18 Aug 2015

Residents welcome Otahuhu closure

6:49 am on 18 August 2015

The site of Auckland's Otahuhu gas-fired power station should be used for affordable housing when the plant shuts down, neighbours say.

Otahuhu power station

Otahuhu power station Photo: Creative Commons

The station's owner, Contact Energy, is closing down the operation and selling the site, saying geothermal energy is now cheaper to produce.

People in houses that back onto the field of pylons and wiring are pleased it is going, and on the wish list for a replacement was a community park, a doctor's surgery, shops and a skatepark and - by far the most popular - affordable housing.

The 37 hectare site, which will have to be cleaned up due to the asbestos and heavy metals, is not, however, set aside as a residential area.

Contact Energy chief executive Dennis Barnes said it was classified as Business Zone 5 - industrial and commercial - although that could change.

"The Auckland Regional Plan, which is currently in consultation, has got a whole heap of suggested zoning changes for land like Otahuhu.

"But today you could put light industrial and commercial on it, and who knows what the Auckland Plan changes will mean for the site."

Pylons at the Otahuhu power station.

Pylons at the Otahuhu power station site, which is zoned for industrial and commercial use. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

Equinox Housing is developing 500 homes across three projects in South Auckland.

Chief executive Kerry Knight said there were issues with turning previous industrial land into residential areas, but the biggest drawback was the complete lack of infrastructure.

"You know, it's a knee-jerk reaction - here's a piece of land by the motorway - why don't we look at putting affordable housing on it?

"That's not necessarily the best thing for the people who live there, or for Auckland.

"As a developer, you'd immediately have a red-flag about contamination and the cost of either decontaminating it, or capping it so you can put housing on it."

'Obvious' site for distribution business

The power station is located just off State Highway 1, and almost next to the Highbrook Business Park.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said it was perfect for haulage and logistics companies, being so close to the motorway system.

"I think distribution would be an obvious one. There's a good area of land, you can put in some large buildings so for storage, distribution and logistics - this would appear to be very good and valuable land for that sector."

Mr Barnett said in the long term, there was a risk of a shortage of space for businesses to expand, and that it's too easy to look at all land that becomes available and say it should become residential.

Contact Energy said the power station would stop operating at the end of September, and could be dismantled within a year.