NZ Herald columnist pulled out one of his best articles yet today – shining a light on the diverging opinions of central government and the Auckland Council when it comes to Auckland’s transport and land-use planning future.
Writing in the Sunday Star-Times, Mr Joyce said the challenge for Auckland’s spatial planners would be “not to impose their ideal Auckland on us, but allow for an Auckland that reflects the varied ways in which the people of our biggest city already choose to live”.
Simpletons like myself had thought the spatial plan concept was introduced to try to repair the huge cock-ups we Aucklanders have made by doing just that, choosing to live by sprawling ever outwards – towards Whangarei in one direction and Hamilton in the other.
But no, says the minister, “we … have to understand that people like to live where they want to live …”
As I said yesterday, it is simply untrue for Joyce to state that Auckland’s urban sprawl is the result of a ‘natural desire’ for the city to spread that way. Low density development is planned for down to the minutest detail throughout our existing District Plans. It will be interesting to see how and if those plans change as they are replaced by an Auckland-wide plan over the next few years (which one assumes will be informed by the ‘higher level’ Spatial Plan.
However, as our planning and transport documents have developed over the past decade there has been an increasing divergence – with the planning documents focusing on intensification (at least at the higher strategic levels, this has yet to completely filter down into the nitty gritty District Plans) but the transport strategies retaining much of a roads focus. The point of the spatial plan is to bring these together: so that we have our land-use and our transport strategies working together, not in conflict. This essentially means a choice between a public transport focused compact urban strategy and a roads-based sprawl strategy (or something in the middle). Steven Joyce’s opinion piece in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times shows quite clearly which strategy he prefers.
Getting back to Rudman’s article today, he does a great analysis of the hypocrisy that is infiltrating transport decision making:
It hadn’t been the best of weeks for the minister. It started with Sunday Star-Times columnist Rod Oram unveiling a secret, independent business study of the Puhoi to Wellsford “Holiday Highway” which showed the cost/benefit ratio as 0.4, which meant that for every $1 invested the return was just 40 cents.
Embarrassingly for Mr Joyce, the analysis was commissioned by the Government.
A few days later, Mr Brown triumphantly released the business plan for the proposed CBD rail tunnel, commissioned by the old regional transport authority and KiwiRail, which declared the $2 billion project would pay for itself more than three times over. A much better score than the Government’s pet Puhoi highway.
Of course, this northern highway was declared a “road of national significance” without waiting for the spatial plan to be developed.
Yet at the grand inauguration ceremony for the new Auckland mayor and councillors, Mr Key said any verdict on the CBD tunnel would be subject to the spatial plan.
I should be getting a copy of this business study into the Puhoi-Wellsford road in the next few days. I’m looking forward to having a read through it.
After repeating some of the lines from Joyce’s opinion piece and its critique of “those evil planners”, Rudman cuts to the point linking back to the CBD Tunnel project:
And with Mr Joyce’s laissez-faire approach to development comes the huge costs of roading, public transport, drainage, schools and so on, that the rest of the community has to pay.
The CBD tunnel report explains exactly why we should not be leaving Auckland’s development to the whims of land-bankers poised to make a fast buck at the city’s fringes.
It argues that if Auckland is to achieve the Government’s goal of becoming a globally competitive urban centre, it has to create a highly liveable, high-density central working environment to attract the best and brightest from home and abroad.
In a nutshell, this is the reason why I’m surprised Joyce has had such a negative response to the CBD Rail Tunnel business case. The project is not being proposed on the ground of its “green credentials” (even though I’m sure getting 10,000 vehicles off the road has good green credentials). It’s not about simply creating a more vibrant CBD to improve the quality of life for people who live, work and play in the CBD (although I’m sure it will contribute to that too). The project’s viability is based on its ability to allow (and indeed encourage) concentrated employment in Auckland’s CBD – which all research tends to indicate would have a massive effect on Auckland’s (and indeed New Zealand’s) productivity and eventually wage levels. That’s exactly the sort of language I thought this government had a keen ear for.