Some detail on critical elements of the Auckland Spatial Plan are starting to emerge in the media, although the Plan itself won’t be released for consultation until September 20th. On Monday the ‘Element Magazine‘, which was included in the NZ Herald, noted the following about one of the key issues the spatial plan will face – whether Auckland grows through intensification, sprawl, or a mix of the two (and what kind of mix):
Element magazine questioned the mayor on the sweeping changes proposed in the Auckland Plan and his intentions to drive growth of the sprawling city back into the core of the region by innovations and incentives.
Firstly, we asked about the Metropolitan Urban Limit, an invisible line around the city, which has been repeatedly breached by previous councils keen to develop rateable greenfields. “We’ll pretty much maintain it,” he says. “But what we’re recognising is that over the next 30 years we’ve got another million people coming at us. So not only have we committed to that sense of a compact city and not overly allow sprawl, but we are going to have to provide another 400,000 housing units of different types over the next 30 years.
“We’ve calculated that we could probably do 300,000 within the present urban boundary.” Element magazine readers online recently voted urban sprawl second only to traffic congestion as the most pressing issue facing the region. Asked specifically if the intention is to ring-fence large parts of Auckland, Mr Brown says: “Yes.
“We’re looking basically to construct greater intensification, get a bit of height around some of our transport nodes.” Asked if the Plan will use incentives or penalties to drive change, Mr Brown says he backs Aucklanders to make the right choices once they are given the options. “This generation coming through now and those in their 30s and 40s mostly have travelled, mostly have done gap years, mostly have had their OE. They have lived in cities overseas and like what they see, are used to living in apartments and terraced development – unlike me and my parents, who were raised in the quarter acre Kiwi paradise – so they are looking for choice. So it’s not about walloping them and forcing them into situations. It’s about putting up options for them and allowing them to make the choices they like.”
An NZ Herald article on Monday provided a bit more detail on where the Auckland spatial plan will direct development over the next 20-30 years:
The draft, which goes out for public comment next month, calls for a quality compact international city centre, including the waterfront and city fringe centres Ponsonby, Three Lamps, Karangahape Rd, Parnell and Grafton.
The major metropolitan centres will be Takapuna, New Lynn, Manukau, Albany, Papakura, Sylvia Park and Westgate.
Only limited growth is flagged for the town centres of Howick and Devonport and for local centres Grey Lynn, Kingsland, Mt Eden, Mission Bay, St Heliers, Titirangi and Valley Rd.
Satellite rural towns due for upsizing are Pukekohe, Warkworth and Helensville.
There are no real surprises there. What will be interesting is to see whether any change is made to this map, which appeared in the Auckland Unleashed discussion document: I think the northwest area will probably survive, as may the area immediately south of Drury and between Flat Bush and Takanini. I’m not so sure about the area west of Papakura as a growth area – so watch closely whether that stays or goes. Other changes from the map above to what seems to now be proposed include a greater emphasis on New Lynn rather than Henderson, Sylvia Park rather than Panmure, while Papakura, Takapuna and Westgate all seem to be ‘upgraded’ in the more recent proposal.
So while there may be some urban expansion in the Auckland spatial plan, it seems that the Metropolitan Urban Limit will be kept intact and most future development focused within those limits. Brian Rudman discussed this in more detail in his Monday column:
Today it is Mayor Len Brown versus Prime Minister John Key. With the release of the Draft Auckland Plan, Auckland Council has thrown down the gauntlet to the Government.
Senior National Party ministers have long fought against Auckland’s old regional growth strategy, based around a metropolitan limit designed to stop urban sprawl into the surrounding farmlands.
They claim it forces land and housing prices up and want it abolished – or at least made more flexible.
The new draft plan defiantly endorses the previous policy, declaring a top priority will be to “realise a quality, compact city”, preserving “a large rural land mass both north and south of its urban heart”.
It was a proud affirmation of past policy, and the Government wasn’t best pleased.
I’m very glad that the Council has taken this position, as it’s incredibly important for Auckland’s future that we do focus on intensification rather than sprawl – to ensure that our infrastructure investment is as efficient as possible. It seems that the government is rather unpleased though:
On Friday, at a meeting between Cabinet ministers and Auckland councillors, sources say the ministers couldn’t stop browbeating the councillors over the error of their ways.
“Quite intimidating and smalltown,” said one.
Fronting the critics was Environment Minister and Nelson MP Nick Smith, backed by Transport Minister Steven Joyce and Whangarei-based Housing Minister Phil Heatley.
Mr Joyce let rip last November waxing lyrical about the quarter-acre section, saying the challenge for Auckland’s spatial planners will 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”.
He found it “amusing” that where density had increased it was not along transport corridors “where the central planners said it would”, but instead “in the beachside suburbs”. The comment was something of an own goal, suggesting that if the growth strategy restrictions on urban expansion were to to be relaxed, urban Auckland would spread inexorably up the coast towards Whangarei.
The Auckland Spatial Plan was initially designed to bring Auckland Council and Central Government much more onto the “same page” when it comes to growth, transport and other priorities. As it seems they differ on such a fundamental issue (as well as obviously disagreeing on transport priorities) one wonders what impact the Auckland Plan will actually have. I am glad to see Council standing up to the government though – after all, Auckland knows what’s best for us.