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Controversial housing development enabling legislation comes under fire

Development Enabling Bill undermines RMA and Reserves Act, says local Board

Several local representative groups have voiced their concerns over a Development Enabling Bill that fast-tracks the build of 300 houses on reserve land.

The Point England Development Enabling Bill, announced early December 2016 by former housing Minister Nick Smith, would enable reserve land in Point England to be re-zoned and used to build 300 houses by the local iwi Ngāti Pāoa as part of its Treaty settlement.

Side-stepping public consultation

According to a report by Radio New Zealand, the Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board seeks to block the bill on the grounds that it “cuts across the existing requirements of the Resource Management Act and the Reserves Act”, setting a precedent for developers to push for enabling development legislation in order to bypass the public consultation and rights of appeal processes.

The Board’s primary concern is the lack of transparency surrounding the deal, in terms the absence of any public consultation relating to the housing development on the reserve land. In its submission, the board noted its deep concern that the bill had fast-tracked development and avoided robust consultation, including a right of appeal.

Disregard for environmental impact

The Point England Bird Sanctuary group has also, separately, voiced its concern that the development will wipe out about 50 per cent of dotterel nesting sites in the reserve. In addition, shorebirds including white-faced herons, royal spoonbill, south island oystercatchers, variable oystercatchers and pied stilts roost on the earmarked reserve land.

The development plans “not only paint a really dire situation for the dotterels”, it will also “destroy the primary roosting habitat of the remaining wild shorebirds in the Tamaki Estuary”, said sanctuary volunteer Sean Lee in a recent interview with Stuff.

Green spaces hold little value

The Point England Development Enabling Bill gives Ngāti Paoa the right to purchase 11.7ha of the 48ha reserve for housing development. A further 2ha is being provided for the development of a marae as part of the cultural redress of the Treaty settlement.

The current plan indicates that one third of the reserve’s playing fields would be lost to the housing development. But according to a government press release, the Point England Reserve had been “poorly used” for decades, with 18 hectares of it used for grazing cows.

“This plan is about replacing the cows with homes and enhancing the balance of the reserve with improved recreational and cultural facilities”, noted Minister Smith during last December’s announcement .

If the bill is passed, the Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Board seeks assurances that the environment and endangered shore birds will be protected, and that no sports fields will be taken for the development.

More than 100 submissions have been made on the bill.

The Local Government and Environment Select Committee will hold hearings in Wellington and Auckland later this month (February).

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