AUCKLAND COUNCIL with George Wood
Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan finally taking shape
It seems a long time has gone by since the draft Unitary Plan was launched at a glitzy ceremony by Mayor Len Brown at the Wynyard Quarter. The mayor advised that this was a document that would define the future of our city. I believe he was right on the money with this statement. It was also, however, a plan that was very much a draft and required a huge amount of refinement.
Prior to the launch Council officers had been working furiously behind the scenes to get the final details sorted and the interactive zoning plan completed. I saw the plan, in its completed version, for the first time on launch day Friday 15 March. I recall actually going back to the Viaduct Events Centre, the day following the launch, in order to learn more about how to use the on-line mapping system. It became clear to me at that time that even experienced Council planners were still learning how this plan worked.
Since the plan’s launch more than five months ago it has been a moving feast of action and drama. I have gone from being outside the tent, so to speak, to now playing a central role in moving the plan forward towards notification. I was never selected to be part of the early Unitary Plan working party. That has all now changed.
The draft Unitary Plan is being reworked through the Auckland Plan committee of Council, which is chaired by Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse. I am Penny’s deputy chair and we have now established a strong working relationship. We have worked with councillors and local board chairs for days and days getting presentations from planning officers of Council on our options for every conceivable aspect of the plan.
Council officers have scanned and analysed the 22500 submissions on the plan. They have then talked with the elected representatives to find the best way to address the myriad of issues. These are interactive sessions the type of which I have never previously seen in my many years associated with local government.
When Deputy Mayor Hulse has been absent I have had the honour of chairing these workshop meetings. It has been a great way to get all the public feedback and community views brought into the decision making mix. There is certainly a lot of understanding that it is essential that the final version of the draft plan will reflect a good level of consensus.
Running parallel to the work to complete the draft Unitary Plan for notification is the decision of the Minister of Housing Dr Nick Smith to introduce Special Housing Areas to accelerate the delivery of housing across the Auckland region. Dr Smith wants to crank up the output of housing, especially at the affordable level, to 39 thousand over the next three years. That sounds a tall order but Auckland Council is responding positively.
Where to from here? The final deliberations on the plan will take place on 28,29 and 30 August. Council officers will then make any changes that are requested by the Auckland Plan committee and then the plan will hopefully be ready for notification. There are some administrative issues that must be complied with but hopefully these issues can be ironed out quickly. This has been a once in a life-time planning mission. It is bringing the eight former legacy council plans together and rationalised them into one comprehensive document. In the future what rules for building and development apply in say Pukekohe will be the same on the North Shore.
It has been great that the draft plan has been vigorously challenged. North Shore people put their views forward in a strong and forthright manner. The issues raised here on the North Shore have certainly helped to ensure the plan will be far more robust and responsive to community needs.
I am certain that people will see a plan that is a lot different to the one that caused so much concern in the period since it was launched. Residents will have 60 working days or three months to make further submissions following notification. Then there will be three years of formal hearings prior to the plan being signed off and adopted by Auckland Council.