Fast-tracked housing debated

The government and Auckland's mayor are trumpeting a new housing plan but North Shore politicians are divided on the issue.

Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith and mayor Len Brown announced Northcote and Albany East will get strategic Special Housing Areas, or SHAs.

Under the SHA accord, more than 700 and 350 new homes could be built in Northcote and Albany respectively.

Auckland-wide, Brown hopes the new SHAs will add another 18,000 homes, raising potential SHA housing to more than 35,000 dwellings.

"The work we will be doing will help to bring forward more new affordable homes," he says.

Kaipatiki Local Board chairwoman Kay McIntyre welcomes the SHA announcement, saying it reinforces an already good working relationship between the board and Housing New Zealand (HNZ), a major Northcote landowner.

McIntyre cites the HNZ development around Tonar St as a high quality development.

"We want to put up our hand up and say, ‘we want to do what we did last time', now we've asked that of government," she says.

McIntyre expects "comprehensive high quality developments" to come out of the new SHA.

Nick Smith says local board members who have criticised the SHA process are "part of the problem rather than part of the solution".

"Their argument that these decisions should wait until the Unitary Plan is finalised would be a housing disaster for Auckland," he says.

Kaipatiki board member Grant Gillon fears SHAs will ram-through developments, ignoring residents' views and private property rights.

"In Northcote's case it's a whole suburb and that means that all of the submissions people have put out will be virtually ignored."

And Gillon maintains the Northcote SHA is the first in the country covering land including privately owned homes

The first round of submissions to Auckland's proposed Unitary Plan closed in February this year.

Creating an SHA is an "extremely quick process", which bypasses the Unitary Plan, Auckland Council's recommendations only require a sign-off from Cabinet, Gillon says.

There would be "very limited" facility for public consultation with SHAs which is usually limited to adjacent landowners.

But in many cases it's the developer consulting themselves as they often own the surrounding land, Gillon says.

"All of the submissions people have made will be virtually useless," he says.

But in any case, Unitary Plan submissions can't and won't affect private property holder's rights, McIntyre says.

Homeowners maintain their right to not sell, or sell "for a good price" to developers, she says.

Meanwhile, Upper Harbour Local Board member Margaret Miles worries the new Albany East SHA will choke the area's already strained roads.

"What's going to happen to the roading network? I understand the need for more affordable housing, but are we rushing it?"

Go to aucklandcouncil. to view the new Special Housing Areas.

North Shore Times