Categories

Archives

How the Unitary Plan Changed

There’s just under a week left to go if you want to make a further submission on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP).

Further submissions to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan close on 22 July 2014.

These are limited to being either in support or opposition to changes to the plan, as requested in the over 9,400 original submissions which contained requests for nearly 100,000 changes.

Only people or entities with an interest greater than the general public or who represent a matter of public interest can make a further submission.

For more information on who can make a further submission see here.

One of the big disappointments with the Unitary Plan process was the way the councillors and local boards shirked their responsibility and gave in to a vocal group of complainers. That ended up seeing large swathes of the city have its zoning downgraded, in some cases to less than what was allowed for by the existing district plans created by the old councils in the pre super city era. In saying that some local boards were actually smart and went the other way increasing the zoning across large areas, this is particularly evident with the local boards in the West.

To highlight the changes reader Steve D has put together this map showing how the zoning changed between the Draft Unitary Plan and the formal PAUP that was put out for consultation. In the map below the key changes are shown as:

  • Greeen have been up-zoned
  • Red have been down-zoned
  • Orange is new future urban land.

One thing to note is that in the Draft Unitary Plan there was a Mixed Housing Zone. In the PAUP that was split in to two separate zones, Mixed Housing Suburban (MHS) and Mixed Housing Urban (MHU). There were a number of differences between the two and one of the biggest was height limits with the Suburban zone allowing for two storeys and the Urban zone allowing for three. Where a section has gone from Mixed hosing to MHU then it’s considered as being up-zoned while going  to MHS is down-zoned.

Unitary Plan changes from draft to proposed version on Koordinates

What you noticed quite strongly is the amount of down-zoning on the North Shore and large parts of the Isthmus with larger swathes of up-zoning in the West, South and East. Also with hall that future growth in the North West and South the Northwest Busway and rail electrification to Pukekohe are going to be essential

Thanks to Steve for putting this together.

83 comments to How the Unitary Plan Changed

  • George D

    Basically, the Shore and the Isthmus and leafy East got downzoned, and the West, East and South got upzoned, and massive chunks of land in the West and Far South were opened to development.

    Usual as usual then. Sprawl from Puhoi to Pokeno.

  • Rharris

    Mt Albert was another area that went backwards in intenification. Close to the city, tertiary education facilities, town centre that needed reviving and a few train stations. It could have been a prime opportunity but the councillors their must have sadly given in to the complainers. Disappointing.

    • Jackie M

      Agree. Baldwin Ave station pretty much single house zone now and probably 15 minutes in to town with the CRL. Crazy. Dominion Road the same. Crazy and sad.

    • peterc

      Not In My Election Year = NIMEY. Ironically the charge was led by an out-going C&R person. The proposed Mt Albert village upgrade will be a pathetic decorative job since the development necessary to support it simply can’t take place. Cowards!

      • George Broughton

        I live in the area and couldn’t believe the changes made to the plan. Most people I know want some quality intensification to create a buzzing neighbourhood. The councillor’s are not really thinking about the next 25 years. Baldwin station area should be changed back to Mixed Urban.

        Yes the Mt Albert village upgrade won’t be enough without the development to support it. Hopefully a catalyst.

        • Glen

          Can’t agree more. The Mt Albert commercial area has massive potential but needs the zoning to back it.

          Which on a tangent makes me think of the Unitec proposal to divide some of its land into residential (yes not right in the Mt Albert commercial area I know, but close). Presumably this would not be allowed under the proposed Tertiary Education zone, so would this require a Special Housing Area permit to make it happen?

          Come to think of it, are the SHAs not ultimately just a giant end run around the Unitary Plan (as well as the Resource Management Act)?

          What a mess. If only the Council hadn’t knuckled under to the NIMBYs…

          • Steve D

            > Come to think of it, are the SHAs not ultimately just a giant end run around the Unitary Plan (as well as the Resource Management Act)?

            Quite the reverse. They’re a giant end run around the existing district plans, and directly into the Unitary Plan. All the SHA does is allow you to apply for resource consent under the Unitary Plan rules instead of the operative rules.

  • John Mackay

    That’s stunning, Steve. I don’t suppose you could also do a before-and-after map of the General Business Zones – as an indication of the ongoing pressure to allow out-of-centre retailing ?

  • JamesS

    The downzoning along Dom. Road is depressing…

  • Ari

    Wow, that is depressing. Bad longterm outcomes. Not feasible but they should have just downgraded specific properties rather whole suburbs.

  • GTP

    I see Housing NZ have made a submission requesting (predominantly) up-zoning and removal of heritage protection on large numbers of their properties. Any thoughts on the likelihood of this succeeding? If it’s successful it would see MHS and MHU pepper potted amongst single dwelling zoned properties which doesn’t appear in keeping with the philosophy of the Unitary Plan to intensify around transport routes and town centres ?

    Opportunistic manipulation by HNZ?

    • SDW

      that assumes that the single house zone was appropriate in the first place. in addition many of the properties HNZ has sought to amend are located in the inner suburbs which are well connected and consistent with the PAUP intensification strategy.

      • GTP

        Correct, but surely if they are justified in up-zoning the HNZ properties they should up-zone the surrounding properties as well. Instead of requesting up-zoning of individual properties HNZ may have been better advised to request up-zoning of entire swathes of properties where their properties are located based on the UP intensification strategy.

        They way they’ve approached it smells of opportunism.

        • SDW

          I don’t think they have a statutory mandate to do that, hence they are limited to addressing particular sites … although I imagine their submissions on the regional policy statement and objectives and policies of specific zones may address your issue partly in terms a more strategic and coordinated approach (just guessing cause I haven’t checked).

    • George D

      Housing New Zealand properties in poor areas will be upzoned. Housing New Zealand properties adjacent to richer areas will be left as they are.

      It’s how democracy works in Auckland.

  • Welcome to Sprawlauckland.

  • Steve D

    > Where a section has gone from Mixed hosing to MHU then it’s considered as being up-zoned while going to MHS is down-zoned.

    I think the map’s a little confusing because of this. In particular, it’s hard to see how things have changed in the east, where a lot of land was changed from Mixed Housing to Mixed Housing Urban, and that hides some more substantial changes. I’m going to have another go at the colours this afternoon to see if I can differentiate the mixed-housing zone split better.

    It is highly subjective about what counts as “up-zoning” and “down-zoning”. I’ve had to make a few blatant value judgements, such as that allowing commercial activity is always an upzoning from residential only, even if that results in a lower height limit (for example a THAB zone that gets changed to a Neighbourhood Centre). Or that residential is “up” from industrial, but changing to industrial isn’t “down” from anything: it’s always shown as brown.

    If you follow the link, and click on the coloured zones on the map you’ll get a little popup showing exactly what the old zone and new zone are. (This won’t work on the embedded copy on this page, only the version on Koordinates.com.)

  • JimboJones

    I find it funny that such a large part of Mt Roskill South has been down-zoned. I live in there and its hardly Epsom, I can’t imagine many residents complaining about the original UP. In fact most of the people I’ve talked to in our street are supportive of up-zoning, especially as it increases the value of their large lots.

  • mfwic

    “One of the big disappointments with the Unitary Plan process was the way the councillors and local boards shirked their responsibility and gave in to a vocal group of complainers.”
    I guess that is one way of looking at the political process. Another would be that after considering feedback on the draft plan they made changes. Isn’t that what they were supposed to do with a draft prepared by Council officers? Maybe that was what the consultation was intended for.

    • JimboJones

      Only if you are sure that you have a fair representation of views; those who oppose the changes will make a big noise, those who agree won’t.
      Is it OK to make massive changes to the plan because a few thousand out of 1.5 million didn’t like it?

      • mfwic

        It is OK to make changes if only 20 or 30 don’t like it if they are people elected to represent us.

        • Frank McRae

          Yes, but they have failed their leadership if they compromise an already agreed on region wide plan, to placate a few hundred self entitled complainers.

          • mfwic

            Perhaps you could show me this “already agreed on region wide plan”. As far as I am aware this is the first plan for the the new city developed under the RMA. If you mean the Auckland Plan well that gets almost no weight as it is a “plan developed under other legislation” under the RMA. As for agreed, who agreed to it? Certainly no one present on the day I submitted. The big problem with it was it read like something produced by the ARC, and everyone ignored them! The councillors and officers from a regional council background hadn’t got their heads around the fact that what they produce now matters. The Unitary Plan is the first real plan that needs to go through a proper process so no wonder the politicians want to get it right.

          • Frank McRae

            “so no wonder the politicians want to get it right.”

            By get it right you mean not allowing anything to be built in a growing city already suffering from a shortage of housing?

            The councilors had agreed on the Auckland Plan, they had also agreed to accommodate 70 % of future growth within the existing city, and they had agreed to this strategy of intensification in the Regional Policy Statement of the Unitary Plan itself – until they got scared of a minority of selfish old people and scaled the rules of the plan back to such an extent that in much of the isthmus the zoning would not even allow the existing buildings to be built.

            We elect politicians to use their judgement responsibly, not to just cave in to the will of those who scream the loudest. There is a reason central government doesn’t allow every decision it makes to be subject to a popular vote, and why it is not bound by citizen initiated referendums. A Plan for Auckland has national level significance and it should not be subject to the whims of those most motivated to prevent change.

          • mfwic

            Frank the compact city twits pushed the politicians around first, then came the pushback. The fact is the Auckland Plan won’t get much weight. The Unitary Plan has to go through a true test based on formal submissions, further submissions and a hearing by commissioners as required by the RMA. Rules need to meet the purpose of the Act, the Auckland Plan didn’t get any of that. It was more of a brain fart by a few insiders. What I thought was really funny was when a planner stood up at a public meeting in Hobsonville and told us the Auckland Plan got it all right because they had so many submissions on it. Pretty much everyone there who submitted was ignored- there was a huge outcry.

        • JimboJones

          That’s if you believe planning should be done by councillors. I assume all of those councillors have planning degrees and are acting for the greater good of the region?
          I personally think planning should be a separate entity from the council (like AT), the council should be able to provide direction but not specifics.
          You shouldn’t be able to lobby your local councillor for you to get favourable planning over others in the region.

          • mfwic

            It is their job to put up their best go at it then let the plan be tested at a hearing. It is the Council’s unitary plan not the Council officers’ plan. Removing politicians from planning would be like leaving the police to figure out what laws we should have.

          • Sailor Boy

            No, it wouldn’t. Planners are trained to understand the implications of the restrictions, it would be like allowing legal advisers to write laws, which we sort of do. Bill are written by legal advisers for politicians, just like plans are written by planners for councillors.

          • mfwic

            Yes bills are written by lawyers under the direction of elected people, and then only the elected representatives get a vote on them. We let planners write district plans and which are acceptable to the representatives but the big difference is only the planners get to appear at the appeals (or in this case the hearing). So planners already get more influence than the drafters of statutes. I absolutely reject the idea that we should just accept want planners want because there is never one view by all planners, it always ends up a balancing of viewpoints which elected people are better at.

      • Geoff Blackmore

        Most submissions were against it, and the percentage of for and against must be accepted as representative of those who didn’t submit. If 80% of submissions were against, then 80% of Aucklanders are against. That’s why it’s importance to have your say on any matter, as those who bother to make a submission are representing more than just themselves.

        That’s why we know the National Party has 54% support of kiwis when only a few hundred are actually asked.

        • Simon C

          What a load of rubbish Geoff. We all know that in a lot of cases regarding plans the majority of submissions will be against as those who agree with a plan rarely submit. Even if 80% of submitters did submit against, that in no way implies 80% of the population is against. That is a completely incorrect assumption to make.

          • Geoff Blackmore

            That’s not the official stance. Overall population stance on a matter is extrapolated from submissions. This is done by both central and local government.

            Your view that majority submissions actually represent the minority is purely speculative. Do you also believe that because most CRL submissions were positive that really means most people are against it?

          • Steve D

            > Overall population stance on a matter is extrapolated from submissions. This is done by both central and local government.

            If Project A gets 90% negative submissions, and Project B gets 80% negative submissions, it’s a reasonable guess that Project B is more popular amongst the population at large. It’s not a reasonable guess that popular opinion is anywhere near 80% opposed, though, or even a majority opposed. No-one in central or local government believes that or pretends to.

            Most people who submit on a proposal oppose it, because what’s the point in submitting to support something that’s probably a done deal anyway? So in the very rare case of a project that actually gets a majority of submissions in favour, like the CRL, or Transmission Gully, you can expect that popular opinion is probably way more supportive again.

            The same’s true of absolutely everything in government. 95% of their communications are from people who are strongly opposed to something. They don’t get a lot of emails saying “good work, keep it up!”. 20% of the emails are from people who are seriously crazy, as in, chemtrails, faking the moon landings, Agenda 21, UN plots and the like. Then there’s Serious People with logical, sensible, but blatantly self-interested issues, and the rest are time-rich cranks with an obscure personal axe to grind (i.e., me and you and most of the people on this blog who ever submit on anything).

            There’s another dynamic again at play with the Unitary Plan, which is that people who oppose it have a specific thing to focus on – “I don’t want this near my house”. Whereas the people who benefit are people who get the opportunity to buy or rent a house they wouldn’t have otherwise, but they don’t have a single specific driving thing to focus on. It’s just the way people are, that you’re less likely to write in to support the Unitary Plan saying “I want more housing built in central Auckland, but I don’t have much of a preference which particular street it’s on”. That doesn’t mean their interests are irrevelant.

          • Geoff Blackmore

            “There’s another dynamic again at play with the Unitary Plan, which is that people who oppose it have a specific thing to focus on – “I don’t want this near my house””

            That’s to be expected though, and it’s also very reasonable. Unlike greenfield developments, densification imposes itself on existing residents. New houses are generally built on undeveloped land, but apartments are generally built where people already live. The rights of existing residents are quite rightly paramount over the rights of people who want to move in on their property. It’s not theirs after all. They don’t live there. THAT is why the UP was changed.

            Maybe those who want to live densely could band together and build apartments on greenfield sites? Seems to me those who want such a lifestyle only ever want it in areas already developed. To me, that’s selfishness. I think most Aucklanders agree, and the UP was changed.

          • Steve D

            > The rights of existing residents are quite rightly paramount over the rights of people who want to move in on their property. It’s not theirs after all. They don’t live there. THAT is why the UP was changed.

            I’m not sure you understand how the RMA works. It applies restrictions to the things people can do on their own property. It doesn’t affect the fairly basic legal principle that you’re not allowed to go building things on someone else’s land. That would be trespass, at the very least. So the Unitary Plan doesn’t, and can’t, allow anyone in the government, or any private party, to “move in” on someone else’s property. All of the densification that the Unitary Plan allows will be with the complete agreement of the existing owner of the site.

            > Seems to me those who want such a lifestyle only ever want it in areas already developed.

            Likewise, people who live in suburbs only ever seem to want to live in a suburb of an existing city, and drive into that city all the time, and impose all their traffic on the existing residents. What of it? The whole value of a city comes from living near other people, including those people who move in or get born after you.

          • Geoff Blackmore

            Steve, you misunderstand. If one wants to live in a leafy suburb, planning restrictions ensure the suburb remains leafy. Lift those restrictions and you could find yourself on a leafy property that you own, but with apartments either side, so you lose the leafy suburb. It’s a case of imposing change on communities. It only takes one property to change, and the neighbours move out, thus selling to more developers, and the chain reaction sets in. Next thing you know, leafy suburb is a concrete jungle.

            This is what we the people moved to stop, and were successful in doing so. Time for those in denial to accept it and move on.

          • Steve D

            > If one wants to live in a leafy suburb, planning restrictions ensure the suburb remains leafy.

            As an aside, for that specific example, they actually don’t. They used to, but National recently changed the law so that district plans can’t provide blanket protection for trees.

            > It’s a case of imposing change on communities. It only takes one property to change

            It’s not a question of “imposing change”. Urban planning tries to stop negative changes affecting neighbours too much, but ultimately there needs to be a balance between living up to people’s expectations of what will stay the same, and providing for the changing economic needs of the city as it grows. The way things were before the Town and Country Planning Act (when the leafy suburbs were built) was too extreme in one way, where you’d have factories popping up next to people’s houses.

            But not having any change at all is too extreme in the other direction. It’s what you do if you are Venice, or Fira on Santorini, and your city only exists as a preserved theme park of itself. But not in a real city, which needs to house new people, and provide space for new businesses.

            Part of the idea of the Resource Management Act was to try to be more rational about this tradeoff, and weigh up evidence about what external effects land use had on the environment and on other people. And the draft UP made a better stab at that. It did accept that people want to keep the “look” of their suburb, and had things like setbacks and landscaping/coverage rules that were similar to the existing built form of the city and often stricter than existing district plans.

            So intensification would be allowed, but you’d still have all the landscaping the neighbours were used to, and you wouldn’t have tower blocks blotting out the sun. It was a balance between protecting things that were important to neighbours, without screwing over everyone else.

            And even after the submissions process, the Unitary Plan still allows many parts of the city (particularly in the west, south-east, and far south) to have dramatic changes. It’s a balancing act, and it’s always going to be a balancing act. But with the UP, some people, in a few parts of the city, managed to get that balance tipped way, way too far in their favour in a way that hurts society at large. What’s regionally significant is that one of those parts of the city is the inner isthmus, which is where the strongest market demand for denser housing is going to be.

            It’s also naive to think that getting stricter district plan rules will stop all change. More liberal plan rules can actually provide more certainty, since you know that, say, a four-storey height limit will be enforced. But once things get as restrictive as they are in Auckland, with prices spiralling into madness, that changes the game.

            You stop most development, but it won’t stop the big players with the resources to make major plan change and resource consent applications. If you need to get a resource consent just to build 3 stories, why not shoot for the moon and ask for 8, then settle for 6? Often it won’t work, but it will work often enough to be worth trying, because when it does succeed, the payoff is enormous. And this is a worse outcome for everyone, since neither developers nor neighbours can predict what will be allowed and what won’t be.

          • Geoff Blackmore

            I wasn’t meaning protection for trees specifically, but rather the general nature of more intensive development usually meaning a process of converting space occupied by trees and lawns into buildings.

          • Steve D

            > the general nature of more intensive development usually meaning a process of converting space occupied by trees and lawns into buildings.

            If that’s your main concern, you can hardly describe the changes from the draft to now as being a win for you. All of the residential zones have fairly similar requirements for trees and open space, with a maximum building coverage of 40% and impervious coverage of 60%. What’s more, since the Mixed Housing zones both allow 50% building coverage under some circumstances, and THAB doesn’t, it’s actually a loss. The main changes in the residential zones were parking requirements, and density and height limits, none of which affect the footprint allowed for buildings.

            It’s also doubly a loss, since with less ability to build up, there’s going to be more market pressure to make full use of a site, by building extensions, sleepouts, and accessory units.

            On the hand, we’ve finally turned the whole city into one of those bizarre American subdivisions with regulations about how you have to plant your yard, since you now (in theory) need to have a resource consent to not have 30-40% of your property as a lawn, and have at least one tree. That’s brand new in the Unitary Plan, it applies to every residential zone, and I guess you’d see that as a victory.

    • Many local boards said “Auckland shouldn’t sprawl any further. But you’re not intensifying our area! Put it somewhere else!” They wanted to have their cake and eat it, so submitted accordingly.
      And the councillors caved, instead of saying “It’s sprawl, or it’s intensification, but it cannot be both. And sprawling is not the best use of scarce council and environmental resources, so intensification wins.” At the very least they should have said “Fine, we’ll sprawl, but all the existing controls are staying as they are.”

      It was decided based on ill-informed bleating by “a vocal group of complainers”. How the heck else do you explain the down-zoning of areas from what was allowed before? Reductions in height limits from what was already allowed, for example, and let’s not get started on the doubling of land area required for an unlimited development; oh, and the balconies.

      Changes based on consultation are supposed to make sense. These don’t. Going backwards is nonsensical. It makes things worse!

  • frankie_crisp

    Also don’t forget that the Single House zone was ‘downzoned’. The minimum site size for subdivision in the Single House zone was 500m2 in the March draft, now its 600m2. Across the region that change has had a huge impact on development potential and as has been said previously is even more restrictive that what the current district plans allow.

    The Unitary Plan strategic direction is great but the zoning just does not deliver.

    • JimboJones

      This seems to have been missed in the news.
      Our current minimum is 500m2 per dwelling, under the UP it will be changing to 600m2. Its not like we are in some kind of heritage area or something.
      This will potentially wipe a lot of value from a lot of properties including mine, yet its almost impossible to find this detail anywhere on the internet (the council UP document doesn’t seem to include this minimum for some reason).

  • Geoff Blackmore

    “vocal group of complainers” = The vast majority of Aucklanders.

    Democracy sometimes works!

    • Sacha

      Mob rule is not democracy.

      Also, as I’ve said in other posts, Councils are required to consider the needs of *future* as well as current residents when they make long-term decisions like this. Caving to well-heeled coastal whiners is failing that duty to our children and grandchildren and all the others who haven’t moved here yet – and all the opportunities they will otherwise take to other world cities. If you want to live in a pleasant seaside village instead, then move to one.

      • Geoff Blackmore

        There’s no reason to believe the future hasn’t been considered. You imply that you believe people in the future will want density, but this is actually just a reflection of your personal ideology of how you think the future will be. History shows that kiwis love urban living, to such a degree that in most kiwi towns and cities, all but that lifestyle has been erased. That’s excellent reason to rightly anticipate that that’s what kiwis will continue to want in the future. Apartment living will likely grow, but not beyond the realms of a niche market, and then largely confined only to Auckland and one or two other centres.

      • Sacha

        “There’s no reason to believe the future hasn’t been considered” – except any evidence that it has. But hey. There are other housing types than apartments. All scary. Warn the children.

        • Geoff Blackmore

          No logical fallasies, please. Unless you have a time machine, you can only speculate on what people in the future will want.

          If there were more greenfield sites in the isthmus, then great, build away, but most of it is covered in homes already, so unless you set about imposing change upon the current populace, there’s little scope for mass densification. That’s the crux of the issue – pro-densers believe in the concept of imposing change upon current residents, whilst others do not. Fortunately those others are the majority, and a democractic outcome prevailed.

          My advice to pro-densersremains the same – If you want to live in Manhatten, go live in Manhatten.

          • Geoff wheels out his stupid Strawman again. Auckland will never be Manhattan (with an a in the ‘tan’ btw). But it will never be the little provincial town again either that you fantasise about. You live in a suburb attached to a city, and rant about its city-ness. This is, to put it as politely as possible, delusional.

            Perhaps, then, it is you that should move to some little place of the scale appropriate to your tastes, and one more stuck in the past. Plenty of opportunities.

          • JamesS

            Your argument seems to hinge on the assumption that existing residents have the right to not have change ‘imposed’ on them, which you haven’t actually justified. Oh, and a couple of thousand anti-UP submissions a ‘majority’ is not.

          • Geoff Blackmore

            “But it will never be the little provincial town again either that you fantasise about”

            I’ve never said anything about downsizing Auckland. You’ve clearly lost the plot……

            “Your argument seems to hinge on the assumption that existing residents have the right to not have change ‘imposed’ on them, which you haven’t actually justified”

            It’s justified throughout New Zealand. In most towns and cities the populace is fully protected from any significant change to the lifestyle. New Zealand has a high level of planning restrictions to ensure change cannot be imposed by a minority on the majority. It’s done because that’s what the majority want, and that is perfect justification.

          • Sailor Boy

            The majority of Americans in the 1700s wanted slavery, doesn’t make it right, appeal to majority has to be the weakest of all logical fallacies.

          • Geoff Blackmore

            Resorting to comparing town planning with slavery? It would appear you feel you have lost the debate….

            Town planning is for residents, and the right and proper outcome is that it cater for the majority. It would be a travesty if the minority desire overrode the majority. Of course there was never a chance of that happening. Local politicians have a thing about wanting to be re-elected!

          • Sailor Boy

            Not comparing, should have known that understanding an analogy was too much for you. I agree it is a travesty that minority desire to exclude new residents has overridden majority desire for housing choice.

          • Geoff Blackmore

            You are misusing the word majority, as pro-UP submissions were the minority. Your belief that somehow you know what all the non-submitters want, and that somehow it differs from the submissions, meetings, talkback radio and polls is conjecture to the point of fantasy.

          • JimboJones

            You don’t need to speculate – its quite obvious that there a lot of people that want to live close to the city but there isn’t enough housing for them all. They would be happy to live in a terraced house or apartment if they had to, but they don’t have that option. Instead Auckland planners are basically reserving that land for people who want to live in suburbia but expect suburbia to be a stones throw from the city. Why can’t these people find their suburban paradise further away?

          • Geoff Blackmore

            Because they already live there. You are basically saying existing residents should leave to make way for people who want to live on their land. I find the notion that existing residents are somehow being selfish because they are not letting others take over their home to be bizzare.

            Of course if planners stopped causing the problem of inner city living demand by ceasing to cram more and more jobs into one small area in the CBD, the issue would disappear overnight. You don’t see it happening in other kiwi towns and cities because the people have maintained control of their destiny by having strict planning controls to prevent overbuild beyond transport and residential infrastructure capacity. Aucklanders have given way too much power to the business community to dictate how the city should be. A complete halt to any further skyscrapers being built would be a good place to start. Development should be strictly limited to existing infratructure capacity, and residential growth capped at X number of people per square km. Problems solved, and we won’t have to keep spending billions retrofitting more and more capacity whilst also paying more and more for everything.

          • Sailor Boy

            “You are basically saying existing residents should leave to make way for people who want to live on their land.”

            No one ever said that. We are saying that homeowners in the central areas should have the right to develop their properties in a slightly denser fashion than they are currently. Nowhere in the UP or in any comments on this blog has it been stated that residents can/will be forced out to densify, just that their property rights will be expanded.

          • Geoff Blackmore

            Planning restrictions protect communities as well as individuals. Your scenario removes community protection. Leafy garden suburbs can only stay leafy garden suburbs if you restrict the ability of anyone to convert their leafy garden property into a concrete bohemoth. Once you change one property, the community loses its theme, and people have to start selling up in order to get back to the type of community they want, i.e., forcing people out. This is why the majority were against the UP, as most people like their communities the way they are. Thankfully the council listened, and the UP was massively scaled back.

  • Glen

    So what can now be done? Is there any way to make submissions against reduced density?

  • Scott M

    If Aucklanders are serious about tackling housing affordability they need to support density not oppose it. Otherwise don’t complain if your rates keep going up so that all that sprawling infrastructure can be maintained!

  • Christopher Dempsey

    This is an amazing and very useful map! MANY THANKS to Stephen Davis for undertaking this work.

    I note in Waitemata LB area, the down-zoning reflected wide concerns about heritage housing i.e. old 5a and 6a zoning with heritage housing.

    • Steve D

      > MANY THANKS

      Well, I’m glad you like it. I hope I’ll be able to do more versions as we see further changes during the UP hearings process. I’d really like to do a comparison with the operative plans, but no luck getting the data yet.

      > I note in Waitemata LB area, the down-zoning reflected wide concerns about heritage housing i.e. old 5a and 6a zoning with heritage housing.

      The map only reflects the base zones, and it’d be even more dramatic if I took into account the additional heritage restrictions that have been added, especially in the Albert-Eden board area. Or the changes in area-specific height controls.

      What gets me is – what’s the rationale for having the Single House zone automatically applied wherever there’s a heritage overlays? It’s not discussed at all in the higher-level policies. Obviously the heritage restrictions will stop or control most development, so why have the single house zone as well? If for some reason a new building is allowed as a sympathetic addition to the heritage area, why can’t it be a more intense use of the site?

      Some of the heritage statements (notably Ponsonby) praise the eclectic nature of the buildings, in having a diversity of ages, forms and styles. So it seems ludicrous to decide that all the diversity from 1840-1944 was great, but adding anything new would ruin it. And then in other areas that are more consistent, such as Grey Lynn, complying with the Single House rules is more or less impossible if you actually want to build in a similar style to what’s there.

      • Frank McRae

        Well put. Heritage concerns are just used as an excuse by homeowners who don’t want more people / poorer people / any change in their neighbourhoods. It’s a shame the Waitemata Local Board was all too willing to give in to the demands of the privileged few. There is no reason to apply a low intensity zone when heritage is already protected by overlays. Also the fact that people seem to value heritage buildings themselves provides additional protection.

        In cities like Melbourne they seem to be much better at allowing new builds in historic areas that are sympathetic but not derivative of the heritage buildings around them.

        • Steve D

          > Heritage concerns are just used as an excuse by homeowners who don’t want more people / poorer people / any change in their neighbourhoods.

          I think there’s an interesting distinction among property owners there. One one side you’ve got property owners and developers who are in it for the sweet, sweet untaxed capital gains, who should love upzoning, because it increases the value of their property. On the other side, you’ve got people who don’t want to sell, but just want things to stay the same and really identify themselves as being “Grey Lynn” people, or “Remuera” people, or what-have-you.

          The first group will submit on the Unitary Plan to complain about the specific zoning for their own property, but little else. Likewise, non-owners won’t submit at all. Whereas the second group will join or form resident’s associations, make detailed submissions requesting all sorts of controls, contact their local representatives, give sob stories to the media, and so on. Generally having opinions on a much larger range of things.

          This is why it’s so annoying hearing people defend the UP process and Local Boards themselves as “democracy at work”. Well, no, it simply isn’t democratic. (Not that it necessarily should be, mind). The whole system of submissions is rigged in favour of the interests of a certain minority of a minority of a minority – the property owners who strongly identify with their local area and who want to have a detailed say on what other people do. There’s basically no representation of renters, people who own but still move house reasonably often, or people who aren’t even able to live in the area because it’s too expensive! There’s not even much representation of people who are settled in their area, but are generally happy with their neighbours making changes.

          Pretty much the only counterbalance to the resident’s association types are commercial interests, who at least have an interest in attracting and accommodating new residents.

          If the system were democratic, the high-level policy decisions would be made in accordance with referenda or opinion polls or party policies that people vote for, and the detail would have to remain broadly consistent with those. And in statistically valid opinion polls nationally, we see lots of people say that housing affordability is a serious issue, and political parties promising all sorts of solutions. Unlike, say, heritage. Submissions can be useful for identifying specific issues planners may have missed, but even a relatively large volume of submissions doesn’t “represent” those who didn’t submit. There shouldn’t be any extra consideration of an issue because fifty people submit on it, rather than three, because it’s not even an attempt to actually canvas broader public opinion.

          • mfwic

            So are you suggesting the opinions of people who don’t really care should be given more weight? Planning is nine-tenths about property values, don’t believe any one who tells you it isn’t. There is a huge difference between democracy and ‘democracy at work’ as you put it. The former suggests we all get a vote, the later includes the feedback we give to politicians who let us down. The strength of the UP process is that it has to follow a rigorous process that gets rid of enthusiasts and tinkerers and leaves only those with a serious point to make. The weakness is that the Council successfully lobbied to remove our appeal rights while keeping their own intact.

          • Steve D

            > So are you suggesting the opinions of people who don’t really care should be given more weight?

            Yes, exactly. They should be given equal weight to those who do care, by not assuming that the people who care represent the people who don’t. If something is proposed in a city of 1 million people, and 100 people write in to say that something’s a bad idea, and 10 write in to say it’s a good one, all you know about the remaining 999,890 is that they don’t have a strong enough opinion and enough free time to write to you.

            But more importantly, it’s not their opinions we should value, but their interests. For a policy maker, it’s your job to judge whether the people you serve will benefit or not. Maybe it’s something that lots of people will benefit from a small amount each. Maybe lots of people like it, but assume the council will let it go ahead if it’s a good idea, and so they don’t bother. Maybe they don’t know it’s even happening. Maybe it’s something that requires a lot of technical knowledge to judge.

            We live in a representative democracy. Our hope is that our elected representatives will represent the interests of the people they were elected by, and bring those values into decisions. But they have to weigh all the information in a way that most people simply don’t have the time and resources to do – and that they shouldn’t need to do, most of the time.

            > Planning is nine-tenths about property values

            I’d say ten-tenths. But some of those “values” are things you can’t buy with money alone – you can’t buy the Right Sort of neighbours, except through the planning process.

            > The strength of the UP process is that it has to follow a rigorous process that gets rid of enthusiasts and tinkerers and leaves only those with a serious point to make.

            Yes, the UP process that’s happening now is not nearly that bad. It’s much more extreme in the “democratic” stage we just went through, where local boards got to take a hatchet to the plan – the local boards who are comprised of, and largely voted for, the sort of people who belong to resident’s associations.

          • mfwic

            Except I don’t think democracy functions that way. Most people ignore local politicians until they cock things up. Then we take enough interest to throw them out of office. Most local government is about really dull things that need to be done to a reasonable standard. But politicians get elected on BS like the world’s most liveable city that quite frankly no one wants to pay for. Third best is fine, even 20th if it saves some money. For most people all they ask of their elected representatives is to not stuff things up- which usually means don’t change much. We like it like this. That is hard to take for people who want rapid change, but it is the way most people are. And the reason settled home owners take an interest is because they are the ones who will pay for the mistakes, not the renters they can move away. But the ratepayers can’t not pay their rates even when a Council makes an absolute bollocks of things.

        • Steve D

          I think it’s pretty inevitable that central government’s going to step in again, and do some combination of:

          * change the RMA to reduce the scope of the rules local government can put into plans,
          * change Environment Court rules to interpret parts of district plans away into irrelevancy.
          * introduce a more radical Special Housing Area-style system that completely bypasses both the current district plans and the Unitary Plan
          * sacking councils and/or local boards
          * yet another radical reorganisation of council structures or boundaries
          * or maybe just change the rules in the Unitary Plan by fiat (although that’s more likely for things like the affordable housing requirements or Homestar).

          Which may or may not work, but given that the Super City has been only slightly less dysfunctional than the Balkanised system we had before, people are going to demand Something Be Done, and all of those are Something.
          If we do get a change of government, Labour’s still determined to do KiwiBuild (100,000 houses in 10 years), and I don’t imagine for a second that they’re going to let local governments torpedo one of their flagship policies with silly planning restrictions either.

    • Frank McRae

      Christopher Dempsey – “I note in Waitemata LB area, the down-zoning reflected wide concerns about heritage housing i.e. old 5a and 6a zoning with heritage housing.”

      The 6a areas in the operative plan allow a density of 375 m2. These areas were all down zoned from Mixed housing in the first draft UP to Single House in the proposed UP with a minimum density of 600 m2. Why was a density almost half of that allowed in the operative plan required to protect heritage in addition to the numerous specific heritage controls?

  • Steve D

    > Most people ignore local politicians until they cock things up. Then we take enough interest to throw them out of office.

    We’re in agreement here. And so, not cocking things up should be way more important for a local politician than listening to a noisy 0.01%.

    > For most people all they ask of their elected representatives is to not stuff things up- which usually means don’t change much.

    I think people who hold that attitude do so because they’ve already got it made – they own a house in a place they like. But that’s not everyone, or even a majority, and that’s a particular problem in local government. General election turnout was 74% last time, Auckland local elections were 36%. That 36% is going to skew hugely toward people who like things as they are. But it doesn’t work for everyone else.

    > And the reason settled home owners take an interest is because they are the ones who will pay for the mistakes, not the renters they can move away.

    Only if you see things as a choice between “status quo” and “screw things up”. They’re not the only options, and in Auckland, they’re not mutually exclusive. I’d say that a council that’s driving renters away and keeping out people who’d like to buy there, is a failure. Lots of people would agree. But those people who can’t rent or buy in that area can’t vote in it, either, and so the politicians responsible aren’t thrown out of office.

    • Steve D

      That’s a reply to mfwic’s comment at 4:29pm.

    • Frank McRae

      A 36% turnout in local government elections probably overstates the matter. All of that 36% would have voted for mayor, much less would have voted for councilors, and very few would have voted for Local board members. I take a direct interest in these matters and even I struggled to pick people on local boards to vote for. As they all deliberately run a bland campaign how do you choose between 25 candidates whose campaigns pitches are “something something something community”?

      • Steve D

        > All of that 36% would have voted for mayor, much less would have voted for councilors, and very few would have voted for Local board members.

        Doing the numbers for my own ward (Albert-Eden / Maungawhau), there were a total of 11,778 ballots for mayor (including a couple of hundred that were blank or informal), and there were only 967 blank or informal votes for the local board, so 92% of people who sent back ballots at all voted for at least one local board candidate. The average person who voted for any local board candidates at all, voted for 3.67 (out of 4) candidates.

        On the other hand, most people are voting on very little information. Like you, I care more than a lot of people, and I still just voted a straight City Vision ticket full of people I don’t necessarily want very much. Just because other than the incumbents, I know nothing about any of these people or what they stand for, and have no practical way of finding out without making local politics my entire life. So that’s the best I can do.

        > As they all deliberately run a bland campaign how do you choose between 25 candidates whose campaigns pitches are “something something something community”?

        The solution in national politics is political parties, which have some slightly identifiable values and a policy platform they try vaguely to stick within a million miles of. That’s never really worked in local politics in New Zealand, where despite some shifting labels, everyone’s still a lone wolf who plays by their own rules.

        I’m not sure it can work, either, where the left-right divide doesn’t apply to a lot of the issues local government faces. About the closest you can get to predicting what councillors will do when you elect them is that right-wing = doing nothing, and cutting funding for everything except for lots and lots of spending on roads, and left-wing = higher rates spent on some random bag of pet projects, which may be good, or may be terrible.

  • atla

    I’m so disappointed with the outcome of the unitary plan development so far. What a missed opportunity that the central isthmus has not been zoned with much increased intensification when this is the area best suited, and desirable, for this to occur. The concept of the most intensified housing being located on the outskirts of the city seems so backwards. Why wasn’t a more sensible and consistent region wide approach applied to the plan, rather than a mish-mash of competing suburb’s views all jumbled together. Let’s just hope places like West Auckland etc that are zoned for a large increase in density also have appropriate provisions made for associated business and amenity within the local communities to reduce the necessity for frequent city wide commuting.

    • JimboJones

      Personally I think they should have drawn a 5km circle around the city and a 1km circle around each train station and zoned those high density. The UP approach of making the odd street high density was never going to work.

      • It’s a wonderful map and I’m sure we’ll keep the map makers usefully occupied with their crayons for a long time to come.

        Complexity? Not half.

        You’re absolutely right in that the piecemeal “high density” will not work, unless by work you mean reinforce the idea that density just makes congestion worse if you stick your density at the end of ribbony roads so far from anything like a busway that the only way they’ll reach one is when we get personal wings.

        Personally, the whole Unitary Plan Consultation was a good example of how to set yourself up for failure.

        In the first instance, designing by committee is a recipe for long winded discussions achieving nothing of particular use , as the best way of making the most people, least unhappy is to avoid change anywhere in their vicinity, like the plague.

        The main problem is that The Unitary Plan consultations were a case of people trying to sell something without any investment in advertising.

        One way of advertising is to carve Auckland back up into the old council areas, form development corporations and have them actively Sell change to the people.

        What actually happened is that a load of council boffins, visited the people, who’s main idea of intensification is the shoebox, asked them to hold that thought and then asked them whether that was what they wanted.

        In any case , consultation is largely a sham in the case of cities. No city worthy of the name asks the population to design it, which is no excuse for designing crap cities either.

        Sack the lot, hire Singapore.

Leave a Reply