Archive | Land use

Rodney releases new district plan

Absent plan change 62 holds up some innovation

Rodney’s new district plan is out but plan change 62, the section that will dictate the price of developing in the district, remains unresolved.

The proposed district plan will be open to submissions until 19 April 2001.

Among its more important proposals for business and property interests:

In business, a centres-based approach has been taken. There are three business zones — retail service, mixed business and industrial.

For rural subdivision, new terms — environmental enhancement and enhancement planting — will undoubtedly play a significant role. They go well beyond the previous standard of protecting native bush or covenanting areas in return for limited subdivision. Farm parks are a recognised category.

Among the residential zones, a landscape protection zone places limits on low-density residential and the intensity of nonresidential development, and encourages clusters. Medium-density (standard) residential has a minimum lot size of 600m², but also allows more intensive integrated residential developments. In high-intensity residential, the minimum lot size is 275m² unless the subdivision is part of an integrated development, ij which case there is no minimum.Plan change 62

Grant Kirby (right), who took over as commissioner in April when the councillors who hadn’t already resigned were suspended, says plan change 62 is headed back to the Environment Court for resolution.

The plan change was a Sharplin idea, envisaged as a national blueprint for exacting financial contributions from developers (including one-off changes to your own property) to pay for council-provided services and infrastructure.

The author of this plan, district general manager Brian Sharplin, quit soon after Mr Kirby’s arrival and other faces on the council’s side of the negotiating table have also changed many times since the plan change was notified in 1996.

A memorandum of understanding was signed in May last year and one of the developers involved in the negotiations, Leigh Hopper, said the parties needed to get back round the table again to resolve the change in terms of that memo.

Trouble is, Mr Kirby walked out on the negotiations, favouring court-ordered resolution, which is something the Environment Court has been steadfastly trying to avoid.

Formula the key

Mr Hopper (left) said the key issue was the allocation-of-cost methodology system, a formula for pricing contributions.

The developer side leans towards the view that who benefits, pays. The council wants the formula based on the principle that the exacerbator pays.

The definition was more towards the beneficiary paying, but the developers also said they needed ±10% accuracy, and that requires a better council database.

Plan change 62, although not in force, has been the basis of agreed financial contributions for several months and was the basis for “voluntary” contributions for some time before that.

But if the developers win a lower-priced contributions formula, the council’s long-term financial strategy rate and loan differential will be out of kilter. “Are they going to borrow more for it, go back to the rates or review the long-term financial strategy?” Mr Hopper asked.

Several plan provisions held up

Several provisions of the proposed district plan will not be put into effect until the council has operative financial contribution rules prepared under the Resource Management Act.

The excluded provisions — policies, rules and assessment criteria — are outlined in section 22.17 of the new plan. The growth-related activities provided for under these suspended provisions will be non-complying activities in the meantime.

The council has retained the excluded parts in the proposed plan to indicate clearly its proposed direction once plan change 62 is operative. They are set out in a schedule in section 22.17.

Rules affected by the exclusion schedule are in chapters 7 (rural), 8 (residential), 9 (business) and 13 (future development and structure plans.

A variation to the proposed plan will be introduced once plan change 62 becomes operative. Future zonings for more intensive development, also shown in section 22.17, will also be notified through a variation. They’re shown at the moment as a set of maps in schedule B of that section.

These future-intensification sites are at Wellsford, Warkworth, Snells Beach, Orewa, Silverdale, Helensville, Waimauku and Huapai.

Business chapter

In business zoning, the approach is for minimal intervention by the council, but with an eye on enabling town centres to retain their role as community focal points.

The retail service zone is the general category for town centres. Following on from the height and density options discussion paper for Orewa, an Orewa town centre policy area has been identified, allowing buildings up to 30m.

In the retail service zone, any retailing is allowed. In the mixed business zone, shops above 600m² would be restricted discretionary activities, to stop large-format retail undermining the ability of town centres to act as community focal points.

In the industrial zone, there are controls on activities involving gatherings of people, which put undue pressure on core industrial activities to achieve higher environmental standards than would normally be expected in the zone.

Rural subdivision

In the rural chapter, the council has retained its countryside living zones but changed several other definitions.

One category enables subdivision for legally and physically protecting significant natural areas.

Under significant enhancement planting, and also for significant land rehabilitation one rural residential site is allowed for every 6ha planted and protected, or permanently retired and protected.

The first of those two categories, enhancement planting, reads at first glance like it would have avoided five years of litigation for a property such as Ian Gillespie’s Pakiri subdivision. Its introduction may bring a quick end to that litigation, now headed for the Court of Appeal.

Under the farm park category, residential sites up to 4000m² can be dispersed around a farm, which is described as “a form of land-based production activity such as agriculture, horticulture and grape growing.” The minimum site size is 80ha and one residential site is permitted for every 8ha of parent site.

A category is provided enabling subdivision of sites on Maori freehold land, as defined in the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993, so individuals can create sites on communally owned Maori land.

The landscape protection residential zone contains areas of greater significance than the low intensity area, such as such as significant native bush or sensitive ridgelines, and will encourage clustering of development so large areas remain without buildings. Minimum subdivision site sizes vary from 4000-8000m².

The Rodney District Council has had a website for only a few months (External links/Local government/Rodney District Council) and it contains little information, but communications officer Carolyn Howden said yesterday the whole of the wording of the new district plan would be placed on the site. Maps will not be on the site, however.

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Eastern expressway in 5 years is plan

Completing core network in 7 years is second target

The Eastdor Consultants consortium has recommended a 4-lane expressway with 2 dedicated rapid transit lanes for the eastern corridor between Botany Downs in Manukau City and Auckland’s central business district.

The expressway would pass through Pakuranga, Panmure, St Johns, Meadowbank & Orakei. It would have a lane each way for general traffic, another lane each way for rapid transit, a combined walkway & cycleway, and retain the existing rail line for freight & passenger services.

The consortium of specialist engineers, planners, strategists, social scientist & landscape designers produced its findings to Auckland City Council’s transport committee yesterday.

Its proposal aims to ease local traffic & access, also ease gridlock on the Southern Motorway, and leave flexibility for siting a third harbour crossing.

The study found public transport should be greatly improved, but that wouldn’t address all the issues.

The expressway would be developed as a “greenway” — landscaped & planted to enhance the areas it passes through. It will now be considered by transport committees of both Auckland and Manukau.

Initial feedback date 4 October

Feedback on the recommendations from stakeholders & interested parties will close on 4 October. Auckland City’s transport committee will consider feedback and make a recommendation on the next stage of the process in late October.

The expressway would run parallel to the railway line south from Morrin Rd, follow Waipuna Rd and join the SEART (the South-Eastern Arterial Route).

It would then go on to Ti Rakau Drive, which would be upgraded to 6 lanes and an 8m rapid transit corridor as far as Botany Downs, where it would join the East Tamaki Corridor.

An expressway has a lower design speed, more design flexibility & a narrower “footprint” than a motorway. It also allows for all types of transport.

Scythe along Ti Rakau Drive

It would require significant land purchases along Ti Rakau Drive and raises questions of how Hobson Bay is crossed and how the expressway would pass through Purewa Creek, particularly near the Meadowbank station.

Among benefits, access would be improved to employment in the cbd, Glen Innes, East Tamaki & Manukau Central-Wiri, and the Glen Innes & Panmure shopping centres would become more attractive.

It would provide traffic-calming measures in residential streets such as Tripoli Rd, Apirana Ave, Erima & Elstree Sts, and would enable development of a recreational precinct on Lagoon Drive, enhance the links of Panmure to Maungarei (Mt Wellington) and increase the availability of Tamaki Drive as a recreational facility through traffic reduction.

Auckland mayor John Banks & Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis said they had a 5-year completion target and would build a joint-venture team to work on the corridor project.

They want Auckland’s core transport network completed in 7 years. Other aspects will be to speed up completion of the western bypass, upgrade spaghetti junction links to the Port, downtown, Auckland hospital and universities, extend heavy rail into Britomart & Manukau City Centre, double track the rail line to Waitakere City, upgrade stations and improve security & access, upgrade ferry & bus services, complete the North Shore-Auckland rapid busway, and provide a co-ordinated regional traffic management system.

The Eastdor strategy study will be posted on both councils’ websites next week at Auckland eastern corridor page and Manukau

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July consent level slips 4%

Auckland takes a breather

New residential building consents slipped 4.3% in July compared to July 2002 – from 2738 consents to 2621, mostly resulting from a big decline in Auckland – but the annual consent level remains 23% above the previous year at 28,951 consents.

Consents for the whole Auckland region fell 22.5%, by 290 to 1001, but the region still represented 38% of all residential consents for the month.

Within the Auckland region, Auckland City consents fell 38.5% to 283, Manukau rose 34.5% to 320, North Shore fell 50.5% to 90, Waitakere fell 41% to 117, Franklin District rose 46% to 54, Papakura was steady on 39 consents and Rodney fell 25.4% to 106.

While Auckland took a breather, most other regions experienced surges in consent levels. Northland consents rose 19% to 112, Waikato 44% to 296, Gisborne 33% to 12, Hawke’s Bay 49% to 82, Taranaki 35% to 27, Tasman 22% to 55, Nelson 36% to 28, Marlborough 29% to 36, West Coast 280% to 19, Otago 35% to 123 and Southland 38% to 29.

Consent numbers in Wellington declined by 29% to 196, and in Canterbury rose by 13% to 381.

The apartment sector remained strong, with 273 consents for the month at an average $97,802. The annual tally for apartments is 5556 at an average $85,151, up 52% in number on the previous year.

Excluding apartments, Statistics NZ said the 2348 residential consents was the highest monthly figure since this statistical series began in 1990.

Building costs, average home area & average consent value all rose in July compared to July 2002, but in an annual comparison the average area was smaller.

For the month, the average building cost rose 4% to $914.09/m², average area rose 14% to 197.63m² and average value rose 18.5% to $180,656 (excluding land cost).

For the July year, the average building cost rose 6.3% to $931.97/m², average area fell 3.1% to 178.47m² and average value rose 3% to $166,333.

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Planning staff moves

Council rejig
Auckland City Council’s city planning manager, Janine Bell, has taken over transport planning for 12 months, Marilyn Dodds has been made acting manager of the central area team and Karen Bell is acting manager of city planning. Along with those changes in supervisory roles, numerous other shuffles have been made over the summer in the city planning structure and in staff placement.

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Chancery proves a winner

Botany shares retail property award

The first stages of the Chancery development in downtown Auckland won the Property Council’s supreme award on Friday night, heading off the challenge of AMP’s Botany town centre.

Both developments won excellence awards in the retail property sector.

The Property Council awards are unusual in that more than 1 excellence or merit award may be given — or none, as also happened this year.

Chancery as it stands now is a far cry from the 3-tower monster planned by NZI in the 80s. The upper parking garage for the NZI structure was completed, and Chancery’s directors discovered when they bought the site that the connection was in place to underground parking on the side facing Freyberg Place.

First development in Chancery was of upmarket fashion retail, with boutique offices above, and more office space in the building facing Bacons Lane. Highrise potential remains on the top part of the site.

The development by Chancery Ltd (Brian Mead & Richard Kroon) has only 9494m² of net lettable area, less than half of it retail, but in a form which has brought new life to the High St precinct, though its success hasn’t yet rubbed off on the neighbours at the Metropolis, across Courthouse Lane.

Helped secure Multiplex’s place

One element of success which did rub off, in the opposite direction, was for the building contractor. Australian construction giant Multiplex entered New Zealand on the Metropolis project, which local contractors weren’t willing to undertake, then moved on to Chancery and a succession of other jobs.

Botany, meanwhile, has proved a huge success for AMP, which holds the retail/office/community development midway between Manukau Central & Howick through AMP NZ Retail Property Ltd.

The Botany centre has 50,900m² of gross lettable area, including a covered fashion street. This project, designed in concept by Altoon & Porter of Los Angeles, with detailed design done locally by Hames Sharley, was a forerunner in moving New Zealand malls out of the enclosed-box style, combining a mixture of indoor/outdoor areas.

The supreme award was sponsored for the sixth year by Rider Hunt.

The Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority’s EnergyWise award was presented with the Property Council awards for the first time, going toTe Manawa O Akoranga reception & administration building at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Akoranga campus, Northcote.

The building, designed by Jasmax, “is an excellent example of energy-efficient building design balanced with the functional needs of the business. The form & orientation of the AUT building takes full advantage of solar energy & natural daylight. The lighting & heating, ventilation & air-conditioning systems are well organised & controlled to complement the architectural features of the design,” EECA chairman Mike Underhill said.


Energy Wise award, sponsored by EECA:

Multi-unit residential (Fisher & Paykel):

Excellence, Waitakere Gardens retirement village, Henderson, 15 Sel Peacock Drive, 95 units now, 200 more planned, owned/developed by Vision Senior Living Ltd (Peter Bourke, with Robert Foster of Arrow International); architects Architects Patterson; engineers Buller George.


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Phenomenal October

National consents up 77%, including 1301 Auckland apartments

October was a phenomenal month for new residential building consents, especially in Auckland & especially for apartments.

The number of consents issued nationally rose 77% on a year ago to 3412. Of those, 1526 were for apartments, a 503% rise.

Auckland contributed 1945 (57%) of the new homes this October, of which 1301 (67%) were for apartments.

The year to October is 30% up on the previous year, nationally, in terms of consent numbers — 25,889.

The number of new apartments for the year was up 107% to 5048.

Statistics NZ said the number of new apartments for the month was the highest figure since it began its apartment series in January 1990. 11 consents were for units valued at $3 million or more.

The number of apartment consents exceeded 400 only 5 times in the previous 2 years, and every time that happened the overall number of new residential consents exceeded 2000. This time round, with 1526 apartment consents, the overall figure of 3412 new dwellings was the highest monthly consent figure since March 1976.

As usual this year, however, cost & size figures were variable in October (nationally).

The larger number of apartment consents averaged $78,440/unit, down from $86,166 in October 2001. For the October year, the figure rose slightly — from an average $86,442 to $89,105.

The high number of apartment consents brought down the average dwelling size by 19%, from 176.07m² a year ago to 143.02m². Average dwelling cost fell 13.6%, from $155,256 to $134,144, but the average cost/m² rose 6.4%, from $881.76/m² to $937.91/m².

The average cost/m² rose 1.27% (or $11.77) from September’s average of $926.14/m².

Spread over a whole year, the average new home size was up marginally to 178.65m², the average cost rose 5.8% to $159,751 and the average cost/m² rose 5.1% to $894.23.

Consents for alterations, additions & domestic outbuildings, at $80.2 million, were well above the value in any other month over the past 2 years except for a spike in May, when alteration work was worth $91.6 million.

Total residential consents, including alterations, were worth $537.8 million in October, by far the highest level in the past 2 years.

The $4.972 billion of new residential consents plus alterations & outbuildings for the October year was 33% above the figure the previous year and 18% above the figure for the boom year of 1999, when consents topped 26,000.

Regionally, the number of consents in Wellington for the month was nearly double at 292, and in the Waikato the level was up 27% to 246, but nowhere was as remarkable as Auckland, with a 130% lift, from 847 to 1945.

Within the Auckland region, Auckland City & its apartment consents were the standout, rising 724% to 1228 consents for the month.

North Shore City fell 6% to 95 consents, Waitakere rose 52% to 173, Manukau rose 38% to 217, Rodney District rose 46% to 147, Papakura District rose 563% (from 8 to 53) and Franklin District rose 54% to 43 consents.

Elsewhere, Wellington City rose 183% to 181 consents, Hamilton rose 63% to 101 and Tauranga rose 70% to 126 consents.

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Colliers Jardine manager cuts $400,000 from highrise energy bill

Fine-tuning heat and cooling systems did it

Colliers Jardine’s national manager of engineering & facilities management services, Val Moraes, has won an energy-wise award from the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority, mostly for chopping $400,000 from the annual energy bill at the National Bank Centre in Auckland.

Mr Moraes said he took a scientific and analytical approach to monitoring systems and fine-tuning, rather than driving improvement by major refurbishments or overhauls. About 75% of common-area energy consumption on highrises occurs through airconditioning systems, so Mr Moraes brought big savings through intensive management and calibration of heating and cooling plant.

“In highrise buildings there’s always a conflict between heating and cooling systems. Both are run simultaneously to maintain balance. We’ve found that if we reduced unnecessary heating, the load on the chilling plant, which is a significant energy guzzler, was automatically reduced.”

Striking a highly consistent temperature balance also significantly improved the comfort of occupiers and helped operationally with dramatically lower complaint levels.

The Government’s new energy strategy is due out in October. The smart energy management measures that have been put in place at the National Bank Centre will mean it is one of the very few buildings in New Zealand that will not require any major upgrading or modification to meet the strict new standards,” Mr Moraes said.

The ability to cut energy costs is important in terms of tenant perception, as tenants focus increasingly on total occupancy costs, making buildings with lower operating expenses more sought after. “In the current leasing market, which is highly competitive, a proactively managed building is a significantly more marketable product.”

The National Bank Centre is jointly owned by Kiwi Income Property Trust and Capital Properties Ltd.

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Clutching on to power or ensuring better development?

Shore councillors hold back on delegation

North Shore City councillors spent a fair part of their morning yesterday arguing over which and how many of them should attend a Mainstreet conference in Wanganui in August, so it wasn’t going to be easy for them to let loose on the reins back home when the question of delegating authority to staff came up.

North Shore’s limited delegation of resource consent decision-making compared to other local bodies’ was noted at a national planning conference in April last year and a report on delegating minor matters to officers came before the council’s strategy & finance committee last month, but was deferred so councillors could consider a bit more information.

Cllr Wyn Hoadley promptly sought an amendment refusing authority for officers to deal with controlled activity applications for additions and alteration to existing buildings in the coastal conservation area which are not visually conspicuous from the coastline. But she thought officers should report only quarterly, not monthly, on decisions they did make.

She said that often the decision to notify an application was enough to get a developer to modify the proposal.

Cllr Tony Holman supported her on holding back the power of officers, saying “there are a lot of things that are more important than what are, or are not, visually conspicuous.” He noted that the Birkenhead and Northcote community boards had had no input into the debate, and said those areas’ heritage zones were being seriously eroded.

Committee chairman Jenny Kirk wanted to stop “going round and round to the extent that we will have no delegated authority to officers. We will continue to have councillors and community board members taking up inordinate amounts of time on twiddly little bits of consent matters, which are at considerable cost to this city.

“Here is an opportunity to save money, and we’re not doing that because we have to keep our finger on every little thing that goes on in this city.”

The council’s development services team leader, Lloyd Barton, said there was an opportunity on non-notified cases to speed up the process once a report was written, easing the frustration of the council’s customers.

Deputy mayor Dianne Hale said “anyone would think we were doing ground-breaking work here, delegating to officers who are professionals and the majority of us are lay people. It’s trying to get efficiency in the system. We are definitely not efficient.”

Cllr Gary Holmes found “it almost gives the impression of trying to hold on to as much power as we can. I’d like to see delegation go further [but] the view of community boards is important.”

Eventually, truncated delegation on controlled activity, second-stage, cross-leasing applications and some heritage zone alterations was allowed, with the chairman voting on her lonesome against the reduction.

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Panmure opponents of Liveable Communities strategy win reprieve

Plan set aside for workshops to be run

Vehement opposition to specifics of the regional growth strategy must make Auckland’s planners rethink how they’re going about the process of fitting twice as many people into the region over the next 50 years.

Panmure is a prize example of how, in a local view presented to Auckland City Council’s planning & regulatory committee last Friday, it’s all gone very wrong.

The region’s seven mayors and regional council chairman signed their agreement to the growth strategy at the end of 1999, as representatives of all the local bodies and therefore all the existing population.

The signing was done at a regional growth forum function at Eden Park. From the growth forum’s inception in 1996 there was input from the private sector (distinct from private sector organisation lobbyists), but my perception is that it wasn’t adequate.

Private interests were not all pulling one way — some developers wanted the forum to make it easier to build high-density housing along transport corridors and on brownfields sites, others wanted the ability to continue greenfields development, for example.

Their views are recorded, but the planning outcome mostly accords with what professional planners wanted as a solution to accommodating more than two million people by 2050.

Theory, practice, fireworks

Of course, that ought to be entirely sensible and proper. The real world doesn’t work to the perfect model, and Panmure’s uproar shows how stamping the theoretical design on an existing suburb isn’t going to work.

City council planners are now going back to the workshop process, putting to one side for the moment the Liveable Communities concept which got the Panmure community up in arms.

How many workshops there will be, they don’t know, environmental planning manager Penny Pirrit told councillors and submitters last week.

They will be on the future of Panmure and how growth might affect the area, she said.

Workshops have proven useful

Workshops have proven a useful way of getting ideas out of the locals, as has been done at Takanini and Hingaia in the Papakura district, and is starting to be done in parts of Rodney. They’ve also been used in Auckland City — one example is the western corridor series.

Even so, ideas can be imposed, naturally so if the locals don’t quite know what they’re doing, haven’t arrived with an idea of what their neighbourhood might be like in half a century when they won’t be here, and don’t normally think about designing the neighbourhood’s gardens instead of mowing their own lawn.

From the observations of Michael Drake for the Panmure Community Action Group, the growth strategy planners haven’t understood this community at all. The essential issue is the high-density plan, growing the population by allowing widespread development of blocks 4-6 storeys high.

One planning argument is that this won’t all happen at once. Mr Drake’s response is that every such development will dominate at least six contiguous properties, and impact on the views and neighbourhood conditions of a wider area. “The zone of impact created by each development is such that less than 6% of the projected development has to take place to immediately affect every single existing home in Panmure.”

I suspect that argument would follow sprinkling of highrises, but might not apply fully if they were clustered or in strips.

10 strategic growth management areas

Auckland City’s Liveable Communities strategy, adopted last June, shows 10 strategic growth management areas. For Ellerslie-Panmure, it shows an existing dwelling density of 1:900m² in residential and business-zoned areas.

“The overall density under the proposed growth target to the year 2050 will increase net density to 1:380m², or 26 units/ha [from 11 units/ha now]. If growth is confined to existing residential areas only, future densities will equate to approximately 1:230m², or 42 units/ha.

Projections show a population rise from nearly 5500 to 13,400, household numbers from 2000 to 4900. For Panmure (without Ellerslie), Mr Drake said the rise in homes would be from 900 to 2200.

He said Panmure people were “surprised and distressed that council and its officers could be so insensitive as to propose the complete destruction of everything we value.

“Some councillors have expressed surprise that such alarm should arise to Liveable Communities when so little public comment was apparently made on the regional growth strategy. The explanation is simple: when it was suggested that a regional growth strategy be adopted to manage thousands more residents in the city, citizens not unnaturally assumed that existing open spaces such as the Mt Wellington quarry site or permitted medium– and high-density residential zones would be utilised.”

Claim of public consultation questioned

Mr Drake questioned the “public consultation” explanation in the strategic management area plan. “It clearly advances the idea that Liveable Communities is a done deal. Public consultation does not offer the option of rejecting the plan — it can only contribute to it before it is adopted by council.

“Such consultation has more an appearance of manipulation than democracy. It is our view that this plan is not improvable: it must be withdrawn.”

Miss Pirrit said that in going to the workshops process, “it [the strategy] has been put to one side.”

Councillors’ comments illuminating

Comments from three councillors on Mr Drake’s submission at the committee meeting were illuminating.

Committee chairman Juliet Yates said “We certainly don’t intend to create substandard housing.”

That comment can relate to both building materials and density, but with all the controls in the world in place, many developers opt for maximum use of the building envelope as first and only preference. In that, there is an irony: developers are complaining that councils have started to impose maximum levies in their new development contributions structures for financing infrastructure, while most building designs start at the envelope or floor: area ratio maximum then add some.

The outcome is, in numerous examples around Auckland over the past decade, a poorer environment than could have been.

Cllr Penny Sefuiva, who sits on the Western Bays community board so has an interest in the inner suburbs from Ponsonby through to Mt Albert, said her own world had changed dramatically: “If we’d had better planning we might have had better development.”

Why don’t we like medium density, McKelvie asks

Cllr Kay McKelvie asked Mr Drake: “Is there something about medium density which is inherently bad, or are we just not used to it?”

Mr Drake said the action group wouldn’t object to the Mt Wellington quarry site being used for higher-density housing (the council turned down an owners’ proposal for mixed-used development which included considerable commercial and retail space), but Cllr McKelvie moved on from there to a theme which is obviously in the back of councils’ and planners’ thoughts when they work on higher-density housing solutions: “Is there not a danger of people living in caravans, garages? If we don’t plan, with increasing population we’ll have shanty towns.”

My impression of the Panmure protest is not that these people were opposed to planning, or even to more people living in the neighbourhood. But they are opposed to insensitive, bad planning — one example Mr Drake gave was of a commercial design completely ignoring topography, an illustration on the Liveable Communities strategy of a building a couple of storeys high which just happened to be above a steep slope off Panmure’s main street, Queen’s Rd.

And the complaint about highrise residential blocks giving occupants the ability to look down on their neighbours is being taken seriously by planning commissioners and judges, who have rejected such developments in places where the growth strategists have thought they’d be sensible.

Those rulings indicate the councils and growth strategists have got at least some of the design wrong, while a protest like the Panmure group’s indicates the consultation process needs attention, as a starting point for better community evolution.

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Hobbs says biodiversity statement has to be workable or it’s no good

National policy statement on indigenous biodiversity should be notified at end of year

Environment Minister Marian Hobbs has been mocked aplenty for her foot-in-mouth propensity. But in an address to the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society in Christchurch on 15 June, she advocated clear and simple language for a proposed national policy statement on indigenous biodiversity.

Among the essential ingredients she highlighted:

“First, the policy has to mean something. There is no point writing a national policy statement that is so woolly that nobody has any idea what to do with it.

“By definition, national policy statements are at the top of a hierarchy of policy documents prepared by central and local government under the Resource Management Act. The words have to be clear and direct and strong.

“Second, it has be flexible enough to allow councils some discretion on how best to achieve good biodiversity outcomes. Having a strong policy statement should not translate into prescription. I believe the national policy statement must give local authorities the power to decide how they will achieve the policies in the statement.”I expect that a range of methods would be considered by decisionmakers to achieve the provisions of the statement. These would probably include incentives, voluntary mechanisms, education, rules, the preparation of strategies and active management.

“Now I know that some of you hold strongly to the view that the national policy statement should make councils put in place rules protecting biodiversity. I fully expect that rules will be an important part of any council response. But I do not accept that central government is better placed than local councils to determine the most appropriate responses to local situations.

“Having a blanket requirement for rules removes any discretion or incentive for a council to develop its own solutions suited to its own biodiversity and its own community.

“There is also a risk associated with regulation if it provokes resistance and undermines goodwill from those who are prepared to change their behaviours voluntarily. Whether the risk is worth taking requires an assessment of likely acceptability and enforceability.”

Ms Hobbs said the policy statement should be notified around the end of this year and a board of inquiry would hear submissions.

More of Hobbs on the environment:

Hobbs details objectives on sustainable management
Hobbs sets strategic environmental direction shift

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