The Auckland Council is bracing itself for a barrage of complaints from Rodney residents, as a 30-year plan for the entire Auckland region is finally released for public discussion this month.
The Unitary Plan has been two years in the making, and replaces a plethora of district and regional plans prepared by councils prior to the formation of the Supercity in 2010. It will affect almost all Rodney residents in some way, but will be especially relevant to anyone wanting to build, alter or demolish a property, or deal with environmental issues.
Among the proposals that could prove controversial is a notable increase in the amount of land that will be protected from development because it is considered ecologically significant; new rules intended to protect coastal character; and continued resistance to allowing farmers to subdivide productive land.
As has already been well signalled, the plan is expected to pave the way for significant growth, and much higher population density, in Auckland. But issues such as whether growth should be contained within defined areas — now known as Rural Urban Boundaries (RUBs) — are already proving contentious. The National Government does not support RUBs, as it believes they drive up the cost of housing.
Major issues such as whether a new Puhoi to Wellsford motorway will be built anytime soon could also yet be derailed by local government elections later this year, and central government elections next year.
A more detailed plan for Warkworth, identified as one of two satellite towns likely to grow significantly over the next three decades, has yet to be prepared. But an initial response from the Rodney Local Board to the draft plan last November indicates there are several issues which could potentially flare up. At the time the board had several concerns, including:
* Proposals to allow many more terraced houses and apartment buildings. It wanted to restrict this to “very small pockets” in Warkworth and Kumeu;
* Proposals to allow six- and eight-storey buildings in business districts. It wanted to restrict this to four storeys in Warkworth and Kumeu, and two storeys elsewhere. It also wanted to make an exception for buildings along Warkworth’s riverbank;
* That rules about impermeable surface and coverage restriction would not be workable;
* That on-site parking would not be required on good transport routes;
* Proposals to prohibit the demolition of Category A historic heritage buildings and to protect all pre-1940s buildings.
The board also sought an assurance that coastal environment rules were not a way of imposing marine reserves. It suggested that more land be earmarked for light industrial development in Snells Beach, and that non-industrial activities not be allowed in industrial zones.
According to documents prepared by the board at the time, specific changes in Warkworth could include the rezoning of the Hudson Rd business park and the live/work zone on Bertram and Lilburn Streets; and the rezoning of the Glenmore Drive reserve to allow recreational buildings. A new countryside living zone may also be identified on Port Albert Rd in Wellsford.
Concerns have already been raised by a Council committee that farmers in zones earmarked for future development could be forced off their land due to rate hikes. On the other hand, some farmers are likely to be dismayed by the lack of opportunity to subdivide and develop their properties.
The plan will be officially revealed on March 15, and Council is inviting informal feedback until the end of May. It is holding a public roadshow at Mahurangi East Library in Snells Beach on March 27, and will process formal feedback from September.
Unlike previous plans, the Unitary Plan is largely based online. It is backed by state-of-the-art technology intended to ensure local government processes become much more efficient and interactive. The downside is that those without technical skills or a good internet connection may struggle to deal with it.
Related Story: Unitary Plan sessions in Rodney
Published 13 March 2013