Commissioners have approved the 300ha special housing area around Wesley College near Pukekohe, which will provide for up to 5000 homes in 10 stages. 1000 homes are proposed in the first stage.
The development will come with a local centre, a new rail station, an internal focus on getting about on foot or on bikes and a larger supply of affordable housing than the 7% required.
Most of the development will be medium-density housing, with more intensive housing, including apartments in buildings up to 4 storeys high, at the centre.
Commissioners Leigh McGregor (chair), Rebecca Skidmore, Philip Brown & Murray Kay heard the application by Grafton Downs Ltd (Wesley College Trust Board & Pact 2086 Trust) in May and released their decisions on Monday.
The land decisions are approval for a variation from the proposed Auckland unitary plan and, secondly, resource consent enabling subdivision of the site, mostly under the control of the Methodist Church, at 801 Paerata Rd, Paerata North.
The variation enables rezoning from future urban & special purpose: education to mixed housing urban & local centre. The decision will also enable up to 15,000m² total gross retail floor area and commercial services.
The college, which is been on this site since 1923, will be relocated nearby, but it intends to retain control over the development of the project throughout the 20-30 years it’s expected to take.
Wesley was in the first tranche of special housing areas approved in October 2013 under the housing accord between the Government & Auckland Council, with a small extension approved in the second tranche.
The site is large at approximately 300 hectares and is bordered by State Highway 22 (Karaka & Paerata Rds) – the main route from the Southern Motorway to Pukekohe – borders the site, and the main trunk railway line runs along its eastern boundary.
The Wesley local town centre precinct will be developed between the college buildings & State Highway 22.
One issue not resolved concerns the potential to turn Sim Rd into a more direct route to Pukekohe, knocking several minutes off the journey. The middle section is unformed and, since a bridge across the stream collapsed a few years ago, this middle segment has been used by off-road vehicles, turning it into a muddy quagmire which is virtually impassable.
Ms McGregor noted the concern of farm owners that the road would eventually be reconnected & upgraded, producing heavy traffic flows, but said: “Whether Sim Rd is reconnected depends on the outcome of the NZ Transport Agency & Auckland Transport’s long-term arterial road strategies for the area and is a matter beyond Grafton Downs’ control.”
Counsel for Grafton Downs, Sue Simons, said in hearing submissions the applicant’s design philosophy & charitable focus, together with the demographics of the area, meant affordable homes would be well in excess of the housing accord requirements.
The subdivision design also included a “floating” sub-precinct B which would allow for higher density housing around the passenger transport interchange. The site of the sub-precinct will only be determined once the location of the interchange is decided.
The applicant wanted it to have a 400m radius, but Auckland Transport suggested doubling that to 800m. However, after evidence that this would damage the integrity of the overall design, the commissioners have agreed to the 400m radius.
Lot sizes will vary from an average of 400-450m² to higher intensities of 150-300m². Applications for framework plans & subdivision to achieve those development patterns will be applied for later.
The resource consent for subdivision allows 10m-tall houses in the less intensive areas and 16.5m in the densest area.
Cycleways & narrow internal roads are proposed to create a low-speed residential environment with good amenity and to encourage walking & cycling, while at the same time having a dissuasive effect on using private vehicles for local needs. A green network of pathways will be developed along the enhanced stream edges, the transmission line corridor & neighbourhood recreation reserves. Ms Simons said the community wasn’t intended to be a “car-centric commuter town”.
Onstreet parking may be provided for in higher density areas, and one of the applicant’s background reports suggested communal parking areas might be considered at the framework plan stage.