Incoming council must drive unitary plan forward

5:00 AM Saturday October 8, 2016 John Church

John Church sees a duty to ensure, “doors remain open to those wanting to live and do business in Auckland”.

Auckland Council has much more work to do to ensure that its new unitary plan achieves its objectives, says John Church, Bayleys’ national director commercial.

Writing in Bayleys’ latest Total Property magazine, Church says the council is to be congratulated on a job well done in pulling the plan together.

“But it now needs to undertake an urgent review of its consent and regulatory processes, and their resourcing, and remove the bureaucratic bottlenecks and associated costs that currently threaten the plan’s effective implementation,” he says.

“Any plan is only as good as its implementation. The development sector tells us that they continue to be frustrated by what are seen as the shortcomings of the Resource Management Act, long and drawn out consent processes and council obstacles to speedy implementation of consents once they are granted.

“The unitary plan is potentially a big game changer for both Auckland and the country. It offers a road map for the future which will enable Auckland to accommodate its inevitable growth — provided it is effectively implemented.”

While most attention has been focused on the residential aspects of the new plan, as the city grapples with itshousing shortage, it also has significant implications for the commercial property sector, says Church.

Not all commercial property owners were happy with the commercial zonings their premises were given under the proposed plan.

Action groups were formed to oppose what was seen as a “down zoning” of properties to Light Industry from existing, more flexible business zonings to protect what they argued was Auckland Council’s overly restrictive, predominantly centres-based zoning strategy.

Church says some were successful, such as a group of Barrys Point Road owners who persuaded the Independent Hearings Panel to accept their submission for a change from a proposed Light Industry zoning to Mixed Use which the council has not challenged.

Others such as a Wairau Valley collective’s submission for a change from Light Industry (excluding the Link Drive bulk retail precinct) to General Business were unsuccessful.

“However, Wairau Valley property owners can take heart from the fact that their property values haven’t fallen off the edge of a cliff as a consequence,” says Church.

“In fact quite the opposite, judging by recent auctions by our North Shore office which have seen two Wairau Valley investment offerings selling at yields of 4.6 per cent and 4.7 per cent.”

Church says the plan has opened up big opportunities for developers and add-value investors to be part of and profit from the greater intensification that will occur.

“The more experienced and canny market players have already been snapping up offerings that have favourable zonings under the new plan such as Mixed Use, Town Centre or Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings. Others have taken a punt on strategic land holdings which may be developed at some stage in the future as the city continues to expand.

“We all have a duty to ensure the doors remain open to those wanting to live and do business in Auckland.. The current Mayor and council has given us the framework to do that and become a truly significant and progressive international-class city.

"It’s now up to the next Mayor and council to deliver on that and drive the plan forward. In our view, a vital part of this must involve putting the council departments that provide the plan’s engine room under the microscope. Central Government also needs to support that with further refinements to the Resource Management Act.”

John Church Profile Photo_May 2016.jpg

John Church, Bayleys national director commercial