Resource consent

The war between Auckland Council and the Government

A general view of newly-built houses at Dadun village of Lingshui ethnic Li autonomous county

There is no doubt that a silent war is raging between Auckland Council and the Government.

Auckland Council wants to plan itself as a utopian paradise of compact living with ticky-tacky shoebox apartments, choo choo trains and gold plated pavements.

The Government wants affordable houses and lots of them.

The trouble is that the two ideas clash.

A compact city is a very hard thing to achieve. Changing existing buildings and houses through development requires far more than just planning and pretty pictures by urban design unicorns to achieve it. It requires the economics to work for developers, lots of time and it requires a fundamental shift in the cultural aspirations of the residents from houses, backyards and swimming pools to apartment living.

The reality is that change is painfully slow. Thus Council is trying to force change with city limits that stop growth. They believe that if they reduce the available stock of housing then people will eventually be frustrated and will opt for apartments.

It’s a gamble that hasn’t worked yet and has created a boiling pot of competition for the limited houses that exist which has ramped up house prices massively. Housing stock has increased four fold in less than 15 years.

Everyone can see it, including the Government. So they instigated the Housing Accord to release more land for houses – principally greenfield.

The Council hated that idea but nodded and smiled and went along with it – tranched land all over the city. But they had no intentions on letting it succeed and quietly reduced infrastructure budgets so that, come consent time, they could say to developers that they will have to wait 10 years to be connected to the pipe networks. Developers are frustrated and unable to do anything.

In the meantime the Council has continued with its compact city planning. Not once has it resiled from its plans. Consultants for Council have worked very hard to prove it can be achieved, although they are failing to convince the Independent Hearings Panel.

The Government could step in, but they fear it will rise into a big fight and eventually result in it having to foot the bill for pipes. But the Government also created the beast of Auckland Council and stepping in means it has to admit it got it wrong amalgamating the existing councils.

And so the war is in stalemate.

And house prices are on?track to rise due to a lack of stock. I note that the rise in houses prices is precisely that – house prices. That’s where people want to be. Culturally the tie to houses is as strong as ever.

Auckland Council has created a nightmare based on utopian nonsense. The top brass don’t like being told what to do and think they know best. And they are going to do everything to screw the scrum to get their own way.

And the Government isn’t willing to meddle.

If you ask me the Council is winning the war, but not for the better good of NZ Inc. And the Government is only window dressing the issue.

The Government have stuffed up. They shouldn’t have amalgamated the super city without reducing their powers and functions. Clearly the fault has to lay with the Government for the mess because it all could have been predicted.

Today they are voting on the Taniwha tax

Today?the Auckland Council is voting whether to partially repeal its ?mana whenua? rules in the Unitary Plan. The rules currently affect around 18,000 property owners around Auckland and often requires them to get a ?cultural impact assessment? from any number of the 19 mana whenua groups recognised by the council. This cultural impact assessment is known as the Taniwha tax.


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Is it time to privatise the Building Consent process?

The major problem with housing, especially in Auckland is council inability to process in a timely fashion consents.

Perhaps it is time we considered privatising the process, after all the leaky home crisis is reason enough with councils consenting faulty designs…and then walking away from responsibility.

The Government is looking at ways to boost the private sector’s role in issuing building and resource consents.

At the same time it is eyeing ways to limit councils’ liability and ensure consumers are protected if builders fold to avoid paying for dodgy buildings.

Speaking to delegates at National’s annual conference in Auckland on Saturday, Housing Minister Nick Smith said a house typically costs about $500,00 to build, but councils would only receive about $10,000 in fees – equivalent to about 2 per cent of the revenue from the house. ?? Read more »

Excuse me, but I have the perfect solution for this situation

A religious spat has broken out between two neighbours in rural Auckland after one erected a 6.4m statue of the Hindu god Shiva.

Ravin Chand told the Herald on Sunday that he installed the 30-tonne religious effigy so that he and his family could pray to it.

But neighbour Bryce Watts, a Catholic, said the marble statue was “bizarre” and “offensive”.

“Religiously and culturally it’s a bit insensitive to us and I can’t believe they’re able to do this. Part of our property looks at it and it’s part of a religion we don’t agree with,” he said.

“I don’t see why we should have it poked down our throats in such a big way.”

It took Chand more than a week to assemble the statue and he defended it saying it was part of Hindu culture. “It’s just that the size is a bit bigger,” he said.

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Auckland Council brass and Len Brown are trying desperately to distance themselves from the Ports expansion

Auckland Council brass and Len Brown are trying desperately to distance themselves from the Ports expansion with PR spun porkies.

Today the Council is saying ‘heads might roll’ and that ‘it didn’t know anything about the wharf expansion’ which they claim should have been communicated to Council by POAL.

Heads could roll over Ports of Auckland expansion plans, according to a senior Auckland Council source.

Auckland Council has started to flex its muscles on plans by the ports company to build two massive wharf extensions nearly 100m into the Waitemata Harbour.

Council chief executive Stephen Town has written a letter to the council body overseeing Ports of Auckland asking it to “encourage” port bosses to halt the extensions until a wide-ranging port study is done.

Mr Town and councillors have also delivered a firm message to the port company to become more engaged with the community.

“It is my view that Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) has not engaged sufficiently with key stakeholders, or the public at large, in relation to the proposed wharf extensions,” Mr Town said in his letter to Auckland Council Investments Ltd (ACIL).

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse told a council meeting yesterday the letter contained an “iron fist in a velvet glove”. If all else failed there was a “thermonuclear” option.

A senior council officer indicated the “thermonuclear” option could see heads roll.

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Dodgy Auckland council ratbags

Auckland Council Regional Planning Officer Penny Pirrit has managed to con councillors into believing that a non complying activity status for reclamation of the ports was ‘legally indefensible’.

Ports of Auckland has won a huge victory allowing it to use more of the Waitemata Harbour to park cars after Auckland councillors yesterday caved in on tough rules for reclamation.

In a secret vote, the Auckland development committee narrowly voted 9-8 to weaken its position going into mediation on zoning for the port precinct in the Unitary Plan.

Instead of sticking with the tough line of “non-complying” status decided in August 2013, the committee changed the council position to “discretionary” status.

This will allow the port company to apply for resource consent for further reclamation, which will be publicly notified, but in all likelihood lead to approval.

The Herald understands that the council’s regional planning manager, Penny Pirrit, told councillors that the “non-complying” status was legally indefensible at mediation.

The committee agreed to make further reclamation a “discretionary status” on the proviso that reclamations that are more than minor must be publicly notified and the boundary line for port use is pulled back.

One wonders how the results of a secret ballot are known, by remember this is the NZ Herald.

Apart from that the statement about “legally indefensible” is total and utter bollocks. ?? Read more »

Auckland Council ratbags push through wharf extension without notification

Councils all around New Zealand are notorious law breakers and the biggest Council is the worst offender of the lot.

An extension of a wharf is not likely to be a complying activity under the district plan. But be that as it may, Auckland Council has effectively ignored all assessment criteria and sound planning judgement to issue itself a resource consent for a major wharf extension.

The Auckland Council has approved two large wharf extensions into Waitemata Harbour for port use without notifying the public or councillors.

Planning commissioners approved the additions on the grounds they were positive and had no adverse impact.

The applications by Ports of Auckland are for extensions at the end of Bledisloe wharf – 100m beyond the left-hand side and 130m beyond the right-hand side. They are each 33m wide.

The revelation comes as Mayor Len Brown, 20 councillors and two members of the Statutory Maori Board today decide if more seabed should be reclaimed for port use.

One of five councillors opposed to further reclamation, Chris Darby, said the wharf extensions had “cunning” written all over the applications and consent. ?? Read more »

What was Lawrence Yule Thinking?


The Mayor of Hastings and Chair of Local Government NZ, Lawrence Yule, is known for having a council staff that makes compliance tricky and at times arbitrary.

Lawrence spends so much time out of Hastings doing other stuff he has forgotten to look after his constituents. His bureaucrats are known to be pedantic and difficult to deal with, and because the mayor is busy doing so many other things he forgets to clip their wings when they do stupid stuff.

Hastings residents are up in arms that their street has been turned into a slum by a dodgy property developer.

Totara St residents may seek a judicial review after Hastings District Council granted resource consent for houses moved on to a section illegally.

Relocate Homes NZ owner Shannon Tawhiti raised the ire of residents in Totara St, Mahora, last month when he relocated three houses on to a section without the required consent, in a move which also violated housing density rules.

The council last week granted resource consent for the houses, and dispensation for density rules, after it earlier issued an abatement notice requiring their removal.

The consent was granted on the abatement notice’s day of expiry, which Totara St residents’ spokesman Preston Epplett said “seems more than a coincidence and justifies further investigation”.

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Business that needs to dump into a river to operate isn’t viable

Two stories today about Canterbury rivers:

Dry weather has seen South Canterbury’s rivers reach “exceptional” lows, with farmers shedding stock and irrigation restrictions in place.

Figures from Environment Canterbury’s monitoring sites indicated five rivers across the region were below half of their average flows for November.

The Orari River was flowing at a rate of 3.9 cubic metres per second (cumecs) at a monitoring site in the Orari Gorge, while it dried up completely while flowing across the plains in some places.

ECan’s surface water science manager Tim Davie said having the river dry up so early in the summer was “exceptional”, and concerned members of the public had begun asking about the region’s low river levels. The Temuka River was flowing at 1.2 cumecs, less than a quarter of its usual flow.

Opuha Water Limited chief executive Tony McCormick said the Opuha Dam was now 56 per cent full, and the dam could reach its half-full trigger point for irrigation restrictions by the end of the month.

Irrigation restrictions had not been required for dam users since October 2011, when they were required for just three days. McCormick said restrictions would undoubtedly last longer this year.

“It’s a very serious situation.”

And now for story number two: ? Read more »

Some thoughts from a reader on RMA reform

A reader emails:

?It is great news that the Government is going to reform the RMA, but if the prime suspect is still operating with impunity will it make any difference?

Talk to anyone in the property industry and their eyes will roll back as they recount the endless torture endured at the hands of Local Government. Whilst many point the finger of blame at legislation there is no question that the bigger issue is the manner in which the law is implemented and administered by the control freaks within regional and local councils.

Hand in hand with reform of the RMA, needs to be systemic reform of the LGA to refine the functions and powers of Local Government.

What New Zealand doesn’t need is more bureaucracy and meddling by a gravy train of local officials.

What New Zealand needs is efficient competitive opportunities and pragmatic short term processes to allow planning approvals for urban areas. There is no question that the environment needs protecting in places and that the RMA has done well to ensure that empirical and judicial scrutiny is applied to development in sensitive locations.

But within our urban landscape too much prissy and protective rule making has choked the daylights out of development. ? Read more »