Ockham Residential

Aroha – the bigger picture. Our statement on the Ash St macrocarpa

Image for Aroha – the bigger picture. Our statement on the Ash St macrocarpa

A protest against the removal of a single macrocarpa tree is taking place outside the Aroha project at Avondale. Ockham and Marutūāhu explain why the necessary approvals were granted for the removal – and why the 117-unit Aroha development, with 47 KiwiBuilds, is fully in accordance with the city’s housing and climate goals.

The Auckland Plan 2050, Auckland’s collective vision for the future development of Tāmaki Makaurau, has, at its heart, a desire for a quality, compact city. The Plan was the result of an extensive period of consultation – thousands of submissions and several years of hearings and consultation. It reflects the collective ambition of Aucklanders: it is an expression of our city’s democratic will.

All consents for the Aroha development, including removing this single tree, were issued non-notified because they were in complete accordance with the objectives, policies and rules of The Auckland Plan. The project also meets the goals of its partners – Housing and Urban Development (HUD), KiwiBuild, Marutūāhu and Ockham – all of whom are conscious of the larger role of this project in helping to address two major crises facing this country: the housing disaster and climate emergency.

Aroha's superb proximity to public transport

Like all our recent developments, Aroha is on a major bus route and within a short walk to a train station. There are four scheduled trees on the site at 1817 Great North Road and we’re glad our careful designs have enabled the preservation of three of them. But the position of the fourth – the macrocarpa – in the north corner of the site would prevent building on much of the land.

Instead of the two buildings and 117 units that have been consented, keeping the tree would leave a major portion of the site unsuitable for housing and result in fewer larger and more expensive houses. This outcome, given the strategic location and high-density zoning of the site, would be inferior because it would fail to deliver any affordable homes or to fulfill the Auckland Plan’s vision of a quality, compact city (thereby worsening Auckland’s carbon footprint).

Our commitment to a quality, compact city

The macrocarpa – which various independent arborist reports conclude is in decline – was scheduled as a notable tree in 2012 when the land was zoned residential. Since then, the land has been rezoned to ‘Mixed Use Commercial’ with a height limit of 21 metres. Avondale itself, because of its proximity to the CBD, existing infrastructure and excellent public transport connections, has been selected as a special regeneration zone by Panuku Development Auckland, as supported by the Local Board and Auckland Council. Moreover, we and our partners have offered generous mitigation planting because we are committed to leaving a legacy for Tāmaki Makaurau. That is why we have championed environmentally friendly projects like Daisy in Mt Eden (New Zealand’s only 10-star energy-rated residential development) and carless projects, such as Modal in Mt Albert. Two more carless developments, in Grey Lynn and Morningside, are underway.

Indeed, it was Panuku which invited us to buy the land and build a quality development which, given its prominent position, would serve as an anchor building for the revival of Avondale. Panuku was eager to partner with us because of our track record of building elegant and enduring developments which enhance our communities. You need only look half a kilometre down the road from Aroha at Set, our development beside Avondale Racecourse, to see what a high-quality, medium-density development can look like.

A climate change emergency – and a housing crisis

A large project like Aroha involves finding solutions for the local setting. And so we applied for, and successfully obtained, resource consent for the removal of the tree. This process included the Council’s urban design panel experts approving the design of Aroha and supporting the removal of the macrocarpa. The Auckland Council, as joint asset owner, has also mandated its removal. Further, one of New Zealand’s foremost landscape architects supported retaining the three scheduled poplars and removing the ageing macrocarpa when considering the context of the canopy of trees nearby. All consents and joint asset owner approval are on the public record and can be viewed by any interested party: you will find a copy of Auckland Council’s approval on the Tree Council website.

The context of where this tree is – and where Aroha will be – is everything. We are in a climate change emergency, as well as a housing crisis. Do we build more sprawl on the city fringes, destroying more rural land, cutting down innumerable trees and building more motorways for more and more cars? Or do we provide 117 high quality and relatively affordable homes – with 47 KiwiBuild units – in areas where people want to live. These are new homes that exemplify the broader vision Aucklanders have approved (in the case of Aroha, these are homes that are eight kilometres from the city centre, alongside cycle paths and with quite magnificent public transport links on their doorstep).

The tragedy of urban sprawl

As Auckland Council Chief Executive Jim Stabback concluded: “We believe that removing a potentially unsafe tree – and replacing it, over and above the resource consent conditions, with 21 more mature trees across the development site – and with the development contributing 117 residential units to a community crying out for more housing, this is the right decision.”

Our track record shows our commitment to the natural environment and our repudiation of the accelerating urban sprawl and car-centric development of this city – that is what should be alarming to every civic-minded Aucklander.