A coalition of 28 residents associations and community groups have published a petition calling on election candidates in Auckland to join them in their opposition to new intensification rules across the city.
The group, called Let Auckland Decide, has rallied to veto government housing and resource management policies that would allow for more intensive zoning across the country.
Group spokesperson Dick Bellamy, former Auckland Regional Councillor and Dean of Science at the University of Auckland, said the time is now for parliamentary candidates to state their position.
“Our hope for every Auckland electorate is to get our community groups to those functions and put the specific questions we’ve listed to the candidates,” he said.
The group wants candidates to pledge to make adopting medium density residential standards for Auckland optional, allow Auckland Council to more freely determine the qualifying matters that would exempt intensification, and restore Auckland Council’s powers around regional and district plans.
The petition was made public last night. With just under a month to go before the general election, the group will be trying hard to elevate their stance up the list of priorities for candidates based in the region.
Yesterday was a big day for calls for Auckland independence from Wellington – Mayor Wayne Brown’s Auckland Manifesto was sent south on the same day.
Brown is asking politicians to agree to a relationship that gives Auckland greater autonomy and more tax back.
“More of the tax Aucklanders pay should stay in Auckland; we are putting more into government coffers than we get back,” he said. “Aucklanders are being short-changed and don’t have the autonomy to fix our own issues.”
It didn’t appear to be a co-ordinated strategy between the mayor and Let Auckland Decide. Bellamy said Brown had come to the same conclusion they had.
“Which is essentially, we are being bulldozed by Wellington in an inappropriate manner,” he said. “And they are largely oblivious to the difference between New Zealand’s largest city and the other relatively small places elsewhere in the country where these forced amalgamations and so forth might make more sense.”
The intensification legislation has sparked its fair share of controversy since it was signed off as a bipartisan agreement between Labour and National in 2020.
However, National has recently backed away from the agreement, favouring a more council-lead system of incentivising house builds with a dedicated fund.
Political opponents have accused the intensification u-turn as allowing the city to continue to develop in a car-centred and sprawling fashion.
At a debate hosted by the Green Building Council last week, Minister of Housing Megan Woods, National’s Paul Goldsmith, Act’s Cameron Luxton and Chlöe Swarbrick from the Greens clashed over how best intensification directives should be approached.
Swarbrick said we “absolutely shouldn’t be spreading the city out more”, citing car-dependence and the need for fertile land outside the city as prime reasons.
Goldsmith emphasised the difficulty of transition from a car-focused city to one intensified around public transport routes, and said the pressure of the weather events is what provoked his party to step back from the legislation.
“We supported the government’s proposals in good faith,” he said. “What we saw with those extreme events and the pressure on infrastructure we had to step back and say is it better to focus on transport nodes…”
Woods called this an “interesting rewriting of history”, and said climate adaptation can be built into a mindful intensification plan.
The issue has come to a head following the severe weather events of the beginning of the year, with some accusing new developments of straining stormwater infrastructure and exacerbating flooding.
The other side of the argument is that accelerating intensification reduces the sprawl of the city and allows Aucklanders to live nearer to useable public transport, which can go a long way towards reducing emissions and ultimately impacting the root cause of the flooding.
Bellamy said the group saw the benefits of intensification, but opposed the way it was being delivered.
He said the “blinkered” way intensification had been applied across all of the urban areas in New Zealand overlooked the fact there were organisations in Auckland well-posed to explore the options themselves.
The petition was supported by groups like Friends of Regional Parks Auckland, Character Coalition, and Citizens Against the Housing Act 2021 – an anti-intensification advocacy group lead by former mayoral candidate Mike Kampkes.
Then there are the residents associations, hailing from places like Balmoral, Freemans Bay, Herne Bay, Kohimarama, Remuera, Ōrakei, Epsom, Glendowie, Takapuna and Three Kings.
On the whole they are areas where the extent of special character overlays have been a hot button issue.