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'Transients' bad neighbours complains PM

From The New Zealand Herald: 04.09.2000

This is the text of the Prime Minister's submission opposing construction of a boarding house 100m from her Kingsland home:

Submission of Rt Hon Helen Clark on the application of F. Khoy and R. La Pread to construct a lodge/boarding house at 169 Dominion Rd/1 Onslow Rd, Mt Eden.

My reasons for opposing this application are as follows:

1. The size, scale, and appearance of the proposed building is completely out of keeping with the surrounding residential area.

(a) At three storeys in height, this building is of an entirely inappropriate scale for this neighbourhood, which consists largely of villas from the early 20th century and some few bungalows of a later period.

(b) Residential housing in the vicinity consists overwhelmingly of homes designed for single families, each on their own section. The construction of another 61 bedrooms to add to the 27 already on the site is totally disproportionate in scale to the nature of neighbouring housing.

(c) The proposed building appears to be neither attractive in concept nor compatible with the style of the surrounding housing. In addition it stands to block out views of the existing building on the site, which is itself a grand building and a visual amenity in the area.

Overall the proposed building is simply not in keeping with the homes in the local area.

2. There are a range of concerns locally about the nature of the accommodation and the tenants it would attract.

(a) Considerable confusion has been created by the applicants about the type of tenant they propose to attract.

(i) The application to council states that "the purpose of the development is to provide quality short-to-medium-term accommodation for people, many of whom are elderly, and are awaiting more appropriate long-term accommodation."

In my judgment as a longtime observer of social trends in Auckland, it is unlikely that there is a floating pool of transient elderly persons likely to fill a facility of this size.

This proclaimed intention to accommodate transient elderly persons conflicts radically with

(ii) The current advertising for tenants for the existing boarding home on the site, Eden Park Lodge.

I attach a copy of such advertising taken from the August-September issue of the Mt Eden Community Newsletter.

In the first place this advertisement purports to offer long-term accommodation, not the short-to-medium-term accommodation referred to in the application to council. In the second place, the accommodation is offered for professionals, tradespeople and students. Yet neighbouring residents report that the existing clientele at the boarding house in general do not resemble that description. If the advertisement is any guide, transient elderly are not currently targeted as tenants by the lodge.

What seems inevitable is that the new 61 bedrooms will indeed be occupied largely by people who are transient dwellers. They may be transient for a range of reasons. This neighbourhood is home to a number of group facilities for people with special needs for support and has no complaints where such group accommodation is properly supervised.

This proposed lodge/boarding house, however, is not a supervised group facility for people with special needs. The likelihood is that a significant number of people with genuine needs for support will live there without adequate support and in that state be difficult neighbours. Again the question of scale is relevant here: these 61 bedrooms add to the 27 already on site to make a grand total of 88 bedrooms. That makes for a huge boarding house and a huge number of potentially needy people clustered together without adequate support. This makes the proposed accommodation an unwarranted intrusion on this residential neighbourhood.

[The submission then deals with potential traffic congestion, loss of visual amenity, noise, and the height of the proposal.]

7. Eden Park Lodge is already regarded as a poor neighbour and is unlikely to be a better neighbour in its greatly expanded form.

The application to council states under the heading "Consultation" that "local residents have been made aware of the proposal." Few appear to have been made aware by the applicant. Most residents are now aware of and hostile to the proposal. At community meetings neighbours have spoken of their concern about the existing boarding house. The unauthorised removal of the bamboo caused aggravation. There is also concern about the untidy rubbish often seen on the kerb by the lodge. Interpersonal relations between the applicants and some neighbours have not been good. No local resident I have met wants the addition of 61 bedrooms on this site.

In summary, I strongly oppose the proposed addition of 61 bedrooms on this site.

This neighbourhood is one in which there is very considerable pride taken by homeowners in their properties. They have no desire to see their neighbourhood downgraded by the unwelcome and unwarranted intrusion of a very large number of unsupervised, yet needy, transient tenants. The proposed project would most certainly have an undesirable effect on the quality of life of local residents and would raise concerns about their own safety and the security of their property. The added traffic hazard would impact on the safety of all local residents.

As it stands, this neighbourhood has architectural integrity and is considered a safe and desirable area for families and for people living alone in their homes. These features would be put at risk by the proposed project.

In the medium term there are hopes that council may see fit, on application from local residents, to grant a special character designation for the area. Residents are keen to protect its character as an early 20th century suburb and to resist any further intrusion on it by development which is out of character, as this proposed project most certainly is.

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