A balanced 21st Century City
On Wednesday the 1000 pages of recommendations and the reformatted 7,000 pages of the Unitary Plan will be made public for all to see. It marks the business end of a three-year process starting from feedback to formal submissions to the Hearings and all the way through elected representatives playing politics in a time when they should have sat back and waited until this Wednesday.
As a submitter, advocate and commentator you could say I have been in the front seat (along with others) as the Unitary Plan worked its way through to this historical point. I attended three separate Hearings (Business Zones, Residential Zones, spatial application of the zones) which involved evidence and supplementary evidence writing, reading other submitter evidence, mediation of the topics before finally the Hearings themselves. All of it was an experience and while I wouldn’t want to be doing it again anytime soon it was an experience I found both fun and frustrating (Council planners not budging) at the same time.
So what would I like from the Unitary Plan?
Well first of all I would like the recommendations from the Hearings Panel to be adopted en-mass with NO changes from the Councillors. That means when the Auckland Development Committee meets on August 10 at 9:30 in Town Hall, the final decisions are made (thus the Unitary Plan goes effectively live subject to appeals) by lunch time. There is no need for prolonged debate, ANY rejections thus alternatives, no need for the extra days. The Councillors are briefed on Wednesday morning before the Unitary Plan recommendations go public a few hours later. That is more than enough time between Wednesday and the 10th of August to get their heads around it and vote the recommendations through en-mass.
For the submitters a swift vote on the recommendations en-mass means no need to bugger around researching alternatives from the Governing Body. Any appeals that might be needed are more straight forward (given we would appeal the recommendations rather than Council alternatives created quite literally on the fly (20 days compared to three years taken to get the recommendations written).
To the Councillors: pass the recommendations en-mass on the 10th.
As for the Unitary Plan itself
A balanced approach per the Auckland Plan towards Greenfield and Brownfield urban development. So at minimum 60% Brownfield and at maximum 40% of all development as sprawling Greenfield.
A balanced approach also means the Isthmus steps up at takes its load of intensification to at least double the rate (apart from Waitemata which contains the City Centre and Tamaki which is also taking its share) on what was in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan version.
That all said with Southern Auckland taking the brunt of growth (71,000 – 27.8% for urban, 19,500 – 7.6% for the rural, total 90,500 – 35.4%) and possibly taking more (can easily see Southern Auckland hit 100,000 dwellings thus pushing 40%) (depending how far the Hearings Panel ramped up the capacity modelling) the imperative returns to a solid rule book that enables quality development over the willy-nilly.
This means the Unitary Plan needs to encourage the 8-80 City model (safe and of high amenity) where active and mass transit are first choice and the car last choice rather than the other away around.
The elimination of minimum parking ratios especially in the Centres and higher density residential zones needs to happen to encourage the 8-80 city model. Nothing screams louder of CARS than wide roads, double garages facing street fronts, and retailers where parking takes up 50% of the land so this thinking needs to change.
To save the strain on the Southern Motorway and Southern rail Line our Metropolitan Centres of Botany, Manukau and Papakura need to step up. These are theoretically our second densest centres behind the City Centre itself yet Council proposed things like height restrictions in Manukau City Centre. It is why the Super Metropolitan Centre concept was established and I hope the Panel have recommended it and Council adopt it for Manukau (and later Albany). The whole concept behind the Super Metro was two-fold:
- Give the City Centre extra capacity by sharing the load (just as the Growth Corridors took the pressure off the Centres)
- Giving a major population base (Southern Auckland to take 35-40% of all new residential growth, and a new heavy industrial complex) a smaller “City Centre” to serve its needs thus saving the long commutes on the motorway and rail network
It is to note that the Super Metropolitan Centre complements not compete against the main City Centre.
With Manukau also under the Panuku Transform Manukau development program an enabling Unitary Plan would allow Panuku to guide Manukau reaching its full potential.
Open spaces are also a must and the Unitary Plan needs to make efforts in protecting the existing and allowing the establishment of new open spaces as the City grows. Open spaces also form part of the 8-80 City mantra as well.
Most of all I want a Unitary Plan where residential supply can keep up with residential demand. That being the rules are not cumbersome in allowing quality development no matter where in Auckland (apart from parks) and at what density allowed by the zones.
What will be delivered when the final version of the Unitary Plan goes live on August 19 we all wait and see. Hopefully the Councillors pass a version though that meet the aspirations of all the people not just a noisy few.