Ahhh. Election time

One always worries a little bit about the elections, but unlike the rest of the world, which seems to have gone off the rails a bit, the New Zealand election promises a great civilized action, no matter who wins.

Unfortunately, there is still an ugly tension lurking under the surface, and in the case of the city I love, it once again falls under the banner of “the housing crisis”. Now I’ve spoken previously about the social contract our council has with us to protect that which is unique and special about Wellington, but the unfortunate crux of the matter is that once again, the council appears to be siding with developers at our expense.

This is particularly disturbing, as one of our local representatives, Paul Eagle, appears to support a massive programme of private gain at public expense. He is also, of course, up for election to Parliament. This is where I’m a little concerned. As far as I can tell (and I welcome his feedback!), he has supported developers’ profits rather than protecting the rights of current residents, all under the guise of “the housing crisis”. If this is an indication as to his philosophy towards government, then I am deeply concerned about his representing us in parliament.

The recent stuff article is particularly illuminating. Firstly, we should always be worried when a government agency like Wellington City Council is doing anything urgently – this is government-speak for “if we do it fast, no one can challenge it”, and a great way of hiding all manner of dodgy dealings.

According to the article, Paul Eagle has supported the establishment of a committee to fast-track decisions about housing. Now on the face of this, it might be a good thing, however, the article notes that the committee is going to be comprised of councillors (good), and “external experts from the taskforce.”

So what is this taskforce they speak of? Well, you can read the report by the taskforce here. It’s comprised of “experts”, most of whom, it appears, are developers or builders, or landowners, with a small spattering of affordable housing advocates. The only representative for locals: Paul Eagle.

The conclusion of the taskforce? More intense housing, reduced amenity, and fast tracking for developments. Sounds like the wish list for big developers’ profit margins.

As to any consultation with the public, well, there’s not much in there about that. In fact, there’s none at all. We just need to trust the developers that they’re going to make wonderful modern housing.

My question to our Councillors (and possibly new member of parliament): it’s nice that you’re thinking about the future, and future residents of your constituency, but what are you doing to help protect my neighbourhood, and my way of life?

I’m already here, and I want to know. Because on the face of it, you appear to be taking our support for granted, and colluding with developers to urbanize everything for a yet-to-appear constituency.

We need affordable housing, but we also need close consultation with the neighbourhoods that you’re intending to change by legislative fiat.

It is not a single sided issue. We are all stakeholders.

 

Philosophy and Responsibility – it’s important.

At present, the question up for debate by the council is twofold: the sale/lease of land to a developer, and the uncapped infrastructure spend that is associated with the proposed development.

These two questions are interesting, as the underlying assumption is that the City Council does not want the land, but does want to support the dense urban housing that the developer is proposing. I would argue that these two assumptions are essentially flawed, and competing.

On the one hand the council is clearly tasked with helping to aid the economic development of Wellington, and to that end, this would surely succeed – a lot of cash would get spent. Of course, a lot of it will be coming from the ratepayers, so that part of the spend is zero or negative.

The economists in the crowd would more than likely be quite happy to see the entire Miramar Peninsula covered with 6, 8, or 10 story dense urban housing, as this is of course the way you generate economic activity. But it’s a pretty poor replacement for what is here.

As other authors have noted, the Shelly Bay area is unique in its location both within a city, and it’s wild and undeveloped disposition.

Which  leads me to the other competing claim on the council: to provide for the general well-being of the community, and in this case, the councils’ proposal falls very flat. This neighbourhood is possessed of a very unique character, one which the Council seems happy to destroy in its’ quest for profit for the developers. It’s at this level that the removal of land from the Council into private arms, a removal I will note, was not open up to public scrutiny, nor open to competitive bids, nor, up till now, even open for debate is at fault, and will harm the neighbourhood.

Remember, once that land is gone, it’s gone for good. It will never return to the public domain, and the thin slices that the developer is proposing as a replacement are a sorry sad replacement.

The Wellington City Council needs to be reminded that it has a fiduciary responsibility to our happiness and enjoyment of our community.

So I urge you to write to them and remind them of their responsibility.

P.S.: Don’t forget to put your submission in by 5PM August 14, 2017

CLICK HERE for the Wellington CIty Council Submission Site

or

CLICK HERE for a printable submission form.

Why are they hiding the numbers?

Having been a citizen of a democratic culture all of my life, I occasionally find it interesting that folks seem to ignore numbers. I understand – numbers are hard.

Yet numbers are great things, because they’re difficult to refute. When someone says 1+1 = 4, we’re immediately suspicious.

That’s why I continue to be suspicious of the numbers that Wellington City Council and the Developer put out with respect to the proposed sale, lease, and infrastructure costs of the proposed development of Shelly Bay. The numbers just don’t add up.

In particular, my suspicion reaches red-alert levels when these same bodies are attempting to hide the numbers. All of their advertisements and text say a variant of this: “The Council proposes to sell and lease some of its land to Shelly Bay Ltd.” (the council website), and completely ignore the question of the huge infrastructure subsidy for the developer that comes along with the deal.

Which is why I keep hammering that number (among others). In a civil society, there’s a social construct between us, the citizens, and the Wellington City Council.

The City Council has the right of taxation over us, and so needs to be mindful of the benefit that we receive for that taxation. And lest anyone should forget, taxation comes ultimately at the point of a gun. Just try protesting this development by not paying your rates, and you’ll ultimately find a policeman at the end of the tale. Ignore that policeman, and one with a gun will ultimately show up.

When our elected representatives ignore this social contract, when they put the well-being of developers ahead of our welfare, we need to act. When they socialize the costs and privatise profits, we need to act. When they side with profiteers who do not live in our community, we need to act.

Look closely at the submission website:

Wellington City Council – Shelly Bay submission site

and you’ll find no mention of the millions of dollars that they’re proposing to give to the developer. They are outright hiding the subsidy.

Only if you download the submission form or the consultation document will you find mention of this subsidy.

In my view, this is a crime. They are blatantly attempting to hide a pay-out of a magnitude that most of us would balk at. Are they unmindful of their responsibility to us? I don’t know. Are they corrupt? I don’t know. I hope not. All I know, is that they don’t appear to be representing us.

We need to act.

Tell our elected officials (particularly the ones that represent the eastern wards) that they cannot subsidize this development. They cannot line the pockets of the developers with our cash. They should not sell off our assets. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

They are our representatives, and they need to start acting like it.

P.S.: Don’t forget to put your submission in by 5PM August 14, 2017

CLICK HERE for the Wellington CIty Council Submission Site

or

CLICK HERE for a printable submission form.

Concrete Jungle

The real difficulty that I have with this development, is not the concept of development itself, but what has been put forward by the developer. The buildings that are in the plan are massive tilt-slab style, 27 meter high dense urban (prefab?) housing.

To me, that’s the rub. The eastern suburbs, with the exception of the monstrosity that is the airport carpark (yes Infratil, we understand the only way a monopoly is able to increase it’s revenue and cost to the public, is to increase its asset base) is a laid back, mostly one or two story,  low density housing space. I don’t know about you, but part of the reason I live here, is EXACTLY BECAUSE of this fact. If I had wanted to be crammed wall-to-wall with my neighbours, I would be living in downtown Wellington, or perhaps, London.

So when I saw that they were planning to put 350 dwellings in a space of 4.5 hectares, I was aghast. According to the last census, Miramar has a density of 3.7 dwellings per hectare. The proposed Shelly Bay development will have 77 dwellings per hectare, nearly twenty times the density of the local neighbourhood. To put this into perspective, London, one of the densest, most congested cities on the planet, has a density of approximately 125 dwellings per hectare.

One might wonder, what’s the harm? Well, for me, it turns out there’s a lot of harm – the quality of life that I’ve aspired to, is one where we aren’t all crammed together, that we don’t need to be living at each others’ doorstep.

By sneaking Shelly Bay through HAASHA (Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013), which allows the council to grant consent with no consultation with the residents of the area, our council has cleverly given carte-blanche to turn a natural, relaxed neighbourhood into a concrete urban jungle. Of course, for this particular developer, this is just the beginning, with high density housing planned for the top of the hill as well.

So just like the biking and fishing along Shelly Bay Road, if this development goes through, we can happily say goodbye to our sleepy relaxed neighbourhood, not just because of the traffic lights.

I don’t want the quality of my neighbourhood altered in this manner, and am frankly incensed that the city council is colluding with developers to degrade the quality of my life, and the quality of my neighbourhood. Developers, who I will also note, don’t live here either, and one of whom appears to live on 4.2 hectares all by himself. Apparently he doesn’t like dense urban housing either.

Shame on you city council, Shame.

 

P.S.: Don’t forget to put your submission in by 5PM August 14, 2017

CLICK HERE for the Wellington CIty Council Submission Site

or

CLICK HERE for a printable submission form.