Architectural lobby groups join appeal against ‘prison’ retirement village
Legal opposition to a huge retirement village planned for Auckland's North Shore has been strengthened by two architectural heavyweights.
The New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) and civic lobby group Urban Auckland, will be appealing Ryman Healthcare's successful resource consent to build a 600-bed retirement complex in Devonport.
They join local residents group, the Devonport Peninsula Precincts Society (DPPS), which decided to appeal Auckland Council's January 17 resource consent decision to the Environment Court.
Urban Auckland chairwoman Julie Stout was critical of the resource consent process, which saw one of three independent hearing commissioners reject Ryman's proposal. Yet the resource consent was granted on majority.
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"It's unusual to have a dissenting view published or released, which is why we've taken up the issue because we believe it should be clearer than that. It's not good enough basically," Stout said.
"I think it's very easy to see that Ryman's have taken the approach they've applied to their other projects and just applied it here to Devonport, and I don't think that's appropriate within the setting they've got.
"You can engage with the land-form a lot better than just having blocks of buildings on that site, six storeys high."
Stout said the Ryman's Healthcare appeal in the Environment Court was "definitely" a precedent case for the new Auckland Unitary Plan.
NZIA member Paul Edmond said Ryman's successful resource consent called into question the criteria in Auckland's new Unitary Plan for high-density development.
"We're not anti-density in areas where it's done well and where it's framed appropriately, and it's often zoned next to urban centres and to transport routes, which this is neither," Edmond said.
"But it's been allowed because of the purpose of a retirement village.
"I think the issue here is that the Resource Management Act seems to support development because it's hidden away, you can hide it down a bank and it gets approval. Whereas, is that the sole criteria of it, in terms of the effect on the neighbours?"
Ryman's retirement complex on Ngataringa Rd, Devonport, will be built on a 4.2 hectare plot and include six buildings and 269 car parks.
The tallest building will be six storeys tall but the complex will slope down an embankment.
Ryman Healthcare managing director Simon Challies said, despite the resource consent appeal, Ryman remains absolutely committed to building in Devonport.
"We prepared a robust proposal, which received consent, and we are confident we can work through the issues raised in the appeal," Challies said.
"We have had huge interest in the village from potential residents."
DPPS spokesperson Iain Rea said the addition of two "highly esteemed" organisations legitimised their Environment Court appeal.
"We are a well-organised and realistic group," Rea said.
"We have no intention of stopping development on the Devonport peninsula, but it is vital that any development is in keeping with its environment, and meets the reasonable expectations of citizens of the unified city."
Urban Auckland was central to the campaign to prevent the proposed demolition of the Britomart precinct in Auckland CBD during the 1990s and, more recently, it campaigned successfully against extension of Ports of Auckland's wharf into the harbour.
DPPS estimated legal costs for its Environment Court appeal to be $75,000.
Funds are being raised by Devonport residents and a Givealittle page, but the NZIA said it would be assisting the appeal financially.
Urban Auckland said all the funding arrangements in the appeal were being worked out at the moment.
The DPPS said it represents the over 300 residents who made submissions to the resource consent hearings opposing the Ryman's Devonport complex.
One notable opposing submission was from national 50-plus advocacy group Grey Power whose national president Tom O'Connor said the village was "like prison".
O'Connor said the complex was so big it would socially isolate residents by never giving them a reason to leave.
Today, March 10, Rea said all three appellants, and Ryman Healthcare, had agreed to enter into mediation before heading to the Environment Court.
"On March 2, Ryman Healthcare opened another 400 plus unit retirement complex on the North Shore on Rangatira Rd, Birkenhead, called the Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village."