Support for higher density housing


Residents and political parties appear cautiously supportive of moves to allow higher-density housing, but also raise concerns about government overreach and regulatory confusion.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Labour government and the National Party today jointly announced moves to allow up to three houses, up to three storeys tall, without requiring resource consent.

Councils could choose to make the proposed standards more permissive to builders, and developers could apply for a resource consent to go further than what the standards would allow.

Mission Bay Kohimarama Residents’ Association chair Don Stock said they were supportive of intensification, but he believed there was an increasing trend towards the central government overriding and ignoring the needs and decision-making of smaller communities.

“Different areas have different attributes and those attributes should be taken into account before wholesale changes are made.

“If those changes are being made by decree from Wellington then there seems to be very little opportunity for local communities to have any say in the nature of the development that goes on.

“Some areas may be well appropriate for having three-storey houses on them, I don’t dispute that at all.

“But there will be other areas – particularly in single-family home areas, character areas and so forth – which will fall outside the fairly narrow exemptions that are being proposed but nonetheless still have a certain character which is deserving of protection.

“I probably don’t really live in a character area myself … I’m talking more about the principle of having a one-size-fits-all that applies without local input that takes local views into account.”

He said planning laws and council bylaws were in place to protect this for a reason, and the government should focus on fixing the resource consent process rather than intensification in the first instance.

“Why don’t we fix the basic problems with the process and then turn our attention to whether we need to have more land.

“Having said that I’m not actually averse to having an extra layer of intensification as long as it’s not imposed on every suburb without any regard to local character.”

Newtown Residents Association vice president Martin Hanley welcomed what he called in-scale intensification “where the new buildings are not way taller and shading the existing housing stock”.

He said Wellington City Council had recently imposed much more permissive height limits that would allow buildings of six to eight storeys.

“Being able to do stuff now and getting more people living closer to the heart of our cities is a great thing, this is a much better initiative than the problematic, out-of-scale, six-to-eight-storey buildings turning up next to little low-rise houses.

“We know there’s a climate crisis and we know there’s a housing shortage, and the warming planet and the escalating price rises are not gonna wait to build things in 10 or 15 years’ time.

“The Newtown community has got its own scheme for how to densify our suburb and we’d love to collaborate with Renters United and Generation Zero and housing people now.

“The world can’t wait.”