An Immediate, interim solution to The Waiheke Affordable Housing Emergency


Imagine what would happen if Auckland Council had senior management who instructed their staff to solve major problems now, to listen to local solutions and use their powers to get them done in the shortest elapsed time, for the lowest cost while securing the best outcome.

Imagine if they read the purposes of the RMA and asked themselves How can we really enable people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being and for their health and safety while protecting and preserving the environment? And having asked, then set about to do it. On this page, that is what is being asked in regard to the affordable housing emergency on Waiheke Island.

Imagine a miracle in

Auckland Council

15-year plan for Waiheke

mobile homes as an interim solution

Small, inexpensive, high quality

On wheels: Here today, gone tomorrow

The Affordable housing Emergency

Waiheke is a strong, vibrant and diverse community. But it is under threat of gentrification and too many ghost homes, and since Airbnb, of worker and elder rental conversion to holiday rentals. Community efforts to address this, such as the Waiheke Community Housing Trust find their biggest obstacle is the very institution that should be enabling them: the council.

In breach of RMA Section 36AAA(3)(a), the council charged for the resource consent when the benefit is obtained by the community as a whole, not the applicant, which is a charitable trust.  The cost of building consents skyrocketed and the system is overbooked. All of this contributes to creating the affordable housing emergency, about which the council is doing nothing – far more focused on its budget than its purpose. The years it takes and the lack of coordination by the several consenting departments is the opposite of enabling people and communities. It is exhausting and disheartening.

There is no proactive planning department in council to take ownership of public benefit projects, to identify immediate needs, cut the red tape and enable the community to get it done. Changing the district plan takes decades when solutions are required now and when they are changed, they have become so complex that expensive planning consultants (often former council planning officers) must be paid to write consent applications.

It is proposed that Auckland Council address the affordable housing crisis through what might be called a loophole. Don’t fight it, use it.

The Problem on Waiheke

2000 – Affordable Housing Concern

2016 – Affordable Housing Crisis

2022 – Affordable Housing Emergency

In October 2000 the council published a community-developed strategy called Essentially Waiheke. At the time, homes were still affordable. Indeed solo mums on the benefit were encouraged to move to Waiheke where they could afford to finance a $75,000 home with the housing supplement. Never-the-less, affordable housing was a concern. It said:

S3.2.6 Affordable housing is essential for a community that is strong and diverse. Auckland City can potentially promote a range of housing options by minimising consent costs for appropriate development, and regulating for a range of housing options which will contribute to the provision of affordable housing.

Key Strategies and Actions
The City will

  • Ensure accurate and timely advice is given to enable a variety of lifestyle options to occur on the Island
  • Investigate opportunities and incentives for encouraging the market to provide a variety of housing types for all socio-economic groups within a community.
  • Research and investigate opportunities for reducing the development costs of housing through improving regulatory processes and other methods.

Unfortunately the council failed to do anything and the cost of regulatory processes skyrocketed. By 2016 it was a crisis. By 2022, it has become an affordable housing emergency. But the council has no proactive planning group to drive it. Instead the consenting department runs like its business as usual. High fees, long delays, the opposite of enabling the community.


The Loophole

The District Plan Part 14 Definition says Building means any structure or part of a structure. It also includes any fixed or moveable structure (including caravans) used for residential purposes, assembly or storage. [emphasis added]

The RMA Section 2 Interpretations says Structure means any building, equipment, device, or other facility made by people and which is fixed to land;

Thus any facility made by people which is not fixed to land is not a building. Lest we get caught up with the part that says moveable structure including caravans, case law is clear moveable does not mean the same as mobile. Don’t be pedantic.

The Interim Solution

Council appoints a proactive planning group (PPG) that jointly reports to the Local Board and directly to Council senior management – independent of the resource consenting group. Under RMA s36AAA it enables public benefit plans under the existing district plan that – due to the loophole – is a permitted use.

PPG identifies larger sites appropriate for a 15-year cluster of mobile homes, complete with caravan-type standpipes with water, wastewater and power. If consents are required PPG is the applicant. It also accepts applications from small-section owners with an existing dwelling where the mobile home is a minor unit where the occupant wants their own kitchen and bathroom as well as bedroom/lounge.

The units have a 15-year license and must remain mobile so they can be towed away at the end. That gives the council 15 years to find a permanent solution so Waiheke remains a complete, not elite, community.


Answering Deflections

Deflections are questions asked as a way of creating enough obstacles to defeat an idea. With the mobile home proposal, the first always is: What about wastewater?

Answer: It’s already provided for.  Go to council with an address and they instantly can tell both the capacity of the waste water treatment system and if the current bedroom count puts it at capacity or not. If the mobile home puts it over, then it is prohibited until the system is upgraded using the current consenting process.

What about site coverage, setbacks, etc? No change. If the site is at capacity or too tight to fit, no can do. Simple.

What about rates? The rates on an $80,000 unit would be about $200 a year if it was a building, about the same as one hour of a planner’s time. Let’s not get greedy here. The people who will be living in these places are of the struggling class. For many, the alternative is living in a car, tent, shed or overcrowded conditions. Long term call for a law change to license mobile homes but for now, just get on with the job. Use your power of permission.

Innovative Wastewater Systems

Waterless toilets divert urine at point of capture and collect solid waste in a vented biosack that composts after removal. The unit’s bathroom has what looks like a conventional toilet, shower and basin, but instead of going into a complex $20,000 ground system with contaminated water, the waste is captured, removed and outside the unit, naturally broken down by Nature into safe, valuable fertilisers that become a valuable resource. If approved in volume, WRT Composting could be appointed to collect the biosacks and liquid fertilisers for growing use, rather than rely on the residents to self-manage.