Wednesday, November 16, 2016

1901 Cheviot Quake Predicts Kaikoura Quake

Brick buildings and roads destroyed, families evacuated to Christchurch, slips everywhere, continuous aftershocks, whole buildings moved off foundations, rivers diverted....

Scene of destruction caused by earthquake, 16 Nov. 1901 : a 2.5ft deep fissure on the road between Cheviot and Port Robinson.

All of these things also happened in the 1901 Cheviot earthquake which was measured at 6.9 on the Richter scale. You can see my detailed research into the Christchurch Star archive reports of that event here. That post was prepared after the Christchurch earthquakes when I became aware of the high seismicity of North Canterbury, and the frequency of damaging earthquakes in the region in the past (about every 50 years almost like clockwork) caused by small fault ruptures (ie not the alpine fault). The post contains links to about 50 National Library PapersPast newspaper articles about the Cheviot quake and its aftermath.

 
One article even suggests that the moon caused the quake. Others report ministerial visits. The similarity with the Kaikoura Earthquake is uncanny. 



However, it is of concern that the Cheviot earthquake led to the almost total abandonment of that rural town. While the Christchurch Star would not have reported each and every aftershock, it does report many for almost a year after the initial 6.9 earthquake. The last report I found was in September - 10 months later - and this reports 6 severe aftershocks in quick succession. It seems that the main reason damage to buildings in Cheviot reduced was because settlers stopped using cob and brick - instead using corrugated iron and wood - even for chimneys. Light buildings are more robust in a sharp earthquake.

From what I've learned about earthquakes, the best predictor of earthquake behaviour today, is to know how the same geological system behaved when it last moved. There are patterns to earthquakes. If Cheviot is anything to go by, Kaikoura and environs will be subject to severe aftershocks for about a year.

Life After Queen Elizabeth Square

The short version of what happened in the Auckland Architectural Association's legal challenge in the Environment Court of Auckland Council's decision to sell Auckland's Queen Elizabeth Square to Precinct Properties is simple: they won, we lost, and Auckland loses another piece of public land.

When I say "we" there were several incorporated societies and associations that stepped up here: Auckland Architectural Society, Urban Auckland Incorporated, Civic Trust Auckland, Walk Auckland and the Auckland CBD Residents Association.

You can read the Environment Court decision here. You will see that two separate but linked appeals were heard: the Road Stop appeal and the Plan Modification 79 appeal. The Environment Court ruled on the Road Stop appeal (the road stop proposal was upheld), and left the Plan Modification appeal for resolution by the parties by agreement.

It's not a particularly rewarding read because - inevitably - the decision cannot do justice to the sheer volume of work and scholarship - on all sides - that went into this. I estimate that Precinct + Council invested $2,000,000 in mounting and presenting their case to the Court. Some 40 briefs of evidence, substantial legal representation. They wanted to win this. There's a lot we can all learn from what happened. But that will take time. Just a few thoughts for now.

It was a David and Goliath battle, but unlike David, while we had a well-shaped stone, we didn't use it. (This is all with the benefit of hindsight.)

Mediation took place over two days prior to the hearing. At that mediation we learned that Precinct proposed widening the East West laneway to 6 metres. However at that stage of proceedings our advice was that we needed to focus on very specific issues in order not to waste court time and to apply the small amount of funding we had available most efficiently. By the time we entered mediation we had decided not to pursue the laneway width issue, concentrating on the loss of public space issue.    

At mediation we (all parties listed above) offered to withdraw our appeals if Precinct and Council would agree to leave the sunny side of Queen Elizabeth Square in public ownership, and to sell the dark side - the part that is shaded by No 1 Queen Street - the HSBC Tower. After deliberating on that proposal overnight Precinct informed us that the proposal was not acceptable, and that the value to them of Queen Elizabeth Square was the frontage to Lower Queen Street.

This meant the appeals were referred to the Environment Court.

Despite efforts made to further focus the issues, the evidence that was produced by the expert witnesses for Precinct Properties and Auckland Council (and Auckland Transport) was high in quantity, quality and complexity - about 500 pages. Much of it was Urban Design and Planning evidence. We had to decide how to focus our efforts.

It pains me to admit that I was somewhat overwhelmed by the tonnage of evidence, and the challenge of mounting a coherent, commensurate and high quality presence and argument in court. Based on a variety of considerations we collectively decided to argue for the retention of the whole of Queen Elizabeth Square. And in doing so, dropped our well-shaped stone.

You will see in the decision a number of mentions of what was termed the "half-way house" option, and references to the fact that option was not argued in Court. Who knows what might have happened had it been argued. The hearing would have been completely different. Interestingly, McIndoe, Urban Design expert for Precinct scored the combination of Lower Queen Street + the sunny side of Queen Elizabeth Square very highly - even with the barrier of the bus shelter still in place. (The LGA provides opportunity for the Environment Court to modify a road stop proposal.)

We've licked our wounds and are moving on. There are some small wins though: the laneway is wider and will be more public; measures of pedestrian movement comfort have been adopted by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport; and - hopefully - Auckland Council will take more care over the sale of public open space in future.

One last thought. We did consider the option of Judicial Review - as opposed to an Environment Court appeal. This would have examined Auckland Council decision-making and public consultation under the Local Government Act. (Recall that the Urban Auckland Inc challenge to the Bledisloe Wharf extension process was a High Court Judicial Review.) However because the Road Stop process is automatically referred to the Environment Court if objections are not accepted, that became the inevitable legal pathway. Enough.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Devonport GLOW & STREET MUSIC

A lot of locals popped down to the Devonport Village on Saturday afternoon and into the evening, and on Sunday. The Devonport Business Association organised its own Auckland Art Week GLOW event where Unitec design students light installation was on display at Windsor Park over the weekend. What attracted me was the GLOW Open Street in Clarence St. Described as a tactical urbanism event inspired by a similar activity in New York’s Times Square. Clarence Street, from Victoria Rd to Wynyard St was closed to cars and the space populated by deck chairs and bean bags, buskers and other activities. (Even tennis and table tennis - turns out the tennis club got almost 30 new members from this!) And then at 6.45pm famous NZ jazz sax player Nathan Haines performed with some other bands.Those with fingers were crossed to the weather gods got what we needed. It was a cold wind - but a clear sky. My photos concentrate on Clarence Street. What a great feel. The last pic is from the GLOW event on Windsor Park. The flame dancers were amazing. A fantastic event. Many retailers were open late. Will be interesting to know whether business was brisk. Certainly the Chinese across from the music stand at Tiny Triumphs did a roaring trade (Sea Dragon). Hot chips were definitely needed. The whole place was buzzing. The restaurants were heaving. Felt like a great cultural evening in a European City (shouldn't need to say that). More please - even just closing Clarence Street and having live music....























Friday, October 14, 2016

Shingle & Steel from Downtown Demolition




The place to view downtown Auckland demolition is the 1st storey platform of Price Waterhouse across Lower Albert Street. A bloke there told me that the rubble from this demolition will meet the needs of good quality concrete and construction across Auckland for a whole (don't know how long - and by-the-way, click on either of the lower images to see necklaces of concrete and steel draped like designer jewellery), and the steel from reinforcing will be melted down to form the quality of reinforcing steel appropriate for many Auckland building construction projects.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Celebrity Solstice Visits Auckland


Celebrity Solstice is the lead ship of the Solstice-class of cruise ships operated by Celebrity Cruises. (We learn from Wikipedia).Built by Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, she was floated out on August 10, 2008, and christened by ocean scientist Professor Sharon L. Smith at a ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, on November 14, 2008. The first post-Panamax vessel in the Celebrity fleet, she features innovative interior design and onboard amenities, including an ocean-going live grass lawn, a glassblowing studio, and a 12 deck-high atrium. 121,878 tonnes, 314.86 metres long, 36.88 metres wide, 8.23 metres draft, 2,850 passengers, 1,500 crew, 24 knots. Here she is visiting Auckland (again, she's been a few times before).


The passengers were a friendly lot - waving to us ferry commuters on the Kea.


Couldn't see anywhere how high the ship's top cabins are above the water.But you can see here - beside the ship - Princes Wharf, and its top floor, top shelf apartments. Residens there might be staying inside. Maybe just as well Ovation of the Seas (150,000 tonnes, longer and higher) can't berth here.

I think Greg McKeown is right about many Port things. He reckons that rather than build a dolphin off the end of Queens Wharf, better to remove the rump of Marsden Wharf and allow very large cruise ships to berth alongside Bledisloe Wharf.

Why is Council Voting Dropping?

This post starts with local commentary on voting patterns, summarises in depth research (Nordic and US experience), and concludes that Council voting decline anticipates a steady decline in economic activity reliant upon a thriving local democracy.

There's a very good piece in the NBR on voting entitled: who's to blame for a record low voter turnout? It doesn't really have a thesis, part perhaps from suggesting that youth don't vote because they don't see themselves among the candidates, and which offers suggestions including that there should be more prty politics in local government. It is a good read and has some great links to blogs which contain photos of billboard displays across the country, including this one which is highly recommended.

As the NBR article notes, the problem of declining voting/participation has been occurring for a while across the western world - at both national and local levels, and there is a lot of useful and informative analysis about why, in other countries, that we could look at and consider in New Zealand. I look at two pieces of research in this posting.

One of these countries is Iceland. You might recall that Iceland was hit particularly hard by the GFC. Various banks took a major hit in 2008, leading to economic collapse, and in turn to a huge drop in public confidence in its parliament. In 2010 there was a sharp drop in local government voting numbers, which led to internal soul-searching which is reported in various research papers. In one of these (Explaining the low voter turnout in Iceland’s 2010 local government elections; By Grétar Þór Eyþórsson, Marcin Kowalczyk), dated 2013, the introduction comments:
One hypothesis is that a major factor, especially in the 2010 elections, was disillusionment in the wake of Iceland’s economic collapse in 2008 and the subsequent crisis of public confidence in parliament. Another hypothesis is that the size of municipalities has to be taken into account. As elsewhere, political participation in Iceland is stronger in smaller municipalities. It is only in the bigger municipalities in Iceland that nationwide political parties in Iceland are active, and it is also there that voter turnout has dropped the most and voters have given the most support to newly formed political parties.

The paper draws on research conducted in Iceland and in Norway to show that in the past decade or so, there has been increasing involvement of political parties (or partisan groupings) in local government elections, and that this factor is a contributor to declining voter participation and interest. The research oberves that local government election turnout in small communities (eg less than 2000), where candidates are "non-partisan" (ie not affiliated with any particular persuasion or party), routinely get turnouts above 80%. The article also notes that the emergence of new political parties (as happened in Iceland after the 2008 crash) has led to those new parties seeking profile and representation at local government level - presumably as part of a build up toward national elections.

Here's an extract from the paper about Icelandic voter turnout which is a bit of an eye-opener:
Looking as far back as data has been collected, voter participation in Icelandic local government elections always fluctuated between a maximum of 87.8 percent and a minimum of 81.9 percent – until the 2006 elections, when it dropped below 80 percent for the very first time, to 78.7 percent. In the 2010 local elections voter turnout reached a new record low of 73.4 percent.
In its examination of possible reasons for the decline in voting, the paper notes that after 1993, the number of local government municipalities in Iceland has been reduced, so that the population or size of munipalities has increased....
Here it is important to mention that, since 1993, many municipalities in Iceland have amalgamated. Two general local referenda on amalgamations were held in 1993 and 2005, and other amalgamations have taken place separately. The number of municipalities has fallen from 196 (in 1993) to 105 (in 2002) to 76 (in 2010).
The writers consider, and reject, two factors for the change in voter turnout. The first is the increasing role of political parties, the second is the reduction in voter age to 18 (NB: dropping the voting age to 18 brings a whole new demographic into the voting population - one argument that is used here is that young people may not be interested in, or aware of, what local government does.) In any case, while these arguments might be applicable in considering what's happening here in NZ, they were discounted in the Iceland study.

The rationale for declining voter participation in Iceland, post 2008, is summarised like this: "...results show us that the events of autumn 2008 and their aftermath had not only a strong economic impact on the people of Iceland, but also an effect on the way they think about politics, which has manifested itself in sharply declining trust in politicians and political institutions...."

The researchers then turned their attention to the role of population in voter turnout. They argue: "...More recent findings also support the hypothesis that democracy weakens with increasing population size...". They cite a number of studies about this, and summarise these findings: "a number of other studies have concluded that there is a clear correlation between municipal population size and voter participation – the bigger the municipality, the lower the rate of participation (Morlan, 1984; Goldsmith and Rose, 2000; Sundberg, 2000; Frandsen, 2002; Frandsen, 2003)...."

The second piece of research was done in the USA nd is dated 2003. MUNICIPAL INSTITUTIONS AND VOTER TURNOUT IN LOCAL ELECTIONS; ZOLTAN L. HAJNAL University of California, San Diego, PAUL G. LEWIS; Public Policy Institute of California. The summary of this research states: "...Specifically, less outsourcing of city services, the use of direct democracy, and more control in the hands of elected rather than appointed officials all tend to increase turnout...."

This research summarises other findings which consider the imnplications of low voter turnout. This explores the issue of low turnout among minority groupings, and examines problematic outcomes associated with low voter turnout which resonate in Auckland....
In an arena in which the actions of local government can affect citizens in profound ways (for example, in public safety, infrastructure, and land-use decisions), there is a very real possibility that elected officials and the policies they enact will tend to serve only a small segment of the population (Hajnal and Hills 2002).
The focus of this research is the nature of institutional arrangements, and their effect on voter turnout and participation. The research explores these areas: (1) election timing, (2) service delivery arrangements, (3) direct democracy, (4) term limits, and (5) mayoral authority. I won't go into all of these here - you can find the paper yourself. For example, in terms of timing, various researchers believe that local voter turnout would increase if elections were held at the same time as national elections. In terms of service delivery, the research summarises its own literature search:
One of the more recent and pronounced trends in local governance is a move toward contracting out and other “outsourcing” of city services. In an effort to provide more efficient services, many cities have contracted with private firms to carry out services. Others have turned to special district governments or have contracted with nearby governments, particularly the county, to deliver services (Miller 1981; Foster 1997). Whether such service delivery alternatives ultimately reduce costs and improve city services can be debated. There is little doubt, however, that such service arrangements reduce the influence of municipal officials to some degree; at the very least, they have fewer jobs to control. The reduced role for local bureaucrats and elected officials may have the unintended consequences of reducing interest in local politics and depressing turnout.
The research paper goes on to describe its own methodology and investigation - the main results of which are summarised above.

Communities in New Zealand in general, and in Auckland in particular, appear to be experiencing similar issues with their local government arrangements and institutions as have been investigated in Europe and the USA, with similar consequences - ie low and reducing voter turnout.

Any analysis of why Auckland's local government vote is low needs to go further than what has been offered so far in the mainstream media. In my opinion, well functioning local government institutions are critical in urban environments that are experiencing high growth rates and development pressures. Auckland in particular can expect increasing resistance from communities to intensification programs which do not provide for mutual benefit outcomes that can only be achieved by effective - and trusted - local government institutional arrangements. Perhaps the existing arrangements deliver GDP growth benefits to some stakeholders now, but long term programs and mutual benefit will require institutional change.

(NB: The level of public confidence in Auckland Council decision-making is dropping. Only 17% of respondents to its Quality of Life survey trust Council to make the right decisions. This measure has been steadily falling since amalgamation (see this posting about other quality of life survey measures last year). Predictor of voter turnout: low confidence+low trust=low turnout+low participation=poorly performing urban political economies.)

Cost of PAUP Appeals


One of the final reports to be considered by the current Auckland Council's governing body summarised a challenging situation incoming Councillors will be faced with:


Interestingly, despite the statement that "council does not comment publicly on the merits (or otherwise) of the appeals", the Council has chosen to single out for special attention the appeal by Auckland 2040 and the Character Coalition (A2040CC). Since this comment, others have chosen to criticise A2040CC, and to use the opportunity to blame them for Auckland's housing problem.

Even Labour's housing spokesperson climbed on the bandwagon, as this NZ Herald article shows:
He said a High Court appeal by the Character Coalition and Auckland 2040 against provisions for greater intensification could stall implementation of the plan for up to a year.
"Auckland urgently needs the Unitary Plan to be able to build the number of homes required to meet demand," Twyford said.
"National must urgently legislate to make the Unitary Plan operative now, rather than after the lengthy legal process is finished," Twyford said.
 This is disappointing from Twyford who has latterly been consistently raising the demand-managment side of the policy debate. Even Auckland Council concedes that the Unitary Plan by itself will struggle to build a single house, without the other legs of the development planning stool being in place.

The other two legs are area and regional spatial plans; and public realm funding planning. Without these institutional arrangements being in place the PAUP is little more than a list of rules defining the development potential of land areas within the Auckland region. The PAUP, without these legs which are the implementation tools, can't stand up.

MPs and Government Ministers might wish for the PAUP to be all made operative by Act of Parliament - despite the concerns held by the many appellants - but that would deny property owners the rights that go with living and working in a western country which is a democracy. The problem we all face now is the enormous amounts of time and money that these appeals are about to consume. Largely unproductive time and money, because, while this litigation will be good for GDP and generate fees for experts and lawyers, nothing will actually get built. Not only that, but all of this effort will only change specific provisions and lines on maps within the PAUP, which, even when judges hand down their final decisions, will still require the other two legs of the development planning stool.

To digress slightly, many of the community concerns with the PAUP might have been addressed along the way if the other two legs had formed part of the planning environment. For example, many community concerns about development intensity provided for by the PAUP, would have been addressed (not necessarily satisfied) through the collaborative production of Area Spatial Plans and the negotiation of community infrastructure asset plans and their funding. Community fears that their loss of amenity will be a developer's gain are at the heart of much community resistance - which is dismissed quite wrongly in my opinion as NIMBYism. The way I see it, we are all walking in lock-step to a gunfight in the courts where no-one will win (except the lawyers, the urban design experts and the economists). All because we are applying an environmental effects based planning system that works passably for greenfield development, to an urban environment where the receiving environment = communities and people (not grass, streams and native ecosystems).

So what about these appeals. What do they want? I've read about a quarter of them, and unlike Council I am not a party to any of them, and can freely comment, with the aim of roughly informing anyone who's got this far, by sharing my brief notes after an examination of Council's PAUP website....

  • There are High Court Judicial Review applications. Weiti Development; North Eastern Development; Vision 2040 and Character Coalition; Waste Management NZ; Straits Protection Society; Strand Holdings; Bunnings. Appeals to the High Court including: South Epsom Planning Group; Federated farmers; Ak Memorial Park; Bayswater Marina; Waitakere Ranges Protection Society; Kiwi Property Group Ltd; Kawau Island Organisation Ltd; Independent Maori Statutory Board. And many appeals to the Environment Court. These are all neatly classified in the website under the same "Topic Numbers" that were used by the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP).
  • Looked at Waste Management’s 28 page judicial review application prepared by Chapman Tripp includes detailed statement of claim relating to less than 1 hectare of land at Rosedale Road, tellingly submits: The appellant alleges that the Panel and Council erred as a matter of law in that, in the circumstances presented to the Panel and Council, the only true and reasonable conclusion on the evidence available to them, contradicts the determination made to rezone the appellant’s Site from “Light Industry” to “General Business”. Looks like a minor matter.
  • The Straits Protection Soc Inc wants a RUB on Waiheke Island, and argues that IHP made wrong decision to remove it.
  • Character Coalition and Vision 2040 judicial review. The decision appealed is the IHP decision to rezone residential properties to other zones when council had no scope to do so; rezone mixed housing properties to other residential areas when it had no scope to do so; resulting in 1000’s of residential homes being rezoned without scope and without opportunity for submitter, landowner and affected person input!! This all gets into s.144 of the LGAucklandTPA – scope of recommendations that IHP is permitted to make. Looking at s.144 suggests the IHP had an enormously wide brief that in law. This appeal really goes to the fundamentals of Auckland amalgamation, the Auckland Plan, and related LGA reforms relating to the PAUP and the IHP.
  • Looked at Bayswater Marina’s High Court appeal. Talks about an "Evident logical fallacy"! It appears that IHP made recs distinguishing between 2 area of BM in terms of parking and food and beverage but without giving reasons. They say that BM subs and Council subs are supported – but that IHP took a different view without reasons. Appears the IHP recs were “minor changes” as far as IHP were concerned, but are major as far as BM is concerned.
  • Fed Farmers have argued tortuously that the way IHP and Council have responded to King Salmon Case Law and the NZCPS has meant that various Outstanding natural landscapes have been revisited in a way that means basic farming activities are not allowed. The heart of its appeal is that methodology around this should be reviewed – and it was not – that is the error in law.
  • Looked at Kiwi Group’s 91 page appeal to Env Court. Re carparking in centre and mixed use zones. “because the Council rejected recommendations of the Hearing Panel that had been addressed by the appellant, and this resulted in alternative provisions being included in the plan – and others being excluded…” (This is a request to relitigate the Panel and Council decisions in EC). Looks pretty simple as an appeal – contains previous submissions. Progressive is also appealing Council’s decision to reject IHP recs re minimum parking provisions. Council removed all parking minimums.
  • Looked at VHHL’s appeal to EC re Lighter Quay. Looks like Council rezoned small area left for development so that offices are discretionary – because Council sees area as mixed residential. Looks like a bunfight specific. 
  • Looked at Weiji Yang et al’s appeal to EC. This relates to 189 Vaughan’s Road Okura. Object to it being countryside living, instead of future urban. They want the RUB to be changed. They want the Hearings Panel recommendations reinstated in full.
  • Todd Property Group (Berry Simons as lawyers) want fundamental changes made by Council to IHP’s recs re urban growth to be reversed. These provisions are in the Regional Policy Statement and require that “urban growth is primarily focused within the metropolitan area 2010….. and quality compact urban form…. Concentrating urban growth within metropolitan area…”. This looks to me as potentially as fundamental as Auckland 2040's appeal. Not sure why Auckland 2040 was singled out, and not Todd Property Group. 
  • National Trading Co of NZ appealed to EC provisions relating to kauri Dieback. They only want the provisions to apply where it has been identified. They want Council’s rollback of IHP recs reversed.This pattern was common in appeals I looked at. Appellants generally favour what the IHP recommended and disagreed with Council's changes. The very significant issue that arises here is what role does Council have in deciding its own plan - if, based on internal priorities, it cannot adopt different policy settings. Does it take an environment court to decide between IHP and Council?
  • Housing NZ’s appeal to EC is an interesting challenge to Council’s reversal of IHP’s recs re the distinction between special character and historic character. IHP advised that any tighter controls should be the subject of a plan change organised at local level. I see this as a roll back by Council of IHP heritage protection provisions that HNZ supports. (I do wonder why HNZ is doing this….?)
Anyway. Just to give you a bit of a flavour. A lot of these can likely be dealt with quickly. But some could take much longer, demand tracts of expert advice and legal advocacy, when other more practical approaches, on an area plan by area plan basiswould be more productive. 

Downtown Demolish Update




Wednesday, November 16, 2016

1901 Cheviot Quake Predicts Kaikoura Quake

Brick buildings and roads destroyed, families evacuated to Christchurch, slips everywhere, continuous aftershocks, whole buildings moved off foundations, rivers diverted....

Scene of destruction caused by earthquake, 16 Nov. 1901 : a 2.5ft deep fissure on the road between Cheviot and Port Robinson.

All of these things also happened in the 1901 Cheviot earthquake which was measured at 6.9 on the Richter scale. You can see my detailed research into the Christchurch Star archive reports of that event here. That post was prepared after the Christchurch earthquakes when I became aware of the high seismicity of North Canterbury, and the frequency of damaging earthquakes in the region in the past (about every 50 years almost like clockwork) caused by small fault ruptures (ie not the alpine fault). The post contains links to about 50 National Library PapersPast newspaper articles about the Cheviot quake and its aftermath.

 
One article even suggests that the moon caused the quake. Others report ministerial visits. The similarity with the Kaikoura Earthquake is uncanny. 



However, it is of concern that the Cheviot earthquake led to the almost total abandonment of that rural town. While the Christchurch Star would not have reported each and every aftershock, it does report many for almost a year after the initial 6.9 earthquake. The last report I found was in September - 10 months later - and this reports 6 severe aftershocks in quick succession. It seems that the main reason damage to buildings in Cheviot reduced was because settlers stopped using cob and brick - instead using corrugated iron and wood - even for chimneys. Light buildings are more robust in a sharp earthquake.

From what I've learned about earthquakes, the best predictor of earthquake behaviour today, is to know how the same geological system behaved when it last moved. There are patterns to earthquakes. If Cheviot is anything to go by, Kaikoura and environs will be subject to severe aftershocks for about a year.

Life After Queen Elizabeth Square

The short version of what happened in the Auckland Architectural Association's legal challenge in the Environment Court of Auckland Council's decision to sell Auckland's Queen Elizabeth Square to Precinct Properties is simple: they won, we lost, and Auckland loses another piece of public land.

When I say "we" there were several incorporated societies and associations that stepped up here: Auckland Architectural Society, Urban Auckland Incorporated, Civic Trust Auckland, Walk Auckland and the Auckland CBD Residents Association.

You can read the Environment Court decision here. You will see that two separate but linked appeals were heard: the Road Stop appeal and the Plan Modification 79 appeal. The Environment Court ruled on the Road Stop appeal (the road stop proposal was upheld), and left the Plan Modification appeal for resolution by the parties by agreement.

It's not a particularly rewarding read because - inevitably - the decision cannot do justice to the sheer volume of work and scholarship - on all sides - that went into this. I estimate that Precinct + Council invested $2,000,000 in mounting and presenting their case to the Court. Some 40 briefs of evidence, substantial legal representation. They wanted to win this. There's a lot we can all learn from what happened. But that will take time. Just a few thoughts for now.

It was a David and Goliath battle, but unlike David, while we had a well-shaped stone, we didn't use it. (This is all with the benefit of hindsight.)

Mediation took place over two days prior to the hearing. At that mediation we learned that Precinct proposed widening the East West laneway to 6 metres. However at that stage of proceedings our advice was that we needed to focus on very specific issues in order not to waste court time and to apply the small amount of funding we had available most efficiently. By the time we entered mediation we had decided not to pursue the laneway width issue, concentrating on the loss of public space issue.    

At mediation we (all parties listed above) offered to withdraw our appeals if Precinct and Council would agree to leave the sunny side of Queen Elizabeth Square in public ownership, and to sell the dark side - the part that is shaded by No 1 Queen Street - the HSBC Tower. After deliberating on that proposal overnight Precinct informed us that the proposal was not acceptable, and that the value to them of Queen Elizabeth Square was the frontage to Lower Queen Street.

This meant the appeals were referred to the Environment Court.

Despite efforts made to further focus the issues, the evidence that was produced by the expert witnesses for Precinct Properties and Auckland Council (and Auckland Transport) was high in quantity, quality and complexity - about 500 pages. Much of it was Urban Design and Planning evidence. We had to decide how to focus our efforts.

It pains me to admit that I was somewhat overwhelmed by the tonnage of evidence, and the challenge of mounting a coherent, commensurate and high quality presence and argument in court. Based on a variety of considerations we collectively decided to argue for the retention of the whole of Queen Elizabeth Square. And in doing so, dropped our well-shaped stone.

You will see in the decision a number of mentions of what was termed the "half-way house" option, and references to the fact that option was not argued in Court. Who knows what might have happened had it been argued. The hearing would have been completely different. Interestingly, McIndoe, Urban Design expert for Precinct scored the combination of Lower Queen Street + the sunny side of Queen Elizabeth Square very highly - even with the barrier of the bus shelter still in place. (The LGA provides opportunity for the Environment Court to modify a road stop proposal.)

We've licked our wounds and are moving on. There are some small wins though: the laneway is wider and will be more public; measures of pedestrian movement comfort have been adopted by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport; and - hopefully - Auckland Council will take more care over the sale of public open space in future.

One last thought. We did consider the option of Judicial Review - as opposed to an Environment Court appeal. This would have examined Auckland Council decision-making and public consultation under the Local Government Act. (Recall that the Urban Auckland Inc challenge to the Bledisloe Wharf extension process was a High Court Judicial Review.) However because the Road Stop process is automatically referred to the Environment Court if objections are not accepted, that became the inevitable legal pathway. Enough.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Devonport GLOW & STREET MUSIC

A lot of locals popped down to the Devonport Village on Saturday afternoon and into the evening, and on Sunday. The Devonport Business Association organised its own Auckland Art Week GLOW event where Unitec design students light installation was on display at Windsor Park over the weekend. What attracted me was the GLOW Open Street in Clarence St. Described as a tactical urbanism event inspired by a similar activity in New York’s Times Square. Clarence Street, from Victoria Rd to Wynyard St was closed to cars and the space populated by deck chairs and bean bags, buskers and other activities. (Even tennis and table tennis - turns out the tennis club got almost 30 new members from this!) And then at 6.45pm famous NZ jazz sax player Nathan Haines performed with some other bands.Those with fingers were crossed to the weather gods got what we needed. It was a cold wind - but a clear sky. My photos concentrate on Clarence Street. What a great feel. The last pic is from the GLOW event on Windsor Park. The flame dancers were amazing. A fantastic event. Many retailers were open late. Will be interesting to know whether business was brisk. Certainly the Chinese across from the music stand at Tiny Triumphs did a roaring trade (Sea Dragon). Hot chips were definitely needed. The whole place was buzzing. The restaurants were heaving. Felt like a great cultural evening in a European City (shouldn't need to say that). More please - even just closing Clarence Street and having live music....























Friday, October 14, 2016

Shingle & Steel from Downtown Demolition




The place to view downtown Auckland demolition is the 1st storey platform of Price Waterhouse across Lower Albert Street. A bloke there told me that the rubble from this demolition will meet the needs of good quality concrete and construction across Auckland for a whole (don't know how long - and by-the-way, click on either of the lower images to see necklaces of concrete and steel draped like designer jewellery), and the steel from reinforcing will be melted down to form the quality of reinforcing steel appropriate for many Auckland building construction projects.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Celebrity Solstice Visits Auckland


Celebrity Solstice is the lead ship of the Solstice-class of cruise ships operated by Celebrity Cruises. (We learn from Wikipedia).Built by Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, she was floated out on August 10, 2008, and christened by ocean scientist Professor Sharon L. Smith at a ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, on November 14, 2008. The first post-Panamax vessel in the Celebrity fleet, she features innovative interior design and onboard amenities, including an ocean-going live grass lawn, a glassblowing studio, and a 12 deck-high atrium. 121,878 tonnes, 314.86 metres long, 36.88 metres wide, 8.23 metres draft, 2,850 passengers, 1,500 crew, 24 knots. Here she is visiting Auckland (again, she's been a few times before).


The passengers were a friendly lot - waving to us ferry commuters on the Kea.


Couldn't see anywhere how high the ship's top cabins are above the water.But you can see here - beside the ship - Princes Wharf, and its top floor, top shelf apartments. Residens there might be staying inside. Maybe just as well Ovation of the Seas (150,000 tonnes, longer and higher) can't berth here.

I think Greg McKeown is right about many Port things. He reckons that rather than build a dolphin off the end of Queens Wharf, better to remove the rump of Marsden Wharf and allow very large cruise ships to berth alongside Bledisloe Wharf.

Why is Council Voting Dropping?

This post starts with local commentary on voting patterns, summarises in depth research (Nordic and US experience), and concludes that Council voting decline anticipates a steady decline in economic activity reliant upon a thriving local democracy.

There's a very good piece in the NBR on voting entitled: who's to blame for a record low voter turnout? It doesn't really have a thesis, part perhaps from suggesting that youth don't vote because they don't see themselves among the candidates, and which offers suggestions including that there should be more prty politics in local government. It is a good read and has some great links to blogs which contain photos of billboard displays across the country, including this one which is highly recommended.

As the NBR article notes, the problem of declining voting/participation has been occurring for a while across the western world - at both national and local levels, and there is a lot of useful and informative analysis about why, in other countries, that we could look at and consider in New Zealand. I look at two pieces of research in this posting.

One of these countries is Iceland. You might recall that Iceland was hit particularly hard by the GFC. Various banks took a major hit in 2008, leading to economic collapse, and in turn to a huge drop in public confidence in its parliament. In 2010 there was a sharp drop in local government voting numbers, which led to internal soul-searching which is reported in various research papers. In one of these (Explaining the low voter turnout in Iceland’s 2010 local government elections; By Grétar Þór Eyþórsson, Marcin Kowalczyk), dated 2013, the introduction comments:
One hypothesis is that a major factor, especially in the 2010 elections, was disillusionment in the wake of Iceland’s economic collapse in 2008 and the subsequent crisis of public confidence in parliament. Another hypothesis is that the size of municipalities has to be taken into account. As elsewhere, political participation in Iceland is stronger in smaller municipalities. It is only in the bigger municipalities in Iceland that nationwide political parties in Iceland are active, and it is also there that voter turnout has dropped the most and voters have given the most support to newly formed political parties.

The paper draws on research conducted in Iceland and in Norway to show that in the past decade or so, there has been increasing involvement of political parties (or partisan groupings) in local government elections, and that this factor is a contributor to declining voter participation and interest. The research oberves that local government election turnout in small communities (eg less than 2000), where candidates are "non-partisan" (ie not affiliated with any particular persuasion or party), routinely get turnouts above 80%. The article also notes that the emergence of new political parties (as happened in Iceland after the 2008 crash) has led to those new parties seeking profile and representation at local government level - presumably as part of a build up toward national elections.

Here's an extract from the paper about Icelandic voter turnout which is a bit of an eye-opener:
Looking as far back as data has been collected, voter participation in Icelandic local government elections always fluctuated between a maximum of 87.8 percent and a minimum of 81.9 percent – until the 2006 elections, when it dropped below 80 percent for the very first time, to 78.7 percent. In the 2010 local elections voter turnout reached a new record low of 73.4 percent.
In its examination of possible reasons for the decline in voting, the paper notes that after 1993, the number of local government municipalities in Iceland has been reduced, so that the population or size of munipalities has increased....
Here it is important to mention that, since 1993, many municipalities in Iceland have amalgamated. Two general local referenda on amalgamations were held in 1993 and 2005, and other amalgamations have taken place separately. The number of municipalities has fallen from 196 (in 1993) to 105 (in 2002) to 76 (in 2010).
The writers consider, and reject, two factors for the change in voter turnout. The first is the increasing role of political parties, the second is the reduction in voter age to 18 (NB: dropping the voting age to 18 brings a whole new demographic into the voting population - one argument that is used here is that young people may not be interested in, or aware of, what local government does.) In any case, while these arguments might be applicable in considering what's happening here in NZ, they were discounted in the Iceland study.

The rationale for declining voter participation in Iceland, post 2008, is summarised like this: "...results show us that the events of autumn 2008 and their aftermath had not only a strong economic impact on the people of Iceland, but also an effect on the way they think about politics, which has manifested itself in sharply declining trust in politicians and political institutions...."

The researchers then turned their attention to the role of population in voter turnout. They argue: "...More recent findings also support the hypothesis that democracy weakens with increasing population size...". They cite a number of studies about this, and summarise these findings: "a number of other studies have concluded that there is a clear correlation between municipal population size and voter participation – the bigger the municipality, the lower the rate of participation (Morlan, 1984; Goldsmith and Rose, 2000; Sundberg, 2000; Frandsen, 2002; Frandsen, 2003)...."

The second piece of research was done in the USA nd is dated 2003. MUNICIPAL INSTITUTIONS AND VOTER TURNOUT IN LOCAL ELECTIONS; ZOLTAN L. HAJNAL University of California, San Diego, PAUL G. LEWIS; Public Policy Institute of California. The summary of this research states: "...Specifically, less outsourcing of city services, the use of direct democracy, and more control in the hands of elected rather than appointed officials all tend to increase turnout...."

This research summarises other findings which consider the imnplications of low voter turnout. This explores the issue of low turnout among minority groupings, and examines problematic outcomes associated with low voter turnout which resonate in Auckland....
In an arena in which the actions of local government can affect citizens in profound ways (for example, in public safety, infrastructure, and land-use decisions), there is a very real possibility that elected officials and the policies they enact will tend to serve only a small segment of the population (Hajnal and Hills 2002).
The focus of this research is the nature of institutional arrangements, and their effect on voter turnout and participation. The research explores these areas: (1) election timing, (2) service delivery arrangements, (3) direct democracy, (4) term limits, and (5) mayoral authority. I won't go into all of these here - you can find the paper yourself. For example, in terms of timing, various researchers believe that local voter turnout would increase if elections were held at the same time as national elections. In terms of service delivery, the research summarises its own literature search:
One of the more recent and pronounced trends in local governance is a move toward contracting out and other “outsourcing” of city services. In an effort to provide more efficient services, many cities have contracted with private firms to carry out services. Others have turned to special district governments or have contracted with nearby governments, particularly the county, to deliver services (Miller 1981; Foster 1997). Whether such service delivery alternatives ultimately reduce costs and improve city services can be debated. There is little doubt, however, that such service arrangements reduce the influence of municipal officials to some degree; at the very least, they have fewer jobs to control. The reduced role for local bureaucrats and elected officials may have the unintended consequences of reducing interest in local politics and depressing turnout.
The research paper goes on to describe its own methodology and investigation - the main results of which are summarised above.

Communities in New Zealand in general, and in Auckland in particular, appear to be experiencing similar issues with their local government arrangements and institutions as have been investigated in Europe and the USA, with similar consequences - ie low and reducing voter turnout.

Any analysis of why Auckland's local government vote is low needs to go further than what has been offered so far in the mainstream media. In my opinion, well functioning local government institutions are critical in urban environments that are experiencing high growth rates and development pressures. Auckland in particular can expect increasing resistance from communities to intensification programs which do not provide for mutual benefit outcomes that can only be achieved by effective - and trusted - local government institutional arrangements. Perhaps the existing arrangements deliver GDP growth benefits to some stakeholders now, but long term programs and mutual benefit will require institutional change.

(NB: The level of public confidence in Auckland Council decision-making is dropping. Only 17% of respondents to its Quality of Life survey trust Council to make the right decisions. This measure has been steadily falling since amalgamation (see this posting about other quality of life survey measures last year). Predictor of voter turnout: low confidence+low trust=low turnout+low participation=poorly performing urban political economies.)

Cost of PAUP Appeals


One of the final reports to be considered by the current Auckland Council's governing body summarised a challenging situation incoming Councillors will be faced with:


Interestingly, despite the statement that "council does not comment publicly on the merits (or otherwise) of the appeals", the Council has chosen to single out for special attention the appeal by Auckland 2040 and the Character Coalition (A2040CC). Since this comment, others have chosen to criticise A2040CC, and to use the opportunity to blame them for Auckland's housing problem.

Even Labour's housing spokesperson climbed on the bandwagon, as this NZ Herald article shows:
He said a High Court appeal by the Character Coalition and Auckland 2040 against provisions for greater intensification could stall implementation of the plan for up to a year.
"Auckland urgently needs the Unitary Plan to be able to build the number of homes required to meet demand," Twyford said.
"National must urgently legislate to make the Unitary Plan operative now, rather than after the lengthy legal process is finished," Twyford said.
 This is disappointing from Twyford who has latterly been consistently raising the demand-managment side of the policy debate. Even Auckland Council concedes that the Unitary Plan by itself will struggle to build a single house, without the other legs of the development planning stool being in place.

The other two legs are area and regional spatial plans; and public realm funding planning. Without these institutional arrangements being in place the PAUP is little more than a list of rules defining the development potential of land areas within the Auckland region. The PAUP, without these legs which are the implementation tools, can't stand up.

MPs and Government Ministers might wish for the PAUP to be all made operative by Act of Parliament - despite the concerns held by the many appellants - but that would deny property owners the rights that go with living and working in a western country which is a democracy. The problem we all face now is the enormous amounts of time and money that these appeals are about to consume. Largely unproductive time and money, because, while this litigation will be good for GDP and generate fees for experts and lawyers, nothing will actually get built. Not only that, but all of this effort will only change specific provisions and lines on maps within the PAUP, which, even when judges hand down their final decisions, will still require the other two legs of the development planning stool.

To digress slightly, many of the community concerns with the PAUP might have been addressed along the way if the other two legs had formed part of the planning environment. For example, many community concerns about development intensity provided for by the PAUP, would have been addressed (not necessarily satisfied) through the collaborative production of Area Spatial Plans and the negotiation of community infrastructure asset plans and their funding. Community fears that their loss of amenity will be a developer's gain are at the heart of much community resistance - which is dismissed quite wrongly in my opinion as NIMBYism. The way I see it, we are all walking in lock-step to a gunfight in the courts where no-one will win (except the lawyers, the urban design experts and the economists). All because we are applying an environmental effects based planning system that works passably for greenfield development, to an urban environment where the receiving environment = communities and people (not grass, streams and native ecosystems).

So what about these appeals. What do they want? I've read about a quarter of them, and unlike Council I am not a party to any of them, and can freely comment, with the aim of roughly informing anyone who's got this far, by sharing my brief notes after an examination of Council's PAUP website....

  • There are High Court Judicial Review applications. Weiti Development; North Eastern Development; Vision 2040 and Character Coalition; Waste Management NZ; Straits Protection Society; Strand Holdings; Bunnings. Appeals to the High Court including: South Epsom Planning Group; Federated farmers; Ak Memorial Park; Bayswater Marina; Waitakere Ranges Protection Society; Kiwi Property Group Ltd; Kawau Island Organisation Ltd; Independent Maori Statutory Board. And many appeals to the Environment Court. These are all neatly classified in the website under the same "Topic Numbers" that were used by the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP).
  • Looked at Waste Management’s 28 page judicial review application prepared by Chapman Tripp includes detailed statement of claim relating to less than 1 hectare of land at Rosedale Road, tellingly submits: The appellant alleges that the Panel and Council erred as a matter of law in that, in the circumstances presented to the Panel and Council, the only true and reasonable conclusion on the evidence available to them, contradicts the determination made to rezone the appellant’s Site from “Light Industry” to “General Business”. Looks like a minor matter.
  • The Straits Protection Soc Inc wants a RUB on Waiheke Island, and argues that IHP made wrong decision to remove it.
  • Character Coalition and Vision 2040 judicial review. The decision appealed is the IHP decision to rezone residential properties to other zones when council had no scope to do so; rezone mixed housing properties to other residential areas when it had no scope to do so; resulting in 1000’s of residential homes being rezoned without scope and without opportunity for submitter, landowner and affected person input!! This all gets into s.144 of the LGAucklandTPA – scope of recommendations that IHP is permitted to make. Looking at s.144 suggests the IHP had an enormously wide brief that in law. This appeal really goes to the fundamentals of Auckland amalgamation, the Auckland Plan, and related LGA reforms relating to the PAUP and the IHP.
  • Looked at Bayswater Marina’s High Court appeal. Talks about an "Evident logical fallacy"! It appears that IHP made recs distinguishing between 2 area of BM in terms of parking and food and beverage but without giving reasons. They say that BM subs and Council subs are supported – but that IHP took a different view without reasons. Appears the IHP recs were “minor changes” as far as IHP were concerned, but are major as far as BM is concerned.
  • Fed Farmers have argued tortuously that the way IHP and Council have responded to King Salmon Case Law and the NZCPS has meant that various Outstanding natural landscapes have been revisited in a way that means basic farming activities are not allowed. The heart of its appeal is that methodology around this should be reviewed – and it was not – that is the error in law.
  • Looked at Kiwi Group’s 91 page appeal to Env Court. Re carparking in centre and mixed use zones. “because the Council rejected recommendations of the Hearing Panel that had been addressed by the appellant, and this resulted in alternative provisions being included in the plan – and others being excluded…” (This is a request to relitigate the Panel and Council decisions in EC). Looks pretty simple as an appeal – contains previous submissions. Progressive is also appealing Council’s decision to reject IHP recs re minimum parking provisions. Council removed all parking minimums.
  • Looked at VHHL’s appeal to EC re Lighter Quay. Looks like Council rezoned small area left for development so that offices are discretionary – because Council sees area as mixed residential. Looks like a bunfight specific. 
  • Looked at Weiji Yang et al’s appeal to EC. This relates to 189 Vaughan’s Road Okura. Object to it being countryside living, instead of future urban. They want the RUB to be changed. They want the Hearings Panel recommendations reinstated in full.
  • Todd Property Group (Berry Simons as lawyers) want fundamental changes made by Council to IHP’s recs re urban growth to be reversed. These provisions are in the Regional Policy Statement and require that “urban growth is primarily focused within the metropolitan area 2010….. and quality compact urban form…. Concentrating urban growth within metropolitan area…”. This looks to me as potentially as fundamental as Auckland 2040's appeal. Not sure why Auckland 2040 was singled out, and not Todd Property Group. 
  • National Trading Co of NZ appealed to EC provisions relating to kauri Dieback. They only want the provisions to apply where it has been identified. They want Council’s rollback of IHP recs reversed.This pattern was common in appeals I looked at. Appellants generally favour what the IHP recommended and disagreed with Council's changes. The very significant issue that arises here is what role does Council have in deciding its own plan - if, based on internal priorities, it cannot adopt different policy settings. Does it take an environment court to decide between IHP and Council?
  • Housing NZ’s appeal to EC is an interesting challenge to Council’s reversal of IHP’s recs re the distinction between special character and historic character. IHP advised that any tighter controls should be the subject of a plan change organised at local level. I see this as a roll back by Council of IHP heritage protection provisions that HNZ supports. (I do wonder why HNZ is doing this….?)
Anyway. Just to give you a bit of a flavour. A lot of these can likely be dealt with quickly. But some could take much longer, demand tracts of expert advice and legal advocacy, when other more practical approaches, on an area plan by area plan basiswould be more productive. 

Downtown Demolish Update