Waitematā Local Board Chair, Shale Chambers’ September Ponsonby News Column 

Last month the Governing Body passed the Unitary Plan following a mammoth five-year process to unify the former regional and all district council plans into one. This is something both to celebrate, and to reflect on, as it is clear our city in the years to come will change significantly. We must now work to deliver on the promise and potential of a unified plan for Auckland.

Your local board has been involved from the beginning – I was one of four local board chairs on a working party to develop the high level concepts of the draft – supportive of good process, quality design, the compact city and appropriate intensification, and building a liveable city, all whilst endeavouring to protect our built and natural heritage and working to secure affordable housing.  It has not been an easy task. Views still differ on the imperatives driving the need for the Plan to go so far. Meanwhile as the housing and affordability crisis deepened, the need to address the supply of housing became greater.  We all want to see our children and grandchildren housed.

The Plan enabled a doubling from the draft of available housing supply to 422,000, and the plan is now a little bit more than a little bit out and a little bit up. It focuses on increasing the quantity of dwellings rather than the quality and design. Supporters argue this now provides more affordable housing choice, including within areas closer to the centre, and transport routes, whilst others argue it is a deregulation of planning rules, overly focused on development, rather than sustainability of our built and natural heritage. Both are right.

The full zoning recommendations were adopted. These provide for more homes to be built in the existing urban area of two to three stories, and up to six stories close to town centres and transport hubs. With the historic heritage values of the inner city centre fringe mostly recognised, and existing development, the Plan has less impact on the inner city communities than elsewhere in Auckland. Your Councillor Mike Lee gained a commitment to a plan change early in 2017 to address technical errors and property anomalies that this blanket approach to zoning inevitably raises.

We were disappointed to see the precautionary pre-1944 demolition overlay Councillor Mike Lee and the board worked hard for abandoned, but the continuation of the historic character overlays to areas zoned Res 1 and 2 (now Isthmus A and B) were retained. Protection for heritage in the remaining pre-1944 areas in Grey Lynn around Grey Lynn Park and central Westmere still zoned Single House but with no character overlay will now be achieved through plan change.

Minimum apartment sizes and the requirement for resource consent for more than 2 dwellings were retained. Parking minimums for town centres, apartments, and mixed use zones were removed. This is a significant decision that will improve housing affordability. 

In Ponsonby, a small area of apartment (THAB) zone replaced residential suburban (MHS) at Ponsonby Tce. Mixed Use zone replaced THAB at Jervois Road and Curran St. Mixed Use zone replaced THAB for St Marys School, and residential urban (MHU) replaced Single House (SH) around Emmett and Sarsfield Streets.

In Grey Lynn, MHU zone and some THAB zone replaced MHS zone around Turangi Road and MHU zone replaced MHS zone around Ivanhoe Rd. MHU zone replaced MHS and SH zone around Sherwood and Wellpark Ave, Stanmore Rd, and Tawariki St. MHS zone replaced SH zone on Sackville St, and some pockets of MHU zone replaced SH zone around Allen Rd, Dryden St and Dickens St.

In Westmere, there is a general increase in MHS zone from SH zone, around Westmere Park Ave and Rawene Ave. There is an increase of MHU zone on streets to the west of Garnet Rd and Westmere Cres and the Edgars Rd, Weber St and Livingstone St block.

With the Unitary Plan now finalised the Government can no longer blame Auckland’s rulebook for the housing crisis. It now needs to play its part.

The nominations are in and candidates for the upcoming local body elections known. For local board, 7 City Vision candidates, who have maintained majority support on the board these last 6 years are vying with 7 Auckland Future candidates and 7 Independent candidates for your support to take the local board forward for the next 3 years.

When your ballot papers arrive this month, two names who are current members of Waitematā Local board will not be there. City Vision members Christopher Dempsey, a long-time effective public servant, expert planner, community advocate and friend of Parnell since 2010, and community board member from 2004, and Deborah Yates, elected in 2013, and an invaluable social change and environmental advocate, are both standing down. We will miss both, thank them for their considerable respective contributions to their community and wish them well in their future endeavours.

This first appeared in the September edition of Ponsonby News