ACT wants to subdivide the Waitakere Ranges (or at least the foothills)

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There was a great deal of attention on the policy announcements of the major parties this weekend.  One announcement was forward looking and a firm statement that business as usual was not working.  The other was somewhat ho hum and involved an extension to Auckland’s electrified rail network that Labour started as well as the third rail line in South Auckland.  This was the project that only a few years ago the Government wanted to bury the report for.  This should have been approved and started this year.  Hiding the report and then supporting the project shows some weird set of priorities.

The electrification of rail to Pukekohe is a good idea.  But Auckland Council recently decided to purchase hybrid trains that could service the area.  I hope there is another use for these trains.  Perhaps they could be added to the western line so that Huapai and Kumeu can be serviced properly.

And over on the edge of New Zealand politics a small nondescript party tried to attract attention by promising a gazillion new houses for Auckland.  Well maybe not a gazillion but the extraordinary figure of 600,000.

This would involve more than doubling the current number of houses in Auckland.  In 2013 there were 473,451 occupied dwellings.  So this figure would more than double the number of houses currently existing in Auckland.

There is a problem.  Under the term of this government which ACT and David Seymour are members of housing construction in Auckland is tanking, despite burgeoning need.  But this does not stop Seymour from trying to put the blame elsewhere.

From Stuff:

… Seymour promised to scrap the Rural Urban Boundary, paving the way for at least 600,000 homes to be built in Waitakere, Karaka and Clevedon.

He said he would also push the Government to abolish the Resource Management Act and replace it with laws that required councils to free up land as populations increased.

“These areas are not treasured natural landscapes. They are grassy fields with the occasional barn or horse.

“Allowing housing in these areas should be a bare minimum for any Government.”

The party would fund the infrastructure to service the new homes by sharing the GST on construction with councils, he said.

ACT’s plan does not have the support of the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society.

“He’s dreaming,” said president John Edgar of the policy.

Edgar said the foothills are a buffer zone between suburban sprawl and the Waitakere Ranges.”Sub-divisions would impact the ecology of the ranges.”

Edgar said there would have to be a very good reason to change the boundary. “Our fear would be if the boundary changed for one property it would open the flood gate and the boundary would get smaller and smaller,” he said.

Here is the ACT’s map.  The blue is the current urban form and the yellow is where it wants to allow subdivision to occur.

And here is the unitary plan map for the area.  Essentially Seymour is proposing that the land zoned Waitakere Foothills zone is subdivided.  All of it.

And here is the googlemap of the area. Note that significant parts of it are covered in bush and native forest, not the grassy field with the occasional barn that Seymour talked about.

To be frank the proposal is bonkers. There are major impediments to any proposal to change current zoning for the foothills. Roads are narrow and unsuited for large numbers. There is no reticulated sewerage through vast parts of the foothills. Much of the area is steep and prone to slips.

And good old mother nature and the Ranges perform some pretty important jobs for us humans.

  • They provide us with rural beauty, with artistic inspiration, and with a sense of serenity.
  • They control and manage rainfall and without the forest urban flooding would be much more problematic.
  • They provide us with fresh drinking water.
  • They provide a buffer to help preserve the health of the ranges.

The method that Seymour is using, the removal of the rural urban boundary will also have unintended consequences.  If there is no boundary for Auckland’s growh then why shouldn’t there be increased subdivision at Piha and Karekare and Bethells Te Henga …

I have not seen the details.  You have to spend good money on doing this and I have an aversion to funding anti environmental proposals.

Most advanced nations realise that urban sprawl has a very bad downside, with increased reliance on cars, a plethora of motorways and environmental destruction being inevitable consequences.  ACT’s proposal will only lock Auckland into the type of growth it has been spending many years trying to avoid.

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