Stebbings Valley 2.Oh-no

WCC has returned after a 2 year hiatus to give us version 2.0 of the Stebbings Valley development. Let’s look at what’s changed, what’s the same, why we’re not fans, and get some submissions in by 5.00pm 30th November.

Back in 2018, the council put together some proposals for a new suburb nestled between Churton Park and Tawa. We were not particularly big fans of much of what was presented. The year is now 2020 and council ensure us that they have updated and improved plans for the area. It feels to me like not much has changed, so I’d say you’re best to check out our analysis of the original plans here.

Round 2: “it’s different” 

We have been reliably informed that the new proposal primarily differs in these ways:

  • Compared to the three options consulted on in 2018, the current plan concentrates development in Upper Stebbings with little development in Glenside West. This is due to a desire to be more environmentally responsive, and to the new National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPS:FM) which requires avoidance or minimisation of effects on wetlands and streams. This results in a housing yield at the lower end of the original spectrum. [There is a tension between the NPS on Urban Development and the Freshwater Management one – at the moment, the NPS:FM rather limits the yield achievable from our greenfield growth areas].
  • Ecologists were part of the core team, surveyed all the streams (permanent, intermittent and ephemeral) and have advised on how best to integrate water in the design and to protect areas of ecological value.
  • Through the Backyard Taonga work, Significant Natural Areas have been identified. The current plan keeps development and earthworks clear of these sensitive areas.
  • The Hilltops and Ridgeline overlay are also being reviewed in the District Plan – the current plan keeps development away from the ridgeline (some earlier designs had a road crossing over the ridgeline and down towards Tawa; this idea is no longer being pursued as the effects (visual, on the ridgeline, on the streams and on natural landforms) were deemed unacceptable.
  • The resulting design has compact pockets of development interspersed with green corridors (streams, gullies, bush, ridgeline).
  • Existing public transport (bus route #1) will be extended to serve the development.

Great to see that the natural environment has been so well considered! However, all the issues we had with the proposals the first time are still there. For starters, the development is only going to add 655 homes to the housing stock, compared to our favourite option that boasted 1980-2500 new homes. It also has no real community to it, with facilities stretching as far as a cafe and playground. Some of this is due to the area being developed shrinking for visual and environmental reasons. But a lot of it is due to the completely uninspiring textbook ‘burb design. The current proposal only provides a density of 20 houses per hectare. That’s quite hard to picture, but fortunately Matt from Greater Auckland has put it into perspective for us.

This is what 15 houses per hectare looks like:

Two neighbouring cul de sacs, each entirely composed of standalone homes.
A couple of standard, low-density cul de sacs in Auckland

And this is what 25 per hectare looks like:

An area of marginally higher density suburbia, also in Auckland

So the new Stebbings proposal looks like a large majority of stand-alone houses (72%) and very little else. The other 18% is made up of 10% Terraces, 14% Duplexes, and 4% apartments. However the maps provided by council make it quite hard to tell where these actually are.

A place to sleep not a place to live

In fact in all ways, the detail presented is pretty minimal without diving into a range of reports. The best they can provide for how it will look is this fairly sad and detail-light map of the area. The only thing I take away from this is a complete lack of space that could be inhabited by facilities. Not even space for a chippy? Come onnn. We need design that thinks about more than housing. We need design that encourages business and community.

Proposed map showing only roads, houses, bush, and a cafe and playground
The planned lifeless Upper Stebbings

A recipe for road rage

We all know that low density sprawl leads to car dependency. Tonkin and Taylor’s report (p. 32) shows that many of the surrounding roads could not handle an increase in car commuters. Various intersections are expected to be running at an ‘F’ grade level. In layman’s terms, the roads are so slow and inconvenient, that it significantly increases the likelihood of dangerous manoeuvres. Under any development scenario (columns 2, 3, and 4) all of these key intersections are likely to be failing, and therefore unsafe. So any development needs to ensure as little pressure on these roads as possible. 20 home-per-acre sprawl just doesn’t seem like the way to go about it.

Table showing that all main roads/intersections in the area will be dangerous by 2032 with development.
Figure from Tonkin & Taylor report (p. 32) showing the impact of all scenarios on roads – read getting very clogged, very quickly

They also assume that the mode share of public transport won’t shift. Well of course it won’t if we don’t commit to a properly dense Upper Stebbings Valley. Who’s gonna walk 20 minutes for a bus? We need the density that brings everyone closer to decent transit, and would allow for a proper suburban centre to form so you don’t even need to catch a bus for your day to day needs.

How to submit 

So with all that said, get cracking on some feedback for council (and make sure you submit it by 5pm Monday 30th November!). Here’s a breakdown of my responses to their feedback questions which can be found at https://wellington.govt.nz/have-your-say/public-inputs/consultations/open/upper-stebbings-and-glenside-west

If you vibe with communities to live in, not sleep in, and found yourself nodding at the above points, feel free to copy whatever bits you want!

Feedback form:

Housing supply:

Weird question, but I’m gonna have to go with disagree, not that many houses are being supplied, and not that near to infrastructure and facilities

Housing choice:

From my rough calculations, there is likely to be one small apartment building, less than a dozen terraced housing blocks, and the other 86% of new dwellings will be stand alones or duplexes. Doesn’t sound like an awful lot of choice to me! Also doesn’t sound very affordable. Strongly disagree

Access to green space:

This much I’m happy to give the plan, not much of a greenfield without the green, and on that they have delivered. Redwood Bush Reserve close by, and other pockets of greenspace within. Agree

Natural areas:

Sounds like this has been a big focus of the revisions. Streams are kept mostly above ground, and it appears significant natural areas have been well considered and preserved. However, if the design is kept car dependent not sure how healthy those streams will be once they start experiencing the runoff from the roads. Plans to zone Glenside West for lifestyle blocks are also unlikely to do the streams many favours. Agree

Transport:

There is a proposed extension of the number 1 bus to serve the new community, however it appears local train stations are not equipped to cope with an increase in Park and Ride commuters. In general, doesn’t feel like transport was a focus here. Disagree

Walking tracks:

On a similar vein to green space, not too shabby. Agree/Strongly agree

Stormwater management:

There is a decent amount of green space to absorb stormwater, but keep in mind any stormwater going out pipes is also going into the highly culturally valued Te Awarua-o-Porirua. 

Lifestyle blocks:

No thank you! Lifestyle blocks tend to be all round poor uses of land. Happy to leave farming to farmers thank you, If you’re not gonna put good, healthy, affordable, dense housing on it, at least grow some food for the nearby areas. Also “MAY use rainwater collection and septic tanks” has me a little concerned we might end up stretching our already very small infrastructure budget even further.

Is there anything else we should take into consideration when planning for the Upper Stebbings and Glenside West area?:

I’ll leave this up to you to speak to your individual views and priorities. From my perspective, I think they have considered all the important things, unfortunately they’ve also chosen to ignore a lot of them. Maybe remind them that we want a community, not a catalogue for Bog-Standard Suburban Home Development Services™  with no services or decent car alternatives.

Other comments?

Much the same as above, we’re looking for affordability, density, accessibility, healthy homes, healthy streets, 15 minute villages, and the freedom to not own a big rapidly depreciating, emission creating hunk of metal.

Images:

Cover Image: Pierre Metivier
Density Images: Created by Matt L
Last two images: Council Reports

Further Reading:
Option Adoption – Stebbings Valley Residential Development
Steb in the Dark? Step into the Light!
Plimmerton Farm: getting greenfields right

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