Big is­sues part of lo­cal elec­tions



I was just won­der­ing what was hap­pen­ing to the old Post Of­fice build­ing, in Serlby Place in the cen­tral city, bought by Porirua City Coun­cil for $580,000.

I thought the idea was to turn it into ex­pen­sive apart­ments. Is this still the coun­cil’s plan?

I have heard that blue as­bestos has been dis­cov­ered in­side the build­ing and that each floor has now been van­dalised. Is this true also?

I have also heard that the build­ing was of­fered to Whi­tireia Polytech for $100,000.

I am­now pay­ing $4000 in rates to the coun­cil.

It took the full year’s rates onmy prop­erty and those from 144 oth­ers to buy this build­ing.

Where is the re­turn to the ratepayer? Richard Franks Cam­borne For a change, mat­ters of ma­jor sub­stance will be in the frame at this year’s lo­cal body elec­tions.

In each of New Zealand’s three big­gest cities, vot­ers will be cast­ing their ver­dict on the sort of trans­for­ma­tional is­sues that arise only once in a gen­er­a­tion.

In Auck­land, it will be the new hous­ing plan for the city.

In Welling­ton, the cam­paign is likely to be dom­i­nated by the mooted ex­ten­sion to the air­port run­way.

In Christchurch the po­ten­tial sale of coun­cil as­sets is likely to be at the fore­front of vot­ers’ minds.

None of these mat­ters are likely to be fi­nally, ir­re­vo­ca­bly de­cided - and safe from le­gal re­view - by elec­tion day on Oc­to­ber 8th.

In Auck­land, how­ever, vot­ers will be head­ing into the elec­tion booth know­ing how each and ev­ery in­cum­bent coun­cil­lor voted on the lat­est ver­sion of Auck­land’s Uni­tary Plan that was un­veiled last week.

It’s not of­ten that pub­lic dis­clo­sure and a demo­cratic vote co­in­cide quite so neatly.

For those liv­ing out­side Auck­land, one of the strik­ing as­pects of the re­vised hous­ing plan was how dar­ing the in­de­pen­dent hear­ings panel had been on one hand, while re­tain­ing a de­gree of bal­ance on the other.

Un­der their pro­pos­als, more of the city would be ren­dered open to in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion, as the city area zoned for sin­gle homes is al­lowed to shrink by up to 22 per cent.

To put that another way - hous­ing of two or three storeys would be per­mit­ted in fu­ture in nearly 60 per­cent of Auck­land.

As the econ­o­mist and hous­ing spe­cial­ist Sham­abeel Eaqub ar­gues: ‘‘[The plan] rightly as­sumes that peo­ple can walk more than 200 me­tres to pub­lic trans­port and al­lows greater den­si­fi­ca­tion, on a larger ra­dius, around bus stops and train sta­tions. It al­lows for flex­i­bil­ity for mi­nor dwellings of up to 65 square me­tres, which may bring back the granny [flat] to the back­yard.’’

The rules re­quir­ing all houses built be­fore 1944 to need a de­mo­li­tion con­sent would be scrapped. ‘‘Old, cold and mouldy,’’ as Eaqub says, ‘‘is not nec­es­sar­ily her­itage.’’

At the same time, the panel opted to go out­wards as well as up­wards - with an up to 30 per cent in­crease in land use al­lowed be­yond the cur­rent city bound­aries.

Only Auck­lan­ders prob­a­bly need to be con­cerned about which 10 sub­urbs stand to see marked rises in their land val­ues (and rates) as the in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion process un­folds.

Fi­nally, one of the other sur­pris­ing - and welcome - as­pects of the Uni­tary Plan was that

‘‘In Auck­land, how­ever, vot­ers will know how each and ev­ery in­cum­bent coun­cil­lor voted on the lat­est ver­sion of Auck­land's Uni­tary Plan.’’

plan­ning for the city’s fu­ture needs is not only seen as de­sir­able, but pos­si­ble.

Auck­land has man­aged to de­vise a reg­u­la­tory frame­work for its hous­ing needs for the next 24 years, and for the 422,000 homes its pro­jected growth is likely to re­quire.

The plan isn’t per­fect. The lack of a so­cial/af­ford­able hous­ing ra­tio in ma­jor de­vel­op­ments seems a ma­jor flaw, and Maori may well chal­lenge the re­duc­tion in their rights to con­sul­ta­tion.

Yet for decades, there was a been a sense of pol­icy drift - in cen­tral gov­ern­ment in par­tic­u­lar - and a will­ing­ness to wait for what­ever the mar­ket, or chance, throws up.

The Auck­land ex­er­cise con­tra­dicts that fa­tal­ism.

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