By Gareth Vaughan
Auckland's Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse says Aucklanders want planned and progressive development, not a smashing of the city's metropolitan urban limit as sought by the central government, to meet the SuperCity's housing and population growth demands.
Hulse spoke to interest.co.nz at the launch of the council's draft Unitary Plan, which as Hulse puts it is the rule book explaining to Aucklanders what they can and can't do on their property. She said it also sets out how Auckland will accommodate the extra million people it's forecast to get over the next 30 years.
The launch of the plan comes as the difference of opinion between central government and local government on how to tackle housing affordability in Auckland grows. Housing Minister Nick Smith said this week Auckland needs double the supply of land for housing to meet the council’s own targets.
Hulse said the council had taken a deep breath and reminded Smith the work in the Unitary Plan was exactly what he's asking for.
"To look at how much we can plan to build outside what were the old metropolitan urban limits and that's why we've developed the rural-urban boundary, the RUB," said Hulse. "And this carefully sets out land that's going to be released in a planned way over the next 30 years."
"We're looking at really ramping up the amount of green field land that's available, but we're not doing it in a random, scatter gun approach. We're looking at the kind of infrastructure that needs to be developed, we're making sure that we protect our really vibrant agricultural industries that are out there in our green fields areas," she said.
'The Minister might not have understood'
Smith also recently said Auckland's metropolitan urban limit is a stranglehold that needs to be "smashed" if houses are to be made affordable for families in the city. But Hulse argues this wouldn't achieve what he wants to achieve.
"The Minister might not quite have understood clearly the planning that's needed to do this and by smashing the metropolitan urban limit, that's not the way you actually achieve what he's desiring. Planned and progressive development within that rural-urban boundary is what our community has asked for."
Hulse said Auckland Council's plan is to make green fields land available in a planned way over the next 30 years.
"We're certainly looking at a satellite town down in Pukekohe, so that extends the size of Pukekohe, we're looking up in Warkworth. It'll grow a little bit. Silverdale, out in Kumeu/Huapai, there'll be some development out there and down in the Franklin area. But these are really delicate discussions to have with our community," said Hulse.
"But we're certainly looking at making sure that land is available in a planned way over the next 30 years in these areas."
The council wants 60% of development within the current urban area and 40% outside in the RUB. Hulse said the council was opposed to the "random release of land" without proper planning.
"It's just as complex planning on the fringes as it is with intensification. We also need schools and community facilities otherwise we repeat the old mistakes of the past in the 70s where Auckland was allowed to sprawl, no libraries were built, no community facilities, no schools were planned and these communities were left stranded and we're now picking up the cost."
Although the Unitary Plan isn't specifically directed at Auckland housing affordability issues, the council's housing affordability strategy is, it will clearly have a major impact on housing in and around Auckland.
"We've got a housing shortage in Auckland at the moment and to accommodate the extra million people that will be coming into Auckland in the next 30 years we need 400,000 new dwellings. So roughly do the maths, we need about 10,000 new dwellings a year," said Hulse. "Currently we're certainly not providing that amount of dwellings and that's for a range of reasons. But we're looking at addressing that imbalance and buildings being built within the metropolitan urban limit and outside in the rural-urban boundary."
Last year Auckland Council consented just 4,581 residential dwellings. Of these 3,930 were houses and 651 apartments.
'Only 10% of the Auckland region is going to be allowed to have apartments'
The Unitary Plan also proposes allowing 18 storey apartment blocks in what are considered to be metropolitan centres such as Albany, Henderson, Manukau, and New Lynn. It also proposes eight, six or four story apartments in town centres such as Avondale, Milford, Onehunga, Glen Eden, Papatoetoe, Devonport, Mt Albert, and Warkworth. There has been much kerfuffle about the prospect of Auckland becoming dominated by high rises, something that clearly irks Hulse.
"The last thing we want to do is turn Auckland into a suburban jungle," she said. "Only 10% of the whole Auckland region is actually going to be even allowed to have apartments."
"At the moment places like Takapuna, New Lynn actually have no height limits so we're actually imposing height limits in these areas," Hulse added. "And what's more you won't have apartment buildings being built right next to stand alone houses. The Unitary Plan simply won't let that happen."
And the so-called metropolitan centres, where it's proposed to allow 18 story apartments, are either on railways or good transportation corridors and already have some high density, she said.
Asked which other cities the Auckland Council had turned to for tips on urban planning, Pulse said Vancouver was one, and Cape Town's waterfront was another. They'd also looked at what has worked in Britain in terms of the regeneration of older areas. The council wasn't however, simply looking to mimic other cities as it was keen not to lose Auckland's "own vibe."