How we plan in Kerikeri - Part 5
A chronicle of surprises; Government departments arrive in town – new roads and housing developments.
There is little doubt that affordable housing and social housing is necessary in Kerikeri. To be decently housed is a fundamental human need. There are 42 social houses in Kerikeri which are well absorbed in the community. However recent large-scale proposals from two large government agencies, Ministry of Housing and Urban development (MHUD) at 57A Hall Road for a mix of social and low-cost housing; and Kainga Ora for a social housing development between Clark Road and King Street, have caused surprise and concern. Council and the two government agencies have operated furtively which has diminished public trust.
57 Hall Road development
The consent for 57A Hall Road was non-notified. Presumably FNDC considered its effects would be no more than minor although it includes a previously unknown new road linking Hall Road to Mill Lane and another from Ranui intersecting it. Developers are entitled to building consent if their projects comply with the District Plan, however Ranui residents do not consider that the unexpected interruption of the quiet enjoyment of their cul de sac by a road linkage to Mill Lane is no more than minor especially as Kerikeri has no roading network plan, there are no Kerikeri roads in the Far North 10-year plan and they had absolutely no prior awareness.
Public knowledge only occurred when Friends of Wairoa Stream (FOWS) heard rumours and were surprised to learn, and were not impressed, that a road from Mill Lane to Hall Road would be built through the public walkway connecting Mill Lane and Hall Road, which volunteers had formed and planted and was funded from donations, without any mention at all from FNDC. FOWS has no absolute rights to the Mill Lane paper road extension but we are still waiting for the courtesy of an acknowledgment or some contact for the destruction of this well-used public asset from whichever silo in FNDC managed this project planning and its consent.
Another surprise, was the building consent lodged by the FNDC business arm, Far North Holdings, which acted as Sir Owen Glen’s design agents. The consent having been granted, the fully consented property was then very rapidly on-sold to MHUD. Surprised and bemused Ranui residents discovered the Prime Minister and a posse of Cabinet Ministers turning the first sod in February this year.
Clark Rd/Kings Street development
Kainga Ora has sought non notification for the Clark Road/King Street social housing development on the grounds that its effects are less than minor. The designer Gemscott has arrogantly failed to engage with the community at all and has not been forthcoming or transparent with the three or four neighbours whom they viewed as the only affected parties. Its failure to engage includes a failure to understand that the constrained parking in the planned development would result in traffic from its residents backing out into Clark Road into the path of traffic on the long-awaited bypass around the CBD, mooted since 1986. Surely it is the responsibility of the relevant Council planning silo to inform about this planning conflict, which is in the Structure Plan and a number of Council reports since. It cannot be minor for their residents to back out into a traffic flow likely to be 6,000, or 7,000 vehicles per day. It is unwise not to notify a consent when the news is unexpected and potentially has cumulative and wider community effects.
The Far North 2100 Plan of 2021, which delayed the District Plan and other planning in order to provide strategic guidance for Far North planning regarding “sustainable prosperity and wellbeing” of communities states it should:
Take stock of plans and strategies …. of community groups
Develop and implement a place making policy… well-being principles are central to spatial placemaking plans
Apply the placemaking policy to spatial plans
This does not appear to have influenced Council’s thinking. It had seemed that talking to the community had at last been understood by council in 2021, when spatial planning for Kerikeri belatedly started with a review of the 2007 Structure Plan and that it appreciated that it was likely to achieve improved outcomes and save Council and developers resources.
The FNDC failure to plan for Kerikeri
VKK has long argued that Kerikeri has a lack of roading connectivity and also for building intensification around the CBD within walking distance. 57A Hall Road will improve linkages and does intensify housing close to town, but has been conceived in isolation without a master plan or roading network plan and raises unplanned infrastructure needs. Opportunism has ruled.
The King Street/Clark Road social housing development certainly increases CBD intensity, which is promoted in the draft proposed District Plan. Kainga Ora is implementing government policy and fulfilling its mission by constructing social housing, which is necessary and almost everyone supports, but it has no stake in the town, is operating in isolation from the wider community, apparently abetted by Council. Unsurprisingly, given a degree of furtiveness by Kainga Ora and Gemscott there has been controversy in the absence of a spatial plan contributed to by the community.
The issue is not whether we should have social housing or low-cost housing, both are necessary, but whether powerful, well-funded government agencies can essentially modify our town to meet their important but narrow objectives in the context of wider community perspectives. In 2002 Kerikeri was voted the best small town in New Zealand; many would argue that this is threatened in the absence of planning. Notifying such significant developments and allowing community interests to be heard is fundamental democracy. RMA section 95 permits notification in special circumstances. Such circumstances could be the absence of any master plan, proximity to the Kerikeri retirement village, whether sufficient social support exist and whether social and demographic changes would result in structural shifts and poor outcomes for both the incoming and existing population. Poor planning typically results in longer term consequences.
These “surprises” are the inevitable result of a failure to plan for Kerikeri and are likely to continue for other developments without notification (Kainga Ora and Gemscott intend more) until Council actually plans for the town, especially a downtown masterplan. The failure to plan has a long history since 1986, 37 years ago, when consultants Beca Carter reported to the Bay of Islands County with a "Kerikeri Concept Plan" which went nowhere. About 12 other failed planning reports by various consultants since will not be recounted here.
In the absence of a spatial plan for Kerikeri and a downtown masterplan, Kainga Ora and MHUD are effectively planning Kerikeri and changing its character by pepper potting their developments around town. The community, generally, have been surprised and are concerned by decisions made about their town by outside agencies abetted by the Council. The Rotorua experience of Kainga Ora is influencing public opinion.
The town is fast growing but Council’s longstanding inability to plan for Kerikeri has resulted in several projects to date (and more underway) that have surprised many residents and may change the character of the town and affect well-being. While spatial planning for Kerikeri has commenced it must be expedited or surprises are likely to continue. These government departments are well resourced. It is the Council’s top-down decision making, secrecy and lack of engagement with the Kerikeri community where the concern lies.
Notification under RMA S95 would allow the Clark Road/ King St development to be discussed publicly.
When FNDC was formed in 1989 it was to have more resources and skills than the former 4 counties and 2 boroughs. Would the old Bay of Islands County have looked after Kerikeri's interests better? It is a question worth asking after 34 years of fumbling inactivity by FNDC.
It is important to take people with you on what is a significant change. Council has failed to do so and there is little public confidence or trust.