Submission on the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply…) Amendment Bill

This Amendment Bill was introduced on 19th October 2021 and proposes that Auckland Council be required to enable more dense housing in August 2022.

Remuera Heritage is part of the Character Coalition Inc. which is an umbrella group comprising over 60 heritage, historical and other Auckland groups, together with residents, who care deeply about their city. It was established in 2016 out of a sense of frustration that the community was not being listened to by Auckland Council on heritage and amenity issues. Its members had watched with despair as precious buildings and areas were destroyed to make way for what were often inappropriate and unsightly new developments.

The Coalition took an active part in the process of forming the Auckland Unitary Plan. This was an exhaustive, and exhausting, process. The Coalition was largely successful in ensuring that the Unitary Plan retained the Special Character Area protection for those parts of Auckland where the existing form, buildings and amenity values give the city its character. The Coalition is concerned that, after all that effort, those areas are again under threat as a result of Government policies.

In July 2020, the Government released the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD). The NPS-UD is a powerful tool that supports greater housing density and requires councils to plan better for growth.

The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill was introduced on 19th October 2021 and proposes Tier 1 councils such as Auckland will be required to apply medium density residential standards from August 2022. It will introduce medium density residential standards (MDRS) in New Zealand’s main urban areas to enable more housing.

These new standards will allow people to develop up to three homes of up to three storeys on most sites without the need for a resource consent. Exemptions will apply based on qualifying matters set out in the NPS-UD, such as heritage areas and natural hazards.

Auckland is now at one of the most crucial turning points in its history. Auckland Council now has the huge responsibility of deciding how this city develops for the next 50 to 100 years.

We are urging you to stand up for the city against the latest attack on local democracy by central government.

On behalf of the Character Coalition Inc., Remuera Heritage and many other Aucklanders, we urge you to defend Auckland against the Government’s housing density edict for an across-the-board, three storey/three home housing density throughout Auckland, and for six-storey apartments anywhere within 800 metres of a railway station. Note that Remuera is unique in that it has 2 railway stations nearby – Remuera and Newmarket.

No area of the city deserves to have intensive housing forced on it without going through a process where the community can have a say. This will be a green light for developers to put up cheap, badly designed buildings that will be miserable to live in and miserable to look at.

The Real Problems

Auckland has 30 years of housing growth capacity already in its Unitary Plan zoning. This proposal ignores this, and also the fact there is not the infrastructure to support this demand for higher density.

It is also ignoring the fact there is another form of government in this country which is – local government.

You and our Council members have been democratically elected and must have the final say over how their cities should develop. It is councils that have the best interests of the city at heart, not central government.

Auckland Unitary Plan

The Auckland Unitary plan went through a thorough and arduous public process and should not be pushed aside in this way. Part of that process decided to protect the historic areas of Auckland with Special Character Area overlays, and included design standards to protect the quality of life of Aucklanders. These decisions should not be over-turned without consultation with Aucklanders because of a central government decree.

The Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP) already allows for significant upzoning in the Terrace Housing & Apartment Block (THAB) zone and the Mixed Housing Urban and Mixed Housing Suburban zones. And indeed this has happened, including in Remuera. The Mixed Housing Suburban Zone has enabled the demolition of fine old houses, designed by well-known architects and still in perfect condition, but which are unfortunately on large sections that end up having 10-100 townhouses built on them. To demolish these types of houses is an unsustainable environmental practice.

The Council’s own capacity study, done in August this year, shows that there is development opportunity for over 900,000 homes under the current Unitary Plan. This easily meets the forecast demand of approximately 320,000 needed over the next 30 years.

The AUP has already reduced the amount of Single House zoning in Remuera. We must protect the Single House Zone from being further destroyed.

The blanket approach completely overrides the Unitary Plan and throws the whole planning system out the window.

Special Character Areas

Special Character areas are about volume and homogeneity and to have them interrupted by out of scale, concrete and steel structures will be the death knell of the historic fabric of this city.

We believe if three storey developments are allowed everywhere in the city it will mean the eventual ruin of our historic areas. Old villas, small cottages and bungalows will be squeezed beside 11 metre concrete block housing developments and the continuity and character of these historic areas will be lost.

But it is also important to protect the amenity and streetscape of all Auckland suburbs by ensuring that urban design is an intrinsic part of housing developments. Without that our suburbs will begin to resemble the brutalism of post-war eastern European townscapes and create potential future slums.

So as well as the destruction of Auckland’s character, and the intolerable pressure that this proposal will place on Auckland’s creaking infrastructure, and the cost of upgrading that infrastructure, the quality of life of all Aucklanders will be irrevocably reduced. Existing homes will suffer from loss of sun and natural light and loss of privacy. Some will become unliveable. The removal of green spaces, trees and vegetation, the lungs of the city, which is already happening, will get even worse. Our natural heritage must also be protected – this includes the maunga volcanoes, many of which already have housing creeping up their slopes, and areas such as the Orakei and Panmure Basins and Tamaki estuary.

It is worth noting that infrastructure also includes community amenities and facilities such as schools, health services and libraries / community centres. The waste management industry has also said that there aren’t enough landfills to cope with all the building waste that would result from intensification of this scale.

Defend Auckland

So, we urge you on behalf of all Aucklanders to respond to this edict by:

  1. Representing to Government that this proposal is unacceptable and undemocratic and should be abandoned
  2. Identifying all heritage and Special Character Areas area as a “qualifying” matter so this proposal will not apply to them. Also add the protection of maunga, green spaces, trees and vegetation as a qualifying matter.
  3. Preserve the AUP’s Single House Zone as the AUP already allows for density under the THAB and MHU zones. Review the MHS Zone where there are large well maintained special character or heritage homes.
  4. Get government to modify its proposal to include design standards that will go towards protecting our quality of life and preventing Auckland looking like an example of 1950’s architecture, with an equivalent quality of life for its citizens.
  5. Ensure council and community consultation takes place to continue local democracy.

In conclusion, we ask you to defend our city and it’s Special Character Areas against low quality, poorly-located, high density housing that over time will turn Auckland into an unliveable and ugly city.

You were elected to safeguard Auckland, to govern for the present and the future and Auckland’s long-term identity depends on you.

Now is the time for you to stand up for Auckland’s future.

Sue Cooper, Chair
Remuera Heritage Inc
18 November 2021