Chair’s report March 2021 – Nola’s development and Poetry on the beach
Nola’s Orchard development
One of the roles of the local board is to advocate for the interests and preferences of local people. As part of this we get notification of various resource consent applications and we get our chance to respond.
It is an important part of the job. Often we are the only locals who will hear about these applications before they are granted and diggers turn up to a site. Our intent is to make sure that local interests are respected.
The process is technical and time lines can be tight.
Often I will receive hundreds of pages of technical documents with a request that comment be received within a few days. No pressure …
Late last year I was given notice of the application to develop houses on the Nola Orchard property. The application was novel in that it was made under new legislation.
Earlier last year the Government passed the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-Track Consenting) Act 2020. The purpose of the Act was to help speed up resource consent applications that created employment while continuing to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources. The intent is that consents that contribute to employment are given a push.
The Act sets out various listed projects which are mentioned in the Act and which are given considerable support. It also allows for applications for other projects to be included. These are described as referred projects.
Expert consenting panels are to consider listed projects and referred projects and make a decision.
The process is truncated and notice to the public is limited. The Act prohibits a panel from giving public notification or limited notification of a consent application. There are a list of groups and environmental organisations which each panel must seek comment from. Others entitled to comment include affected persons. The public is not considered an affected person.
The test to be applied to applications under the COVID Recovery Act is different to those under the Resource Management Act.
Section 31 of the fifth schedule to the Act says that panel considerations are subject to Part 2 of the RMA as well as the the purpose of the Covid Act. I am not a RMA expert but this reference suggests that the panel may be more sympathetic to a referred application than Council would be if the application followed the normal procedure.
I raised this with the local board and we drafted and provided feedback to the Ministry considering the application to fast track.
Our feedback was as follows:
We acknowledge that there is an affordable housing crisis in Auckland that needs to be addressed urgently. We also support in general the construction of Kiwibuild homes to address a clear shortfall in the housing market.
However we do not consider that use of the fast track consenting process is appropriate in the circumstances and submit that it would be more appropriate for the project, or part of the project, to go through the standard consenting or designation process under the Resource Management Act 1991 (see section 23(5)(b) of the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020.
The reasons for this are generally set out in Council’s planning advice but include the following:1. The land is zoned Residential Single House Zone under the Auckland Unitary Plan. This generally provides for development to “be of a height, bulk and form that maintains and is in keeping with the character and amenity values of the established residential neighbourhood”. This development would be of a unique scale for the area.2. We note Council’s preliminary view that the application should be dealt with on a notified basis. The fast track process should not be used to facilitate an application that should otherwise receive the benefit of public input.3. We have mixed views about parking requirements. Some of us are concerned that insufficient consideration has been given to carparks, particularly for visitors as well as the lack of provision for laundry services.4. There is some support for the community hub concept in the proposal.5. We are concerned about protecting provision of open space in the area, particularly for children. The development is opposite Parrs Park but this park is already heavily utilised. Also West Coast Road is busy and would pose a danger to young children trying to cross. As a suggestion there is a parcel of land being sold at 315A Glengarry Road adjacent to the proposed development and this parcel could theoretically be incorporated into the development to improve the level of open space.6. The implications for the local road system are significant. The development is on a busy road by a major roundabout. AT’s suggestion that all traffic should enter the site from Glengarry Road has some merit but would have major implications for other Glengarry Road residents as the Glengarry Road/West Coast Road is often congested, particularly in the morning and as suggested by AT some intervention may be required.7. Access to local schools is problematic and limited.
These comments are provided by way of local board feedback to a planning proposal. Some consideration will be given to the formal delegation but the time frame prevents this from being completed.”
The Minister decided however to allow the application to proceed on the fast track process. This means in my view a greater chance of success and a quicker less inclusive process. The Unitary Plan provisions are still relevant but there is a greater chance that this application will succeed.
The property is zoned residential – single house zone. It is part of the very pale tan area below.
This is the definition of the zone:
“The purpose of the Residential – Single House Zone is to maintain and enhance the amenity values of established residential neighbourhoods in number of locations. The particular amenity values of a neighbourhood may be based on special character informed by the past, spacious sites with some large trees, a coastal setting or other factors such as established neighbourhood character. …
To support the purpose of the zone, multi-unit development is not anticipated, with additional housing limited to the conversion of an existing dwelling into two dwellings and minor dwelling units. The zone is generally characterised by one to two storey high buildings consistent with a suburban built character.”
Generally the minimum lot size for a property in the single house zone is 600 square metres. The proposal is that section sizes are much smaller than this are created.
The proposed development is not far from the Sunnyvale Train Station. My estimate is that it is about 1,400 metres away. Currently Auckland Council is working on an 800 metre distance as signifying an area capable of intensification and the recently announced National Policy Statement on Urban Development anticipates construction of apartment buildings of at least six stories in walkable catchment areas around a railway station.
I am all for affordable housing. It is crazy that we have a city where teachers and police officers and nurses, let alone cleaners and supermarket workers, can barely afford to buy a house. But the Unitary Plan attempted to design a city where intensification could occur adjacent to major public transport routes and this development is outside of what was intended.
Clearly from recent feedback there is a great deal of public interest in the application. The local board’s role will be to represent those views and urge the Panel to respect the unitary plan zoning that already allows for significant intensification in the area but not on this property.
Ten year budget
Council has just finished receiving submissions on its 10 yearplan.
Generally council’s fiscal picture is still quite gloomy I am afraid.
The estimate is that Council has lost $450 million in revenue this year because of the effects of Covid and will lose about a billion dollars in revenue by 2024.
And the other big dynamic is population growth. As a region we are bursting at the seams. For the past seven years Auckland’s population has been consistently growing at about 2% per annum and with kiwis returning because of Covid I would not be surprised if the growth rate was even higher now.
The trouble with population growth is that even allowing for economies of scale you normally have to increase the spend as the demand on Council services grows.
And the increased infrastructure caused by growth costs. Developer contributions only cover part of the expense, the ratepayer has to stump up the rest.
Over the next couple of years Council is going to breach the debt to income cap of 270% that it normally applies.
The local board had urged it to do so. Borrowing has never been cheaper.
While on the face of it this sounds terrifying if you compare it to a household it is not so bad.
Total debt is predicted to be $12.1 billion next year and total assets will be $61.1 billion. And revenue from all sources will be $4.5 billion.
The loss of revenue has been significant but is only about 10% of total revenue.
To put this into a household context it is comparable to owning a million dollar home with a $200,000 mortgage while the household earns $74,000 a year. Covid19 caused problems cuts off $7,400 a year of income.
The extra borrowing is in my view warranted because it is currently cheap to do so and this stops cuts into core services.
The Mayor’s proposal is that there is a 5% rates increase which I personally support. The problem with the way that Council currently is funded is that a huge amount of resources goes into growth areas. This extra will allow for maintaining and improving services and will also help with the debt to income ratio.
I appreciate it is unpopular to suggest these things but I am coming to the conclusion that Auckland Council’s funding is broken and Government help will be necessary.
One further matter which I have spent a lot of my recent time as Chair advocating for. The local board used to get a capital allocation of funds from AT to do local transport projects. We were saving ours up to complete the Glen Eden town square project but the funds have unfortunately disappeared.
We were advised in March last year that “there is currently $1,505,453 left in the Board’s Local Board Transport Capital Fund (LBTCF) from the previous political term. The amount allocated for 2019 – 2022 is $2,019,339. A total of $3,524,792 is available.”
But the money has disappeared. The rationale was that AT had to cut back on projects and had to address the big projects that had some sort of legal risk first. Unfortunately these projects were predominately roads. At a time when we have to be making transport more sustainable Council is pouring resources into the wrong area.
Council’s recently Auckland Transport Alignment Project’s information release suggests that the yearly grants will again be part of Auckland Transport’s funding in the future. But I would like the previously declared funding for the local board reinstated. We could make significant progress with our Greenways Plan if it was reinstated.
Council and AT have had some criticism recently because the commitment to walking and cycling infrastructure is not as big as it used to be. Proper funding for our Greenways Plan, and the Greenways Plans of other local boards, would make a considerable contribution to the aims and aspirations of local communities.
Track upgrades in Parks
I receive a lot of comment on track upgrades and there is keen local interest on the upgrade projects to be completed.
Tracks on local parks, mainly in Titirangi continue to be upgraded but because of Covid induced delays and some budget pressures there have been delays.
The upgrade of Bill Haresnape track is under way. There are a total of 17 tracks to be upgraded and so far three have been completed.
I am keen for these all to be completed as soon as possible. They provide important pedestrian access for the area.
In the Regional Park the Omanawanui Ridge and Puriri Ridge Tracks have been reopened.
There is budget for continued upgrades but the funding is being moved around with staff taking the view that the special environmental targeted rate has to be spent within the decade it was collected, not each year as it was collected.
There is also some controversy about the style upgrade with some thinking that the engineering is affecting the bush experience. All that I can say is that Kauri dieback is still a clear and present danger and the scientific advice is precautionary, maybe to cautious, but we do need to be careful.
Karekare resilience plan
I am sure that I do not need to remind everyone of the events of almost three years ago when a massive storm cut power to the West Coast for an extended period of time.
The response of locals was magnificent. Everyone rallied around and looked after each other and tended to their neighbours.
It was really heartening but the experience also showed that we have to always be prepared.
With climate change and global warming these sorts of events are only going to be more common.
It caused the local board to decide to help communities to prepare their own resilience plans.
The local board reached out to different local communities to see if we could help them prepare their own resilience plan, tailor made for their purposes.
I must acknowledge Sandra Coney for her contribution to this and for persuading us of the need and virtue of doing so.
With her immense experience of the west and her understanding of what makes local communities she drove the proposition that we needed to make sure that local communities were organised.
And the best way to achieve this was to help them organise themselves.
So we were happy to provide resources and cheerlead from the side but it was up to the local communities to do the planning and to come up with a response that reflected the way their communities work and the best way for them to react and to respond.
I also must acknowledge Shalema Wanden-Hannay and her team for the work they have put into producing the Karekare Resilience Plan. I would hope it never gets used, but I suspect that it will be used from time to time.
And each time it is used people will thank them for putting the work into preparing this document so that they know how to get ready.
I should also acknowledge Claire Liousse who provided high quality organisational input and help into the project.
Glen Eden Safety Hub
The local board has decided not to renew the lease on the Glen Eden safety hub.
This was an attempt for us to establish a permanent police presence in the Glen Eden township. Before this happened the community constable was based in an office in the fire station and we thought it important that they were more central and more visible.
I believe the hub has had some success. The local police presence has been greatly enhanced and incidences of social disorder are much lower than they used to be before the Hub was opened.
It has also provided a base for the Glen Eden Business Improvement District, for the Maori wardens and the Pacifica wardens who do a tremendous job and for the local Community Patrol who also does a great job.
But because of operational requirements and limitations of resources the coverage has been patchy. And the BID has indicated that for operational reasons they do not need the space.
The Hub has caused issues because many locals understandably thought that it was a police stationand it was not able to address their needs.
The local board has indicated that the money we save should be used within the area on broadly similar projects. And it is important that the relationships the local board has built up with the different organisations and groups are maintained and enhanced.
I have asked staff to see if the community groups can have access to the Panuku shops which are currently empty at least on a temporary basis.
Going West Poetry Event
The Local Board provides significant support to local artistic organisations and festivals. I do not doubt the value of any of it.
Our local board area has the benefit of some of the most talented artists and most dedicated artistic organisations in the region.
My theory about why this is so is two fold. Firstly the West Coast and the Waitakere Ranges are magnificent natural backdrops to our area. Not only do they provide a magnificent backdrop and fresh water and serenity and act as a carbon sink they also provide artistic inspiration.
And the West Coast has this other feature. It rains more and it is more rugged. So the people who tend to be attracted to live here tend to be slightly crazy and well tuned to the rugged natural beauty that the west has.
This means that our artistic community are on steroids. And I have always been proud that the local board supports them to the best of our ability.
Going West is one of the organisations that we support. They recently held a poetry event at Piha where participants were invited to write a poem and then inscribe it in the sand.
I could not think of a more westie artistic event.
With support from the Local Board Going West has been digitising some of its past events. If you are interested in Westie Art then I strongly recommend a visit to https://www.goingwestfest.co.nz/.