16 Feb 2016

Auckland mayoral candidates back new consultation on housing density

8:50 am on 16 February 2016

Leading contenders for the Auckland mayoralty are calling for new consultation over proposals to further increase housing density in some areas.

An audience of 180 people turned out to a campaign meeting in Ellerslie last night for the mayoral election in October.

The six declared candidates who fronted - centre-right contenders Victoria Crone and Mark Thomas, centre-left Phil Goff, activist Penny Bright, rates campaigner Stephen Berry and former Green Party candidate David Hay - were meeting for the first time on the campaign trail.

Leading mayoral contenders, from left, Victoria Crone, Mark Thomas and Phil Goff on stage together for the first time.

Leading mayoral contenders, from left, Victoria Crone, Mark Thomas and Phil Goff on stage together for the first time. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

All were united in their pledges to improve council finances and contain - or in Mr Berry's case eliminate - rates rises.

Most backed a new round of consultation on the city's Unitary Plan, but exactly how was uncertain.

Auckland Council in December revealed it would seek higher housing density in some areas than previously signalled when it went before the independent panel considering the city's Unitary Plan.

A public meeting last week in the wealthier eastern suburbs drew 700 largely angry residents, and some councillors want to re-open consultation with affected property owners.

Guy Haddleton, who co-founded the lobby group Auckland 2040, sought candidate support for new consultation on housing density.

Auckland 2040 co-founder Guy Haddleton sought candidate support for new consultation on housing density. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Co-founder of the Auckland 2040 lobby group Guy Haddleton asked candidates whether they supported what he said was 11 councillors seeking to withdraw the higher density case.

Most candidates said they did support the group of disgruntled councillors, although Phil Goff said not everyone with a view on the issue should be consulted.

"I think you're talking specifically about the people who face a change in zoning that was not signalled at the start of the Unitary Plan process," he said.

Victoria Crone later told RNZ News she did not know April was the date when the council would be arguing its case before the panel, but said consultation must happen. "The councillors need to engage properly with the communities, and if that needs to happen before April, that needs to happen."

Mark Thomas called not only for more consultation, but said if elected he would seek to re-open debate the Unitary Plan housing densities in suburban areas, even though the plan is due to be finalised before the elections.

It is not yet clear whether Auckland councillors will make a move to try to reopen consultation. Five of those unhappy with the increased density proposals were in the Ellerslie audience and two of them, Cameron Brewer and George Wood, were uncertain whether or how any move would be made.

About 180 people turned out to listen to candidates for the Auckland mayoralty at a meeting in Ellerslie.

About 180 people turned out to listen to candidates for the Auckland mayoralty at a meeting in Ellerslie. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Penny Bright

Penny Bright speaks at the Ellerslie meeting. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall