it is quite illogical that actively developing “A Māori identity that is Auckland’s point of difference” should be given greater importance in Auckland’s future planning, than mitigating climate change
Last week we looked at Auckland Council’s draft Unitary Plan and asked: how do we determine whether it works for the people of the city?

One approach to looking at how the plan works, was to search the plan for matters affecting individual properties.

As a property development rule book, the draft plan works well.  The Auckland Council are to be commended for the online tools that enable individuals to explore the rules around what they can do with their property.

Another approach was to look at distinct issues covered in Council discussion papers to see how policy is enabled.  Taking “Powering Auckland’s Low Carbon Transformation” as an example, how does the draft Unitary Plan stack up as a means to achieving goals around climate change?

The short answer is: ineffectually.  In my humble opinion.

1 FINAL Unitary Plan coverPart 2 of the Unitary Plan sets out the Regional Policy Statement. Its 38,721 words identify eight issues of regional significance for resource management in Auckland.  These issues link to the seven outcomes of the Auckland Plan.

One of those issues is climate change.

The plan says “… how we locate and manage land use and its integration with transport will be the main way we respond to climate change.” So climate change responses center on transport?

If the Regional Policy Statement is about the what of Council policies, then Part 3 of the plan, Regional and District Objectives and Policies, ought to be about the how – the tactics and the rules.

In the Objectives and Policies document, the phrase “climate change” is used seven times and each time, it is about sea level rise.  Carbon sequestration, or storage, is mentioned only three times, and each time it is about trees.

Little is there around specific and actionable climate change mitigation and adaptation tactics in the building code.

An example could be to require all new houses to instal a solar thermal water heater.

Requiring domestic water storage or sewerage treatment facilities would be good for resilience in the face of climate change. Their only mention in the plan is that Beachlands residences must not have a water tank visible from the street and must be connected to the sewerage treatment system.

Makes me wonder if the Council is using the Unitary Plan to protect Council owned businesses?

To me, responding to climate change is the single biggest challenge facing us.  It is an issue so significant that it transcends everything else.  Yet climate change figures in only two of the seven Auckland Plan outcomes.

As an indicator of the importance the Auckland Council attaches to it, climate change accounts for only 3.5% of the word count in the Regional Policy Statement.  In comparison, Mana Whenua issues account for 13.5% of the word count, or nearly four times that of climate change.

To me, it is quite illogical that actively developing “A Māori identity that is Auckland’s point of difference” should be given greater importance in Auckland’s future planning, than mitigating climate change.  A point of difference is not what we will need in the face of extreme weather events caused by climate change.

Likewise is the Unitary Plan’s lack of content around sustainably managing our rural environment which accounts for 5.2% of the word count.  Rural areas have a significant role to play in Auckland’s climate change strategy, yet we are seen mainly as space to accommodate Auckland’s expanding population.

This Unitary Plan is most likely to deliver good planning rules for a denser city-centric community with a Maori-focused culture that lacks resilience.