Last week we broke the story that electrification is running late and that the wires won’t be installed by the time the first trains arrive as previously promised. My post raised the attention of the Herald who have since run a few articles regarding it (one of which isn’t online). As a result of the extra attention Kiwirail provided quite a bit more information about what was happening. Here is their email.
This is an international scale project with many complexities. There have been challenges getting enough access onto the rail corridor amongst the increasing number of passenger and freight services operating in Auckland to build the traction system, which has meant it has taken longer to complete this part of the project than initially envisaged – there are many more trains running now than when the project was confirmed and finish dates set. This is a tension that we always need to manage.
Having said that we are working closely with Auckland Transport and this will not affect the introduction of the new trains into service.
When the first two trains arrive in September they will be able to run immediately beneath tested and powered up wires to begin their commissioning process. You have found the map I was referring to yesterday on our website which shows where the wires are already in place.
We expect to have traction infrastructure in place across the bulk of the network by Xmas, with the rest being completed over the summer block of line in January.
During the first three months of 2014 the focus will then move to finishing works and testing – so the network will be ready for AT’s planned introduction of the new trains into service in April.
Testing and tuning of the infrastructure will need to continue through until 2015 as it will need to have full length trains running beneath it frequently – this is after all brand new infrastructure.
The project is also on course to complete within budget – $500 million.
To confirm what we have already told you, signalling and clearance work is completed, and the Onehunga branch and the NAL between Westfield and Newmarket have been tested and commissioned. Wiring is already in place around the network as per the map on our website.
The next section to be commissioned will be Westfield to Wiri, which is where the EMU maintenance depot is, which is scheduled for early September, in time for the new trains. Beyond that we’ll continue to liaise with Auckland Transport so commissioning of further of sections of OLE lines up with their commissioning schedule.
As part of this part of the project we are also systematically putting up screens on bridges and other structures to prevent accidental contact with the overhead wires, and carrying out other necessary safety measures such as earthing and bonding.
We’d appreciate some mention of the safety aspects of the project too please – these wires carry 25,000 volts, so the public need to be treat the overhead wires and the fittings that carry them as live and dangerous at all times. The system is designed so that people doing ordinary things will not be affected – only reckless or mischievous behaviour could be dangerous. KiwiRail and Auckland Transport are working on a public safety campaign with regard to this.
There are now height restrictions at level crossings in the Auckland area – these are signposted at each crossing. These restrictions don’t affect ordinary motorists or pedestrians but those in vehicles or towing loads that exceed these restrictions must choose an alternative route or will need to gain permission to use the crossing – information on how to do that is on our website.
Unfortunately it sounds like the need to get the wiring finished is likely to mean another extensive rail shut down this Christmas. This is despite Kiwirail saying in an internal staff newsletter in December that shutdown at Christmas last year would be the last big one.
Almost certainly as a result of these delays, there are now going to be impacts on some evening train services starting next week. MAXX is now advising:
Buses replace trains weeknights from Monday 27 May
Dates: From Monday 27 May until further notice.
Times: From 8pm until the start of service the next morning, Sunday to Thursday
Buses will replace trains south of Otahuhu on the Southern and Eastern lines
These closures are required to enable KiwiRail to carry out major works associated with the ongoing upgrade and electrification of Auckland’s rail network.
Click here for the rail bus timetable
Please check timetable very carefully.
For further information on Rail Bus services (including rail bus stop locations),
please click here
Buses will be marked RAIL BUS. All valid tickets and passes currently accepted on trains will be accepted on Rail Bus replacements.
Buses cannot accommodate bikes, scooters or large personal items.
We apologise for any inconvenience caused
I certainly can’t wait for this project to be finished. Having a network that isn’t shut down at nights, weekends and at Christmas along with having faster, reliable and more frequent trains is going to have massive impacts on people’s perceptions of trains as well as patronage.
Approximately two months ago we – being MRCagney and T2 - organised this careers evening at the University of Auckland.
The success of the evening exceeded our expectations, at least in terms of the number of students who turned up. In fact we just about managed to fill one of the University’s larger auditoriums with a range of bright and sparkly faces who were evidently prepared to stay after lectures and listen to members of the “rusty and crusty” brigade.
Perhaps many of them came just for the free pizza and I think that’s OK: Even I will admit that there are a few things more important than public transport; food for malnourished students being one.
Those who did attend were treated to the following speaking line-up:
- Joshua Arbury – Principal Transport Planner at Auckland Council, perhaps better known as the grand-daddy of the Auckland Transport Blog (cue cries of gleeful e-appreciation).
- Pippa Mitchell – Consultant with T2, perhaps better known as “the bus whisperer” (i.e. Pippa has been talking with those ghost buses for over a decade).
- Anthony Cross – Public Transport Network Planning Manager at Auckland Transport, who is one of the key people behind Auckland’s New Network.
- Jarrett Walker – Associate Consultant with MRCagney, author of the Human Transit book and blog, and general PT extraordinaire.
Finally, after much ado, I have managed to compress/upload the resulting videos to YouTube for your viewing pleasure.
After the evening we received the following feedback, which was certainly appreciated and worth repeating in full for any budding social scientists out there:
I was in the audience as an anthropologist guest, and I thought the event was superb–that it could not have been done better: a wonderful balance of speakers organized well by the coordinator, who each brought a specific aspect of work and concepts in transport to life, and then that the questions from the audience grappled with real issues so that the students there interested in careers had a glimpse of what they might come to grips with if they go into transport. It seems to me that there is a golden moment right now in transport planning for the city–the miracle of people exhilarating and exhilarated with passion and intelligence, working together across agencies, free from the all too frequent plodding literal-mindedness that comes with designing diplomas and certification in a field– that there is something remarkable with this present combination of people with backgrounds from the broad perspectives of geography and literature from which they draw resources to think imaginatively, both remembering to keep returning to the high altitude of the bigger long-term picture as they also deal with the practicalities of day to day bus stops. It must have given inspiration for students in the Arts and Social Sciences who have only too many doomsayers declaring that students cannot afford to get a general education because it is useless for employment: this event showed the strengths of Humanities and Social Sciences for innovative thinking.
Before I wrap this up I would like to thank the following people for making the night possible:
- All of our speakers;
- Patrick Reynolds for gently guiding the evening’s discussion into all sorts of sordid directions;
- Marc Tadaki and Reza Fuard from CubeBrick Studios for assisting with filming and editing respectively; and
- Career Help and Development Services at the UoA for assisting with the venue.
And thanks of course to all the people who attended – your interest helped to inspire the rusty and crusty brigade that came along with the intention of inspiring you!
P.s. I hope you enjoy the videos, and let us know if you have any ideas for how we might improve future evenings. I hope this can blossom into an annual event that supports the development of a new public transport industry in NZ.
As we know, public transport in Auckland often leaves a lot to be desired with it only seems to work really well in a handful of situations. The good news is that despite a few delays and false starts, we seem to be on the right track and over the next few years there are a few massive changes happening. We will get an entire fleet of brand new electric trains, an entirely revamped bus network and tying all together will be integrated ticketing and fares. There are a few other important things going on behind the scenes like the roll out of a new contracting regime but that is something that most people won’t know or care about.
Communicating some of these changes is not going to be easy for Auckland Transport as there is simply so much changing over what is a relatively short period of time. There are also bound to be some challenging times for the organisation, especially in relation to the changes for new bus network. So it is good to see support and communication for the changes coming straight from the top of the organisation. In an opinion piece in the Herald today, Chairman Lester Levy provides his thoughts.
Restoring faith in Auckland’s transport system
When it comes to transport in Auckland the stakeholders are as many and varied as are the differing and divergent views.
I guess it has always been like this and over many decades ad hoc decisions, decisions half-made, questionable decisions and decisions deferred or never made have severely limited options.
Transport solutions in Auckland are well behind where they should be, but not where we have to stay.
I have been chairman of Auckland Transport for six months. What do I see? Public transport in Auckland is just not yet good enough. The trains do not run frequently enough and frequently they do not run on time. The bus real-time information does not seem real to many, because it is not, a lot of the time.
Peak times on trains and buses are often very crowded and it just seems like there are not enough of them – that is because often there are not. The new AT Hop card has had some issues – these have been very frustrating for passengers.
Doubt, distrust, ridicule, criticism – that has largely been the history of transport in Auckland. The possibility that transport issues in Auckland could ever be resolved seems to have been consigned to the wastebasket of history.
I believe a large part of the problem is there have been so many strategies and plans that it seems to me that figuring out what to do has become more important than actually doing something.
Perhaps because of this, far too many Aucklanders have lost faith that there is an alternative to their private car.
There is no need to declare defeat.
Change is coming fast! I believe that Auckland’s transport problems can and will be resolved – but it will not be easy.
Imagine if every negative, downward-spiral critic had prevailed in history. We would have no antibiotics, no air travel, no smartphones and a whole bunch of other fantastic stuff that has enriched our lives. We need to move beyond the downward spiral critics (even many of the transport reports are loaded with pessimistic assumptions and outcomes), but just as importantly we need to take off the rose-tinted glasses, confront reality and be very honest about where we are with transport in Auckland and very clear about where we need to be.
As I said, change is coming fast. Neighbourhood by neighbourhood, transport operator by transport operator, mode by mode, route by route, street by street – we at Auckland Transport are taking this thing apart piece by piece and will return it put back together in a new form – a form where public transport will operate with precision.
High frequency, reliability, attractive and affordable pricing, higher levels of passenger comfort, accurate and accessible information and high levels of safety and security are the principles that we are now moving forward on.
What we are proposing is not a simple “chemical face-peel” where the changes are minor and temporary. For a few months the skin looks perfect and then just returns to what it was before. What Auckland Transport is about to undertake is “major reconstructive surgery” where the changes will be significant and permanent.
Auckland Transport is embarking on a full review of every single bus route, a major upgrade of the trains, new ferry services, new fare structures, new ways of paying for everything – so much needs to be turned around and we are going at public transport like it has never ever been done in Auckland before.
Auckland Transport is going to create a public transport network of buses, trains and ferries that will present as a highly desirable option for those who have never really considered it before. Critical to providing public transport in a totally different paradigm is planning and delivering the services totally from the perspective of the passenger – not of the bureaucracy or the provider. Revolutionising the passenger experience is fundamental to moving forward.
Sure, we will need to build more infrastructure (and hard choices will need to be made), but let us not miss the opportunity right in front of us to extract the huge and unseen potential from our existing investments. It is not simply about building more, it is also about getting a lot more out of what we have and then when we do build more we will get outcomes that currently seem unlikely.
Change will happen, but like all progress will take time – in three years transport in Auckland will be different and by 2020 it will be very, very different.
This comes less than a week after AT launched the excellent new video for the new PT network that we are getting.
A lot of the angst over the Unitary Plan seems to have been directly at the Mixed Housing zone – which is the most extensive residential zone throughout Auckland in the Plan [covering around 49% of all residential zoned land]. While some of the fears are simply stupid as they seem to driven by people who think the only good plan is one the prevents any change happening anywhere [especially near them] but looking into the zone in a bit more detail seems to highlight that it isn’t really quite sure about what it wants to achieve and therefore probably both misses out in intensification potential in places where it does make sense while also tremendously ‘scaring the horses’ in places where intensification is probably only sensible at a fairly minor scale. It is probably like this as most of the provisions in the MH zone are roll-overs of the the current regulations, but also because it allows a big potion of the city to go in various directions, based on local imperatives; it has a certain flexibility. Yet the question remains: Is this flexibility a strength or a hinderance to the quality of urban form and the growing needs of the city?
Let’s work through the zone bit by bit to get a better understand of it – firstly the objectives and policies:
This zone is the most widespread residential zone in Auckland. It enables two storey housing in variety of sizes and forms – detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, town houses and terraced housing and low-rise apartments. The variety of housing types and sizes provided for will increase the supply of housing, create diverse neighbourhoods and provide housing choice.
This zone encourages new development patterns by providing increased housing densities with the highest density levels enabled on large sites with wide road frontages. The basis for these provisions is that the larger the size of the site and the wider its frontage, the greater the opportunity to integrate the development into the neighbourhood and provide a range of dwelling types. Over time, the appearance of neighbourhoods within this zone will change but they will retain their suburban residential context.
A resource consent is required in this zone where five or more units are being built on a site. A key part of the resource consent process will be determining if the site is of a size, shape, slope and with sufficient street frontage to achieve quality residential development.
The zone provisions also ensure that development does not detract from the amenity and character of adjoining development or sites.
Non-residential activities are provided for but the range is limited to those which include a residential component or will benefit the local community.
1. Housing supply and housing choice within neighbourhoods is increased.
2. Developments provide high-quality on-site amenity for residents.
3. The amenity of adjoining sites and the residential character of the surrounding area is maintained by development.
4. Development is of a scale, form and appearance that responds to the site and neighbourhood’s suburban residential context.
5. The density of the development is appropriate for the physical attributes of the site.
6. Non-residential activities provide convenience and choice for the neighbourhood while ensuring the residential character and amenity of the area is maintained.
1. Enable increased densities of development, in a variety of forms and sizes, including detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, terraced housing and low-rise apartments.
2. Require development to be of a scale and form which allows immediate neighbours to have adequate sunlight and privacy, and to avoid excessive bulk and dominance effects.
3. Require residential development to achieve a high quality of on-site amenity by:
a. providing functional and accessible outdoor living spaces
b. providing the amenities necessary for day to day living
c. designing each dwelling to be functional and enjoyable to live in
d. prioritising pedestrian access, safety and movement
e. providing safe, convenient car parking and garaging that does not dominate the street
f. designing developments to provide easy access for all people.
4. Require development of five or more dwellings to integrate into the neighbourhood and achieve an attractive built form when viewed from the street and adjoining sites by:
a. being well connected into the wider neighbourhood
b. using a housing type which is suited to the physical attributes of the site
c. using a form and layout of development that responds to the natural landform and natural features of the site
d. dividing the mass of the building into smaller scale parts in order to create interest and positive relationships with surrounding development, including historic character and historic heritage areas.
5. Limit the density and/or the height and scale of development where this is necessary to take account of one or more of the following factors:
a. achieve a balance between making the most efficient use of the site, being respectful of neighbours and providing good on-site amenity
b. the proportions or topography of the site or the length of the road frontage mean that it is not possible to maximise development without generating adverse effects on the street and surrounding area.
6. Limit non-residential activities to those of an intensity which is compatible with the residential character and amenity of the zone and require any non-residential building to be of a scale and design that is complementary to the surrounding residential context.
Looking at some of the key rules we can see that it doesn’t involve much upzoning at all. An 8 metre height limit as a permitted activity, a density control of one unit per 300 square metres for sites under 1200 square metres and without a 20m frontage and a fairly normal array of other controls [site to boundary, site coverage etc.]. We also, unfortunately, see minimum parking requirements retained in this zone. Two stories [three with a resource consent in some cases] and mandatory on-site parking makes for low rise, low density suburbia, just with some smaller dwellings with smaller gardens possible [Although why some of these couldn't be without garages instead if the market supports it I have no idea].
But critically there are really two zones in one here – all dependent upon whether the site being developed meets two key criteria of the 1200m site size and the 20m site frontage. Sites which don’t will see a fairly low level of intensification down to 1:300 m2 of density [a bit more enabling than current rules which are generally around 1:350-1:400 in the "standard" zones]. Sites which do meet this threshold will still have the same key height controls [two levels as permitted, higher with a resource consent as is the case in existing plans] but won’t have density controls and therefore will see a much wider range of development typologies occurring.
The trouble with squeezing two zones into one is, as I said earlier in this post, that I don’t think we provide for either of the sought outcomes very well. I think there are quite extensive tracts of Auckland where three level terraced housing would most certainly be appropriate – yet that kind of development would probably be quite difficult in the Mixed Housing zone, yet the Terraced House and Apartment Building [THAB] zone is quite tightly limited around centres and in places where we might want more intensive housing than freehold “fee simple” terraced housing. But similarly, there are probably quite significant tracts of Auckland where we don’t want intensification to happen much beyond what’s there now [or provided for in existing plans] due to poor transport access, a lack of infrastructure capacity or the particular character of an area.
A good example is to look at the North Shore, where it seems pretty much everywhere not specifically identified a low density or which isn’t in or immediately around a centre has been lumped into this Mixed Housing zone:
The way the zone is currently structured makes me worry it’s nothing more than enabling “garden gobbling” infill across a massive tract of Auckland: not the targeted intensification that we actually need in order to integrated our planning and transport better or to provide affordable housing in the right places. Certainly too strict in the places we want growth, maybe too lenient in the places we don’t really want growth.
So what’s the solution? Well perhaps this zone should really be split into two?:
- A “Main Residential” zone which has something like a density control of one unit per 350 square metres, a standard site coverage requirement, 8m height limit (perhaps full discretionary status to go beyond it?) with standard allowance for another minor unit within the main building – something all zones currently provide for. This would probably cover most of the area currently proposed as Mixed Housing, except for areas close to the THAB zone or on really good public transport routes.
- A “Terraced and Town House” zone. This would explicitly allow three levels, not have a density control but have other amenity controls which direct the zone towards providing intensive housing typologies which still sit on their own bit of land [rather than apartments which rely on Unit Titles and Body Corporates]. This “Terraced and Town House” zone would be the best bits of the Mixed Housing zone and perhaps the “pushing it” bits of the current THAB zone – which in turn could properly focus on providing for good quality apartments and narrow the area it applies to [or just merge with the Mixed Use zone].
This would lead to four ‘steps’ in intensity for typical residential zones: Single Dwelling with little infill potential, generally Single Dwelling with some infill and some duplex potential, Terraced Houses & Town Houses and then Apartments. This might hopefully lead to Auckland being able to better explore those “middle density” housing typologies that seem to have been squeezed out so often in the past and led to not much being built between detached houses and big apartment buildings. It might also allay many community fears of ‘garden gobbling infill’ and direct intensification to where it actually makes sense.
But to really gain the density advantages from this new zone it would need to be more flexible to allow different typologies and this should mean the ability to go below the 300m^2 Minimum Lot Size, remove Minimum Parking Requirements, and Height in Relation to Boundary controls, where appropriate. As exampled this post. And in the spatial order of many of our older suburbs:
These houses all fail the MH regs as being too close to each other, on lots too small, and in most cases having no off street parking. Yet I am pretty sure that the people who pay huge sums for these houses and those that wish all suburbs could be Victorian or Edwardian are more than happy with these features yet they are not possible in the MH zone. Further coverage of this disconnect between the actual building blocks of successful old neighbourhoods and how we plan now here.
So perhaps the MH zone is seriously flawed; neither one thing nor the other. Could it be chopped in two or would invite even more boundary issues? And I guess the downside to this is a loss of flexibility for the market to determine over time where is more suitable for either of each of these two new zones, but rather have it left up to planners to pick and choose now….. But then currently the loudest complainers are people who seem to want the Council to further restrict their property rights, be more proscriptive, not give them more freedom.
This is a guest post from Andre de Graaf who is a principal at Construkt
We are all still slowly digesting the ramifications of the Draft Unitary Plan and I suspect it will be a while yet before further scenario testing and some prudent ground “truthing” moulds the Plan into a mechanism that will allow the aspirations of the Auckland Plan to be executed in any real sense. The essence of the Unitary Plan is certainly to be applauded. The creation of a more compact city is paramount for many reasons.
But like with many things, I think there are parts of the Unitary Plan where the overwhelming tendency is to simply offer up that, which already has tried and tested patterns established. To support this so called line-of-least-resistance, we are inadvertently ensuring that portions of the planning frameworks do not stray too far from the past. Perhaps it’s also a case of – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
While there is always a good argument to be made for that, I can’t also help but think, ok so it works, but could it work better!
Although the draft Unitary Plan is a great step in the right direction, I do have some concerns about the detail (specifically some development controls) that I believe will frustrate good compact urban form.
Given my involvement both at masterplan level and with some of the housing designs , I thought it useful to reference the mostly completed (stage 1) housing at Hobsonville Point to demonstrate my thoughts. However rather than simply offering an overview of the actual designs, I want to focus on some alternate thinking in respect of the development controls that guide the urban form and have a substantial effect on the streetscape and density of our neighbourhoods.
Fig 1: View of stand-alone houses along Station Street, Buckley Precinct, Hobsonville Point.
Fig 2: View of stand-alone houses facing laneway (off station Street), Buckley Precinct, Hobsonville Point
Figures 1 and 2 show stand-alone houses already completed within the first stage of the Buckley Precinct. These have proven to be very popular and whilst I do not necessarily advocate these to be a perfect example of housing to be rolled out across the wider Auckland – in fact there are always lessons to be learned – the feedback has been very positive and they have sold very well.
At this point it is worth noting that the development controls developed for the Buckley Precinct (as part of the masterplan) include neither a Minimum Lot Size nor HIRB control.
It is these two particular development controls, so ubiquitous in all our planning documents I wish to discuss.
Minimum Lot size:
Whilst this varies depending on current zoning provisions across Auckland, and whilst this makes sense in certain character areas, one has to question why this provision should be there at all for other zones that anticipate intensification – perhaps it comes down to how one defines medium density as this appears to be a relative term. The following are site size requirements for current and proposed zones that contemplate medium density housing:
Operative District Plan – Residential 6A zone, stipulates 375m² as a minimum lot area.
Draft Unitary Plan, this density appears to be captured by the Residential – Mixed Housing zone, which imposes a minimum site size of 300m² (unless total site area is 1200m² or greater in which case no minimum applies).
Fig 3 below is a snap shot of the first stage housing that was constructed at Hobsonville Point. I have shown in red the lot area for some of the sites that we have designed the houses. As you can see most of these sites are below 300m² and in some cases well below.
Fig 3: A portion of the Buckley Precinct already constructed at Hobsonville Point
Escalating house prices seem to have many reasons in Auckland (too complex to go into here), however a large component of a ‘house and land package’ is the value of the land. For this reason the land component to house type should be keenly interrogated such that – what I call “slop” land – is eliminated or at the very least reduced to a minimum. Within the Auckland isthmus a single section is now likely to sell for approximately $750.00 per m².
The example above of stand-alone house sections on lots of say 275m² (vs the current minimum of 375m²) gives an area difference of around 100m² – producing a cost difference of around $75 000.00 for the land alone. Of course under the Draft Unitary Plan, with a minimum lot size of 300m², that difference reduces to $18,750. But 18k…. is… well 18k, and for many families possibly the difference that determines where and how they live.
In my view we should also consider terraced houses as single or individual sites as they do in countries like The Netherlands, but this is worthy of a separate discussion that I will not progress here.
Increased housing choice and a shift in expectations on the ability for households to pay are backed up by sales evidence that smaller homes are proving very popular at developments like Hobsonville Point .
With a shift in housing choice, and affordability a real issue, one has to wonder why setting minimum lot sizes (for a zone clearly anticipating intensification), is sensible at all? In answering that question we of course need to consider the intention of minimum lot sizes and why they are imposed in the first place, but I will come back to that later .
Height in Relation to Boundary (HIRB):
Below is an extract of this development control contained in the Draft Unitary Plan (only slightly different from the current Operative Plan that has the boundary height at 2m).
Fig 4: HIRB diagram – example from draft Unitary Plan
The purpose of this control is stated as;
Manage the bulk and scale of buildings at boundaries to provide sunlight access to neighbouring properties and provide space between buildings.
Now, while such controls are well intentioned to preserve these amenities, the reality is that section sizes historically have been larger and these controls have allowed sufficient design “wriggle” room to create our desired suburban form and landscape. However in the last decade or so with the progression to more tightly spaced, yet increasingly larger dwellings , we have ended up with some very poor outcomes. In my view this particular control has simply not adapted.
An example of this is depicted below – redolent of many areas around Auckland housing built in the last decade or so. Ignoring architectural merits, what I see more than anything else here, are houses as “slaves” of the HIRB control, all the more so as lot and house sizes have inversely grown.
Fig 5: HIRB as typically denoted by red lines.
Below is an example of stand-alone housing at Hobsonville, where the development controls for this precinct do not impose HIRB. A clearly defined street edge becomes possible.
Fig 6: Note – Windows to side boundary are secondary windows. The primary window faces the street boundary.
Of course the other housing form that was exempt from the HIRB (as they pre-date), are around the older parts of Auckland. A typical example is shown in Fig 7 below.
Fig 7: An example of housing from the older parts of Auckland.
So coming back to the intention of minimum lot size and the purpose of HIRB – sunlight and space between buildings, I have contemplated some alternatives that nevertheless seek to protect the same amenity values.
If we take a ‘let-the-design-dictate’ approach we might consider setting distances from boundaries relative to the rooms or spaces that they relate. For example the distance from a living space to an adjacent boundary would be much greater than say from a garage or bathroom. This is actually a concept covered in the Moreland Higher Density Design Code, specifically the section dealing with Building Separation of which I have extracted the relevant page below:
Fig 8: Building separation guidance from Moreland Higher Density Design Code.
Of course the context is very different, but I did find the very notion of outlook as a separation control intriguing.
We interpreted this for the Hobsonville Point project and developed this idea with Council. Essentially it is a building spacing or separation based on outlook rather than a generic default boundary control. By way of example the following scenario was proposed:
Primary Outlook: This relates to living spaces (lounge, living, dining) and requires a min 6m setback from Lot boundary
Secondary Outlook: This relates to private spaces (bedroom, study) and requires a min 3m setback from Lot boundary
No Outlook: This relates to service spaces (garage, laundry, passages, bathroom) and allows a min zero setback from Lot boundary
Note: These are to lot boundaries – so it is the cumulative total of two outlook types on either side of the lot boundary that will determine overall building separation.
If a room has more than one external wall you simply nominate the wall that is subject to the outlook setback requirement.
We have tested many different scenarios with actual house designs to see how this would unfold and I have included one example as Fig 9 below – lot no. 2 being the subject site.
Fig 9: Scenario testing diagram.
Essentially the outlook setback attempts to give the designer greater freedom, to place and manipulate, the house form and space allocation to best suit the site conditions, orientation and context (including neighbouring properties).
Now what I have not yet mentioned is that additionally there is an overall height limit and importantly that there are specific requirements to ensure solar access to the private open space (POS) is achieved. This can easily be demonstrated by way of shadow analysis along the lines of the example diagram in Fig 10 below:
Fig 10: Example of shadow analysis diagram.
Note: Whilst unit 2 is in this case the subject site, all neighbouring properties (either as existing or as proposed) must be included to demonstrate that they either retain solar access to their POS or for a vacant site that the POS for a proposed house can be located in a way that meets all the development controls.
Note: The minimum solar access requirements are defined in terms of min number of hours (in this case 3) at set times of the year when at least 50% of the POS must receive sunlight.
I assume that for some designers demonstrating shadow analysis can be somewhat intimidating and or technical, but if a clear and simple methodology is established, that all designers can easily follow, it is actually quite straightforward. In my view shading diagrams (particularly as urban form intensifies) should form part of any basic analysis in arriving at a preferred design.
How Council vet or test an applicant’s proposal for accuracy would of course also need to be considered.
One last thing I will touch on is the issue of privacy and overlooking, as this is invariably raised when attempting to work with medium density environments.
In terms of physical separation the outlook setback control would deal with this in the same way that say; yard setbacks, HIRB or minimum lot sizes would have influenced building separation.
Design (again particularly as urban form intensifies) should always contemplate the issues of privacy and overlooking at the outset, and just as shading analysis, should be a basic up-front consideration long before secondary yet simple mechanisms such as screens and planting, assist in maintaining privacy.
I do think we sometimes have an unhealthy obsession for privacy. As long as people have privacy when they choose it and can adjust their environment to invite neighbourly interaction when they do seek it – is in that, not the real value and health of communities?
As Jane Jacobs in her seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, observes;
“Architectural and planning literature deals with privacy in terms of windows, overlooks, sight lines. The idea is that if no one from outside can peek into where you live – behold, privacy. This is simple-minded. Window privacy is the easiest commodity in the world to get. You just pull down the shades or adjust the blinds. The privacy of keeping one’s personal affairs to those selected to know them, and the privacy of having reasonable control over who shall make inroads on your time and when, are rare commodities in most of this world, however, and they have nothing to do with the orientation of windows.”
We live in an ever-changing world with ever-changing life styles. We need to ask ourselves if some current development controls have kept pace and are they the best we can do in enabling innovative design without necessarily precluding a more traditional approach. I am not talking about architectural merits here but more about the placement, size and footprint of houses. I would argue that the notion of minimum lot size is premised on the site coming first and a house design that follows. This is true for the past several decades, but the fact is many new land developments in Auckland (both brownfield and greenfield) has moved on and a masterplan focus is brought to bear that clearly contemplates a particular urban form long before lot size and its shape factor is settled on.
The question is when more often than not the house comes first and the lot is sized around it to preserve certain amenity and outlook – is a min lot size the best way to achieve this? And if the site (say infill) comes first and the house design follows does an outlook setback control still hold?
Additionally – if space between buildings can be more responsive to the actual house design through an outlook setback control, whilst preserving solar access to Private Open Space – do we need a HIRB control at all?
We can play around with development controls, and it is important that we do to ensure good outcomes, but in the end the real test must be that of quality and beauty. Nick Boles  a planning minister in the UK makes the point:
“In a nutshell because we don’t build beautifully, people don’t let us build much. And because we don’t build much we can’t afford to build beautifully.”
Hobsonville Point has its own design guide and a design review panel. Every house design is subject to the design review panel process. Good design and quality, no matter what the urban form, must be at the core of everything we do if we truly want to make Auckland the world’s most liveable city.
 Both in association and in a joint venture with Isthmus Group, providing urban design services to Hobsonville Land Company (HLC).
 Under a separate engagement with Universal Homes, one of several builder partners involved with the construction of housing at Hobsonville Point.
 Depending where in Auckland you are this would be higher or lower – I have simply averaged this for the purposes of this discussion.
 Chapter 11 (Priority 2) of the Auckland Plan gives a good overview of the shifting demographics and household make-up.
 See first two paragraphs under: Summing Up.
 See Auckland Plan, Chapter 11 – Priority 2, Increase Housing Choice to Meet Diverse Preferences and Needs.
 See the Spring issue 2013 of Urban Design Group Journal – 126 (Page 34, A manifesto on 21st Century suburbs).
A couple of articles in the herald caught my attention this morning that I thought needed some extra comment.
The first was this piece about people clogging up city fringe suburbs for parking.
Inner-city residents appeal to council to stop selfish park-and-ride behaviour.
Residents of central Auckland fringe suburbs such as Mt Eden, Parnell and Orakei are getting riled at their streets becoming free parking lots for commuters skimping on bus or rail fares.
Mt Eden resident Diane Morton says her previously quiet cul-de-sac near a busy bus route has become a mecca for students parking there for long hours each weekday, leaving little room for her and her neighbours to squeeze back in if they return home before late in the afternoon.
Commuters are increasingly driving cars to streets within a $1.90, one-stage bus or rail trip to the CBD, and clogging up suburbs from Freemans Bay to Orakei, from where trains take just eight minutes to reach Britomart.
People driving to the inner city suburbs just so they can get cheaper PT fares is certainly an issue and it creates two key by products. First it obviously clogs up local streets with cars making things difficult for residents but it also generates more traffic as people battle to get to these free parking spaces. However these by products are really just the symptoms of the real problem which is that the parking on these areas isn’t being managed properly. This isn’t the first time we have heard about issues with parking in a city fringe suburb and the first thing that sprung to mind as I read this was that these areas to have a version of the parking scheme currently being trialled in St Marys Bay which has seen area wide time limits imposed but for which residents are able to purchase permits that are exempt. The article continues:
Mrs Morton said she was often forced to park across her own Bourne St driveway when bringing grandchildren to her home. Her garage was too rundown to store her car and she did not want to turn her front-yard vegetable garden into a parking lot.
She believed Auckland Council planners were failing to taking parking demand into account in their urban intensification plans.
She had distributed leaflets to her neighbours asking what they thought could be done. She wanted some form of parking priority, although she disagreed with a $70 charge imposed on St Marys Bay householders in a trial scheme which Auckland Transport hopes may become a model for other fringe suburbs.
Right, so unlike some she actually has off street parking but doesn’t want to pay to fix it up so parks on the street instead. She also doesn’t think she should have to pay for on street parking but wants to be given priority to this publicly owned and paid for piece of infrastructure. The reason there is so much parking demand in her area is because it is currently free to park there. The trial at St Marys Bay finishes in July so it will be good to see the official results of that however like many things that involve pricing something that is currently free, I suspect that most residents didn’t really see the benefits of it until it actually happened. It is likely that the same thing would happen if implemented in other suburbs, people will initially complain but once they see the results won’t want to change back.
Of course local body politicians love to get involved in these types of issues. Christine Fletcher makes the point that Auckland Transport need to be given a chance to assess the impacts on St Marys Bay first. I feel that Mike Lee on the other hand has missed the mark slightly.
Council transport chairman Mike Lee said parking schemes were just treating symptoms of a wider problem, which he suspected was caused by excessive bus and rail fares.
“Rather than suburb-by-suburb and street-by-street I think we need to take a comprehensive overview of the problem and it seems to me that recent fare increases are acting as market signals,” said Mr Lee, who is also an Auckland Transport board member. “Not only do we have a decline in public transport use overall, but we also have behaviour which seems to be influenced by getting a cheap fare.”
Yes the level of PT fares is an issue but reducing them isn’t going to magically get people to stop parking in these suburbs. As mentioned above the real problem is that it is free to park in these suburbs currently. Only by actually managing the parking will we solve the problem.
The second article talks about people moving to Hamilton for cheaper houses.
Aucklanders are looking as far away as Hamilton to buy homes as more people find themselves squeezed out of their local real estate market.
Hamilton real estate agents say there has been a surge in inquiries about properties in their market where the average house price is $347,406.
Other real estate commentators say some are even choosing to make the 90-minute commute over the Bombay Hills while maintaining their lifestyle in the Waikato.
In Auckland, the average house price is $628,205 but that will not buy much for those wanting more than an apartment or a unit in the inner city suburbs.
The big problem I have with this is that people seem to completely underestimate how much they actually pay for transport. Yes you can buy a cheaper house but that can more than be made up for by considerably more expensive transport costs, especially if you are commuting back to Auckland for work like one of the couples mentioned.
Carl Hooker, 37, and his wife, 32, decided to hunt slightly further afield than Auckland while looking for a bigger home for themselves and their three boys .
For a similar price, they were able to swap their 100-year-old villa on a small section for a three-year-old mansion on 5.786 hectares.
The couple both still work in Auckland, splitting the weekly commute.
Now that sounds like they commute together to Auckland and it is roughly 120km from Hamilton. As an indication the IRD suggest that a mileage rate of 77c per km which could cover costs for fuel, maintenance and other costs like insurance . At that level a round trip from Hamilton to Auckland is likely to cost around $180 a day or around $900 per week. Even if you only came up to Auckland a three days a week you are already looking at over $500. A quick calculation using the loan calculator from one of our major banks shows that repayments of $500 a week could equate pay for a mortgage of over $370,000.
Perhaps this shows that our banks should really start linking in transport costs to their lending credit assessments. If they did those wanting to get lending to live in far away suburbs would certainly get a bit of a shock.
We’re coming to the end of a three-month period of public submissions on the Auckland Council’s draft Auckland Unitary Plan. There have been a lot of numbers and figures tossed around, and one which people tend to focus on is that Auckland will have an extra one million people by 2041. That would take us from our current 1.5 million people to 2.5 million people – and this is major growth by anyone’s standards. But where did these numbers come from? How did we get here? Where will those million people come from?
Let’s go back to July 2012. The Auckland Council finalised its “Auckland Plan”, a vision document for the next 30 years. The Council knew that it had to plan for population growth, and the question was how much. For this, it turned to Statistics New Zealand, a government department which makes “population projections” for areas across New Zealand. Councils across the country use these projections to anticipate how their districts will change over time.
Section B of the Auckland Plan lays it out:
“Statistics New Zealand models three scenarios for the future of Auckland’s population – high, medium and low growth. Given Auckland’s history of rapid population growth, Auckland Council believes it is prudent to base its future planning on the high-growth scenario, and unless otherwise stated, this model is used throughout the Auckland Plan. The high-growth model projects a population of 2.5 million in 2041″.
This chart from the Auckland Plan shows the different projections (low, medium and high) for Auckland. I think it’s a nice touch that they also compare the populations of our next five largest cities, which hammers home the point that Auckland is projected to grow much faster than any of them – the situation we face is unique within New Zealand.
The Auckland Plan was used as a guide to create the draft Auckland Unitary Plan – so the assumptions about planning for an extra million people are carried over from this graph.However, there’s no guarantee that we’ll have an extra million Aucklanders by 2041. Indeed, it represents an increase on our current growth trajectory (which would see us to about 2.25 million, or 750,000 extra people, by that time).
You could justify this in various ways: homes in Auckland are expensive, suggesting high demand, and no doubt more people would like to live here. Increase supply to match the unfilled demand, and make sure you’ve got transport and other infrastructure in place, and we could very well get to 2.5 million people.But we might not. And the Auckland Plan, with its intent to allow for up to 280,000 homes within the current urban limits and up to 160,000 homes outside them, may give us more capacity than we actually end up using. If this is the case, we may not get a 60:40 or 70:30 split of intensification to sprawl. It could be more, or less, depending on what the market provides, what the government provides, how those infrastructure costs are divvied up, and so on.
You could make any number of conclusions from this, but the ones I like are:
1) We should make sure that the release of land outside the current urban limits is carefully staged. If you release it all at once, you could undermine the aim of intensification.
2) This is even more reason for the nimby types, and all those who are generally against change, to realise that change won’t come overnight, and perhaps they should chill out a little.
Part of me can understand why there seems to be such significant opposition to intensification in the Unitary Plan. Many people like the place they live the way it is and they’re fearful of change. Furthermore, they’ve seen what developers have built in relatively recent times and don’t trust planners to stop bad developments from happening in the future. They also, perhaps correctly, feel that the process of the Unitary Plan is being rushed for political reasons and there’s a good chance of mistakes being made in that rush.
That said, many of those very same people probably don’t want to see Auckland sprawl forever either. Yet burying our head in the dead on this issue, or coming up with draconian measures to stop Auckland from growing, aren’t really viable options so there really is a key tradeoff to make here:
The more we stop intensification, the more Auckland will need to sprawl.
There are many reasons why sprawl is a bad idea - especially sprawl that isn’t planned properly and based around enhanced public transport networks. Let’s just cover a few key points:
- It’s typically much more expensive to service with new roads, pipes, schools, hospitals, parks etc.
- It destroys the countryside, with potentially massive environmental impacts and a reduction in productive rural land
- It leads to car dependent urban development, which itself creates many environmental and economic problems (people in distant suburbs tend to have to spend far more of their income on transport than inner areas)
- It undermines the economic benefits of agglomeration and also creates more severe congestion than more compact urban forms
At the moment the Unitary Plan is working off somewhere between a 70/30 and 60/40 intensification/sprawl split. Given that Auckland’s development in the past 15 years has been 70% intensification this is a slight shift towards sprawl compared to what’s been happening on the ground.
I thought it would be a good idea to visualise the impacts on how much land is needed under a few different scenarios. To do this the maps below are based on any sprawl being at the same density as recent suburban developments.
If Auckland’s growth over the next 30 years was to achieve the 70/30 split, then the red on the map below shows the extent to which the city may expand into areas that are currently rural:At this scale it doesn’t look too shockingly large, but these areas represent around 120,000 dwellings – which (to give a bit of context) is only 22,000 fewer dwellings than were in the whole of Christchurch in 2006.
At a 60/40 split the red areas unsurprisingly grow quite a bit bigger. Remember that the Council is planning for this level of urban sprawl (of course we don’t know exactly where it will go yet) “just in case” it proves difficult to achieve 70% intensification.
Now we’re looking at 160,000 dwellings outside the existing urban limits. For a bit of context the entire Waikato region had 147,000 dwellings in 2006.
At some of the meetings on the Unitary Plan it seems like there’s a bit of push-back to change the intensification/sprawl split. I assume that doesn’t mean a higher proportion of dwellings being on the intensification side of the ledger. So let’s look at a 50/50 split and how big an area that might take up:
By this stage we’re looking at every single greenfield option currently being considered and a significant amount more. If it looks like the red “explodes” as the proportions are wound back there are two reasons for this:
- Growth to rural towns like Waiuku, Helensville is likely to occur as some of the earlier development outside the current urban area so as the numbers get bigger a greater proportion of growth needs to go in the main sprawl areas.
- As the numbers get larger it’s likely that development would have to take place on more difficult land, meaning lower density of development and therefore more land for a certain number of houses.
At “50/50″ we’re looking at 200,000 houses outside the current urban limits, which compares with 178,000 dwellings in the whole of the Wellington region in 2006.
Pushing things a bit further, the map below shows what things might look like in a “40/60 scenario” with only 40% of growth through intensification and 60% through sprawl:
With 240,000 dwellings of sprawl in the 40/60 scenario, we’re looking at the number of dwellings in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions in 2006 combined. (Think of how many schools, hospitals, roads etc. in those two regions!)
As perhaps an extreme example, (though maybe not to Dick Quax or Nick Smith?) the final map below shows a “20/80″ scenario – with 80% of Auckland’s growth outside the existing urban area:
In this scenario the red areas total up to around 34,000 hectares – which is the size of the red box. The 320,000 dwellings outside the existing urban area in this scenario is not that far short putting Wellington (178,000) and Canterbury (212,00) regions together in term of the number of dwellings they had in 2006.
Of course many of the maps above are fairly fanciful and I doubt there would be a market for that much sprawl development even if allowed, but it gives some indication of what people should keep in mind while opposing intensification.
I’m not sure whether it is driven out of selfishness or just a sheer lack of understanding but the opposition and reporting of the unitary plan now seems to be bordering on lunacy. Almost the entire concern about the unitary plan so far seems to have been in relation to height limits. First the focus was around the heights of apartments but opponents of the plan have now moved on to the height limits in the mixed housing zone. For these opponents even three stories seems to be scary so thanks to Google, I went for a look around some of their neighbourhood and look at what I found:
Looking around a few other suburbs we also have.
In all it took me only about 5-10 minutes to find these 3 storey houses and interestingly none of which appeared as if they were out of place in their local environment. Yet somehow try to build something the same height but as a group of terraced houses, or apartments and the development seems to become evil (some are taken from Trademe listings).
The same height limits that allow for the large houses in the first sets of photos are the ones that affect many of the terraced houses and apartments in the second set of photos.
But I wonder if these people actually realise what the existing height limits are? I suspect they don’t so I went and had a look. Here are the limits in residential areas for the former North Shore City Council:
22.214.171.124 Maximum Height
a) Residential 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 zones: 8 metres.
b) Residential 6 zone:
i) Intensive Housing on sites exceeding 1500m²: 9 metres.
ii) All other activities: 8 metres.
c) Special Height Restrictions:
i) RNZAF Airbases – refer to Rule 14.10.1.
ii) Mount Victoria and North Head – refer to Rule 8.4.3 and Rule 8.4.4.
iii) Dairy Flat Airfield – refer to District Plan Map 3.
iv) 94, 96 and 98 Mokoia Road (Lots 6, 7 and 8 DP 12148) – 9 metres.
By means of a Limited Discretionary activity application:
a) Residential 1, 2b, 2c, 3, 4, 5 and 7 zones: Up to 9 metres.
b) Residential 6 zone:
i) Intensive Housing: Up to 10 metres.
ii) All other activities: Up to 9 metres.
c) Residential 2A zone: Up to 11 metres.
Most properties on the shore sit under residential zone 4a so have a height limit of 8 metres with council officers having discretion to increase that to 9 metres. Seeing as in the unitary plan the mixed housing zone is the most common, what does it say about height?
Part 4 Rules»4.3 Zone rules»4.3.1 Residential zones»4. Development controls»4.3 Mixed Housing zone»4.3.1 Building height
Purpose: manage the scale of buildings to generally maintain the low-rise suburban residential character of the zone (two to three storeys).
1. Buildings must not exceed 8m in height.
So it is 8m as well or in other words for the majority of people on the shore, there is actually no change to height limits at all. Not that the scaremongers like Wood, Quax, Brewer and a host of local board members would tell you that. Unfortunately they have been assisted by the hopeless attempts at comms by the council. We said very early on that effort should have been put into showing what was allowed under current rules vs. what is proposed. For most people this would have shown that there was actually no change at all and therefore nothing to worry about which is a point that Brian Rudman also highlighted a few days ago.
Some you may recall that a month or so ago my colleague Jarrett Walker came to Auckland to talk about public transport. In this presentation, Jarrett discussed some of his work on Auckland’s new network. The general thrust of his talk was that improvements to Auckland’s bus network will play a crucial role in Auckland’s future public transport network. Highlight of the talk for me personally was Jarrett’s suggestion that we need to start thinking of buses as ”pedestrian fountains“. That’s a point to keep in mind the next time you look at pictures of Auckland’s city centre filled with people enjoying themselves; many of those people will have arrived by bus.
Jarrett also emphasised the often overlooked fact that even post-CRL, significant numbers of people will still be arriving in Auckland’s city centre by bus, especially from those areas which are not well-served by rail. For example, buses will still be required on Manukau Rd, Mt Eden Road, Dominion Rd, Sandringham Rd, and Jervois Rd, which are some of the densest parts of the region. The CRL does not make buses go away, even if it allows their role to change in some parts of the region, and that buses will continue to be an important part of Auckland’s public transport system for the foreseeable future.
For this reason Jarrett suggested that we start thinking about how buses can be integrated into the city in a way that enables them to move efficiently, without clogging up the roads and detracting from urban amenity. And that means – in my opinion – that we need better bus infrastructure, like what you find in more enlightened cities overseas. Indeed, even Vienna – which is a city known for its relatively dense metro and tram network – has a bus system that carries 120 million passengers per year. That’s more than twice the passengers currently using Auckland’s bus network. Basically, there is no conceivable (realistic) future for public transport in Auckland that does not involve making better use of our buses.
Jarrett really lays down an intellectual challenge to people that “hate buses”.
In his talk Jarrett also emphasised that the best bus routes almost always make the best tram routes. So if you are a person who want trams to be part of Auckland’s transport future (and I would count myself as one of these people), then the best thing you can do is support the development of a high-quality bus network supported by appropriately future-proofed infrastructure.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the presentation, albeit without audio/video (technical difficulties on the day meant this is unavailable). In my next post I’ll upload a copy of Jarrett’s talk at the public transport careers evening that was held at the University of Auckland (again apologies for the delay with getting this uploaded; I know some of you have been asking for it).
And for those of you who missed hearing Jarrett on his last visit, rest assured that we’re already working to bring him back to Auckland later this year.