Under a lot of pressure it seems, Auckland Council made the decision that the Auckland Plan would provide for quite a lot of urban sprawl. Around 170,000 dwellings of it over 30 years. Big chunks of land in the south, northwest and north were identified by “red boxes” as being places where investigation would need to take place in order to determine where this development goes.
I’m generally of the opinion that if we become cleverer about enabling intensification we may not need anywhere near as much sprawl as proposed by the Plan. Furthermore, I also wonder whether changing tastes, demographics and household sizes plus higher energy prices in the future are all working against the need for Auckland to build large areas of housing on its peripheries. These are all useful debates to keep having over time as I’m sure the Auckland Plan’s approach on this matter will be revisited regularly over time.
However, for now these decisions have been made and a paper to the Council’s Auckland Plan Committee outlines the timing and process for the investigation of these areas. The paper outlines what the investigation will entail – which seems predominantly around setting the “Rural Urban Boundary” within the investigation boxes to show which areas are to remain rural and which areas will be urbanised at some point over the next 30 years.
From reading through the paper it seems as though this first stage of investigation will not so much be looking at what happens where inside the “RUB”, but rather just at setting where the RUB goes. However, I imagine that in order to draw that line on the map some thought will need to go into what happens inside it: where town centres go, places that will be employment land, places that will be residential, good locations for parks and so on.
As I said earlier, there are three main areas to be investigated: in the north, the northwest and the south. It seems as though these three main areas will be clustered together with nearby areas to investigate – which seems to make sense as for example how and where Pukekohe grows is obviously related to what happens inside the really big red box south of Papakura. Here are the clusters:
There are some really interesting issues that will need to be considered as part of this project I suspect, particularly if we are to create something better than the monotonous sprawl that infests many of the recently built parts of Auckland. A few thing that I think will need to be thought about include:
- How the railway line in the south is utilised – area a series of stations along that line the natural location for town centres?
- Whether much development is allowed to happen in the north and northwest before important public transport projects such as a Northwest Busway and the extension to the Northern Busway
- What kind of densities are expected within the new areas – more of the same McMansion sprawl or a variety of housing types including terraced housing and other attached housing types
- How important is it for Pukekohe and Kumeu/Huapai to stay as separate towns from Auckland or are we OK with them being “gobbled up” by the city?
Perhaps it might be possible to create new urban environments in these areas that actually work really well, places where people aren’t dependent on their cars to get everywhere. There’s a bit of a ‘blank slate’ available which hasn’t (yet) been stuffed up by past decisions so there’s a lot of potential. Unfortunately our track record isn’t particularly heartening when it comes to recent urban development.