Auckland councillors divided over proposed housing density law

auckland-councillors-divided-over-proposed-housing-density-law

Auckland councillors are divided over proposed new rules that would make it easier to build houses in the city.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff speaks to media following Cabinet's extension of the alert level 3 lockdown.

Mayor Phil Goff says the bill does not hit the target for Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The new Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill – which allows for up to to three homes, three storeys high on most sites without resource consent – was introduced last month and is open to submissions.

If it becomes law, councils in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, and Christchurch would be required to adopt medium-density residential standards.

Auckland councillors had a lengthy, heated discussion today, with most voicing concerns.

Ōrākei Local Board chairperson Scott Milne, together with board member Troy Churton, said the existing Unitary Plan was already sufficient to meet demand.

He said the current rules were not overly restrictive and allowed for substantial development.

“Our premise is that this bill is not fit for purpose, that the outcome of this bill will be negative impacts far in excess of the positive ones, and that instead we need to be concentrating on building infrastructure for our city.”

Churton and Milne said the bill would not improve affordability, and would incentivise taking away rules for special character areas.

Albany ward councillor John Watson said there were a whole raft of problems.

“Contrary to the Auckland plan and unitary plan, which focuses on medium and high density in areas with good access to public transport, [this bill would] likely to result in high carbon emissions, much more difficult to effectively and efficiently plan, fund and deliver transport, water and so on and so forth.”

Watson agreed with the Ōrākei Local Board that the unitary plan could already create enough housing.

“We’re really in a position of piling fertiliser on top of fertiliser and everyone knows that when you do that you actually end up killing the grass, and I think what we would end up doing is killing the quality of life.”

Mayor Phil Goff also said the bill did not hit the target for Auckland.

“We’re currently getting 70 percent of our building consents are for intensive housing – apartments or terraced housing.

“We’re currently consenting historically record levels of new building, 20,000 a year, so that kind of really raises questions about whether there isn’t enough land to build on.”

Independent Māori Statutory Board member Karen Wilson questioned whether there was going to be enough engagement with mana whenua given the tight turnaround.

“Also the equity issues with the korero has been about wouldn’t it be terrible to live like that when in fact a large proportion of Māori do live like that,” she said.

However, Waitākere Ward councillor Shane Henderson said the bill would help solving the housing problem.

“I find the word uglification embarrassing and borderline offensive,” Henderson said.

“I’d invite people that think that our homes are ugly to come to my neighborhood where we all know our neighbours. Our kids grow up together, they play in public parks next door. I’ll tell you we’re bloody proud of our homes.”

Auckland Council is due to lodge its submission by 16 November before the bill goes to a select committee.

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