In case you missed it, here’s what I said eighteen months ago.
Aye, there’s the RUB
Intensification and urban sprawl may be on the horizon for Waiheke as a developer seeks to introduce land zone changes through the back door of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. The stakes are high; high enough for those who will profit from land changes to contemplate taking Waiheke out of Auckland Council if their land change proposal fails.
The boundaries of residential and rural development on Waiheke are set by the RUB (Rural Urban Boundary). The so-called RUB replaces the old Metropolitan Urban Limit or MUL. The current boundary was confirmed under the Hauraki Gulf Islands District Plan (HGIDP) which became operative in September 2013.
The District Plan is a document many years in the making. It was drawn up with the widest possible public consultation, submission, revision and objection process. The consensus, made real in this Plan, is that we want an island character that is ‘semi- rural’ in nature in the west and rural in the east.
The RUB effectively caps the population by constraining the land supply for new, more concentrated development to the western end. In addition, within this residential area, what might be considered to be too intensive development is constrained by the absence of water and waste-water reticulation. Houses must be on comparatively larger lots to meet the needs of their own water provision and effluent disposal.
For the time being, the HGIDP is keeping Waiheke and the other Hauraki Gulf Islands out of the clutches of the PAUP (Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan). I say for the time being, because the Regional Policy Statement that underpins the PAUP also applies to the Hauraki Gulf. It is an overarching Policy section that has the ability to, one day, redirect the HGIDP and potentially bring urban development in through the back door.
It is for this reason that Waiheke must pay close attention to the Commissioners’ Hearings Panel process that is fast-tracking the PAUP and may bring changes to Waiheke that are very much not to our liking.
Elected representatives are expected to take an active interest in Council policy that could affect their constituents. That’s part of the job description. So, it’s not too much to assume that the Green inspired Waiheke Local Board should be paying particular attention to the development of the Regional Policy Statement.
But you’d be wrong. As amply demonstrated at their last Board meeting, they’re reserving their ‘concern’ for the environment to supporting the dubious actions of their eco-terrorist mate who climbed up a kauri tree in Titirangi.
They do not seem to be in the least bit interested in back door changes that could alter Waiheke forever. Yet there are submissions to the PAUP that would do exactly that.
Could the Board’s silence relate to the ‘family connection’? Ron Walden, father of the Local Board Chair Paul Walden, has made a submission to the PAUP to change the RUB so that his 50 hectare property close to the Golf Course is included in the zoning ‘bush residential’ rather than ‘green belt’. This would permit more intensive sub-division with an associated reticulation system. It would create the biggest, most intense development changes the island has seen in decades.
The Walden submission is worth a look. It tells you much about the direction they wish to go. It is in four parts. Parts 1, 2, and 3 tell the rest of us what we cannot do on our own land. It’s not until you get to Part 4 that you find it’s a case of “Do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do”. Because what Part 4 does is, demand changes to the RUB so that the Walden family can create an 80 house subdivision on their ‘green belt’ zoned land.
Consider the precedent this would set - unscrupulous developers buying up land for similar mini-villages and ‘in-fill housing’, the like of which have ruined the life-style and ambience of many a small community and many a city suburb. Mayor Len Brown is looking for as much land as he can, to speed up intensification within the RUB to accommodate Auckland’s growing population. The Walden proposal serves Waiheke to him on a platter.
If any of these proposed changes come into effect then we would see a very different island to that which we agreed in the HGIDP. It would be the end of an era and the end of many dreams. It would irrevocably turn Waiheke into just another urban environment rather than the village - semi-rural character cherished by most residents and envied by many visitors.
Waiting in the wings is the ‘new’, recycled brain-child of the Waiheke Local Board. That is, the re-branding of the island as a Republic (nay, dictatorship). Everything on the island from political representation, to town and country planning, to infrastructure would come under the same ruling. Forget the audacity of the Walden name on the new library plaque. There is already another one engraved with the word ‘Waldonia’, just waiting for the day it can be installed at Matiatia.
Aye, that‘s the RUB all right.