The key question about how greenfields land will be rezoned under Auckland’s unitary plan is: Who controls it, council or developers?
The second question is how infrastructure for rezoned land can be put in place before or as it’s needed, not after.
And the third is: How will it be funded?
The first of those questions is one for the independent panel hearing submissions on the unitary plan. The second has been mentioned by council people from time to time, but without a proposition being brought forward. And the third, on funding, has to be considered if the order of infrastructure provision, or the supplier, changes.
Since 1999, Auckland has had metropolitan urban limits set in concrete, which could only be extended at great cost in time & money, and only after exhausting tireless opposition from the regional council (ie, close to never). Critics of Auckland’s rising housing costs have blamed that inflexibility for ensuring Auckland would be out of step with cities around the world that didn’t have such tight constraints.
Under the new unitary plan, up to 70% of new residential development is to occur inside those metropolitan urban limits as they were when the super-city Auckland Council replaced the regional council & 7 territorial councils in 2010. The balance of development is to occur within a new rural:urban boundary, still not set.
About 10,800ha would be available for rezoning, and that rezoning would ensure a steady supply of land for subdivision.
But who would decide the timetable? And who would choose the next land to be rezoned?
Auckland Council revealed its proposal for a land release programme, and how it would work, in evidence & submissions to the independent panel on the proposed unitary plan in November & December. At first the council proposed writing the programme in conjunction with other parties, but changed that to “in consultation with” – the difference is that, under the first scheme, outsiders would have a say; under the second scheme, outsiders could have a say but the council wouldn’t have to listen.
Sue Simon, counsel for Todd Property Group Ltd, told the hearing panel there had been no consultation on the rural:urban boundary, let alone the proposed land release programme.
She said: “We’re back to the old command & control.” Council witnesses had said there would be open slather without the rural:urban boundary, but Ms Simon said there was no such thing as unconstrained growth, there was always a structure plan. Imposing a land release programme run by the council was to reassert “the attitude that they know better than anyone else”.
Establishing any kind of programme to rezone land steadily through the life of the Auckland Plan was added hurriedly before that plan was finalised in 2012, after developers said they would need some certainty of supply but, more to the point, that the council’s own infrastructure organisations – Auckland Transport, Watercare Services Ltd and its internal stormwater division – needed a plan to work to.
One outcome is that the rewritten rules for land release advocate contiguous development – extending urban boundaries to the next adjacent area without jumping ahead.
The council proposed that “a land release strategy will be prepared by the council in consultation with infrastructure providers, iwi, landowners, developers, central government & other stakeholders to integrate & prioritise land delivery & investment in infrastructure to support the development of greenfield land”, that it should be done in a logical sequence, “and out-of-sequence rezoning or infrastructure provision should be specifically avoided”.
It also proposed a minimum 5 years’ supply, not the 20 years or so developers want.
To achieve this supply, the council proposed its land release programme. Presenting the council case on urban growth on 15 December, lawyer Heather Ash told the panel: “Before structure planning takes place, the council’s land release programme will identify the future urban form of land, including land use in the future urban zone as well as the key infrastructure required to service development.
“As explained by Mr Tucker [council spatial & infrastructure strategy manager Michael Tucker] in his evidence, the land release programme will involve consultation with stakeholders, landowners & affected communities under the Local Government Act…..
“The council considers that the amendment to policy 4 suggested by Ms Trenouth [resource management consultant Chloe Trenouth] – resulting in the obligation for structure planning and the rezoning of future urban-zoned land to have regard to the land release programme – is necessary to ensure that development of future urban-zoned land in the rural:urban boundary occurs in a staged, timely & integrated manner aligned with the provision of infrastructure.”
Ms Ash pointed to further council evidence to indicate that structure planning & rezoning would have regard to the land release programme, and for development to be generally adjacent to existing urban areas, which “will assist Auckland Transport & Watercare to deliver transport, waste & wastewater infrastructure & services aligned with the timing of the proposed development”.
That evidence, and on stormwater, “establishes that it takes time to facilitate bulk infrastructure in greenfields & the locations where it is to be provided will need to be prioritised. In circumstances where there is about 10,800ha of land zoned future urban within the rural:urban boundary, the reality of the situation is that there cannot be a general ‘free-for-all’ of upzoning of future urban land within the rural:urban boundary…..
“While it is envisaged that the majority of development proposals involving rezoning will be guided by the land release programme, they also provide an opportunity for other development proposals to occur out of sequence where the relevant statutory criteria can be satisfied.”
The Government might need to be involved in shaping public infrastructure funding, but there is no need for all infrastructure to be done by the public sector and smooth planning according to a council-devised programme would be less likely to create the competitive friction that would help keep section prices down.
Articles in the series:
UP1: The PAUP, the MUL, the RUB, the RPS & the LRP – the what-the?
UP2: Council tells panel the evidence backs compact city, and new urban boundary will work
UP3: Paper on preferred form an important backgrounder
UP4: Fairgray doesn’t fix on the far horizon, but says million new Aucklanders will fit in
UP5: Rule changes would shorten land supply and discourage new villages
UP6: McDermott argues for better ways than compact city to accommodate growth
UP7: Burton sees the antithesis of good planning, but says the compact city can work
UP8: Crucial question: Who will control land release?
Attribution: Hearings, submissions, supporting documents.