Point England Reserve on the Tamaki foreshore is set to become a test case for Auckland’s Unitary Plan vs the government
Editorial February / March 2017
A large tract of reserve land in Auckland’s eastern suburbs is pitting Auckland Council against the national government and could set a dangerous precedent for local governance.
Point England Reserve on the Tamaki foreshore is a 12 ha oasis of green amongst a sea of industrial and rapidly-infilling residential land in east Auckland. It is home to a number of playing fields and grazing livestock, with a beach that was carefully restored a few years ago. Just this last weekend it was used for the Weetbix Tryathlon, with thousands of children and parents in attendance.
In December last year, Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith announced Auckland couldn’t afford to have land within 12 km of the CBD for grazing cows with the high level of housing the city needs, and introduced the Point England Development Enabling Bill, which allows for local iwi Ngati Paoa (as part of a Treaty settlement) to develop around 25% of the reserve for housing, in conjunction with the Tamaki Redevelopment Company. The bill is currently before a select committee.
In a rare move, Auckland Council and the Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board have come out in opposition to the bill, saying it sets a dangerous precedent for fast-tracking development and avoiding robust consultation with the public, including a right of appeal.
Board chair Josephine Bartley is quoted as saying the bill cuts across the existing requirements of the Resource Management Act and the Reserves Act, which put protections in place for proposed developments. The board believes the processes have been circumvented. “If it happens here, it will happen in other parts of Auckland,” she said.
Specialist environmental law firm Berry Simons agrees. “Land use decisions in Auckland are for Auckland Council to make, having regard to the relevant legislative and planning framework and the community’s views. We agree with the council that the Unitary Plan is the proper vehicle to regulate development in Auckland and to determine the appropriate balance of open space, housing and industrial land. The government is inappropriately writing the Auckland Council and community out of the script via this bill,” says partner Sue Simons.
As Auckland continues to grow, preserving its tracts of reserve land will be essential. Once sold off for private development, they will be gone forever.
Until next time … Lynne Richardson, editor