Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

Are You Feeling You’re Shaping Auckland?

As we watch some of the key Unitary Plan decisions on character, height and density get changed, how many Aucklanders are now thinking: What a bloody waste of time?

In the last few weeks, the Hearings Panel has rejected a key council argument around protecting character buildings, and councillors have voted to reverse the decision they made in 2013 to have residential density rules. The key Mixed Housing Suburban and Urban zones (the most widespread residential zones in Auckland which allow 2 or 3 storey buildings) are now proposed to be significantly more intense (table credit NZ Herald).

Changing rules

There are also rumours that height levels will be increased in other residential zones, notably the Terrace Housing and Apartment zone.

“Shape Auckland” was first launched as the website where Aucklanders could help “shape” Auckland and “Have Your Say” on the Unitary Plan.

An extended consultation period was actually introduced to get feedback on what was called the Draft Draft Unitary Plan (this ran from March to May 2013). You may recall the ‘famous’ 23,000 submissions received which, we were told, helped create the “people’s plan”. This then feed into the formal submissions period which ran from Dec to February 2014 (9,400 submissions), and then a further submissions period (3,800 submissions) which closed in July last year.

I guess the fall in submissions number from 23,000 to 9,400 to 3,800 was a sign that people were feeling their views had been conveyed (or they may have been worn down).

Well, it’s starting to look like some of the most important of these views will not hold sway.

The Proposed Unitary Plan was finalised in the lead up to the 2013 local body elections. Perhaps feeling the heat of elective pressure, and having clearly received widespread feedback from around Auckland, the Mayor and councillors made the decisions which produced the current Plan.

Some changes, improvements we might have hoped, during the Hearings Panel process were inevitable. But wholesale change on the most important points, without re-engaging with Aucklanders, risks undermining the Plan that emerges.

The final Plan will be accepted (or not) by Auckland Council in the middle of next year, ironically just a few weeks before nominations open for the 2016 elections on 15 July 2016.

12 weeks later we will all be able to vote on how much we think we have shaped Auckland, by “re-shaping” who leads it.

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