The protracted and sometimes anguished birthing process for the Unitary Plan, the blueprint for Auckland’s future, passed a crucial milestone today. But you’d be forgiven for wondering what it all means. Here’s an attempt to explain, with some helpful pictures.
First, a picture of a USB stick:
What happened today?
The Independent Hearings Panel recommendations on the Auckland Unitary Plan – the comprehensive, doorstop-size rule-book for planning in the Super City, replacing a load of existing rule books from the various unified councils – were published. After 13,364 submissions were received over 249 days of hearings across two years, the recommendations came in the form of a bunch of reports and a fresh new proposed Unitary Plan to pore over; enough bedtime reading to last you till Christmas.
And what did those recommendations amount to?
There are a lot, but the headline recommendations are these:
• The panel says Auckland needs 422,000 more homes in the next three decades – roughly 270,000 in urban areas and 152,000 in the green and pleasant rural hoods. That’s almost twice the number of new dwellings the Auckland Council said they needed in their first draft of the plan in 2013. The goal, said the panel, should be to reach a point of oversupply.
• Expand the Rural Urban Boundary to include 30% more land and enable it to be changed by private plan changes.
• The proportion of Auckland to be zoned for single homes would shrink by 22%.
• As much as 60% of the city to be zoned for higher density housing, ie two or three storeys.
• Ditching the generic heritage protections for all houses built before 1944.
• Sticking with the council guideline of accommodating around 70% of housing growth within the urban area, and up to 40% outside it.
Can I look up what it means for my home?
If you’re lucky enough to have one, yes. Here.
What do you get if you search “city future” on iStock?
So this is the final plan, in effect?
Not quite. As council officials pointed out several dozen times during this afternoon’s media briefing, these are recommendations and it’s up to the Council to decide.
And how will they do that?
There are public hearings from August 10 to 18, and the council must sign the thing off by August 19.
Can the council change it?
Yes. But they must justify the change and base it on submissions made to the IHP. They may also appeal for an extension of up a month.
That’s inevitable, isn’t it?
Not inevitable. Dragging it out or attempting to make sweeping changes, or jettison the whole exercise even, risks encouraging the government to step in and overrule them. That wouldn’t look great for councillors painted as saboteurs in the leadup to the local elections. The proximity to the local elections is another reason they might want to crack on. Disgruntled councillors may decide instead to support the plan more or less as it has been returned, then to campaign on making changes after the next election, which is perfectly within the rules.
What do you get if you search “Angry Puppy” on iStock?
Is this going to end up in court?
Could do. The government have strived to create a process that minimises risk of legal holdups, but it’s a fair bet aspects at least will be test in the Environment Court.
It’s sure, though, to completely dominate the local elections?
Just who do these Independent Hearings Panel people think they are?
They think they are a statutory body whose members have been appointed by the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Conservation, but funded by the Auckland Council. They are intelligent people who like to lean over to one side for photographs.
Any early reactions to the recommendations?
Generation Zero said this: “Overall we’re happy … Allows big increase in housing choice close to centres & along public transport corridors. We didn’t get everything we wanted in the Unitary Plan, but a large public process is always going to be about compromise.”
Mayoral hopeful Mark Thomas said the “recommendations represent a ‘gangbusters’ approach to new housing … The panel has added rocket fuel to original Proposed Unitary Plan … I suspect many Aucklanders will be alarmed”.
Here’s a picture of Mark Thomas from his website:
No word as we go to web-press from the other mayoral aspirants.
ACT’s David Seymour quite liked it.
Mayor Len Brown: “We’ve had four years of debate and everyone has had ample opportunity to have their say. The process from here is that we as a council need to consider the panel’s recommendations and make final decisions.”
Metro sage Simon Wilson reckoned it was close to a total fucking triumph.
And if I wanted to support The Spinoff’s wild and belligerent campaigning journalism in this area, where would I go?