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How Councillors voted on the Unitary Plan

At 5pm on Friday the Unitary Plan was officially notified with this notice appearing in the NZ Herald.

NZ Herald Notification notice

The documents that were made available at 5pm included the final version of the plan the Council finished agreeing to earlier in the week. Also available from then were the minutes from that council meeting and so while we wait to see if there are any appeals, I trawled through the minutes to see which way the Mayor and Councillors voted on key issues and tried to put that information into a table. This includes both votes where a division was called and the Mayor and Councillors individually stated their position and votes where the resolution was passed but someone wanted their dissent noted.

A couple on notes about the tables.

  • While most of it was fairly straight forward to follow, it can get a bit confusing when some votes are delayed or especially in the case of item 6.14.1 (which covers the zoning maps) it can be hard to follow who was at the table, who wasn’t and who couldn’t participate due to conflicts of interest.
  • I don’t intend on posting all of the results as some of them are fairly boring technical matters where everyone agreed so I’ll just focus on a few key areas. You can click on the images for a bigger version.
  • The outcomes as to whether a vote was good or bad is based on my judgment call based on what we’ve discussed in the past or the result that will make it easier to deliver more housing. On some votes you may disagree with how I’ve scored it.
  • Green = Good, Red = Bad, C = Conflict of Interest and blank means they weren’t at the table.
  • I’ve only included a small explanation of the items voted on but have also included the page number the vote appeared on in the minutes should you wish to scroll through to see more information.

First up a number of hot topics including heritage and viewshafts

Final UP - Voting Table 1

Here are some of the items related to the City Centre and business zones. We were supporters of deleting the minimum dwelling sizes so most Councillors get marked down for voting to keep them.

Final UP - Voting Table 2

And here are some of the residential zones. One odd observation is that Cameron Brewer supported keeping minimum dwelling sizes in the City Centre but opposed keeping them in the general residential zones.

Final UP - Voting Table 3

There are obviously a lot more votes and as mentioned, many are fairly boring.

One of the reasons for pulling the data together was also to see which Councillors were the most or least supportive. The graph below counts the total number of red boxes from the tables above and the rest of the results. As you can see there was clearly one Councillor whose name came up more than others. To be fair not all votes are necessarily equal, especially some of the dissents which can be for fairly minor things but I think it is interesting none the less.

Final UP - Votes Against

What do you think of the results?

43 comments to How Councillors voted on the Unitary Plan

  • Dendel

    Mike Lee, City Vision, sworn crusader against… what? Young people and poor people?

  • Dan C

    Sir John Walker, crusader for more house intensification eh? Rather contrary to his public statements that everyone should abandon urban auckland and live on lifestyle blocks.

    • Frank McRae

      John Walker doesn’t seem to have any opinion on anything and has very little interest in doing the job of councillor other than collecting the paycheck and maintaining a public profile. His voting is all over the place because he simply votes with the majority, whatever it is, every time. This voting strategy means he doesn’t have to spend any effort engaging with the issues and he never has to controversially end up on the minority side. Despite his complete lack of interest in doing his job he is running for another term as councillor.

  • RHarris

    One odd observation is that Cameron Brewer supported keeping minimum dwelling sizes in the City Centre but opposed keeping them in the general residential zones.

    Just reconfirms how clueless Brewer is. Could understand the other way around as that’s what the developers would have wanted. I guess he was comforted in knowing they would never be built in his local area but where the rifraf are.

  • Aaron

    My poor colour blind eyes are getting very confused by these charts…

  • Bruce

    Mike Lee acts like he has split personality disorder… Good for Public Transport but then undermines it by opposing the UP.

  • stu donovan

    Does the chart suggest mike lee and cathy casey are voting against housing more than other councillors? Or?

    If so the that’s a strange position for supposedly progressive councillors.

    • Dan C

      Both seem to agree strongly with the objectice of a compact affordable city, but have a narrow view of what quality housing looks like, so end up voting against things that would deliver the objective. E.g. Cathey voting against 20sqm appartments as its too small for a dog let alone a human.

    • Their constituents are self-identified lefties/greenies who have struck it rich in the property bubble and don’t want anything to mess with the goose that lays the golden eggs. There’s also an issue of anti-urban conservatism which values suburban life as an ideal and sees apartments as something that they have in other, horrible, probably Asian countries.

    • Max

      Casey, unlike Mike Lee, seems to however have voted in favour of some of the most important decisions on intensification, even though she disagreed on many of the others. I am far from fully happy with her, but she didn’t turn out to be anywhere as opposed to intensification in the votes as I had feared.

  • robert

    Did anyone actually listen to the debates. I took the time to do that ,so I could judge for myself instead of taking a predetermined position. Mike Lee and some others had valid objections to various issues and he had a different perspective which he debated well on occasion. That democracy folds and we need to have both sides of an issue rather than councillors just sitting there voting with the herd. I heard nothing from some members either for or against, so are they just going along with the majority and do not care, do they really have a handle on the issues. I am hoping so but from the debate no one would know.
    From my perspective there is a major flaw in what was passed. The first is technical. Rear lots cannot be developed if they do not have a 3.5m access strip. As most rear lots were subdivided at 3.05 m then as a result no matter how big the site only one house can be built. I alerted Penny Pirit to this as soon as the panels findings came out but officers told me they had bigger issues to sort out with councillors.
    The second flaw is the 3 + dwellings requiring resource consent ( RD ) . The big plus with the 5+ was not having to do a time consuming resource consent application $5 to 10 K and then pay Council planners to review the resource consent another $5 to 10k . Also the policy is very broad and very subjective so designers end up with a subjective argument on the merits or not of their design based on wishy washy objectives. The planners instead of putting the work into some more rules decided it was much easier to have discretion over design which is dangerous as planners are not trained in design.I actually agree with the intentions but the result will be delays and arguments over what is good design because it hasnt been well defined. Planners are at risk of bias due to their own personal perceptions of what is good design.
    I am appealing both the subdivision rule and the 3+ rule for the above reasons.

    • Dendel

      Most of us don’t have 4 spare days to listen to debates. Many of us followed them closely as much as we could. And yes, most of us have SOME predetermined opinions. It would be weird not to, after several years of discussion.

  • This is a very misleading assessment of “bad” voting and the issues up for debate in support of density done well, intensification, affordable housing and protection of special character.

    Here is a more nuanced overview of City Vision’s position
    http://cityvision.org.nz/news/auckland-unitary-plan/

    • George

      I agree Pippa, it would have been better if Matt’s assessment just showed whether or not they voted for or against (which i originally thought it was), this would have been clearer and enabled people to understand it and debate it in the comments.

    • Dendel

      I think it’s on the nose. And you always defend him, on everything. Political loyalty, I guess.

      If we had 5 or more like Mike Lee, we wouldn’t have density done well, we’d have the Auckland Museum.

    • Stu Donovan

      Hi Pippa,

      Thanks for stopping by. For what it’s worth, here’s why I am ambivalent about CityVision representatives in general, and critical of Mike Lee in particular.

      The post you link to mentions that “… City Vision has been a strong proponent of intensification, the compact city and building a liveable city all while protecting our built and natural heritage and working to secure affordable housing.” Yet, there are competing priorities in this statement, and the more important question is to what degree one objective takes precedence over the other?

      It seems to me that City Vision representatives – especially Mike Lee – have consistently voted against initiatives to supply more dwellings. Even when there is good evidence of the benefits of allowing more dwellings, and little evidence that the proposed rule will be effective at achieving the outcome that they want.

      So, as an outsider looking in I can only conclude that, for many City Vision representatives, the priorities are as follows:
      1. First and foremost protecting our built and natural heritage; and only then
      2. Allow for intensification, the compact city and building a liveable city.

      In my opinion, this is the wrong way around. Auckland faces ***urgent*** socio–economic and environmental challenges because we are building too few dwellings at too low density. In this context, rule changes that would enable more housing should be given ***the benefit of the doubt***, and prioritized over other objectives unless there is extremely good evidence to the contrary.

      To provide a case in point, Mike Lee voted against removing/relaxing minimum parking requirements. He did so on the grounds that there may be “unintended consequences”. From my reading, Mike Lee has used vague concerns about ***something*** going wrong to object to a change for which there is clear evidence of positive socio-economic and environmental benefits. This suggests to me that when push comes to shove, Mike Lee votes for rule changes that will protect existing interests while reducing the potential for intensification.

      Now Mike’s entitled to his priorities of course, but I don’t think they qualify as progressive. At all.

      It is for these reasons, and because of decisions like that on parking, that I will struggle to vote for Mike Lee.

      Go well.

      • tuktuk

        Hi Stu and Pippa
        I too tend to look at Auckland from a distance being a frequent visitor rather than permanent resident these days. A question for you.

        What does Bill Ralston stand for? He will become the new councillor should Mike Lee lose. Bill Ralston’s position on these issues becomes all the more relevant as looking in from the outside, this specific post appears to be a campaign to remove Mike Lee. Best people know what the alternative is going to be. Could Bill be persuaded to do a guest post on his views of intensification and the unitary plan?

  • George D

    What was the status of attempts to save the Ihuamatao stonefields from development?

    (Not the George above^)

  • David B.

    I think dropping out of voting because of ‘conflict of interest’ is a bit lame, considering that councillors are elected to represent their local areas rather than themselves.

    For example there’s a change to height sensitive areas in Devonport allowing 13m high buildings – now i don’t know what that’s about, or how much it really matters, but to me it’s pretty poor that Devonport’s council representative didn’t seek out local views and vote accordingly. I’d prefer a declared conflict and then a transparent representation of local views.

    • SDW

      Abstaining is precisely what they should be doing – by declaring a conflict of interest they are essentially stating they have an inherit bias towards a particular viewpoint. In terms of seeking out local views and voting accordingly how would have that added much value to anything if some wanted it (I submitted for greater intensity and height in Devonport) and others didn’t. Councillors are elected representatives, not delegates so any decision made in the context of the Unitary Plan should be those which benefit all of Auckland rather than a select few with a narrow interest on one particular element of the plan.

  • The blue graph could best be described as showing who best represented democracy, and Mike Lee clearly tops the list. His actions most closely align with the majority of public submissions and public feedback at the many meetings held. Thank goodness he’s running again this year, as politicians who push their own agendas instead of representing the people have become the norm.

    • Frank McRae

      Very true where “the people” = wealthy homeowners who don’t like change. Mike Lee represents “the people” excellently.

      • Bruce

        I normally agree with a lot of things you say Geoff but in this case I have to say I think you are wrong. Mike Lee is appealing to self-interest and to his wealthy backers in this case. Undermining the good work he did with pushing for rail for so many years.

        • Hmmm, I don’t think Mike is pandering to wealthy backers, I doubt he has many or any of these, that’s hardly his background or style, it’s more a case of:

          1. addressing current residents only (sadly this is rational as future ones don’t vote yet)
          2. appealing to the fears of the above, especially fear of change (again sadly, this seems to be a perennially successful political tactic, fear a stronger motivator for voting action it seems)
          3. persuading himself he is fighting the good fight on behalf of the little people against evil developers (is the developer providing housing really worse than greedy/fearful NIMBY preventing any being added to the market?)
          4. expressing his own personal taste for how things once (sort of) were; he is a nostalgist, personally preferring no or little change to the built environment.

          He claims to be in favour of intensification and increased density, but never misses the opportunity to vote it down and campaign against it in practice. For example, here he takes the standard double-speak ‘population problem’ approach to justifying his opposition to building anything: http://www.mikelee.co.nz/2016/05/aucklands-disproportionate-growth-not-sustainable-nor-affordable/ [here he should be calling for the sewers to be upgraded, not opposing the development]
          ie no need to try to house people because they shouldn’t be here anyway, anyone running this line is not really in favour of intensification as they see increased density and population as a problem and a curse to be wished away, in preference for accommodating these people well within existing urban areas. Here he says ‘I support intensification over suburban sprawl’ he then says he doesn’t think there should be anymore growth, as a justification to oppose increased density. Therefore, in practice, as the growth is real, forcing it out as suburban sprawl.

          I support a lot of what Mike has done over the years but this position is not tenable.

  • Graeme Easte,

    If you had followed the debate more closely you would have heard the explanation on the “small apartment rule”. 35 square metres or more is an “as of right” (permitted) limit – you CAN go below that through a discretionary consent but have to demonstrate that your proposal will deliver a liveable environment for its occupants. Thus micro houses or small apartments are not ruled out as you keep insisting but for now we now have safeguards to prevent (or at least limit the number of) nasty “shoe box” apartments such as those built down the Hobson Street/Nelson Street ridge in the 1990s and early 2000s. A majority of Councillors are well aware that small dwellings can be done well but having seen the outcome of an excessively permissive regime want to ensure that they are in fact done well rather than simply trusting to the market. Similarly with the debate about returning the limit for dwellings requiring a consent to that notified in the PAUP (i.e. 3 or more rather than 5 or more). These matters will inevitably be appealed so it will be interesting to see the response of the Environment Court next year.

    • stu donovan

      How does one demonstrate livability when there’s no evidence that 35 sqm is an appropriate minimum size for an apartment? Doesn’t the merits of the application necessarily become one subjective perspective versus another? This is my problem with minimim dwelling sizes: 1) there’s little evidence of what is/isn’t appropriate and 2) there’s little evidence that they are effective at increasing livability.

    • Nick R

      Why not have a rule banning the right to build nasty shoe boxes then, rather than banning small homes and hoping that also prevents crappy apartment design?

      FYI almost all of the apartments on Nelson-Hobson are over 30m2 anyway, a 35m2 rule would have changed nothing except reduced the yield and and supply slightly and increased the price a touch. Arguably that would have forced the developers to cut even more corners and make greater compromises.

      • Sailor Boy

        I agree, surely houses over 150 m2 should also be subjected to the same assessment to be consistent? It simply isn’t practical to clean that right?

  • Observer

    I find the good/bad categorization of the table to be both confusing and painfully reductive. Is voting to reject the deletion of the Rainbow Warrior bombing site from the heritage schedule, for example, a bad thing that impacts housing supply? It’s basically a space of open water next to what was until recently Marsden wharf. It looks like you think protecting anything at all is uncritically bad; that it’s at odds with greater housing supply/choice. This blog has been way more intelligent and nuanced than that over the past two years otherwise I would have stopped reading it long ago.

    You would have been better to simply record who voted for/against the measures. I got halfway down before I realized that a row of red squares did not mean that resolution did not pass, rather that you think its passage is a bad thing. All to “empirically” demonstrate something about Mike Lee that has been expressed far more effectively in prose.

    • Stu Donovan

      Your criticism seems somewhat unfair. More specifically, the table in the post is preceded by a series of bullet points, three of which are as follows:

      – The outcomes as to whether a vote was good or bad is based on my judgment call based on what we’ve discussed in the past or the result that will make it easier to deliver more housing. On some votes you may disagree with how I’ve scored it.
      – Green = Good, Red = Bad, C = Conflict of Interest and blank means they weren’t at the table.
      – I’ve only included a small explanation of the items voted on but have also included the page number the vote appeared on in the minutes should you wish to scroll through to see more information.

      So I don’t think that fact that you got halfway through the table before you figured out what red/green meant is relevant to the quality of Matt’s post: He was very clear about what he was doing.

      In terms of your other comments/suggestions, they seem to have more merit.

      My personal take, for what it’s worth, is that analysis of both aggregate (as per this analysis) and individual decision making is useful. From Matt’s analysis, for example, we can clearly see that Mike Lee has consistently voted in a way that reduces the housing supply compared to other councillors. This is a relative rather than absolute measure, but sill useful if you’re interested in the relative position of different councillors on housing affordability. Especially in the context of upcoming local government elections.

      Of course, it’s also important to dive into the detail of whether the individual positions adopted by Councillors are reasonable, as you suggest.

  • mfwic

    Just done my first calculation of minimum number of parking spaces required for a shopping centre. If anyone thought the old minimum parking rules were over the top you need to check out this new nonsense. Good grief! We certainly wont be putting in that number or there will be empty cycle racks blocking every path in.

  • Fight ForNZ

    Just another page of almost entirely irrelevant self-interested myopic treatment of the facts.

    You want cheaper housing that you can afford. Fair enough. But the majority of the actual public, as per the post by Geoff, opposes changing Auckland to some sort of cut-rate Hong Kong to suit what you have been somehow convinced is the only way. Love how you presume this change to be “progressive” by the way. So who’s surprised when young generations spit the dummy when they don’t get their own way?

    If you had knowledge of this city over a longer term you would know that demand is the cause. Supply is only a symptom. If you aren’t going to put any effort into the fixing the cause then you are just destroying the quality of life in Auckland and solving nothing. And Mike Lee, being substantially older and wiser than yourselves, knows it.

  • simon

    how does a detached minor dwelling of 58.5sqmt with 3 bedrooms sound on a residential site in upper harbor ward. building on boundary 1200mm from our fence line. what planners can allow now and we cant do much to stop the consented shoe box happening further.

    • Dan C

      If you don’t want the neighbouring property to be built on, then you should have purchased it. Im sure someone was disappointed your house built once upon a time.

    • BBC

      58.5m2 isn’t a shoe box, that term was used for apartments that averaged around 15m2. What you’re describing sounds like a perfectly reasonable use of the land, and along with shoe boxes provides choice in the market – there are plenty of people finding either desirable.

    • It sounds like mind your own business and stop trying to stop people from building an affordable house on their own property to live in.

      I live in a three bedroom house thats only about that size, and it does me and my family very well thank you. If you are trying to say I have to spend more on a bigger house and wasted land for a lawn I dont want, then refer to my first point.

      If you want open space and acres between you and your neighbours, go live on a hobby farm, don’t expect to stop your neighbours living on their property!

    • Sailor Boy

      It sounds like the sort of house I want to move into when I come back to Auckland.

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