Just when we thought the Housing Crisis could not get any worse, we seem to have hit a new low in August.
We had Auckland Council announce they had issued 430 Resource Consents incorrectly and the Environment Court found that the Auckland Unitary Plan rules were unclear – cue understatement of the year!
We had Panuku, Council’s property development agency, having its own 104 apartment proposal on Dominion Rd declined by planning commissioners.
And last but by no means least we had Phil Twyford the Minister for Housing & Urban Development blaming Council planning for the Housing Crisis and pushing forward the Urban Design Authority as the mean to step over the RMA and every District or Regional Plan in NZ, in order to fulfil the labour Governments promises on delivering affordable houses.
The Court ruling on the Unitary Plan means in essence that when faced with an Overlay and a Zone, you take the worse case for compliance and face the uncertainty of consultation and notification. In addition, you face staff or commissioner discretion over subjective criteria involving appearance, amenity, character, quality, compatibility. In turn, this means more experts, more cost and more time with no certainty. So this ruling affects more than just those poor 430 holders of Resource Consents now rendered unusable, it affects us all.
The Dominion Rd application being declined is very much linked to the issues mentioned, the Commissioners declined the application because of subjective scale, design and heritage issues and from a few submissions from nearby residents complaining that their surroundings are going to change and it affects their amenity. Yet we just went through five years of submissions and debate to get to a Unitary Plan that is meant to deliver greater density and intensification and where the future character and amenity is meant to be considered, not the current situation. This further throws the Unitary Plan into disarray.
The Urban Development Authority was a vehicle put forward by the former National Government in early 2017, ironically it has been taken up with gusto by the Labour Government.
An Urban Development Authority has the power to override existing and proposed district and regional plans, acquire land by compulsory acquisition, revoke reserve land, along with other broad sweeping powers in order to streamline consenting and develop land if the Minister believes there is a high public benefit, it can break height limits and increase density.
The only submissions objecting to the UDA was from all of Auckland’s Local Boards, yet it was supported in Principle by the Council!
The Planning Institute supported it, but the Property Institute objected strongly saying it was draconian, cutting across the consultative rights of a property-owning democracy, that it would be cumbersome, duplicate existing legislation and undermine delegated authorities!
Where all this leads to is a clear expression of how broken the legislative and planning system is.
We have a Resource Management Act that fails to deal with complex and dynamic social and economic effects in urban areas and that is reflected in the Unitary Plan - an unwieldy and complex document that attempts to solve these conflicts by giving subjective discretion to a large risk-averse bureaucracy! So we have a Government who thinks the answer lies in stepping over the mess and giving itself bold powers with a clear “one rule for them and another load of rules for the rest of us” approach.
As Churchill said; "perhaps this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
In the press
Local media highlights from the past week
September is here, and you know what that means. Summer is on the way, it's statistically the worst month of the year for shares, and the Warriors are set to play finals football for the first time in years.
It also means the release of an interim report from the Tax Working Group, ahead of the final recommendations in February of next year.
In a world first, AUT researchers have developed an artificial intelligence model, which can predict a person's choices before they have even made up their mind.
The work is based on a new type of artificial intelligence research called spiking neural networks, which was used to develop NeuCube, a machine learning system modelled on how the human brain learns and recognises patterns.
Migration patterns are changing.
In the 12 months to June migration added another 64,995 souls to this country’s population, according to Statistics NZ, which while still hugely high by historical standards, was down by 10.1% from the net gain of 72,305 for the 12 months to June 2017 and down 5.9% compared to the net gain of 69,090 in the 12 months to June 2016.
Now that single-use plastic bags are on their way out, what are we going to line our rubbish bins with? Compostable bags? Not so fast, warns AUT emeritus professor Thomas Neitzert.
As companies move to get rid of single-use plastic bags and bans on microbeads are coming into force, new biodegradable or compostable plastic products seem to offer an alternative. But they may be no better for the environment.