Vote leaves Auckland out of hearings on its own residential zoning
Auckland Council will not have a say at hearings over its own regional plan following a controversial vote by the city's politicians.
At a marathon six-hour extraordinary meeting on Wednesday night councillors voted 13-8 to throw out unpopular zoning proposals allowing for greater housing density in many suburbs.
The council had enraged residents' groups by putting the upzoning proposals before the panel considering Auckland's incoming Unitary Plan without consulting the public.
The "out of scope" upzoning affected around 28,000 properties, and would have permitted more townhouses and apartments in areas of traditional detached housing.
However, abandoning the upzoning evidence means the council has to withdraw all its residential zoning evidence, due to be considered by the Unitary Plan's Independent Hearings Panel next month.
Asked if councillors fully understood what they had done by voting out the upzoning proposals, Mayor Len Brown answered, "that's democracy".
"Thirteen around our chamber have listened to the advice, (they) understand the legals, and have made their choice."
Council officials had urged the city's politicians not to withdraw the rezoning evidence, lest it throw the Unitary Plan into disarray.
The four-year process is almost at an end, with the city's first region-wide blueprint due to be decided in August.
The council is a submitter along with everybody else.
It presented its zoning evidence as a package and couldn't selectively pull parts out, director regulatory services Penny Pirrit said.
"It's not possible to unwind that evidence without it coming out full of holes and not able to be supported by experts," she told the meeting.
Other submitters to the Unitary Plan, in particular Housing New Zealand, had proposed far more intensive zoning than Auckland Council had, the politicians were told.
The council had also put forward the upzoning evidence as an antidote to "spot zoning", where submitters proposed a different zone for a particular property that was out of step with the rest of the neighbourhood.
But councillors opposed to the upzoning proposals argued that natural justice had not been served in not allowing homeowners any input.
Mayor Brown, who voted to keep the upzoning evidence, said the council would now have to deal with the consequences.
"We could have been of obvious assistance to (the Independent Hearings Panel) through that process particularly for a range of the other submitters, for example Housing New Zealand who have a range of significant proposed upzoning.
"But we are not now in that process."
Brown is likely to face a difficult conversation with Housing Minister Nick Smith, who wants more affordable homes built quickly to address the city's housing crisis.
Last week the minister reminded the council it must have the Unitary Plan in place by October to succeed Auckland's expiring Housing Accord with the government.