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The Proposed District Plan and planning for the CBD

Submissions to the proposed District Plan (PDP) closed in October 2022. These have been summarised and it has emerged for further public comment. Since then, our lack of social housing and Kainga Ora becoming active in the town centre has attracted public attention. Kainga Ora’s submission proposes a 6 storey buildings (22M) height limit in town which we oppose. Such tall buildings, potentially leading over time to an urban canyon, are not a model of how our town should develop. Vision Kerikeri (VKK) was formed in 2004 to oppose a single 8 level apartment building to be built behind the Butler Centre. Government policy on intensification of urban areas and its relationship to Kerikeri is of interest and there are other large developments proposed near the centre of town.

A failure by the Council to plan overtime for Kerikeri haunts us. As Winston Churchill said, “jaw-jaw is better than war-war” so your committee instigated a meeting with Kainga Ora together with Our Kerikeri and other interested parties, some developers and Ngati Rehia, to seek an understanding of respective planning goals and to see if differences can be resolved.

A more detailed discussion about the PDP and our town centre is below.

Urban design policy

The National Policy Statement on Urban Development 2020 (NPS-UD) is a high-level government policy document which sets out principles for how towns and cities should develop nationally. It classifies urban areas in three tiers:

  • Tier 1 includes the cities of Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Christchurch, and Wellington.

  • Tier 2 are smaller cities including Whangarei, Rotorua, and Napier.

  • Tier 3 are smaller urban areas.

This legislation requires all Tier 1, 2 and 3 councils to provide sufficient planned, infrastructure ready development capacity, so that more homes can be built to meet expected demand. The driver of this policy is urban sprawl which envelops or encroaches on productive land. It is expensive to service and maintain them with widely dispersed areas with roads, water, sewerage, and transport systems.

NZ developed when land was inexpensive and seemingly inexhaustible. We were a quarter acre paradise. Land is now very expensive and more intensive development in cities with multi storey development around transport nodes is a key planning principle.

An “urban environment” is defined in the NPS-UD as “any area of land … that:

  1. is, or is intended to be, predominantly urban in character; and

  2. is, or is intended to be, part of a housing and labour market of at least 10,000 people”.

Is Kerikeri a level 3 town? If so it would require planning, infrastructure, and resources. FNDC “considers that none of its towns will reach the required threshold of 10,000 people to be considered an ‘urban environment’ as defined in the NPS-UD in the short, medium or long term” and that therefore NPZ-UD does not apply but that it would be guided by it in the Proposed District Plan (PDP) to plan for housing in the long term.

Does this matter? Read on.

The Proposed District Plan (PDP) and height

The PDP attracted 580 submissions with about 8,000 separate data points. Submitters were given about 4 weeks to make any further submissions closing on the 4th of September. Comprehending this huge volume has been a battle for your committee. We do not have resources of planners or environmental lawyers to help us, but it is very important for our future. Our current District Plan, first formulated in 2000, is very permissive and no longer fit for purpose.

Kerikeri has been growing fast without a Spatial or Master Plan for the town centre (long overdue) and we have been vulnerable to whatever development proposal is presented to Council. The social housing blocks proposed by Kainga Ora (KO) came as a surprise.

VKK has always supported more intense development within easy walking distance of the CBD. We support the PDP which proposes extending mixed use development (3 storeys) as far as the Heritage Bypass.

Kainga Ora’s submission to the PDP

Kainga Ora prefers to develop where services already exist and to use multi storeys as this is a more economic use of its funds and there are about 4,000 homeless people in Northland. Kainga Ora’s submission to the PDP has proposed dramatic changes that would make its role as a developer easier and cheaper but would have the effect of completely changing the character of our town. It proposes:

  • a new Town Centre Zone for Kerikeri with an increased height limit of 6 storeys (22m) with ground floor residential activity (except where a pedestrian frontage is identified). It also proposes:

  • surrounding it with a Kerikeri medium density housing zone with an 11m (3 storey) building height within a 200-300m walkable catchment i.e right down to Amokura Drive.

  • an increase of the “permitted” and “restricted discretionary” aspects with increased design and density flexibility to avoid public notification requirements.

  • numerous exemptions where general standards are not met.

  • and the insertion of the word “planned” to the residential environment in numerous sections, basically, loosening the regard for the existing environment.

While we do agree with the urgent need to provide affordable/social dwellings, they need to enhance rather than destroy the urban environment and community aspirations. We also agree with more density in the urban mixed zone (3 storeys) to avoid urban sprawl and enable connectivity. Such matters are intended to be described in the Master and Spatial Plans. It is not acceptable for any developer (public or private) to change or seek to change the rules (such as height and density) so radically without proper consultation and Council-led planning.

We oppose Kainga Ora’s 22M height and 6 storeys for our town centre and 11M for the surrounding medium density housing zone. Both would come as a total surprise to most Kerikeri residents and look to be much more appropriate for a Tier 2 city the size of Dunedin. Kerikeri, according to our Council, is not even big enough to be a Tier 3 urban area nor is this indicated by our population projections.

Should three storeys prove insufficient for population growth in the CBD, there are opportunities to expand housing to the westward on the contiguous Brownlie and Bing developments which we support in principle. The 200-hectare Brownlie property, which lies to the north of the golf course and fringes SH10 could, with integrated planning, improve connectivity between Kerikeri and Waipapa and the new Council sport fields and take pressure off our linear Kerikeri Road. The 29-hectare Bing property is the gum tree background to KK. There are pockets of land around Kerikeri, where more intensive Kainga Ora and similar developments might be possible.

Planning discussions between the community and Kainga Ora

Kainga Ora has a mandated task of providing social housing and Kerikeri does have insufficient low-cost housing or rental housing to support the growing community. To get a better understanding of planning for Kerikeri and to seek some reconciliation between the various goals, VKK instigated discussion and, together with other community groups, developers and Ngati Rehia recently held a one-day workshop with Kainga Ora. Discussion is intended to continue. Kainga Ora and its developer Gemscott have responded to community protest and have amended and improved the height and design of the Clark Road property. Meanwhile, VKK in its further submission to the Proposed District Plan has opposed Kainga Ora’s submission but generally supports rezoning for the Brownlie and Bing properties.

The council expects that hearings on the PDP will take place in about October next year.

Vision Kerikeri and height

So, what’s the problem with tall buildings?

VKK was formed in 2004 when we became aware of a non-notified consent for an 8-level apartment building to be built behind the present Butler Centre. The height limit of 8m in Kerikeri had mysteriously disappeared from the District Plan. A vigorous community campaign ensued including floating balloons on the site at a height of 22M.

Eventually the 8-level apartment building went away. VKK continued campaigning for a height limit and a limit of 12M was instituted.

Tall buildings not only change the visual character of the environment, but can also cause problems with shade, wind, climate, traffic and other impacts. Higher buildings might be acceptable in places by exception, but a collective 22m limit in the entire CBD would produce, over time, a canyon effect and potentially a concrete urban heat island with poor air quality and effect on health. This is neither acceptable nor necessary for this small town.

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