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NZ Mixed views on high-rise option

Property Here - Saturday, March 16, 2013

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The quiet, low-lying Pakuranga town centre with its solo five-storey block did not look like a sleeping giant of the Super City yesterday.

In fact, shoppers' first words were "I can't believe it" when told the 47-year-old shopping centre was marked to soar to eight-storey apartment, office and shopping buildings in the next 30 years under the Auckland Unitary Plan for growth.

Their disbelief was stronger when told that within a short walk of the centre, the one-level homes - many clad in the brown clinker brick of the 1960s - were destined for four-storey greatness as town houses and apartments in the eastern suburb.

One of those who shared her comments with the Weekend Herald was Jennifer Emmerson, a retired nurse who has lived near the centre for 37 years.

"I think you've got to go up. We can't keep going outwards," she said. "I have an average house and I could build another on the back and have my family there.

"I think families will live closer together in future because they will need to be more supportive - older people will need more support."

A younger resident, Lizzie Mackie, said the growth plan for the centre was a good thing.

"I think it's good to have more shops. It's limited now and I go to Sylvia Park or Botany Town Centre.

"I can imagine it will be high-rise 20 years ahead and not be bothered by it."

Amy Cayley, who has a 7-year-old son, moved three months ago from across the city at Pt Chevalier.

"We came here because it's quieter and yet we still are close to everything."

She was pleased with plans for a busway from Pakuranga across the Tamaki Estuary to a Panmure transport hub in 2015.

"I do take the bus in to the city to work because we have one car and my partner works different hours so he takes the vehicle.

"It costs $56 a week for the bus - cheaper than paying for parking."

An alternative was taking the commuter ferry from Half Moon Bay - a 35-minute ride.

However, rebellion lurks in the tidy suburban streets on the northern side of Pakuranga Rd, between the Panmure Bridge and St Kentigern College.

Acting on suspicion their area was to be zoned for higher density, about 80 residents met last month to form the Kentigern Residents' Association.

"It's going to affect our leafy suburb, its bird life and the environment of the uniquely large Tamaki Estuary," said association member Peter Brandley. "It's not an elitist area. It's a nice wooded area with pohutukawa lining the street and it's been like this since the 1950s.

"So, to be challenged to up sticks and be forced out, I find it abhorrent. We are going to fight it."

The association hoped to raise enough money to hire a lawyer and a town planner to guide its case through the public comment period.

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said: "This area is not what I would say should be high-density. We bought here 15 years ago because it backs on to St Kentigern and it is nice and quiet.

"We don't want to face all that development."

Howick Local Board member Shirley Warren smiled at the thought of eight-storey buildings in the town centre.

She said the site, which Westfield last year sold for $81 million, used to be called Cabbage Tree Swamp.

"It will mean expensive foundations to put high-rise buildings in a swamp."