Back in July former World Bank urban planner Alain Bertaud and his wife Marie-Agnes, a fellow professional in the field, came down to New Zealand at the invitation of the NZ Initiative and the Minister of Finance’s office to deliver a series of talks on urban economics. He had a number of thought-provoking things to say to urbanists of all stripes – a message that was very much in line with Transportblog’s core principles and big ideas.
He looks much happier in person
While Bertaud is sometimes cited as a proponent of low-density urban sprawl and motorway development, his arguments about urban development were nuanced and thoughtful. The Bertauds are, after all, urbanists themselves. They have chosen to live in vibrant, dense, and diverse cities – Paris, Washington, D.C., and lately New York. (That’s a revealed preference if I’ve ever seen one – they certainly don’t live in Houston!)
In addition to seeing Bertaud’s talk , which is available online here (pdf), I was lucky enough to sit in on a smaller discussion section with other professionals in the field. I took three key messages away from the talk and the conversation.
First, cities are labour markets. We often forget this fact, even though it’s the reason we have cities at all. Cities are the physical expression of agglomeration economies, or the productivity advantages of locating near other people and businesses. In Bertaud’s view, ensuring the efficiency of urban labour markets means ensuring that people can access a large number of jobs from their homes.
As a result, he argued that urban and transport planning should aim to keep down commute times. He recommended looking at two key measures – first, the number of jobs available within a 30 minute drive, and second, the number of jobs available within a 45 to 60 minute public transport journey. Here, for example, is his analysis of commute times in Singapore and the US.
Bertaud didn’t recommend any specific policies to reduce travel times, although he spoke positively about Singapore’s use of demand-responsive road pricing and development of an expansive metro network to reduce average travel times. As a transport economist there are a couple of key observations I’d make on the topic:
- Building more roads is not a good way to reduce travel times. Induced demand – people driving more or moving further out of town in response to new road capacity – usually eats up the forecast travel time savings. In short, people travel more but they don’t travel any faster. If you want to actually reduce driving times, the only way to do it is to introduce road pricing.
- Cities with reasonable densities and an underdeveloped public transport network – like Auckland! – are in a good position to improve employment accessibility through investments in rapid transit networks and better bus networks. Fortunately, Auckland’s pursuing this approach.
- In light of induced demand, the best way to improve the accessibility of jobs may be to simply make things closer together. The efficiency of dense urban environments is often underrated. For example, although the roads in downtown Manhattan are far more congested than Houston’s, Manhattan’s effective labour market is much bigger simply because everything is so close.
Second, we must plan for the cities that actually exist, not the cities that we wish could exist. Bertaud presented an excellent graphic to illustrate this point. It showed four kinds of cities – three that exist and one that does not (and can not):
Most cities that exist today are what Bertaud calls “composite cities”, meaning that a significant share of jobs are located in the CBD or in major centres, while other jobs are scattered around in industrial parks, neighbourhood shops, etc. In this city, people have a range of different travel needs. Many people need to get to large-scale, high-density employment hubs, which are efficiently served by rail lines and busways, while others are better off driving to more dispersed employment locations.
In short, real-world cities require a range of transport solutions, and they will not function well if one mode is unreasonably neglected. We don’t have to go far for an example of the perils of mode bias: the remarkable renaissance of the Auckland city centre, and its increasing contribution to New Zealand’s economy, would not have been possible without reinvestment in the rail system and the development of Britomart.
City centre screenline survey results show public transport accounts for all growth in inbound trips over the last two decades
However, Bertaud criticised what he described as the “urban village” model, which hypothesises that if employment is dispersed evenly throughout neighbourhood centres then people will travel only to the nearest centre. This is a seductive idea – it promises to reduce travel distances by distributing employment. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist in the real world because people have complex travel needs. Even if one member of a family chooses to live near where they work, their partner will often have to commute to a job further away.
We see this flawed idea pop up from time to time in New Zealand from advocates for suburbanisation. For example, people sometimes argue that we could reduce congestion by stopping growth in the city centre and relocating it to Manukau central instead. Aside from the fact that we tried this before and it failed, decentralising employment would only increase congestion from all the cross-town trips and reduce the efficiency of Auckland’s labour market.
We don’t have to go far for an example of the failures of the urban village model. Christchurch lost its city centre in the 2011 Canterbury Earthquake, and employment dispersed throughout the city. Although the jobs have decentralised, the city now suffers from higher congestion as it can’t run efficient bus services or provide enough road capacity.
Third, it’s important to ask whether planning regulations are restricting development in areas that are accessible to employment and amenities. Economists in New Zealand have spent a lot of time talking about Auckland’s metropolitan urban limits while paying little attention to regulations in the rest of the city. Bertaud argues that limits on density, such as building height limits or minimum lot sizes, can price out the poor from accessible areas. Incidentally, this may be happening in Auckland – my research found that poorer people tend to live further from employment hubs and commute longer distances as a result.
Bertaud said that when he was advising developing-world cities on planning policies, he’d often start by creating a map of the minimum lot size required by existing rules and estimating what share of the city’s population could afford that amount of land. Here, for example, is his map of floor-to-area ratios in Mumbai, India, which shows that in most parts of the city people are required to buy 1 square metre of land for every 1 square metre of dwelling they want to build. As land is quite expensive in Mumbai, this is basically a policy that requires the poor to get out or build illegally:
It would be fascinating to see a similar map for Auckland if anyone wants to have a go…
If you went to Bertaud’s talk, what did you think of his ideas?
31: The City Centre is a Local Centre Too
What if the city centre had local shops like other dense places?
Day 31 continues a series looking at things missing from the city centre; in this case thinking about local shops and services. Relative to other dense but more established residential neighbourhoods in places like Auckland’s city fringe and other long established residential areas, it seems there are a lot of local shops and services that are missing or somewhat underrepresented in the city centre.
Historically there may have been a variety of reasons, such as the much more established nature of other residential areas, wealthier demographics, or at least more families and less transient communities, which have tended to result in more choice and diversity in local shops in at least the most fortunate of these older Auckland neighbourhoods.
But in the city centre – the densest residential area in New Zealand – it does feel like there are many opportunities going begging for retailers and service providers who recognise not just the demand from the 27,000 odd residents already living here, but also the strong likelihood of that number doubling again in the coming decades. City centre residents are also getting more diverse as we saw in this post a few weeks back.
The city centre is a local centre too. Wouldn’t it be good to see more businesses and community facilities establishing that cater to this local population and its changing demographics?
Stuart Houghton 2014
Film distributors Madman Entertainment have kindly sent us four DVDs of the BBC documentary on the London Underground: The Underground:
Narrated by Julian Barrett of Mighty Boosh fame, each of the six episodes is an incredibly in-depth and unblinking look at what it takes to keep Four Million people moving under the streets of London everyday. Full of characters and extraordinary information from this unseen world.
Produced for the BBC, THE UNDERGROUND goes behind the scenes of the world’s oldest, biggest and busiest underground train network, during the biggest overhaul in its 150 year history.
The series follows key members of the Tube’s 19,000 staff – from the chief operating officer down to the litter pickers who walk miles of track every night collecting rubbish. Drivers, station staff and emergency response workers all reveal their unique perspective on the passengers. From tourists to suburban commuters to drunks getting the last train home, we capture the life of the Tube in all its guises.
To win a copy just add a comment to this post with the sentence or soundbite that you think should be used to promote Auckland’s own [but of course much smaller] version of underground; the CRL. We will choose the four best ones and send them each a copy. As well as seriously suggest to Auckland Transport that they use one of them!
Thanks to Madman Entertainment.
This is just a quick note about an event on tomorrow night. Our good friend Dr Sudhvir Singh from Generation Zero is speaking at the Sir John Logan Campbell Annual Lecture on “The emergence of an urban generation of Aucklanders”. Details are here.
24 September 2014
6:45 – 8pm
Venue: Reception Lounge, Level 2, Auckland Town Hall
The ‘father of Auckland’, Sir John Logan Campbell initially trained as a doctor before going on to play a key role in Auckland’s early development. During Auckland’s initial planning stages, suburbs were designed for people, and Auckland had some of the highest rates of public transport patronage per capita in the world. Since then, Auckland has grown into an incredibly diverse, outward looking city of 1.5 million people. However decisions made in the 20th century have resulted in a sprawling, car-dependent urban form. Under the new ‘super city’ structure, Auckland’s future shape is being determined. Issues of urban development are highly consequential: cities like Auckland are on the front line of 21st century challenges, from climate change to inequality to the epidemic of ‘non-communicable diseases’ like diabetes and heart disease.
Can smart urban planning provide solutions to these contemporary challenges? Do Auckland’s increasingly multicultural cohort of young people have different preferences to their parents’ generation, and what kind of city do they want to live in in the future? What lessons can be learned from Sir John Logan Campbell’s time? Using his experience as a health professional, a migrant and an advocate for a more liveable city, Sudhvir will share his vision for Auckland, and the potential for Auckland’s first ‘urban generation’ to help influence the future shape of our city.
In some respects Saturday night’s election result changes nothing from a transport perspective. It seems as though the government that will be formed over the next three years will be remarkably similar to that we’ve had for the past three years and there’s certainly no indication of a change in direction for transport policy from what we’ve had over the past six years. However, this has some important implications:
- It’s almost certain that Puhoi-Warkworth will be built, with construction likely to start before the 2017 election and the project built/funded as a PPP.
- There will continue to be a lot of discussion around the timing of City Rail Link and whether the Council or Government budges from their preferred start date.
- Progress on any alternative funding mechanisms to close the so called “funding gap” for transport seems pretty unlikely. This is despite the fact some government departments have also being doing their own investigations on alternative funding sources due to lower than expected revenues into the National Land Transport Fund.
- There is likely to be more money for cycling projects thanks to the $100 million for urban cycleways around the country over four years
Cam discussed Puhoi-Warkworth in his post yesterday, so in this post I’m going to focus on the CRL and alternative funding, particularly what the election results means for these two key (although not necessarily connected) issues.
Starting with the CRL, a start on the project as a whole anytime in the next three years now seems fairly unlikely. This means hopes of completing the project by 2021 are probably slim unless the Council can talk government into a very big change of position. The Council is keen to progress talks with government about the timing and funding of CRL, but it seems likely that these talks will focus on funding of the section underneath the downtown shopping centre:
Although the council wants to start CRL by 2016, the previous Government indicated no funding before 2020 unless certain rail patronage and employment targets were met. But [Penny] Hulse remains confident of middle ground.
“We’ve been working well with the Government over the last three years and we don’t expect that to change. The start time and funding are things we need to talk to the Government about,” she said.
This section is particularly important as it is key to delivering not just the redevelopment of the downtown shopping centre site but also a whole raft of projects that are part of the Downtown Framework including making things better for buses on Customs St.
I’m still confident the rail patronage targets set by the government – that patronage will track towards hitting 20 million journeys per year by 2020 – will be met or even exceeded, plus of course there’s still another election in 2017 between now and the government’s current preferred start date. But it seems prudent, for now at least, for the Council to just get on with building the section under the downtown shopping mall – like I said in this previous post. Once CRL is started, it will be much easier to “complete” and the section underneath the downtown shopping centre will make constructing the rest of the project much easier – especially if they can get the bit under Customs Street built as part of this first stage:
So I don’t really think Saturday’s election results change things much for the CRL. I would imagine that the main focus to negotiations over CRL between government and the Council is likely to be around whether the government stumps up with half the cost of the first stage of the project or whether they force Council to fund the whole thing – like has happened so far. I think it would be quite a good look for the government to provide CRL with some financial support for the first stage, to show that it’s serious about believing in the CRL project and to show that it values redevelopment of the city centre.
In relation to alternative transport funding, this might be a bigger hurdle to resolve as the government has been pretty clear on its position previously – no congestion charging and no additional tolls on existing motorways. To some extent this may not be an issue, as I highlighted a few weeks back the “baseline transport programme” (what can be afforded without additional funding with 2.5-3.5% rates increases over the next decade) doesn’t actually look too bad, at least in terms of what big projects are in (CRL, AMETI, new bus network stuff etc.) and out (Penlink). The devil may come in the details of what projects can be afforded when and how much additional walking and cycling funding is available, but at least for now it doesn’t seem like the end of the world if there’s no progress on alternative funding schemes in the next three years. Unless you’re a Penlink supporter, of course!
In saying that it also seems government agencies are becoming increasingly interesting in the issue of alternative funding as a way to provide certainty to the revenues flowing into the National Land Transport Fund (the account that collects all of the transport taxes). It may be a few years away yet but I get the feeling the noise surrounding alternative funding sources is just going to get louder and louder so we’re likely on a course to needing a nationwide discussion about them. When this happens the work put in by the council on the matter is likely to come in quite handy.
The last main issue relates to cycling improvements. From a transport point of view this was one of the highlights of election campaign as every major party (and most of the minor ones) all agreed on the need to spend considerably more on walking and cycling than currently happens. For their part National promised to spend $100 million over four years on urban cycleways. Based on Auckland’s share of the urban population that could see it receiving over $40 million over the four years which would represent an approximate doubling in spending. In saying that a lot will hinge on just how much the council agree to in the Long Term Plan. With the government now seemingly on board with cycling there is a risk the council will try to use the enlarged cycling pot as a chance to cut back on some of the council’s spend. Instead the opposite needs to happen and they need to at least double funding to go on top of whatever the government plan to provide.
So overall, aside from the fact we’re near certain to waste three-quarters of the billion dollars plus whatever the PPP costs on Puhoi to Warkworth, I don’t think the election results is too much of an issue for advancing key transport issues in the next few years. It does mean the slower delivery of CRL, but that’s not unexpected and may help ensure key bus infrastructure for the new network can be completed in time. There’s a certain irony that the government’s dislike for alternative transport funding options probably means a delay to Penlink, a project I understand the local National MP has pushed strongly for, but that project’s a waste of money anyway.
Lastly it was disappointing that despite many requests the first time we got to meet transport minister Gerry Brownlee was at the election debate night. I will also be keeping an eye out to see if we get a new transport minister and whoever it is, I hope they become open to meeting with us this term.
30: Small is Beautiful
What if we decided small can be beautiful?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the beholder sees beauty through the lens of what they hold dear. When it comes to lifestyle beauty relates to how we want to live and how we are used to living.
Aucklanders have lived large for a long time. Many of us are now making different choices to live small. This might still seem quite foreign to many Aucklanders accustomed to lots of space and their own personal bubble. But that doesn’t make small inherently bad.
If we decided small can be beautiful, then we will develop a new appreciation for these things. People who choose to live an inner city lifestyle develop an appreciation of the joys of the small apartment, the small car or the folding bicycle, because space is at a premium in every aspect of their city existence. They recognise the trade-offs but are content that they work for them.
A sense of beauty is important but it can be cultivated and trained to grow in different directions. Small can be beautiful.
Stuart Houghton 2014
On Friday evening the new O’Connell St shared space was officially opened. The street is by far the best shared space created in Auckland to date, thanks in large part to the historic buildings in the area which feel like they’ve been brought to life after peeling back the layers of vehicle dominated neglect. This has also been helped by the council having included lighting of the buildings as part of the project – a first for our shared space projects.
The street was closed to vehicles for the opening but what was particularly fantastic was seeing so many people out and enjoying the food and drink being put on by the local businesses. The people (along with the light cubes and band) took the space to another level that also sucked in passers-by eager to join in and enjoy the space, even if they were just making their way home. It did make me wonder if this is the most people the street has had in it – at least in the last 50-60 years.
And here are the light cubes which provided colour and placemaking. Later in the evening, after many of the people attending the opening had left, people out in the city also made use of them.
It really feels like an intimate people space and it’s one I think we’ll see evolve over the coming years, as I’m predicting a lot more restaurants and bars will open out to the street. While I realise the street has only just opened up again, what the experience from the opening really highlighted to me was the need for us to close the street down to traffic often (arguably it shouldn’t have reopened at all but that’s a discussion for another day). Perhaps the council/AT could start by closing it from around 11am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays which allows time for deliveries in the mornings but then hands the street over to people and the retailers.
One of the fantastic things about O’Connell St, compared to many others, is how easy it would be to shut it down for vehicles. There is only one entrance to the street and even for this event just a single “road closed” sign and a few road cones was all that was needed. On top of that there’s not a single vehicle entrance for the entire length of the street – a rarity in Auckland – which means that other that other than deliveries there’s not a single need for any vehicles to even be in the street.
While on the subject of O’Connell St there are a few other things that spring to mind.
- It really highlights how much High St is dominated by cars. It makes me wonder if the majority of retailers and building owners who gave in to the cadre of parking obsessed neighbours are ruing the decision.
- One of the great things about O’Connell St is the view down the street to Commerce St and the harbour. It highlights how important it is that when the old Auckland Star site is eventually developed – hopefully not as just a carpark – that it retains some elements of this.
- We need to remember that we almost got this street very very wrong. The original plan was to retain a kerb defined carriageway and a handful of the parking spots with just slightly wider and nicer paving. Without many parked cars it would have been a racetrack and the upgrade a disaster. We were amongst many who pushed back on this and urged the council to reconsider. It’s also worth noting that the council originally said the street was too narrow to develop a shared space. With the outcome that’s been achieved I don’t think anyone would say the original plan was the right one.
- In my opinion the Nikaus in Queen St are often dwarfed by the size of the road, however in O’Connell St I think they work fantastically and add beautifully to the buildings.
In other news it appears the issues of lots of cars continuing to park in the street could be over:
All up despite being one of the oldest streets in Auckland, O’Connell St feels like a new fantastic addition to the city which perhaps highlights just how sad and forgotten it had become. Well done to all involved in the upgrade and thanks to the retailers who put up with the disruption while construction occurred.
The final decision from the Board of Inquiry confirming the Puhoi to Warkworth toll road was published on 12th September but, what with one thing and another, I’m only now getting round to writing about it. The final report is largely unchanged from the draft version.
Here’s a reminder of the route, which runs from Puhoi to a point 2km north of Warkworth:
Puhoi to Warkworth toll road
The toll road will be just 700m shorter than the existing SH1 and reduce travel time to the north of Warkworth by just three minutes compared to the current journey time. Most Warkworth residents will find the new toll road won’t be quicker (and in some cases slower) than the existing SH1.
Probably the most perplexing thing about the BOI Report is the complete absence of any consideration of the economic impacts on the community.
Section 8.5 of the report is headed “Economics” and starts off promisingly, but it is only three paragraphs and really just sets the scene for the Board’s consideration of economic impacts:
 It is necessary to consider the economic impacts of the Project in the context of the Act. These impacts are particularly relevant to the Part 2 assessment that the Board conducts later in this Report.
 The purpose of the Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources in a manner which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing (s 5). Under s 7 of the Act it is necessary to have particular regard to certain matters
including the efficient use and development of natural and physical resources.
 A number of representations and submissions questioned the adequacy of NZTA’s consideration of alternatives. Also questioned were the wisdom of the use of public monies on the motorway Project and whether or not there had been an adequate cost-benefit analysis. These issues are dealt with in another section of this Report.
Regular readers will recall that the toll road hasn’t been subject to any economic analysis (even the standard Economic Evaluation Manual), however the Board discusses this in section 10.5, para 374:
 One of the difficulties with which these submissions posed the Board is that no expert evidence was called to challenge the economic and cost benefit assumptions on which NZTA’s applications were based. Nonetheless, the submissions generally, and the statutory status of “alternatives” in particular, require the Board to deal briefly with these issues.
In comments to the Board, CBT responded by pointing out that “no economic evidence in chief was supplied by the applicant in support of the project, so there was no evidence to challenge.” CBT sought an amendment to the report, asking for some commentary from the Board as to why it considers an economic analysis of the Project’s impact on the community is not necessary, but none was forthcoming in the final version of the report.
Further on, the Board states in paragraph 379:
…Section 7 “alternatives” in the AEE sets out in detail the process whereby NZTA considered the various options and alternatives open to it.The Board is satisfied that the consideration of alternatives to the proposed route and designations by NZTA was conscientious and comprehensive. Many evaluation criteria were deployed, including a “value for money” criterion.
Again, in comments to the Board, the CBT pointed out the “value for money” criterion on p.144 of the AEE refers to the “ability of the option to be tolled”. In this context, “value for money” refers to value for money for the applicant, and not to the value to the community. Value to the community, alongside possible negative economic impacts to the community should be the primary consideration of the Board.
Neither of these and other comments resulted in any changes to the draft report. Instead, in a separate document, the Board notes the following with regard to the CBT and Generation Zero’s comments on the draft report in section 1.6
 There may, in respect of any proposal, be positive or adverse economic effects. These positive or negative economic effects may impact on entire communities or on individuals. It is also clear law that the financial viability of a proposal is not an appropriate matter for a consent authority to consider.
 It was against that background that the Board’s Draft Decision contained the various passages which the Campaign for Better Transport and Generation Zero seek to be further justified. But it is not for the Board to scrutinise the economic viability of the Project (regardless of whether the proposed highway is a toll highway or not).
 There were many representations from territorial authorities in Northland and transport groups that the Project would bring significant regional economic benefits and cost savings.
 Consent authorities and Boards established under the Act are required to make planning judgments which inevitably (as is the case with all decision makers) engage the common sense and life-experience of Board members. The effects of a heavy truck and trailer unit moving slowly up a steep hill, with other traffic stretching out behind it, on fuel consumption and journey times is self evident and need not be a matter for direct evidence.
 Whether or not improved highways designed for vehicular transport of goods and private motorists, with the resulting consumption of fuel, is desirable (economically, socially, or otherwise), or whether motor vehicle use should be discouraged and public transport enhanced, are indeed “high policy” matters and cannot properly be dictated or influenced by this Board.
 The Board accepts that Mr Pitches’ cross-examination of NZTA’s Traffic Report as it related to traffic flows in and around Warkworth5 indeed challenged some of the information provided by NZTA. But it was not, in the circumstances, necessary for the Board to make further factual findings beyond those which it did relating to Warkworth traffic generally and the Hill Street intersection in particular.
 As stated, the Board has noted the comments of the Campaign for Better Transport and Generation Zero. It is unnecessary, however, for the Board to do anything further. The economic concerns of both organisations were, to the extent that they can be, carefully considered. Those concerns certainly cannot be described as minor or technical.
And that’s it. So the Board hasn’t considered any evidence about the economic impacts on the community at all, as they set out to do in section 8.5. Instead they conflate the economic viability of the project (which they don’t have to consider) with the economic impact on the community (which they do). It is also worth pointing out that the representations referred to in para 20 didn’t contain any economic evidence either. The Northland territorial authorities simply asserted that the toll road would be good for Northland’s economy.
So, all in all, a disappointing decision that doesn’t really address economic impacts on the community, other than accepting the assertions of the applicant which aren’t based on any hard economic studies. I’m not an RMA lawyer, but potentially I see this as setting a precedent for all future infrastructure projects whereby economic benefit cost studies need not be supplied at all.
The decision is also in stark contrast to the Basin Bridge decision, which declined the Basin Reserve flyover. In that decision, the Board carefully discusses economic effects in the context of a cost benefit framework. In the consideration of alternatives, the Board appointed its own peer reviewer and found that consideration had been inadequate.
NB: Any appeal would need to be lodged by the 3rd October, however the CBT decided at its last Committee meeting that we will not be pursing this option. The cost and effort would be prohibitive and the result of an appeal would simply direct the Board to reconsider their decision.
So, the 2014 election results are in, with an emphatic win for National. Six years into his Prime Ministership, and having just been re-elected for a third term, John Key has achieved what very few NZ politicians have done before him; he remains trusted, respected, admired and even liked by a large proportion of the public.
As regular readers of the blog will have gathered, we consider National’s policies on transport, urban issues and climate change to be outdated and misguided. From that perspective, their election win is unfortunate, but transport doesn’t seem to get a lot of discussion at (central government) election time; urban issues and climate change are even more minor.
And, to be fair, when you look at the government financial accounts you realise that transport is actually a pretty small part of what the government does:
Of a budget of around $90 billion, the central government spends around $9-$10 billion a year on “transport and communications”. However, there’s only around $2.8 billion that comes through the National Land Transport Fund each year, and that’s essentially the transport part of the budget. Of that $2.8 billion, half of it gets passed through to councils for them to spend (although central government still gets to have quite a say in how the councils spend it, via the Government Policy Statement).
So, transport is not a big component of the government budget. It’s quite understandable that people aren’t going to cast their vote based on it. And while the Roads of National Significance program is a deeply flawed one, and many of the roads themselves are very inefficient, there’s some comfort in knowing that this wasted spending is just a small part of a large economy.
…That’s not the last word, I do have more to say on this below…
This is a broad topic and I won’t try to address it here, but long story short, I don’t see much to inspire me in either Labour’s or National’s urban policies. I think there are people at the top of both parties who have a good understanding of urban issues, but this gets swamped by populist policies which are not well thought out. Urban issues are mainly a job for local government, but the central government still has a big role to play. I’m confident that both major parties are likely to eventually figure this stuff out.
I’ve previously made my views clear on National’s climate change policy, and I hope they come around to acknowledging this issue as a serious one. However, climate change barely registered on the agenda this election. I can’t even remember it being mentioned in the Green Party’s collateral that ended up in my letterbox, and I barely saw it anywhere else either. I’m sure these issues will return to the public consciousness at some point; I’m just disappointed at all the opportunities we’re missing, the low hanging fruit, and the likelihood that there will be much higher costs if we wait. In the meantime, NZ’s emissions continue to increase, and there’s absolutely no leadership being taken on making any serious reductions to those emissions. This issue is strongly linked to transport, and those are where many of the reductions will need to be made. We need to take steps to decarbonise our transport system, starting right away. National have not shown any interest in doing so, and are actually doing their best to head in the opposite direction.
We strive to be non-political, or non-partisan, or both – I’m not even sure what wording we’re going for, but hopefully you get the idea – but transport is a political issue in NZ, so inevitably we do end up taking stances on issues which are deemed to be political. I’m optimistic about some of this stuff, though. I think we are working towards a point where there is broad recognition that we can’t go on doing things the way we always have, spending all our transport money on roads and cars and having no thought to anything else. Labour and the Greens (and even New Zealand First) are well ahead of National on this, but I expect even National to figure it out in the next few years. There will be more of a common direction set, and the Roads of National Significance binge will be the last one. A few billion dollars will be wasted, and that’s sad, but as I said above, it’s a small part of a large economy.
Likewise, I’m optimistic on our cities, with the possible exception of Christchurch. I’m pretty sure that people will figure this stuff out in the next few years. In the meantime, some decisions are being made which we’ll look back on as bad ideas, and that will cost the country, but it’s surmountable and it’s not the end of the world. I’m less optimistic about climate change; the fact that it barely rates as an issue worries me. The fact that we’re not taking steps now to future proof our transport systems and cities worries me. The first step is to get climate change back on the agenda. It hasn’t gone away because we’ve stopped talking about it; it’s kept happening, and the need to take action is growing ever more pressing.
I think this blog has an important role to play in all of these issues. I want us to educate the public, critique the silly decisions that are made on these topics, push for better solutions, and work towards a broader consensus across the country as to how they should be handled. We should do that through reaching the public, councils, and the government. And we should strive to get more agreement on these issues, so they can be depoliticised and people can get back to voting on the real issues like class sizes and whether we’re providing enough funding for cosmetic surgery and which leader has better hair and who said or did something inappropriate and that kind of thing.
Fletcher Residential have lodged two plan changes with the council to develop the Three Kings Quarry.
Fletcher Residential has lodged two private plan change applications with Auckland Council for the redevelopment of Three Kings Quarry. These applications outline two ways to transform the area into a new urban precinct.
The quarry is located at the southern end of Mt Eden Road, eight kilometres from Auckland’s central business district. New links will be created to connect the development’s housing precincts with Three Kings town centre and the volcanic cone
Te Tatua a Riukiuta Maunga (Big King).
The Three Kings development promotes housing diversity with a range of high quality dwellings including two-to-three storey terrace homes, three-to-four storey apartments and 10-storey cascading apartments set against the quarry slope.
Fletcher Residential’s preferred plan change application involves exchanging land to better utilise surrounding Crown land. This will create significant recreational space with two sports fields, a Town Square connecting the precinct to the Three Kings town centre, a convention centre and the historic Three Kings Oval.
The second plan change appears to be a backup should they not be able to exchange land and contains the same residential development however they say it has less extensive community spaces and sports fields than the preferred proposal.
Below is the location of the Quarry along Mt Eden Rd and what it looks like at the moment. At its deepest it is over 3o below the level of Mt Eden Rd.
Fletcher’s estimate their plans will deliver 1,200-1,500 dwellings which would equate to 2,500 to 3,500 extra residents. They’ve also launched a site for the development showing some concept images of what it would be look like. Below are some of those along with how they describe the development (so warning marketing speak).
A clear view ahead
Urban design has been carefully considered to incorporate multiple vistas of Te Tatua-a-Riukiuta / Big King. Street level views and improved access will restore Te Tatua-a-Riukiuta / Big King’s position as a key feature of Auckland, and by doing so give the site a strong sense of location and connection with the wider city.
One of a family
Designated viewing areas will let residents greet the morning or usher out the evening with views to Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) to the east and Maungawhau (Mt Eden) to the north.
1. Regenerated native bush will extend Big King’s footprint for greater connection between neighbourhood and nature.
2. Enhanced pathways will be created to open up Big King for recreational access.
3. Key sightlines to Big King as well as to neighbouring volcanic cones will be preserved.
Around the edge of the quarry are meant to be a series of cascading apartments up to 10 storeys high against the Quarry wall. I would certainly hope there’s publicly accessible lifts to help provide good connectivity between the development and the road. It also seems odd to me that the housing would go in the northern part which would likely to be the most shaded part while the sports fields would be in the south which is also the area closes to the town centre.
Fresh air living
Interconnected open spaces encourage outdoor activities – both relaxed and active. Two new sand-carpeted sports fields connected to the Big King Reserve will be created for year-round activity, and significant areas of passive open space will be provided for relaxation and reflection.
Pedestrian trails, boardwalks, ramps, stairways and a proposed elevated walkway to Te Tatua-a-Riukiuta / Big King enable exploration by foot and reduce the need for motorised transport throughout the area.
A natural fit
Stepped apartments will cascade down the quarry slopes to both transform and complement the existing landscape. Living spaces are to the front, with car parking hidden behind, preserving front door access to parkland and walkways.
1. 7.5 hectares of high-quality open spaces enable a wide variety of recreational activities.
2. Key pedestrian linkages will be provided to and through the site.
3. Contemporary urban design provides for an active interface between residences and park spaces.
A diverse mix of people and cultures will come together to create an integrated urban community. With residences on the doorstep of a thriving town centre, meeting and mingling will be a part of daily life.
A vibrant heart
Residents and visitors alike will find plenty to see and do in the town square – a vibrant gathering place that puts people at the centre, and draws on the energy of the surrounding retail, recreational and residential areas.
Home for all
A blend of retirees, young families, solo dwellers and working professionals living side-by-side. With a balanced mix of terrace houses and apartments, the new area will cater to a wide range of lifestyles and life stages.
1. When completed, 1200—1500 dwellings will become home to 2500—3500 people.
2. Located just 6.5 km from the heart of Auckland, the area will attract a diverse mix of cultures and lifestyles.
3. An activated town square will foster a lively retail scene.
Situated in the heart of an already thriving suburb, the proposed development offers access to nearby amenities that make life easy: Three Kings School, a major supermarket, shops and services, and public transport.
Out and about
Shows, live music, book readings, community classes and more are just a short walk away at the Fickling Centre and the Mount Roskill Library. Special care will be taken to ensure the new site is closely linked to these popular civic facilities.
A sense of flow
Movement of people is a key element of community. With a series of walkways, stairs and potentially a public lift, the town square is designed to connect the existing suburb to amenities and open spaces within the development.
1. Opening up space for shared and public use is a key component of the overall design.
2. A ‘village within a city’ will be created by integrating retail, recreational and residential spaces.
3. Residents will be able to make use of existing amenities in the surrounding area.
I know some in the community aren’t happy about the proposal as they were keen to see the giant hole filled in before being developed while I also understand the local board are keen for the local community to have more say on the shape of the development so I’m sure there will be a lot more discussion from them over the coming weeks and months.