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Freemans Bay residents out in force to protect the community

Freemans Bay residents out in force to protect their community

The groundswell of concern about potential changes in Freemans Bay was underlined by the attendance of 109 residents at a meeting of the Freemans Bay Residents Association on Tuesday, 4 February. The meeting was called specifically to discuss changes to zoning in Auckland Council’s draft Unitary Plan and the proposed re-development of Spring St pensioner housing.

In particular attendees were concerned that the residents of the Spring St pensioner complex, which is owned by Housing New Zealand, would be displaced, despite having previously been granted lifetime accommodation.

‘For us younger residents we might be able to cope with the move, but there are residents who are in their 80s and 90s and will struggle and suffer with making a move at this time of their lives’, said Bob Tait, pensioner tenant of Spring St, when he presented to the meeting.

The concern has been generated by a potential joint venture between Government and a private developer, to replace the pensioner housing with a minimum 80 new mixed terraced houses and apartments. Of further concern was the possibility under the notified Unitary Plan zoning that these could be built up to six storeys (up to 19 metres and possibly higher), in an existing heritage area, without any consultation with the local community. Residents have had first-hand experience with a development of this scale, on the corner of England St and College Hill, which many felt was significantly out of character and proportion with the rest of the area.

In its “Notice to Tenderers No 1”, Housing New Zealand specifically advises tenderers that it does not require the developer to plan for affordable housing or social housing.

Under the proposed terms of the joint venture the successful developer is expected to acquire the Spring St site from Housing New Zealand for as little as book value, which is significantly less than market, to develop the up market housing complex. When finished the developer will lease back 42 of the apartments to Housing New Zealand who will take on a new corporate role of “up market” landlord and potentially, body corporate member.

Significantly, the proposed scheme will not add to the stock of affordable houses in Auckland.

At the meeting, specific mention was made of the likelihood that the Spring St pensioner housing may be designated as a Special Housing Area under the Housing Accord between Auckland Council and the Government. If this were to occur, it would mean very limited consultation with local boards and adjacent land owners resulting in largely uncontrolled development rights. This was of specific concern to residents who value the heritage value of the area.

Chair of the Freemans Bay Residents Association, Lynne Butler, was clear that the Association would be taking comprehensive action. ‘We are already talking to key stakeholders about these issues, and expect the backing from our local community to grow. This is our community and we care. We expect our Council and our Government to respect that.’

END

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