Article: Property Investment

Council Update with Frank NewmanCouncil Update with Frank Newman

While attention has in recent months been on central government and post-election wheeling and dealing, there has been a lot going on locally. The Whangarei District Council (WDC) has released its annual report for the year ended 30 June 2017, the Hundertwasser project has been updated, the planning department has been writing new rules for trees, and councillors have said no to race-based seats around the council table.

Notable Trees

The WDC is currently going through what it calls a pre-consultation stage of a plan change regarding the management of protected trees in the district. They say, “Pre-consultation represents a great opportunity for you or your organisation to make a meaningful contribution in formulating provisions that work for everyone involved”.

By way of preamble, the policy states, “Trees provide a significant contribution to the amenity, historical, ecological and cultural values of the District. This is particularly so in urban areas where the ongoing demand for land development can threaten the existence of established trees…Individual trees and groups of trees that are considered to be among the most significant trees…are scheduled in this chapter in order to protect the benefits they provide for current and future generations.”

“Notable Trees” are given a score, based on what’s referred to as the Standard Tree Evaluation Method (STEM). A tree that scores 100 is considerable notable and worth protecting. The scoring system takes no account of the negative factors of having a large tree on private property.

There are 321 trees on the register - most of those are on private land. In addition to these Notable Trees, “Public Trees” are also protected. This (with some exemptions) means, “any tree or trees located within a road reserve, park or reserve administered by Whangarei District Council greater than 6.0m in height or with a girth (measured 1.4m above the ground) greater than 600mm.”

The issue that will be debated during the plan change is likely to focus on the trees on private land, and the requirements placed upon a private landowner. As things stand at present, while the tree is protected for the benefit of the public, the costs fall totally on the private landowner. Those costs are in the form of tree management (which in most cases must be done by an arborist), and land use restrictions - for example, restrictions on the “Construction or alteration of any structure, excavation of land, compaction of soil or formation of any new impervious surfaces within the dripline of a Notable Tree”.

There is a good argument that if notable trees are to be protected for the benefit of the public, then the costs and management responsibilities should fall upon the WDC.

Comments must be made in writing and received no later than 10 November 2017. For details see and search “Plan Change 129”.

A careful deconstruction

It has taken the organisers of the Hundertwasser project some time to come to the reality that the former NRC building cannot be “reinvigorated through the application of significant interventions”, which some say was Hundertwasser’s vision. It seems the significant intervention has now become a demolition, or in the language of Mayor Mai, “a careful deconstruction”.

Another reality is that this is far from an ordinary building project, on a site with its own challenges. The town basin, and much of the CBD, is reclaimed land, which has major implications on the foundation work required. The problem is exacerbated in the case of the Hundertwasser building because of its size and weight, due to its earth roof.

Registrations of Interest are currently being sought for the construction of the project. The promoters believe the work can be carried out within the current cost estimates, but the reality test will come when the contract prices are in.

Racial seats on Council

Should two of the 13 WDC council seats be reserved for Maori only? That was a question debated by councillors last week. A motion put by Mayor Mai that Maori wards be established was defeated. An alternative motion put by Cr Christie that, “Council takes no further action on the establishment of a Maori ward(s)” was carried 8 votes to 4. Those in favour of the status quo were: Crs Christie, Halse, Deeming, Bell, Cocurullo, Glen, Cutforth, and Martin.

Against were: Mayor Mai, Crs Murphy, Morgan, and Hermon. Cr Innes abstained.

The vote was the second stage in a three stage review of the way local councillors are elected. The next and final stage is defining the wards. This usually involves shifting the ward boundaries to accommodate population changes, but could be more substantial. The timetable for that review is between 1 March – 31 August 2018.

The WDC recently released its annual report.  I will address that in a separate article as I am awaiting clarification from council on certain matters.

Frank Newman is the principal of Newman Property Consultancy. He is the author of numerous books on investment matters. For questions or comment about this article contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Leave your comment

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.