PAUP – a mammoth task

What has the Branch done to date regarding the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan?
The Branch’s activity had been very effective. We contributed a comprehensive set of submissions on the proposed Unitary Plan last year. We submitted two volumes – one was commentary on the policies, objectives, and rules of the Plan; the other was on the shortcomings we saw in the zoning maps. One of the prime drivers of the Institute’s involvement is a deep concern that the Plan deliver on the compact city model, and the worry that the rules and zoning maps don’t provide that. Even Roger Blakeley, the Chief Planning Officer, has previously conceded they could fall up to 130,000 short of the 280,000 new houses that need to be built within the Rural Urban Boundary by 2041.

This submission was completed in conjunction with members of the Urban Design Forum, which proved to be a really strategic alliance. It allowed us to pull in skills that we don’t have within our membership – urban designers, landscape architects, and – crucially – planners. We’ve also struck an alliance with Generation Zero – an interesting group of mostly young folk who are keen to ensure the success of the compact city model. A team of sixty was involved in the primary submission. It was a massive and incredibly generous effort from Branch members. A good portion of the effort went into our submission on the zoning maps. We made submissions on 20 of the 21 Local Board areas involving 273 zoning map recommendations. It was easily the most comprehensive submission on the planning maps made.

There were 9,500 primary submissions, and 93,400 individual points of submission – a mammoth task for the Independent Hearings Panel to process. After primary submissions, further submissions were called. This was an opportunity for submitters to evaluate their primary submissions in light of the submissions of others. We could either support or object to those other submissions. A further group of about 15 architects completed that second round process – another comprehensive set of documents.

What’s the current state of play?
There are at least three processes that the Unitary Plan is going through. One is pre-hearings, the second is mediation and expert conferences, and the third is the hearings themselves, which will take place before the Independent Hearings Panel. We’re currently underway with the first of the hearings before the Panel. Adam Wild has lead the charge with heritage matters and I am about to present evidence on the Regional Policy Statements around urban growth

The Unitary Plan lost a lot of intensity in the final days before it was posted last year. There is evidence that Council offices are trying to regain some of the lost intensity through the hearings process – that would be a good thing.

What’s the process from here?
The present need is to engage with the mediations, expert conferencing, and the hearings themselves. They will run through until April 2016 – it’s a real long haul! We in the NZIA are making our submissions as experts. That requires an understanding of the role of the expert witness, as distinct from how one might act as an advocate. Because of that, we’ve gathered people familiar with hearings, Environment Court processes, and so on. I’ve approached senior practitioners from architecture, landscape design, urban design and town planning that will not fazed by the need to prepare expert testimony, or by being cross examined.

How is the Auckland Branch contributing?
The Branch is working via a steering group – David Gibbs, Christina van Bohemen, Graeme Scott, Adam Wild, Stuart Bracey and John Mackay – assisted by a team of about 25 other senior practitioners. The Branch has contributed some money towards engaging a project coordinator. This person will keep us abreast of the flood of notices from the Unitary Plan Office – these must be responded to – and ensure we have a suitably qualified person going to each of the hearings at which we need representation. The estimated operative date for the plan is August 2016, although there is provision for that to be extended by up to a year by Parliament. So we’re settling up for a long campaign…