Archive | Spatial plan

Intensifying urban face could support Dominion Rd project revisit

Published 31 August 2018
One of the principles of New Zealand planning law is that you don’t make conditions worse for others.

A proposal by Auckland Council urban development arm Panuku to redevelop the corner of Dominion Rd & Valley Rd in Mt Eden would dominate neighbours and put them in the shade, according to the decision by council-appointed planning commissioners to reject the proposal.

One part of the argument supporting the Panuku scheme was that more new development would follow, under the more intensification-oriented Auckland unitary plan.

But hearing chair Janine Bell wrote in the panel’s decision document that the commissioners couldn’t take account of other future developments which might not proceed. The permitted baseline for the panel to consider, therefore, was what is, not what might be.

That’s the same approach as commissioners took in July in declining a retirement village development in St Johns. Summerset Group Holdings Ltd proposed 7 buildings ranging up to 7 storeys high, and 8 storeys at part of one building, but the hearing chair Mark Farnsworth said in the decision to reject it: “The height, bulk, form & appearance of the proposal are not appropriate for the site and the potential adverse effects of the proposal do not do sufficiently balance its benefits…. The interface of the zoning of the site with the zoning of surrounding properties imposes development constraints & anticipated outcomes that will not be achieved to an acceptable extent.”

Mr Farnsworth recognised, as Ms Bell has done, that things might change. In the eastern suburbs, Mr Farnsworth noted a submission that neighbourhoods would change as development raised height levels, typically up to 3 storeys at first, including detached dwellings, terraced housing & low-rise apartments.

The same is likely to occur along Dominion Rd, assuming it becomes a light rail route from downtown Auckland to the airport. It’s not hard to see a dramatic revision of the landscape if Eden Park is replaced as a sporting venue and housing or a mixed neighbourhood is developed there. In that event – occasionally contemplated, not in any immediate plans but likely to be raised more frequently – the present lowrise suburban streetscape from Sandringham Rd at Kingsland across to Dominion Rd would quickly be intensified – and the argument over this Valley Rd corner would be ended.

Proposal “not without merit”

In the decision on the Panuku application, Ms Bell wrote: “In our view, the proposal was not without merit, as we can see the positive benefits that residential intensification would offer to this part of the inner city. As set out in our preceding discussion, it was the scale, bulk & intensity of the proposed development within this part of the business local centre zone that we find is not in keeping with the planning outcomes identified in the unitary plan for the surrounding environment, in particular the special character values of the Eden Valley area and the reduced height limit imposed by the height variation control.”

Panuku proposed the construction of a multi-level mixed use development on the 8 adjoining sites at 198-202, 214-222 Dominion Rd & 113-117 Valley Rd, Mt Eden. This would involve demolition of all existing buildings, including 2 character-supporting buildings, and development that would result in 102 apartments & 9 shops.

A new approach is not out of the question, indicated by a comment from Ms Bell in the decision: “Redevelopment of the site, with mixed use development, is both anticipated & supported. This position was confirmed by all experts & submitters. We agree. However, we consider that site redevelopment in this location – being a local centre zone where both a special character area overlay and a height variation control apply – is required to take account & provide for a wider project scope than simply ‘high intensity/urban intensification’.

“While we find that the proposal addresses these project parameters to a large degree, there remain elements of the design that result in a built form that is not compatible with the intent & purpose of the special character area values.”

For a new development approach in the near future, it would have to take account of some specific concerns raised by the hearing panel:

  • Building A exceeds the 13m maximum total height standard on its eastern elevation by about 5m, and is about 17.5m from its eastern boundary
  • Building C exceeds the 13m height standard by 7.5m, and is about 10.5m from its northern boundary
  • The height infringement associated with Building D is less easily defined, but of a lower order than Buildings A & C, and in part complies with the terraced housing & apartment buildings zone standard of 16m for a short distance
  • This end of the building also infringes the height:boundary standard to its northern boundary by between 3.8-1.4m.

Links:
Panuku: Dominion & Valley Rds
Full hearing decision

Earlier story:
3 August 2018: Commissioners decide 7 storeys too high for retirement village in mixed housing zone so soon in life of unitary plan

Attribution: Panel decision.

Continue Reading

Council wants overlay precedence over zone rules, even after court findings

Published 31 August 2018

The Environment Court has ruled against Auckland Council planners’ view that special character overlays should take precedence over sometimes-conflicting zone rules, but the council is adamant that its view should apply.

That will mean a rewrite of the unitary plan section relating to special character areas residential overlays, which could take another 12 months.

The court found that the overlay shouldn’t take precedence, and that both the overlay & zone rules should be applied together.

As the court’s view holds sway, the council said on Wednesday it had begun contacting about 430 property owners to alert them to a potential issue with decisions made on their resource consent applications in 2017.

Of the 430 owners, 137 have also had a building consent issued and might have site works underway. “These consent holders are a priority for the council to resolve any issues,” Mr Smallburn said.

The resource consents, decided between 1 December 2016 & 19 December 2017, relate to properties zoned single house where the special character areas residential overlay also applies.

Council regulatory services director Penny Pirrit & resource consents general manager Ian Smallburn said the council had sought external legal advice, which supported the council view of precedence, but the court had opted for the conflicting view of no precedence in a series of decisions that started last December.

The special character areas residential overlay is one of 27 overlays in the Auckland unitary plan, which replaced the district plans of the 7 territorial councils merged into the super-city Auckland Council in 2010, and also incorporated the regional policy statement previously managed by the 8th entity forming the new council, the Auckland Regional Council.

The unitary plan largely became operative in November 2016.

The court bench that considered the issue – through a judicial review relating to a dispute between neighbours on Seymour St, Ponsonby – comprised Principal Environment Judge Laurie Newhook, Environment Judge John Hassan & 2 environment commissioners, Ross Dunlop & Ian Buchanan.

The course the council has taken

Mr Smallburn said the final unitary plan wording of the rules for special character overlay areas & single house zones were inconsistent in places and created some uncertainly about which should take precedence: “To ensure we were making the right decisions, the council obtained external legal advice once the unitary plan was in place. Our initial approach was consistent with that advice.

“Even with that advice, the council continued to receive a number of queries about how to apply the rules. To clarify the rules, we then sought a declaration from the Environment Court on the correct interpretation to provide certainty for property owners, developers & planning professionals.

“The court agreed with the council that the unitary plan rules were not clear, but it disagreed with our approach, ruling that both sets of rules – the special character areas overlay rules and the underlying zoning rules – should be considered equally.

“Once the Environment Court made its decision, we took immediate steps to implement the correct practice in December 2017.

“Because Auckland Council did not consider the underlying single house zone rules when determining the resource consent, they are vulnerable to judicial review from a third party.”

Mr Smallburn said the council would contact all affected resource consent holders in the next 3 weeks.

“We are strongly recommending that all resource consent holders apply for a new resource consent as soon as possible and contact the council’s planning department.

“The council will be helping resource consent holders to manage this issue as best we can, including all processing & pre-application fees being waived for a new consent.

“In addition, we will offer consent holders advice as to how they can amend their design to reduce any amenity impacts of the proposed development and facilitate mediation between consent holders & neighbouring property owners if needed.

“We will be providing additional resources to ensure we can cope with the extra work that will create, and not affect the business-as-usual process of the consenting team.

“We are committed to working with all affected parties to ensure that the issue can be dealt with as quickly as possible.”

Differences between overlay & zone

The court, in its interim decision issued last December, gave examples of how the overlay & zoning rules treated similar tasks differently. One example is that the overlay specifies, as a permitted activity, minor alterations to the rear of buildings that use the same design & material as the existing building, whereas the zone classifies alterations to an existing dwelling as a permitted activity subject to specified standards on height, height:boundary, building coverage, yards, impervious areas, landscape treatment, fences & walls.

“The converse applies for demolition. It is a permitted activity in the zone but a restricted discretionary activity in the overlay. Similarly, additions in the zone, internal & external alterations & new accessory buildings are each permitted subject to compliance with specified performance standards, whereas they are restricted discretionary activities in the overlay.”

Most restrictive rule generally wins

The standard in New Zealand planning law is that the status of a proposal will be determined by the most restrictive rule which applies to it, and that standard is contained in the unitary plan.

Judge Newhook wrote: “That would mean, for example, that activities such as demolition, alteration or other building activities would be restricted discretionary activities on land to which the overlay applies, despite being classified as permitted activities in the zone. Conversely, minor alterations that are treated as permitted activities in the overlay but that would contravene specified zone-permitted activity standards would generally be rendered a restricted discretionary activity.”

In addition, an activity classed as a permitted activity but that does not comply with one or more of the standards applying to that activity is a restricted discretionary activity unless otherwise specified by a rule applying to the particular activity.

In the unitary plan, every special character area (other than Howick) is supported by a statement identifying the key special character values of the area. They relate to built form, streetscape and adverse effects of subdivision, use & development.

In the single house zone, the focus in equivalent explanatory statements and related objectives & policies is predominantly on amenity values.

The council produced a revised set of development standards in the overlay and argued it would be inefficient & impractical to apply both the overlay & zone performance standards and would result in anomalous outcomes.

In response, counsel for the affected neighbours in the Ponsonby dispute, Alan Galbraith QC, submitted that the council’s approach amounted to treating the overlay as a replacement zone, which would give rise to significant amenity & other effects for neighbours – including removing their ability to have their concerns considered, particularly when the council’s approach resulted in a non-notified application.

Judge Newhook said Mr Galbraith had noted particular concern about the council’s practice note, “in effect to misguide its officers & independent commissioners to take a narrow, restrictive & unsound approach to the relationship of the overlays to the zones”.

Suzanne Janissen, appointed an amicus curiae for the judicial review, said that, from her consultation with potentially affected interest groups, a commonly expressed view was that the true effect of the unitary was that overlays don’t supplant zone or Auckland-wide rules, but supplement them.

The court agreed, as Judge Newhook wrote: “We find that the interpretation of the relevant unitary plan provisions proposed by the council in its opening submissions is unsound in being contrary to statutory interpretation principles.

“Fundamentally underpinning the council’s interpretation is its assumption that the overlay’s performance standards for its specified classes of activity are ‘a complete set of development standards’ which represent a ‘replacement package’ for corresponding standards in the single house zone. That assumption is flawed in that it fails to account for the immediate context of related general rules and objectives & policies.”

Possible to subordinate rules, but judge says nothing in plan supports it

Judge Newhook wrote that the court accepted “it is at least conceptually possible for a district plan to set amenity values as subordinate to other values such as special character, including in a residential environment. However, while we understand that theory to be part of the council’s argument in support of the initially requested declarations, the flaw presented is that nothing in the unitary plan properly supports the council’s interpretation to that effect.

“What became more apparent from court questioning of counsel is that the council has based its interpretation on what it terms ‘cues’ (meaning inferences) rather than on anything stated in any part of the unitary plan or related background documents. That is also the position for its reference to the intentions of the independent hearings panel [on the draft unitary plan]. The same can be said for the theories advanced in the council’s affidavit evidence about these matters.”

Administrative inefficiency? Do your job properly, says judge

Part of the council’s argument was that treating the overlay & zone performance standards as both applying would lead to administrative inefficiency, and “absurd” or “anomalous” outcomes. Judge Newhook countered: “We do not agree that applying an integrated management approach would give rise to any untoward or unacceptable consequences. For instance, even in cases where overlay values as identified in the various statements in the appendix would be best advanced by specifying a higher building height or a smaller front or side yard clearance and so forth, that does not dictate a need to put aside competing amenity value considerations.

“Rather, it is in the essence of an experienced consent authority’s task to consider those competing considerations on the evidence and in light of directions given by objectives, policies & other provisions, to come up with a sound & informed outcome.

“On the other hand, Mr Galbraith’s submissions assisted to illustrate the potential for potentially very significant resource management impacts to go unchecked by consenting processes if the council’s approach were applied.”

The council wrote a practice note for its planners telling them the overlay provisions would override those of the zone. Following the court’s reaction, that practice note has been withdrawn.

Cementing in precedence still intended

However, Mrs Pirrit indicated on Wednesday that the council still wanted the overlay to take precedence, which would require a plan change.

She conceded that could take a long time: “The quickest in my experience you can get a plan change through without any submissions is 6 months. We’re talking about mid-to-late next year, without submissions.”

Attribution: Media conference, council release, court decisions.

Continue Reading

We have a super-city plan, now change it

Auckland council planners say the Government’s proposals for national planning standards will conflict with important features of the Auckland unitary plan, which took 6 years to formulate and is close to becoming fully operative.

110 pages of the council planning committee’s agenda last Tuesday were devoted to the draft standards and the council staff’s proposed submissions on them.

The big issue for councillors was to ask – or, to varying suggested degrees, tell – the Government & Ministry for the Environment the council would need more time to put the standards in place. The proposal is 7 years but Auckland wants 10.

The big issue for staff is the complexity, including likely needless doubling up of terminology for 2 large plan changes coming up soon, and that will mean extra cost.

Linley Wilkinson, the council’s lead planner on Auckland-wide planning, whose previous role was to lead the integration of the old councils’ plans into the super-city Auckland Council’s unitary plan, told the committee the idea of national standards had been around for a long time, especially when the Resource Management Act was introduced in 1991.

Now that the draft has been written, the Ministry for the Environment wants the standards gazetted by next April.

The draft’s aim is to standardise the structure & form, chapter layout, spatial planning tools, zone framework, metrics for noise & vibration and digital & planning requirements for plans & policy statements throughout New Zealand.

Ms Wilkinson said some of the standards would have significant impacts for Auckland, which had the most complex & largest plan in the country, combining both regional & district plans (assessments previously separated into the functions of regional & local councils).

“We’ve really scrutinised each standard to see what impact they will have on the unitary plan. There is quite a lot of significance. The zoning framework does not cover the full sweep of what our plan moves in. They are pitching these standards at more medium-sized councils. It has been a little bit disappointing for us, and we feel some of the standards will substantially unpick some of the unitary plan.”

She said that if the council was forced to produce a revised plan in 7 years, it wold have to start work on it 2-3 years earlier than projected.

Auckland Council’s planners generally supported the standardisation intent to achieve consistency & improve accessibility. But they said the standards would have a significant impact on the regional policy statement, regional coastal plan, zone framework & definitions.

Main points in the council submission

The standards:

  • would challenge the Auckland unitary plan’s policy direction
  • would reverse agreements or decisions made in partnership with iwi or other stakeholders
  • don’t reflect the outcomes the community anticipates
  • would reduce the number of zones
  • didn’t contain a section specifically on urban growth, and
  • didn’t contain a section specifically relating to mana whenua.

The council planners are concerned that reducing zone numbers will mean revisiting the whole underlying policy framework, after they’d gone to great lengths to harmonise the legacy zonings of the pre-super-city councils. Instead of relitigating those issues, the council planners say the council should build on work already completed through the unitary plan – that one, point 3.6 in the submission, is likely to leave the standards writers about as confused as I am at what is meant.

Perhaps the biggest conflict will come in the naming & basis of zones. The council used names to describe zones whereas the standards proposal is for residential zone names based on density.

The submission: “This does not make sense in the Auckland context, where 3 of the residential zones in the Auckland unitary plan have no density limit. Instead, the zones are names in accordance with the housing typology provided for.”

While the key concern at the committee was around how mayor Phil Goff might best convey the council’s unhappiness at conflicting versions, members generally ignored that – as with the way different versions of the old councils’ plans were worked through to reach an agreed formula – the best course might be a delay in gazetting the current draft.

In that case, the debate ought to have been about how to present a delay in a good light.

That good light could be:

  • To agree some more complexity for large urban regions than would be needed for smaller towns & cities
  • To spend another year getting more agreed uniformity,
  • Alternatively, educate members of Parliament before the draft is gazetted on what unworkable sections will cost the country, landowners, developers, home owners.

Links, Auckland Council planning committee agenda 7 August 2018:
12, Draft national planning standards – Auckland Council submission
Recommendation
Attachments
Process for developing national planning standards
Planning standards relevant for the unitary plan
Auckland Council submission on draft national planning standards

Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda.

Continue Reading

Council committee insists on promised consultation over Tamaki reserve land swaps

Auckland Council’s planning committee agreed last week to remedy the council’s failure to consult the public over plans for reserves in the Tamaki regeneration area.

Consultation had been promised, but council staff arrived at last Tuesday’s meeting with a recommendation to notify the proposed open space plan change without that prior notification going ahead.

However, the committee agreed public consultation should be carried out on the Tamaki open space network plan before proposed rezoning & land exchanges of Taniwha Reserve, Maybury Reserve West & Boundary Reserve are progressed.

Planning team leader Tony Reidy said the council had acquired about 200 land parcels on subdivision over the last year, including the 3 Tamaki reserves & some land swaps in the Tamaki regeneration area.

The council-controlled organisation in charge of its land management & disposal, Panuku Development Auckland, had discussed with council departments & iwi the rezoning of 10 land parcels as part of its land disposal & rationalisation process, and intended to bundle them into one open space plan change to dispose of them efficiently & cost-effectively.

Quizzed by former Tamaki-Maungakiekie Local Board chair Josephine Bartley – who was elected as a councillor last year, replacing Denise Lee after she was elected to Parliament – Mr Reidy said the local board had consulted “at a broader level”.

He told Cllr Bartley the current batch of changes were for land swaps and were more straightforward than a number of others where more controversial changes were proposed, and on these later changes the board had asked for community consultation.

While Mr Reidy said the board had told staff they were comfortable with these 3 reserve changes proceeding, but wanted to see consultation on others, Cllr Bartley commented: “It’s a very piecemeal approach… They’ve almost given up hope on the consultation. I don’t think that’s good enough – the local board are just another tick in the box, and one that has implications for other areas of Auckland. It doesn’t make sense to do it this way.

“The only implication I can see is timing [for the Tamaki regeneration project], but this is just doing it the right way in the community that has lost trust. The good thing is that trust could be rebuilt.”

Links for 7 August 2018 planning committee agenda:
9, Auckland unitary plan (operative in part) – proposed open space plan change Recommendation   
Attachments
Proposed open space plan change maps [published separately]   
Proposed open space plan change section 32 evaluation report [published separately]   
Panuku land disposal & rationalisation process    
Open space zoning guidelines

Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda.

Continue Reading

Unitary plan already steering Auckland housing toward intensification, says council economist

Less than 2 years after Auckland Council’s zone-changing unitary plan started to become operative, council chief economist David Norman concludes that it’s been a major cause of housing intensification.

On the other side of the equation – which most on the council worried about as it wrote a plan encouraging more brownfield redevelopment & less new greenfield development – the urban fringes have taken a lower share of new housing.

The third important factor in the change of housing impetus is that intensification has spread through suburbia.

And the fourth is that developers have paid close attention to transport routes, especially rapid transit stops.

Image above: Auckland Council chief economist David Norman presenting to the council planning committee meeting at the Orakei marae.

The map below: The red dots represent intensification points around the Auckland region and the purple patches represent intensification along rapid transit corridors.

Mr Norman released a report on the unitary plan’s impacts on residential development at Auckland Council’s planning committee meeting yesterday – held at the Orakei marae – and spent over an hour answering questions from the committee about it.

The one councillor who would certainly have questioned Mr Norman’s view was Dick Quax, who died of cancer at the end of May, aged 70, after long advocating the removal of the rural:urban boundary and questioning intensification as a housing solution. The election for his replacement closes on 13 September.

Yesterday’s quizzing of the economist was more about the detail, not about the politics of greenfield versus intensifying use of the existing urban footprint.

The unitary plan became largely operative in November 2016, and the council now expects it could be fully operative next year, once the remaining 13 appeals are settled.

The changing market shares

Mr Norman said in his report it took about 9 months to begin to see the plan affecting what & where new dwellings were consented.

“In the 10 months since new dwelling consents began to surge in August 2017, total dwellings consented are up 27% compared to a year earlier. Almost all of the growth in consents has been in brownfield (existing urban) areas, reversing the trend toward more greenfield development over the previous 7 years.

“More intensive typologies, specifically apartments & terraced/townhouses, have grown to account for 54% of all new dwellings consented, compared to 37% 2 years ago. A disproportionate share of this denser development is around the rapid transit network.

Mr Norman said his analysis “provides an antidote to the view that relaxing development restrictions on the fringes of the urban area is necessarily the best way to reduce the housing shortage. People by & large prefer to live closer to jobs, infrastructure that works, public transport, schools, shops & other amenities. As a result, developers are showing a preference for delivering development in brownfield areas.

“Land on the fringes is significantly cheaper. But once the lack &/or value of infrastructure and proximity to amenities is accounted for, the market is displaying a strong preference for brownfield development.”

The day most of the unitary plan became operative, it up-zoned thousands of brownfield (existing urban) properties.

“Altogether, the plan provided capacity for up to one million new dwellings although, at the time, only an estimated 422,000 were deemed to be commercially feasible for development. This feasible growth was anticipated to be spread across brown & greenfield areas in a roughly 2:1 ratio.”

The chief economist’s unit at the council had estimated an upturn in new residential building consents would begin around April or May 2017, but this didn’t start until August. Since then, growth has been strong.

However, Mr Norman said little information was available about the effects of the plan on development patterns: “This report provides information to support future discussions & decisions about important issues such as whether to remove or relax the rural:urban boundary.”

How does he know there’s been a change in development emphasis?

“Building consents for new dwellings grew remarkably steadily from 2012 through to April 2016. This pattern broke, and growth plateaued, 6 months before the plan became operative in part. Anecdote suggested that many investors had bought brownfield land in advance of the plan becoming operative and were waiting to lodge consents for more intensive development once the plan was operative.

“During the period from November 2016 to July 2017, the first few months of the plan being operative, consent growth was even weaker, against the backdrop of a housing shortage approaching 40,000 in Auckland at the time. The data indicates that this was because developers were still making plans for more intensive development.

“Residential construction began to surge in August 2017. The number of new dwellings consented in the 10 months to May 2018 is up 27% over the same 10 months the year before, and annual consents were only 5% below the all-time peak in June 2004. This annual total is despite a much tighter 2005 Building Code regulatory regime & building consent authorities’ response to the leaky buildings crisis.

“There is significant evidence to suggest the sudden resurgence in consenting activity is the result of the plan beginning to work:

  1. Brownfield areas dominate consents growth: 90% of all growth in new dwellings consented in the 10 months to May 2018 (since the upturn began in August 2017) is in brownfield areas where the plan delivered the bulk of potential for greater development
  2. The trend toward green and away from brownfield growth has been reversed: The share of total new dwellings consented in brownfield areas in the 10 months since August 2017 has grown from 62% to 69%. This has reversed a trend of declining brownfield development as a share of building consents over the previous 7 years
  3. More intensive building typologies enabled by the plan are being adopted: Terraced houses & apartments were 54% of new dwellings consented in the 10 months to May 2018. In the 10 months to May 2016 (ie, the comparator 10-month period before the plan was passed), it was just 37%
  4. In the urban areas, the desired compact city is emerging: In the urban area, around 66% of new dwellings are multi-units, precisely what the plan aimed to deliver.

Further, Mr Norman said, “a disproportionately large number of dwellings are being consented in rapid transit network catchment areas – defined as living within 1500m of a train station or northern busway bus stop. This highlights that people value rapid transit access, and that development enabled by the plan is responding:

  1. The share of multi-unit dwellings consented in rapid transit network areas is 16 times higher than the catchment’s share of Auckland’s land area. The rapid transit network catchment covers only 2.6% of Auckland’s land area, but accounts for 42% of all multi-unit dwellings consented in the last 10 months
  2. 11% of standalone homes were consented in rapid transit network catchments. This is 4.3 times more than the catchment’s share of land area
  3. 81% of all dwellings consented in rapid transit network catchments in the last year were multi-unit, helping to deliver the intensification that characterises transit-oriented development
  4. Overall, 40% of all dwellings consented in the urban area were in the rapid transit network catchments, even though the catchments account for only a quarter of Auckland’s urban area.

Mr Norman said this analysis highlighted that people by & large prefer to live closer to jobs, infrastructure that works, public transport, schools, shops & other amenities. As a result, developers had revealed a preference for delivering development in brownfield areas.

“These findings provide evidence that counter the view that relaxing development restrictions on the fringes of the region, where few amenities exist, is the best way to reduce the housing shortfall. Land on the fringes is cheaper. But once the lack &/or value of infrastructure & geographic proximity to amenities is accounted for, the market is displaying a strong preference for brownfield development.”

Mr Norman said the central city was still the main target for developing apartments, but they were also becoming more common in the Albert-Eden ward and just across the harbour bridge in Takapuna & Devonport.

The exception was the Upper Harbour ward, where all 3 types of development were occurring. That ward includes Hobsonville, where all new housing is more intensive than the historical norms, including standalone homes.

Finally, there are changes in the south: “There are relatively large numbers of multi-unit dwellings being consented in the southern isthmus & southern local board areas. This suggests increased delivery of typologies in areas with larger Maori populations. Multi-unit developments are often cheaper on a per-unit basis than standalone housing, which may provide greater access to warm, dry modern housing for Maori in those areas.”

Another statistic, this one relating to the shortage of housing:

“In the period from April 2016-August 2017 we only saw 7.5% total growth in consents – 6%/year. What we’re seeing since then, in the 10 months to May 2018, is a 27% increase. Code compliance certificates are up 30% over that time period.

“We’re now generating code compliance certificates at a faster rate of increase than building consents, which means we’re catching up.”

Councillors’ questions

Cllr John Watson said intensification was one side of the equation, the other was bringing the price down: “Prices haven’t come down, they’ve probably gone up.”

Mr Norman: “A number of things colluded. We saw loan:value restrictions on investors. Investors are actually still in the market, but it’s largescale investors. Recent date shows foreign investors are still involved.”

At the same time as constraints were introduced, prices peaked in Auckland: “These 3 factors show they have played a part in decreasing prices. You also face the construction capacity constraints, which mean the cost of construction is going up 6-7%/year. About 4-5 floors, the cost is $6-7000/m² against $2500/m² for a standalone home.

“What is encouraging is house prices have not continued to accelerate, and I think the unitary plan is an important factor in that.”

Mr Norman said one factor affecting the provision of new homes – the time it takes to build – was much different because of the switch to multi-units: “Typically it was 6-9 months, a multi-unit can be 18 months.”

The value of special housing areas

Cllr Wayne Walker questioned the brief era of special housing areas introduced by former housing minister Nick Smith: “It dramatically escalated the value of land, sold & onsold by people who weren’t really interested in building on it. It’s in a situation where it’s not generating any housing and has escalated the value of neighbouring land.”

Mr Norman: “My personal view is that we probably didn’t get as much development out of special housing areas as we thought we’d see. The intent was around accelerating resource consent applications, but if I were to do it again, I’d require them to build in a certain time.

“What is different about what I’m talking about today [the widespread intensification], this is not land where you’ve had to get a private plan change request. This is a broad plan that affects the entire city, it immediately creates competition. Why should I pay this amount when I can get land cheaper 2 blocks over?

“What makes property valuable? You talk about the rural:urban boundary. I’ve seen very little evidence that accounts for land price differences inside & outside the rural:urban boundary. What we do know is that infrastructure makes it liveable [inside the boundary] and people pay for that.

“I’m far less convinced that we’ve been in a speculative bubble. We’ve had a huge increase in population and prices go up, helped by low interest rates. I think that is a factor.”

State of the construction sector

Mr Norman had some interesting observations on the calamity of the moment, the collapse of one apartment builder, Ebert Construction Ltd, into receivership and the questions being raised about the state of the vertical construction sector.

Mr Norman said he worked in the construction sector for several years, including 2 years as BRANZ (Building Research Association) senior economist, and built his own house. On the players in construction, he said: “These are businesses, like in every other sector, sometimes they make good choices, sometimes they don’t. It is not my view that it’s central government’s role to hold the hand of business.”

Taking a longer-term view, he said it shouldn’t be about keeping spending down, and the solution shouldn’t rest solely with the Government. The sector should use the spotlight on it as an opportunity to improve project management: “We are not talking about victims here.”

Nimby protests versus over-dominating structures

Cllr Chris Fletcher raised a specific issue which she suspected might be a more common anomaly in the unitary plan – the redevelopment of a former nurses’ home on Banff Avenue, Epsom, by new owner Housing NZ. She said the street had 40 bungalows, a church & a small church school. Understandably, she said, Housing NZ “are going to go for maximum yield”.

Cllr Fletcher said the neighbours would have been happy with 3-storey development, but Housing NZ intended to build to 5 storeys. Intensification was “a wonderful trend – but nor do I want to see it at any cost, and I want to see the continuing public support for the process.

“But if we have an anomaly, what is the route we take? I don’t believe it’s just nimbyism, they’re happy to see 3 storeys but not 5 storeys in a 3-storey street.”

This was a question for council plans & places general manager John Duguid, who thought the specific case was “probably long past the point where we can do anything. In other cases I certainly invite councillors & others to bring them to my notice and we can respond.”

When might prices fall?

Cllr Fa’anana Efeso Collins raised a question which is on the other side of the affordability equation from the clamour for an urgent increase in supply: “At what point – or what are the conditions – that will lead to a fall in house prices? Surely at some point there must be a fall in house prices.

Mr Norman: “Short of an economic meltdown that I am not forecasting, I do not see a reason why house prices should fall immediately or in the short term. I do think we will see 2 things. Firstly, why not a fall? The basics of supply & demand, we haven’t had the shortfall. You’ve got this floor propping up prices, that’s not going to disappear any time soon.

“The cost/m² is a lot higher in apartments. We are seeing a subtle change in typology. Over the last 5 years the average dwelling size has fallen from 210m² to 172m², a 38% reduction, and that’s because of the switch in typology.

“100m², we were able to do that before and live quite comfortably. A shortfall this size [which he estimated at about 45,000 homes], there is no incentive for anyone to build cheaper – why would you leave money on the table?”

Mr Norman’s second point was that a focus on building more expensive homes for greater profit ought to open up a market for different types of housing: “If the market would only deliver houses at $850-900,000, we’re potentially opening up a different type of housing – you don’t want a second living room, you just want to be warm & dry.”

Cllr Collins: “I accept the position but I think we have to accept there are people who will never attain that dream.”

Catering for large families

Cllr Desley Simpson asked what was being done to provide houses for large families, “given we are the biggest Polynesian city in the world.”

Mr Norman: “The way I estimate my housing shortfall is to calculate the number of residents in a household. Households are shrinking in Auckland and we’re seeing the number of people/household increasing, that’s because of our demographic input. So we’re very aware of the fact we are increasing housing and it affects some communities more than others.

“We’re also seeing it in terms of the typology. Our standalone homes are too large at an average 230m², but it is the way people are choosing to live.”

However, he had seen 5-6 bedroom houses where people were banding together to form bigger households.

Links:
Chief economist’s report to planning committee, 7 August 2018: 14, Impacts of the unitary plan on residential development   
Live stream of David Norman at planning committee, 7 August 2018

Attribution: Norman report, committee meeting.

Continue Reading

Unitary plan on track to be fully operational next year

Auckland Council’s unitary plan, promulgated in 2016, could be fully operational next year.

A report to the council’s planning committee meeting tomorrow says 13 appeals remain out of a total 119 to the Environment & High Courts, plus 8 judicial review proceedings.

The council formulated the unitary plan during its first 3 years, after the Government created a super-city council for the region to replace the former 7 territorial councils & one regional council.

The super-city council completed its proposed unitary plan in September 2013, sent it to an independent hearings panel to consider submissions, and the panel sent its recommendations back to the council in July 2016. The council publicly notified its decisions – some conflicting with panel recommendations – in August 2016, making the bulk of the plan operative and triggering appeals for some of it.

The council was served in September 2016 with 67 Environment Court appeals, 41 High Court appeals & 8 judicial review proceedings.

The Environment Court has issued decisions on 2 significant matters in the last 2 months, on the rural:urban boundary at Okura and rural subdivision provisions. The court decision found in favour of the council’s position on Okura, and Okura Holdings Ltd has been appealed the decision to the High Court.

The rural subdivision provisions decision went in favour of the appellants, and the council has appealed to the High Court.

The Environment Court ended up dealing with 72 appeals, and 6 appeals remain. In the High Court, there were originally 41 appeals, rising to 47 via Environment Court appeals, and 5 remain – plus the 2 new ones.

Of the 8 judicial reviews, 3 have been discontinued and 5 have been the subject of High Court decisions. 2 of those decisions have been appealed to the Appeal Court. Each of these High Court decisions related to a judicial review proceeding and a related High Court appeal. The council was successful in each of the High Court decisions.

Planning team leader Tony Reidy said in his report to tomorrow’s planning committee meeting all appeals were expected to be resolved in early 2019.

Links:
Planning committee agenda, 7 August
11, Auckland unitary plan (operative in part) – update on appeals & making additional parts of the plan operative
Recommendation   
Attachments

Attribution: Council committee agenda.

Continue Reading

Tamaki reserve rationalisation up for approval

Auckland Council’s planning committee will consider a proposal tomorrow to rezone open space, primarily arising from land exchanges under the Tamaki regeneration project and under Panuku Development Auckland’s land disposal & rationalisation process.

At Tamaki, changes are proposed to the 3 reserves in the regeneration area.

Planning team leader Tony Reidy says in his report to the committee the rationale is that many of Tamaki’s parks are poorly located with respect to the built environment around them.

“For example, many parks are located behind private residential properties. These parks generally have little street frontage, small alleyway-type entrances and are bounded by high solid fences.

“The shape & topography of much of the open space restricts its usefulness for recreation activities. Many of the parks consist of sloping ground, are fragmented by creeks and are of narrow, linear shape. Many open spaces also serve a drainage function and, as a result, become boggy during wet periods, reducing access & useable space.

“There is generally an unco-ordinated approach to the provision of amenities such as playgrounds & walkways within Tamaki. The varying quality of existing assets, missing sections of path network and poor surveillance of many parks greatly reduces the recreational potential of Tamaki’s uniquely connected network of open spaces.”

Links:
Planning committee agenda, 7 August
9, Auckland unitary plan (operative in part) – proposed open space plan change Recommendation   
Attachments
Proposed open space plan change maps [published separately]   
Proposed open space plan change section 32 evaluation report [published separately]   
Panuku land disposal & rationalisation process    
Open space zoning guidelines    
10, Request to make operative private plan change 9 to the Auckland unitary plan (operative in part)
Recommendation

Attribution: Council committee agenda.

Continue Reading

Council to fight Crater Hill & Okura appeals, and appeals itself over rural subdivision

Auckland Council said yesterday it would fight appeals by landowners against 2 unitary plan decisions in favour of the council, and will also appeal on a third issue where the council lost.

Almost all 108 appeals against the Auckland unitary plan have been resolved in the Environment & High Courts.

But landowners have lodged appeals to the High Court against 2 of the 3 decisions the Environment Court has issued in the last 2 months. They relate to the location of the rural:urban boundary & zoning in the Crater Hill/Pukaki area at Mangere and at Okura, at the top of the North Shore.

The third recent decision concerns planning controls for subdividing land in rural Auckland. The Environment Court went against the council on that, and the council has decided to appeal.

The council released its decisions on the unitary plan in August 2016.

At Crater Hill/Pukaki, the Self Family Trust & adjacent landowners want their land included inside the rural:urban boundary.

At Okura, Todd Property Group Ltd has appealed against the Environment Court’s decision not to include its land inside the rural:urban boundary, where the company wants to build 1000 houses. That land is beside the Okura estuary marine sanctuary.

Council planning committee chair Chris Darby said yesterday: “We will actively support the Environment Court’s decisions in the High Court through the presentation of legal submissions.

“For a wide range of reasons, the Crater Hill/Pukaki and Okura areas are not suitable for urban development.

“In relation to the recent decision that deals with subdividing land in rural Auckland, our legal advice is that the Environment Court has made a number of errors in law. For that reason, and given the importance of protecting the rural economy’s finite resources such as high quality soils & sensitive rural landscapes, the council has decided to appeal this decision to the High Court.”

Link:
[2018] NZEnvC 087 Okura Holdings Limited & Others v Auckland Council [PDF, 11 MB]

Earlier story:
23 April 2018: Court rejects housing on Crater Hill & peninsula near airport

Attribution: Council release.

Continue Reading

Giant Auckland Plan revision completed, task programme to come, omission already spotted

Auckland Council adopted the Auckland Plan 2050 yesterday, replacing the original plan adopted in 2012.

A reader asked me yesterday where this plan dealt with public spaces, and protecting & developing new ones.

It ought to be in the environment & cultural heritage section, starting at page 171 of the 362-page draft document, but the message there is small. In the fourth of the 7 paragraphs on green corridors, the network of public spaces & parks, and cultural heritage sites, the draft comment is one of hope & aspiration, not of practical intent: “As Auckland grows, additional pressure will be put on these spaces, and additional spaces will be needed.”

Exhorting Aucklanders to add open spaces amid the rush to lay a carpet of houses over the region is akin to the more directly obvious exhortation for residents to mow the public berms outside their homes: “You do it.”

When you look more closely at these messages, you will see an abdication of responsibility in places where, for example, council staff mowed those berms (not everywhere – in Rodney, it was taken for granted that residents did this). But the message needs to be clear that provision will be made in development plans for new areas of open space, and it’s not there.

Planning committee chair Chris Darby said in a release post-plan adoption yesterday: “The plan sets the direction for Auckland’s growth & development over the next 30 years, responding to the key opportunities & challenges faced by Auckland.

“The Auckland Plan 2050 focuses on the critical issues that we & our children will have to deal with over the next 30 years – the unprecedented pace of population growth, how housing & infrastructure needs are met, ensuring that our prosperity is shared among all Aucklanders, and dealing with the increasing pressures on our stunning environment, not least climate change.”

Cllr Darby said early engagement with communities on the new plan identified better housing, reinventing transport & a healthy natural environment as the fundamental issues for Auckland’s future.

Feedback in March led to the development of a new ‘quality of life’ focus area and changes in the timing & number of areas for development. Transport outcomes now reflect the 2018 update of the Auckland transport alignment project (ATAP), a partnership between central government agencies & the council.

Cllr Darby said that, using a new digital-first approach, the plan would be website-based and available by August.

What you see on the website today is a draft containing rewrites, demonstrating the extensive effort that has gone into the plan – despite the criticism of over-exhortation, less of feet on the ground.

Cllr Darby again: “The confirmation of the Auckland Plan 2050 & the 10-year budget 2018-28 (on Tuesday) is the culmination of 8 years of integrated planning for Auckland’s future. Auckland Council is the only regional authority to undertake planning on such a detailed & long-range scale.

“The work isn’t over. An implementation framework will follow later this year, along with a set of targets & priorities. This enables us to move into a massive ‘build-it’ decade.”

Planning committee agenda 5 June, Auckland Plan items:
9, Adoption of the Auckland Plan 2050
Auckland Plan 2050 text
Auckland Plan 2050 maps
Submissions overview
Summary of feedback & response
Auckland Plan 2050 website improvements
Local board resolutions
10, Bringing the Hauraki Gulf Islands into the Auckland unitary plan
Planning committee resolution – place-based spatial planning programme
Options analysis – process for bringing the HGI into the AUP

Attribution: Council committee agenda, draft plan, release.

Continue Reading

Revised Auckland Plan up for approval

Auckland Council’s planning committee is set to adopt the second iteration of the Auckland Plan this Tuesday.

The plan promises that already developed areas will be redeveloped & intensified, future urban areas will get newly established communities, and rural areas outside the urban footprint will see only a small amount of additional growth.

The website (the digital plan) will be updated with the final plan content and minor functionality & design improvements by the end of July.

The council produced the first Auckland Plan in 2012, with an outlook over the next 30 years. This refresh plan has a timeframe through to 2050.

Council strategic advice manager Denise O’Shaughnessy says in her report to the committee a substantive change from the refresh draft prepared last year is the development of a new “quality of life” focus area under the Belonging & participation outcome.

Changes are proposed in the development strategy with regard to development areas & their timing. Changes are also proposed to meet the national policy statement on urban development capacity. The transport & access outcome reflects the 2018 update of the Auckland transport alignment project.

Following adoption, the council will:

  • finalise the digital plan and “closing the loop” with submitters & key stakeholders
  • seek committee approval for an implementation framework & priority initiatives for implementation, and
  • focus immediately on the monitoring & reporting framework, including the preparation of a baseline monitoring report for the 33 measures in the plan and the development of a set of core targets in collaboration with the Government.

Links to Tuesday’s agenda items are below.

The plan submitted for adoption says Auckland will move to a multi-nodal model over the next 30 years as Albany, Westgate & Manukau & their catchments show how critical they will be to growth: “Over time, they will offer a broad range of business & employment activity, civic services and residential options.”

These nodes will be interconnected by a range of efficient transport links, while satellite towns Warkworth & Pukekohe will be rural nodes.

The draft plan envisages a “quality compact” approach:

  • increasing economic productivity through proximity
  • using existing infrastructure better
  • bringing more people closer to their work: “Greater population density supports faster, more frequent public transport services”, and
  • rural productivity & character can be maintained.

This model also envisages a better environment and a more vibrant Auckland socially & culturally.

To ensure there’s capacity for both residential & business growth, the national policy statement on urban development capacity requires the council to watch 3 horizons: 1-3 years, 4-10 years & 11-30 years.

The unitary plan’s “enabled” extra capacity is about 1 million dwellings – nearly 3 times demand at the present rate – while “feasible” capacity is 326,000. Auckland’s building consents for the last 12 months totalled 11,629, but that consent rate would increase if the Government’s KiwiBuild scheme takes off, if lending structure regulations are loosened or if ratios of income:home prices are narrowed.

According to the draft plan, feasible capacity is enough for 10 years but would fall 82,000 short over 30 years.

What the committee needs to take into account

The planning committee’s responsibility is to “guide the physical development & growth of Auckland through a focus on land use planning, housing & the appropriate provision of infrastructure and strategic projects associated with these activities. Key responsibilities include:

  • Relevant regional strategy & policy
  • Infrastructure strategy & policy
  • Unitary plan
  • Spatial plans
  • Plan changes to operative plans
  • Housing policy & projects
  • Special housing areas
  • City centre development
  • Tamaki regeneration
  • Built heritage
  • Urban design
  • Environmental matters relating to the committee’s responsibilities
  • Acquisition of property relating to the committee’s responsibilities and within approved annual budgets.

The committee also has an overview of initiatives of the following council-controlled organisations that have a significant impact upon the implementation of the Auckland Plan & other relevant plans, policies & strategies:

  • Panuku Development Auckland
  • Auckland Transport
  • Watercare Services Ltd, and
  • Regional Facilities Auckland (stadiums).

Links to planning committee agenda items, Tuesday 5 June at 9.30am, Town Hall:
9, Adoption of the Auckland Plan 2050
Auckland Plan 2050 text
Auckland Plan 2050 maps
Submissions overview
Summary of feedback & response
Auckland Plan 2050 website improvements
Local board resolutions
10, Bringing the Hauraki Gulf Islands into the Auckland unitary plan

Attribution: Council committee agenda.

Continue Reading