Auckland Transport (AT) says it is unable to defend the city’s homeowners against increasing housing intensification based on a lack of transport infrastructure.
AT has been asked by the Mayor and councillors whether it could make transport infrastructure and congestion an issue (or ‘qualifying matter’) that could be used to prevent the government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) and Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) taking effect in certain areas.
At Auckland Council’s Planning Committee meeting on June 30, the lack of assurance from AT prompted committee members to say the consequences for not making transport infrastructure a qualifying matter under the NPS-UD would be “disastrous”.
AT principal transport planner Rory Power told the committee that AT was not currently able to justify a lack of transport infrastructure as a qualifying matter.
“We have information available but with the way the legislation is drafted it is difficult to justify,” Power said.
“The way our high-level strategic model works, it is not a site-by-site analysis. They do not relate specifically to a geographical area.”
Power said transport infrastructure as a qualifying matter needed to be defensible through the hearings process.
“In practice, as consents come forward are we going to be able to hold the line?”
Mayor Phil Goff said if transport was not made a qualifying matter, it would be disastrous.
“If transport is not a qualifying matter, how do we deal with the consequences of building large numbers of three storey houses?” Goff asked.
Goff said three houses to a section under the MDRS, a lack of parking requirements for new builds, no walking or cycling facilities and no access to public transportation would have horrendous consequences for the city’s residents and the environment.
“I know there are all kinds of complications in making it a qualifying matter but if you do not, that is what we could end up with,” he said.
Cr Wayne Walker said AT had a detailed transport model that could be used to make the argument that transport should be a qualifying matter.
“My understanding from transport planners I have spoken to, is that it is very do-able and can be done quickly,” Cr Walker said.
In reference to Whangaparāoa Peninsula in particular, he said “there are communities that I represent where the transport effects are going to be nothing short of horrific.”
Cr Shane Henderson challenged the idea that the consequences would be horrendous, saying developers have been building in places with poor transport for more than a decade.
He said when there was more demand for transport options and bus routes, more could be put in.
Henderson questioned the use of ratepayers’ money in attempting to make transport infrastructure a qualifying matter when he believed it would be “tossed out”.
Auckland Council must publicly notify city plan changes under the NPS-UD and MDRS by August 20.