Dear Our Waiheke supporters.
We have been contacted by the Local Government Commission and been told to expect Commissioners to come to Waiheke to consult the community on our application to secede. they expect to start around the middle of September [but don’t be surprised if it later]. The Commissioners expect to hold public meetings for all interested to attend, will meet with those who put in submissions on our application and with targeted interest groups. They say they are even willing to make themselves available to individuals who are not comfortable in group sessions – a good sign. We will advise when we know more about the consultation details and we will advise how we think it would be best for you to respond.
Meanwhile, a very good reason to push for secession from Auckland Council has surfaced and is outlined in the following letter to the editors of the local papers….
“The NZ Herald (12 August, p.A10), reporting on decisions about the new Unitary Plan, noted that “Councillors also decided to relax the [regional] rule around the rural urban boundary [RUB], allowing developers to apply to move the boundary through a private plan change”. This decision has significant potential for increasing pressure for more, or more intensive, development on Waiheke. We know there are people with very deep pockets, not least at the eastern end of the island, who can now consider more options for their land. If they make unwelcome applications, the Local Board will be powerless because it has no regulatory powers and can only offer opinions on significant variations to the district plan. My experience is that our opinions are routinely ignored or watered down by Council planners.
What is disturbing is that the decision on the RUB was made despite the Independent Hearings Panel declaring that as “the recommended Unitary Plan does not cover Waiheke Island…the Panel considers any changes to the RUB on Waiheke Island are best left to a district plan review. The Panel therefore has not recommended changes to the RUB on Waiheke Island.” [p.15 ‘Changes to the Rural Urban Boundary’ report to Council.]
And yet….the Team Leader Planning – Central & Islands advised the Waiheke Local Board prior to the Councillors’decision that “When you then check the planning maps as part of the Panel’s recommendation, it is clear that the RUB is no longer specified / provided for on Waiheke and therefore it is in effect deleted.” …..Hello? How did this come to pass?
One has to wonder whether this dropping of the RUB on the map for Waiheke is the culmination of a long time goal of Auckland Council planners. Back in February 2014 the maps attached to the then draft Unitary Plan “failed to take into account the ‘green belt’ between the Surfdale and Palm Beach residential areas” according to independent planning consultant Barry Kaye [Gulf News, 20 Feb 2014]. Public meetings were quickly held by concerned residents to discuss this unexpected news. They were subsequently assured by Council that this part of the Waiheke RUB had been reinstated on the relevant maps but Local Board members have had a continuing sense that these rural urban boundary lines on Waiheke planning maps were under threat.
Both Waitemata and Islands Ward Cr. Mike Lee and the Waiheke Local Board made strenuous efforts to ask Councillors to avoid the RUB decision. That boundary is a key pillar of our District Plan while of little or no relevance to the perceived need to increase Auckland’s options for urban development. Cr. Lee made a valiant rear-guard effort on the Council’s RUB decision last week by moving a simple amendment to exclude Waiheke from any changes. However, the Mayor ruled his attempt out of order. By supporting the Mayor’s ruling, most Councillors showed their disdain for allowing Waiheke to determine its own position on this subject in a future review of our District Plan.
It seems to me that there may be a larger agenda in play. The Local Board was recently advised by the ‘Team Leader Planning – Central & Islands’ that it should be prepared to have difficult discussions about water treatment reticulation on Waiheke. He observed that the
topology around Ostend would not present great difficulties for building a sewage system. Meanwhile, as the Local Board’s opinions on significant resource consent applications to vary the district plan are routinely being ignored or watered down by Council planners, it is clear we need a district plan review that is not led from the mainland. The RUB decision and lack of regulatory powers based on our community’s views demonstrate the most important reasons to break away from governance which is focused on mainland issues and policies.