Judge leaves island’s rural boundaries off the maps

0
532

Hopes for challenging the removal of a protection on Waiheke’s rural land have taken a blow.
Auckland Unitary Plan independent hearings panel chairperson Judge David Kirkpatrick says the panel did recommend the removal of the Rural Urban Boundary on Waiheke.
Waitemata and Gulf councillor Mike Lee, Waiheke Local Board chairperson Paul Walden and local board member John Meeuwsen have all said that Auckland Council misinterpreted the panel’s recommendations in proposing the removal of the boundary on Waiheke.
The panel told the council it “has not recommended changes to the Rural Urban Boundary on Waiheke”.
However, Judge Kirkpatrick issued a “clarification” last Friday stating that the panel intended to remove the boundary from the Regional Policy Statement throughout Auckland, including Waiheke.
“It is important to note that the absence of a Rural Urban Boundary does not mean that there is no constraint on the urbanisation of areas of Waiheke that are not presently urban.
“The provisions of the Hauraki Gulf Islands section of the Auckland District Plan, including the zoning controls, still apply,” says Judge Kirkpatrick.
However, Mr Lee, Mr Walden and Mr Meeuwsen are all concerned that lifting the protection over rural land on the island opens the doors for development that could not have happened before.
Mr Walden says that resource consent applications could easily gain permission now the regional policy preventing subdivision and urban development in rural areas and green belts has been abolished.
“There is all the potential for urban Waiheke to sprawl and the island to become a paradise lost,” he says.
Mr Lee is concerned that the removal of the planning protection will enable “suburban sprawl into the rural part of Waiheke”.
Subdivision at the island’s rural eastern end could go ahead and the green spaces around the villages could also disappear now they have lost the boundary protecting them, says Mr Lee.
The elected representatives are upset that the council failed to consult with the local board or community before the boundary was abolished.
Although the proposed Unitary Plan was available for public submissions when it was released in 2013, the plan did not indicate that the Rural Urban Boundary would be removed from Waiheke.
The government appointed the members of the independent hearings panel on the Unitary Plan and the panel’s recommendations on the plan were only made public on 27 July.
Soon after this, Mr Lee expressed concerns about the possibility of the boundary being removed.
The local board decided at a special meeting on Tuesday last week to provide up to $5000 to an environmental group to investigate a legal challenge regarding the removal of the boundary.
Discussions about the possibility of taking the matter to the Environment Court are continuing. • Rose Davis

Subscribe and read Gulf News and Waiheke Weekender Online