The spectre of three-storey high apartment blocks being built randomly across Warkworth drew a large crowd to the Warkworth Town Hall on June 18.
Auckland Councillor Greg Sayers called the meeting to alert residents to new zoning rules that will come into effect next month.
As part of its goal to provide more affordable housing nationwide, the government changed the housing rules when it passed the Resource Management Amendment Act last December. The law change, which was opposed by Auckland Council, has made it compulsory for local councils to zone single house sites as medium density ‘mixed housing urban’. The new zone applies to most of Warkworth and takes legal effect from August 20.
It means that without the need for a resource consent or any consultation with neighbours, three dwellings of up to three storeys high can be built on a section, which under current rules would only allow one house. If the developer seeks resource consent, they can build up to six dwellings on a single property.
Additionally, new buildings can be built only 2.5 metres from the front boundary and one metre from the back and side boundaries, and there is no requirement to provide on-site parking.
Sayers said Central Government had run roughshod over Auckland Council’s planning blueprint, the Unitary Plan. The result would be housing intensification without appropriate infrastructure to handle increased traffic, wastewater or water requirements.
“This is unaffordable. Council doesn’t have the money for the planned housing growth, let alone this unplanned growth,” he says. “It will mean rates will have to rise.”
Sayers said there would be numerous unintended consequences – the town would lose some of its character and it would lead to the de-greening of the town. As well, individual property owners stood to lose their views, sunlight, privacy and peace and quiet.
He also challenged the idea that the new houses would be more affordable.
“Just look at higher density housing in Millwater, Milldale and Albany, where you’ll be lucky to find anything for under $1 million,” he said.
Sayers urged residents to sign a nationwide petition, lobby Members of Parliament for a legislation change and inform neighbours.
Town planner Peter Sinton said the government had made the mistake of assuming Warkworth was just another suburb of Auckland like Mount Roskill.
“But it’s not,” he said. “These new buildings will not be in keeping with the character of the town. The community needs to stand strong, or it will be rolled over.”
Members of the audience raised traffic and wastewater concerns, as well as the unintended environmental effects. One person said the calculation the government used to determine affordability was flawed, because it failed to take account of the social and environmental costs. Another person said intensification was appropriate in new development areas, but not in the established parts of Warkworth. He said intensification in streets such as Palmer Street would make them virtually impassable.
Snells Beach and Wellsford are exempt from the new rules because they fall below the population threshold of 5000 people. Meanwhile, Auckland Council senior policy planner Ryan Bradley told the Rodney Local Board last month that the new rules would apply to every residential site in Warkworth unless there was a qualifying matter, such as Significant Ecological Area, infrastructure constraints or coastal erosion.
“The only realistic one for Warkworth is infrastructure constraints,” he said.
He said recent changes such as Plan Changes 25 (Warkworth North) and 40 (Clayden Road) would also have to have that implemented.
The petition can be found at https://www.petitions.nz/stop_government_intensifying_every_suburb_in_our_cities_before_its_too_late