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Brief Counsel

More plans for Auckland – Draft Auckland Plan released

22 September 2011

The policies and ideas contained within the Draft Auckland Plan aim to define the character of the Super City and will have direct implications for the performance of the New Zealand economy and for the people and businesses which live and trade within the greater Auckland area.

The Draft Auckland Plan, and accompanying documents, are the Auckland Council’s blueprint to transform Auckland into the “world’s most liveable city” over the next 30 years.  That is a big task – which may explain why the documentation runs to more than 500 pages, not including the technical and background papers.

But, if your future is in any way tied up with Auckland’s future, it is important that you engage.  We recommend that you start planning your response now.  Submissions close on 25 October 2011.

The paper mountain

Separate plans have been prepared for the City Centre and the waterfront because the invigoration of these areas is seen as critical to transforming Auckland into a city of international quality able to compete with Sydney and Melbourne.  In addition, the Council has released a draft economic development strategy outlining how it will attract the investment necessary to achieve its ambitious economic goals.   
The plans, while aspirational in tone, contain a large number of specific proposals to direct development, land use and infrastructure provision.  Further, the contents of the plans will no doubt inform the Council’s future Unitary Plan (which will contain the rules for land use and development currently found in the district and regional plans), and the Long Term Plan, which will set out the Council’s planned projects and funding.
All Auckland stakeholders should have an understanding of the Draft Auckland Plan and the accompanying plans, including the potential impact on your medium to long term commercial strategies.  At more than 500 pages of plans and summaries, not including the technical and background papers, the documents are not a light read.  We therefore recommend you start planning for your review and submission drafting now. 
The closing date for public submissions on all four plans is 25 October 2011.

Key challenges and proposals

The Draft Auckland Plan focuses on addressing a number of key challenges facing Auckland over the next 30 years, including population growth, environmental issues, social and economic inequalities and infrastructure planning, provision and funding.

Urban containment and focused growth

The Draft Auckland Plan anticipates that the Auckland population will grow by one million by 2040 and will require a further 400,000 dwellings, and that around three quarters of this growth can be accommodated within the existing Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL). 
Key proposals are:
  • to create a new “Rural Urban Boundary” (RUB) to replace the existing MUL.  The RUB would release around 5,000 to 6,000 additional hectares for residential and urban development
  • to put special focus on unleashing the economic and human potential in the Mangere-Otahuhu, Otara-Papatoetoe, Manurewa and Papakura areas through what the plan refers to as the “Southern Initiative”
  • to sequence infrastructure roll-out in stages to meet residential and business demand
  • to prioritise for growth in the first three years the City Centre, Hobsonville, New Lynn, Onehunga, Tamaki, Takapuna, Warkworth and Pukekohe, and
  • to review planning policy around intensification with a view to increasing densities but with a stronger focus on good urban design outcomes.

Environmental action and “green growth”

This would include more sustainable buildings, infrastructure and resource management practices - such as energy efficiency, waste minimisation and sustainable land use.  The Draft Auckland Plan also recommends encouraging innovative green technologies.

Transport

Increasing public transport and encouraging walking and cycling are key goals.  The Draft Auckland Plan proposes that within the next 10 years: the rail network be electrified, the City Rail Link completed, the ferry network extended to Hobsonville and Beach Haven, and improvements made to the city’s walkways and cycle-ways.  A number of State highway projects are also supported including the completion of the Western Ring Route, the additional harbour crossing, and the construction of the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway.

Funding

Potential funding for the initiatives in the Draft Auckland Plan is unclear.  The Council foresees funding coming from a range of sources including the private sector, infrastructure providers and central government.  In addition to traditional sources of local government funding from rates and development contributions, more novel concepts such as “Tax Increment Financing”, road network pricing and public private partnerships are being investigated.

Our comments

While it is still early days in digesting the full extent of the Draft Auckland Plan, some key issues are emerging.

  • Legal status still unclearThe legal status of the Draft Auckland Plan remains unresolved, despite the issue being widely publicised, and it seems unlikely that any clarification will emerge during the consultation phase.  This could raise real procedural fairness issues down the line.
  • More process to come.  Regardless of the legal status of the Draft Auckland Plan, the Auckland Council clearly expects it to sit at the top of the planning hierarchy and to inform the Council’s Unitary Plan and Long Term Plan.  The Council and central government will no doubt be mindful of the potential for the Draft Auckland Plan, or parts of it (e.g. the RUB and planning policy around density) to be ‘litigated to death’ when put under the Resource Management Act microscope.  We note much of the implementation will be through the Unitary Plan.  It will be interesting to see whether any formal steps are taken to manage the potential for prolonged disputes.
  • Certainty.  The Draft Auckland Plan makes a good case for uniting the views of Aucklanders and providing more strategic certainty for future growth and development.  This should provide some comfort for business across the region.  And of course, we don’t need to worry about local government spats over infrastructure provision and development opportunities under the new Super City structure.  Significant uncertainties remain, however, over funding, legal status and subsequent processes.
  • Aspirational but deliverable?  It is not clear how all of the projects, aspirations and targets in the Draft Auckland Plan can be realistically delivered, and at a price that Aucklanders are willing or able to pay.  Funding for many of the major projects remains absent or at the least uncertain.
  • Speed of process.  Clearly, a lot of time and effort has gone into the Draft Auckland Plan, but the timeline for producing and adopting it is concerning.  Auckland Council has faced substantial pressures in uniting the region under one authority since November 2010.  History would indicate that fast decisions don’t always equate with good decisions.
  • Politics.  Central/local government politics are also relevant.  Although Local Government Minister Rodney Hide has openly supported the Draft Auckland Plan, other cabinet members have already raised questions over some of the key initiatives, such as urban containment.  Prime Minister John Key has also made public statements that central government won’t be funding the City Rail link any time soon. 

Process for involvement and timing

Time for involvement is relatively limited, bearing in mind the volume of material to get through.  As noted, public submissions close on 25 October 2011.  Up to that period, the Council and other groups will be running workshops and seminars to assist people in understanding the plans. 

A summary of the submissions will be prepared and public hearings held in November.  The Council proposes finalising the Auckland Plan in December 2011, with adoption in February 2012.

Chapman Tripp’s role

We are available to assist you in negotiating your way around and through the four plans, and with evaluating how they will affect your specific business circumstances and property interests.  We can also help you to prepare a submission.  Please contact any of the lawyers featured.

Contacts