New Zealand

Nelson’s proposed housing intensification: ‘They are stealing our sunlight’

Nelson city

Nelson city
Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

A proposed change in planning rules to enable greater housing intensification has drawn opposition from some residents in Nelson.

There are fears six-storey apartment blocks will shade homes and destroy the city’s amenity.

However, environmental and housing experts say current planning rules are outdated and housing needs to accommodate a growing city.

Last month, Nelson City Council voted to progress plan change 29 for public notification – it proposes the introduction of three new residential zones allowing for varying levels of housing density.

Tim Bayly, who started the Facebook page Stop Plan 29, is calling it daylight robbery.

“That’s what it is, basically they are stealing our sunlight and we all came to Nelson because it was the sunniest place in New Zealand, mostly and houses are sold on sunshine and aspect, so the most expensive houses have good sunshine and good views and so forth.

“Now, that could be gone tomorrow and the thing that gets me is you have no rights… the neighbour can build [according to the zone rules] and you get no consultation, no nothing. The first thing you know that two, three, or six storey buildings going up next to you is the bulldozers showing up on Monday morning.”

Tim Bayley sits at a table with some of the flyers he has printed out.

Tim Bayley has printed 10,000 flyers and has been walking the streets to distribute them and raise awareness of the proposed housing plan change in Nelson.
Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

The three zones under plan change 29 include; a general residential zone where up to three residential units with a height of two storeys will be permitted; a medium density residential zone with up to three units of up to three storeys; and a high density residential zone with up to three units of up to six storeys, which can be built without resource consent if they met the required conditions.

Bayly said he was not opposed to intensification, he just did not agree with this approach.

“I don’t think it’s the way forward, you don’t hand over a city carte blanche to developers to look after because they do not build good stuff… they will build stuff that makes them the most money and that’s the issue here, if you want really good planning you have to have good community input.”

Fellow Nelson resident Steve Webster felt the same and was worried about the timeframe for feedback and the lack of engagement with the community.

“We have 27 working days to get public submissions in, the documentation is a couple of thousand pages or so, there’s no time to try and look at the positives in it, it’s just trying to find the negatives in it so we can stop those aspects before we destroy the city.”

Nelson resident Steve Webster is concerned about what is being proposed in plan change 29.

Nelson resident Steve Webster is concerned about what is being proposed in plan change 29.
Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Webster said he did not feel like the proposed plan had the best interests of the Nelson community at heart and he wanted to see the council work alongside its residents.

After feedback, the council organised a public meeting at short notice, to allow people a forum to discuss the proposed changes.

Nelson City Council environmental management group manager Mandy Bishop said the current planning rules were 20 years old and needed to change to cope with the city’s growth.

“Nelson hasn’t got a lot of flat land to spread out on, so our main avenue for accommodating growth is intensification – both within the city centre and alongside public transport routes.

“It is just a proposal at the moment and we’re keen to hear people’s feedback as to whether we have got this right or there are some areas where people suggest we might do it differently.”

Bishop said the council was required to have a 30-year plan that provided for future growth under the government’s national policy statement for urban development – which was Nelson’s Future Development Strategy that was adopted by the council last August.

“It’s looking ahead for our region to try and enable a supply of a variety of housing choices, we don’t expect this to be uptaken and change the scene overnight… it has the potential to change neighbourhoods as we know them, particularly close to the centres, along public transport lines and within walking distance to commercial and community facilities.”

Nelson Tasman Housing Trust director Carrie Mozena said greater intensification was needed in the region, and the organisation supported the plan change.

“Nelson continues to have a serious affordable housing problem and frankly, anything that over time will help both community housing providers as well as private property developers deliver a greater intensification, will help the community long term.”

The trust has over 100 people on its waitlist for housing and fields hundreds more enquires about housing each year.

The results of its most recent six monthly survey, showed 600 households across Nelson and Tasman were searching for an affordable place to live.

“The pressure to provide more homes for a growing population is being felt up and down New Zealand, Nelson is not alone by any means, but the reality is that it’s just no longer practical, in urban centres the size of Nelson or larger, for everyone to be able to live on a quarter acre section anymore, it’s just not practical anymore.

“Nelson needs more homes and we can’t just do it spreading out, we have to go up.”

Kindra Douglas, of Community Action Nelson, said there had been a clear need for housing intensification in the city for some time.

“It’s been talked about for as long as I can remember, the future development strategy was very clear that overall, there was a sense we don’t want to go out sprawling because we don’t have the traffic infrastructure, we don’t want to create greater congestion but also people want to live in a city centre now in a different way than we might have even 10 or 15 years ago.”

The plan presented exciting opportunities for growth, she said.

“We’ve got a whole bunch of amazingly good architects and designers and development people who really want to help make a difference in our city and I’d be really sad to hear people saying no, just don’t do it, because the council has already got a good mandate to proceed with this and every other good city in the world is doing exactly that.”

The proposed changes are open for feedback until 19 September.

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