Chronicles of our Unitary Plan fight for Grey Lynn

Chronicles of our unitary plan fight

In May the Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel will finish hearing submissions on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. By July Auckland Council will be presented with the Panel’s proposed changes and the Unitary Plan will be one step closer to becoming fully operative.

It seems an appropriate time to review where we are with the plan, and how we have got here.

Final Unitary Plan appearance

Late on the afternoon of Thursday 14 April 2016 Grey Lynn Residents Association representatives Liz Hancock, Nicola Legat and Tania Mace made their final appearance in front of the Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel (IHP).

It all began in 2013

This was the very end of a lengthy process that began in 2013 when the Auckland Council released the Draft Auckland Unitary Plan (DAUP). The DAUP is the draft version of the Super City planning rule book that will soon replace numerous District Plans that currently govern everything from residential building developments, heritage protection and the use of public parks, through to industrial and commercial development within the area now governed by the Auckland Council.

The DAUP proposed rezoning large swathes of Grey Lynn for high density housing. This was an unsophisticated approach to replanning our suburb that took little account of the topography, existing housing stock and amenity values of Grey Lynn.

Ignorance is bliss

It was pretty clear that most Grey Lynners were completely unaware of the DAUP. Local residents Liz Hancock and Chris Patterson decided to publicise the issue and call a public meeting with a view to forming a residents association that could represent the people of the area, both in the Unitary Plan process, and in other matters concerning Grey Lynn.

GLRA was born

A meeting was duly called and it quickly became clear that the people of Grey Lynn did not want what the draft plan promised. Many of these Grey Lynners had lovingly restored decrepit villas and bungalows that in many other suburbs would have been demolished in the blink of an eye and replaced with a mock Tuscan villa.

People wanted intensification to happen in appropriate places and they did not want Grey Lynn to lose its character.

Hundreds of hours advocating for Grey Lynn

Since that first meeting the GLRA has spent many hundreds of hours advocating for the people of Grey Lynn through every stage of the Unitary Plan process.

In 2013 we prepared feedback on the DAUP and many residents used our feedback document as the basis of their feedback to council.

A tour of Grey Lynn

We took Auckland Mayor Len Brown, Councillor Mike Lee and Auckland Council’s head planner on a guided tour of Grey Lynn to show them what was special about our area and why we objected to the seemingly indiscriminate upzoning of our neighbourhood.

Early success

We were heartened to find that many of the changes requested by the people of Grey Lynn were incorporated into the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) that was released by Council in March 2014.

More work to do

While many residents of Grey Lynn breathed a huge sigh of relief, it was clear that the fight wasn’t over yet. The GLRA prepared submissions on the PAUP supporting the things we liked and recommending some changes.

What we were up against

There were more opportunities for GLRA to advocate for Grey Lynn. We subsequently spent many hours hunting through submissions made by other parties that related to Grey Lynn so we could support or oppose those submissions through the further submission process.

This gave us a clear understanding of what some other parties wanted to see in Grey Lynn. There were submissions requesting all of Grey Lynn be zoned for 4-storey terrace houses and apartments. Others sought the removal of all collective heritage protection (formerly known as Residential 1 zoning and now known as Special/Historic Character). This was significant cause for concern.

Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel

The next step in the Unitary Plan process was the appointment of the Auckland Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel (IHP).

The IHP is an independent body chaired by an Environment Court Judge and appointed by the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Conservation.

The IHP has been tasked with hearing all the submissions on the PAUP and making recommendations to Auckland Council on changes to the PAUP.

Not for the faint hearted

It quickly became apparent that the hearings process was not for the faint hearted. Hearings on the PAUP were divided into 81 separate topics, each with up to four stages (pre-hearing, expert conference, mediation and hearing).

Many residents groups decided not to take part in the hearings process because they had neither the time nor the stamina to go through it. Other groups raised funds to pay lawyers and planners to represent them at the hearings.

On the anti-protection side, lawyers and planners paid by well-heeled developers and organisations, including Housing New Zealand, would be prominent in the hearings process.

GLRA had no money but we did have a small group of people who were prepared to prepare evidence and appear at a few of the key hearings.

Nervous start

We got off to a nervous start at the first hearing in June 2015, and thought it was a stressful experience. It was clear the IHP were very keen to hear from residents groups like ours.

We attended a further three hearings and did our very best to get our message across. The panel asked many intelligent questions and did seem to understand what we were saying.

Special thanks to…

We have been helped in this process by numerous people and organisations. Local conservation architect Graeme Burgess helped us prepare for the hearings and attended the first one with us. Auckland 2040, a lobby group started by a couple of people from Takapuna, have provided invaluable advice and have alerted us to important developments that we would otherwise have been unaware of.

So what happens now?

The IHP are required to report to the Auckland Council by July 2016 with their recommendations for changes to the PAUP. In August 2016 Auckland Council will present its decisions on the IHP recommendations. An appeal process will follow, and once this is complete, the Auckland Unitary Plan will become fully operative.

We are keeping our fingers well and truly crossed for a good outcome for Grey Lynn.

Comments

  1. Graham Dunster says

    Really appreciate all that the GLRA, and especially Liz, Tania and Nicola, have done to keep the process open and contestable. You have all punched well above your weight and I believe that we will look back on your endeavours with great gratitude. Thank you, and keep up the good work!

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