It’s only a week since Auckland Mayor Len Brown officially launched the Auckland Unitary Plan and even before its official unveiling government ministers have been rattling their sabres and threatening to have another go at dismantling democracy in Auckland. As Brian Rudman explained earlier this week, both the Minister for Housing and the Minister for the Environment have been loud in their criticism.
The rehabilitated Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith has been loudly declaring to all and sundry that the council needs to free up the rules in the Unitary Plan so that more green field development can occur. This would mean that the rural edges of the Auckland region get swallowed up by new suburbs and – as I said last year – costs twice as much as developing housing inside the city’s existing boundaries because of the expense of building new roads, water and waste water supplies and providing transport options all from scratch. Invariably this cost is born by the ratepapyers and the developers who make the profits from the subdivisions tend to benefit.
And now he’s also saying that the notification rules around housing developments should be set aside so that they can happen more quickly – essentially cutting out the democratic process enshrined in the Resource Management Act (RMA) that gives citizens a say on what gets built in their communities and how it will impact on them.
And ominously the Environment Minister Amy Adams – who is responsible for the current process of eviscerating the RMA – has been hinting that the government could set up a new crown enterprise to take over the planning functions of the Council in order to release more land for development.
At the same time both ministers have accused the Council of being anti-democratic for wanting to take a fast track approach to implementing the Unitary Plan. The mayor maintains that this would that would still involve community engagement and the ability for the Plan to be challenged.
The accusations of lack of democracy seem a bit rich coming from a government that seems determined to undermine Auckland democracy at every turn because this criticism comes on top of the government’s insistence that they (the government) will appoint the members of the Unitary Plan’s hearing panel. Given the Government’s propensity to cronyism this doesn’t bode well.
The government is doing its best to undermine Auckland Council at every step despite the Council and the Mayor jumping through every hoop that this government set them with the legislation that forced the council amalgamations in 2010. Guess they’re still punishing us because we got the Mayor we wanted in those elections.