Published & corrected 8 February 2019 (the Simpson Grierson lawyers mentioned below were the Defence Force’s, not the council’s):
I’ve long been under the impression that the Air Force, as the Navy does with its dinghy, would take its C130 transport plane out for a drive once/month to use the fuel allocation, and the plane would glide back to base using Greville Rd at Albany as the guide.
But there’s more to the airbase than using suburban arterials as a map to guide the plane home. Although the base’s P3 Orions will be replaced by Boeing P8-A Poseidons, to be based from 2023 at Ohakea in the Manawatu (where the State Highways 1 & 3 intersections at Bulls & Sanson are probably good roadmarkers to guide the planes home), in the meantime the Whenuapai planes make a lot of noise from time to time.
The Defence Force produced noise evidence the day before the hearing began last May on plan change 5, to rezone 360ha beside the airbase at Whenuapai, then produced updated evidence on noise contours in November.
When the council’s planners proposed in December either withdrawing plan change 5 altogether, or varying it to take account of the new noise contour research, the QC acting for subdivider submitters Cabra Developments Ltd & Neil Construction Ltd, Russell Bartlett, said in a 21 December letter to the council the Defence Force’s original evidence “had exaggerated the noise effects of engine testing”, but in any case the hearing panel had the skills “to bring policy considerations into the necessary decision-making”.
The Defence Force’s legal advisors at Simpson Grierson, Padraig McNamara & Sarah Mitchell, told the council on 18 January the short way to resolution could be for the hearing commissioners to confirm amended contours & zoning.
The council’s planners responded with a report identifying 4 options, preferring option B (to initiate the variation, based on the noisiest week). That goes against the Simpson Grierson advice, which noted that the testers felt the noisiest week was an outlier and the busiest week represented a more appropriate worst case.
The whole plan change 5 area comprises 360ha. Plan change 5 proposes rezoning 113ha of it to light industrial & the 274ha balance to a range of residential zones, anticipated to enable development of 6400 houses on land currently used for horticulture, rural production & lifestyle blocks.
The proposed plan change variation would restrict development of 410 housing lots until 2023 because they’d be within contours where the noise level would be deemed unacceptable.
The council’s north-west planning team leader, Eryn Shields, said in his report to Tuesday’s council committee meeting that the Defence Force had decommissioned taxiway D at Whenuapai because its surface was in poor condition (and the move to Ohakea relatively imminent), but that taxiway was more central than taxiway F, which was still in use & closer to the future boundary housing considered to be most affected.
The council planners’ preferred option would enable an additional 14ha to be zoned mixed housing urban, providing 370 more houses than under the present variation 5, and more land could be zoned for medium to high density once the Ohakea move has occurred.
Mr Shields said opting for the variation would delay a hearing decision by about 6 months, until late August.
To committee members’ suggestions that the zoning decision could wait until the Defence Force provided more certainty on its moves, Mr Shields said: “We can’t be paralysed, we have to act.“
Mr Shields told Cllr John Watson, who’d said a no-complaints covenant would prevent future residents complaining about noise: “We don’t consider that’s an appropriate way to manage the noise. We continue not to support them [the Defence Force position on covenants].”
Independent Maori Statutory Board members Tau Henare & Liane Ngamene baulked at the suggestion that the final decision on the variation be left to “a sub-group” of the committee.
But that’s what happened. The council planners will complete their work, present it to the sub-group for approval and the variation to the plan change will proceed to public notification & submissions.
The variation’s intent is to change the proposed zoning of about 120ha adjoining the NZ Defence Force airbase at Whenuapai, within the 65dB Ldn noise boundary, or between the 57-65dB Ldn noise boundaries, based on the additional noise data the NZ Defence Force provided the day before the hearing began. The noise data relates to noise effects from engine testing at the Whenuapai airbase.
The hearing on plan change 5 to the Auckland unitary plan began on 4 May 2018, continued on 7 & 10 May and was to have resumed in August, but was postponed.
The commissioners made a site visit in June and chair Robert Scott issued a long list of questions to council planners on:
- aircraft noise
- infrastructure funding mechanisms
- transport infrastructure requirements
- indicative open space
- zoning (and potential further intensification) of land bounded by Trig Rd, Upper Harbour Drive & Hobsonville Rd because of its proximity to the Westgate & NorthWest shopping centres
- the reasons for a lower intensity single house zone at the coastal management area boundary, in addition to coastal setbacks, and
- out-of-scope submissions on seeking to be added to the plan change, and a light industry zone.
The parties haven’t been back to the hearing room since Mr Scott sent his list, so the answers to all those questions are also awaited.
Original plan change 5 documents
Committee meeting, 5 February 2019 documents:
8, Auckland unitary plan (operative in part) – proposed plan change 5 Whenuapai 3 precinct – next steps
Plan change 5 area
Proposed Whenuapai 3 precinct plan 3
Whenuapai Airbase engine testing locations
Engine testing scenario 7
Engine testing scenario 5
Engine testing scenarios 6 & 8
Correspondence from Cabra Developments Ltd, Neil Construction Ltd & NZ Defence Force
Plan change 5 variation livestream
Attribution: Council committee agenda & meeting in room where microphones didn’t always work.