Government gives the go ahead for the controversial plan for Pt England reserve
A bill that will allow a large-scale housing development to be built on an East Auckland reserve has passed its final hurdle despite serious opposition.
In December last year, the Government announced it would take steps to sell almost 12ha, or about a quarter of Pt England Reserve in east Auckland to Ngati Paoa iwi through the Pt England Development Enabling Bill.
The bill passed its third and final reading on Thursday night, which clears the way for iwi to build 300 new houses and a marae on the reserve land as part of its Treaty of Waitangi settlement.
Mayor Phil Goff and Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board chair Josephine Bartley accepted Parliament had a sovereign right to dispose of the land and were not opposed to a Treaty settlement with Ngati Paoa.
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However, they were concerned about the use of special legislation to lift reserve status without council's consent.
Goff said while Auckland Council was supportive of action to accelerate house building in Auckland, the bill raised a number of issues.
He said it circumvented the powers of a local authority responsible for public reserve land under the Reserves Act.
"That the minister intends to micro-manage Auckland's future rather than give residents the opportunity to have their say sets a worrying precedent.
"Going forward, the minister needs to promise Auckland that he will consult council and Aucklanders on matters that affect their future."
Bartley said the community had been denied the right to shape its own future.
"There is nothing more that residents can do now.
"Sadly this bill may endanger wildlife and reduce green space in Maungakiekie-Tamaki and Auckland."
On May 30, Housing, Building and Construction and Environment Minister Nick Smith made changes to the bill, banning grazing and farming on the reserve.
Changes also ordered Auckland Council to provide at least 8ha of sports field on the headland where dotterels and other shore birds nets.
Bartley said it made a mockery of local democracy.
"Some community members can't believe the arrogance of the Government and we don't know what will happen with the environment," she said.
Two online petitions were started by concerned residents opposing the sale of the land and the impact the sale could have on local wildlife.
Goff said the council would now engage with the government to ensure the loss of reserve land was properly managed and decisions would be made by locally elected representatives with public consultation.
National, Maori, Act and United Future parties voted in favour of the bill. Labour and NZ First opposed the bill and the Green party abstained. In total 62 votes were in favour and 43 votes were against. There were 14 abstentions.
Labour's Maungakiekie candidate Priyanca Radhakrishnan described the bill as "a death knell for local democracy".
"Lifting the reserve status of a park is not something that should be taken lightly, or pushed through parliament," Radhakrishnan said.
"This short-sighted Bill sets a dangerous precedent for the sale of public parks across New Zealand."