A Warkworth planner is concerned by proposed legislation she says will have “far reaching” implications for residential areas within the Auckland region.
Last month, the Government, with bi-partisan support, introduced draft legislation into Parliament that will introduce new “medium density standards”. These standards will allow up to three houses, of up to three storeys, to be built on a site without the need for resource consent.
If the Bill is passed, it will apply to existing residential zones, and to “green field” land once it is subject to a plan change for zoning. Metropolitan councils will be required to implement the standards in their district plans and the rules will come into immediate effect as soon as the plans are notified.
Warkworth planner Burnette O’Connor says urban areas such as Warkworth and Snells Beach, where there is established infrastructure, will likely be fair game for developers.
“It makes it far more economically viable to knock down older housing stock in Warkworth and replace a single house with three,” she says.
However, it does not apply to large lot zones such as Sandspit and Brick Bay or rural coastal zones such as Leigh or Mathesons Bay.
Ms O’Connor says the consent changes are not the only “curve ball” to have come out of the proposed legislation.
Any plan changes submitted by developers to Council that have not yet been completed must be withdrawn.
“It is likely that this is to give Council a clean slate. But, someone who might have already spent millions on progressing a plan change will now be at the mercy of how and when Council will apply the new standards.”
She says councils have “creative ways” of subverting Government legislation that they don’t agree with and the net result of the legislation remains to be seen.
As Ms O’Connor understands it, the proposed Bill will also no longer require councils to consult the public on their draft plans. Once plans are notified, the public will be able to make submissions, but after that there will be no right of appeal, such as in the Environment Court.
Burnette believes the new standards could significantly speed up future developments, but says it will be “fairly frightening”.
“I can’t see how these new standards will achieve quality urban environments. People will be jammed in together at a time when councils don’t have budgets for open spaces and recreational facilities.
“I think you can have affordable housing without foregoing important things like access to sunlight and outdoor spaces for people’s health and wellbeing. There are better ways to go about the issue than going above the councils’ heads.”