Auckland Council’s head planning thug hits back

Where there is smoke there is fire.

I’ve been saying for some time that Auckland Council ignores the rule of law because nobody is policing them.

As it turns out others also think the same and Rob Stock of the Sunday Star Times did so with his comments recently.

So what does Auckland Council do?

Its head thug Roger Blakeley has come out punching.

And here is the tell tale signs of an organisation that is guilty as charged.

Everything I hear tells me that developers and property people are sick to death of Auckland Council’s officers ignoring the rule of law and doing whatever they like.

They run the Council much like a Mafioso or a fiefdom and like all narcissistic control freak organisations they are quick to react to the stinging criticism with fob offs and rebuttal.

And they are running scared because others also  want a Policeman of Local Government it appears.

AUCKLAND COUNCIL planning supremo Dr Roger Blakeley has rejected claims council officers and urban planners were acting outside the law.

Last week, the Sunday Star-Times reported on planning consultant John Dare’s Charter for Change, in which he called for the removal of “discretion” from council officers whom he accused of going beyond their legal powers and stymying development.

That, along with slow and complex bureaucracy, was limiting the supply of new dwellings and driving up housing costs, Dare said.

Blakeley dismissed that. “It’s not true,” he said. “Our officers are required to abide by the law.”

Blakeley also denied developers operated in a “climate of fear” that their chances of getting their projects completed promptly would be damaged if they were openly critical or failed to adopt council officers’ suggestions.

He also rejected Dare’s idea of creating an ombudsman to whom developers could complain when they felt that council officers overstepped the mark.

“That sounds like just adding another layer of bureaucracy” Blakeley said, adding that there were already checks and balances in the system.

Blakeley acknowledged that some in the city believed only a free market could solve Auckland’s shortage of new homes and bring down sky-high property prices.

Just this past week, a report from Statistics New Zealand reported on the rise in the number of households, particularly Pacific Island households, renting. It also lifted the lid on the number of very crowded households.

The future of Auckland planning is being reviewed and a free market option is on the table.

The council has prepared a unitary plan and an independent Hearing Panel is gathering feedback with the aim of having the plan in place in 2016. That feedback process was providing a battleground for ideas on the powers the council should have to control development.   

“There are people arguing the exact same way that John Dare is arguing” Blakeley said. “On the other hand, there are submissions arguing that those rules should be made more stringent”.

Council was well aware of those arguments, Blakeley said, but its officers’ job was to apply the rules councillors voted in and, he said, they did that meticulously.

Blakeley said Auckland’s house prices were a function of planning failures by the former councils which came together to make up the super city. They had not planned well together, and did not make sufficient land available through zoning and providing infrastructure.

“We accept that there has been a shortfall in supply. We have been addressing that,” he said.

“Typically over the last decade we have had three or four thousand dwellings a year being built. It’s got to be up to 13,000 dwellings a year for the next 30 years to hit our target of an extra 400,000 dwellings in 30 years’ time”

Those historic planning failures would not be repeated, he said, because there would now always be between five and 10 years’ forward supply of land available with infrastructure in place.

This could also be achieved within the planned “compact city” concept of building up as well as allowing some spread while still limiting urban sprawl.

“The free marketers say there should be no urban limits. The trouble with that argument is there are a whole load of costs on the community, which do not get incorporated into the market price,” Blakeley said.

Building affordable homes was key to the plan. Among the proposed changes under the unitary plan was the removal of density limits from some development areas, which Blakeley said developers were welcoming.

Dare had also criticised the growing power of the council’s Urban Design Group. Blakeley said the former councils had a very mixed record in improving urban design.

“You can’t have the world’s most liveable city, if you do not have good design,” he said.

“You have to say that the built environment in Auckland is a mixed bag. We have got some examples of good design, and some examples of bad design.”

Blakeley is optimistic about the future. In five years, he says, people will be saying things are better. There will be a greater supply of housing because of all the measures now being put in place.

Prices were also driven up because people wanted to live in Auckland because it was such a liveable city. Affordable is sometimes defined as having house prices that are four times the median income.

“In Auckland’s case the ratio is between seven and eight,” Blakeley said. “Those are the places that are highly attractive for people to come and live in. That puts pressure on demand and on supply. That’s just the way it is.”

I say the issue is the administrator of the RMA in Auckland – it’s the Council.

But one can hardly blame them for their unlawful behaviour – there isn’t anything that happens to them. No punishment. Not even a slap with a wet bus ticket. And thats why they do what they do. Time to police them.

And Blakeley has head thug is living in la-la land and is ill informed.

Hardly surprising for a man with a reputation for not listening.

 

– Sunday Star-Times, Pages D1 and  D5

 


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  • All_on_Red

    He’s a liar alright. For example the rules allow for certain size apartments and how many bedrooms that size could have and the Council completely ignore them, basically by not allowing them to proceed ( think delay delay delay). Developers have to go through a real song and dance as they run schemes past Council officials to see if they “like” them regardless that they comply with the rules anyway. It’s a farce and the uncertainty and extra time required for the process creates huge cost.

  • From the RMA that won’t let you build the exact same garage all over the country without differing interpretations of the law by various Councils…

    To bureaucrats with specialist technical knowledge/inputs who have over-blown ego’s, sense of self-importance and the mechanisms to “Defer” approvals…

    Right up to Mayor’s who can’t even trust themselves with the company credit card, but yet, who have unfettered ability to over-spend rate payer monies to the tune of Billions… and all for a personal vanity project – because a statue of Len Brown whilst still a sitting Mayor would be just a little too vein – until his last month in office no doubt…

    NZ needs our own ICAC – so then they could investigate Len Brown’s Trust funding for election purposes… and maybe even Cunliffe’s sorry secret of a Trust he used to launder his election funds… set-up against the very laws and rules he himself created years earlier.

    …and maybe then the ICAC could help the Electoral Commission on prosecution cases dating back as far as 2005 – starting with some very dodgy pledge card rorting and misappropriation of funds that required a retrospective chance in law so as to avoid the need for prosecuting themselves.

    Laws / rules / Acts / Standards are supposed to set us “free” so we can all live within known frameworks of what is and isn’t acceptable. Except today, the “Laws” that were supposed to set us free and provide frameworks have actually become fiscal, ideological and bureaucratic straight jackets!

  • andrewo

    When the buying and selling of things is to be regulated, the first things to be bought and sold are the regulators.

  • sheppy

    “Among the proposed changes under the unitary plan was the removal of density limits from some development areas, which Blakeley said developers were welcoming.”

    I’ll bet they are, heaps more profit for the developers (wonder how many of them donated to Lens top secret getting elected trust) AND the slums of the future.

    At least it will make filming Police 24/7 easier in future once you add in Lennys new mass surveillance system.

    • All_on_Red

      What’s the minimum size piece of land you think someone should be able to build a 130 sqm 3 bed two bath house with a car port on?

      • Michael_l_c

        Look at Flat Bush it seems the gutters come within a meter of the fence line. Liveable city, not.

        • All_on_Red

          “Within a metre of the fence line”? Quelle horreur. If you want affordable housing then you have to put up with smaller sections (250 sqm) and increased density. The other thing is people always seem to put their own perceptions on what might actually be acceptable to others.
          I had a look at this Project the other day.
          http://eqgroup.co.nz/the-grove/
          Modern, good size,very liveable and going for around mid sixes to early sevens. It would be even cheaper if you could cut the Councils costs.

          • Muffin

            Exactly, and if there is no market form them no one will build them. But there is a market so great idea

          • sheppy

            By restricting the supply they’ll ensure anything gets sold

      • sheppy

        One that allows parking for all the family members and allows windows to be opened without hitting the house next door with additional yard space for a barbecue and for kids to play in?
        Not my idea of fun having lived in something similar in the UK with all rooms overlooked.

        • All_on_Red

          Have a look at the link I gave below. Good design can achieve all of that. People have to start somewhere. We can’t all star with 600sqm and if you want that for an affordable pride, go and live in Pokeno. Besides if Auckland Transport gets it’s way, you won’t be able to afford cars!
          It’s also a bit disingenuous to compare old UK housing to what we can do here now.

          • sheppy

            The UK house was a modern executive detached built on a new division around 10 years ago, big house, much wasted space inside, tiny section. There was one 0.5 metre wide space you could stand in, in one room where you weren’t looking at another window, it was like being in a 1984 Orwellian nightmare. Everyone had net curtains to attempt some privacy and nobody knew their neighbours. Each house was arranged different so the doors didn’t face each other. Not enough parking was provided courtesy of the social engineering planners which meant cars were dumped half on the pavement all over the place. The same planners ensured that every 3rd house was a social house which they built last so nobody knew until they’d moved in and wondered why the road wasn’t finished.

            In a road nearby I knew of people discretely moving on to get away from the drug dealing in the state house across the road, and their houses wasn’t cheap…
            I’m not saying it has to be like this but once the social engineers get involved it usually doesn’t end well

          • All_on_Red

            Ok, well that doesn’t sound good. Let’s hope we have learned our lessons from such things. It is remarkable what a difference it makes when your neighbours all own their houses and take pride in it.
            I see some Projects now specifically exclude Housing NZ rental stock as a way to ease owners concerns. It’s illegal to do so of course but they still put it in to try to stop it. Can’t say I blame them.

  • KGB

    Anyone who has been to a consent hearing application in the past 5 years knows that AC is a joke. Commissioners sit there at $300+ an hour advised by a dozen AC ‘experts’ at $180+ an hour. The ‘experts’ know less than the developer, fail to have prepared information, and have always ‘mis-placed’ at least 1 report.
    The system allows any ‘unaffected’ nutter rant for ever about things that are irrelevant, and the developer foots the bill. The loudest opposition to commercial consents is normally an opposing business, only affected by the perceived threat of competition. They have no place in the process.
    If these AC ‘experts’ are paid say $30-$50 an hour, why is the charge-out rate for the consent process many times that to the developer? This simple adjustment could save applicants tens of thousands of dollars.
    The last hearing I attended cost a ‘small’ developer $38k for a 5 hour hearing. The entire consent process cost was more than 400% over budget and 2 years delayed by AC’s initial estimates.
    We need developers to develop. AC treats and charges them like the enemy.

  • cows4me

    It’s claimed NZ is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, it won’t be for long if the present situation continues. We are breeding a culture of out of control beuricrates that are placing themselves above the law and making life a living hell for many. NZ use to be seen as a fair country but government is now not for the people but now for the bloated power hungry parasites that run government. It’s happening everywhere, it’s getting worst and no one seems interested in attacking these issues. We only have to look overseas to see the misery government corruption brings to the citizens.

  • Richard McGrath

    The RMA is the problem – it cuts right across private property rights, and is the cause of housing shortages and high prices. It should be axed.

    • Albert Root

      During the election, Bill said that wasn’t going to happen. He said it in 2011 too.

  • MrBarrington

    Head Thug is right….. the massive under build of dwellings in Auckland is because of this idiot and his complicit staff… the reality is that any decent planners soon leave Auckland Council because they get pinched by firms around Auckland to work for them to help them get projects past Mr Thuggy….

    What you are left with is a set of useless ning-nongs who couldn’t plan their way out of a wet paper bag… a bunch of envious dunderheads who’s only ‘power’ is to frustrate and delay any project they can…

    it makes me sick.

  • Ministry of Justice

    Outright corruption would be better than the system we have.

    It’s not just an Auckland problem. I am in Rotorua and I have a consent to put two houses on one property but Council *revoked* part of the consent relating to the septic tank without even informing me – they just wouldn’t let the drain layer do anything. (I think the situation was provoked by the original drain layer making modifications without getting permission first). The septic tank they will allow now is $10k more and it won’t service two houses.

    I’m sure the council is acting illegally by not honouring their consent – but what can you do?

    Instead of making money on this project I’m just trying to get rid of the problem and minimise my losses.

  • Albert Root

    The old (aka current) system of support for pals works like this: planners and inspection staff start their careers with the council. After a couple of years they move into private practice. The umbilical chord is not cut, however. ‘Peer review’ work is handed to ex-council employees, so the gravy train keeps rolling along.

  • All_on_Red

    One of my friends is re cladding a leaky house ,he says he gets different Building Inspectors every time. One had some concerns about something and requested an Engineers Report. All work stopped until he had done that and it cost $10,000 for the report. The conclusion was there wasn’t a problem.
    After it was done another Inspector turned up and was shown the report. He said he didn’t need it as he didn’t think the issue raised was relevant!
    $10,000 and two weeks lost for nothing.

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