Long Bay – Okura and the Auckland Unitary Plan

How the Unitary Plan could put the Society’s achievements in jeopardy

With the coming together of the various Auckland cities and councils to form a Supercity, the Auckland Council had to develop a draft plan to standardise the many rules and policies that had applied across the region. This plan was to determine the shape of Auckland for the years to come.

It was a two-step process. An initial draft plan (Draft Auckland Unitary Plan – DAUP) was released for consultation. This plan overlooked many of the provisions that the Society had fought so hard for in the new development at Long Bay. These provisions provided protection for the outstandingly beautiful landscape of Long Bay and storm water run-off protections for the adjacent marine reserve amongst other things. The Society protested the DAUP, and the next version, the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) more accurately reflected these provisions.

The PAUP was notified to Auckland, which meant that anyone could make submissions agreeing or disagreeing with any parts of the Plan. The Society approved much of the plan relating to the Long Bay development, apart from some errors which it pointed out in a submission.

Several years ago, the Society was a party in an Environment Court case which saw land at the south eastern edge of the Okura Estuary not being able to be zoned for intensive residential development, but to remain at minimum sized lots of 4 hectares (10 acres) so as to protect the ‘pristine’ waters and lovely landscape of the area. This decision was reflected in the PAUP. The Society, in its submission, supported this.

However, other submitters to the PAUP have wanted to see changes in the Long Bay development area that will overturn some important provisions in the Long Bay development, and would see intensive development on the Okura land.

As required by an Act of Parliament, an Independent Hearings Panel has been established to recommend on issues of contention in the PAUP. This is a complex legal process involving pre-hearings, mediation, expert conferencing and hearings. Auckland Council is required to be involved in all parts of the process and present evidence. And all submitters are able to participate in the process.

For the Society to protest submissions opposing changes to the Long Bay development and Okura provisions, it will need to engage legal counsel and expert witnesses to prepare and present evidence at a number of hearings (about 10) over the next two years. This is because policies on a number of overarching Auckland- wide topics which will impact on Long Bay and Okura down the track have to be decided first. We need to be involved in these earlier hearings to ensure that they are compatible with the outcomes we are seeking for Long Bay and Okura.

After the Panel has finished hearing submissions, it will make its recommendations to the Auckland Council. The Council will then decide whether to accept or reject each recommendation, and for each rejected recommendation, will make an alternative solution. The Council will then publicly notify its decisions.

The danger that the Society faces is that the Independent Hearings Panel could recommend in favour of its opposing submitters, and the Council adopt these recommendations. This is why the Society needs to present very strong evidence to the Panel. Hopefully, it will have the support of Council evidence, but this is unknown.

The Society will not be able to appeal any decisions the Council adopts.

Contesting the Unitary Plan is going to be expensive. The Society appreciates any financial donations that you may wish to make.