Council says it sits in the middle of a range of views
The 3-week hearing to determine subdivision rules on the North Shore side of the Okura catchment began before Judge John Bollard & 2 commissioners in the Environment Court today.
“In short, the issue for determination by the court is whether further subdivision should be provided for within the Okura catchment [North Shore side] and, if so, the extent of subdivision which will best ensure that adverse effects on the environment are appropriately avoided, remedied or mitigated,” North Shore City Council’s counsel, David Kirkpatrick, said in opening his submissions.
The council settled on a 2ha minimum subdivision limit and a maximum 1875mÂ²/site earthworks limit. It also decided to require a non-complying-activity resource consent for minor household units to ensure these units can’t be used to increase the level of subdivision & development “beyond that which can be accommodated without adverse effects on landscape values.”
[A report on rural zoning & minor residential units is before the council’s strategy & finance committee today, with a recommendation the await the Okura court hearing outcome before reviewing rural lot sizes and the status of minor residential units.]
North Shore patch is 18% of whole Okura catchment
The Okura catchment covers 2611ha on the North Shore City-Rodney District border, of which 2139ha falls within Rodney and the remaining 472ha within North Shore.
The 2 local councils and the Auckland Regional Council have worked together to formulate plans for the catchment, but there are some differences north & south of the border.
Both councils regard it as a green-belt area, with an ability for some subdivision. The Okura-Long Bay Great Park Society, 1 of several environmental groups making submissions to this hearing, has campaigned for a public park covering the bulk of the Long Bay catchment immediately down the coast from Okura, and incorporating a fair patch of Okura as well.
Smaller landowners, banding together as Protect Rural Okura, want to preserve their ownership rights. 2 large landowners, Okura Estates Ltd and Okura River Farm Partnership, have battled for subdivision rights.
Within the North Shore part of the catchment, the Okura village occupies 13.7ha and has an average lot size of 1164mÂ². Elsewhere in the catchment, lots average 4ha.
Zoned now for future urban expansion
Under the transitional North Shore district plan, the land was zoned rural – future residential, allowing subdivision down to 3ha and separate provision of retirement lots of about 4000mÂ². In the proposed district plan (most of which was endorsed by the Environment Court today to be implemented, but excluding several areas still in contention, such as Okura), the zoning was similar and termed residential expansion.
Also in the picture is the metropolitan urban limit, which was moved north by an Environment Court ruling in 1997, from Glenvar Rd to Vaughan’s Rd, along the ridgeline between the Okura and Long Bay catchments.
Proposed zones split undulating & holly sides
Under the proposed new zoning provisions, the Shore side of the catchment is divided into 2 zones, rural 4(i) to reflect the steeper bushclad western part and rural 4(ii) for the more undulating eastern part.
In rural 4(i), the proposed minimum site area is 5000mÂ² and the average 2ha. In rural 4(ii), the minimum is 2ha.
Cluster housing was the subject of intense debate in the council, which eventually made it a limited discretionary activity in both zones where it complies with a set of rules which include a minimum site area of 20ha, average 2ha density and preparation of a rural structure plan.
Big variation between the parties’ ideas
Mr Kirkpatrick said evidence from the council’s senior environmental policy advisor, Tony Reidy, and Boffa Misekell Ltd landscape architect Rachel de Lambert was that the council proposal would allow 144 more dwellings at Okura. Okura Estates Ltd & Okura River Farm Partnership want comprehensive rural residential development with a 1ha site average, minimum 2500mÂ² site. That would allow for 346 more dwellings. The environmental groups wants a 4ha minimum, which would allow 47 more dwellings.
Their evidence would also show that allowing minor household units to be built as a controlled activity had the potential to double the number of dwellings.
Differences between councils
Rodney District Council’s forward planning manager, Peter Vari, told his council in January the northern council would be represented at this hearing to guard against possible impacts from zone changes that Rodney doesn’t agree with.
The same law firm, Simpson Grierson, acts as solicitor to Auckland, North Shore and Rodney councils and, at the hearing, Mr Kirkpatrick represented both North Shore and Rodney councils. He confirmed for Judge Bollard that “the position of the Rodney District Council is to support the stand of North Shore City” — a view which conflicts with the precautionary stance of Rodney and raises a question about how well Rodney has framed its quest for legal advice.