Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: Beware of the Leopard

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  • Howard Edwards,

    Unfortunately dealing with Auckland Council bureaucracy is not a straightforward or fairminded process IMHO. I am (or rather a contractor on my behalf is) trying to get a resource consent issued to fix the mess caused by a landslip over 16 months ago. I'm not a developer, just a property owner who got hit by a natural disaster a la the ChCh earthquake (have a look at images 2 through 5 at this link).

    A couple of weeks after the consent was submitted Council asked for an onsite meeting with the Geotech engineer and contractor, but at the last moment we were informed that one of their staff had sustained an injury and could we please meet at the Council offices instead. The meeting seemed to sort out their concerns provided we supplied some more detail, got neighbours consent etc. However when the material was emailed to the team leader we got an out-of-office reply "away for the next 3-4 weeks" which meant tracking down the new contact person, after which we discovered there were new Council staff involved and could we please meet onsite to discuss their concerns? So I forked out for the geotech engineer to front again and again we are led to believe that everything has been sorted - but we are still waiting for the green light.

    Oh and I also have to pay $300 + GST for iwi consultation (applies to the whole Waitakere Ranges protected area which includes most of Titirangi) - perhaps a good idea in principle but it seems a bit over the top when I am just trying to repair land damage - not putting up a 10 story apartment building. And one of the apparent causes of the slip was an undiscovered landfill dump that lay under all the regenerated bush and contributed to the slope instability.

    Albany • Since Apr 2013 • 66 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,

    The story of the trees' planting in 1934, found by Philip Lyth on PapersPast and tweeted by Jolisa this morning.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Nat, in reply to Jolisa,

    (Also: that thing where you stay up until 2 a.m. blogging on a school night, then notice that the giant wodge of paper accidentally includes the hourly rate of one of the experts [$190 plus GST] and you try not to do the maths on how many gratis hours all the ordinary people have spent on this, even though you know it’s not about the money, money, money).

    I was already thinking this before you posted it. My little Auckland Council anecdote involves getting a building and resource consent for a deck. They charged us $4.5k for the building consent, which was copy and pasted from another document (including all of the wrong names, addressed and reference numbers). When I queried the cost, they included 24 hours of preparation of said copy and pasted document charged at $125/hr.

    Seattle • Since Jun 2011 • 52 posts Report

  • BenWilson,

    Is the planned tree removal only those 6 trees directly opposite MOTAT, though? Even with the widening it's difficult to see why any but the corner tree needs any attention at all. It's base is still about 30m back from the corner so it's only like one branch that needs anything done to it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Steve Curtis,

    If indeed the objectors are listed under modification to stormwater consent instead of the plan change than thats the horse to back.
    I remember a few years back Woolworths got a new supermarket from PakNsave stopped in its tracks a few months before opening.
    The method they used was an obscure consent relating to a green turning arrow at a set of traffic lights.
    Apart from that, the hearing result is only a recommendation going to Council, so would be wise to make sure the decision makers further up are aware of strong community concern and reject the plan modification.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to bob daktari,

    trees vs car

    let's see, hmmm,
    which one returns oxygen to the atmosphere?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Marc C,

    I heard about this, am not informed in much detail, but this helps, and thanks for it.

    I am concerned about a lot of things happening in Auckland, and also as part of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan hearings. I support the PAUP in part, but am resolutely opposed to other parts.

    This seems to be just one example of where planners and developers get it wrong, and do bulldoze natural and other heritage. I warn people, take a closer interest in what is going on, what is being planned, and look at the damned details in the plans, there is going to be some horrendous stuff going on. Sadly it seems that the well resourced, large developers and large scale investors, and vested interests, that have the upper hand in PAUP hearings, who will determine what will become of Auckland. Council is only "helpful" to a degree, and again, they want more population, more ratepayers, more money, and more resources to play with.

    Better stop any mistakes right in the beginning, as once we destroy trees, reserves, natural and historic character buildings and areas, they will be GONE forever. For what I ask, for profit and “growth”?

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report

  • Sacha,

    Just spotted that this is a Notification of Requirement (NoR) process. I am neither a planner nor a lawyer, but from what I've heard this reduces both Council's choices and the public's avenues of influence in favour of the interests of the 'Requiring Authority'.

    The existing designation for that site is unfortunately as a carpark rather than a stand of trees, according to one of the application documents (p13):

    Section 177 of the RMA sets out the provisions which apply to requiring authorities where a prior designation exists over the same area. In giving effect to this NoR, Auckland Transport will need to comply with these provisions. It is noted the land required to give effect to this NoR will not hinder the operation of 820 Great North Road as carpark, in accordance with its designation.

    Somebody who does know more, please chime in. Maybe a (resource management) lawyer is needed after all. :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Steve Curtis,

    the hearing result is only a recommendation going to Council

    I'm not so confident about that anymore. See comment above.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Marc C,

    Pauper don't preach...

    Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan {PAUP)

    I can see why they didn't call it the Auckland Proposed Unitary Plan - no one wants to be sold APUP...

    ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    could be worse..



    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Jolisa,

    A partial update: I went to the hearing. Jess Etheridge from the Central Leader was there to follow proceedings, and wrote up this report afterwards.

    At the outset, it was made clear that there would be no revisiting of the decision re the invalidity of submissions that used the wrong reference number, but the commission agreed to hear from any disallowed submitters who had shown up to speak, with the caveat that their submissions would be unable to be taken into account or mentioned in the final report.

    This was a consoling gesture - you may be listened to, in the moment - but ultimately quite empty - you will not be recorded or represented in the final analysis. Kafka-esque, even.

    The morning began with the excellent and fully valid submission by the Waitematā Local Board (they're opposed to the removal of the trees and dismayed by many other aspects of the whole design process), including their own specialist witnesses.

    I was then glad to see that the representative from the Tree Council (despite being one of the "wrong number" submissions) was given a generous hearing, and was asked several useful follow-up questions. I believe there was some clever rules-of-order jiggery-pokery that allowed him to be called as a "witness" by a preceding submitter or perhaps a following one, which I also believe means his evidence can be entered onto the record. This is good!

    Patricia Reade from the Western Bays Community Group was also given a decent hearing and made some very fine points. NB her submission had no reference number on it, and thus was judged to be valid. I don't know if this is usual, or an exception, but the message is very clear for future submissions on any issue whatsoever: if in doubt, or even if not in doubt, LEAVE THE REFERENCE NUMBER OFF and just use plain English!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Jolisa,

    My submission was less successful. Having shown up early and waited for several hours (with a child accompanying me), I thought it worth taking the opportunity to speak, even if my words would leave no trace on the outcome.

    The commissioner took time to remind me of the conditions of speaking, but having seen the Tree Council representative given an open-minded reception, I was encouraged.

    I asked for quick initial clarification about the invalidated submissions: whether there was an option for a good-faith waiver, for the use of discretion, for a consideration of intent. The commission was adamant it would not revise the matter, that their hands were tied. The commissioner explained that if she were to allow those wrong-number submissions to enter the record, the entire resource management process would be open to corruption. (By way of example, she said something about how people at the top end of the country would be able to randomly interfere with something Tim Shadbolt was doing at the other end. To be honest, I didn't quite follow this, but it seemed a pretty far-fetched 'thin end of the wedge' argument).

    I mentioned the submitters' clear intent, the propagation of a single clerical mistake across what was clearly a related set of contributions, and how the mass invalidation seemed at radical odds with Auckland Council's own draft Significance and Engagement Policy. Again this was deemed beyond the scope of the Commission, whose focus was simply on evidence in support of or opposed to the Notification of Requirement. I was told to stop mentioning the invalidated submissions.

    In the end, I just read out parts of my original submission, which mentioned a few things that had not (as far as I know) otherwise been raised, including the safety of school children who travel through that space, and the experience of pedestrians and people on bikes on a daily basis and at bigger festival events. Nobody at the table had any follow-up questions.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Jolisa,

    It was an interesting, if somewhat dispiriting experience. I'm usually comfortable and confident speaking to groups, but as a first-timer at one of these things, I left the table feeling confused, embarrassed, and unheard, and all the more admiring of people who are able to make their voices heard.

    I also couldn't shake the feeling that I was being given an unusually brusque reception (this sense was confirmed afterwards by observers) which I now worry was because I had publicly queried the process. Even if the fault and the remedy lay elsewhere, I'd have thought it permissible to express dismay at the last-minute sidelining of so many citizens' voices (the 54 submissions and the 1475 signatories to the petition), and to ask about the commission's leeway for discretion.

    My heart went out to the man who spoke after me; an older local resident, who had waited next to me in the back row for much of the morning. He said: "I'll keep it short. My wife and I love those trees; we wouldn't swap them for a savings of six minutes sitting in traffic. It's not worth it. That's all." I was gratified to see that he, like the Tree Council representative and Patricia, was warmly thanked for his contribution and for his patience.

    Then it was lunch break, and I took my very patient and slightly under-the-weather kid home and told him we'd done our best for now. I still hope that's true.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Jolisa, in reply to Sacha,

    the hearing result is only a recommendation going to Council

    I’m not so confident about that anymore. See comment above.

    Yes, I believe AT is not actually bound by the result of the hearing (in which case, why have a hearing??) but may still need landowner consent, which I think puts it back in the lap of the council. It's all very confusing, what with the entwined tentacles of AT, NZTA, and AC. No wonder ordinary people have a real challenge figuring out whom to address, and how, and when, and where, without the extra hurdle of the 27B/6...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Jolisa,

    because I had publicly queried the process

    respect her authoritah

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Jolisa, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The story of the trees’ planting in 1934, found by Philip Lyth on PapersPast and tweeted by Jolisa this morning.

    Yes, huge credit to Philip for that find. It was great -- the commissioner had queried several times the 'urban legend' of the trees being planted on Arbor Day, saying it wasn't any use without documentary evidence. The closest people got to pinning it down was that Auckland Transport had itself mentioned the fact at one of its Open Days (oh the irony!).

    When Philip sent the link through, I immediately passed it on to the WLB crew, who arranged for a print out. That meant it was tabled and read just before my turn at the microphone.

    I mentioned the article and was cut off ("Yes yes we've all read it, we've all seen it."), but persevered, not very articulately, but just to make sure the point was understood. It's an incredibly important document, because even if it doesn't explicitly confirm the planting origin of those exact six trees, it captures the contemporary intent of the city fathers-and-mothers:

    The Mayor said ... the City Council was particularly eager to plant native trees on its properties, and, during the past three years, excluding the present season, 7500 New Zealand trees had been planted in city parks and reserves. It was the desire of the authorities that children should take an interest in the growth and welfare of the trees.

    It might be wondered, the Mayor continued, why the City Council had selected the area at Western Springs for the ceremony. There was a need to beautify the land, which, adjoining the motor camp possessed added importance, as the Zoo, the Western Springs Stadium and the golf links were near. The Mayor said it was the duty of the community to care for trees.

    The children at that 1934 planting ceremony, whom the Mayor wished to "take an interest in the growth and welfare of the trees", would be in their eighties and nineties today. I imagine a few of them might even have been among the submissions that were disallowed.

    As I said in my own submission, these trees allow us to see not just eighty years back, but eighty years into the future. What will the Auckland of 2095 look like? What are we planning for? What will we regret not planning around?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Jolisa,

    at least the chair didn't accuse you of talking like a cyclist.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Jolisa,

    Here's another historical example of the sort of future-thinking our predecessors were engaged in, even during hard times. In the 1920s, Auckland City took advantage of the government subsidy for unemployed relief works to transform patches of wasteland into many of the parks we enjoy today.

    The policy followed in creating work for unemployed has been to transform practically waste places and render them suitable for organised sport or for play. After a tour of the works so carried out, one is convinced that through the plight of the unemployed the city has gained tremendously in those things which can hardly be valued in money. Every new playing area, every fresh breathing space, has a present and potential value assessable only in the health and well-being of the people.
    Another great asset developed by subsidised relief work is the Harbour View Reserve at Point Chevalier. A seawall was constructed along the whole length of about 300 yards, and what formerly was a rough, scrub-covered bank has been sloped off and planted with pohutukawas. On top, the flat fringe is in grass. Already it is a pleasant sea park; when the trees grow it will be exquisite. The cost was £2100.

    "When the trees grow, it will be exquisite." They did, and it is, it really is.

    "Every new playing area, every fresh breathing space, has a present and potential value assessable only in the health and well-being of the people."

    These people knew they wouldn't necessarily see the results in their lifetimes. But they knew their efforts would pay off for centuries to come, for those who came after. They couldn't necessarily imagine the traffic volumes and exhaust pollution and climate change that would make these patches of greenery even more important for our health and well-being, but they knew we'd thank them for beautiful breathing spaces and grand old trees.

    Honestly, I think we could learn from our ancestors how to be better ancestors.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Jolisa, in reply to Sacha,

    at least the chair didn’t accuse you of talking like a cyclist.

    I was hoping she would, so I could describe how we navigate that stretch of road on bikes with kids, and what I observe of the perils for intermediate and high school commuters. But, inadmissible.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Jolisa,

    I was gratified to see that he, like the Tree Council representative and Patricia, was warmly thanked for his contribution and for his patience.

    It is gratifying, but it still kind of pisses me off because we shouldn't have to break out the oven fresh cookie jar for civil servants showing baseline civility to their employers. Especially when so many of them turn around and plaint about low participation. Well, lobbyists at least have the satisfaction of getting paid for being treated like something nasty on the bottom of a shoe but nobody else does.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report

  • Jolisa, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Oh, absolutely. I suppose was gratified on their behalf, given the weirdness of the context and the probable fruitlessness of their time, effort, and parking fees.

    I was a bit shortchanged on the civility front, despite being scrupulously polite and explicitly grateful for the chance to speak. I don't really mind, but it would have been a nice touch if the epic patience of my junior whānau support had been acknowledged.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Jolisa, in reply to Jolisa,

    And on reflection, the whole thing felt very rock-and-a-hard-place. Damned if they didn't let us speak, damned if they did and then disregarded what was said.

    A mute point, one might say (where is Ian D when we need him? ;-).

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    Who is the MP for that electorate?
    And opposition list MP representing that electorate?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Jeremy Andrew, in reply to Jolisa,

    it would have been a nice touch if the epic patience of my junior whānau support had been acknowledged.

    If I was the youngster in tow, I would have been mightily disappointed at the lack of leopards in the whole process. I mean, its right there in the title...

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report

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