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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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.