So far, one outcome of these frantic activities, is that the public has been involved in one decision and vaguely informed about a cluster of others:
- For example the designation for the CRL route has been notified (leading to various property owners affected being compensated, some properties being purchased) and Auckland Council's annual plan (which was consulted) did provide for these costs.
- The public might have heard about the idea of Queen Elizabeth Square being sold to Precinct Properties (if they read the Herald), but they've not been consulted about this, though they could be involved in the formal process that would be required of "stopping" QE Square being a "road". (That is QE Square's planning status at the present. It is not a park. Nor has it ever been reserved for any public purpose other than being "road" - which might explain why it was used as car park and why it is still regularly used now by courier companies to park their vehicles.)
- There has also been the pasteurised Downtown Development Framework. I mean "passed your eyes". The public has not been consulted about the ideas or priorities in this strategy document. Some attentive members of the public may have learned a bit from the Herald or the radio, but this cannot be described as reasonable public participation given the significance.
What constitutes good process? To answer that we need to look a little further back to the redevelopment planning for Quay Park, Britomart, Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter....
The black line in this map indicates how much of Auckland's waterfront is on reclaimed land (the map shows reclamations before the current container port was reclaimed). By 1973 a total of 162 hectares of land had been reclaimed in proximity to the Auckland Central Business District. Of this, 27.5% was vested for industrial uses (including railways, post office, power station and a bus terminal) by Auckland Harbour Board. An extensive street system was made on a further portion (25 %) of the reclaimed land. Today, Ports of Auckland Ltd (which replaced AHB as part of neoliberal reforms in the last 1980’s), operates Auckland’s port on about 55 hectares of reclaimed land.
So what happened to the the rest of the land and wharves that was surplus to ports and historic uses? Much of it has been redeveloped. And there's an interesting and simple history of this, some of which is good planning, and some of which is not good.
Quay Park Precinct
This map shows the portion called Quay Park Precinct. It included the old railway station and today includes Vector Arena and other developments.
The important point to note for this posting is that the land went through a Plan Change before it was redeveloped. You can read the Quay Park Precinct district plan provisions. I suggest you click on the link and have a read. These changes went out for public consultation, were subject to submissions and stakeholder engagement, became operative, and then enabled complying redevelopment and public space provision.
Viaduct Harbour Precinct
This map shows another portion of Auckland's CBD waterfront that went through a Plan Change process. This is Viaduct Harbour Precinct. Again - it inludes land that was privately owned and land that was public.The Plan Change allowed development to commence in the late 1990's that you can see today.
Critically, there was a set of Urban Design Guidelines that went with Plan Change 61. I suggest you have a read of these. They begin with this quote within a quote: "...."Determination and reservation of permanent open space is one of the, if not the most important design decisions in city planning: Open space, once made public, remains forever. It is thus to be carefully considered as to form, volume, meaning and symbolism." - extract from Capital Development Authority Dodoma, Tanzania; Urban Design for the National Capital Centre , June 1980, p 79. The spirit of this document is vested in the recognition of, and respect for, the fundamental importance of high quality public space in the urban environment...."
This site had a controversial start to redevelopment planning. The Les Mills led Auckland City Council vision proposed a cluster of 30 storey plus towers and around 5,000 underground carparks associated with a railway station. It would have necessitated the demolition of most heritage buildings. Public outcry triggered a different approach. The newly elected Christine Fletcher led Auckland City Council promulgated a District Plan Change for the area which allowed redevelopment of the area to proceed in accordance with specific planning controls in the early 2000's. It clearly protected and defined public space and the alleyways and streetscapes that are now threatened by the higgledy piggledy bus "planning" being talked about by Auckland Council for the Downtown area.
Wynyard Quarter Precinct
Two major plan changes preceeded the developments now visible down there, particularly on North Wharf and Silo Park, which have attracted international recognition as well as public acclaim. There was Plan Change 3 by Auckland Regional Council relating to coastal provisions, and Plan Change 4 by Auckland City Council relating to land uses. See here the s.32 analysis of Plan Change 3.
You can see how this precinct is provided for in the District Plan today, here. In that precinct plan document you can see recorded part of the planning process leading to the final provisions:
"The vision for Wynyard Quarter is based on four interrelated public strategy documents being;
• Auckland Waterfront Vision 2040;
• Auckland CBD Into The Future Strategy;
• The Wynyard Quarter Concept Vision and Urban Design Framework; and
• The Wynyard Quarter Urban Design Background Information Document.
These documents were developed following extensive public consultation and input from key stakeholders."
And that is only talking about the vision. Following that process was the plan changes themselves in which all stakeholders and public had the opportunity to make submissions about public spaces, buildings heights, heritage buildings, activity relationships between commerce, industry, fishing and recreation, and more. What you see on Wynyard Quarter was not some happy accident. It is the legacy of good planning.
So. You'd think that Auckland Council would learn from this experience and repeat what is good about it in planning what is arguably the most significant and central part the Auckland waterfront CBD. (NB: the one area of Auckland's waterfront that was redeveloped in what amounted to a non-notified way was Princes Wharf. Very few obervers consider that Princes Wharf planning is a model to be repeated. Yet that is the risk of the Downtown Precinct planning process at present.)
So here's the remaining bit of Auckland's downtown sitting on zonings and planning controls that were put in place several decades ago. I understand the Price Waterhouse tower was permitted after a non-notified process. At present Auckland Council appears to only be looking closely at the right half of the Downtown area - the land bounded by Quay, Lower Queen, Custom, and Lower Albert Streets. But the "pasteurised" Downtown Framework considers the whole area - including opportunities like the Hobson Street flyover ramp and the downtown carpark building.
The rationale for requiring a Downtown Precinct Plan Change - even if it's one block at a time - is to protect both public and private interests, to provide opportunity for public and stakeholder input, and to deliver some certainty around outcomes, including bus movements and interchanges, typical of the plan change processes described above. The rationale for avoiding a publicly proposed Downtown Precinct Plan Change can only be seen as favouring private interests over public interests, and of avoiding the costs of due public process. It is neither appropriate nor fair to expect Precinct Properties to take responsibility for downtown development planning by means of its own private plan change or by seeking consent.
It is time for Auckland Councillors to call for wise action over expediency.
Auckland's Downtown Precinct needs a public plan change.