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The Unitary Plan Roller-Coaster

Since first talked about back in 2013, the Unitary Plan has been like a roller-coaster ride. There’s been the hope and anticipation for a better future for Auckland as the cart climbs a steep hill followed by that brief micro second of confusion before you realise you’re falling as groups opposing housing pipped up and were egged on further by one sided reporting from the Herald. Then came the twists and turns of the debate before that feeling of weightlessness as you go through a loop waiting for the councillors to make a decision. After catching your breath for a second there was then the smaller and less intense second stage as the process was repeated. Then just as you thought the ride might be coming to an end it throws a few last unexpected twists and turns at you. And that’s where are now, right in the middle of latest saga the Unitary Plan has seen.

The current issue stems back to December when the council released its evidence and updated residential zonings as part of the hearing process. I wrote at the time.

As part of the hearings process the council are allowed to make a final submission in response to the issues raised by the public. They say they are currently confirming their position on a range of topics and one of those is zoning. Taking into account a range of factors, the council is suggesting some changes to the zones in the plan that determine what can be built where. It’s these changes which have had the Herald and a number of councillors worked up. The factors include

  • the submissions and evidence
  • the interim guidance on some topics from the hearings panel – such as on viewshafts and heritage controls
  • further analysis of the zones i.e. fixing inconsistencies
  • amended infrastructure plans such as the addition of light rail on the isthmus

This doesn’t mean that the Unitary plan is being changed just that the council are saying that based on the evidence and updated information they think some changes should be made. The independent panel hearing the Unitary Plan could rejected them outright or go completely the other way and say they don’t go far enough then recommend significant increases.

Overall the changes weren’t all that much. Those that did move generally only changed by a small amount and combined 78% of all residential areas were still limited to two storeys while a further 17% was limited to three storeys.

PAUP zoning changes - Dec 15 2

The Herald through Bernard Orsman along with groups opposing housing have even gone the absurd level of calling three storeys ‘high-rise’. One of the funny things of it all is that in suburbs where most of the opposition originates the size and scale of buildings that the opposition groups oppose are quite prevalent, just as single houses which they seem quite happy with.

Six Sisters John St

According to those opposing the Unitary Plan, these are high-rise and shouldn’t be allowed.

What’s changed recently is following a meeting in Kohimarama – and I suspect a lot of lobbying of councillors over the summer break – supposedly a majority of councillors want to withdraw the councils evidence.

Auckland Council’s proposal to rezone thousands of homes for more intensive housing and apartments has lost the support of a majority of councillors, with councillor Sir John Walker today speaking out against the changes.

“If the mayor wants my vote we are going to have to come to a compromise,” said Sir John, who did not spell out what that solution would be.

“I’m on the residents’ side. I don’t want to see high rise buildings towering over Auckland.

“I don’t trust the town planners. They present one thing and change their mind and do another,” said the Olympic gold medallist.

Sir John said he supported calls to withdraw the changes, which see large swathes of suburban Auckland rezoned for multi-storey buildings, terraced housing and apartments in the council’s latest submission to the Unitary Plan.

Under the “out of scope” changes to zoning, meaning no residents asked for them in the proposed Unitary Plan, there is no formal right of reply for affected property owners.

Sir John’s position means 11 of the 21 councillors want the council to withdraw the out of scope changes from the Unitary Plan process.

The other 10 are Cameron Brewer, Cathy Casey, Chris Fletcher, Denise Krum, Mike Lee, Dick Quax, Sharon Stewart, Wayne Walker, John Watson and George Wood.

It seems that there’s also a degree of personal preference clouding decision making with Sir John also saying

Eight years ago he sold up and moved to a lifestyle block in Bombay “where you can’t build a single house”.

Sir John said the city should stick with low rise housing.

Why ruin the city with three-storey apartments? They might not be very high but I wouldn’t want to live next door to one

Now the majority claimed by Orsman is just on paper and the council haven’t actually formally voted to withdraw their evidence. We’ve also seen Orsman claim a lot of times in the past that the Unitary Plan was in the balance only to be easily passed by the council when they actually voted. To withdraw their own evidence would be incredibly stupid in my view as it would remove them from debate leaving it just up to what others had submitted and there were a lot of submissions calling for much more development to be allowed.

There were some very good responses to all of this yesterday which are worth covering.

Todd Niall at Radio NZ wrote this excellent piece pointing out that the Unitary Plan is a blueprint for the next 30 years and that the council need to take account all of those who will be living here in 30 years, not just those making the most noise now.

The debate and political anxiety comes as the deliberations near the end – the 30-year development blueprint for Auckland, the Unitary Plan, is due to be finalised by September.

It will eventually reshape much of Auckland’s residential landscape, with more of it looking increasingly city-like and less suburban – more multi-level and less like any other New Zealand city.

The heightened discussion poses a challenge for Auckland councillors. Should they heed the cries of the loudest of their constituents, or the ambitions of the quietest?

In short, who should have the dominant voice in shaping the future Auckland ?

The Herald got in on the act in its editorial.

It is too easy to panic politicians in election year, particularly in local body elections where the turnouts are usually low. It is easy to fill a public hall on local issues that are close to people’s homes and may affect their property values, and it is easy for individual politicians to be persuaded that a packed hall represents a popular uprising.

….

Plenty of us live next door to a double storey house without concern. But one more storey has the citizens in revolt, or so too many council members fear.

Let’s acknowledge the courage of those who are willing to defend the revised Unitary Plan and see it through. It may be easy enough for the mayor who is not seeking re-election, but not easy for Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse or council members Arthur Anae, Bill Cashmore, Linda Cooper, Chris Darby, Alf Filipaina and Calum Penrose. They have kept their nerve and put the city’s housing needs before their electoral safety.

If only they’d taken this stance all along we probably wouldn’t be in the mess we are right now. Alas I suspect we’ll back to business as usual with scaremonger articles soon.

The Property Council which is a lobby group for developers held no punches in it’s press release over the issue. Good on them.

Property Council is appalled with Auckland councillors who have withdrawn their support to rezone Auckland suburbs with the capacity for more housing and apartments.

Auckland Branch President Phil Eaton says soaring house prices are creating systemic social injustice, inequity and major economic risk.

“Let’s be absolutely clear about this. The councillors who have withdrawn their support to rezone and upzone suburbs to allow for more houses have done so at the expense of Aucklanders, because they want to come back after the local elections.

“Now, Baby Boomers have essentially locked an entire generation out of their own homes. Young people and families will never be able to work and live in Auckland, and ‘Generation Rent’ is the
legacy these councillors will leave behind.

…..

“Local politicians must ditch their “Not in My Election Year” mentality and do what is right by all Aucklanders, not just some.”

Scaremongering by local politicians has residents believing their suburbs will be covered in high-rise apartments, when realistically less than 6% of suburbs will have apartments with more than three storeys: up just 1% from the previous version of the PAUP.

So where does that leave us. Councillor George Wood posted this the other day showing a briefing on Thursday.

UP Councillor Briefing Feb 16

We’ll be waiting to see what happens following Thursday. This is one roller-coaster I’d be happy not to ride again.

103 comments to The Unitary Plan Roller-Coaster

  • TheBigWheel

    There are lots of people across the political spectrum, including baby boomers, who all for building up rather than sprawling out.. and yet who are deeply unhappy with (a) the process and (b) some of the outcomes proposed under revised PAUP.

    One outcome in particular in the eastern suburbs that makes no sense whatsoever is intensifying Glendowie.. it has no trains and few buses and is miles from any motorways or other decent access roads. Any increase in population out there has no choice but to slog through several other suburbs just to get anywhere.

    It’s entirely reasonable to argue against those and other specific aspects of the revised PAUP. Not least thoae who would have done so initially but are unable to now due to the apparently sneaky way the PAUP has been changed.

    Or what are you saying.. it’s this plan or no plan?

    • Grey Lynn is not on a rail line and I have apartments, terrace houses and a supermarket in my street; and it’s great. The sky has not fallen in. Some are even over three stories! We can actually still breathe…

    • Ask the Government, they created the legislation governing the Unitary Plan processes. We including Council are just along for the ride.

    • Stu Donovan

      Valid question. However, are you sure that residents have the information and expertise they need to come to the right conclusion? There’s plenty of dense places in the world which have no public transport at all and they function fine. PT is not a pre-requisite for density; yes dense places tend to function better when they have it but density can still be worthwhile even without it.

      What is a pre-requisite for density is high land values, which is something that is present in Glendowie – and indeed most of Auckland.

      • Brendon Harre

        Is high land values a prerequisite for densification or is it high agglomeration values?

        For example if two cities had exactly the same agglomeration values in the same locations -lets say in the periphery of the CBD -between the 2 to 12 km radii. So same populations, businesses, economic opportunities, productivity from networking and economy of supply effects, amenities -public (parks, museums, waterfronts…) and private (restaurants, shows…) and so on.

        But the first city has few restrictions on building up – there is many locations where densification can occur -thus because of this elasticity of supply – land values for where densification can occur are relatively low. Densification occurs where agglomeration values exceed land costs.

        The second city has many restrictions for building up -there is few locations where densification can occur -elasticity of supply is inelastic -land values for where densification can occur are relatively high. Densification again occurs where agglomeration values exceed land costs.

        The first city has more densification because it has the same agglomeration values but lower relative land costs.

        • Stu Donovan

          both.

          Land values cause higher density, and higher density contributes to higher land values (by way of agglomeration values).

        • Frank McRae

          I think the mistake you are making is presuming that high land values are purely a contrivance of restrictions on outward growth of the city and that land values can be collapsed by releasing sufficient rural land for urbanisation.

          Opening up rural land for development can put downward pressure on the price of centrally located land but in a city like Auckland no amount of land released on the fringe is going to collapse the price of land on the Isthmus. There are significant locational benefits of living on the Isthmus, and land on the fringe is a poor substitute for those benefits (though I get that some people’s preference is for the fringe). This means that unless there is some major change in demand like an economic collapse land on the Auckland Isthmus will remain expensive no matter the zoning elsewhere.

          • Brendon Harre

            No Frank I deliberately set aside the periphery development argument because that is a separate issue.

            What seems to be discussed is two Auckland’s. One where there is a plentiful supply of up development opportunities for Auckland’s isthmus, another where there is not.

            Basic supply and demand analysis would indicate -that if in a given location there is a surplus of supply (developmental opportunities) then locational prices will be lower than the alternative scenario where there is a shortage of supply.

            P.S You are probably correct that periphery land values have less of an effect on isthmus land values now that the periphery is so far away -30km. But it will have an effect.

            I think everyone here knows I believe in removing restrictions on both going up and out. This discussion is about going up and I am supporting those that call for restrictions to be removed.

          • Frank McRae

            Sorry, I didn’t read your comment properly.

            You’re right that in your scenario where there are plentiful opportunities to intensify there wouldn’t be the same premium value on those sites compared to now where intensification is permitted on very few sites. This would probably manifest as a greater spread of a lower level of density eg 3 storey walk ups, rather than high rises in the few intensification sites available.

            I’m not an economist but I don’t think there is a meaningful distinction between agglomeration values and land values. Land values are an expression of agglomeration values.

        • jezza

          Brendon – I would have expected land values to be higher in the city with few restriction in building up, simply because more people would be able to live on it driving up the value. Of course you would expect the price of an individual dwelling to come down because there are more of them so greater supply, but not the land value.

    • Hmm. New Network shows the 77 service as Frequent so 15 minutes or so all day long. And it goes from the city to Glen Innes Train station and back along Riddell Road. Alternatively, Glen Inness train station is only 2km or so from most of Glendowie so reachable on an e-bike easily. https://at.govt.nz/media/1271604/central-suburbs-consultation-map-linked-routes.pdf

    • Rich

      Seems like a short feeder bus trip to GI train station to me. Just add some bus lanes and job done.

    • The PAUP hasn’t been changed, that’s part of the point. All that’s happened is the council have put a submission saying that based on the evidence they think it should be changed. The panel can reject that submission if they want.

    • Doug

      Others have pointed out the transport options via Glen Innes station.

      There will also be the cycleway from Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive before too long.

      Many people would see the ability to get about without a car and being away from the noise and disruption of major roads and motorways as a drawcard.

  • Ricardo

    Reading the news recently it appears this is being pushed through in a most undemocratic way – only 4 votes and one from a non-elected person. If this is how the Council thinks it can act it will get lots of opposition. Pretty corrupt, regardless of whether its a good idea or not. I just wonder when everything is is condensed and all land used up and the cry of ‘increasing population’ continues, whether endless ‘growth’ is really worth it. What will be left?

    • Stu Donovan

      on a per capita basis dense cities consume fewer resources overall, so if we allow Auckland to develop more intensively then the answer to the question of “what will be left” is “more than what would have been left otherwise”.

    • Go talk to Central Government, they created the legislation that governs the Unitary Plan process. We including Council are just along for the ride.

      • mfwic

        Ben the Council lobbied hard for a one-step process. They asked for the old Council hearing system but wanted everyone’s appeal rights removed. The Government sensibly said ok you can have a one step process if that’s what you want but it will be independent. The council is to blame for the system. They also created this current problem. They wrote the PAUP and could put into it whatever the wanted. They then submitted on their own PAUP and wrote more submissions to change it than anyone. And then at the eleventh hour they try to slip in out of scope changes. They know what scope means- it’s not a new concept.

    • Rich

      I don’t know, having submitted on cycling plans I’m pretty used to the outcome of consultation not reflecting exactly what was asked for. I think council needs to add more density than the current vocal minority ask for. The council represents more than just the current home owners and this is a 30 year plan. Far longer than many objectors will be around.

    • As I understand it most population growth over the next 30 years will be from residents having children. What do you suggest to stop that?

    • Matthew W

      What exactly is your problem? We have a multi-year hearings process with an independent panel. They are the only ones making a decision at the end of this. Sounds pretty good to me.

  • Stu Donovan

    While the Herald editorial is reasonable (and timely), it sits in stark contrast to the scare-mongering rubbish previously published by the likes of Bernard Orsman. Ultimately this only serves to highlight a lack of quality control at the sub-editorial level within the Herald, which they *really* need to address if they have aspirations to become a serious source for New Zealand news.

    On the other hand, the Property Council’s press release successfully blends passion and reason. They correctly highlight that prohibitions on intensification in Auckland *is* causing major economic problems, such as higher property prices, which is in turn worsening socio-economic inequalities (because the wealthy tend to own property). In this way, restrictions on density are a socio-economic double-whammy that hammer low-income households and ultimately leave all New Zealanders worse off.

    Frankly, John Walker’s comments are embarrassingly stupid. John may not want to live next to an apartment, but if that apartment is not built then those people don’t have a home. Let’s not beat around the bush here: John Walker is supporting regulations that stop people from getting access to a home at a price they can afford. Not only does John fail to balance the views of NIMBYs with the rights of property owners and those who need homes, but he goes a step further and lets his values have an over-bearing influence on his position. In the process, John seems to ignore/dismiss submissions from people like myself and Generation Zero, which called for more intensification. He doesn’t seem to be trying to take account of people, like me, who hold different values from himself. IMO that is the clear sign of an elected representative who is failing in their duties.

    If John Walker and his friends want to live in a low-rise neighbourhood, then they’re more than welcome to buy up property and develop it accordingly. All we ask is that you afford us the same liberty: The freedom to choose how to develop our properties (within reasonable bounds), and in turn how we live. Live and let live John.

    As it happens, my parents happen to live in the Papakura ward, so I’ll be suggesting that they and all their friends don’t vote for John Walker at the next local government election.

    • TheBigWheel

      John Walker’s views may be misplaced (I agree, they are frankly stupid) but that doesn’t counter the more reasonable and nuanced arguments against the process or specific outcomes of what is proposed.

      • Can’t agree with this at all: who has reasonable and nuanced objections? Burton? Oarsman? Brewer? All they show are distortions and exaggerations, and all of a very timid and slight set of changes proposed for small parts of the city.

        • TheBigWheel

          Goodness. Perish the thought that people who live in a particular place may have some insight that’s at least locally relevant.

          As for Glendowie (I don’t live in Glendowie but I know it fairly well).. some of the comments on this post serve only to illustrate how the views of experts and lay people alike, living elsewhere miss the point. So for example..

          – the GITamaki Shared Path doesn’t go anywhere near Glendowie
          – there is no safe cycling provision to/from GI Train Station.. which is also down a big long hill
          – the frequency of the (few) bus services is not the main issue: there’s no transit lanes east of Remuera Road or South of Tamaki Drive.. so all the buses get jammed

          As often happens on this blog, people living in the eastern suburbs get lumped together and characterised unfavourably: usually as old, rich and white, and in this case also charged with strident nimbyism and anti-intensification. Sure there are people like that here, as there are on the shore, in the city fringes, wherever. But by repeating and amplifying the stereotype, we diminish the voices of others (of whatever age and politics) living here who articulate views supporting intensification in their suburbs, neighbourhoods, even their streets, but don’t like the feeling they’re getting pissed on, and think the latest PAUP maps suck. And thereby reinforce the stereotype.

          Really you guys at TB could usefully dial back the patronising generalisations, and reflect on the fact that locals know their localities better than most, simply because they live there. Whether their opinions on specific solutions are sensible or not, those views have currency: residents don’t need to have professional expertise in town planing or economics or transport engineering nor do they need to pretend to be armchair experts by researching a few peer-reviewed papers before their perspectives qualify for inclusion in the conversation: their perspectives as residents are meaningful and relevant, so long as we live in a democracy at least.

          Kelvin asks a good question: why no pro-intensification group? At its best the TB helps but the “we know what’s best for you” stuff grates; GZ appeals explicitly to another generation.

          • stu donovan

            Residents perspectives are relevant and always were. They have just been granted disproprtionate importance by some councillors, along with a giant dose of self-selection bias and inaccurate reporting from herald. You’re welcome to your views, although to be perfectly honest the issues you point to are fairly trivial compared to the socio-economic importance of reasonably priced housing. That’s the biggest criticism I have of the NIMBYs: They often don’t even try to understand that their objectives may be in tension with other outcomes. Yes transport is important, but for flying out proud we aren’t building/enabling enough housing. Houses are important, especially for people on low incomes.

            I’ve not seen many residents groups acknowledging the seriousness of that issue.

          • Guy

            No, Big Wheel, I’m not buying your rhetoric. The plain and simple fact is that Glendowie has a sparse suburban density that was fine for when the suburb was established many years ago, but it is embarrassingly sparse by todays standards, and there is plenty of room for intensification without dramas. Vast back lawns etc. I was born and grew up near there, so I can remember what it was like then, and I’m astonished that it hasn’t changed much since then. Friends of my parents who built their house there back in the 1960s still live there now on their large section, and struggle with the lawns now as they are aged in their 80s. This will change – this age group is literally dying off, and the site will be sold and it should be available for redevelopment and intensification. It’s just ridiculous not to.

          • Matthew W

            The fact that we manage our road network poorly shouldnt be a reason to block development over the next thirty years. It sounds like more bus priority is required. This should be sorted by AT but its not an permanent condition. We cant hold the UP hostage to that.

          • TheBigWheel

            Stu, I would contend the point that residents groups don’t acknowledge the seriousness of the issue. Sure there will be a range of views in residents groups too, though anecdotally, NIMBYs go to public meetings to shout rather than attend residents associations to work through the issues. Could be interesting to learn the facts: has anyone surveyed residents groups to see what they really think? Could TB do it?

      • Stu Donovan

        Of course not – and I don’t think any one is suggesting such concerns (when raised appropriately and supported by evidence) should be ignored.

    • I reside in the Manurewa-Papakura Ward as well (as does Len and I think Goff might if not he will be in Franklin just next door) and will be telling others in our Ward the same Stu.

      Sir John’s comments are redundant as well given he recently left urban Auckland for his place up in the Bombay’s. What makes his comments even more redundant is that Papakura-Manurewa Ward especially Manurewa Local Board area has some of the highest concentrations of over crowded housing in Auckland. The Unitary Plan would allow some moderate intensification in the Ward to help relieve the over crowding issues but no Sir John has a flight of fancy from his place in Rural Auckland…

  • GTP

    Where exactly are the Greens on this? Julie Ann Genter not happy with the process and that the plan doesn’t reflect current or future residents? Seems at odds with Generation Zero?

    http://m.nzherald.co.nz/property/news/article.cfm?c_id=8&objectid=11589535

    • Seems you have misread that to take it to mean the opposite. Or has Bernard O managed to twist her words too?

      • GTP

        Really? What part of this have I mis-understood, unless she has been mis-quoted by Orsman? It’s a genuine question, with Cathy Casey, Mike Lee and the Eden-Albert board coming out against the process, it would be hardly surprising if the Greens are uncomfortable with it.

        “She said the Unitary Plan process was not representative of current residents and certainly not representative of future residents of the city.”

        • Stu Donovan

          I don’t think she has been misquoted, I think it’s poorly written – and can understand why you’d be confused.

          The clear signal (IMO) is the part where it mentions that Mike Lee has been opposing intensification and Julie-Anne has been lobbying him with respect to this.

          She wouldn’t be lobbying him if she agreed with his position – she’s lobbying him to change his position. She’s arguing that the current plan, which is highly restrictive, doesn’t adequately reflect the views of current residents (many of whom support intensification) or future residents (who would prefer housing costs to be lower).

          • GTP

            Well your version would make sense if she was quoted as

            “She said the Unitary Plan was not representative of current residents and certainly not representative of future residents of the city.”

            instead of the quoted

            “She said the Unitary Plan process was not representative of current residents and certainly not representative of future residents of the city.”

            So either Orsman has mis-quoted her, or she needs to be more careful with what she says

          • Stu Donovan

            no I think you’re misinterpreting what Julie-Anne said, which is understandable given the article but not her fault at all. Remember: You never see what was said but not reported, and I think that is the case here.

            For example, when Julie-Anne says “process” she is probably referring to the consultation process, which we have blogged about here: http://transportblog.co.nz/2015/03/10/the-consultation-problem-who-submits-on-the-plan/

            Basically, it is really difficult to get representative views on such issues.

    • Stu Donovan

      no, my reading of this is that Julie-Anne is speaking in favour of intensification.

  • Brian

    The Council have made this unnecessarily difficult for themselves. From what I can see the zoning changes aren’t out of scope at all – they respond to a heap of general submissions saying that rezoning was necessary to provide adequate capacity for intensification. Didn’t this blog make such a submission?

    • Stu Donovan

      agree – it’s not “out of scope” and there’s no issue with “natural justice”. People like Burton are spouting nonsense.

      What has happened is that some people – like Generation Zero, this Blog, and myself – have submitted in favour of allowing intensification in some areas, while other people – like Auckland2040 – have submitted against. All the Council has done is sit down and consider these submissions and then propose changes where it considers them to be appropriate. As a result some places have been upzoned while others have been downzoned – as you would expect as more information comes to light, and more analysis is done.

      For people to say that natural justice has been violated because people haven’t had a chance to submit on Council’s proposed refinements (and they are nothing more than refinements – as the graph above makes clear) would effectively render it impossible for Council to change it’s original position in response to submissions. That seems ludicrous!

    • Matthew W

      Yes this is my thought as well. The issue is the council has explicitly called some proposed changes out of scope despite that apparently not being the case. Why did they do this? If I had made one of those submissions calling for upzoning I would feel a bit annoyed that apparently the council doesn’t consider my submission to be valid?

      • Stu Donovan

        exactly. My submission explicitly asked for more intensification, as did many, many others.

        Such changes are definitely within scope and I don’t know why anyone is pretending otherwise.

        • Frank McRae

          I think the issue is that people who are opposed to intensification are opposed to it on specific sites near them. While people who support intensification, support it in general and are more concerned with it happening than with which specific sites are intensified. I’m not sure why but council seems to have interpreted ‘scope’ based on whether specific sites have been mentioned in the submission.

          • Stu Donovan

            if true, then that’s rather odd to say the least.

          • Matthew W

            Note to self – develop a program that can generate a text document with a list of every property address in Auckland for future submissions. That wont waste anyone’s time at all!

          • Brendon Harre

            Frank there is I suspect many property owners who would support their neighbours right to intensify if they had the same rights. So there are locals who support local development. If their wasn’t we wouldn’t see infilling or intensification anywhere. But the reality is there’s a great deal of demand for intensification and many people would like to supply it.

            Kelvin down below says the biggest group of submitters for up zoning were home owners asking to up zone their properties.

            The problem is the grumpy person down the road who doesn’t have the same opportunity to develop their property and who perceives there will be a lot more noise, kids, people, traffic….. I suspect a lot of them are disaffected people who are struggling in a changing world that they feel they have little control over. Councils and local development then become easy targets for these people to vent off their frustrations. Especially if a few greedies (who fully realise that more restrictions mean their property values go up) wind them up and set them off.

        • SDW

          Although I cant recall 100%, I believe that some of the zoning changes are deemed ‘out of scope’ because a submission didn’t specifically state that 123 John Street should be upzoned (stupid yes). Those subs which asked for more general intensification weren’t really captured in specific submission points as they didn’t seek a specific change to the PAUP. This is a change from other district plan hearings where submitters typically made broad, generalised submissions to give them scope to challenge anything that could arise throughout the course of the hearings.

          The other frightening thing is that I don’t think there was any “ground truthing” of the original zoning. There are dozens of apartment buildings around coastal areas of Devonport which are zoned single house. I even identified each one in my submission that I was aware of and Council still didn’t “upzone” these in further iterations.

          • Stu Donovan

            ok, well like I said that seems bizarre.

            On the other hand, I’m sure there’s submissions which specifically request upzoning, e.g. Housing NZ.

            So the proposed changes – which are relatively minor – would seem to be “within scope”.

    • mfwic

      There is a bit more to it. Otherwise the Council could have submitted saying “make any changes to any bit of the PAUP we choose”
      I have sat through appeals on old District Plans where the Judge has asked which submission they are relying on. It needs to be specific enough that a landowner could understand you mean their place. That is why in my submission I attached a coloured up map of the area for upzoning and then described what I wanted for that area. This isn’t new to the Council and their planners do a good job of working out what is within and without scope of a submission. We can’t predict what the Panel might do but if I had to guess I think they will throw out the out of scope items that are not consequential to other changes or do not address a specific mistake.

      • GTP

        A significant amount of the out of scope upzoning appears to be where the pre 1944 protection has been removed following the full review.
        The original premise in the Notified plan of upzoning on transit corridors and around town centres and hubs seems to have gone out the window.

        Would that be considered a “consequential change” by the panel do you think?

        • mfwic

          This panel is specifically allowed to recommend out of scope changes. That have a wider power than usually exists for District Plans. So they can go with it if they choose. The only reason I am guessing they wont is each one of them is experienced at trying to deal with all sides in an even manner, then come up with a reasoned decision. If they dont have time to hear from affected people then there is a good chance they will simply say to the Council “you can do this later with a plan change”

      • Matthew W

        Saying you want more upzoning generally – how could a landowner not reasonably conclude that may apply to their property? Would a map of Auckland with highlighter over the whole thing have helped? I dont think this is a reasonable argument. If the council is basing its work on this, then it would appear it is arbitrarily ignoring submissions which could be grounds for judicial review.

        The fact is if you want more upzoning you are going to generally want it everywhere or everywhere contingent on particular attributes (unles you are a developer/investor who wants their own properties upzoned). If you are a NIMBY you are going to be most interested in particular areas near your backyard. So viewing submissions through a filter of whether they are specific to a given area or not systematically biases the whole process in favour of NIMBYs and against people who are for more intensification. If that is the case that is pretty bad.

        • mfwic

          Yes but it is tricky trying to upzone other people’s property. Normally affected people are notified and invited to make a submission. When it is done in a new plan usually there will be meetings or a mail drop so people know it is their property or their neighbour’s property. Where I live the Council sent a copy of their submission to every house prior to the end of further submissions. No one has an excuse. But relying on a submission that says it would be cool if there were some more houses might not meet the case law. Personally I think they might be two years too late.

          • Matthew W

            Given this is a new process set up by statute its not clear how much case law has to do with it. I try to avoid status quo bias fallacies and hence I am struggling to see your point.

          • mfwic

            I promise you everything is based on what came before. Even when the RMA came in the caselaw from the old acts was used for things not specifically changed. In this case they still have to follow the usual RMA processes see p3 second to last paragraph. https://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/RMA/factsheet-4.pdf That means Schedule 1 of the RMA applies unless something specifically changes it. So they report on every submission and the whole scope thing will be defined the same way. The difference is they are allowed to go beyond scope if they choose to.

          • Matthew W

            So can you point me to the case law that says you cant listen to submissions that want more upzoning? Because it seems like in some cases they have done so (e.g. the Ministry of Education).

          • mfwic

            No. The law specifically says they have to address every submission. So the can’t ignore any submission. The issue for them is whether there is a submission that specifically relates to what they are trying to do- not some vague “dude I think it would be cool if there were more houses in Auckland” The law lets them change zoning, it even lets them change zoning without the owners consent, but it doesn’t really let them do it without the owner knowing about it. (or at least there being a submission that the owner could reasonably have understood to be their property had they read it.) If you wanted to change the zoning of somebody’s property you should have drawn a map and asked for that specifically. I did.

          • Matthew W

            Whats the difference between saying all of Auckland, and drawing a map of Auckland. CORT didnt ask for upzoning on a whim, they did it because they care about people in poverty and know the effects insufficient housing supply can have on the cities poorest. They dont care where, they probably really do mean everywhere, and they shouldnt have to draw a picture to be taken seriously.

  • Brutus Iscariot

    So what’s the endgame here? Have these twats doomed the city?

    • Stu Donovan

      hard to say.

      They’ve certainly:
      – Increased risks of a property bubble undermining the NZ macro-economy
      – Contributed to a situation where interest rates are higher than they would be otherwise
      – Made it more difficult for people on low-incomes to live in Auckland, especially the young and the old (who tend to live in smaller, denser dwellings)
      – Increased the likelihood that Auckland will sprawl all the way to John Walker’s house in Bombay
      – Caused property rates to be higher than they would be otherwise
      – Undermined take-up of walking, cycling, and public transport
      – Increased existing socio-economic inequalities

      I’m not sure whether that dooms the city. When you put it in these terms it’s amazing that Auckland is doing so well.

      Let’s pat ourselves on the back.

      • SDW

        Also important to remember that the Panel can ignore Council requests for up/ down zoning. In this regard, if Councils position at the hearing is based purely on political pressure it is unlikely they can support that position with robust evidence. The issue I thinks comes back to Council in that it is their decision to confirm or alter the panel’s recommendations before the PAUP becomes operative. If Council doesn’t accept the panels recommendations then the relevant sections of the PAUP which Council doesn’t accept are opened up to appeals before the Environment Court (along with the associated costs and delays). Will be interesting to see if the likes of 2040 want to fund an environment court battle, the likes of Burton won’t really have any standing in the court to provide any actual planning evidence.

        • Stu Donovan

          that is interesting!

        • mfwic

          Yes but it isn’t clear who would have standing. The Panel isnt allowing submissions on the changes and you can only appeal if the Panel agrees with your submission and the Council refuses to confirm the Panel’s recommendation. So who could appeal?

          • mfwic

            I just found the answer to this. The Panel can make a recommendation that is outside the scope of the submissions. The Council can reject any recommendation and must put forward an alternative but that must be within scope. So if the Panel rejects and out of scope change, the Council can’t reinstate it. https://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/RMA/factsheet-4.pdf

          • Matthew W

            Well given these points aren’t really out of scope, I guess the council can if it really wanted to. The fact is it is going to be up to the panel though to decide whether they are comfortable recommending a plan that may not be consistent with the RPS.

          • SDW

            Well I would say if the IHP doesnt think certain people are party to the PAUP hearing I doubt the Enviornment Court will. The Key requirements would be a s274 (of the RMA) test, in that instance those who didnt submit in the first place couwould need to justify and prove that they have an interest greater than that of the general public and they can prove that the changes would result in adverse environmental effects to them. This would require more than unsubstantiated statements like “it will affect my prioperty values” or “three storey buildings are out of character with the neighbourhood”.

      • The endgame. Good question.

        Maybe it is the landed class levying the maximal possible “tax” on living in a house. Maximising profit when downsizing, effectively forcing someone into funding their early retirement.

        Or maybe it is indeed their personal preferences. “They [three-storey apartments] might not be very high but I wouldn’t want to live next door to one”. In other words anyone who can’t afford a mansion are Inferior and should move out of Auckland. What a way to govern a city. But according to some this is indeed how we got single house zoning in the first place.

        Or am I too cynical?

        • Stu Donovan

          Rather than greed, I think it’s more a lack of empathy.

          When people like John Walker say “I wouldn’t want to live in apartments and I definitely don’t want any near me” they are basically talking/thinking as if people who want to live in apartments are crazy and/or their views should not be respected.

          They fall for an all-too-easy but all-too-problematic psychological trait. Not only has Walker failed to identify with others (always difficult), but he has put forward his own preferences as an argument for a wider policy setting.

          ERMAHGERD JOHN NO!

          It’s the same thing you hear when people say things like “I would never catch a bus therefore we should invest all PT budget in rail”. Ignoring the reality that many people in almost every city catch buses each and every day.

          Jarrett Walker wrote a good post on this sort of thing (albeit in the context of congestion measurement) here: http://humantransit.org/2015/08/major-think-tank-implies-you-dont-exist.html

        • I don’t think it’s greed. It’s more an inability to accept change. And as we age, it seems to affect many. But this doesn’t mean we should let it guide the progress of the city.

          • TimR

            I agree. Different generations develop different shared vision and values. The post-war pavlova paradise crew don’t necessarily want to punish the next generation, but many of them don’t seem to accept that the Kiwi Dream is not one that many younger people share.

            Unfortunately tools like Euclidean zoning have tended to be used to protect certain status quo in places around the world.

            Planning as a system and profession needs to learn how to actively enable positive change, not just regulate it, IMHO. current practice is just too closely aligned to a static view of the world. It’s not really surprising that those who don’t embrace change easily are up in arms at an apparent injustice in the system, manifested towards them.

          • “The post-war pavlova paradise crew don’t necessarily want to punish the next generation”

            What can we say. Oooooooops. It was an accident. That being possible is even more scary than greed.

  • Angus Ronbertson

    Let’s acknowledge the courage of those who are willing to defend the revised Unitary Plan and see it through. It may be easy enough for the mayor who is not seeking re-election, but not easy for Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse or council members Arthur Anae, Bill Cashmore, Linda Cooper, Chris Darby, Alf Filipaina and Calum Penrose. They have kept their nerve and put the city’s housing needs before their electoral safety.

    Oh please, what courage? Great at telling other people what to do, but when it comes to their own electorate – not so much.

    Station refurbishments and a city wide rail upgrade is costing us $billions, but will provide rapid transport to Auckland. The railway stations provide ideal hubs for development and dense population growth. The Swanson railway station is the outstanding example of this, it is the only station on the new electrified line with adjacent vacant land.

    In Swanson a development is taking place on1/6th of the vacant land to add 330 new dwellings. Leaving land for another potential 1600 dwellings or even more in a rail centric village. The council PAUP response is to block these 1600 dwellings forever and make sure the land remains unproductive.

    • Sailor Boy

      You may want to look at the unitary plan maps in West Auckland before castigating those councillors. By far the densest of any ward.

    • Stu Donovan

      yeah, I feel like you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater there Angus.

      Penny Hulse has consistently spoken and voted in favour of allowing more intensification, and the west is doing more than other sub-regions to accommodate growth.

      In saying that, I’m sure there’s room for improvement – and good that you identify them. But don’t let this deny that the councillors listed above have for the most part supported intensification.

  • JBM

    These NIMBYs are exactly the reason why there is a housing crisis in Auckland. Most of the councillors are being lobbied by the NIMBY lobby groups. It’s all greed.

  • Thanks for the clarifying and very sensible explanation Mike.

    I am a fan of transit-oriented intensification. A “transport corridor” (bus route) is insufficient, and that’s a big part of the problem with the PAUP. Transit-oriented development without the transit.

    The Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy 2010-2040 sets out an excellent plan for a Rapid Transit Network, which should form the basis for intensification – especially around the RTN network nodes – as well as for greenfield expansion in the northwest.

    Auckland has an isthmus, at its heart. The transport problem is all about moving a lot of people on, off, across and around the isthmus – en masse, twice a day. Currently, only the two rail lines at New Lynn and Otahuhu do that. The RTN plan would increase the number of high-capacity access points: at Panmure, Onehunga, Avondale, and across to the North Shore.

    It’s a really, really, good plan which would give shape and support to urban and suburban intensification as well as some greenfield expansion.

    I want the government to get behind the RTN plan with funding support, and I’m making that a key plank in my campaign for the mayoralty.
    h Shore.

    • Stu Donovan

      hmmm … high frequency bus routes are capable of supporting intensification. Vancouver being a case in point.

      Don’t forget that double-deckers are currently being rolled out across Auckland = 100 passenger per vehicle * 60 veh/hour = 6,000 passengers per hour per bus-lane. That’s comparable to what the south-east rail line currently carries.

      And AT are working on plans for LRT in the isthmus to relieve bus capacity constraints if/when/where they arise. I’d say that we have all the makings of a great PT system. Yes more priority and more capacity is required: But it is coming. As others have noted this is a plan for 10+ years.

      Indeed a plan change takes 5+ years. So don’t think about the PT system we have now, even though that’s what springs to mind. Think of the PT system we’ll have post-CRL, post the New Network, and post 40km of new bus lanes.

    • Matthew W

      Why is a bus route insufficient for transit oriented development exactly David? Is it the lack of quality of the corridor (i.e. buses having to share the space with other vehicles) or what? It concerns me that you are dismissing a transport mode that is prevalent in the city and can be made to be much more efficient (by better priority, road pricing, or both) in favour of focusing on high cost rail only. I see absolutely no reason why we couldnt intensively develop down Dominion Road or Onewa Road (as two examples of frequent well used bus routes). And incremental improvements to the transport corridor need not cost the earth (i.e. it is about allocation of road space – aka paint and signs). Hence this is stuff that you as Auckland mayor could do by yourself instead of focusing on lobbying government for billions of dollars.

  • Brendon Harre

    I think that John Walker should be challenged on his lack of empathy for this statement, as Stu Donovan has commented above.

    “Why ruin the city with three-storey apartments? They might not be very high but I wouldn’t want to live next door to one.”

    If he really believed that to be true why not create a Council Rule that let neighbours decide for themselves? Allow neighbouring properties to decide if it was ok to build up three stories to their common boundary.

    That way the John Walker types who think it is the worst thing in the world can say no and the Stu Donovan types can say yes.

    I think Auckland would find a lot of property owners would actually like to live next to a three-story apartment, if they were able to build one too…..

    If the people closest to densification are not objecting -what is the problem?

  • Bruce

    Just saw a new opinion piece in the Herald promoting intensification and preserving the productive land to the South of the city (main point of it is that this land is the most productive in the country for growing vegetables – isn’t frosted like the South and isn’t hot for diseases like the North).
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11590370

    • Brutus Iscariot

      Absolutely – that’s something i rarely see mentioned, but think about every time i drive across the Bombays.

    • jezza

      I saw that too and completely agree. From memory one of the reasons Rolleston just out of Christchurch was originally promoted over 100 years ago is that it occupies relatively infertile land on the Canterbury Plains. Also one of the reasons there was a lot of infill housing on liquefaction prone land in the 1990s and 2000s was because the council was keen to maintain the urban boundary from creeping onto productive land to the South-West. I imagine there is probably significant risk to that productive land now due to the understandable concerns about building on liquefaction prone land.

  • Angus Robertson

    Nimby on Nimby action – everyone loses.

    Nimbys who want to regulate against intensification and send construction compliance costs spiralling forever upwards in one corner; nimbys who want to regulate against expansion and send construction land costs spiralling forever upwards in the other. The battle is reaching fever pitch, each side is pitching barbs at the other, engendering fear and loathing – who will win?

    Who cares? Side A and Side B both want to shove construction costs higher. Get prepared for another lost decade of dead slow construction.

  • Brutus Iscariot

    600 people (rich Eastern Suburbs residents) can ruin the futures of 1.5m. Amazing.

    • aa

      Even if they were upzoned there’s presumably nothing stopping them and their neighbours putting private covenants on their own properties to keep their street just like they are now. Of course that would knock huge value off their properties and at the end of the day I bet they’d chose the money over keeping their neighbourhoods low density.

  • kelvin

    I have actually read though the hearing logs from the independent hearing panel.

    The original submission was made by the actual home owners support the up zoning of their property.

    However the further submission is dominated by big lobby group like ‘Point Chevalier Residents Against THABs Incorporated’ who submit opposition to every single previous submission.

    Reading the submission document, you will see thousands of opposition, only made by a few noisy groups.

    Looks like the majority of actual people are hijacked by a few lobby groups.

  • Hopping mad

    This is so depressing that we are going through this biased mindless Unitary Plan campaign again. It means so many of today’s young people in Auckland will be denied the opportunity to buy an apartment and will move on. All because of mean out of touch selfish councillors who have no understanding of what a modern global city means. They are the sort of tired visionless people we thought had left the building when the super city was created.

    Extremely disappointing this is not just a right wing attack from the usual nasty people like Brewer. Cathy Casey is about as left as you can get and it’s very disappointing she is fighting it.

    But how can the Herald’s Orsman continue to once again write misleading stories to scare the rich and accompany it with graphics of frightening three storey buildings for those too old to read the words in the paper. Seriously is no one calling him to account and demanding the Herald stop their biased alarmist reporting which is all designed with an agenda to get more right councillors elected or re-elected this year. No one reads the editorials but they do notice scary headlines. We can all laugh aloud at three stories being scary stuff but it obviously does scare old people – without any proper explanation and context and without the media representing the voice of the generations that wants to live in apartments.

    The turnout of people under the age of 60 in the local body election is abysmal. I hope someone can run a campaign this year to get a) young people standing b) those people noticed through social media etc and c) those gang of ten or whatever visionless councillors get dumped.

    I trust Transport Blog which does so much in the good interests of a better Auckland plays a major part in this.

    • Kelvin

      There are plenty of anti-intensification lobby group.

      However why there is no pro-intensification group to represent the young and quiet majority?

      Why can’t the pro-intensification group gather hundreds of supporters to spook the councilors on the next meeting? Where is the leadership?

      • Peter Nunns

        Working long hours to make enough money to pay the rent, most likely.

      • Stu Donovan

        and – truth be told – the ones who aren’t too busy working are likely overseas.

        New Zealand’s tragically uncivil urban centres and high costs-of-living have done a very good job of exporting people in 20-40 year old age bracket to other countries. These are the people who might normally be expected to advocate against anti-intensification policies.

        This highlights, I think, one of the issues with an ageing population: It’s not the views of baby-boomers per se that is problematic, but the fact that the demographic imbalance tilts the policy playing field to their benefit, which in turn further exacerbate the demographic imbalance.

        And so on, and so forth

  • Jeff T

    As people move on in life they seem reasonably happy to live in intensified retirement properties, and would also like public transport available as driving becomes more difficult. This tells me that the opposition to intensification is more about fear over the effect on property values as a result of intensification.

    Time for some to think about others in the community and not just themselves. You can’t take it with you.

    John Walker, will you live in your lifestyle block the rest of your life or will you possibly live in an intensified retirement complex at some point? Like rail development in the past, (and the trams), stop being so short-sighted.

    • Stu Donovan

      good point: I can’t speak for John Walker because I don’t know him, but I suspect that most older people do not want to the middle-of-nowhere lack-of-lifestyle block to live out their twilight years? They are more likely to move to a town/city from where they can gain to access support/services.

      • Guy

        Or, Stu, what they really want to do – stay living in the same neighbourhood, in a smaller unit, with no lawns to do. That way they are still near their friends and their support network. Intensification, if done right, should offer those options for them.

        • Lindsey

          Yes, that is it. We have built monomorphic suburbs for so long that people have very few housing choices if they want to downsize but still stay in the same area. That is why you get older people rattling round in big 4br houses, complaining about the rates and the costs of maintenance on their fixed incomes. My parents in Mission Bay looked for 2 years for a townhouse to replace the family home. It took them that long because they did not want to move from their friends, their doctor etc.
          From the way people moan you would think that there were some sort of apartment police coming to force people out of the villa and onto the 14th floor! And it is not helped by inaccurate reporting and downright scaremongering. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen the words “3 or 4 story apartments” connected with the Mixed Housing Urban zone where the maximum is 3 level townhouses. No apartment blocks and no requirements for lifts.

  • mfwic

    Two emails in the inbox this morning asking me to cut and paste and forward to Councillors asking them to withdraw out of scope changes. Looks like they are getting the pressure put on them. Deservedly so. Honestly would it be so hard for the Council to do things properly?

    • Matthew W

      I have emailed the council to ask why they mistakenly labelled these areas out of scope. Will be interested to see the answer.

      • mfwic

        If you made a submission asking for the mixed housing urban zone to be extended over some particular areas you should point that out to them. The part I can’t stop chuckling about is they lobbied for a biased law to remove appeal rights and then failed to exploit a once in a generation chance to ram through the changes they wanted. Seems to me they might just have to go through a proper process. If they can’t face an appeal then perhaps they don’t deserve to make the changes.

        • Matthew W

          Apparently housing NZ have filed a complaint about out of scipe changes not actuslly being out of scope.

          • mfwic

            The HNZ note is on the AUPIHP site under topic 81 documents. Claire Kirman argues HNZ asked for upzoning of their sites plus upzoning of any others needed to avoid pocket zones. It seems to me the Panel will need to decide if things are in or out. Then if they are out they have the power to recommend them. But the Judges new clarification yesterday notes they will take into account both the need for intensification and issues like the need to hear both sides. That is why I thought they might choose to stay in scope given their deadline means they cant hear both sides. What ever they choose to do it will certainly be the most interesting part of the process so far.

  • mfwic

    The Herald has to opinion pieces in today side by side. Richard Burton http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11591279 on the left of the page and on the right side Alex Johnston http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11591278

    • Yes and Burton is disguising his NIMBY nonsense behind Oarsman-esque ‘outrage’ about supposed Council skulduggery. It hard to resist contempt building for such rampant selfishness concealed within opportunistic exaggeration… These really are nasty little people.

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