By: Alice Peacock

A development planting up to 4000 new-builds on Auckland’s city-fringe is being celebrated for its potential to relieve housing pressures, but it could create growing pains for local schools.

The development on Unitec land in the suburb of Mt Albert is the first major plan released under the Government’s KiwiBuild programme.

Unitec is condensing its campus and 29ha of its land will be transferred to the Crown.

The development will hold between 3000 and 4000 new homes – a mix of affordable Kiwibuild homes for first-home buyers and open housing.

It is not yet decided if a school will be part of the development but Avondale Intermediate principal Jo Hardwidge said she had not discussed this possibility with the Ministry of Education.

A plan for the future Mt Albert housing development that will be built on land currently occupied by Unitec. Photo / Wairaka Land Company

However, Hardwidge has had talks with the ministry about what the housing development will mean for the school.

She said her school has the capacity to grow and accommodate more students, but it could be difficult for construction to happen as quickly as it needs to.

According to projection plans put to Avondale Intermediate by the ministry the roll could shoot up from its current 315 to about 900 in the next six or seven years.

“We would look at additional buildings that would be put on site for us,” Hardwidge said.

“I think it could put pressure on infrastructure, in terms of how quickly we would have to get new buildings in place and that kind of thing.

“The public has been involved to date, but it’s been at arms length. Now is the time to involve the public.”

Ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey said it is “constantly” reviewing population growth and whether new education centres are needed.

“Currently there is still capacity in a number of schools in the Mt Albert area but we are keeping a close eye on this and will plan and act as needed,” she said.

“We will continue to work with the community sector, other agencies and developers to ensure there is enough suitable space, choice and opportunities for students in Auckland to get a great education.”

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said some of her earlier discussions with the original master planners as the local MP indicated plans around education infrastructure were not as far along as she would have liked.

“I’ve had conversations with the Minister of Housing; he has certainly acknowledged that we need to do more work from an education perspective.

“If you look at the two schools that immediately are adjacent to the site, Gladstone Primary is one of the largest primary schools in the country.

“Waterview also has significant roll growth so we need to make sure we can cater for that within the development.”

Ardern said she wasn’t sure if there was capacity for a “mega-school” in the area.

There were hopes that consultation around the development happened in the public realm, as planning continued.

Albert-Eden-Roskill ward councillor Cathy Casey is optimistic about the project, but acknowledges there are a “number of issues” locals would want to weigh in on.

Casey said these would likely include education, infrastructure and traffic management.

“We’ve never been against development but we want to ensure it’s the best kind of development.”

While conversation around the development is largely optimistic, National housing spokeswoman Judith Collins yesterday accused the Government of repackaging a National Party housing project.

Collins says the former Government signed off on Unitec’s investment plan to consolidate the campus.

She also told Newstalk ZB she doubted the block of land was big enough to house 4000 dwellings.

Source: NZ Herald

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