Monday, 15 August 2016

Auckland Council’s new Unitary Plan creaks closer


The change-a-minute process bringing us the Auckland Council’s new Unitary Plan appeared to be creaking towards some certainty, with the Plan now expecting to be notified on Friday. These are the councillor’s final amendments/decisions on the more controversial decisions:

  • Retain standards around the minimum size dwellings have to be, to avoid “shoebox” apartments or units being built…
    Under the rule, a studio apartment in the centre city will have to be at least 35m², or 30m² plus a 5m² balcony. For one or more bedrooms the minimum size is 50m², or 42m² plus a 8m² balcony.

This effectively does to the local Tiny House movement what Simon Bridges is trying to do to Uber.

    • Retain the pre-1940 building demolition control on the Queen Street Valley Precinct, which will enable these buildings to keep their character.
    • Retain the objective that provides for the management of heritage values in the Regional Policy Statement.

A sop to NIMBYs demanding the city and suburbs become a museum-piece instead of somewhere affordable in which to live.

    • Delete the Rural Urban Boundary from rural and coastal towns, enabling growth in new and existing rural and coastal towns.

A sop to “environmentalists” in places like Okura, these environmentalists being folk who already have their own mulit-storey bush cabin barring others from doing the same.

  • Amend the threshold for requiring resource consent from three or more dwellings to five or more dwellings in the Mixed Housing Suburban and Mixed Housing Urban zones.

Helpful on the face of it, but since the extensive rules in the Plan are likely to trigger a resource consent in any case, only a paper victory.

    • Delete Retained Affordable Housing provisions, which would have required 10% of homes in developments of more than 15 new dwellings to be affordable.

This was always a nonsense provision, ridiculously expensive to provide, wildly bureaucratic to oversee, and sensible only to those who’ve never encountered the subject of building economics before – particularly the concept of ‘churn.’

  • Delete standards related to building work and internal design matters, addressed in the Building Code. These include standards around the amount of daylight dwellings need to be exposed to and universal access to residential buildings. 
  • Have no minimum car parking provisions for retail and commercial activities in centres.

Sensible. Otherwise every new cafe would need to find several carparks just be allowed to open. Ridiculous.

    • Delete the Sites and Places of Value to the Mana Whenua overlay and associated provisions.

The deletion of what’s been called the Taniwha Tax: the requirement to consult up to a dozen different iwi to by the right to  work on your own property. One of the few major victories in this final Draft, and almost entirely due to the heroism of Lee Short and the Democracy Action team he led. It is “the first push back against the racist agenda of tribal elites being pursued throughout New Zealand.”

This is just so-called “virtue signalling” on the part of councillors about a place that few would either know nor care about. It costs councillors nothing, but would-be home-owners dearly.

    • - Retain objectives around rural subdivision that prevent “inappropriate” and “sporadic” subdivision and promote the “enhancement of indigenous biodiversity”.
    • Retain policies to focus growth within the existing metropolitan area.

This is the planners’ ring-fence around the city that makes land-bankers rich, home-buyers poor, and guarantees progressive carpet sprawl as the city expands in the only way the planners allow: thirty metres or so at a time.

That this provision is retained shows these councillors have really learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.

Retained too over most of the city, it seems, is a ridiculous rule not seen in the city for decades mandating that every new house or addition must maintain a one metre separation from both side boundaries – and this in a plan that is supposed to encourage intensification!

Final publication on Friday of the Complete Works of the Auckland Council Planning Department will be fascinating.

It’s not pretty, it’s not expansionary, and virtually everything will require a planner’s permission of some description, but at least we will have a modicum more certainty in what property-owners themselves may plan.

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