That 2008 permit would have lapsed in April 2013. But it didn't.
The Extension Process
What this posting is about is the process undertaken by Auckland Council and Westfield in 2011 to change the conditions of consent in the original permit, by inserting an extension to the tower permit out to 29th April 2018.
The chronology for this process is:
- 3rd August 2011, application to modify Westfield Tower resource consent conditions lodged
- 22nd August 2011, resolution grants the application to extend the consent out to 29 April 2018
But then, it wasn't notified, so there were no objections to deal with. Easy peasy.
The application for the extension begins with this reference to the relevant section of the RMA:
You can read there the tests that need to be passed for granting an extension.
The application argues that Westfield has done some detailed design work since consent was granted, and has approached the market to assess interest in the proposed commercial/office space. However, because of the GFC, Westfield argues, many construction projects were put on hold, and there was accordingly not enough time to get the leasing deals done, and the building built by April 2013. It also argued:
Apart from the spelling error this looks pretty tentative: "...have been actively negotiating...", "...termination clauses in most current leases...". And this is three and a half years after the consent was granted in 2008.
So what about the matter of approval. Apart from other building owners in the area, across Custom Street, and suchlike, there is the matter of the Britomart Rail tunnel proposal. This is very interesting....
Look at the words starting para 2: "Westfield was unaware of the tunnel proposition when the decision was taken to invest in the proposed scheme, and seek consent for the redevelopment of the site."
The Original Application
When I read these words, I decided to look back at the original resource consent application (April 2008). In the Auckland City Council planner's report about the application we find this para in a section discussing whether ARTA should be notified (or not) about the Westfields application to build the tower:
So we see here, in the original 2008 application planning report, that not only had the CEO of ARTA been advising Auckland City Council about the Britomart tunnel, but that ARTA had referred to "a dialogue it has established with the applicant (Westfield)", and that there had been media coverage about the tunnel project.
So how true is the statement: "Westfield was unaware of the tunnel proposition when the decision was taken to invest in the proposed scheme, and seek consent for the redevelopment of the site."....?
Interestingly, a chronology of events provided by the applicant in support of the extension, says this:
Clearly ARTA was concerned that it was not officially notified about Westfield's original resource consent application, and that Auckland City Council must have supported the decision NOT to notify ARTA. What this all meant of course, that Westfield could obtain a resource consent for a 41 storey tower, without notification, and without taking into account the possibility of the rail tunnel.
It could thus claim to be first. First up, best dressed.
Concluding Assessment - Dirty Politics
Basically Westfield got its shit together in cahoots with Auckland City Council to ram through a 41 storey resource consent application, but was thrown off track by the GFC, and couldn't keep its shit together in time (5 years) to build it. In the meantime Auckland did get its shit together, the Supercity was formed along with Auckland Transport, which is a requiring authority by the way, and it has applied for the tunnel designation. I'd say to Westfield: tough. You win some, you lose some.
Question: does the timing of the extension application predate the Britomart Tunnel designation application?
And then we get to the final part of the test that needs to be satisfied:
This application to extend the permit was being considered in August 2011. Auckland Council would have been in existence for almost a year. I wonder how much was out there in the public domain about the Auckland Plan, about the rail plan, about the Britomart Rail tunnel project?
You'd have to say, if you were being a fair and reasonable person, that there were a lot of good reasons for NOT granting this extension.The commissioner decision to grant the extension is less than a page long. Man!
To finish this post I'll remind you why consent was needed in the first place in 2008. And this is according to Westfield's original application:
You can see the extent of effects - even without considering the Britomart Rail tunnel, and without considering the traffic impacts on bus movements in Lower Albert - let alone when a bus interchange is located there.
Sure "life goes on" and we can't always wait for good planning, but in my view this whole thing stinks from a consenting point of view. Lack of public notification gives an added stench.
Talk about dirty politics.