Roughan on Auckland rumblings

writes in NZ Herald:

The little church basement where the Campbells Bay Community Association holds thinly attended public meetings was packed on Tuesday night. People were polite to the Auckland planners and patient with the deceptive language that planning employs.

A man at the back, English by his accent, lost his composure when it was confirmed that three-storey apartments could be built on either side of him and he would have no right to object. The rest of us absorbed the news quietly, as New Zealanders do.

Just about all our properties were zoned for this prospect on a map projected on a screen at the front of the room. Mine was in a strip designated a special environmental area, which appears to mean the trees could prevent multi-unit developments, but most were not so fortunate.

The man with the English accent declared that he was going to sell to a developer as soon as he could, in case his neighbours did so. …

I haven’t seen real suburban unrest before. This isn’t a “rates revolt” where people come to public meetings and sound off about an additional hundred dollars as though it matters. There is a deathly quiet about this plan.

The impact of higher rates is tough on people, but not devastating. Losing your view and being forced out of your family home does instill as Roughan says, a deathly quiet.

The debate over the containment of Auckland’s sprawl appeared to be about whether the bulk of the additional population projected by 2040 could be accommodated in suburbs that have a railway station.

I’ve been criticising this notion for years, arguing that people come to Auckland primarily for its climate and coastal attractions and that planners who want to reshape the city to support public transport are swimming against the tide.

The Unitary Plan was designed by town planners for town planners. It is of huge benefit for them and for the Council as an institution. But not so much for actual Aucklanders.

The mayor has stressed that the plan is a draft and will be changed, but it would be dangerous to rely on that. It is the careful and deliberate work of members of a profession who believe fervently in what they do.

They have been producing this sort of scheme for a blessedly powerless regional body for the past 40 years. They knew that every time a council tried to impose their desired densities on a place such as Panmure, the residents rebelled. But they persevered, convinced that urban planning should not be led by the plain preferences of ordinary people.

Nimbys, they call us. We prefer that our backyard not be overlooked and shaded by apartment blocks next door. If that is too much to ask of Auckland’s planners then I think the rumbling in the suburbs is going to become an eruption that will have its way.

An eruption. Words that may well come true.

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