Auckland Unitary Plan Current Issues Media Coverage

High-rise plans horrify

George Gardner was shaking with disbelief when he found out apartment blocks up to six storeys are being proposed for his suburban Browns Bay neighbourhood.

He is so concerned about the effect on his suburb he printed out his own leaflets and dropped them at 45 houses in the area around Stapleford Cres.

Auckland Council’s draft unitary plan proposes zoning the area around Sherwood Reserve for apartments and terraced housing, encouraging developments between four and six storeys.

Since then Mr Gardner has had neighbours phoning him up almost in tears, he says.

“They thought like I did, that all the apartments were going to be near the businesses in Browns Bay not in the residential streets,” he says.

“People had no idea and they’re really concerned about what it will do to their land value, their views and about increases in traffic and pressure on infrastructure.”

Mr Gardner says Auckland Council should be giving the plans more publicity.

“When I was walking my dog the other day I stopped 25 people Sherwood Reserve and Freyberg Park and asked them about the unitary plan and 23 of them didn’t know how the new zoning would affect them.

“The council is just relying on us not looking to get it through,” he says.


Meeting Anger at 24.5 metre building heights proposed for Browns Bay town centre has prompted residents to organise a meeting tonight.

Residents thought they could relax when the Environment Court set 12.5m maximum height limits in 2003, former Browns Bay Beachfront Action Committee chairman Kurt Marquart says.

Mr Marquart is among residents keen to raise awareness about the draft unitary plan provisions.

Shading in Browns Bay streets would be a major issue with cafe visitors missing out on the sun, he says.

Existing building like the 15m Bacchus in Bute Rd would pale in comparison to the heights proposed, Mr Marquart says.

He says it’s vital residents get up to speed and have their say before submissions to the draft unitary plan close on May 31. The meeting is in Browns Bay School at 8pm tonight.

194 Hinemoa Street Current Issues Media Coverage

Concerns over boarding house project

Questions are being asked over a three-storey, 45-room boarding house development in a commercial Birkenhead zone, including whether it was scrutinised enough by Auckland Council.

The council says public input was not needed as the effects of the building on the area were deemed minor.

Rooms in the 194 Hinemoa St development range in size between 14 square metres and 22sqm with only 13 car parks for residents and staff.

North Shore’s district plan says a minimum of one car park to three residents is required.

This means the boarding house will have a three-park shortfall but a traffic engineer deemed it would not have significant impact.

Birkenhead Residents Association chairwoman Gillian Taylor says many are “horrified at what’s happened”.

She says there are concerns for the wellbeing of boarding house residents planning to live in the “small” rooms.

The association is not sure who will be living there.

Parking is already limited for residents, Ms Taylor says.

The association is not opposed to commercial development, she says, but it questions the validity of a boarding house not going through a public feedback process.

Council northern resource consent manager Julie Bevan says the land’s zoning was not the reason why it was able to sidestep public feedback.

The council investigated the effects on the wider environment, Ms Bevan says.

It was decided they “were not more than minor and therefore concluded that full public notification was not required on this occasion”.

The council says the project won’t adversely affect neighbours of the boarding house.

Ms Taylor says residents are now unsure of their options. Delaying the project until it is fully investigated would be ideal, she says.


The plans for the boarding house were passed on for approval by one of the North Shore’s most outspoken opponents of intensification.

Vivienne Keohane did not request Auckland Council to publicly notify it.

“I don’t think so because at that stage it didn’t seem out of character for where it was going to be,” Mrs Keohane says.

The “only fault” Mrs Keohane says she could find with the boarding house was parking.

The 194 Hinemoa St boarding home falls three short of the 16 parks required under current council regulations.

Chairwoman Lindsay Waugh says the development report never came back to the board.

Mrs Waugh says she was away on council duties when Mrs Keohane received the report and asked her to consult the Birkenhead Business Association.

But Mrs Keohane says Mrs Waugh didn’t put forward her concerns.

Both “agreed there’s no point” as officers decide if the project goes ahead anyway, Mrs Keohane says.

Mr Whitehead the proposed Unitary Plan there would be no responsibility for developments, such as the boarding house, to be of a high standard.

The questionable process by which the Hinemoa development was approved should be investigated, Mr Whitehead says.


Written by Jess Etheridge
Photo by: Warwick Jones
Published: Auckland Now / North Shore Times

Current Issues Media Coverage Transport Issues

Car parks proposed Onewa Road – bound end of Lake Road

Short-term car parking will replace 300 metres of transit lane if a new proposal for Northcote’s Lake Rd goes ahead.

Auckland Transport is gauging the views of residents and schools at the Onewa Rd-bound end of Lake Rd on removing most of the T3 transit lane.

The council-controlled organisation says schools and residents have little short-term parking for dropoffs and pickups.

In its place, 10- minute parking would be allowed, with 100 metres of T3 transit lane connecting commuters to Onewa Rd remaining.

“Drivers are currently pursuing various routes to drop off children at local schools and being affected by and affecting commuter traffic, particularly in the morning peak,” a letter sent to affected residents says.

Consultation ends on April 26.


Written by: Jess Etheridge
Published: Auckland Now / North Shore Times – 16 April 2013

Media Coverage

Onewa Rd shops and service station get green light

Angry residents opposing controversial plans for a 24/7 petrol station on a busy arterial route have been ignored by Auckland Council.

The Z service station and six retail shops will be built at 119 Onewa Rd, on the corner of Gladstone Rd, next to St Mary’s Catholic Church and primary school, on the same side as the west- bound T3 transit lane.

All 52 submissions to the council oppose the plan.

The council revealed its decision to grant resource consent last Friday despite overwhelming opposition from Gladstone Rd, Seaview Ave and Onewa Rd residents, St Mary’s Catholic Church and primary school, Kaipatiki Local Board and Northcote MP Jonathan Coleman.

Mr Coleman slams the plans, saying “it is a recipe for traffic mayhem” and children’s safety is his top concern. He told the North Shore Times last November he was “yet to meet anyone who is in favour of the proposal but there is strong opposition to the development”.

St Mary’s parish council chairman Iain Gallie says the church’s top concerns are safety, traffic and environmental impacts.

Multiple submitters raised concerns about noise pollution for those living near the site, specifically the parish accommodation for priests.

Residents claimed the council had not received their submissions or believed theirs were not counted in the final tally.

The council says one of the conditions is a boundary fence, as high as the six retail shops, be built to block noise. The retail shops have had opening times restricted but the station will operate 24 hours, seven days a week.

Decibel restrictions have also been placed on noise.

Public hearings were on November 29 and 30 and an additional hearing was held on December 14.

It is unknown when construction will begin.


Written by: Jess Etheridge
Published: Auckland Now / North Shore Times – 28 February 2013

Media Coverage Transport Issues

Auckland’s great divide call for a new crossing

Former mayor says community groups are being kept in the dark about a proposal which follows at least six studies since 1986 and doubt about the longevity of the existing harbour bridge.

North Shore leaders will this year ramp up calls for a new Waitemata Harbour traffic crossing, even though the Transport Agency does not believe one will be needed before 2030.

Although the agency expects to update an application to protect a preferred route for tunnels under the harbour towards the end of the year, Auckland Council member and former North Shore mayor George Wood fears complacency setting in.

He says community groups such as the Northcote Residents Association want to be involved in planning for a new crossing but are being kept in the dark about a proposal which follows at least six studies since 1986 and doubt about the longevity of the existing harbour bridge.

Transport Agency regional director Stephen Town says that although a “notice of requirement” application for a tunnels route east of the bridge was lodged in 2009, his organisation decided to let it lie while the Super City was setting up.

“We agreed we would wait for the [30-year] Auckland Plan to be finished before we updated the notice of requirement,” he told the Herald.

“What we said was, we would go with the preference expressed in the Auckland Plan, and then seek guidance from the Government about the update.”

Now that the council had published the plan, with a preference for road tunnels instead of a new bridge to be built between 2021 and 2030 and “future-proofed” with room to carry trains as well, the agency was free to move ahead with route protection between Spaghetti Junction in central Auckland and Esmonde Rd in Takapuna.

It was likely to provide new information to the council late this year, including a discussion of environmental issues, with an aim of opening its application to public submissions “sometime in 2014”.

Although average daily traffic volumes across the harbour bridge declined by about 5 per cent between 2007 and 2011 to about 157,000 vehicles after the establishment of the Northern Busway, they rebounded by 7 per cent last year to almost 168,000 in November.

Mr Wood believes completion of the Victoria Park motorway tunnel in March is encouraging more commuters to get back in their cars after previously using the busway to beat congestion.

Having recently spent $86 million strengthening the bridge’s two clip-on structures, the agency is focused mainly on its ability to cope with increasing freight loads.

Mr Town said that with careful management, there was no reason why the 54-year-old bridge could not last for another 100 years. But he said the “critical path” for bridge loads was heavy vehicles travelling on the northbound clip-on lanes, for which forecasts indicated a new crossing would be needed by 2030.

Even so, the agency did not want to build the new crossing too early, for cost reasons.

“It’s expensive, so getting the timing right is the thing,” he said.

The agency in early 2011 estimated the cost of a pair of road tunnels at $5.3 billion compared with $3.9 billion for a new bridge, and the Auckland Plan cites a figure of $5.8 billion to include future provision for trains.

Mr Town acknowledged that technological advances were likely to reduce tunnelling costs, while those for a new bridge were unlikely to fall markedly.

But he said “one of the big unknowns” was what the completion in 2017 of the western ring route with its connection to the Upper Harbour Bridge at Greenhithe would do for heavy traffic movements.

“It will provide a genuine heavy traffic option – between 2017 and 2021 we will be looking really closely at travel patterns.”

Mr Wood said Auckland’s northern sector was due for a resurgence of development, for which a new crossing was needed urgently, regardless of the western route’s appeal as a bypass for some long-distance traffic.

“I’m just amazed it has started drifting in the way it has,” he said of the crossing debate. “I have a real concern – the upper part of Auckland would be paralysed if anything happened to the harbour bridge.”

Austerity’ bridge underestimated traffic demand

Plans for an Auckland harbour bridge were first hatched in 1860 by members of the farming community on the North Shore, then a sleepy backwater.

Engineer Fred Bell designed a drawbridge on floating pontoons, but the plans were deemed too expensive.

In 1928 another proposal was put forward, but it was 20 years later that pressure for new development space finally saw the Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority established.

In April 1954, after fierce lobbying, a loan of £5,002,000 (about $245 million in today’s terms) was approved.

That produced the “austerity” bridge, with plans for a pedestrian walkway and a fifth traffic lane dropped.

During construction the decision was made to ban cyclists from the bridge, resulting in a protest from the New Zealand Amateur Cycling Association.

Workmen within a pressurised steel chamber excavating the seafloor for the bridge’s caissons had to be “compressed” and “decompressed” so as to not get the bends.

A warning was issued to Auckland police and the public to treat suspected drunks with caution as they might actually be a worker with decompression sickness.

One motorist, stopped by who he thought was a drunk, refused to take the worker to the specialist medical unit at Westhaven. The bridge took four years to complete and was opened on May 30, 1959.

But by the early 1960s it became apparent that the bridge could not handle the amount of traffic needed.

Traffic flow was far above the royal commission’s prediction the bridge would be carrying three million vehicles annually by 1965, with the volume exceeding 10 million that year.

A Japanese company won the tender to add two lanes on either side, and the added lanes became known as the “Nippon clip-ons”, which were opened in 1969.

-Nicholas Jones


Written by: Mathew Dearnaley
Photo/s by: Brett Phibbs
Published by: The New Zealand Herald – 23 Jan 2013

Current Issues Media Coverage

Tree protection rules axed in rethink by Auckland Council

Auckland Council has announced that blanket tree protection rules have been axed in Rodney, on the North Shore and the old Auckland City Council area except the CBD.

Penny Pirrit, regional and local planning manager, said the changes were made as a result of the Government’s proposed Resource Management Act amendments, Environment Court proceedings and the upcoming Unitary Plan.

“Auckland Council has revised the extent of the general tree protection rules … meaning council consent may no longer be required to cut or prune trees,” she said, referring to the three areas.

That followed the success of a Property Council challenge, due to reach the Environment Court yesterday but shelved just before Christmas when an agreement was reached between the parties.

On December 21, the Property Council said it would not proceed with a tree protection court challenge as long as the council agreed to revoke blanket tree protection – and tell everyone about that “as soon as it is reasonably able”.

Eighteen days elapsed between the council signing the agreement and Penny Pirrit issuing a statement a fortnight ago.

In that hiatus, Herald readers complained of what they said was an extremely confusing situation.

Reader Jeff Hawkins wanted a copy of the memorandum of understanding over the Environment Court hearing, reported in the Herald on December 22, saying he had a large gum tree on his property.

Reader John Griffin, who has a big rimu, said he had also tried to understand the situation. He had contacted about 15 people in various organisations including the council and the Justice Department but was upset that he could not get any information other than being told to seek help from a council aborist.

“We almost have to chop before we get clarification and it seems the council is intentionally obfuscating around the issue because they’re trying to perpetuate the previous situation,” Griffin said.

“I don’t think they’re acting in a manner that they should be, given they should be representing the ratepayer.”

Penny Pirrit said some trees remained protected but this was more site-specific and she still encouraged people to check with the council. Some trees are scheduled, listed as specifically protected and these cannot be chopped down. Neither can some near streams or the coast.

“The latest changes to the rules will mean that some residents who have resource consent applications pending will no longer need a consent to remove or prune the trees.”

Letters will be sent, advising them they can chop without council approval, she said.

Tree rules are unchanged in Auckland CBD, the Hauraki Gulf islands and former Waitakere, Manukau, Franklin and Papakura council areas, she said.

The Governments’ proposed RMA changes would “further restrict all councils’ ability to protect urban trees and would revoke most, if not all, the general protection rules across Auckland”.

The Tree Council has for years sought to protect trees. It urges people to join its ranks, saying Auckland’s trees are in danger, and encourages people to “give trees a voice”.

Its Facebook page showed a pohutukawa by a garage chopped to the roofline, its multi-stemmed trunk still standing, which angered the Tree Council.

“Would have been better at ground level than to leave a magnificent pohutukawa in this state,” it said.

“This is happening all around Auckland since January 1 this year when general tree protection was removed in certain residential zones. This is in Reihana St, Orakei, where houses reach well over $1 million.

“When will people become educated enough to realise that trees enhance neighbourhoods and all high-end market areas are well treed, for example, Remuera and Epsom?”

People accused of ‘butchering’ trees

Tree Council members are disillusioned and upset after Auckland blanket protection rules were scrapped last month.

Treasurer, membership secretary and community tree adviser Sherylle Scott said the changes were frustrating.

“It’s a major battle. We’re wearing a bit thin,” Scott said.

Low attendance at education courses is just one sign of widespread disinterest in the issue, she said.

“We’ve tried to educate people but we hardly get anyone to our courses. I’ve done them for four or five years and we were down to seven people last year,” she said.

She was reacting to Auckland Council signing an agreement with the Property Council to revoke protection of unscheduled trees on the North Shore, Rodney and on the isthmus, in return for not proceeding with an Environment Court challenge yesterday. The two organisations signed that agreement on December 21, axing Auckland’s blanket tree protection rules.

Hueline Massey, Tree Council field officer, said she did not know of the blanket protection abolition and understood the rule change would come into effect later.

She is upset about what she called “open slather” on trees.

“We’re horrified. People are butchering trees and that’s really upsetting because those trees have been there for generations, but we can’t object because it’s legal.

“We find it disturbing – people’s attitudes to things that have been there for a lot longer than they have been alive, particularly if they’re moving into a new property and particularly removing scheduled trees,” she said.

Tree Council membership is $20, or $15 for elderly people or those on a benefit, and members had sympathy for people suffering with a tree on their property, Massey said.

“But everyone’s negative effect is different.

“Some will say the tree is heaving the footpath but that was probably made of unreinforced concrete and that’s often the case with old driveways.”

Leaf litter issues could be solved with gutter barriers and sunlight issues with branch thinning so problems were not insurmountable.

Only about 700 people made submissions to 2009 changes to the Resource Management Act, indicating widespread disinterest in tree protection issues, Scott said.


Written by Anne Gibson
Photo by: Steven McNicholl
Published: The New Zealand Herald – 22 January 2013

Media Coverage

Backdown over tree protection

Auckland Council has backed down over its blanket tree protection rules in a legal dispute with the Property Council.

A memorandum filed with the Environment Court yesterday says the council will treat as revoked a number of rules in its district plan.

That is expected to mean trees previously covered by all-encompassing rules on about 500,000 Auckland properties can be removed in certain situations. Protection will remain for trees on a council-compiled list, as well as those in the Waitakeres, Remuera and part of Hillsborough, coastal and volcanic cone areas.

The memorandum says the Property Council has agreed to stop its legal action against the Auckland Council provided it accepts it can no longer apply the blanket protection rules because of a 2009 amendment to the Resource Management Act.

The rules, which applied to the old council areas of Auckland, North Shore and Rodney, prevented residents from cutting down native and introduced trees above specified heights without council consent.

The Property Council’s barrister, Russell Bartlett, said the change meant the council could no longer enforce these regulations, which were still in its district plan.

He said that was an enormous victory for people living in urban areas with non-scheduled trees over a certain height or girth because although people still needed to check their zoning, in many cases they could cut or remove trees the council had previously argued would be protected.

The changes would not affect residents in the other former council areas.

The council’s in-house lawyer, Wendy Brandon, initially told the Weekend Herald yesterday that the tree rules remained in place and people would still be prosecuted if they broke them.

“Nothing changes at the moment. The proceedings are just stayed.”

On seeing a copy of the court memorandum, she said: “While it is correct that certain blanket rules will be treated by council as revoked I don’t have the advantage of being able to read this, and the advisers who are managing this file are not contactable. I don’t believe this is of such moment that it cannot wait until the New Year for a response from council.”

Penny Pirrit, council manager regional and local planning, said the situation was being examined.

“Council staff are currently looking through the proposed tree provisions outlined in the … amendment bill. Once we have a thorough understanding of these proposals, we will discuss with councillors. As yet we do not have a position,” she said.

The Government wants to get rid of blanket tree protection rules by councils and has introduced amendments to the Resource Management Act to try to achieve this.

However, Auckland Council won an Environment Court order to temporarily protect 1800 trees from the change until it could change district plan rules to add them to the schedules of notable trees for each district.

The temporary form of protection has been so complex landowners and contractors had to check with officials whether they needed resource consent before they cut anything down.

Hearings of nominations for additions to the schedules have been held during the year. So far decisions have added 600 trees to the Auckland Isthmus list, 245 to the North Shore’s, 200 to Manukau’s list, 58 to Papakura’s and 300 to Rodney’s.

– additional reporting Wayne Thompson


Photo/s by: Chris Gorman
Published in the New Zealand Herald – 22 December 2012

Media Coverage Transport Issues

MP zeroes in on Z

Controversial plans for a 24 hour Z service station on busy Onewa Rd are being slammed by Northcote MP Jonathan Coleman.

He says “it is a recipe for traffic mayhem” and safety for school children is his top concern.

In a letter to the North Shore Times, Dr Coleman acknowledges the public submission and hearing process Auckland Council must go through. He says he is “yet to meet anyone who is in favour of the proposal but there is strong opposition to the development”.

The service station would be built at 119 Onewa Rd, on the corner of Gladstone Rd and next to St Mary’s Catholic Church and primary school.

It would also be on the same side as the west-bound T3 transit lane.

A petition against it was created by St Mary’s.

Dr Coleman says: “Many vehicles travelling west up Onewa Rd turning right across two busy traffic lanes, it is a recipe for traffic mayhem.

“It is already a busy area seven days per week and a service station next door will only increase traffic congestion as extra vehicles are drawn to the site.

“There is no local demand for this development and it will not enhance the area. Indeed, I believe that the impact will be negative,” he says.

Kaipatiki Local Board confirmed in its last meeting it is opposed to the development.

Z Energy senior communications adviser Sheena Thomas says the company is listening to the public and one of its head engineers will make a submission at the hearings.

“We are going to listen to those concerns people have around us.”

The company’s top priority is also safety, she says, and policies are in place to mitigate risks.

If the proposal goes ahead it will also be a safe place for parents to drop their children off as opposed to pulling over on the road, she says.

Ms Thomas says research Z Energy conducted showed the service station would only add one new vehicle to peak traffic every two minutes.

Entry and exits for the proposed station would be left-hand turns only to avoid risks.

Ms Thomas says Z wants to meet with Dr Coleman directly “to show we’re aware” and give him a “sense of comfort”.

Auckland Council will hear public submissions on the proposal on November 29 and 30.


Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

Heritage Media Coverage


from Sunday Morning on Sunday 14 October 2012
In the light of Auckland’s Heritage Festival, Wayne takes a critical look at the reality of heritage, Auckland style. Chris subsequently speaks with Waitemata and Gulf councillor Mike Lee, and Brisbane conservation architect Peter Marquis-Kyle.


Radio New Zealand National – 14 October 2012

Media Coverage Transport Issues

London-type bus network on cards

Auckland buses are facing a major shakeup in a new proposed plan

Shakeup plans include running feeder buses to transport hubs.

Auckland buses face a major shakeup, and the region could be divided into zones similar to London’s network as authorities look to streamline services and fares.

Changes to about 400 services proposed by Auckland Transport are being put up today for a month of public consultations.

Regular services could be cut to about 130, bolstered with 40 peak-only commuter runs, but the council body says there will be only minor changes to coverage. It says its priority is to simplify the network in return for service frequencies of 15 minutes or better between 7am and 7pm each day along about 30 bus corridors, and more often at peak times.

Click here for a closer look at the transport proposal.

These will be complemented by “connector” buses running every 30 minutes, and localised and targeted services.

It has created a Tube-style map showing services running in Auckland, and the “zones” fares could soon be linked to.

Network planning manager Anthony Cross said that although “some” people would have to walk further to bus stops, that was unlikely to be more than about 200m in most cases, and frequent bus services would be put within reach of many more Aucklanders.

Cutting out duplication would mean relying more on feeder buses for passenger transfers to high-frequency routes, including rail, and developing transport interchanges at key locations such as Otahuhu, Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd in Henderson.

Public transport operations manager Mark Lambert said getting passengers used to making easy transfers was an important step towards gaining maximum benefit from the proposed underground city rail link.

Passengers would gain a 50c discount for transfers until a new fare system could be introduced by the end of 2014, in which there would be no charge for swapping between services within each of six new zones.

Mr Lambert said Auckland Transport was seeking public comment only on the overall structure of the new system for now. There would be opportunities for more detailed consultation at each stage of a three-year rollout to 2016, starting next year with South Auckland, Titirangi-Green Bay and some parts of the central isthmus.

The draft plan also points to a Government requirement to increase the contribution of passenger fares to transport costs from 44.3 per cent now to 50 per cent.

Auckland Council transport chairman Mike Lee warned that higher fares would undermine the push for greater patronage, but welcomed the route restructuring, saying the region could not have a “more inefficient, expensive, ramshackle bus system” than at present.


Written by Mathew Dearnaly
Published in: The Zealand Herald –