The DPO programme management team (L–R): Ana Hancock, Alina Wimmer, Karen Foster and Mel Chow
Enabling Auckland’s growth through collaboration
Auckland Council is enabling growth through a strategic partnership programme between public and private developers, council-controlled organisations (CCOs), the council and the Crown.
The Development Programme Office (DPO) leads this coordinated response to public and private infrastructure delivery and investment on complex and major developments including housing – all in support of Auckland’s growth.
This coordinated approach reduces the complexity of the council’s functions for developers. It allows developers to undertake development in a more efficient and cost-effective way, as well as plan better for the future.
John Dunshea, general manager of the DPO, says they are well aware of the challenges in terms of Auckland’s growth and obvious infrastructure needs such as housing, transport, water and waste, but also social infrastructure in terms of schools, recreation and local amenities.
“One of the key things we know is that you can’t have housing without infrastructure, but the council doesn’t build houses,” says John. “However, we do have a major role in the provision and funding of infrastructure that enables people to build and encourages development. The rest is driven by the market and what people want to buy.”
Coordinating and aligning infrastructure
Without funding, the infrastructure can’t be built. The DPO also leads the council’s preparation of infrastructure funding agreements between the council, developers and other parties.
In addition, the DPO’s infrastructure programme team uses a GIS (geographic information system) and other digital tools to better coordinate and align infrastructure investment with population growth and the associated development, thus better informing investors, developers and council alike.
”What we do at the DPO further increases the customer service experience in support of housing supply, regulatory approvals and delivery of development and infrastructure out-comes for Auckland,” explains John.
“The services provided by the DPO reduce the complexity facing developers so they are able to undertake their work more effectively. This is a crucial service in enabling Auckland to grow and ensuring quality development in its centres and across the region.”
Streamlining consents through collaboration
People want fast-tracked development to ensure more houses are provided for in Auckland. Alina Wimmer, programme manager in the DPO, leads a team that is proving the challenge is achievable.
Alina formerly worked with the Housing Programme Office (HPO) where the team included council planners and infrastructure specialists from Healthy Waters, Auckland Transport and Watercare. Using this approach, Alina streamlined plan variations and qualifying developments on a special housing area (SHA) project for 1350 new homes and a village centre at a site on Bremner Road in Drury. The approach enabled plan changes to be completed in weeks rather than months.
“We all knew it was going to put us all into a pressure cooker, but I liked the idea of stepping up and doing the best I could to meet the challenge and make a difference,” says Alina.
The big difference on this project, she adds, was to think small. They assembled a cross-council team of only seven people to work collaboratively as a one-stop shop, giving developers timely support and advice on issues ranging from water mains and stormwater to roads, footpaths, cycleways and landscaping.
“The only way to meet the deadlines was to be open and transparent and to deal with problems quickly instead of focusing on our own siloed processes. This required a high-level of collaboration, communication and trust,” she says.
By reducing the complexity of the council’s functions for developers, she says, they assessed and planned projects more effectively. This streamlined the consenting and implementation processes without compromising the needs of local communities.
Alina says this new way of working was an approach that was welcomed by developers and other external customers.
Enabling quality development
The special legislation for SHAs – the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013 (HASHAA) – has now ended, but by using a similar approach, the DPO works with Auckland Council’s planning and consents departments and CCOs to speed up structure plans and the preparation of supporting information for the pre-applications process. This is intended to support the council’s new ‘consenting made easy’ process.
Alina credits the success of this approach to a tight, collaborative approach that provides a strong customer-service model for enabling quality development and Auckland’s growth.
“If we want Auckland to be a place we’re proud of, it’s important to put ourselves in the place of our customers and give them the kind of service and advice we’d want if we were standing on the other side of the counter,” she adds.