Policy Parrot says:
Anne Gibson has interviewed former planner Richard Burton this week in the NZ Herald website about the Auckland 2040 group he runs and their opposition to the Unitary Plan.
Richard is no muppet. As a former planner he has formidable experience and a well earned reputation. Thus his involvement and leadership of the Auckland 2040 organisation should be a big concern for Auckland Council.
Most community organisations are hopeless at stopping or facilitating change. They build large soap boxes, whine and bleat from the top of them and they typically cause more nuisance than they do benefit – slowing down the process but not identifying the issues nor providing solutions.
Some take extraordinary positions – like the crazy bunch of loons in Auckland’s East – the Pohutakawa Coast Community Association – who are well known for their utterly entrenched NIMBY-ism. They lose everything they oppose.
Conversely some community groups are effective.
In Orewa the Orewa Residents and Ratepayers Associaton (ORRA) are the ‘northern slayers’.
So effective are they that the former Rodney District Council would fret and worry at the thought of preparing a variation to their District Plan. The residents group are well funded and smart enough to use RMA lawyers and qualified experts who in turn dismantle Council variations with ease and they have a successful legacy as such.
Auckland Council knows that most community groups are disorganised and where they aren’t most groups will take the foolish approach of ‘decline everything until death’ rather than a more sophisticated approach in planning terms.
Auckland 2040 is different. Well organised and well funded. But more concerning for Council is that it is run by planning experts. Planners know how to play the game.
The Auckland 2040 organisation (which is literally a month old) is already a force to reckon with. They have been given quick meetings with Mayor Brown and officers and now the Herald is covering them in interviews.
That is the sign that everyone takes them seriously and Council is running scared (the property industry looks on with some envy).
Auckland Council should be crapping itself. Well organised community groups become well funded community groups and then well publicised community groups who attract other community groups and residents join them for representation and guidance through the process. They become a snowball of strength.
This Parrot bets Auckland 2040 becomes one of the big players of the Unitary Plan process and because it has professionals running it – this Parrot bets it will do serious damage to the Unitary Plan. Ouch!
This Parrot doesn’t necessarily agree with all of Burton’s thoughts which are perhaps a bit outdated and unrealistic (staged release of land for instance) and using scare tactics to describe unintended consequences such as ‘adhoc development’. We do live in a real world were adhoc development popping up sporadically is a normal process – it can never be programmed or planned out because developers don’t work in a cohesive manner.
But that doesn’t matter because Auckland 2040 is already making Council wet it’s panties.
The reason is simple – for Auckland Council to beat Burton’s possies it would take preparation of evidence that they don’t have now and don’t have the time to prepare. Burton is smart and knows this which is why he has carefully picked his argument and why this Parrot thinks he and his organisation are a formidable force.
So Auckland Council is already signalling a back down from certain Unitary Plan provisions.
We in the Property Industry have to admire Burton and his Black Panther Club. They have more attention than the property industry could ever wish for and they are being taken seriously.
The reason is votes.
Council hates property people but also knows that property people don’t matter on voting. Voters however are a different story. Particularly those voters who can put the boot in and do serious damage to the Council’s ‘perfect plan’.
It is disappointing in reality that Auckland Council panders to votes and not the people who have to deliver the product.
But it is great to see a well organised community group. One with rational and smart people at it’s helm.
Drawing to the point of this blog is to draw attention to the fact that community groups like this carry the biggest sticks. Bigger than the property industry with all it’s $$$ to spend because the community groups are voters.
This Parrot says that Auckland 2040 is going to be an interesting watch. And it may do to the Unitary Plan what the British did to Napolean at Waterloo.