The distinctive sense of place of the Long Bay Okura Marine Reserve will remain intact following yesterday's Environment Court decision.
The decision protects the reserve from the effects of urbanisation, meaning the urban limit of Auckland stops at Long Bay. Land within the Okura catchment, which discharges into the Long Bay Okura Marine Reserve, will not be urbanised.
Councillor Chris Darby, chair of Council’s Planning Committee, describes the decision as a massive win for Council – and the Unitary Plan.
“Today’s decision is further evidence that Auckland Council will strongly defend the Rural Urban Boundary and a second, notable win for the city, protecting the ‘green lungs’ of Auckland and ensuring that we retain breathing space beyond the city limits for people and nature.”
Hibiscus and Bays Local Board Chair Julia Parfitt also supports the Environment Court decisions, “While we need to meet the needs of our growing region it cannot come at the cost of our environment, which needs protecting for future generations.”
Warren Maclennan, Manager Planning North/West, says the Long Bay Okura Marine Reserve is a Significant Ecological Area in the Unitary Plan and, as such, deserves to be protected.
Maclennan says that the Unitary Plan provides for around 15,000ha of land over the life of the plan for urbanisation in the form of future urban areas.
“It’s a good tool to direct urban development, and the associated infrastructure provision, required to support Auckland’s growth.
History of planning at Okura
- In 1996 the Environment Court considered the location of the Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL) in this area and stated that the MUL should follow the catchment boundary between Long Bay and Okura Catchments (ie the route of Vaughans Road), meaning that south of this ridgeline (Long Bay) would be treated as urban and north of this (Okura) would be rural. This outcome was upheld on appeal to the High Court in 1997.
- The Council in its Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) retained the urban limit in this area (now the Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) instead of the MUL) along the Vaughans Road ridge, in line with the previous Environment Court decision.
- The Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) recommended to Council that the RUB in this area be moved from the Vaughans Road ridge so that land to the east of Okura village could be urbanised, also recommending that ‘live’ urban zonings (mostly Mixed Housing Suburban) be applied to the land.
- This IHP recommendation was rejected by the Planning Committee (unanimously), and so the Council was to retain the RUB along the Vaughans Road ridge, and retain the land around Okura village as rural.
- This decision of Council was appealed to the Environment Court by the majority land owner Okura Holdings Limited (OHL), as subsidiary of Todd Property Group.
- OHL sought that the RUB be relocated so that land east of Okura Village could be urbanised.
- The Environment Court dismissed the appeal today and the RUB will remain along the Vaughans Road ridge. This means the land around Okura should remain rural.