St Lukes Expansion Gets Tick


There is no surprise in the new Auckland Council taking the easy route in approving the St Lukes expansion.

It had two choices - to approve the plan change as recommended in the recommendation report of the independent commissioners; or  reconstitute the hearing panel and hear all submissions again.

The council had an easy out and it would have to have “very good reason”why the process had to be repeated.

Today’s decision still lets the local residents’ group independently go to the environment court if it wishes although the mayor also talked of a mediation process he may run first between the parties.

They had complained to the council that:

  • they considered that all concerns raised by the local residents were dismissed by the commissioners
  • the commissioners’ support for 10m high shops to be located across from local residents’ homes
  • shading concerns were ignored
  • traffic concerns despite broad agreement that the change in traffic would be significant and not minor.

Westfield says there is no time frame for the commencement of any development works at the centre and that future development at the centre will require resource consent for any specific plans.

It is a pity though that the public transport issues, largely ignored by the commissioners, have been not addressed by anyone including the new PT-friendly council.

The size of the expanded mall from Morningside Drive

The report to the council by its officers plays down the overall objections:

“The commissioners considered the submissions that related to traffic both from a regional as well as local perspective but focussed more on the localised effects of the proposed plan modification rather than the network as a whole. The commissioners’ report outlines the discussion that occurred relating to traffic , carparking  and the proposed Aroha/Exeter Rd extension. Throughout these sections of the commissioners’ report it is evident that the concerns raised by submitters, including those by local residents of Aroha Ave relating to traffic, have been taken cognisance of.

“It should also be borne in mind that throughout their report the commissioners have taken note not only of submitters with a direct interest in the area but also of the specialist evidence presented on all the relevant disciplines pertinent to this proposed plan modification.

While it is likely that many submitters, including local residents, may not agree with some of the recommendations in the commissioners’ report, that does not mean that the commissioners have not taken account of the concerns raised by submitters, many of whom are resident in the immediate area surrounding Westfield St Lukes shopping centre or have a direct interest in that area.”

Westfield malls are built for cars and even pedestrians crossing St Lukes car parks are treated badly.

St Lukes is dominated by carparks

My strong views are well known on how I wish this would change and what a difference another company has made by building a train-friendly Sylvia Park.
I still believe the council should be making a strong statement to this effect.

The commissioners’ take on PT was nonsense:

They concluded that St Lukes will remain a vehicle-oriented centre for two principal reasons:

  • “It is clearly not as well served by public transport as other large centres such as Newmarket and Sylvia Park
  • “The nature of shopping is such that public transport is not an ideal means of carrying more than a handful of small purchases home”

It doesn’t have to be that way.
Here is how the mall will look:

Aroha Ave looking west with expansion

How the mall will look Aroha looking south

* In answer to requests, here is what Westfield sought in their expansion: Indoor floor space goes from 4.5ha to 9.2ha compared to Sylvia Park’s 7h.




  1. BD says:

    Its a bad day for good planning in my opinion what with St Lukes Mall expansion and Holiday Highway anouncement, I am really sad this is what the world is coming to. How can we cope with this such expansion when public transport is never taken into consideration. I really hope they do build it and the traffic problem in the area gets even worse, and then they will say we was wrong, expecting us to feel sorry for them. Then only to find they repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

    Disgusting pigs the lot of them! Take is to the environment court guys

  2. Nick R says:

    “The nature of shopping is such that public transport is not an ideal means of carrying more than a handful of small purchases home”

    Just what proportion of visitors to St Lukes are purchacing a large amount of bulky items? 5% maybe?
    If you can carry a few shopping bags across the mall and out to the other side of the carpark you can carry it on the bus!

  3. Mark says:

    BD - agree a sad day. It should have been reheard with commissioners with at least some understanding of regional planning.

    St Lukes was one of 17 growth towncentres (based on it’s rail connectivity) - they all require a Structure Plan prior to plan chnages and development. Which was done for Newmarket.

    A structure plan would have looked at the whole area, it’s ability to accomodate growth, based largely on public transport (which was why it was selected for growth in the first place). It would also have looked at best mix for residential/business/retail across the whole area.

    This is appaling, as it has allowed one land owner to develop based on it being a growth area, but without the counter balance control of a structure plan. once this goes through the Env. crt there will be a legal precedent to do growth plan chnages without a structure plan.

    Also - one property owner may well have “stolen” the development potential other land owners might have achieved. Once St Lukes grinds the arteriials to a halt - other developments will face a harder job getting planning approval….

    For me this was the first test of the new Council - and I don’t think it bodes well for planning in future.

  4. BD says:

    Yeah and the bottomline line is that the mall is built in an area that doesn’t have good public transport links.

    I remember waiting for like 30 mins to get a bus into the city, and every saturday the roads around the mall area get chocked up with lots of cars so basically I think the only thing the residence can do now to stop this thing from being built is to appeal to the environmental court.

    The only thing that I suggest to to do something about improving public transport first

  5. Matt says:

    Anyone surprised? Westfield always builds oversized monolithic rubbish with giant carparks. It never fits into a local district. They design their “shoppingtowns” to make existing retail less attractive, and then every shop owner can pay the high rents to Westfield and Westfield as a part of its rental agreements (at least in Oz, dunno about NZ) gets to see your books, so they can up their rents and the end result is shopkeepers end up working for Westfield, and not for themselves. Yet no local council says “get lost” to them. Westfield are very successful, but it is hard to argue the public is better off.

  6. I believe Westfield already takes rent from shopkeepers and a % of the shops take. It’s like the Sopranos…

  7. DanC says:

    If they want to build it Westfield should have should have to put in a tram service from Morningside station via Morningside drive. Westfield should have to pay for it and maintain it with fines imposed for breakdowns.

  8. Frank says:

    I had a look at Google imagery to see how big this mall is currently, and its already bigger than Eden Park. How much bigger is it going to get???

  9. Jon C says:

    @Frank Indoor floor space goes from 4.5ha to 9.2ha. Sylvia is 7h.
    I have added in their proposal and images to the bottom of the post.
    You’ll notice from the first image it is considerably taller which especially upset neighbours.

  10. GJA says:

    Funny how everybody can be against Eden Park, but doesn’t seem like Westfield is getting the same treatment. Time will tell.

  11. karl says:

    “BD – agree a sad day. It should have been reheard with commissioners with at least some understanding of regional planning.”

    Mark - as you can read on Joshua Arbury’s blog, the fact that the commissioners DID have an understanding of regional planning was what made them AGREE with the proposal - because they realised that the legal designation of St Lukes as a town centre meant they felt they had little legal case for stopping it.

    If that is correct, in that sense I would actually agree with the commissioners - we aren’t paying them to make political discussions. They should interpret the planning framework legally, not “how it should be”. That’s for politicians to do.

    “You’ll notice from the first image it is considerably taller which especially upset neighbours.”

    I thought that height, especially on the corner, had been reduced?

  12. Mark says:

    the “legal” decision was to require a structure plan first. The process of designating a town centre, comes WITH the requirement for a Structure plan, to allow the whole town centre area to be “master” planned.

    The “experts” ie ARC in their submisison wanted the structure plan in palce before site specific plan changes. That was the correct planning outcome.

    I agree there will be more intensification in the “town centre”, but it must be looked at as a whole. That is fair to all land owners, and also more likely to meet the PT desires.

    All other 17 town centres can now have parts “cherry picked”.

    if you look at the Morningside/St Lukes Town Centre, what is the demand for residential/business and retail? St Lukes now covers office developments along with retail/residential. But outside of ped area for rail. What developer would take on Westfield, and say compete with an Office complex close to rail?

    I suspect Westfield will sit on this for a few years - it will deter other developers doing developments close to the rail, and we’ll end up without proper developments close to the rail for a long period…..

  13. karl says:

    Mark, if that is the case (i.e. if a structure plan is a LEGAL requirement), it can be challenged on that basis - this is going to Enviro Court anyway.

    If the structure plan was NOT a legal requirement, then how could the commissioners have decided otherwise? Westfield’s lawyers would have batted it away with little difficulty.

    If that’s the case, i.e. if a structure plan should have, but wasn’t made a requirement, then it’s a planning failure, not a failure of the commissioners.

    “All other 17 town centres can now have parts “cherry picked”.”

    This isn’t through EC yet, and even if it happens as you fear, Council can strengthen the rules elsewhere.

  14. Mark says:


    In my view the Commissioners didn’t give enough weight to the Structure Plan requirement. And yes I think it will be a crucial part of the Env Crt appeal.

    Commisisoners weigh up basic legal requirements eg RMA/District Plans/regional policy statements. And of course the “effects” as they hear from submitters and “experts”.

    My arguement is that the structure plan requirement - ie for “master planning” has been a crucial direction of ARC and Ak city planning - a recognition we can’t have the planning disasters of the past. Therefore they should have one Commissioner with wider Council planning direction - possibly a Councillor.

    While some documents are non statutory currently eg old Ak council Future Planning framework, and the precinct plans it involves, it is a clear direction on how intensification should be planned. And that was the ARC submisison as well. my understanding is that the ARC representative on the day got tied up and didn’t back the structure plan as firmly as the ARC intended.

    You can mount an arguement that the structure plan would hold up the development and impact Westfield’s property rights. And I would agree with that if they were within current District Plan rules.

    But they were making their own plan change, based largely on “Town Centre” definiton in regional plan document - but chose to not include structure plan requirement. So in effect getting the benefits without potential costs or delays to get the overall planning right.

    It’s hard to see a communtiy group beating westfield in the Env Crt - all down to $$. And it will take time for new District Plan to go thru to protect others. And in fact a property owner could use St Lukes as a precedent to fight need for a structuire plan……

    To intensify a whole town centre, it should be planned as a whole eg where is best residential, what type of commercial, where should council provide open space etc, what is best use of PT, what is impact on wider area.

    It’s a shame this hearing didn’t give more weight to those broader areas - rather than allowing one property owner to utilise the intensification, as it suits them for their site.

    the issue is what happens from here - if one property gets most of the market take up for new space, then others won’t bother re-developing. And we lose a coherent town centre development.

    Council did a precinct plan for Mt Albert - now if one owner down by the petrol station end (away from rail station) can go and get permssion for a major development, it would undermine the whole rail based approach to that town centre. Whereas all the design/planning is to open up space around the station, and also residential/commercial near the station. That is how a town centre shoudl be planned - so we maximime the investment in rail.


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