Wellington Scoop

E-Mail 'Why special housing areas were a real problem for Wellington' To A Friend

Email a copy of 'Why special housing areas were a real problem for Wellington' to a friend

* Required Field

Separate multiple entries with a comma. Maximum 5 entries.

Separate multiple entries with a comma. Maximum 5 entries.

E-Mail Image Verification

Loading ... Loading ...


  1. Patrick Morgan, Cycling Action Network, 30. August 2018, 11:15

    Thanks for setting out the case against a rollover of SHAs, Andy.
    It puzzles me why Adelaide Road has been so unloved. With a positive LGWM on the horizon, this should change. There’s loads of low-value buildings there crying out for development into mid and high density housing + retail + offices, supported by light rail and bike lanes.

  2. Guy M, 30. August 2018, 12:05

    Thanks Andy, for the article, and thanks Patrick, for the excellent question over Adelaide Road. My gut feeling is that Adelaide Road needs a bit of a helping hand along the way. Patrick – I’m certainly hoping you’re right about a positive outcome for LGWM – there’s still no indication what they are doing or which way they are going to swing.

    In the same way that Victoria St in the CBD/Te Aro fringe was helped along the way by an injection of WCC funds into the new roading layout – and the subsequent 2 or 3 substantial new apartment buildings by Stratum, I’d suggest that the WCC need to inject some action, strategy, and money into the Adelaide Road corridor. The last part I could find about this on the WCC website was from 2012 – and the framework for this area is from 2008. Ten years and no action – surely WCC can do better than that.

    In my mind, this would take the form of: a framework for the roading requirements, with central lanes for Light Rail, wide footpaths, separate cycle-lanes, and one lane each way for buses – and one lane each way for cars. Then secondarily, a masterplan for how the intensification of housing might work. A height limit of 18m as of right would allow six stories – ie ground floor light commercial, and 5 floors of medium density housing. You’ll need to get Stratum back (or another reasonable quality developer) in to do the first, demonstration block. No parking needed – they can all walk or take the bus or tram to work.

    But if a positive example is not made first, then the crappy developers will seep in instead, letting it become an avenue of shame, like the new developments along Taranaki St (clustered around Wigan St). So – we look once more to WCC for leadership in this area!

  3. Tony Jansen, 30. August 2018, 13:19

    Fantastic response Andy. A credit to your long standing career in the Council as well as your ability to absorb large amounts of detail and present this in an easy to understand format. If only more of your colleagues were as community focussed and eloquent as you. A pity you are not in my ward, you’d get my vote every time.

  4. Frank McRae, 30. August 2018, 17:01

    1. “Where is Mr McRae wrong in his article? Well let’s start by saying that there seems to be an assumption that development only occurs in Special Housing Areas.”
    What? This is a strange assumption that I never made. I didn’t say development only occurs in SHAs. I just said that it is easier to develop those areas with an SHA in place than it is without one.

    2. “Mr McRae says ‘SHAs do not provide carte blanche to developers’. If you read resource consent decisions (Erskine, Shelly Bay for example) it becomes absolutely clear that the existing planning rules are subjugated.”
    That’s not what carte blanche means. The developers still had to go through a consent process. You even said the words above ‘resource consent decisions’.

    3. “It is bizarre for Mr McRae to say there ‘would be nothing “undemocratic” about special housing areas established by a democratically elected central government and the vote of a democratically elected city council.’ On that logic Government and Council could do anything they liked without any democratic engagement at any time between elections.”
    I still maintain that a provision put in place by two different levels of elected government, that gives adjacent landowners objection rights, is democratic. Giving every cross armed member of the public a veto over all development is not a foundational principle of democracy.

    4. “Mr McRae is concerned that public notification ‘hands objection rights to every member of the public’. Well the fact is that a tiny proportion of proposals are notified. In my view the number is too low. Nationally the last time I looked it was around 1%, and in Wellington a miniscule 0.8% of all applications were notified.”
    These numbers don’t take into account developments that never proceed because the likely cost of public notification puts people off from applying for consent in the first place.

    5. “Mr McRae is also wrong when he says ‘the District Plan approach which, in practice, assumes that the city will retain its existing form and assesses potential developments against its impact on that’.”
    I said ‘in practice’. It is true. In practice the district plan approach places a heavy weight on assessing development against its effect on the status quo.

    6. “That means there is actually very substantial development capacity in the city.”
    There is not.

    7. He is wrong to say that the District Plan is 18 years old and therefore out of date.
    Ok fair cop I was wrong here. Some parts of the District plan are 18 years old and some are 9 years old. They only date back to the start of the Obama presidency. Luckily the world hasn’t changed since then.

    8. “I disagree with Mr McRae … when he states that SHAs ‘would enable the city to grow in the most sustainable way possible’.”
    These SHAs make it easier to develop in inner city areas. This is more sustainable than the alternative of pushing development outside of Wellington City to the regional fringes.

    Finally – that Joni Mitchell song sucks and it is appropriate that it is an anthem for people who are committed to opposing progress.

  5. Traveller, 30. August 2018, 18:00

    I love that sad and true Joni Mitchell song …

  6. Ben Schrader, 30. August 2018, 18:41

    The SHAs might have been a boon for developers (certainly for Ian Cassels), but in restricting the public’s right to appeal poorly-conceived housing developments, they’re fundamentally undemocratic and their passing is to be celebrated.

    Good urban design comes from wide consultation and getting the public on side. If Adelaide Road had been an SHA then we would have likely ended up with another Shelly Bay-type fiasco. We now have a chance to do something really imaginative that both respects the area’s past and takes it forward in a sustainable way.

    (Incidentally, I recently saw a 1940s plan of northern Adelaide Road rebuilt with Modernist flats, so the idea of its medium density redevelopment has been around for a while – just never acted on.

    And I like the Joni Mitchell song Frank. I don’t oppose progress, but it needs to be a shared rather than a singular vision.

  7. Noddy, 31. August 2018, 1:15

    Sorry Andy. I am not persuaded. You have stated that SLAs accounted for 360 of 1136 recent residential building consents and therefore it doesn’t matter – just over 30% of the total. So in effect you are happy to see the numbers of new residential consents fall by more than 30% at a time of housing shortages when house prices and rents are going through the roof and young people are being priced out of the city. I think your priorities are wrong.

  8. Andy Foster, 31. August 2018, 7:29

    Thank you Patrick, Guy, Tony, Traveller and Ben all for your really positive responses.

    Frank, I agree you didn’t say development only occurs in SHAs. However you did use several different ways to say it was very very difficult under the RMA. I agree we hear of developments where the RMA process is challenging. Sometimes it is hard to understand why, at other times it is clear. However the whole purpose of your article was to bemoan Council rejecting rolling over 8 SHAs for a final year. Fundamentally you have overstated the significance of SHAs in providing additional housing. We’ve seen only 1/3rd of new dwellings and sections have come in SHA areas. SHAs have undoubtedly sped up some housing development. However in some cases they have overridden the District Plan and permitted development to occur that otherwise would not have, because of significant adverse effects. The two cases I’ve focused on most are Shelly Bay and Erskine.

    I think you are nitpicking about your term ‘carte blanche’. You are correct developers still need consent, but the fundamental thing about HASHAA is that it completely changes the process and often the outcomes of a resource consent. The sustainability principles of the RMA, and District Plan protections, often fought for by communities over many years, are subjugated to the provision of housing. Adverse effects are much more permissible. The Court of Appeal Shelly Bay case focused on S34 of HASHAA (the consenting process), and heard the argument that this means the more houses provided the greater the adverse effects that should be allowed. Critically the High Court found, and lawyers at the Court of Appeal argued, that because HASHAA allows SHAs up to 27 metres in height, therefore all consents under HASHAA should be able to go to 27 metres, regardless of the underlying zoning. This is absolutely fundamental, and something Council never contemplated and did not mean. With that case law, if you lived in a SHA, you could do nothing if a 6 storey building were proposed next door.

    That isn’t a big deal in the Central City where higher buildings are expected – though sweeping away heritage protection is. However of the 34 SHAs agreed at various stages by Council just two were zoned Central Area, two are on the fringe of the Central Area (Adelaide Rd and Arlington with 12-18 metre height limits), 14 are broadly suburban and have District Plan height limits of 8 – 11 metres, and seven are northern suburbs greenfields (again 8 metres). SHAs consequently have a lot less benefit than you suggest for densification. If we could truly rely on the RMA and District Plan to have significant weight, then rolling over some of those SHAs could have been contemplated. However the assurances we received from officers about this have proved completely hollow. The current case law is the Shelly Bay High Court decision. Now the awaited decision of the Court of Appeal on this matter will prove pivotal.

    I note Frank you don’t dispute that less than 1% of consents in Wellington were notified. However you say ‘these numbers don’t take into account developments that never proceed because the likely cost of public notification puts people off from applying for consent in the first place’. That is true, but I’m fine with that. In my experience if something is likely to be notified it is because it is considered to have significant adverse effects. It might appear to take longer, but I think it is good that proposers re-think proposals to reduce those effects, and that in general is what they do, change the proposal, which means of course they still can undertake a revised development.

    You have reiterated that the District Plan ‘places a heavy weight on assessing development against its effect on the status quo’. Again I point you to the ‘permitted baseline’ test. Under the RMA development proposals are assessed against what is allowed on a given site, not against what is there at the moment. That does mean there is significant development capacity in the city. We will however need more because of predicted population growth. Council is testing feasible capacity across every property in the city at the moment. This is a key building block in determining how much additional capacity we need to create through reviewing the District Plan in toto. That is a huge job, which we will start consulting on in the next few months. We will do that strategically, in consultation with our communities, and considering the things we value and wish to protect in our city, not by the stroke of an SHA pen.

    Finally, I really don’t like the sound of your democracy Frank. Just because a Government or Council is elected that doesn’t mean they should be able to do what they want. Can I say have ‘carte blanche’? The fundamental premise of HASHAA is deliberately anti-democratic. It is about ensuring that nobody gets a say – unless you live right next door – then just maybe, and little good it will do you. Two doors away – sorry; seriously concerned about safety on a road you cycle or walk several times a week – sorry; Heritage protection agency wanting to have a say on really important heritage buildings – sorry; something really genuinely important to your community or city – no, sorry again. Perhaps we will have to agree to differ on that.

  9. Farmer Bill, 31. August 2018, 8:54

    I can see a Manor Park development of thousands of units all within a golf buggy ride (or electric bike ride) to the currently under-utilised Manor Park Golf Course and $50 million SH58/SH2 road interchange.

  10. Andy Foster, 31. August 2018, 9:14

    Thanks Noddy but no, you cannot interpret the numbers that way. The fact that 360 dwellings out of 1136 were consented under HASHAA does not mean they could not or would not or should not have been consented under the RMA.

    So for example the day that the SHAs expired we received applications for several hundred greenfields sections in the Northern suburbs. The areas in question are expected to be developed, in the way proposed by the applications and would have been consented under the RMA too. There was a financial benefit to the developers by virtue of associated Council decisions to do this under HASHAA. (eg ratepayer effective support by forgoing / delaying fees) Will it speed up actually building houses on those sections? No, the pace will undoubtedly be in response to the market – ie how fast they sell.

    However I was clear that in some cases SHAs can and have resulted in developments not likely to be permitted under the RMA. However that is for very good reasons as we have discussed. Developments would need to be of a different nature and scale to protect the built and natural environmental values on those sites. So yes we all agree that SHAs were creating more housing but not to that degree.

    The other point is that if the High Court decision holds SHAs could indeed have created more development capacity. We could have had 27 metre/6 storey buildings all over the city. That is not what we envisaged at all, and I just have this feeling that it would have gone down very badly indeed.

  11. Noddy, 31. August 2018, 10:53

    In response Andy.
    Point 1: You are of course correct that some of the consents granted in the SHAs might have been granted anyway. Equally it is likely that some would not, because the risk of the nimby wars would have deterred developers from even applying, and even those that did happen would have taken a lot longer. I do not accept your inference that the SHAs have not made a difference.
    Point 2: I believe you are exaggerating the significance of the “27 metre” Court decision. You claim that this could have resulted in “27 metre/6 storey buildings all over the city”. I do not buy that argument. Firstly for that to happen the whole city would have to be a SHA which it plainly isn’t. Secondly, economics! Building at that height is bloody expensive and is only ever going to happen where there is evidence of strong demand for that style of housing in a locality. There is no evidence of such demand in the green fields and suburban SHAs so it is simply never going to happen – the Court ruling is in reality no more than an interesting hypothetical rather than a real and present threat that you have painted it as. In the central SHAs and possibly maybe in Adelaide Road there is and I am not sure why that height of development would be a problem in those places.

  12. Frank McRae, 31. August 2018, 11:27

    “We’ve seen only 1/3rd of new dwellings and sections have come in SHA areas.”
    Amazing. “only” one third of new development has been in the tiny portion of the city with an SHA and you’re dismissing the significance of that?

  13. Andy Foster, 1. September 2018, 8:06

    Hi Noddy – in reply to your Point 1, no I don’t think there would have been ‘nimby wars’ at all in respect to most of the developments consented under HASHAA, had they instead have been consented under the RMA. That is precisely because for the most part they were expected, allowed under RMA and almost certainly would have been processed on a non-notified basis. However there would most certainly have been ‘nimby wars’ over some of them, and that is again precisely because under the RMA they would have been non compliant and had significant adverse effects. This is not about people just being difficult, but about people or organisations wanting the opportunity to address real impacts on their neighborhood, on heritage or on the wider environment.

    I do agree with you that we would be unlikely to see 27 metre towers popping up around the city. However that is to our surprise allowed for /expected under current case law. Looking through the list of those 34 SHAs, there are several where such development is entirely conceivable. We’ve got a lot of much taller towers in Thorndon for example so the economics did work there at the time. In some cases it might even be a good thing, in others it wouldn’t be. Key point is they should go through proper process and assessment of effects. That is a fundamental flaw of HASHAA.

    Peter – let’s leave aside your taking of one sentence in isolation, and that I was not dismissing the importance of 1/3rd of the housing consented. I’ve already – again – noted above that the majority of that 1/3rd would have been consented anyway without issues under the RMA, and what should have happened with significantly non-compliant proposals. However your stressing that ‘only’ 1/3rd of the new development occurred in ‘the tiny portion of the city with an SHA’ does warrant response. You are clearly implying that because a ‘tiny portion’ of the city produced almost 1/3rd of new dwellings that proves the impact of SHAs. I am actually surprised the number was as low as 1/3rd. The SHA areas included all of what has been for years been the fastest growing parts of the city. Te Aro is by far the fastest growing area. The entire northern growth area, the two suburbs (Jville and Kilbirnie) that we formerly ‘labelled areas of change’, and a host of handpicked areas with development potential and expectation. With or without SHA status these would have been expected to contribute a very large percentage of development. I am surprised it was as low as 1/3rd in that most recent 15 month period.

    Fundamental point again. The city is growing. We will provide capacity to accommodate that growth, but we will do it properly, strategically, and in consultation with the communities of Wellington. I would welcome both of your contributions at that time.

    Regards Andy