A few months ago we saw an op-ed piece from Federated Farmers supporting growing Auckland primarily through intensification rather than sprawl. While it did have a few odd comments in it, overall it was very positive however clearly driven from a fear about the loss of more prime agricultural land to development.
Since that time we have had the government make a decision regarding the RMA process that the Unitary plan will go through. The issue is that normally a plan like the Unitary Plan would take years to implement as it goes through the notification, submission, and undoubtedly appeals processes. To address this, the council has requested that the government make the unitary plan operative as soon as it is notified in September. The government has denied that and instead has set up a process to fast track some elements with some of the more controversial elements going through an EPA process which is similar to what we saw happen with Waterview.
While the EPA process will undoubtedly be faster than the status quo, the council is still pushing for the plan to become operative as soon as it is notified. This flared up again recently after housing minister Nick Smith waded into the debate threatening to bust open the urban limits as a way of addressing housing affordability. The Unitary Plan does actually propose opening up more greenfield land and so the debate between the Mayor and Nick Smith seemed to twist to whose plan would see land freed up fastest with Len Brown saying that giving the Unitary Plan legal effect when it is notified would fastest option.
Skip forward to today and it seems that the council has received some fairly strong backing for its stance from Federated Farmers.
Farmers have swung in behind Auckland’s Unitary Plan having immediate legal effect and Federated Farmers is to tell Parliament’s Local Government and Environment Committee Select Committee that tonight, when the Committee meets in Auckland to hear submissions on the Resource Management Reform Bill.
“Metropolitan Auckland’s past failures to address growth issues properly has resulted in flow-on effects for rural Auckland,” says Wendy Clark, Federated Farmers Auckland provincial president.
“Delaying the implementation of Auckland’s Unitary Plan for as much as three or four years will result in added costs for Auckland’s rural ratepayers. It will also hinder the resolution of metropolitan Auckland’s all too obvious housing issues.
“Federated Farmers generally supports the Auckland Council’s stance for when the Unitary Plan should come into effect.
“The land use rules in the Unitary Plan should have immediate effect on notification. We do not believe there should be a long delay before these rules come into effect, as is being proposed by the Government.
Perhaps even more positive are the rest of comments which are below and even include a good potential solution to the impasse that exists between the council and the Government.
“In the lead up to the release of the draft Unitary Plan we have found Auckland Council consultative and collaborative. Agreement has been reached between rural industries, environmental groups and the Council on some of the potentially “hot potato” issues for farmers.
“That is why Federated Farmers Auckland is confident that the concerns we still have will be addressed one way or the other before the Plan becomes fully operative.
“We are using our submission tonight, to highlight provisions we have concerns about especially those relating to environmental management. This is much wider than farming and could trip up Auckland’s wider economic development.
“It is not well known, but these have immediate effect on plan notification under both the Bill as promoted by the Government and under the Council’s proposal.
“One possible compromise might be for the plan to have legal effect within a fixed timeframe after it is notified; say three or perhaps six months. This would give the Council the opportunity to redress any glaring problems that might arise by way of a variation.
“But any compromise should apply to the plan as a whole and not just to the land use rules”, Wendy Clark concluded.
Good work Federated Farmers, it is pleasing to see such a major group backing the Unitary Plan and doing so in a constructive manner.
Yet interestingly at the same a group of councillors from different sides of the political spectrum have written to the Prime Minister and Environment Minister Amy Adams telling them to ignore calls for the plan to come into effect upon notification. Councillors Christine Fletcher, Sandra Coney, Mike Lee, Wayne Walker, George Wood, Dick Quax, Cameron Brewer, Sharon Stewart, Calum Penrose have all signed the letter below:
I write this email to you on behalf of a number of Auckland Councillors who are concerned that you understand that the lobbying by Auckland Council for fast tracking the draft Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP) by giving effect to the plan on notification is not the unanimous view of the Auckland Council.
There are growing numbers of councillors, across the political spectrum, welcoming the decision by Government to take time to ensure there is careful analysis and good process for the AUP, understanding that weight and credibility must be given to the hearings process over the coming three years. We agree that the hearings panel must be allowed to do its work before, not after, these massive changes take legal effect.
Given the importance and complexity of this plan, Council and Government owe it to Aucklanders to ensure the plan is both credible and deliverable. The draft plan is meeting fierce community opposition as people begin to come to grips with the detail of proposed development and the fact that there is no guarantee of essential infrastructure to support the development.
The Government is right to stand firm on its concerns that the position advocated by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Auckland Council, do not provide adequate recourse for Aucklanders to seek full and impartial review of the council plan.
The plan has been rushed to meet electoral deadlines, meaning it is ill considered and has the capacity to cause massive social disruption for generations to come if it is rammed through. As a member of the original working party on the Unitary Plan I can confirm that insufficient time was allocated to major issues. Taking a long term pro Auckland perspective it will be far better for Auckland to work with legacy council plans until such time as the AUP can be proven to be properly considered.
The Auckland Unitary Plan should not be given effect on notification.
We are very happy to supply further information if required.