It’s nearly two weeks since the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) recommendations on the Unitary Plan were revealed. Tomorrow the council start a week and a half of likely quite tedious deliberations and formal decisions on those recommendations. A quick reminder about the implication of the Council’s different decisions:
- If the Council approves an IHP recommendation (and as long as that recommendation was not out of scope) then it becomes part of the Unitary Plan and can only be appealed on points of law to the High Court.
- If the Council rejects an IHP recommendation, it must suggest an alternative which becomes part of the Unitary Plan. However, any relevant submitter can appeal the Council’s decision to the Environment Court.
So there’s quite a big incentive for the Council to accept the IHP’s recommendations as this is the fastest and easiest way to make the Unitary Plan operative.
Therefore, it is a bit surprising to read in the upcoming (massive 618 page) agenda item for the Council’s decision on the Unitary Plan, quite a number of the IHP recommendations are proposed to be rejected by Council staff. Here’s a summary, although you have to read through the whole massive agenda to see what the exact issues where rejection is proposed:
Some of the major IHP recommendations Council staff propose rejecting are:
- Removal of schedule of Maori heritage items
- Loosening of rural subdivision controls
- Loosening the language around ensuring land-use transport integration
- Removing reference to the Auckland Plan’s “70/40” growth split between brownfield and greenfield growth
- Loosening of where commercial growth can occur
- Removing a precinct plan from locations like Wynyard Quarter and Takapuna that would have reduced the amount of development allowed there
- Removing minimum dwelling sizes
- Imposing a height in relation to boundary to the Mixed Use zone
- Removing a mandatory consenting requirement for fewer than five dwellings (up from three in the notified plan)
- Zoning Crater Hill (near the Airport) for development
- A lack of more detailed transport requirements linked to live-zoning Redhills near Westgate and Wainui near Silverdale
- A graduated approach to parking maximums in the city centre
There are also a whole pile of more detailed “technical” issues where the Council proposes rejecting some or all of the IHP recommendation to fix up minor issues, errors or to provide greater clarification.
It’s also interesting to see what the staff recommend accepting:
- Removing the Pre-1944 Building Demolition Control
- Shifting the Rural Urban Boundary to the District Plan – the “soft RUB” that can be changed through private plan changes
- The stupid IHP recommendation of applying parking minimums in centres for retail and other business activities
- Removing a requirement to provide a proportion of affordable housing as part of a new development
- Removing a number of urban design controls and requirements
- The zoning maps (aside from a few very minor changes in rural areas)
All together, if the councillors agree with all the areas where rejection is proposed there’s a pretty large number of provisions that could end up being appealed to the environment court – making it difficult for the Unitary Plan to become properly operative. That’s not to suggest the council staff don’t have a point – in a number of situations they do.
Probably the two most disappointing suggested rejections are related to minimum dwelling sizes and mandatory consenting requirements for fewer than five dwellings. Both of these rejections seem based more on illogical fears of intensification, rather than actual evidence and could make it much more difficult to provide the variety of new housing that Auckland needs. My guess is that with council officers making these particular recommendations, that councillors will jump on the opportunity to wind some aspects like these back.
The Council meeting starts on tomorrow and could go for some time…