A local property developer family has been looking for ways to make a buck out of their large land holdings on Waiheke by going through the back door of Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan, as well as appealing the ‘green belt’ provisions in the Hauraki Gulf Islands District Plan (HGIDP) review which became operative last September.
The Walden family’s attempt to urbanise Waiheke with an 80 house development on their land in Onetangi has been a closely kept secret.
They are now seeking an extension of the MUL (Metropolitan Urban Limit) boundary through the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan so that their land is included in the definition of ‘urban’ and can be sub-divided accordingly.
If successful, these tactics will open the door for a dramatic increase in land available for sub-division and radically alter the look of Waiheke forever.
These applications fly in the face of the principles of the ‘Essentially Waiheke’ document. This is particularly ironic, considering the adoption of this label by current Local Board Chair Paul Walden and his Green Party campaign buddies in their attempt to paint themselves as ‘environmentally sustainable’, when the opposite is now shown to be true.
Essentially Waiheke (2000) is a document drawn up through wide community consultation, that lays down the principles underpinning the character of the island and which are now enshrined in the HGIDP. In particular those provisions include:
• To protect and enhance Waiheke’s character: The principles to protect and enhance Waiheke’s character recognise the importance of maintaining the unique character of the Island, particularly by protecting the open character of rural areas of the Island.
• Location: The principles of location guide the location and form of future growth-related development (Auckland City Council 2000: 4)
Conflict of interest now looms large for the family. As already stated a family member is Chair of the Waiheke Local Board and can attempt to bring political influence to bear on planning matters. Auckland Councillor for the Waitemata and Hauraki Gulf Islands, Mike Lee, has revealed that his lawyer is patriarch Ron Walden. As Chairman of the former Auckland Regional Council, Lee was a staunch supporter of limiting urban expansion in the Gulf. Has he now changed his tune?
For years, Walden senior has advised many environmental groups on the island including the highly politicised Hauraki Gulf Forest and Bird. Will this now mean they ‘pay back’ the favour by turning their backs on this blatant proposal to urbanise the landscape? Fresh from fighting against many property owners’ dreams for their properties, will these self-appointed environmental protectors now cave in for their mates? Or will the scales at last fall from their eyes when they realise the extent of their culpability in colluding in the destruction of the Waiheke character as we’ve known it.
If the Walden family get their way, Waiheke will be just one more urban sprawl on the boundaries of Auckland. Some might admire their Machiavellian cunning. I call it hypocrisy.