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Auckland Unitary Plan appeal rejected

NZN 13/02/2017 Paul McBeth

The hearings panel that provided the foundation of Auckland's Unitary Plan did not operate outside its jurisdiction, the High Court has found.

Justice Christian Whata on Monday ruled against a group of appeals that claimed the independent hearing panel misinterpreted its statutory duties when it included capacity for more than 400,000 new residential homes to meet the region's projected population growth over the next 30 years in the new Auckland unitary plan.

"In accordance with relevant statutory obligations, they correctly adopted a multi-layered approach to assessing scope," Justice Whata said.

Prime Minister Bill English says the case highlights the importance of the plan to Auckland's future.

"I think it's still yet to be understood what a significant change in the opportunity for housing supply the plan represents," he said at his post-cabinet press conference.

Mr English said that under the old plan, the government's stock of 27,000 state houses could have been increased to 30,000, while under the Unitary Plan it could be increased to 69,000.

"It just shows how important the plan is - and it's good to see it moving quickly through the inevitable appeals."

The plan attracted 106 appeals after it was passed and notified by the council last August, of which 39 were filed to the High Court.

The appeals potentially affected 29,000 properties that were rezoned from Single House to Mixed Housing Suburban in the plan, including in Grey Lynn, Parnell, Mt Albert and Blockhouse Bay.

Justice Whata resolved to hold a test case or cases to help resolve the scope and jurisdiction of the hearings panel and to provide a framework for sorting out individual claims.

He ruled on 10 test cases, of which he found two where the independent hearings panel didn't apply the legal framework correctly.

Justice Whata said both of those cases - relating to two specific addresses in Parnell and Takanini - should be referred to the Environment Court.

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