Written By: - Date published: 10:44 am, March 17th, 2013 - 39 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, capital gains, capitalism, climate change, Conservation, cost of living, exports, housing, infrastructure, national/act government, public transport, quality of life, tenants' rights - Tags: len brown, nick smith, penny hulse
The Draft Auckland Unitary Plan, which was released this week, is a massive endeavour with much to commend it. It focuses on resource management and links in with the Auckland Plan that was released last year.
Like the Environmental Defence Society, I am pleased with some ways that it aims to be protect the environment, but also agree that it will take several months for most people to digest the content and implications of the Draft Unitary Plan. The EDS press release also identifies a short coming that needs fixing:
“The plan appears to tackle natural resource management issues well. It has permissive zoning for development areas and restrictive zoning for conservation areas. This clarity and precision will give everyone more certainty and is a change from the woolly language and provisions that characterised the legacy plans it replaces.
“There are some omissions that will need fixing. These include inadequate provisions relating to the marine area. Auckland’s marine space is larger than its land area and contains critically threatened species including Maui’s dolphin and Bryde’s whale. These have not been adequately addressed in the draft Unitary Plan. Council will need to considerably beef up its marine management provisions.
I was pleased to see that the Draft Plan, as accessible in electronic form, directly addresses climate change:
Section 1.5.2 of the introduction says:
To respond to climate change we have identified two approaches, mitigation and adaptation. …
The move to a quality compact city, for example, will help reduce Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging greater use of public transport, more efficient use of energy, and requiring the application of good design principles to new developments. Measures in the Unitary Plan, such as rules around setbacks from the coast and streams, and land use controls in identified hazard areas, will better enable Auckland to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.
However, as indicated in Len Brown’s speech to launch the draft plan, he still embraces the “neoliberal’ approach of export-led growth:
The Auckland Plan, which we released last year, reflects the desire and the necessity for a modern, compact city.
It reflects the need for an integrated transport system which provides quality public transport alongside the roading network.
It reflects the need for a concerted drive to develop an export-focused regional economy. …
Auckland’s population is set to nearly double over the next 30 years. Our population will grow by a million people. More than 60 per cent of this will come from our existing populous. They have to live somewhere. The region needs a mix of new housing land, and more intensive housing in key areas of the city.
This plan allows for intensity – but it also expands the existing city by creating a new rural-urban boundary.
I do like his focus on making a more compact and “liveable” city, preserving heritage areas. Penny Hulse has had a strong involvement in the plan and seems to give priority to the community. The construction of the Draft Unitary Plan has included some consultation with Aucklanders, according to Brown’s speech:
In particular I want to acknowledge Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, whose leadership as Chair of the Auckland Plan Committee has been vital in getting us to this point….
We talked extensively with Aucklanders about how we could best meet the challenges facing the region, and how we can best seize the opportunities they present.
15,000 people made submissions on the Auckland Plan, many others engaged through public meetings, online forums and involvement with their local boards. We have also consulted widely on the draft Unitary Plan through our 21 local boards and their communities.
According to NZ Herald’s Bernard Orsman, Hulse and husband plan to give up their Swanson house to move into one of the apartments that are part of new medium density housing in New Lynn. Orsman’s article also reports that a handful of areas, including New Lynn, will have a cap on up to 18 storeys of residential apartments.
As a New Lynn resident I have been quite excited by some of the recent developments (the rail trench, the shared walking, cycling, motor vehicle spaces, the incorporation of the area’s history into the designs, medium density residential developments within walking distance of public transport medical centre and commercial centre, and more).
However, I am a little concerned about the 18 storey upper limit, and about the possibility of it becoming widespread.
John Minto, on The Daily Blog, is also critical of both Auckland Council and the NZ government’s plans for Auckland because they incorporate the ideology of “growth”.
But we need neither the Council’s plans nor the government response. Both assume we need growth and that somehow this will make Auckland a more liveable city.
It won’t. We have a liveability crisis for low and middle income families right now and growth will do nothing to ease their struggle.
Instead of growth we need sustainable community renewal as Auckland’s top priority. This would mean Auckland Council focusing on strengthening and empowering local communities, providing the stimulus for jobs, providing more affordable housing and reducing the rates burden on low and middle income families who currently pay a far higher proportion of their income on rates and council charges than do higher-income families.
So what needs to be done?
To make housing more affordable we need a tough capital gains tax to drive “property investors” – almost 50% of current house sales – out of the housing market and leave it for first-home buyers.
To make the city more liveable for low and middle income families the council should abolish all flat charges for such things as wastewater and rubbish and incorporate them within a rates system based on property values.
However, I would have thought a focus on constructing more state houses, and on keeping private rents affordable should also be on the agenda. The plan is open for discussion, so now is the time for people to look at the draft and make their views known.