Correspondence illustrates the reminder to Council with the Unitary Plan
Among the confusion that was the Briexit on Friday an article came through from Stuff on Government reminding Council of its obligations to pass a coherent Unitary Plan that allows for housing or rather face the consequences.
Government may step in if Auckland doesn’t put a new city plan in place
MARIA SLADE. Last updated 15:19, June 24 2016
If Auckland politicians don’t pass a coherent new plan for the city the government could step in as soon as September, the council’s chief executive says.
Council officials are preparing to receive the electronic equivalent of a “wheelbarrow of printed stuff” detailing Auckland’s new Unitary Plan.
After four years, more than 13,000 submissions and 249 days of hearings, Auckland’s first region-wide planning document will be delivered on July 22.Councillors then have until August 19 to either accept or reject key planning recommendations, such as more intensified zoning and whether to move the city limit.
If the politicians reject parts of the plan the issues can go to the Environment Court.
“If there’s a lot of rejection this plan could take a very long time to emerge,” council chief executive Stephen Town said.
“That’s where the Government’s role in this comes into play because… they’ve made it really clear that they think Auckland needs a coherent planning framework now not later, and they have made it clear that they may consider stepping in.”
The Government has laid much of the blame for Auckland’s housing crisis on poor urban planning.
If it did intervene a likely time would be before the October 8 local body election, Town said.Many of the issues the new Unitary Plan addresses have been contentious – such as so-called “upzoning” of traditional suburbs to allow for more apartments and townhouses.
If major topics were rejected Auckland would not have a working plan, Town said.
They had already identified around 20 significant topics which they would focus on during that time, Town said.
The parts of the plan which are accepted can’t be appealed, except only on points of law in the High Court.
“You can’t appeal once the council have accepted a topic on the basis that you don’t like it or you don’t agree with it,” Town said.
AUCKLAND’S NEW UNITARY PLAN – WHAT’S HAPPENING
July 22 – Independent Hearings Panel delivers its recommended plan to Auckland Council
July 27 – Unitary Plan is made public
August 12-18 – Councillors decide on the plan
August 19 – Council’s final decisions made public
September 16 – appeal period closes
October 8 – local body election
After the February 24 vote which saw 13 Councillors vote down the Out-of-scope changes to the Unitary Plan coming through (which were inserted back in after Housing NZ summoned the Council before the Hearings Panel) I conveyed a letter to Housing and Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith outlining my disappointment as well as what interventions the Government might take.
The three options I suggested in that letter were:
- Government enshrined through legislation the recommendations of the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel bypassing the Council Governing Body vote
- A National Policy Statement on urban growth
- Governing Body removed and Commissioners installed by the Local Government Minister
The Government is already working on a National Policy Statement as seen here: Urban Development Capacity or Urban Growth? Why the National Policy Statement Misses the Mark. UPDATED. Much as the Government is focusing the wrong way with an NPS for urban growth none-the-less one is being developed.
Finance Minister Bill English has continued the threat of Commissioners if a coherent Unitary Plan is not put in place at the August vote (if one is to occur). So Commissioners is still there.
The first option I outlined is also on the table looking at the letter back from Dr Smith which also conveyed his disappointment on that 24 February vote.
It will be a case of watch and wait as the recommendations comeback on July 22 and are made public on July 29. The final vote by the Governing Body is in August of the Government has not intervened by the.
So the Governing Body is warned.