Unitary Plan – our historic houses and townscapes well worth fighting for
The announcement by Prime Minister John Key about the City Rail Link is enormously encouraging – I intend to deal with the issue of transport and how it affects the Waitemata ward in the next issue – but in the meantime I am keeping my focus on the Unitary Plan which is still being rushed towards a notification deadline of September.
Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a problem because in normal circumstances notification then enables a further round of public submissions. The problem is that the Auckland Council has negotiated a deal with the government that in return for a truncated appeal period, the Unitary Plan hearing commission would be handed over to a panel dominated by government appointees. Therefore once the Unitary Plan is notified further influence by the community’s democratically elected local board members and councillor is going to be minimal.
In a discussion about my last month’s article in the Ponsonby News a colleague asked me why I talked about urban sprawl in an article aimed at inner city Ponsonby readers. In other words why do I feel that the Unitary Plan’s proposed 20,000 ha lateral expansion into rural greenfields would be of interest or consequence to people in Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and the Bays? My reason in pointing this out was to demonstrate why the Unitary Plan is not really about a compact city, as has been repeatedly claimed but about intensification (which is a different matter) – and growth – everywhere. Because most of us would believe a compact city would be an ideal and environmentally sustainable type of urban form– we can assume most reasonably-minded citizens would be willing to make certain sacrifices to help achieve it. But if on the other hand the compact city objective is really largely hype then there are good reasons to think very carefully about plans to intensify our area, at the expensive of the present built environment and amenity – especially our unique and lovely old bungalows and villas.
For instance there is every good reason for communities to push back on council plans to replace large swathes of historic and character townscapes such as in Grey Lynn with new and more intensive apartments and units.
The Unitary Plan is a massive exercise and there is considerable momentum behind it – standing up to a juggernaut such as that is not always easy. However pushing back is what a lot of residents are asking us to do and that’s what we are doing – and I believe pushing back is starting to pay off.
On a recent Saturday afternoon the Mayor Len Brown, Shale Chambers the chair of the Waitemata Local Board and myself met with members of the Grey Lynn Residents Association who are opposed to the planned rezoning of much of Grey Lynn into new and intensive ‘terraced housing and apartments’ zone. Instead the ‘Grey Lynns’ are wanting the council to focus intensive housing along the Great North Road ridge and transport corridor in place of the present mixed-use car yards etc., (including the awful Bunnings proposal). That is a great idea which I fully support. Apart from this very sensible planning advice from the community, the fact that the meeting took place at all in my view was significant. The Mayor is listening and there are signs that this is starting to filter down through the bureaucracy. So therefore let’s keep on pushing back. Our beloved historic and houses and townscapes which have been handed down to us – are what makes Auckland unique –and what makes this place so different. They are well worth digging in and fighting for.
This article was published in the August edition of Ponsonby News.