Opinion: Devonport’s Ryman development

Click to enlarge
Detail from a photomontage in the Ryman resource consent application.

Detail from a photomontage in the Ryman resource consent application. Image: Supplied

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Newton apartments, Sydney. Designed by Bruce Eeeles, they are a best practice example of terraced apartments, used as evidence by Richard Reid to the Hearing Panel.

Newton apartments, Sydney. Designed by Bruce Eeeles, they are a best practice example of terraced apartments, used as evidence by Richard Reid to the Hearing Panel. Image: Supplied

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Architect David Mitchell, the recipient of the NZIA Gold Medal in 2005, writes on the resource consent for the proposed Ryman retirement village development in Devonport.

The fine architectural and planning goals of the new Auckland Unitary Plan are under attack. Ryman Healthcare cast them aside, when they recently pulled off resource consent for a 393-apartment retirement village stretching 400 metres along the north shore of Ngataringa Bay.

Ryman thumbed its nose at the goals of the Unitary Plan, at the views of Council planners, members of the Auckland City Urban Design Panel, local architects and planners and 300 other members of the local community.

They had all supported a retirement village, but not Ryman’s design.

The Unitary Plan identifies the Ryman site as part of a Devonport Peninsula Precinct for “integrated high quality housing”, and the Regional Policy Statement calls for “a higher-quality urban environment” responding “to the intrinsic qualities and physical characteristics of the site and area, including its setting.”

“Innovative design” is encouraged. You might imagine the developers would commission some dedicated architectural effort here. But Ryman, who do their own designs, has built enough retirement villages to believe they can get away with a cookie-cutter job, in their house style. Nothing distinguishes this village from Ryman’s run-of-the-mill.

The battle over this project throws up big questions. How can the architectural and townscape goals of the Unitary Plan be sheeted home? Why is the City’s highly qualified Urban Design Panel unable to enforce its recommendations? Why are the Panel’s recommendations, and their hearings, not public?

Fine design in important places is not an optional extra. It’s a public right.

David Mitchell, FNZIA 

 A Givealittle page has been set up to assist in the raising of funds to support an appeal to the Environment Court.


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