The Auckland region is growing at such a fast rate that it is estimated in approximately twenty years the region will have to accommodate an increase in population equal to the size of Wellington within its boundaries. Regional policies and strategies seek to accommodate this growth mostly within existing urban areas, with only a small portion of this growth to be accommodated within Greenfield developments. Within the existing urban areas, growth is to be concentrated in intensified areas. However, these policies and strategies neglect to consider the role that traditional suburban areas could play in accommodating growth. Growth in such areas could be accommodated by obtaining resource consent for minor dwellings/units commonly known as ‘granny flats’.
The Auckland City: Growth Management Strategy (December 2003) seeks to fulfil the objectives of the regions Growth Management Strategy and Regional Policy Statement by providing for growth within high density centres and corridors such as Newmarket, Remuera, Ellerslie, Mt Albert, Panmure, Mt Wellington Quarry, Onehunga, Pt Chevalier and Sylvia Park. These areas are known as the ‘areas of change’.
In contrast the Growth Management Strategy defines the Auckland City suburbs of Ponsonby, Parnell, Freemans Bay, Kingsland, Mt Eden Village, Blockhouse Bay, Jervois Rd, Valley Road/Dominion, Lynfield, Greenwoods Corner, Greenlane, Market Rd and St Heliers as areas of stability. These areas have been identified as ‘areas of stability’ as these areas are “traditional communities that have significant character, environmental or heritage qualities that cannot support more growth.”
Whilst the mechanism of providing for growth in high density centres and corridors of compact growth is not inappropriate, it is short sighted to neglect the potential for the older traditional suburbs, identified as ‘areas of stability’ to accommodate growth whilst still preserving the heritage qualities that are appreciated and valued in these areas.
One such mechanism for achieving growth within these areas, whilst preserving heritage qualities, is to allow property owners to obtain resource consent to develop a second residential unit – a so called minor unit or granny flat – that is ancillary to and associated with the primary residential unit on a site. Historically flats have been established within dwellings without major external renovations by creating flats next to each other within the same building envelope, or above one another. This creates smaller residential units, but has the advantage of retaining the historic character of the older dwellings. Also, the creation of smaller residential units correlates with a demographic change in Auckland for increasingly smaller household sizes. The Auckland Regional Policy Statement identifies this demographic change, “The average household size is now below three persons. The number of single parent and one person households has increased rapidly in recent years”.
Thus, enabling people to obtain resource consent for minor dwellings could allow many of the old large wooden villas and bungalows in the ‘areas of stability’ to be more appropriately and efficiently utilised for the changing household sizes. In order to provide for minor dwellings, the district plan must provide for them. The operative Auckland City Isthmus District Plan does not provide for minor dwellings as some other district plans do. The District Plan was in the process of being reviewed, but that process has been curtailed by the ‘Super City’ process. But keep a watch out for submission and consultation periods to have your say on planning issues.