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Where and how will Auckland sprawl?

Back in August I commented on plans being developed to decide where and how Auckland’s urban area should expand. The Auckland spatial plan required that up to 40% of growth in the next 30 years be provided for outside the 2010 urban limits, which translates to quite a lot of sprawl as Auckland’s population may grow by a million people during the time. A paper going to the Council next week shows some progress in investigating where are the most suitable areas for Auckland to expand – for now focusing in the south in the areas included within the red boxes below:

The paper’s background highlights the level of growth and number of houses and employees envisaged for this area and it’s pretty massive:

The Auckland Plan development strategy signals that by 2040 up to 40% of new dwellings (160,000 dwellings) may be outside the baseline 2010 Metropolitan Urban Limits (MUL) and bounded by the RUB. It also signals that following the establishment of the RUB, new greenfield land will be staged and released in ten-year steps to provide 20 years’ forward supply of development capacity. Based on a high population growth scenario, it is anticipated that up to 90,000 new dwellings will need to be provided in identified greenfield investigation areas outside the baseline urban limits as part of this commitment, as well as jobs for up to 65,000 employees. The southern greenfield areas of investigation are likely to require capacity for approximately 55,000 households and 35,000 jobs.

At around 2.5 people per dwelling, that’s a new city of around 140,000 people in this area. Bigger than Tauranga.

Obviously the edges of the red boxes don’t necessarily make for a sensible “urban boundary”, so a number of different options are being considered for places where growth could occur – although there is a “core area” which seems like it is largely being taken as a given for inclusion:

A few things probably immediately come to mind looking at the map above:

  • With the exception of the Karaka North area, most of the rest of the urban area would be well served by the southern railway line and potentially generate massive patronage if its future urban form was clustered around centres at train stations
  • There’s an interesting tradeoff to be considered between whether to keep Pukekohe as a separate centre from urban Auckland and the transport benefits of focusing a corridor of development along the railway line
  • The boundary between Auckland and the Waikato (shown in white) is pretty close to Pukekohe and something of an artificial distinction. I wonder whether further growth could happen in the northern Waikato rather than in some of the less desirable options shown in the map above?
  • The main road (State Highway 22) between Drury and Pukekohe is going to be really really busy in the future
  • That’s a lot of productive farmland to urbanise

While some urban expansion is likely to be necessary as Auckland’s population grows, the options shown in this report highlight that this will mean absolutely massive change to the areas affected. With the area supposed to handle a city the size of Tauranga, I also think this isn’t going to be “quarter acre paradise” either – it’s going to be fairly high density unless every single option shown above ends up included.

So much for the Auckland spatial plan curbing sprawl.

38 comments to Where and how will Auckland sprawl?

  • Bob

    SH22 is already really really busy…. an F’n dangerous too….

    • Must be about due to be designated as a Road of Dubious Significance, then, with construction of the motorway to commence before the end of 2013. That’s prime National Party heartland down there.

    • Sam

      Bit of an exaggeration there Bob. It’s very safe now, after the upgrades. I miss the short passing lane on that sharp corner, everyone went so fast round there just to get passed the driver in front and that definitely was dangerous (but fun).

      • Bryce P

        As long as you have cars coming from opposite directions at 100 km/h without a median barrier I would not call it ‘very safe’.

        • Hamish O

          This is NZ, this road is a relatively safe rural state highway.

        • Sam

          Bryce P – I live along it so I pull out onto the 100km road every morning and have to sit my car in the middle of the 100 km road with cars rushing past on both sides to turn back into my driveway. It is safe.

          • Bryce P

            The road toll on our state highways would suggest otherwise. Head on accidents are the worst because there is invariably an innocent party involved – the car on the correct side of the road. If that isn’t a concern to you then fine but it is to me. The Dutch have a program called ‘sustainable safety’. They look to improve road safety rather than accepting the status quo.

    • Sam

      Interesting viewpoint, but I don’t agree that the road toll is because of the road itself. Anyway, there has been no deaths on the road since the upgrade as far as I am aware (there was one, but that’s another matter). I just wonder how familiar you are with SH22…

      • Bryce P

        I’ve driven it quite a few times over the past 25 or so years. Mosrlty on the way to the race track but more recently to Glenbrook.
        I’m not saying it is a dangerous road per se but any undivided, 100 km/h road has a higher risk factor than a divided or speed reduced road.

  • Josh

    So much for curbing sprawl???..
    Have you forgotten National is running govt. When was it ever councils job to rewrite the RMA. You must have been blind not seeing this earlier. You can thank the MMP system. And OMG the govt response to councils findings: “the govt agrees”, “the govt likes”. What a bunch of BS. Its got to be the best Don’t lose votes tactics I have ever seen. What a polite way of saying thanks Len for wasting a tonne of ratepayers money. I do give Brown credit though, he did his best to get labour back in by forcing govts hand but, John has called your bluff mate!

  • It’s “thoughtfu”, at the very least, hugs the railway line as opposed to the Motorway/Waikato Expressway. The Karaka North block should be removed from the equation – given the fact it has no proximity to good public transport.

    Also, presuming this sprawl will indeed occur, I imagine it’s likely we’ll end up seeing some sort of defacto motorway/expressway/4-laning barging through along the rail corridor from Drury to Pukekohe – which kinda defeats the purpose of sprawling along the rail corridor in the first place.

  • Hamish O

    No motorway should be necessary. I think widening the current road to four lanes, adding a median barrier, widening the intersections to be seagulls and grade separating the Glenbrook Road intersection should suffice as a long term solution.

      • I would go further and say keep it as a median divided 2 lane road. Build ‘local’ roads on each side for existing road access’ and route it around to the West of Pukekohe (or at least create a designation) with an extension to Tuakau and Pokeno in mind. Build intersections, with long on – off access lanes, as mentioned but leave room for grade separation later if required. Basically copy what they do in Europe. My reasons for having it this way is purely safety and keeping the, shall we say, expressway, out of the town centres and routed around. Ideally we would leave reasonable pieces of farmland in between the built areas to give the ‘village’ feel as opposed to just extending the city.

        • The same should be done to the North (utilising SH1 and the old SH1) and West of the city as well which is why I felt the proposed Cornerstone development just out of Waimauku was actually a good idea but before it’s time. It would have made the electrification of rail past Swanson much more attractive.

    • Mr Anderson

      An interesting question is whether that road would stay as a high speed rural like road or whether it would become more of an urban arterial. A high speed rural like road through the middle of a new city doesn’t sound particularly great.

    • I think you missed the dripping sarcasm.

  • Richard D

    So … remind me – the rail electrification only goes as far as Papakura and there’s a only diesel shuttle between Papakura and Pukekohe for what reason?

  • Luke E

    This map belies how massive this area is. It’s the length of Hamilton, or the same distance as from the CBD to Mangere. If all of this area was filled in, it would be like adding another third to Auckland’s already massive size. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t all go ahead, or it will be a terrible addition to the city. In my opinion, they should add to Pukekohe, but keep it entirely a separate town. Intensify it, maybe, and allow some medium density apartments in the town, close to railway infrastructure.

    I like the idea of clusters around railway hubs; perhaps we could have some new, transit-oriented developments, that are nothing but medium-density villages? That could offer some real choice in housing/lifestyles. Maybe two of these could fit in between Pukekohe and Drury, which could also get its own station, and have some more development around it.

    But sprawl all the way from Papakura to Pukekohe would be the worst outcome we could see.

    • Hamish O

      Remember this is enough for twenty years in which time Auckland’s population is expected to almost double. I agree with what you’re saying though.

  • Sam

    I live on 4ha along the SH22 (Core – Karaka South), no houses in my view, imagine how that might change. The road won’t get really really busy as you say, because they have planned to put in a 4 lane (2 each way) “motorway” and the map is a bit exaggerated by not showing the current connections to the Bombay and Papakura interchanges..Very important though to get electrification done and then add a Drury Station + upgrade Pukekohe Station. Pukekohe is quickly expanding but it’ll be quite a while away before the other areas get any development.

    Personally I think that the Pukekohe project area and Opaheke/Drury are good development areas, but the rest should be left and other places (Manukau City) should be developed before they think of sprawling out.

    • Peter M

      Who has planned to put a four lane motorway where?

      • Sam

        AT originally planned to widen SH22 but now they have decided to realign the whole road, and one day there will be a new SH22 along the north side of the rail line. and the current road will just keep its common name, Karaka Road.

        Estimated to cost $475M:
        • Southern Motorway (SH1) widened to three lanes in each direction from Drury Interchange north, to tie into the
        existing three lane sections between the Takanini and Hill Road Interchanges;
        • Papakura Interchange is upgraded to a full diamond;
        • New full diamond interchanges are provided at Park Estate Road, Alfriston Road, and Quarry Road; and
        • SH22 at 100kph with four lanes realigned north of the North Island Main Trunk Railway line from Karaka Road at
        approximately McPherson Road to Paerata Road north of Paerata township.

  • DaveSth

    Rural areas with urban influence look to have some of the highest population growth http://www.waikato.ac.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/120972/2012-Fieldays-presentation-Jacques.pdf. Bit concerning when most of this sprawl (Auckland and Hamilton) is on highly productive farmland which accounts for most exports and in turn helps pay for transport infrastructure. Around 10% of productive land has been lost to lifestyle blocks/urbanisation.

    • SteveC

      Bingo! the first response to identify a critical point, 2 million plus people will eat a lot of food and building houses at whatever density on some of the best agricultural land in the country is MADNESS. As liquid fuel energy prices rise, it makes sense to keep productive land close to the country’s major city in production.

      • Yes, and in a democracy we can choose to not take this poor direction, unless tricked into it by the undebated spending of our money by the neoliberals currently in control; the financialiasation of everything and the dismantlement of the institutions of society.

  • Malcolm M

    The challenge for Council is to sell the idea to developers that medium density clustered around railway stations provides better financial returns than low-density sprawl and hobby farms. The actual areas involved in each investigation are not large – each being about the size of one farm. There is plenty of other grazing land elsewhere in New Zealand that could be intensified to compensate. The real tragedy to production and future exports is urbanisation through stealth – rural areas cut up into hobby farms. While the areas may still have a rural zoning, the land is instead managed for lifestyle (eg horses) rather than exports (eg dairy).

    In Melbourne and Sydney there is latent investor demand for off-the-plan apartments in outer areas close to amenities such as shopping centres and railway stations. These locations show better returns than inner-city apartments, and are a less labour-intensive investment than owning a stand-alone investment house. In Melbourne’s outer suburbs there are even a few greenfield multistorey apartment blocks close to new railway stations, and there are selling fast to investors. Do NZ developers look across the moat to trends ?

    http://theage.domain.com.au/home-investor-centre/suburbs-are-no-longer-on-the-outer-20121030-28h86.

    • Or perhaps we could ask if the Council is doing all it can to incentivise brownfield TOD developments, as it still has more than enough dis-incentive regs on its books, like Minimum Parking Rules, height limits, set backs etc, that should be able to be removed in appropriate zones or negotiated away in exchange for good developments…

      There are encouraging signs that apartment building is back in Central AK all the same, but with more attention to the ideal sites throughout the city the wind could easily be taken out of the sprawl sails. As there is no lack of demand for people wanting to live more centrally and *even* without the joys and costs of a detached house on a big site. And there are those who are happy to buy or rent a dwelling for themselves but not another for a car with it! Imagine.

      • Bryce P

        You’re right Patrick but I think council also have a need to plan ahead for local towns to ensure that, they too, are set up for more intensive housing design. Places like Pukekohe and Kumeu would make great little towns that could cater to much greater numbers of people while keeping their rural area. While there are indeed a lot of people who want to live in the CBD, there are also, I suspect, quite a few who would enjoy the benefits of terrace house / apartment living in an area away from high rise blocks. Handily enough, these towns are near the rail corridor.

        I do agree strongly with changes needing to be made to non-cbd planning regs in order to make it easier to build low rise (3 – 4 storey) terrace houses without the need for set backs from the road as an example. We own a 1,300 sq/m property and would be keen to build a 3 level terrace house out the front but the price to subdivide and the space required for parking / driveways is prohibitive. Shouldn’t it be the developers choice as to how much parking is required? They live and die by the market.

        • Fully agree Bryce, and in particular these country towns, which should be absolutely lovely to live in and well connected to the rest of the region, and especially the centre, really must retain their rural quality. How best to achieve that? By giving them really firm green belts so they don’t just get absorbed into the crush of formless suburbia. And, perhaps counter intuitively, improving their RTN connections to all the big city amenity. Many would love to live in a smaller more rural place but also have great access to sports, arts, and education services for them and their family members that are only viable in the metropolitan heart.

          Leaving the connections to these places to the car and failing to plan them will lead to the kind of uselessly stretched out and centreless spatial form you can see in Kumeu/Huapai now. No town village; just a series of truckstops amid speeding traffic.

          Let’s choose a set of country towns to shape and grow and invest in getting the electrification out to them and zone their commercial and public service hearts around the train station and a plan for compact and walkable rural scaled residential and rural business communities. You can see old examples of these up and down the North Island, and the good ones still work. They become the focus of the hobby farm and real farm communities around them. These are probably the right types of places for Park’n'Rides, certainly until really frequent bus networks can be supported.

          This of course requires planning and regulation and transit provision. Oh dear, not the unrestrained wild west of the market I’m afraid. But how else can we achieve higher quality except choosing it and making it happen? Are the rights of landbankers and sprawl developers to unrestrained profit making really more important the quality, liveability, and prosperity of the entire city?

          • Bryce P

            Exactly. Already I can see that there will be a need for a route through Kumeu / Huapai without minor access (not a motorway though!). These kind of things, where it is too late to change what we have done, need to be designated now so that development can happen in a logical manner rather than the ad hoc style we have been used to. Is it too late to change the Auckland Plan or at least amend it?

  • Kevyn

    It’s interesting that the council considered the Drury faultline sufficiently important to be featured on the map. The Manukau Flats soils will need TC2 or TC3 foundations. It’s not going to be the cheapest area for development, especially if the potential impact of sea level rise on the areas prone to flooding are factored in. Add those problems to the problems already identified by others in this thread and you have to wonder at the governments willingness to do whatever the property developer mates want. I suppose we can all just cross our fingers that the Drury Fault isn’t another White’s Fault or Greendale Fault waiting to prove the conservative experts wrong.

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