the panel may offer interim guidance at the end of public hearings on the precinct and zoning issues.
He believed this could create an opportunity for a group of independent people to go into communities and canvas views.
The idea of an urgent community process, run by an independent work group, was proposed at last week’s council meeting, but rejected because it was part of a wider motion to proceed with the housing intensity proposals in council evidence to the hearings panel.
The independent hearings panel is due to release recommendations in July for the council to make final decisions in August.
Prime Minister John Key will not rule out Government intervention to solve Auckland’s housing problem after the council scuttled plans for greater density of residential development in the city.
At his weekly press conference this week, Mr Key reiterated Finance Minister Bill English’s comment that “all options were on the table” in dealing with Auckland’s housing issue.
He said it was a growing city and needed to build “up and out”.
Generation Zero spokesman Leroy Beckett said it was smart and necessary for the council to reach out to all sides to find common ground.
“The debate got very heated last week, and there is a lot of misinformation being spread that has got the public and some councillors are worried about the council’s proposal. We hope an independent working group will be able to cut through this drama and help councillors make the decision that is best for Auckland based on the evidence.”
Quite rich of Orsman to be writing this given he has been one of four main instigators (the others being two Councillors and a Local Board Chair) that led the situation being much worse than it needed to be on Wednesday even when the Planners were playing entrenchment over the matter as well.
That aside I am cold to the idea of this consensus group given the behaviour of the Governing Body, Bernard Orsman himself, and foul-mouthed members of the public (in the gallery of Town Hall) last week and that risk of behaviour carrying over into August when the recommendations come back. To make me further cold the entrenchment by Planners on the residential and business zones through the course of the Hearings (which would lead up to last Wednesday) makes me equally suspicious of a consensus coming back from the “community” and the planners trying to then over-ride it before the Governing Body.
Simply put the Governing Body, “concerned residents” and the Planners blew their chance. Thus given the Government is refusing to rule out intervention the Government should put its money where its mouth is. That is execute intervention and at the minimum enshrine Unitary Plan Hearings Panel recommendations into law bypassing the Governing Body entirely. Appeals to the Courts would still be available and both Public and Private Plan Changes can be kicked off after the elections and the new Council is sworn in.
The Independent Hearings Panel was set up to hear the Unitary Plan submissions and is independent of Council. So we have the independent arm and it is time to start get cracking as housing and business expansions don’t wait around.