As I blogged about a few weeks ago, the Council is considering different options for Auckland’s future “Rural Urban Boundary” in the south – as this area was highlighted in the Auckland Plan as being suitable for significant urban development. Digging through the Council’s website, I have found that they’re now seeking public feedback on the different options. Here’s an explanation:
Auckland’s population is growing rapidly. Over the next 30 years an additional million people are likely to live in Auckland. In southern areas of Auckland, about 7,000 babies are born each year. As we grow, our children will need places to live and work.
The Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) will identify greenfield land for urban development and the 30 years of growth projected in the Auckland Plan. It is part of an intention that the Unitary Plan provide for up to 40 per cent of new dwellings to be located in rural towns and villages, greenfield areas and other rural areas, as well as opportunities for the remaining growth to locate in existing urban areas.
The need is to provide adequate room for growth while protecting the things that Aucklanders hold special, such as the natural environment, heritage, productive rural land, valued coastal areas and sense of community.
For the south, it means investigating which greenfield areas could best be used to provide up to 55,000 dwellings of the total 400,000 needed across Auckland, along with business land for up to 35,000 jobs. Five options for where houses and businesses may go are available for public feedback.
The RUB will be included in the Unitary Plan, the rulebook determining where development will occur. We want to hear your views on a range of preliminary options for this long-term development.
All the different options involve massive change for the area – urbanisation of large tracts of what is in my understanding pretty top quality rural land for farming. Here are the options:
Locating most of the growth around the railway line is obviously a no brainer (though it will require additional stations compared to what’s proposed in the extension of electrification to Pukekohe project), so the Karaka North options probably scores lowest in terms of closeness to the railway line. The “rail focus” option would have the interesting result of making Pukekohe no longer a separate satellite down, but the southern edge of a continuous sprawl of urban development – it would be interesting to see how that would go down with the locals!
Stepping back from comparing the different options though, I think there’s a more compelling question to ask in terms of why we are proposing so much sprawl, when there are so many untapped opportunities to intensify throughout the existing urban area. In relatively recent times Melbourne went down the path of opening up massive tracts of land for urban sprawl – with some interesting results:
MELBOURNE’S urban fringe has been swamped with 35,000 unsold homes, prompting warnings the glut could trigger a further slump in property values, and fuelling criticism of the Baillieu government’s ”crazy” decision to expand the city’s boundary.
The stockpile of unwanted housing in many of Melbourne’s newest suburbs has led to warnings by some planning experts that ”suburban ghettos” could emerge on the city’s fringe, creating a social divide.
Of the record 55,290 unsold homes in Melbourne in June – the highest number of any capital city in Australia – most were concentrated in about 50 suburbs on Melbourne’s periphery, where more than 60 per cent of all unsold homes in Victoria are located, according to data from SQM Research.
Opening up all this land on Melbourne’s periphery has clearly been ignorant of the fact that most of the demand is to live in their inner suburbs – just like Auckland. This mismatch has prompted fears of effectively creating two different Melbournes - a highly functional, wealthy and popular inner city and an increasingly isolated, ghettoised outer city.
Returning to Auckland, planning for 150,000+ people living south of Papakura seems something of a recipe for disaster – contributing to the increasing polarisation of Auckland between the haves in the inner areas and the have-nots further out. My alternative of focusing on the provision of significant additional dwellings in Auckland’s “middle suburbs” – providing opportunities for those who would typically have to live further out to enjoy the benefits of relatively inner-city living, if they’re prepared to cope with living in terraced houses or other semi-detached typologies could instead ‘stitch’ back together the inner and outer and reverse the process of polarisation that more sprawl is only likely to accentuate.
While many of these questions may be somewhat outside the scope of providing feedback on the Rural Urban Boundary options, perhaps it might stimulate some discussion around at least minimising the amount of land opened up for sprawl and then pushing back well into the future the actual ‘release’ of that land for urbanisation. Feedback closes this coming Friday and can be made online.