Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

NBR: Dismissal Of Plea For More Time Unfair

The National Business Review interviewed me late on Friday regarding my response to the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel’s decision to refuse to allow additional submissions on council’s substantial up-zoning plans. The article is pay to view unfortunately as is the radio interview I did, but in it I say that none of the six reasons the Hearings Panel Chair gives are compelling.

At last report, the panel had space available to hear more submissions. I said they could have set criteria to allow some of those most affected to submit and that my motivation for doing this was partly to help get a better quality unitary plan.

I also said that it will now be much harder to achieve this, and that public concern about the process and what comes out of it will only grow.

For those needing background, just prior to Christmas Auckland Council released substantially proposed changes to the residential zones in the Draft Unitary Plan. If confirmed by the Hearings Panel, this will mean the zoning for many suburban houses around Auckland will be intensified from the previously proposed single-house or mixed-house residential zone.

Many of these changes are what are called “out of scope” meaning no-one asked for them – but council officers have decided that the greatest degree of intensification possible is preferable.

This is a very bad decision for a number of reasons. It completely breaches faith with the work many of us did in 2013 when councillors and local board reps came together to agree the Draft Plan. It also assumes a “everyone bears the pain” philosophy – even where this makes neither good economic nor planning sense. It also comes towards the end of the Unitary Plan hearings process and many of those affected will not have submitted on the issue because of course they didn’t know about it.

I wrote to the Chair of the Hearings Panel on 18 December asking him to allow some further submissions – in the interests of getting a better quality unitary plan. Last week he denied my request which I called hugely disappointing and unfair.

I don’t believe his reasons for declining further submissions stack up, and Auckland’s Unitary Plan will be the poorer for it.

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