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Residents upset over Unitec plans

JENNY LING
Last updated 05:00 11/07/2014
Unitec

FUTURE LOOK: An artist’s impression of how Unitec might look in future.

neighbours
PLANNING PROBLEMS: Mt Albert neighbours Karen Burge, left, and Noelene O’Keefe say residents have been kept in the dark over Unitec’s redevelopment plans.

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Frustrated residents are rallying against Unitec's proposal to rezone some of its land for redevelopment.

Mt Albert homeowners in surrounding streets say they have been "left in the dark" over plans to rezone 53.5 hectares to allow a mix of residential, commercial and recreational uses.

About 150 people turned up to a meeting at the Mt Albert Bowling Club on Monday.

Mt Albert Residents Association co-chair Francis Mortimer says there is "quite a lot of anger".

"Unitec has obviously been working on their plan for some time . . . there was never any talk of the extent of the proposed plans."

The submission was lodged under the Auckland Council's draft unitary plan in February.

Ideas include medium density housing and the conversion of historic Victorian brick buildings into apartments.

There are 177 buildings spread across the former 64.5ha Carrington Psychiatric Hospital site. Unitec plans to consolidate its campus on 10ha at the southern end. Karen Burge, a Mt Albert resident who is heading the South End Residents Group, says increased traffic, housing up to 24.5 metres high, and the loss of green space are among some of the concerns.

Turning quiet cul-de-sacs into through-roads at Mark Rd, Rhodes Ave, Renton Rd and Laurel St would "fundamentally change the character of the neighbourhood", Burge says.

"Everybody lives here because it's incredibly quiet, we don't get through-traffic.

"The people in the community accept there will be a level of development on the Unitec site in the future.

"Our concern is that while there maybe benefits to the community, we don't feel that adequate consultation has taken place.

"People need to have the chance to have more of an input because the impacts on our community are potentially going to be enormous."

Some residents only found out about the plans in mid June through the media, Burge says.

That gave them one month to have their say on the 176-page document before the July 22 deadline.

Further meetings to help residents make submissions will be held on July 15, from 7pm to 9pm, and July 19, from 9am 4.30pm, at the Metro Soccer Club at Phyllis Reserve.

"People are very concerned," Burge says. "They feel they've been kept in the dark."

Resident Noelene O'Keefe, has lived in her Mt Albert home for 51 years. "It's inevitable that housing will go there," she says.

"But it's going to affect a lot of people.

Mt Albert MP David Shearer is also "disappointed" at the lack of consultation.

Issues of through-roads, green space and high density housing are "being quietly swept aside in desperation to get this through to maximum benefit to Unitec".

"They're looking very much internally at themselves without looking at the community."

Unitec chief executive Rick Ede says a public consultation process is now underway and will oneday include a hearings panel.

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"While there is a relatively short time for submissions . . . we expect that there will be ongoing discussions.

"Our aim is to get a development that makes Mt Albert, Pt Chev and Unitec a better place for Auckland."

Visit aucklandcouncil.govt.nz and search "unitary plan" or email unitaryplan@auckland council.govt.nz to make a submission.

- Central Leader

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