We’ve all heard about the housing problems that exist in Auckland (and other parts of NZ). While everyone might have different views on how to do it, at least everyone at least agrees that it is important we build a lot more homes. If there is one upside to the housing problems it is that is starting to kick some developers back into action after the hibernation period brought about by the GFC.

We have previously talked about a number of apartment developments that have been popping up including:

City Fringe: Urba – Apartment building replacing a low rise office

New Lynn: Merchant Quarter Condominiums – 10 levels of apartments being proposed above a new car parking building and medical clinic development right next to the train station

Manukau: M Central – The conversion of an existing office building (ex IRD) to apartments and retail

City: Sugartree – A series of apartment buildings being developed around Cook and Nelson St.

City: 132 Vincent St – Another office conversion

Grey Lynn: The Isaac – A lower rise development (four stories) that is already well under construction.

In the last few days we have been hearing about a couple more developments getting closer to construction and both of them have been through some fairly lengthy battles to get this far.

The first one is perhaps one of the most well-known developments, Orakei Point. This has surely got to be one of the smartest options we have for development in the city. It is a sizeable chunk of land in a fairly desirable location and what’s more it even has a train station on site. Even with the crappy old trains we have at the moment, rail is the fastest way to get to town even in the off peak which is something that not many locations can boast. The company behind the development is obviously confident that they will be able to get through the last of the issues before the environment court as they are now expecting the first town houses to start construction early next year.

Seven years after the process began, controversial plans to create an urban village in Orakei are going ahead despite continued opposition from residents.

Auckland Council approved the rezoning of Orakei Pt peninsula to a mixture of site-specific, mixed use and open space in 2011.

Extensive delays occurred when Ports of Auckland, Kings Plant Barn, KiwiRail and the developers appealed parts of the ruling (East & Bays Courier, April 27, 2012).

There is still a case before the Environment Court.

So while there could still be changes to some aspects of the development plan, the first 40 townhouses are now for sale and will be built in the first quarter of next year.

Orakei Point - May 2013

But just how much development is planned?

The 4.6-hectare development which covers 228-246 Orakei Rd is divided into two projects, the higher-end apartments in the gated community known as Orakei Point and the rebranded Orakei Bay Village below.

It will consist of 100 townhouses and 400 apartments, along with car parking facilities and retail and office space.

The Orakei Train Station sits in the middle of the proposed village but noise will be minimised by building over the top of the railway.

Mr Knight says the project picks up on the need for intensification in Auckland and should appeal to a mix of people.

The price of apartments will range from around $750,000 to $3 million and the mid-range townhouses will be between $1.3 and $1.9m.

Average densities in the surrounding area are about 2.5 people per household. Assuming the same kind of occupancy happens with these dwellings, it equates to over 1000 people that would be living right next to the train station. Of course the prices mentioned certainly aren’t cheap but if that is what the developers can sell these places for then I don’t think we can object too much. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Park n Ride that exists on site, personally I’m not a fan of having it so I won’t be sad to see it go. I also hope that the developers work with Auckland Transport to really make the station interesting and unique – Munich does this very well.

Of course not everyone is happy

Warren Tuohey was the chairman of the former Orakei residents society which opposed aspects of the development.

“That has always been a nice drive with views of the sea and we were very keen to ensure that it didn’t become obscured by high-rise buildings.”

May I suggest that when driving the best option would be to watch the road rather than the scenery, it’s much safer for everyone involved. But seriously, did they really object to the development partly on the grounds that they wanted things to look nicer while they were driving?

Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson shares his concern.

“The good news is the development is of a reasonable standard and priced well so it will fit in with the existing Orakei ward.

“The developer is working within his brief but it concerns me that this will create more delays for commuters who are moving through that section of Orakei Rd.”

I wonder if Desley has let slip the real reason that the majority of the objections to the Unitary Plan are coming from areas with higher valued property. Many of the people in these suburbs see their neighbourhood as status symbols. They believe that higher densities will reduce the exclusivity of their area and in turn make them feel less special. I also note she doesn’t seem to show any concern for the commuters who use the train and who will likely be subject to a lengthy period of disruptions from the construction work.

The second development is way out west in Swanson. I have long thought it was odd that there was not much development on the southern side of the train station however as I now found out, that is because the local community have been fighting against it for 13 years.

A rural village in West Auckland is set for a boost of 330 new homes which were first planned 13 years ago but became caught in a battle between the developer, a residents’ environmental group and local authorities.

Auckland Council has approved a change to the Waitakere District Plan to allow intensified residential development around the Swanson Railway Station.

This follows a successful Environment Court mediation of appeals on a council commissioners’ decision last June on the so-called Penihana North plan change.

The area is fairly well defined in the current Google maps image being the orchard area with the rows of trees in the map below.

Penihana North Area

And here is some more information about what is happening.

“It’s a nice little village and it will essentially have a doubling of the population,” said a resident of 40 years, Paul Robinson, who has been concerned for a decade on how the land is developed.

Swanson’s role in Auckland’s growth was sealed in 2009, when the former Waitakere District Council accepted an area of 22.5ha for urban development. In 2010, the former Auckland Regional Council moved the metropolitan urban limit to include farm land in Penihana North.

The developer of 90 per cent of the land is Neil Construction. Its chief executive, Grant Brebner, said work could start this year on a mixture of medium- and lower-density lots spread over five years.

The area nearest to the station and railway line was zoned for medium density where the minimum requirement was one dwelling per 350sq m.

He said the lower-density zoning to the south of a through-road between Christian Rd and O’Neills Rd required lots of at least 600sq m, apart from a small area next to the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area which required 1200sq m sites.

“The whole plan change area will produce about 320 to 330 dwellings but this could rise with the addition of more town houses close to the railway station.

“We will ensure a reasonable quality of development going in there.”

Mr Brebner said it had taken 13 years to get the land zoned for residential, despite it having rail and road transport and water and sewerage services.

“It’s illustrative of how things have got to change or Auckland’s housing crisis will get a lot worse.”

Out this way, the house occupancies tend to be a little higher with the surrounding areas averaging about 3 people per dwelling. That means that once again it looks like we will be adding more than 1000 people right next to an existing train station. Mr Robinsons views in this article also seem much more moderate than his previous complaints about it. Back in 2010 he suggested that such a development would become and urban getto.

“[A high amount of houses] will turn the area into an urban ghetto. Swanson is a rural area, and the infrastructure can’t handle that many houses.”

Over 28 years, Mr Robinson has watched development creep across the village. He’s in the Preserve the Swanson Foothills Society – locals arguing the land should be divided into sections triple the proposed size, with an outer buffer zone.

Lastly, I first picked up that this development was happening late last week by reading through the Auckland Transport board report. It contained one other good bit of information about the development.

Neil Construction Limited has undertaken an agreement with Auckland Transport to cost share the construction of a proposed 700m off road cycleway adjacent to the western rail corridor. The cycleway will connect Swanson Rail Station to the new Penihana North residential development. Construction of the cycleway is planned for 2014.

I firmly believe that adding cycleways alongside our rail corridors is a very good thing. Assuming that the development provides good connections to it, it should make it very easy for residents to access the station. It should also benefit some of the existing locals who live along O’Neills Rd by making it easier for them to access the station as it would cut over 1km off the current route.

I’m looking forward to seeing both of these developments get underway.

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65 comments

  1. Re the Swanson development, I wonder if it would be a good example to build a real ‘complete streets’ village with 30km/h streets etc. One can only hope.

    1. Yes both those suggestions would be better, but it doesn’t look like the developer is that savvy, anyway so much time and energy has gone into fighting NIMBYS over this site….

      1. You really have to question why the council would keep pushing against the will of the residents. Almost the entire community is against it, and in a democracy that should be enough to end the proposal. This is why the council has refused to schedule a UP meeting in Swanson – they know it will be very confrontational, so on top of the Penihana Development, they are pushing the UP through without any real consultation. Swanson is to be upscaled big time, against the will of the community, just to justify the rail plans. The council has abandoned democracy when it comes to urban development.

        1. If the community is so keen to stop the development, why dont you all get together and buy out the developer? I am sure they have their price.

          1. That’s a strange concept you propose – elimination of planning requirements in favour of full rights to developers with no regard to the community. Sounds like China to me.

          2. Geoff, that’s an ATB yellow card for a “strawman argument”.

            More specifically, I note that swan clearly did not propose to eliminate planning requirements, instead he simply suggested that if the community wanted to stop the development then they should pool their collective resources and buy the land from the developer. I note further that the development in question appears to have been approved by Council, i.e. it has met planning requirements, which renders your strawman argument even more odd.

            I refer you to our user guidelines for more information: http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/user-guidelines/

            Do it again and I’ll cry.

          3. Stu, if the only way a community can protect itself is to buy any properties that are for sale instead of already having in place zoning/regulations to protect it, then my assessment of what Swan said (and you repeated) is true and correct. That is a shift of protection from the community to developers. If you think that’s wrong, then perhaps you can explain to me how a community will be protected from development it doesn’t want, under the UP? If people don’t want an apartment complex built in the middle of their neighbourhood full of front and back yards, and trees, how do they stop it, under the UP? I’ve asked this question of several people, and they don’t have an answer.

          4. Geoff, again you’re grossly misrepresenting what was said; that’s strike 2. Please note that I’m serious when I say that if you continue to be unacceptably argumentative and annoying (in my opinion) then we will block your IP from the blog.

            I note that neither swan nor myself suggested buying the land is the “only way” the community could protect itself. Before it gets to that stage the proposed development first has to meet the planning rules established by the community via its democratically elected council and implemented under the District Plan and governed by the RMA.

            In this case, after some negotiation, the development appears to have planning approval, so the locals should accept that it’s a legitimate development and that the most appropriate response, if they don’t want it developed, is to buy the land.

            So it’s only if the development receives planning approval are we suggesting that the community should buy the land. And to answer your question the community is protected from development it doesn’t want the same way it’s always been: Engaging in the democratic process, setting planning rules, and making submissions on proposed developments.

            The UP is not particularly relevant to this discussion, but I will say that the UP (when finalised) will simply sets the rules of the games. It’s up to the community and the council to then ensure it’s applied in the intent with which it was developed, i.e. be referees.

          5. “the proposed development first has to meet the planning rules established by the community via its democratically elected council and implemented under the District Plan and governed by the RMA”

            Agreed – but in every other town and city in NZ, and in Auckland until now, the district plan planning rules are set to protect each individual community, so that its inhabitants need not worry about any development occuring that is out of character with its existing layout/lifestyle. The UP changes that, removing protection from current inhabitants in some areas, giving greater ability to outsiders and developers, to construct dwellings out of character with the pre-existing neighbourhood.

            Sorry you feel the need to threaten me because my view differs from yours. I’m not misrepresenting your view at all, but I am trying to udnerstand it. In fact since you haven’t answered my question, I’ll put it to you again – what ability will a community have to prevent the construction of dwellings out of character with the existing neighbourhood, under the UP, where the UP has given the right to developers or owners to construct such dwellings? AFAICT, the UP gives no such measures of protection to communities.

          6. +1

            “Each community will consider the appropriate degree of compactness and level of intensity that goes with this”. Mayor Len Brown, Auckland Plan p3.

            That part didn’t make it to the DUP.

            Communities need to be empowered on some level. IF the Council wants massive buy in.

          7. Thanks Geoff H, that’s quite interesting. So for the mayor to live up to his words, he would need to concede that when a majority in a community don’t want the proposed change, it must be dropped or at least negotiated with the community.

        2. Geoff your use of the term ‘bigtime’ is clearly inaccurate. Swanson is hardly planned for that much change, change but not in any way like you’re painting it. It remains on the edge of the city. And being on the periphery if it is the government and the anti-UP crowd you prefer there will just be endless identi-kit suburbia reaching into the hills and all the way north rather than an Urban Rural Boundary; is that your preference?

          1. Stu, of course the residents are the relevant party. They live there; it’s their home. When you have 95% of them against a proposed change to their community, the right and proper thing for the council to do would be to acknowledge that, and terminate the plans. If it was a more even mix of for and against, then change could be managed, but when almost everybody is against it, there’s no excuse in a democracy for that change to be forced through.

          2. No, they’re not.

            As far as I know the “residents”, as you say, are not a democratic entity recognised by the legislation that governs local government in NZ. The locals matter only as much as they can influence their local board and, ultimately, their representatives on the local council. Those are the relevant parties – and perhaps their local electorate MP as well.

            Now, you seem to have various ideas (which I disagree with) on how local government could – in your opinion – be improved, which would be likely to result in these residents having more influence. That’s fine – but you should not try and pretend that the democracy *you want* is the democracy that *we have*. Because it’s not.

        3. You might want check the definition of democracy Geoff. Expecting that a few hundred people should have be able to sway over a council responsible for 1.5 million isn’t democracy.

          1. Ah, well that explains why the Government wants AT answerable to NZTA instead of to AC. Expecting that a 1.5 million people should have be able to sway over a government responsible for 4.5 million isn’t democracy.

          2. Nick, Swanson does not have 1.5m residents. Nice try, but I’m sure you understand that only the residents of Swanson village are the relevant party in this issue. The majority of them are against the development, so the democratic outcome should be an end to that development. But as with their approach to the UP, the council is not following democratic principles. This is why the government will ultimately stop the UP in its tracks. AC are not using their powers responsibly.

          3. Geoff, no the residents of Swanson are not “the relevant party in this issue.” The relevant party is the Auckland Council, of which the people of Swanson are but one constituency. Thanks for coming!

          4. @Kevyn, given that the rates are paid by Aucklanders not New Zealanders, Aucklanders should have the only say.
            Aucklanders as a whole get a say on Swanson because they pay for it.

          5. Geoff is correct that in relation to the District Plan change request by Neil Construction the residents of Swanson township would most definitely have been “the relevant party in this issue.”
            The RMA gives all New Zealanders the right to object to resource consent or plan change applications provided they are “…an affected person, in relation to an activity, if the activity’s adverse effects on the person are minor or more than minor”.
            The RMA, as amended by Rodney Hide, has attempted to limit the right to object to those who are actually directly affected by actual environmental impacts, including impacts to the visual environment. In this respect objectors cannot be dismissed with the ‘n’ word. The consenting authority cannot take wider impacts, either positive or negative, into when deciding on consents or plan changes.

            However when reviewing the entire city plan the council does have to balance local and city-wide objectives. That’s why the supercity law retained wards and local boards, to ensure that local issues are represented in the city’s planning and decision making. It’s that level of democracy that doesn’t seem to be recognised as valid by many commenters on this forum. In the case of the wealthier suburbs the RMA deserves it’s nickname – Rich Man’s Act 😉

          6. ““…an affected person, in relation to an activity, if the activity’s adverse effects on the person are minor or more than minor”.”

            Right, so that describes every person in Auckland with respect to any land use. Good.

          7. Geoff so if every single area in Auckland said “we don’t want to change, what happens then? it simply isn’t practical to leave lock an area in amber forever. Further I fail to see how this development detracts from Swanson as a whole, if anything it enhances it. Almost all of the existing development in the area is to the north of the tracks, this is to the south so with the exception of some kids getting to the primary school, most probably won’t have a need to even go north of the tracks.

            My bet is that the extra people will help the local community more than it hurts it and if you did a survey on the quality of life of the existing residents after this development is finished and things have settled down, most people who currently oppose it will wonder why they objected so much in the first place.

          8. Nick R, Environment Court caselaw has defined minor in a way that the average person would regard as major and broadly defines an affected party as being located in “line of sight” of the proposed development. It’s all this case law that has turned the RMA into such a big income earner for specialist lawyers and consultants.

            The RMA imposes significantly different processes for plan changes and plan reviews, the former only having regard to effects in the plan change area, the latter having regard to all effects and interactions across the entire district or city.

            For instance, NZTA could only object to the Swanson development if it was directly adjoining a state highway, even if the the development had been 100 or 1000 times bigger and would have threatened to double the amount of traffic using the north western motorway.

        4. Geoff it has been explained to you several times recently that democracy is not mob rule and that Councils legally have to represent the interests of future residents as well as current ones. Just because you live somewhere now does not give you veto rights over other people moving in. Deal with it.

        5. As a resident of Auckland, I’m thrilled the developer finally got approval. Swanson is a place I wish to live but there are very few options – either land or house/land. Just because you’re there now, you can’t decide to close up shop and expect it to stay that way. Auckland also needs to accommodate people like me – well-paid professionals, in their 30’s, seeking to establish themselves and their family with a small sustainable home in a welcoming community – and if Auckland can’t do that, well we end up leaving, but I suppose that’s what you really want anyway.

  2. Orakei – I hope they have left room underneath for more tracks, at least 1. Haven’t KR been talking about the freight line to the port?

    1. From memory, there is space set aside for a third track however I would have thought that leaving space for four tracks would have been a better option. Also I believe that Kiwirail appealed to the environment court as they want stronger sound proofing requirements so that the future residents don’t come back and complain about freight trains going through in the middle of the night.

      1. It would make sense to build the space to accommodate four tracks under the development, even if the tracks aren’t laid for decades. The Orakei over bridge was recently rebuilt to accommodate three tracks.. but it also accommodates the new cycle path extension under Orakei Road.. looks to me like a fourth track could fit if needed. The cycle path could dirt around the point and over the road if necessary, but we don’t even have three tracks yet..

        Well before we ever get four tracks, there’s a decent chance of getting the cycle path extended across Hobson, something that Desley supports to give credit where it’s due. I heard it is currently in the planning stage and could be built in 2015. Fantastic!

        Meanwhile, the development is the best eastern motorway blocker I can think of.

  3. Small point, but you have misspelt it twice in recent postings: Isaac has two ‘a’s and one ‘s’, not the other way round.

  4. “The price of apartments will range from around $750,000 to $3 million and the mid-range townhouses will be between $1.3 and $1.9m.”

    A timely reminder of why we need more affordable housing, when developments like this are targeting the very rich. It makes a mockery of the claim that the development is for mixed use.

    1. Geoff you are aware of the location aren’t you? Water-side Remuera, hardly going to not price to the market are they? Current that lovely ‘island’ is a tile shop and a free carpark, hardly a great use.

      The Swanson development that I believe you oppose will also be priced to market and no doubt be more affordable and if they are able to get enough dwellings on it and do it as well as say Hobsonville then they could be quite affordable. And what a great location; walk up to those new frequent electric trains. And those extra people will bring just that little bit more commercial viability to things like the station cafe and other services.

    2. Geoff,

      Even though this development is aimed at the top end of the market, it will affect the overal balance of the whole market. All increases in supply make housing more affordable, they just sometimes do it directly. Thats why affordable housing provisions are misguided. They might get a few extra cheaper houses in a development, but in doing so they will reduce the profitability of developments – causing marginal developments not to be built at all.

  5. Ive always been excited about the Orakei Point Development. So many central locations, such as this, stand out due to being very underdeveloped compared to their surrounding areas. Creating a self contained island village supporting 1000 people, all with great views, a village centre, and a train station ideally located for them and just a few minutes from Queen street sounds to me like the makings of an ideal, unique and strong community.

    It may also catalyze better train services for the eastern line (much like Sylvia Park did) and give us yet another exciting high quality train station. Also, would it not well and truly bury any chances of that eastern motorway proposal? If so that would put a lot of peoples minds at rest… and I imagine could potentially get a massive portion of the local nimbys to u-turn and support this development as a ‘lesser of two evils’ for their local environment.

    1. It would be good if the removal of the free park and ride at Orakei also resulted in AT providing a connecting bus service to/from nearby suburbs.

      1. There is connecting bus service already planned in the RPTP regardless of what happens with the development.

        I’m a little concerned that they have ‘hopper bus stops’ at the station and regular bus stops on the street. To me that sounds like they are setting up some token failure minivan thingy so they can stop the normal buses getting anywhere near the station.

        1. l suspect that the Hopper bus will go up the hill to the EastRidge shopping Centre on Kepa Road (about 1 km up the hill).

          Clearly, that would be quite a hike up the hill for most people to walk to the nearest supermarket, so I presume the hopper bus will mainly provide the transport to/from the supermarket so that they could tick the old ACC “Transit orientated development” box as part of the plan change.

          “Hopper bus service” does sound like a 5 minute wonder though, and I expect it will be canned in short order due to “low demand” – in part as most of the new residents there will be car owners – despite what the developer says to the contrary.

  6. “as it would cut over 1km off the current route”

    The existing route from O’Neills Rd to the railway station is only 1km, and the new route, if built, will be 700m, so the saving is 300m.

  7. A little off topic but Christchurch has a really fantastic cycleway next to the railway line heading north from Riccarton Rd. It has sensors in the path that detects cyclists and changes the traffic light pedestrian crossings so they change to green when you reach them. Its a great example of how to do it.

      1. 🙂 I support intensification, sometimes, done well. The examples given in the article are good. Except for Swanson. It’s much cheaper and easier for a developer to see a big flat beautiful orchard and cut it up and stick stuff on it than it is to actually intensify existing areas and fix the bad development that exists.. That’s what sprawl is. Here’s a pic of a massive building leased by WINZ for sale. Huge footprint. Right near the train station. Majorly underutilized. It’s over half empty inside. Surely a building like this could be upgraded and utilised.as a 3 -4 high apartment building like the type you show with offices at foot level. Instead of cutting up all that is green and spreading.

          1. Make sure you submit your support of the Unitary Plan today then, the changes in the UP would be need for that site to be redeveloped.

      1. I support intensification and affordable in my neighbourhood (Mount Eden) and throughout Auckland. It would be nice if we could start winding back Auckland’s disturbing degree of economic segregation.

        1. Yes. Economic Segregation is one of the major issues affecting the city. Which would also be improved with the rail loop by giving the west and south better access to the city.

  8. Kevyn @2am: “The consenting authority cannot take wider impacts, either positive or negative, into when deciding on consents or plan changes”

    This is plainly incorrect, with the exception of some controlled or restricted discretionary activity resource consents – but these are almost never publicly notified. All other resource consents and all plan changes require a holistic analysis of environmental effects (+ve & -ve) and relevant statutory planning documents. At the top of the heap is Part 2 of the RMA i.e. the concept of sustainable management.

    1. Agree SrB, It’s actually pretty clear what Council must do when deciding all consents and plan changes…..

      104 Consideration of applications
      (1) When considering an application for a resource consent and any submissions received, the consent authority must, subject to Part 2, have regard to–
      (a) any actual and potential effects on the environment of allowing the activity…

      3 Meaning of effect
      In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, the term effect includes—
      (a)any positive or adverse effect; and
      (b)any temporary or permanent effect; and
      (c)any past, present, or future effect; and
      (d)any cumulative effect which arises over time or in combination with other effects—
      regardless of the scale, intensity, duration, or frequency of the effect, and also includes—
      (e)any potential effect of high probability; and
      (f)any potential effect of low probability which has a high potential impact.

  9. Advertising has also begun for “Vert”, the low-rise development on the site of the Ponsonby Bowling Club in Herne Bay. Three stories, 14 apartments, priced from $1.2 million. Not really the “affordable” end of the market, but even new stock at the high end of the market can help keep prices down overall.

    I think the Orakei development is exciting for putting a large development right on top of the train station. It’s something I hope we see more of.

  10. I support intensification Auckland wide – even heritage areas can be intensified with great taste and care – check out Melbourne/Paris and London!

    1. If Soho was launched 6 months later I would have gone for it for sure (still pulling final deposit funds together). I love the way they offered those sites – simple title, build what you like (within guidelines) – the idea of purchasing 80sqm of land near the city and being able to build up 3-4 stories with a roof garden is *hugely* appealing. With my love of Japanese architecture and intelligent interiors, my imagination was running wild. I had high hopes further developments near Wynyard would follow a similar path but sadly it doesn’t look that way. The Wynyard environment seems perfectly suited to the diversity of simple title, free build idea.

  11. I support intensification where I am in South Canterbury……But we are losing people, not gaining them.

  12. I wonder if the developer and locals ever got together for a chat in Swanson?

    A development that contains new homes (of varying typologies), close to Rail, with the open spaces in essence being as much of the orchard as could be spared would make an amazing lil village. “Orchard Estates” or something, picnics under the trees. Heck, I bet people would buy it like nobody’s business.

    Is there a “missing rung” in the comms between developers and locals, and should the Council try to fill it. Fighting against something for 13 years must get tiring…

  13. Yes there is a missing rung. Most of the orchardists where i live cut down all the fruith trees before they sell the section. Which is madness as the fruit trees is part of the history and heritage and romance of the Foothills. Many people want the trees. And like you say sparing some orchard and creating a group of houses like a cluster of farm buildings. Great. Nice intensification. Perfect Sprawl is when the developers disrespect the PLACE. Or the new owners cut the trees to build mcMansions. And don’t respect the place. Waitakere have LAPs which document the principles. And there have been some good new builds.

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