Papakura Courier

‘Special character’ areas under threat

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AJohn Watson uckland Council has opened public consultati­on on proposals to change the city’s planning rulebook. This is in response to central government’s demands for greater housing density. It comes in spite of the fact Auckland has already been through a long and expensive process to increase density and supply across the region relatively recently.

There are numerous aspects to these proposals but one in particular stands out - the potential loss of a quarter of what remains of Auckland’s ‘special character’ areas. These are areas where current planning rules help maintain a sense of history and place for older residentia­l suburbs by limiting building heights and density, and in many places, requiring a resource consent to demolish existing character buildings.

In the past Auckland hasn’t been very great preserving its history yet now we stand to lose a quarter of what little remains of our special character housing in one fell swoop.

Northcote and Birkenhead are good examples of what’s being proposed right across Auckland. They make up 2 of only 3 of Auckland’s historic marine suburbs (Devonport is the other). They are defined by houses dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries - Victorian and Edwardian villas grouped together with historic shops, churches and community buildings from the same era. They are part of Auckland’s heritage, not just for residents but for all of us.

We’re told it’s necessary to largely remove the protection for such historic suburbs in order to supply more housing yet Auckland’s current Unitary Plan already enables over 900,000 dwellings to be built on residentia­l-zoned land (in fact a lot more than this when the city centre and future urban areas are taken into account). Contrary to popular belief there’s actually no shortage of land to build houses on for the next 30 years and beyond.

What do you think?

To share your views, email letterstoe­ditor@stuff.co.nz. Include full name, home address, contact phone number. If you are a Neighbourl­y members can use the form on our newspaper page at Neighbourl­y.co.nz. We do not accept pen names or anonymous letters.

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The other rationale advanced is this will somehow help build more affordable homes but this almost certainly will not happen in these special character suburbs. The immediate consequenc­e will be to escalate the value of the land as a result of the increased developmen­t potential. The notion that poor families or young couples shut out of the housing market will suddenly be able to move into a new town house on Northcote Point is cruelly misleading.

Instead one historic villa will be demolished and replaced by 3 equally expensive and unaffordab­le dwellings.

In reality this is political window dressing of the worst kind. Kay Saville-Smith, a social scientist who specialize­s in housing research, has highlighte­d the dramatic decline in the constructi­on of low cost housing in NZ. In the early 1960s, 32% of all new homes were in this lower quartile but by 2012 was barely 5%. This figure reflected the withdrawal of government capital assistance to low cost new builds which plummeted to virtually zero by the 1990s. NZ went from being a country that built a lot of modest but decent homes to one that didn’t and has never recovered since.

To date Auckland Council’s response to these proposals has been to dutifully detail all the numerous practical shortcomin­gs associated with these poorly conceived policies and then do nothing… other than meekly surrender to government demands even though they know they’re flawed. In this instance it will be up to Aucklander­s to prompt their council into action, otherwise significan­t parts of what remains of our heritage will disappear before our very eyes.

John Watson is an Auckland councillor for the Albany Ward.

 ?? RICKY WILSON/STUFF ?? Central government is demanding greater housing density but Auckland has already been through a long and expensive process to increase density and supply.
RICKY WILSON/STUFF Central government is demanding greater housing density but Auckland has already been through a long and expensive process to increase density and supply.
 ?? ??

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