A Comment on the Unitary Plan Single House Zone Policy

Proposed subdivision in Remuera 2020

A recent Oneroof article about the potential of developing a large site in a single house zoned area near Cornwall Park with infill raises an example of how the unitary plan’s broad policy platform of ‘transforming’ our city into a more intensified city is being exploited, and how local communities are being disenfranchised.

In my capacity as a lead planning and consent portfolio holder for the Orakei Local Board I have received hundreds of lamenting comments from locals concerned at various developments in their area. The usual opening phrase is “ It is not that I am anti development but…” and then they list all the negative effects from the development that the unitary plan facilitates and which they are unhappy about.

And because the Resource Management Act has made it even more unlikely for a residential development proposals to be notified in any way, local communities simply have no voice or influence at all.

What is happening everywhere in our Ōrākei area (all over Auckland) in all residential zoned land areas, not just single house zones, is that we have hundreds of developments being granted consent uncontested with quite high numbers of infringements in each proposal, often as to height or impervious area or other effect. The nett effect is that we, our unitary plan and processing system, are actually creating a cumulative environment of infringing development as the new norm. And communities I deal with are sick of it.

The unitary plan went through an exacting process of re-zoning land to enable more intense development. However its implementation was filled with rhetoric about different zones enabling housing choice. The hypocrisy is that , across Auckland, while there is not as much single house zoned land left, the fact such a zone exists reflects at least that there was a strong recognition that single house zoned areas had a part to play in our built landscape and suburban areas.

My Board (Orakei Local Board) has led advocacy to the Planning Committee demanding that ‘integrated residential developments’ be clearly stated as non-complying activities in single house zones. Afterall single house has a very clear policy meaning to most people. Why then do we still have an ambiguously drafted policy setting that says some developer could potentially amalgamate land in a single house zone and then propose an ‘integrated residential development’ that potentially could see 60 units crop up where only 2 – 4 might otherwise have been? It is ludicrous and one of the plainest examples of planning sophistry and imbalance in the Unitary Plan’s transformation approach. .

In my view, the traditional notion of district plans reflecting community inputs has been overriden by a central govenment policy juggernaut requiring Council to facilitate as much housing as possible, leaving huge infrastructural deficits for Council to somehow both create and fund retrospectively? It will not happen. Our city is well down the path to irreversible urban angina.

I know from my community engagement that the great majority of locals I speak with or hear from are actually not in favour of the way transformation is happening under the unitary plan.

John Duguid, Council UP Manager, has a team taking (slow) steps to clarify the policy about integrated residential developments in single house zones but, in my view, they seem reluctant to boldly support my Board’s lobby that IRDs in SHZs should plainly be NON complying…

No more sneaky wriggly wording to make infill proposals in single house zoned areas a discretionary possibility. Single means single. We do not have to infill everything.

Troy Churton
Lead Planning and Consent Portfolio Holder
Ōrākei Local Board

16 March 2021