‘This is not the site for 54 units’-Luxon on Sandspit Rd

Opinion 

Christopher Luxon, the National Party candidate contesting the Botany seat in September’s General Election, shares his thoughts on the controversial proposed development on the former site of Steward Motors on Sandspit Road 

The Cockle Bay Residents Association and the residents of Reydon Place and Trelawn Place deserve a medal.

For the last two years they have rightly been fighting the development of the former Steward Motors site on Sandspit Road into a residential complex comprising firstly of 71 apartments and now an amended application with 54 apartments.

It is insane for Auckland City Council to even be considering the development of this site. The Council spent $75 million creating the Auckland Unitary Plan which assigned different residential density zones for all suburbs across Auckland. This 5417m2 site on Sandspit Road was in the former Residential Heritage 7 Zone and has been designated a Single House Zone under that Unitary Plan. This means that this site can, at most, support only nine single houses – not 71 or 54.

There are other reasons that this development should not be considered by council. The major one is that the proposed development will place a big demand on the supporting infrastructure. The site is directly across the road from both Howick College and Cockle Bay School where, every day, 3000 students and staff descend on the area. It is common for the residents of Trelawn Place to have difficulty getting out of the street during school drop-off and pick-up times. A resident who is a midwife recently struggled to reach her client having a baby due to the traffic in this suburban street.

Developments like this place major pressure on roading, traffic and parking, but they also place immense pressure on supporting infrastructure like the three waters – drinking water, storm water, and wastewater. These systems were often designed many years ago and, with infill housing, are already at breaking point and are simply not able to take on the extra load that a large development with many more residents and bathrooms creates.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against development, but in this country we do a very poor job developing and executing an infrastructure strategy. Development is almost always approached as a series of discrete and bespoke projects.

There is no doubt we have major housing challenges in Auckland. Population growth, the continuing trend toward urbanisation, and people wanting to live where job opportunities are concentrated are all fuelling steady demand. The housing stock of Auckland, has not expanded quickly enough to keep up with this demand.

So, development is critical, but it needs to be smart and joined up. I acknowledge, the simplicity of that statement belies the complexity of executing on it. However, let’s focus on just one possible solution we see in the good practice from development around the world.

The best-congested cities promote residential density around transit and transport centres rather than encouraging more suburban sprawl and longer commutes. In these transit zones, local objectives can be promoted, such as reduced dependence on private vehicles or the development of mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly cityscapes. I lived in St Leonards in Sydney and watched as apartment blocks and shopping centres were constructed around the train station to create a great community and place to live.

A better example for us in Auckland is Panmure which is emerging as a transit hub with the newly upgraded railway station and as a connection point for the Eastern Busway connecting Botany to the city. This is the area to intensify land use and residential density around an emerging transit stop and where multi-unit residential complexes like that being proposed at Sandspit Road should be located.

The Cockle Bay residents are right to be concerned about the changing character of their neighbourhood, the resultant stress it creates on our infrastructure and the lack of consistency with the council’s own stated development strategy.

If you want to support the work of the Cockle Bay Residents Association, I would strongly encourage you to make a submission on the new application when it is officially notified. This issue should be important to all of us in Botany, but also to all Aucklanders given the precedent it creates for other areas with Single House Zones.