Government joins Three Kings redevelopment proceedings

  • Nick Smith
Environment Building and Housing

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith and Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC) today joined legal proceedings over appeals lodged against the $1.2 billion redevelopment of the Three Kings quarry in Auckland.

“I am taking this unusual step of joining proceedings to support the Auckland Council and Fletcher Residential because of the size and significance of the project and to make a firm stand in favour of these sorts of plan changes that are needed to address Auckland’s growth and housing problems,” Dr Smith says as Environment Minister.

“HNZC has joined proceedings because the appeals would adversely affect the Corporation’s ability to improve the supply and quality of housing in the adjacent areas and because of the environmental and other community benefits of the development,” Dr Smith says as Building and Housing Minister.

“This billion-dollar Three Kings development converts an ugly, disused 22-hectare quarry into an attractive community of 1500 apartments and townhouses, retail space and new sports fields. It is exactly the sort of development we need to overcome Auckland’s growth problems by providing intensive and integrated housing on key public transport corridors only eight kilometres from the city centre. Fletchers has already demonstrated at Stonefields that quarries can be converted into highly successful and attractive housing developments. This is the largest brownfield site in close proximity to the city that is suitable for housing.”

Community consultation on the redevelopment of the Three Kings quarry began in 2008 and has involved over 70 public, community and local board meetings and hui. The plan change application was lodged in September 2014, with 237 submissions – of which two-thirds were in support. Hearings were held before four independent commissioners appointed by Auckland Council in May and approval was granted for the plan change and development on 2 November.  The commissioners concluded it would provide the opportunity for a “quality built environment.”

The Environment Court appeals lodged on 11 January 2016 by the South Epsom Planning Group Incorporated and Three Kings United Group Incorporated seek to overturn approval of the development and require the site to be restored to pre-quarry levels, with only low-rise housing allowed.

“The practical impact of these appeals in that they would reduce the number of new homes by 1000, make them much more expensive and significantly delay the project. The most likely outcome if the appeal is successful is that this disused quarry will remain vacant for another decade while Auckland families struggle to find suitable homes to buy or rent,” Dr Smith says.

“We have been able to avoid these planning problems on dozens of other Auckland housing projects through the use of the Government’s Special Housing Areas legislation that preclude these sorts of appeals. A 1.4-hectare corner of the Three Kings site has been declared a Special Housing Area, all consents have been granted and 78 homes are now under construction. The Special Housing Areas legislation could not be used for the bulk of the Three Kings development because it exceeds six storeys.

“The Three Kings case confirms the need for Resource Management Act reform and the impact it has on Auckland’s housing development. The Resource Legislation Reform Bill currently before Parliament contains specific provisions that would enable future residential developments of this type to be streamlined but this Bill is not due to be passed until later this year.”

The decision for the Government to join the proceedings was made at the first Cabinet of the year last Tuesday. The notice of the Environment Minister and HNZC joining the proceedings under section 274 of the Resource Management Act was lodged today in the Environment Court by Dr Claire Kirman of Ellis Gould Solicitors, who is representing both parties. The Minister has also instructed his counsel, Dr Kirman, to explore with other parties to the proceedings this matter being given priority by the court noting its importance.

“Joining the proceedings is about the Government using every tool available to help address Auckland’s planning and housing problems,” Dr Smith concluded.