Plan change’s ‘sorry his­tory’ crit­i­cised

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JOE DAW­SON

Some tough crit­i­cism has been taken on the chin by the Auck­land Coun­cil over its han­dling of a con­tro­ver­sial plan change.

The En­vi­ron­ment Court has de­scribed the coun­cil’s han­dling of Plan Change 163 as a ‘‘sorry his­tory’’ of pro­cras­ti­na­tion, in­ac­tiv­ity and pro­ce­dural de­lay.

Plan Change 163 aimed to pro­tect and en­hance the qual­i­ties of cer­tain res­i­den­tial ar­eas. It dates back to 2007 when the for­mer Auck­land City Coun­cil moved to pro­tect the char­ac­ter of parts of Mt Al­bert, Herne Bay, Epsom, One Tree Hill, Par­nell, Re­muera, Ko­hi­marama and St He­liers.

But in­cor­rect pro­tec­tions were placed on hun­dreds of homes mean­ing own­ers were left to bat­tle the coun­cil for years for the rights to al­ter their properties.

The En­vi­ron­ment Court de­ci­sion re­sults in roughly 2500 out of nearly 7000 homes in the res­i­den­tial 2 zone hav­ing pro­tec­tion rules ap­plied. The res­i­den­tial 2 zones in­clude rows of pre1940 build­ings set in an open park-like at­mos­phere gen­er­ally with large front yards and of­ten ma­ture land­scap­ing and trees. Most houses date from the early to mid1900s.

But judge Jeff Smith says in the de­ci­sion the court was ‘‘dis­turbed’’ to hear the coun­cil had still been ap­ply­ing an ear­lier ver­sion that meant all houses were cov­ered by the pro­tec­tion rules.

The de­ci­sion in­cludes a chap­ter en­ti­tled ‘‘ anatomy of de­lay’’ which charts the progress of the ap­peals process. Delays were still oc­cur­ring as re­cently as 2012.

‘‘In our view this case dis­plays a lack of will by the coun­cil to re­duce or re­solve the ap­peal,’’ the de­ci­sion states.

‘‘It has pro­gressed only by the con­stant in­ter­ven­tion of the court. It would have been re­solved at a frac­tion of the cost and many years ear­lier if it had pro­ceeded to an early hear­ing.’’

Mayor Len Brown con­cedes it has been an ‘‘ugly’’ process and that the judges com­ments were war­ranted.

He says with its Uni­tary Plan the coun­cil in­tends to make the rules around her­itage much sim­pler.

‘‘That par­tic­u­larly was a pretty hairy one to in­herit from the Auck­land City Coun­cil but hav­ing had it in dis­cus­sion for four years and in a le­gal process for four years we had to ba­si­cally see it through,’’ he says.

‘‘So what we’ve found was a lack of clar­ity around her­itage build­ings and the preser­va­tion and or de­struc­tion of them if they were re­quired to be moved off-site by the owner’s de­sire to re­de­velop their land.

Mr Brown says the process has high­lighted the need for ‘‘over­ar­ch­ing rules’’ to deal with her­itage is­sues.

‘‘And so that’s now ex­actly what we’ve done with the uni­tary plan – one set of rules around her­itage char­ac­ter build­ings and it’s much cleaner,’’ he says.

‘‘To take seven years – ugly. The judges re­flec­tions are prob­a­bly fair, given the long his­tory of this and my view is that our coun­cil’s pro­cesses par­tic­u­larly around is­sues of re­source man­age­ment should in­clude much more front end dis­cus­sion and that’s what we’ve done with the uni­tary plan. We want pre-ap­pli­ca­tions, we want stuff sorted out be­fore any­one lodges an ap­pli­ca­tion and we want to give a fast yes or a fast no.

‘‘We don’t want to darken the doors of the En­vi­ron­ment Court any­where near as much as we used to in the good old days.’’

Photo: JOE DAW­SON

Char­ac­ter streetscape: Plan Change 163 aimed to pro­tect the qual­i­ties of cer­tain res­i­den­tial ar­eas like Al­len­dale Rd in Mt Al­bert.

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