Goff decries minister's intervention on land bill

9:54 am on 21 June 2017

Auckland mayor Phil Goff has accused the government of trying to micro-manage his council by telling it what to do with public reserve land at Point England.

Phil Goff on the day he was elected Auckland mayor. 8 October 2016.

Phil Goff: "It's not the minister's role to prescribe to a council what it should or shouldn't do on one of its own reserves." Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Mr Goff said he had been blindsided by an amendment to housing development legislation that would ban farming or grazing on the reserve, and require the council to build a sports field.

The bill, which allows for a housing development on 11ha of the reserve in Tamaki, east Auckland, is making its way through Parliament.

The legislation would enable the reserve land to be used to build 300 houses by local iwi Ngāti Pāoa as part of its Treaty settlement.

Nick Smith at a social housing announcement in Northcote

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith yesterday introduced a proposed amendment stating the council must also put aside at least 8ha of the remaining land for a sports field.

It also said farming or grazing would no longer be permitted on any part of the reserve land.

Mr Goff said it was an extraordinary intrusion into council affairs.

"It's not the minister's role to prescribe to a council what it should or shouldn't do on one of its own reserves.

"Down to the detail of prescribing that we shouldn't have grazing animals and we should be putting a reserve on a headland, which is a nature reserve."

He said the minister had made no effort to contact him about the change.

"It is courtesy and it is normal that the council and the public be consulted."

Mr Goff said he had written to Dr Smith asking for an explanation and outlining his opposition to the amendment.

Read Mr Goff's letter to Dr Smith (PDF, 2.3MB)

Dr Smith told Morning Report the intention was to make sure the new houses displaced areas where cows were grazed, and didn't compromise land available for public amenities.

"Why is it that Mayor Goff and [Labour building and construction spokesperson] Phil Twyford don't want to give the public the reassurance that the playing field area will be retained and that we will not continue to graze cows in the centre of Auckland when we have such high housing needs?"

Dr Smith said the Crown had paid for the Point England land and vested it with the council for recreation purposes. For more than 40 years, the council had decided to use 18ha of it to graze cows, he said.

"I don't see how anybody can reasonably defend having 18 hectares of land right in the centre of Auckland grazing cows when we have got such high needs for playing fields and for homes, and that is effectively what the government is wanting to achieve."