What’s happening with the Unitary Plan?
At this stage the council is having input into a statutory and independent hearings process on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. There have been no changes made to zoning maps and no decisions have been made.
Council has put forward a proposed position on zoning for these independent hearings from March to April. This takes into account feedback from around 4000 public submissions, as well as guidance from the Independent Hearings Panel.
The hearings process isn’t owned by the council – it’s run by the Independent Hearings Panel, a statutory body appointed by the government to hear submissions.
At this stage of the hearings process the council is no different to any of the other submitters before the Panel.
The Panel will hear from submitters, review evidence and then and make recommendations to Auckland Council in July.
Why is the council’s Governing Body meeting now, when decisions are still some months away?
The meeting has been called to respond to concerns raised from some areas about the council’s position on the zoning maps included in its evidence to the Panel.
Councillors have been provided with a report ahead of that meeting summarising the key issues, the statutory hearings process and outlining a number of options.
The special legislation for the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan allows the Panel to consider and make ‘out of scope’ changes as part of its recommendations and to allow for more submissions. The Panel has confirmed there will be no further submissions but that it will make decisions in accordance with fairness and natural justice principles.
Council officers have recommended that council maintain its current position, but clearly stress to the Panel the need to consider issues of natural justice and fairness when reviewing the council’s position and that of other submissions during the course of the hearings in March and April 2016.
What happens next?
The Panel will hold hearings in March and April for people who have made submissions to present their evidence. All evidence is considered by the Panel equally.
The Panel’s recommendations will be based on what it considers are the most appropriate provisions to be included in the Unitary Plan after hearing from 990 submitters at the hearings and considering all of the 4000 written submissions received.
It will then provide recommendations to Auckland Council on any changes they think should be made to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan by 22 July 2016. Its recommendations are not binding on councillors.
The council won’t consider its final decisions on the Unitary Plan until after the Panel has reported back in July, with final decisions not made until at least August.
Why did the council’s input to the hearings panel include changes to the currently proposed plan?
The key reason for the changes proposed in council’s evidence to the panel is to ensure a more consistent approach to how zoning is applied across Auckland. This came through both in submissions and in guidance from the Independent Hearings Panel.
More than 75 per cent of all residential land will remain at 2 storeys or less.
What will happen if the council withdraws its evidence from the hearings process?
Whether or not the council withdraws or amends its positon, the Panel will continue to hear evidence from all other submitters and then make recommendations. Other submitters, such as Housing New Zealand, call for zoning of higher densities across Auckland than council’s proposed position.
How many properties is the council proposing to change zoning for?
There are over 413,000 properties zoned residential in Auckland. The proposed changes to the zoning maps involve approximately 14 per cent of all these residential properties in Auckland. The remaining 86 per cent have no proposed changes to the PAUP zoning maps notified in 2013.