Waiheke Local Board has been granted authority to make decisions over public land at Matiatia, the island’s major gateway.
The board requested and has been granted a delegation from Auckland Council to make land use and development decisions over the undeveloped public land in the bay.
The delegation is the first real test for the Waiheke Governance Pilot, designed to give the board more power to make decisions to see if that leads to better outcomes.
The board can now lead development of the land, which has been stalled since Auckland City Council bought it in 2005. While the delegation doesn’t cover the wharf or Auckland Transport managed land, the board and Auckland Transport have agreed to work together to achieve transport outcomes for Matiatia.
“This is a watershed decision that opens the way for us to work with the community and stakeholders to agree a plan that will include open space, car parking, commercial long-term leases, visitor and cultural infrastructure, and transport services,” Waiheke Local Board Chair Cath Handley says
“There has already been considerable input by way of the public survey last year with more than 800 people participating. The redevelopment itself will depend on significant funds earmarked within both Auckland Transport and Auckland Council’s long-term plans now being approved. Nothing is guaranteed yet.”
The delegation excludes the ability to buy or sell land, but Handley says the board has no intention of selling land anyway.
The decision will see land now managed by Panuku Development Auckland transferred into Auckland Council’s Community Facilities, which will manage current leases, including existing Auckland Transport parking leases.
Panuku has recognised the purpose of the delegation and the Waiheke Governance Pilot and supports the change.
Waitematā and Gulf Ward Councillor Mike Lee supports the changes. “This is a modest, albeit important concession to the Waiheke community’s aspirations for more local control over its key infrastructure, especially Matiatia," he says.
“The present situation there is frankly dysfunctional, so the changes are welcome.”
Board decisions must align with council plans and policies, or amendments will have to be sought, and decisions will need to balance the intention to get a return on the land when it was bought, with transport, environmental, cultural, economic and tourism needs
Auckland Transport and the board will work with all key stakeholders to achieve outcomes that the Waiheke community can support. The local board recognises some of this land is culturally important to mana whenua and will work with the iwi and Auckland Transport on outcomes which reflect this.
When Auckland City Council bought the 8.7ha site for $12.5 million to prevent extensive commercial development and to enable development consistent with the island’s character and needs, there was an expectation $7 million from land sales and commercial leases would offset debt.
The board does not anticipate land sales but has recognised sensitively designed and located commercial leases are achievable.
Much of the land is wetland and regenerating bush and its management will largely involve maintaining and enhancing the area. The open grassed foreshore area is also likely to remain largely undeveloped.
Despite extensive lobbying by the board, attempts at developing the land in the past all faltered because of a lack of funding, other council priorities and the land management structure.
But last year Auckland Council’s Governance Review included a decision to test giving more decision-making to the board, recognising Waiheke residents’ desire for decisions to be made locally.
In March the Local Government Commission made suggestions to the council in response to Waiheke’s unsuccessful application to self-govern, including a specific recommendation that a solution for Matiatia be found.