Public Meeting Held: New legislation negatively affects Warkworth’s housing

18 June. A meeting called SAVE WARKWORTH FROM UNPLANNED HOUSING INTENSIFICATION was held on Saturday 18 June with a great turnout of Warkworth locals, Ministers of Parliament, local government elected representatives, media and even Mayoral candidates. The vast majority of the community who attended the meeting wanted the legislation repealed. 

ISN’T MORE HOUSING A GOOD THING?

There are many medium-density houses across Auckland, and even in some parts of Warkworth already – so why are so many people concerned about the particular properties newly identified to be intensified?

Because – this intensification plan is not part of Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan, or its forward infrastructure spending budgets for “new housing” – it has been “sprung” on many of the property owners by central government. 

Auckland Council has identified plenty of new land to be opened up for medium-density living already. It has also already identified the single housing areas of Auckland which are appropriate to change to medium-density housing.

Adding more medium-density housing “on top” of this, at property sites without enough infrastructure capacity, is not appropriate – the new legislation negatively affects Warkworth’s existing single house zoned housing.

WHAT IS HAPPENING?

The government* has a goal of increasing housing supply hoping this will make homes more affordable. It believes this will be achieved by increasing housing density, along with speeding up the consenting process. It has therefore brought in new laws which the Auckland Council opposed but is forced now to implement. To be clear, this is a government initiated change and not an Auckland Council change.

As from December 2021 housing rules were changed under the Resource Management Amendment Act 2021. This law change has made it compulsory for Councils to zone single house sites as medium density “Mixed Housing Urban” (eg: typically townhouses, terraced houses and units).

Warkworth is affected by this law change, while Snells beach, and areas such as Kumeu, Helensville, Riverhead and Wellsford are exempt because the population threshold is a township of 5,000 people.

*The law change was proposed by Labour and supported by National and the Greens and opposed by the ACT party.

Other suburbs across Auckland are also affected – for example Glenfield, Howick, Devonport, Ponsonby, Whangaparaoa, and others. Other cities affected include Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga. 

WHAT IS MEDIUM-DENSITY MIXED HOUSING URBAN?

Instead of only being allowed to have 1 house per section the rules have changed allowing up to 3 houses, each up to 3 storeys high (this is up to 12 metres high) with no need for a resource consent, and up to 6 dwellings per property if a resource consent is applied for and granted. The new rules are called the Medium-Density Residential Standards (MDRS).

Private individuals have no rights to object under the law, and no rights of recourse via the Resource Management Act (RMA). There is no obligation for Council to notify anyone, including immediate neighbours of any such a development being planned or happening.

In addition, currently under a single house zoning people cannot build too close, or too high, to their neighbour. However, this all changes with a neighbour now being able to build 3 storeys high (up to 12 metres high) only 2.5 metres in from the front boundary and only 1 metre in from the back and side boundaries.

What is particularly concerning is that most people have absolutely no idea of what is planned for the neighbourhoods.

NO CONSENT, NO NOTIFICATION, NO CAR PARKING REQUIRED?

The need to consult with a neighbour, or to gain a resource consent has been removed which might otherwise have alerted neighbours to a new house being built which might affect them. Also under the new zoning rules there is no compulsion to provide onsite parking for cars, boats or any other vehicles. When this happens we can expect cars to be parked in the street.

WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN?

The new housing rules take legal effect from 20 August 2022. This includes for Warkworth.

THE GOVERNMENT IS OVERRIDING THE AUCKLAND COUNCIL UNITARY PLAN.

Auckland currently has 560,000 houses and the Unitary Plan already provides for building up to one million houses. This alone is exceeding the building industry’s capacity as evidenced by material costs and supply chain problems. One million houses is enough supply of new housing for 30 years!

Across all of New Zealand the government is hoping this new housing law (across all the cities) will build another 50 – 100,000 houses. Auckland is already going to be providing 90-95% of all of the new housing anyway – with the associated infrastructure being pre-planned for in advance. The government is riding roughshod over Auckland’s (and Warkworth’s) current infrastructure planning.

Also we have seen what happens when central Government overrides the Auckland Council and ignores getting the infrastructure in place. In Huapai the Government thought affordable housing could be achieved by increasing housing supply via the Special Housing Areas... but the houses there are no more affordable, and because the roading infrastructure was ignored the traffic congestion has ruined the quality of life in the area for many people. 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN WILL HAPPEN?

The anticipated unintended consequences are likely to be numerous and they are likely to include:

  • Potential building of 12-metre-high, low-quality, featureless, dormitory-type structures a meter off neighbourhood boundaries.
  • Such a development can happen ad-hoc at any time right next door – with no warning.
  • The loss of views.
  • Sunlight lost – no warmth, ineffective light for solar panels, etc
  • Loss of privacy and peace.
  • The real estate market (and profit) will drive which specific properties have 3 to 6 houses on them, not the government.
  • The government is hoping the prices of new houses will go down – that is, be affordable. However, property prices are more likely to go up as developers will pay more for the increased development potential of land, which in turn gets passed on into the new house price.
  • New houses will not be more affordable. (Look at Millwater, Milldale, Albany – house prices haven’t become any more affordable in higher density housing areas).
  • A likely significant reduction in the value of one’s own home, as soon as it is known one of these structures are to be built next door. Ie: prices could go up for those selling to developers but go down for the affected neighbours.
  • Loss of Warkworth’s heritage look and feel. Destruction of character homes.
  • A major acceleration of the de-greening of our neighbourhoods, as what remaining green lawn space disappears under houses and concrete. Trees will be removed to make way for high density housing, adding to poor environmental outcomes.
  • Many more cars parked on the streets (if you will even be able to find a park on the street) – resulting in safety and traffic movement issues.
  • Increased anxiety levels – even from just the constant threat of high density housing randomly occurring next door to your home, without any notice.
  • Excessive rate hikes to cater for reactive infrastructure spending, or simply higher capital values.

WHAT ABOUT PAYING FOR THE REQUIRED INFRASTRUCTURE?

This all means a lot more housing density which will in turn mean more pressure is put on infrastructure. In fact, the government’s default position is to remove the need to build infrastructure! The older areas of town have the oldest infrastructure that is the least likely to cope with housing intensification. The unintended consequences would likely be:

  • Sewage overflows and potentially into the Warkworth River
  • More traffic congestion
  • More accidents and parking problems
  • Worse congestion at Hill Street (the Matakana Link road is not for WW traffic)
  • Worse flooding
  • More pressure on community facilities (parks, library, halls, education, clubs, health, social services, the Police, Fire and Ambulance services, social services, etc…)
  • Sedimentation run-off risks for the river during development phases
  • Not enough parks and reserves for the new population

IMPORTANT: Already with the planned housing growth there isn’t adequate funding from the Council or the Government to pay for the required infrastructure – and there isn’t any intention for any extra funding/money to help cope with the costs of more intensified growth. This is unaffordable.

WHAT CAN AUCKLAND COUNCIL DO?

While Auckland Council argued against these changes it is still being forced to implement them by government legislation.

The law says Council may be able to limit some development’s height or density requirements, if the build meets Council’s “Qualifying Matters” as to why the development shouldn’t take place.

This is a toothless gesture from the government – Why? Because what the Council would define as the main Qualifying Matters is the building the transport service and roads, sewage, stormwater and flooding, schools, parks and reserves, medical and ambulance services, etc, but the legislation specifically excludes Council using those arguments as Qualifying Matters.

However, that should not stop Council “pushing back” and we need to get as much information to the Council on what locals think should (or shouldn’t) happen in our township. Beginning 20 August 2022 the Council will have to go through the process of “publicly notifying” the changes the government has mandated into the Unitary Plan. That will be a chance for the public to tell the Council of your concerns

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

If you want the law repealed these actions will help send a powerful message to Parliament:

  • Sign the nationwide petition: Click here: petitions.nz and fill out the petition.
  • Send a message to as many Labour, National, Green and ACT MP’s as you can asking them to change back the legislation, or to at least to exclude Warkworth . 

The message being something along these lines: If legislation is required to assist in providing for housing then Central Government should ensure this is achieved in a planned manner where infrastructure – wastewater, water supply, public transport, parks and open spaces, including social infrastructure (schools, medical facilities, libraries etc), can be provided for the people living in the higher density residential areas. Existing communities and the health and wellbeing of existing residents will be dramatically affected by the MDRS and the process allows no consultation. 

 The standards are a poorly thought-out response to the housing issue and will have far reaching negative social implications that have not been properly considered. The legislation should be repealed in its entirety so communities can better determine how and where to provide for housing density, or modified to reduce intensification too far away from Warkworth’s business center and public transport routes.

  • Email the Housing Minister, Megan Woods – woods@parliament.govt.nz
  • Inform your neighbours about what to do. Encourage them to speak out and sign the petition and/or to write to MP’s.
  • Inform your friends about what is about to happen.
  • Submit to the Auckland Council feedback process in August 2022. It is important that the Council also pushes back hard on this.

MAPS

The Auckland Council map for how this may affect your specific property – Please click this link: FIND A PROPERTY ADDRESS