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Busy year in 2012

Keep your views coming in…


Its only two weeks into 2012 but things are already shaping up to be hectic on the Auckland Council front this year. Since the new council came into being on 1 November 2010 its been change at a rapid pace to get the new structure bedded down. In reality, however, we have followed what the legacy councils put in place for the first twelve months.
In the meantime in recent times the Occupy Auckland protest and industrial action on the Ports of Auckland have gained high media coverage. Both these situations are not the direct responsibility of the governing body of Auckland Council to resolve. They are high interest with the Auckland community. Everyone has a personal position as to how they should be sorted. There are huge variations as to how people believe these matters should be resolved.
From day one of the occupation of Aotea Square I knew that the Auckland ratepayers would face a legal bill to get the campers and their tents removed. That saga has been played out in the Auckland District Court and the final resolution is still ongoing although there are only a few tents remaining.
The impasse at the Ports of Auckland is a very vexed industrial matter. It really now revolves around a desire of the Auckland Council to improve substantially the rate of financial return we are getting from the ports. The current return is around the 6% mark whilst the council is seeking 12% return by 2014.
Increasing the financial return will require major changes in the operation of the port. That is a matter for the Ports of Auckland company board and the Chief Executive Mr Tony Gibson. It certainly isn’t something, in terms of how the ownership/management of the port company is organised, that the mayor and councillors should be interfering. Lets hope that a resolution is found to the problem sooner than later.
This year will see a major change with two important plans to be in place and finalised by 1 July. The first to get signed off will be the Auckland Plan or as it is technically known the spatial plan. This plan documents how the Auckland region will function and operate over the next 30 years. Central to this plan is the provision of 400,000 additional or an average additional provision of over 13,000 new houses each year.
Auckland Council engaged urban planners Studio D4 and Jasmax to look closely how this additional housing could be provided within the existing urban limits. Their report summary showed:
“Whilst the Plan’s target cannot be achieved, substantial intensification is possible, but needs to be much more widespread than the current Auckland Plan’s town centres and corridors.”
“Without major re-zoning only 45-60,000 extra dwellings can be provided in intensified form in the next 30 years. With major re-zoning and sticking to town centres and corridors (as current draft Auckland Plan) could provide 90-120,000 extra dwellings. With major re-zoning in most current urban areas (requiring huge political resilience) could provide 200-270,000 extra dwellings.”
“Sales demand drives the location of intensification. Developers provide where there is sales demand.”
The council is therefore struggling to find suitable land. Already the pressure is coming on across the North Shore as to whether it is possible to redevelop our current residential areas. Over the last 20 or so years infill housing has occurred widely across the North Shore and I doubt there is too much space left for more infill. So we really are looking at redevelopment on a larger scale. As to how the Auckland Council resolve this conundrum of keeping suburbs as they are whilst trying to fit more people into the metropolitan area will be interesting.
The setting of the rates for the twelve months starting on 1 July and then the bringing together of a ten year plan will be a major task. Planning for the provision of infrastructure in a region that is growing by over 750,000 people over the next 30 years is a huge task. Mayor Brown has some major projects, like the Central City Rail Link (tunnel), that he wants to commence once the Government gives the green light to assist with funding. At the same time the provision of an additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing is a project that should not be over looked.
I have grave concerns about the intensity of the spending that Mayor Brown is signaling in the draft plan. By 2020 the Auckland Council is planning to increase the level of indebtedness to $8.7 billion (up from just over $3 billion now). Currently the draft plan proposes rates increases of 4.9% or thereabouts per year over the next ten years. This is going to be an interesting debate when one also looks at the fact the North Shore will be facing new revaluations under the capital valuation system.
This is going to be a busy time with lots of need for feedback from the communities across the North Shore on your views. Please try and make a submission on the various council plans. Your viewpoint is always helpful.
Ring or email me if necessary.


by George Wood