Remuera neighbours expected four, never 13 townhouses: ‘Demise of Kiwi way of life’

Angry neighbours opposing a new townhouse development Remuera project say they expected three to four places – not 13 – but yet the developer says he’s following the Auckland intensification plan.

Jason Orr lives on Ventnor Rd beside Gibbons Co’s almost-finished project, stopped by a High Court ruling issued in November but restarted recently after new consents were granted.

Developer Kurt Gibbons said not only are his 13 townhouses legal but now he wouldn’t even need to provide each with an on-site carpark.

Orr said of the almost-finished terraces: “We decided it was our chance to push back on what we feelis the absolute demise of the Kiwi way of life.”

Orr, a plaintiff along with other neighbours in the court action initiated last year, said the neighbourhood group that opposed the project was realistic and knew the site could take more than one home.

“We never had any expectation other than that the site would be developed beyond the one house that stood there for the past 20 years.

“Given that the zoning allowed for three dwellings, we absolutely expected that to get stretched to four or possibly even five,” he said.

The need for more housing was accepted as necessary for the wider good and fitting within the neighbourhood character of predominantly family homes with a liveable amount of space in and around them, Orr said.

But the subsequent design and consent for 13 townhouses “in such cramped conditions shocked neighbours”, Orr said.

The neighbours tried to communicate with Gibbons early “but that fell on deaf ears. We were told it was not their model. Yes we have seen similar popping up across the city. It has always dismayed us.”

The buildings could look a lot worse but also better.

“This is not award-winning architecture as claimed by the developers in their sale material. These are factory roof lines from the 1950s and 60s. There is nothing architectural about them. They are simply copied and pasted from site to site,” Orr complained.

Gibbons and the council claimed the level of intensity had no effects beyond what they call “less than minor”.

But Orr said many effects concerned his group:

• The increased noise levels perhaps 60 to 70 people and vehicle movements;

• The lack of sustainability within the development: no requirement for water collection or solar power generation.

• Intensity of buildings requires commercial skip bins, not domestic wheelie bins. Commercial bins will be only metres from bedrooms and will need to be emptied by large trucks that need to reverse on or off the site. The noise and odour associated are not part of a typical residential development, Orr said.

• Street parking could become congested: “We parked 14 vehicles on the street during the early stages of construction. All vehicles were legally parked and as the developer said himself in court evidence “it is a public road and parking is there for anyone to use”. The on-street parking effect of this development on our neighbourhood will last forever and is clearly not less than minor as claimed by the developer and the council. They proved it themselves with the way they responded to our experiment,” Orr said.

• Loss of privacy for properties is “upsetting”.

Gibbons said he was providing affordable homes but Orr said: “This is not about affordable housing. Nor is it about liveable housing. This level of intensity is purely about profit. These homes are tiny with the bare minimum of indoor and outdoor spaces. There are no garages or even simple storage spaces.

“It saddens us that residents won’t have anywhere secure, apart from their lounge/dining area, to keep things like bicycles, golf clubs or any of the things that help make up the Kiwi way of life.”

Gibbons said the extra cost from the court case had been around $500,000. Most other developers could not survive such a major cost increase on a project, he said last week.

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