Fletcher Residential Ltd, the development subsidiary of NZX-listed Fletcher Building Ltd, has won another controversial right to develop an Auckland site, this time the 32ha Oruarangi special housing area next to the Otuataua stonefields historic reserve in Mangere.
Fletcher’s proposal to redevelop the Three Kings quarry for up to 1500 homes, including a land swap with Auckland Council for sportsfields, has won council approval for the land exchange but has been appealed by opponents.
The decisions on variation 9 to the proposed Auckland unitary plan, and the Oruarangi land use consents under the Housing Accords & Special Housing Areas Act, were dated 18 May and the plan variation was deemed to be operative yesterday.
For local Maori who opposed the development, wanted it to occur on other vacant land nearby, or who supported the proposal because it was inevitable and hoped to win concessions, hearing panel chair Leigh McGregor expressed sympathy, told much of their story in the decision but said, in the end, a resource management hearing was not the place for grievances dating back to the mid-19th century to be heard.
The land’s status as a special housing area had already been decided when that was approved in July 2014 under the housing accord between the Government & Auckland Council. What remained to be decided after the hearing on 3-4 February were the permission to subdivide, and the conditions to do so.
8-year development plan
Fletcher Residential aims to complete the development’s 4 stages over about 8 years. The initial qualifying development will supply 92 residential lots, one lot to retain an historic homestead and 6 superlots for a total 140 houses on 8.2ha, including 15 affordable homes. Ultimately the development will provide for 480 houses.
Fletcher Residential sought to have the 32ha at 545-561 Oruarangi Rd rezoned in the proposed Auckland unitary plan from future urban to a combination of mixed housing suburban, public open space, conservation and green infrastructure corridor.
Ms McGregor said the land was currently zoned future development in the Manukau section of the operative Auckland district plan: “In other words, under the provisions of both the operative plan & the proposed plan, the site is already earmarked for urban development.”
The qualifying development application was for concurrent subdivision & land use consents. As well as the housing, subdivision consent was also required to create a lot to be vested as a recreation reserve, 2 local purpose reserves to serve as accessways, roads to be vested in the council, and 2 balance lots. Consents for bulk earthworks & reconstruction of stone walls on the Oruarangi Rd frontage were also required.
Counsel for Fletcher, Sue Simons, said at the hearing the vision for the development was “the creation of an affordable residential community that achieves quality environmental outcomes and recognises cultural values & associations with the area. The proposed development will offer its residents access to connected open space & the adjoining Otuataua stonefields historic reserve. It will also be connected to a variety of transport options, including pedestrian & cycle networks”.
The development land is located at the end of the Ihumatao Peninsula on the eastern fringes of the Manukau Harbour and is 21km from central Auckland. The general area is known as the Western Gateway, with the peninsula forming part of what is referred to as the Mangere gateway heritage area.
It’s fringed by a reserve to the north, a papakainga village to the east, Oruarangi Rd to the south-south-east and the Rennie block, owned by the council, and part of the reserve to the west. Ihumatao Quarry Rd bisects the site from the south-east to the north-west. Despite its proximity to the motorway and the city, the area hasn’t been serviced by public transport and there are no schools or shops.
The stonefields reserve, created in 2001, adjoins the site to the north-west, and portions of the eastern slope of the reserve extend into the special housing area land. The Makaurau marae & papakainga lie to the north-east, while across the road & immediately to the east is land zoned as Mangere gateway business (Oruarangi) in the district plan, which is being developed for business purposes with a number of small to medium-sized business/industrial units. Beyond that new development is the airport precinct.
The wider area is bounded by the South-western Motorway (State Highway 20) to the east, George Bolt Drive & the Auckland international airport terminals, runways & business park to the south, and the Manukau Harbour to the north & west.
Rezoning approved in 2012
The Environment Court approved rezoning of this & nearby land from rural to the future development zone in 2012. Ms McGregor quoted part of the court’s decision in the decision out yesterday: “To keep the land outside the MUL (metropolitan urban limit) with a rural zoning would, without further constraints, offer less protection to the characteristics protected by section 6 (e) & (f) of the Resource Management Act. To lock the land up might indeed provide for Maori & heritage values. But it would not provide for the economic needs & wellbeing of the owners. By allowing sensitive constrained development, heritage & landscape characteristics can be protected.”
Panel chair acknowledges depth of feeling
Ms McGregor recorded, from previous court evidence, some of the depth of feeling about the area: “The volcanic features on the Ihumatao Peninsula are recognised as taonga by local Maori and the court recorded the evidence given to it that subsequent modifications & destructions of these features have caused immense distress & ongoing grief.
“Examples of such modifications included creation of the Mangere sewerage ponds & associated water treatment plant on the edge of the Manukau Harbour, quarrying of various maunga, and construction of the second runway for the Auckland international airport. Destructions included laying waste to cultural icons when the wastewater treatment ponds were built.”
She also noted that, although the Environment Court concluded there was little doubt that Ngati Ahiwaru, the inhabitants of the area in 1853 when Maori were ordered to leave, were unfairly treated by the Crown, “those matters cannot be addressed through Resource Management Act processes. We agree with that, and note that in the present case a remedy for historical grievances is not provided by our jurisdiction in terms of the Housing Accords & Special Housing Areas Act either”.
Several submissions were concerned with the special housing legislation, its affordable housing requirements and public involvement in the special housing area formulation processes. Again, Ms McGregor said in the panel decision: “As noted by Ms Simons in her legal submissions, those are political processes which are beyond the control of the authority. We have no jurisdiction to comment on, let alone decide, the matters raised…
“We were made aware that a claim has been made to the Waitangi Tribunal by persons or parties who object to the special housing area legislation process and the announcement of this land as a special housing area. Again it would be inappropriate for this authority to comment on that claim or any steps the Waitangi Tribunal might have taken in relation to it. Impacts on property values, and potential rate increases, were also raised and are similarly inappropriate as a basis for decisions under the legislative framework that applies to the current applications.
“The combined submissions of the Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority & the Makaurau Marae Maori Trust supported both the plan variation & the qualifying development application and stated they represent the people who hold mana whenua of Ihumatao and who reside at Puketapapa papakainga (Ihumatao village). There was also a submission in support of both applications lodged by Daniel Nahkle, who is a director of several companies including that developing the business land at 533 & 556 Oruarangi Rd. This confirmed that the parties he represented had agreed to stormwater & wastewater infrastructure for the development being installed for the qualifying development.”
The hearing panel turned down a request from Auckland International Airport Ltd that a proportion of the development contributions to be generated by the development be allocated to improving the local road network, including roads which it owns around the airport. Ms McGregor: “We have no jurisdiction to consider that request as this is a Local Government Act matter, and therefore we have no legal basis on which to make the decision the company sought.”
Fletcher’s archaeologist sees benefit
Archaeologist Rod Clough, on behalf of Fletcher Residential, said the project would actually protect a number of significant features and also add a valuable buffer to the stonefields reserve that would assist in protecting its values over the long term. He advised that the adverse effects on historic heritage would require mitigation through a range of measures which include development of a reserve management plan, establishing a protective covenant for the historic Kintyre House, repair & restoration of stone walls where feasible, archaeological investigation & recording to recover information relating to the history of the area, and providing public amenities in the reserve area, including information on the history of occupation (and including the association of the Wallace family with this land, which the family acquired in 1863).
Marae head details long battle
Mr Te Warena Taua, who chairs the local Makaurau Marae Trust and is a kaumatua of Te Kawerau a Maki as well as executive chairman of Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority, described the confiscations & military activity in & around Ihumatao during the 19th century, including how Maori had been ordered to leave the area when the English soldiers arrived in 1863. When Maori finally began returning, there was nowhere for them to live. At the time the Crown grant was made to Mr Wallace some nearby land had been ‘gifted’ to iwi, although they didn’t gain title to it until 1911. Land was taken back from the Wallace family and divided between 14 kaumatua of several related iwi groups.
Mr Taua said more & more houses were built and gradually more of his people started to return. He said Ihumatao had changed immensely since that time. There are now 67 houses in the village, around two-thirds of which are owned by those who live there. The population is now around 210 people.
Mr Taua referred to the Environment Court cases which had considered the extent of the metropolitan urban limit and an attempt to rezone 545-561 Oruarangi Rd as public open space. Mr Taua was involved in these cases and clearly disappointed by the outcome. He explained that since that time his focus had shifted from opposing growth to negotiating with Fletcher to achieve better outcomes for tangata whenua through the provision of affordable housing for those who return to the area, creating an ongoing relationship with the developer and ensuring that the future housing would be set back from the papakainga & urupa.
He said in the course of these discussions: “Fletchers came to realise how much this land means to us. The proposal was 520 houses which came down to 480 … then it agreed to move a fence back by 80m, which is a sizeable area, and that land will come back to us in fee simple. This is the first time since the confiscations that land, including the toe of the maunga, will come back to us.
“There are at least 200 families who could come back and live in the village. We’ve had children who could not be brought up here because there’s no room. That’s nothing to do with Fletchers, but there are many who want to come back and they have a right to do so. It’s up to us. If our people are able to return to these houses then we have done something.”
He added that those who were opposed to the development had not taken any account of the people who are not there and who want to return. He acknowledged there could be no guarantee that descendants of the original settlers will actually own all of the new houses, although that aspect was also being negotiated.
Effects more than minor, but…
Ms McGregor said in the decision: “We have concluded that the heritage, cultural & archaeological effects of the development will be more than minor. In this context, however, it must also be borne in mind that in respect of this particular land the Environment Court has already decided that appropriate development can occur on the site and that it should not be retained as a wholly open space area. While there may have been previous intentions by various agencies to purchase all or some of the land as reserve, the fact is it has never happened and the advice we received at the end of the hearing was the Auckland Council has no intention to acquire it.
“We are satisfied that the proposal will set back any development from sites of cultural, heritage & archaeological significance, and that the design has included a reduction in the overall yield, and a buffer & building height restriction between the existing papakainga and the development. The ground-penetrating radar survey has confirmed that the full extent of the known burial caves & the 2 smaller lava voids are located within the proposed reserve area and will not be affected by the development.”
Opponent Brendan Corbett raised the issue of development density just before the hearing and in formal submissions, arguing that it would be a much lower density than other special housing areas.
480 dwellings on 32ha equated to a density of 15 houses/ha, while special housing area 59 at Walmsley Rd in Mangere would yield 1500 dwellings from the same land area and have a density of 100 houses/ha, and special housing area 93 at Kirkbride Rd would yield 53 from 1.7ha, a density of 31/ha.
Ms McGregor commented: “He construed the lower density proposed for Oruarangi as a marketing strategy designed to pitch the houses to the high price/elite end of the market. However, Mr Corbett’s preference was for this site to be purchased for reserve purposes, with no development to take place on it at all as ‘losing the land to housing had never been conceived of as possible’….
“It was apparent to those reporting for the council that Mr Corbett’s density calculations had been based on the entire site, without taking into account any areas to be set aside for stormwater, roads, reserves & the buffer to the west.”
Between the applicant and the council, only one variation provision remained in dispute by the time the application was set down for hearing. This related to the recommended rule 4.13, which at that time required that no more than 6 affordable dwellings or sites were to be provided in a single cluster. Fletcher asked to increase that to 9 dwellings so terraced housing could be developed, as that typology would provide an economic option for affordable housing.
Ms McGregor said the outcome of discussions between Fletcher & the council before the hearing was agreement that a cluster of 9 dwellings could be provided. The approved variation reflects that agreed outcome.
In sum, Ms McGregor said: “The authority has concluded that the development anticipated by plan variation 9 is appropriate. We have been satisfied that the special characteristics of this area will be maintained in that the proposed unitary plan provisions for the Oruarangi Rd sub-precinct do not provide for tall buildings that would otherwise intrude on views of the maunga or the stonefields; they will maintain public access to the coast, the stonefields area and the stonefields reserve; they will require an appropriate buffer area between the development and the stonefields reserve along with other heritage protection measures, and will maintain & enhance linkages with, and for the customs of, the adjacent papakainga & the Makaurau marae.
The applications were heard by the accord territorial authority comprised of Ms McGregor (chair), Robert Scott, Shona Myers, Basil Morrison & Murray Kay (local board member).
2 February 2016: Minister takes Fletcher side on 3 Kings, and local politicians cry foul
29 January 2016: Opponents say Ihumatao alone as low-density special housing area proposal
Attribution: Panel decision.