A significant benefit of the e-plan approach is that it enables an easy way for non-experts to explore the plan as it affects their own property.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown was clearly delighted at last Friday’s release of Auckland’s draft Unitary Plan.  “Today is a major milestone in Auckland’s journey to become the world’s most liveable city. This is where the rubber hits the road.” his press release said.

I wonder about the many road-related metaphors.

The reason he is so pleased is that the Unitary Plan enables the vision contained in last year’s Auckland Plan to be implemented.   Mayor Len Brown’s vision is for a compact, well-functioning city that is the world’s most liveable.

Auckland_waterfront_at_nightThe Unitary Plan is positioned to change the shape of Auckland with zoning and rules to promote the concept of a compact city.  A stated aim is to intensify the urban footprint and limit the urban spread into rural countryside.

Having had a first look through the plan, a number of things emerge.

Foremost is that the Unitary Plan is a rulebook.  And a rather dry one at that.  It integrates 14 of the 17 plans from pre-Auckland Council days.  There is little of the Mayor’s vision to be seen in its many pages.

Another is that the size and complexity of the Unitary Plan has led the Auckland Council to publish it as an e-plan.  The full document can be accessed on the Auckland Council website at www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/unitaryplan.    A significant benefit of the e-plan approach is that it enables an easy way for non-experts to explore the plan as it affects their own property.

For those rural people who do not have fast broadband access, the Council are making the e-plan available on DVD.  To obtain a copy, just telephone the Council on 09 3 01 01 01.

In a move that concerns me, the Auckland Council had approached the Government to have the plan adopted in its entirety when it is notified in September.

Under pressure from the Government to solve the issue of Auckland’s lack of affordable homes, Mayor Len Brown argued that the Unitary Plan needed to have immediate effect.  The normal consultation period, and perhaps many appeals, may have delayed the implementation of the plan.  Is it only a coincidence that the next Local Council elections will be held from 20th September to 12th October 2013?

For such a complex document, it would be a leap of faith too far, to simply accept the plan as written.

So how do we explore the draft plan to make sure that it works for the residents and ratepayers of the city?

One approach is to search the plan for matters affecting our own property.

Another is to look at distinct issues covered in Council discussion papers to see how those objectives are given weight.  One example of these is the “Powering Auckland’s Low Carbon Transformation” work the Council did last year.

Yet another is to look at what constitutes the world’s “most liveable” cities and to explore how the Unitary Plan gives impetus to the City’s direction down that road.

There are a number of “liveable city” rankings around the world.  Examples are the Mercer Quality of Living Survey (Auckland ranks at number three) and the Economist Intelligence Unit‘s (EIU’s) Global Liveability Report (Auckland ranks at number 10).

So given these rankings, the question must be asked: why do we need to be driven by that goal?

Whichever means to its exploration is used, this is an extremely important document and is deserving of a critical examination.  Submissions on the draft Unitary Plan close at the end of May 2013.