Auckland Council decided yesterday to reject a staff proposal to abandon or downgrade 10 of the volcanic viewshafts around the region, as a council position in mediation at the unitary plan hearings.
The council’s Auckland development committee had before it a proposal to remove 5 viewshafts under the proposed unitary plan and to downgrade 3 others from regionally significant to a new category of locally significant. Changes to height controls would obscure 2 others.
Landscape architect Stephen Brown, who presented an expert group’s evaluation to the committee, said the evaluation of all 87 viewshafts had taken 4½ months, and the panel of experts was divided at the end of it. He said some wanted another 20 viewshafts removed from the list.
Some submitters on the proposed unitary plan – notably Housing NZ – want almost all viewshafts to go.
Expert conferencing on the viewshafts finished on Monday and the council’s plans & place general manager, John Duguid, said the next mediation stage would be on 5 April. Hearing of submissions on the viewshafts resumes on 9 May, and the panel is scheduled to release its decision in August.
Planning consultant Peter Reaburn said in his report to the committee that, last August, the committee had supported a review of the criteria in the proposed plan for regionally significant views and the development of criteria for locally significant views, and had also supported reviewing the impacts of the viewshafts on development.
Back in the Town Hall to discuss the council mediation position yesterday, there was hardly a murmur in favour of abandoning any of the viewshafts, although some were already compromised.
Instead of supporting the staff recommendations, the committee agreed to reconfirm the council’s current position on volcanic viewshafts & height-sensitive areas, with only Cllr George Wood opposing retention of one viewshaft, of Mt Eden from a point on the Southern Motorway.
The viewshafts have been in council planning documents for 40 years, preventing developments from rising within them. However, Mr Brown said some views had been obliterated, some obscured by vegetation and there was a compelling case for deleting the shaft from the motorway.
Independent Maori Statutory Board member Liane Ngamane tried to get an understanding of how Maori values were assessed – and Mr Brown said it was “a purely technical analysis”, that the expert group hadn’t been asked to “go beyond the visual” and “the focus was not on values which we didn’t have the expertise to assess”.
Ms Ngamane: “Do you accept that that may not be consistent with the Maori relationship?”
Mr Brown: “We didn’t have at that point anybody with expertise on Maori values.”
Albert-Eden Local Board chair Peter Haynes and Orakei Local Board deputy chair & mayoral candidate Mark Thomas gave brief presentations to the committee.
Mr Haynes: “What is the one physical feature that distinguishes Auckland from every other city in the world? It is located on a volcanic field. Auckland in that respect is totally unique. Calling these maunga outstanding natural features is an understatement.”
He said the nature of the evaluation was solely related to the economic value of these maunga in development terms, presenting the shafts only as a cost, and commented: “Undermining volcanic viewshafts is a very quick way of undermining pursuing United Nations natural heritage status.”
He said the new maunga authority (Tupuna Maunga o Tamaki Makaurau Authority) opposed any reduction of the viewshafts.
Mr Haynes questioned the distinction of local significance: “You either protect viewshafts or you don’t. I’ve learnt that restricted discretionary [planning status] doesn’t give you any protection at all. That’s tantamount to no protection at all and it would only be a matter of time before such viewshafts are lost.”
Link: Committee agenda
Attribution: Council committee agenda & debate.