15 Feb 2017

Development authorities good idea in principle - Goff

8:02 am on 15 February 2017

Auckland's Mayor has cautiously welcomed a government proposal to create powerful new agencies to drive major urban developments.

Housing development north of Porirua.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Phil Goff said those agencies would be useful in fast-tracking new housing projects, as long as they did not ride rough-shod over the city's unitary plan and local communities.

The proposed urban development authorities would master-plan large residential developments and pair up with private sector groups to provide them.

They would be able to bypass the usual consent processes by being able to acquire land, change infrastructure and levy local landowners.

The authorities were a good idea in principle, Mr Goff said.

"We're looking at the proposal seriously and we want to work with central government in good faith around it," he said.

"I know better than most that we need housing at a scale and pace to match Auckland's rapid population growth."

But there needed to be a balance.

"We want to fast-track where it's appropriate to do that, but we have to also respect the community's right to be heard," Mr Goff said.

"Years of work have gone into [the unitary] plan and we've just finalised it."

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said the authorities would take over a lot of the powers of local councils.

While they would be legally obliged to consult with local communities, the powers of appeal would be limited, he said.

Auckland University senior planning lecturer Elizabeth Aitken-Rose said there had been some good overseas examples of urban development partnerships being used successfully.

"A small example in Britain would be Covent Garden - that was done through a public-private partnership," Dr Aitken-Rose said.

"There are many examples, of course, in France and America where essentially the government provides the long-term strategic plan and the policies and objectives and the mechanisms to assemble the land and so on, which does allow for a more comprehensive and integrated approach."

The agencies could help New Zealand overcome its piece-meal approach to urban development - but only if communities could be confident it was for the public good, Dr Aitken-Rose said.

"If it just becomes another opportunity for developers to do whatever they like and for the community to be cut out of that and for strong standards of urban amenity and place-making not to be built into it, then I think there could be real problems."

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