Posted on June 17, 2015
A city the size of Gisborne is moving to Auckland each year. This means we need to build around 12,000 new homes annually – and we are well behind this as last week’s OECG report showed. As the graph indicates, only once in the last eleven years has our projected building consents demand actually been reached. The report also criticised what it called “community resistance to rezoning and densification” and suggested greater central government involvement in this area too.
Neither of these conclusions is well founded. With better Auckland Council leadership and a stronger Unitary Plan we can deal to this issue ourselves.
Part of council’s proposed response to the housing shortage is to limit the definition of what a ‘character’ house is, so more of these can be developed/demolished. (There’s been criticism that the proposed character rules actually restrict development, but that’s only because greater restrictions were introduced during the draft Unitary Plan debate. The general thrust is still to increase development in these areas.)
This whole debate hasn’t been effectively handled by council. The Mayor has presided over a growth in warring factions the so-called ‘protectionists’ who it’s claimed oppose development and want to protect everything, and the ‘abolionists’ who would abandon character protection and let owners do what the market dictates.
Like most polarizing debates, the answer to this is somewhere in between. We need to develop clearer, well understand standards around what character we value – and what we don’t. And we need to accept more development in areas where this may not have previously been considered.
Yesterday’s Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel heard from the Queensland Government Architect how Brisbane has found a much better answer than Auckland. And in the same way that Perth moved to electric trains nearly 30 years ago, Brisbane adopted its approach 20 years ago.
Brisbane did this by introducing demolition controls in their largely inner city suburbs for housing built before 1946. So it’s similar to Auckland’s pre 1944 rule but it has been more strongly enforced. However the quid pro-quo was greater intensification around the adjacent ‘non character’ areas. A consequence as been not just greatly expanded housing in the intensified areas, but also developing and re-purposing in the character zone. Density has actually increased in the character areas too as having an appropriate character zone and a Residential Character Code to support new developments has encouraged this.
The Mayor didn’t lead that kind of discussion during the Auckland draft PAUP debate. But we have an opportunity now to influence these issues with the Hearings Panel process so we can get a Plan that delivers both the growth we need and the character we value.