Auckland Council staff suggest Councillors reject 14 recommendations made by the expert hearings panel on the Unitary Plan

Auckland Council staff suggest Councillors reject 14 recommendations made by the expert hearings panel on the Unitary Plan

Auckland Council staff are suggesting Councillors reject recommendations from a Government-appointed panel to remove minimum apartment size restrictions in the Unitary Plan. Instead, council staff want some rules around minimum size to be included in the plan.

Council staff have made this call in a 618-page Auckland Development Committee agenda released on Monday afternoon, which includes their critiques of how the Independent Hearings Panel wants the city's blueprint to look.

Councillors will use this report as a reference, as they work to deliver a finalised Unitary Plan by August 19.

The Panel's proposed Unitary Plan, released on July 27, creates capacity for twice as many new dwellings to be built in Auckland than the Council made possible in its proposed plan.

Yet Council staff have identified 14 major Panel recommendations they disagree with, so have provided alternatives for.

Some of these include recommendations to:

  • Delete the minimum dwelling size standard in the CDB, business zones and residential zones.

Council staff say the Building Act doesn’t address the social or design quality effects of small dwellings, so these need to be managed in the plan.

“Intensive living environments require internal living spaces which are functional and which provide for amenity to meet the day-to-day needs of residents," they say.

“This will assist to maintain the social wellbeing of the community, support social cohesion and thereby support further intensification within urban environments as these areas become desirable places to live.”

  • Amend the threshold for requiring resource consent from three or more dwellings to five or more dwellings in the Mixed Housing Suburban and Mixed Housing Urban zones.

Council staff say there’s a risk that permitting four dwellings without resources consent will result in “poor design outcomes”. This could essentially see complexes built with large blank walls facing the street or neighbouring properties, sunlight being blocked or privacy being compromised for example.

Staff say submitters including Housing NZ, Property Council, Fletcher Residential and Ockham Developments have supported the two dwelling permitted threshold.

  • Delete objectives and policies that focus growth within the existing metropolitan area.

Council staff say this would mean there is little or no guidance for where future growth should be enabled and encouraged.

“Focusing intensification within the existing urban area delivers the benefits of a quality compact urban form, which include better public transport, proximity to amenity and services, efficient infrastructure servicing, environmental protection and a reduced carbon footprint,” they say.

  • Delete some of the rules around rural subdivisions that ensure developments aren’t “inappropriate”. Include rules that enable “sporadic and scattered rural subdivision.

Council staff say this doesn’t support the concept of the “compact city” that protects the retention of rural areas. They maintain this deletion will see the “proliferation of rural-residential lots across the production focussed rural zones”. This could see productive land and rural character lost. It could also put pressure on amenities and infrastructure in remote places.

  • Include a provision that allows for minimal environmental benefits to be accepted in exchange for rural-residential subdivision.

Council staff say this could see a spike in the number of rural-residential lots.

  • Amend the policy that guides the location of the Rural Urban Boundary.

Council staff say: “The recommended policy does not include either providing a quality compact urban form or the importance of land use and transport integration.”

  • Amend height and gross floor area controls in the Wynyard Precinct.

Council staff say this will reduce the development potential of Wynyard Precinct - in particular sites fronting Jellicoe Street.

  • Delete the pre-1940 building demolition control from the Queen Street Valley Precinct.

Council staff say this control is key to buildings maintaining their special character.

  • Delete the Sites and Places of Value to the Mana Whenua overlay.

Council staff want to see this reinstated. They believe removing this protection will cause “ongoing loss and degradation” of the 2213 sites that have been identified as being significant to Maori.  

They also reject the Panel’s recommendations which remove the Rural Urban Boundary at Crater Hill and the Pukaki Peninsula in South Auckland.

Council staff have highlighted nine recommendations, they accept, even though they represent a policy shift from Council’s position.

They have also identified 17 recommendations from the Council’s proposed plan, which the Panel have adopted.

A Council spokesperson says Council staff didn't do capacity modelling as a part of their report, so they can't put a figure on how their recommendations will see the capacity for new builds differ from the 422,000 made possible by the Panel's recommendations. 

The spokesperson does however believe Council staff recommendations "do not largely impact on the spatial application of the zones and therefore should not have a significant impact on the capacity created in the Panel’s recommended version of the Plan".

Councillors will start a series of meetings on Wednesday to decide whether to accept or reject the Panel's recommendations.

They have until August 19 to make a decision, bringing the five-year process of developing a Unitary Plan to an end.

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It will be interesting to see whether the Council objections are logical and soundly based, or are Nimbyism in disguise; and whether their own recommendations are workable to achieve some extra housing options. Perhaps they are protecting the Council infrastructure funding obligations, where they could end up calling the government's bluff? If so, that would not be entirely unreasonable.
Will be interesting to watch.

The elected members of Auckland Council would be wise to kick this staff opinion into touch ASAP or risk the inside of a courtroom or the government's wrath or both.

None - and I mean none - of the recommendations outlined here can be found in the RMA. The RMA does not care specifically about apartment construction, global warming, energy efficiency, public transport. It exists to promote the sustainable management of physical and natural resources (RMA s5). The section goes on to say that people and communities can go wherever they want to achieve "well-being" as long as the principles of sustainable management are upheld.

Auckland Council staff have a very high bar to clear to prove that their version of planning delivers optimal outcomes for the whole community. In fact most of the "facts" that are quoted in this article will not have any scientific evidence to support them (peer-reviewed research that has been replicated). They are not science they are articles of faith.

Which brings me to the biggest problem with this process: the staff report almost certainly breaks the Local Government Act which requires significant council decisions to explore all options. LGA s 77 (1):

A local authority must, in the course of the decision-making process,—
(a) seek to identify all reasonably practicable options for the achievement of the objective of a decision; and
(b) assess the options in terms of their advantages and disadvantages;

I would hope that the 18,000 words contained in this staff report would, indeed, seek to map out objectively what the outcome is likely to be of substituting their preferred rules in place of the IHP's and proving that their version is more in line with community wishes than the IHP's version.

But I would be surprised if this report clears that bar. If it doesn't any Auckland resident could apply for a judicial review of any Council decision to accept these recommendations.

Let it go, Councillors, let it go.

The first tiny steps are being made to solving this giant 900 pound cerise gorilla of a problem. Can the ACC balls it up? Of course they can. What gorilla?

Latest poll results shows what is known to all that national will go out and even in the article belows John Key admits housing is a issue but also says that kiwi knows that supply is a problem and we are trying to solve but infact by saying so he is trying to convince himeself that all kiwi have fallen for their lie that supply is the only cause of current housing crisis and not demand and not foreign buyer

Denial mode continues not only with people but also to self -not realising that telling lie 100 time will not become truth.

Soon will admit as the noose is tightening.............

AMAM The latest poll results show National with over 50% support, what planet do you live on ?

Amam we do not need data as can see the writing on the wall that national party is out in next election wheter some likes it or not.

Pride and excess bring disastor for man and leads to downfall and no can run away from it as is universal truth.

Correct 12000 Pride comes before fall.

Data too can be maipulated by people specially those who are intoxicated with power.

Like #brexit - #jkexit will happen.

Common sense good stuff. Minimum apartment sizes are there for a reason. If we want people in cages let's make sure the cages are of decent size.

The council policies are causing the very sized apartments they now want to limit.

The density they fear is driven because people can only afford to buy that size rather than buying because that is what they want.

Anyone supporting the ACC so far has achieved an increase on homelessness, people living in garages, cars, houses rented by the bed, and hot bedding.

And if it is cages you want

We have already seen apartments being further subdivided into smaller rooms like this:

A look at what is to come for Auckland if you keep following ACC ideology.

That's some scary friken links you got going on there. I see the appeal of new zealand with fresh eyes.
That's just wrong in every sense of the word. Makes our shoebox apartments look like manors and mansions.
President of Property

I think that the tiny apartments are meeting a market demand - which includes students which is a large part of the immigration pattern, and workers who are in the cbd for the week and elsewhere for the weekend. I think attempts to set minimum sizes can just result in many people in an apartment.

Basically the council are saying they want a compact city which means controlling (read not allowing) any growth in the RUB area. What this means is continuing high house prices and smaller dwellings, poorly built. ie much of the same.

I think they are guessing that National won't step in as they said they would as it is too close to the election.

But to achieve affordable housing, someone will have to.

Clearly, the imminent prospect (for the Plannerista) of being thrown under the bus, to surface as floor workers in factories producing small, cheap, warm homes at the rate of dozens per day, has, shall we say, focussed their minds.

Because, and equally as obviously, they suffer from the classic Planners' Delusion: that producing pretty artist's impressions of "quality compact urban form" and building it into Plans, will lead to aforesaid 'Form' being realised.

Hausmann, they ain't.

What Will produce small, cheap, warm dwellings fast, at least for some market segments is the bleedingly obvious:

  • Using different materials and construction methods, so as to avoid the Cosy Materials Duopoly, and the archaic stick-at-a-time construction methodology.
  • Incentives for factories to actually produce the small, warm, cheap, homes fast, like substantial social-housing contracts and Planner re-training (Re-Education camps?) for initial factory-floor staffing.
  • Some way of getting greenfield land plots at close to rural-land-value. Recall that at $50K/ha, allowing 33% to roads, reserves etc, land price per 600sq plot is $4,600. If this takes a UDA or other hands-on, property-rights-trashing action, then so be it. The alternative is to grant tax-free unearned Planner Gain to the lucky re-zoned properties....Because, as Hugh P was wont to say, 'if the land price is wrong, so is everything on top',

To meet those bullet points needs building code changes to assist cheaper construction methodologies. At the moment trying to build cheap residential going up requires tough structural and fire rating requirements. It's hard to build cheap without building code changes, or a technological leap forward (it's not going to happen with some R&D which no one wants to invest in).

In the current environment the way large councils behave is as if they hate the community. There seem to be some serious problems that need to be resolved with internal conflicts.

Absolutely agree, but end-running the present failed model, from land shenanigans, to crazy codes, to incumbent inertia, is what's needed.

Not mo' Brit Planner shtick (motto: 'We finish what the Luftwaffe Started')

Ive done my uninformed best to chew the city planners response and i think it is control, control, control.
Organic growth is anathema.
Its hard to believe london would be as as charming if it had 2000 years of town planners.

Council should not bow to the government pressure but should do what is good for Auckland and NZ. let us not forget that so called experts who prepared the Unitary plan were hired by the government to cover up their agenda of protecting Overseas buyer.

Unitary plan may be good but everyone knows that the problem could be helped by controlling overseas buyer along with other measures taken by RBNZ and Council but NO MEASURE by government to control foreign / non resident buyer will not help whatever one may do.

Why the denial as will have to come to table sooner than later than why not now or may be giving as much time as possible to their Asian friends.

Man, are we normal folk ever sick of hearing about silly Aucklanders' houses. Believe me, this matter will be overtaken by events and sorted out long before this "plan" ever operates.

Do the council staff say how many dwellings can be built if all their recommendations are followed?

Good question. I haven't been able to find this figure by scouring the report. But being 618 pages long, I may have missed it, so have made an inquiry with the Council. Will let you know when I hear back. 

Good work Jenêe

I have a response from Auckland Council. A spokesperson says Council staff didn't do capacity modelling as a part of the report they put in the agenda released on Monday, so they can't put a figure on how their recommendations will see the capacity for new builds differ from the 422,000 made possible by the Panel's recommendations. 

The spokesperson does however believe Council staffs' recommendations "do not largely impact on the spatial application of the zones and therefore should not have a significant impact on the capacity created in the Panel’s recommended version of the Plan".

The spokesperson says Council staff didn't do capacity model, but BELIEVE recommendations do not largely (so do believe some impact) impact etc.

There is a fine line between believe/faith and blind faith.

Once the ideology has been set, no further evidence is needed to support any decision they make.

Whatever they believe, the evidence shows world record house price rises, home ownership rates falling,FHB shut out of the housing market, homelessness, people sleeping in cars, hot bedding etc, all under their watch.

If the ACC recommendations come with adequate alternate propositions, great, if they're just objections because "we wanna have a say too" it's terrible. Let's get over our egos and go ahead with "a" Plan. Any Plan will be better than the status Quo

I support the council to not be bullied by the government into allowing development where their voters don't want it. The council are there to represent their voters. We call it democracy.
The Council did not ask for unrestricted population growth and so far are the only organization resisting our immigration policies.
The Council have made it 100% clear that they don't have the money to provide infrastructure for all these people.
Auckland is already damaged by unplanned population growth. Turn the immigration tap off so the cities infrastructure can catch up. This will already cost billions on billions as it is.
Do not continue with a failed policy that is destroying a cities quality of life and mortgaging the nation with a dept of now much needed infrastructure.

There needs to be a minimum apartment size. When you walk into one and its like a hotel room its a problem. Why is it they can build decent sized ones overseas and all we have is shoe boxes ? They tried all that in the UK 30 years ago, they are all now empty and being demolished as they turned into slums full of people with problems due to them living like battery hens. We sure are slow learners over here, ignoring the lessons already found out the hard way.

It will be interesting to see who runs Auckland. The council staff or the elected representatives.