Follow us on Twitter

NIMBYs: Redefining community?

Of late we’ve seen a number of rather animated discussions on the topic of “NIMBYs” (not-in-my-back-yard), such as:

  • Milford - where people objected to a proposed plan change for higher density apartments and townhouses on the grounds that it was “out of character”.
  • Ponsonby - where locals objected to a new building because of its height (two-storeys), under-provision of car-parking, high floor/area ratio, and modern architectural style.
  • Te Atatu - where some locals have opposed the development of a bus station because of “the types of people bus shelters might attract” (like me!).
  • Onehunga - where locals have objected to a three-storey development on the grounds of parking provision and appearance.
  • Northcote Point – where locals are opposing the development of a walkway/cycleway over the harbour bridge.

Lest we forget Orakei Point: Where the following development got caught in a maelstrom of NIMBY outrage (source):

artistic-looking-west

As you can see from these images, the proposed development at Orakei Point would have been something of a focal point for conspicuous consumption, and therefore quite out of character with the rest of Orakei. Not. Anyway, partly as a result of NIMBY grandstanding, the Orakei Point development has not yet got off the ground – approximately 6 years after it was first proposed. And that means Orakei – and perhaps more importantly Auckland – now has ~400 fewer homes than we might have had otherwise. That in turn means that house prices will be that much higher.

But experiences such as those listed above finally seem to be prompting a public backlash, with the “Eye on Auckland” blog launching what I thought was a humorous – if indiscriminate – assault on Auckland’s NIMBYs. You can read the two blog posts here and here. The author’s disdain for NIMBYs is evident in almost every sentence; here’s just a taste:

Let me start by telling you about a conversation I had with a woman a few days ago. Immediately upon meeting me she presumed that I am a follower of her cult and starts off with a rhetorical question “who wants to live in a high-rise” I replied with a resounding I do. She looked at me as if I had three heads.

Fumbling around for words she ignorantly and arrogantly stated that much of Auckland will turn into a slum. I calmly told her that I live in a high density development which has won awards both locally and internationally – it couldn’t be further from a slum.  Again she just stared at me, aghast and surprised, trying to fire up both of her brain cells. I also reminded her that many single dwelling suburbs are bigger slums than any apartment building that I have seen.

I asked her where she lives and she told me that she lives on an amazing lifestyle block. I should have guessed. I responded by telling her that best she starts worrying because the likes of Dick Quax, Cameron Brewer, Jan O’Connor, Grant Killon, Amy Adams and Nick Smith will soon be arriving on her land with huge bulldozers to make way for endless rows of affordable housing while singing hi-ho, hi-ho it’s off to work we go.

The look on her face was classic. Not once had she thought of that possibility. This is something that the crusty and rusty brigade will not be telling their blind mice. Instead they feed them morsels of lies, chunks of exaggeration and pellets filled with poisonous nightmares. The nimby’s happily consume it – ignorant and totally detached from reality.

The strange thing is that the [Unitary] plan actually puts in massive protections for single dwelling sites. No longer will you be able to build an apartment building down a small cul de sac. Rather they will be confined to town centres. The plan will formalise and control a situation that is already happening.

Personally, I also struggle with NIMBYs blatantly self-centered objections to developments in their community.

I’m astounded that NIMBYs are so happy to flip the “veil of ignorance” concept on its head, and instead assume that everyone else is as selfish as them. When you challenge their views on a particular development they often retort by saying “I’m sure you would not want to live next to THAT kind of development now would you?” To which my answer quite often is “yes I would actually”. It’s also ironic when NIMBYs’ self-centered positions lead them to take hypocritical stances. In Orakei, for example, you had a group of NIMBYs living in large detached dwellings miles from anything, who subsequently drove their cars everywhere, who then had the gall to turn around and oppose a medium-density, mixed-use development adjacent to a train station – on the grounds it will generate “too much traffic”. Oh dear, hypocritical much?

My second issue with NIMBY sentiment is related to – but nonetheless distinct from – the first issue. That is, NIMBYs rarely – if ever – seem to consider what would happen if the constraints on development that they seek were to be extended universally over the rest of Auckland. Consider the example of St Heliers, which is discussed in the “Eye on Auckland” post. Here, people seem to be objecting to a proposed multi-storey development on the grounds St Heliers is “special”. But hang on a flame-grilled marzipan minute: Is not every community in Auckland special? At least for the people that live there? And does that mean we should we constrain development in every community that considers itself special? Exactly how does one define “special”? Unfortunately NIMBYs aren’t very keen to look into the “special” wormhole they have created.

Every community that quarantines itself from further development is effectively causing more intensive development to happen somewhere else (NB: As an aside the same applies to the metropolitan urban limit, but that’s a discussion for another day). Put another way, constraints on development proposed by NIMBYs would, if generalised across the rest of Auckland, mean that the demand for new development was inevitably funneled into ever fewer locations. These places would, in turn, need to be developed to much higher density than they would have  to in a situation where development was shared more evenly across Auckland’s communities. As an aside, that’s one of the benefits of Auckland Council’s online “Shape Auckland Housing Simulator“. Go on NIMBYs have a play.

Now having said all this, I’ve started to think that perhaps I need to modify my NIMBY engagement strategy to be less belligerent. After all, some NIMBYs do have a genuine attachment to their community – even if I consider their definition of community to be too narrow to encompass a functional socio-economic unit. To highlight the difference: Whereas NIMBYs usually define their community in terms of their suburb, I will define my community as the city. Right now, I define my community not as Grafton, but Auckland – the latter is the city where I work, live, and play.

I then sat back and considered what factors might explain the differences between how we define community? I’m sure some of it is personal, rather than logical – as much as our own egos tries to convince us that all our positions are premised on the latter. For example, in my life (thus far) I have lived in Waiuku, Northcote, Newmarket, City Centre, Parnell, and Grafton. This diversity of abodes would probably lead me to appreciate more of the city than most. Perhaps some of my attitude is also attributable to my age and preferences: In that I’d much prefer to be out and about scouring the Waitakere Ranges than sitting at home in my undies sipping cups of tea .

Either way, I think it’s important critics of NIMBYs, such as myself, are first honest with ourselves about why we define our community more broadly than those they are criticising. I think there’s good reasons to define a community as being more broadly than a suburb, especially in a world where communications are making it increasingly easy to develop and maintain connections across distance . Nonetheless we owe it to ourselves and the targets of our criticism to be able to articulate the reasons why we prefer a broader definition of community.

For me personally, my definition of community starts with an appreciation of the following points:

  1. Suburbs do not exist in socio-economic isolation. They are part of a much larger economic unit called “Auckland”, which means they are, for example,  part of a larger housing/job market.
  2. Auckland is growing and changing. Inexorable population growth and demographic trends mean Auckland needs to accommodate a larger and older population with smaller average household size.
  3. These trends will gradually transform/re-shape Auckland’s urban form. In particular, we will likely need to greatly expand the number of compact houses located in proximity to town centres/facilities/amenities.
  4. It’s better for everyone if more communities help to accommodate this transformation. The more we spread the growth/load across existing town centres, the less any individual centre will need to develop.

So rather than simply hating on NIMBYs, I think a better approach is to try to redefine their concept of “community”.

This could be by explaining the points I have outlined above, or alternatively you could ask them where their friends and family live, where they work and shop, or which regional parks they like to visit. As they talk, you could then draw dots and lines on a map in front of them. In doing so, you may help them to develop at least a visual appreciation that their community goes a wee bit further than the suburb in which they live. Make sure you emphasise that less development in St Heliers, for example, will mean more development in Orakei, and that their Dentist in Orakei would probably prefer if St Heliers picked up it’s fair share of the growth, and vice versa.

Easier said than done perhaps, but nevertheless worth a shot. If you asked me what we have got to lose then I would respond “the city’s future”; yes I think the battle with NIMBYs is – in the long run – that important. That’s why I’d like to finish this post by praising (Deputy Mayor) Penny Hulse for taking on the NIMBYs in St Heliers when she said ““You can’t put a bell jar over the top of St Heliers and have no change.”  Thank goodness for Ms Hulse’s strong political leadership on this issue; let’s have some more of that.

Ding ding let the battles begin.

106 comments to NIMBYs: Redefining community?

  • S Ridley

    Firstly great post. I also believe the issue comes down to people isolating themselves and neglecting to think about the city as a whole. With the way the rest of NZ reacts to Auckland it appears this way of thinking may be more widespread.

    • Stu Donovan

      Thanks; I appreciate the positive feedback.

      Yes isolation within the city is definitely a factor/issue, especially among what the “Eye on Auckland” post refers to as the “rusty and crusty brigade”. Isolation (whether due to external factors or personal choices) is relatively widespread and will be a challenge to any attempt to engage with these people: Because they don’t want to be engaged with..

      The Eye on Auckland post does a really good job of encouraging people who do not like NIMBYs to get along to Unitary Plan workshops, where they can help to positively influence the debate, and/or to make online public submissions here: http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/planspoliciesprojects/plansstrategies/unitaryplan/Pages/home.aspx?utm_source=shorturl&utm_medium=print&utm_campaign=Unitary_Plan

      I’m hoping that with a bit of prompting the “silent majority” of Aucklanders that are generally in favour of enabling more (appropriate) development in this city of ours may be able to overcome the vocal NIMBY minority. Without being too formulaic about it, I’d suggest there’s benefit in people weaving in some strong “anti-NIMBY” rhetoric into their submissions, which may in turn enable our elected representatives to take a stand in defiance of vocal locals.

  • Dr NIMBY

    Maybe they are worried that something like this will be their new neighbour.

    http://uglynewzealand.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Square-Palmerston-North-DSC-009872-Wentao-Yin_medonly.jpg

    New Zealand is not well known for design controls so some of the concern is justified.

    • Dr NIMBY

      Case in point today.

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10877506

      The developments are cheap + nasty. Council talk about “good design” etc yet at the end of the day developers will try to make a quick buck as easily as possible. Per TVNZ a few days ago even the apartment size has been reduced back to similar “shoe box” standards.

      So all talk/pretty pictures and no cattle = anxious neighbourhoods.

      • Well then should people be fighting for better quality processes rather than nothing happening at all?

      • Stu Donovan

        I don’t have an issue with small apartments. They’re perfect for students and professionals who need a crash pad in the city. I’d suggest we’d do better to focus our design controls on the external appearance of a development, not its internal structure.

      • peter H

        I do see room overgrowding as a problem (boarding houses), But is there a correlation with small apartments and healthy living, If the rules on sunlight and sound proofing are set to a high standard.

        • Stu Donovan

          yes, although the room over-crowding issue is perhaps not something to manage through regulations on apartment size.

          • Peter H

            My thinking is boarding house are the lowest level of housing (8-12m sq), The second tier of housing would be the studio Apartment (25-45m sq). If there is a shortage of second you increase the risk of overcrowding in the boarding houses, I do note Double bunking in prisons is not seen as unhealthy.

      • Quick point of clarity, as misunderstandings persist around minimum apartment sizes:
        Some parts of Auckland currently have no minimum sizes. In others, the minimum is 30sq m plus a 5 sq m balcony. Minimum proposed in the draft unitary plan rules is 30sq m plus an 8sq m balcony. So this is an increase.
        Other myths busted here: http://shapeauckland.co.nz/busting-5-myths-on-apartments/

    • Stu Donovan

      I agree that we do need design controls for multi-storey buildings, which I also believe are also considered in the Unitary Plan (maybe someone else can point you to the appropriate sections?).

      But I don’t think you can really conflate design controls with NIMBYs: Only a very small minority of the latter have anything to say about design controls and all of the examples above – where NIMBY outrage has recently bubbled to the surface in Auckland – reflect less on issues with design controls and more on NIMBYs general unwillingness to accept development in their community.

      In saying that I certainly agree that it would help a lot if developers/architects/engineers in NZ started to treat the urban environment around their developments with more respect. That would really help to build more community goodwill for development.

      • Filde

        I find this fascination with ‘good’ design controls on this blog and its left wing bloggers/commentators amusing. Let’s take Patrick Reynolds for example; he has long hair and wears a hat. Do you think that the majority of New Zealanders think this looks good (personally I do Patrick, good-work)? Its not your standard look is it? Maybe if we had fashion regulations, everyone would be forced to wear singlets and jandals. Yippee!

        But seriously, is dressing every building in a tuxedo the right way to go?

        • Stu Donovan

          It’s just a response to complex externalities that are difficult to manage through price signals. Sometimes regulation is a good way to go …

          • Filde

            But these externalities are internalised by land values (Paul Chesire, 2012). Look, go back 50 years and a lot of the building were beautifully designed. There were no design regulations then. What is the cause of bad design we see today? Cars. But we know that they’re only a problem because of regulation we have introduced in the past!

            The only bad design I can think of is stuff which reduces my safety and well-being on the street because it has cars appearing out of driveways and signs flashing me out of a daydream. Seriously, when walking along Queen St you barely notice the architectural design of building.

            Could someone define ugly for me? Personally, and I’m not being a prat but that photograph above is a ‘kick ass’ building which speaks to me of the 70s, 80s UNIX computing days.

            I tolerate ugly, which is why I tolerate pictures of Stu on this blog ;-)

            Arn’t we just fighting fire with fire? Can we not just put the fire out first!

          • If what you are saying Filde is that we cannot legislate for good taste then I am in totally agreement, because, of course, while my taste is perfect the rest of you have no idea [heh heh].
            In other words it varies from sensibility to sensibility. But there are certainly ways that general aesthetic standards can be raised without crushing variety of expression or tastes, or too much trampling on property rights; but it ain’t easy.

            First is regulation: Hansom is what hansom does. Much of what is ugly in the Hobson Nelson apartments is because of a governance fail, a bunch of simple decisions by the then Council could have improved the ‘civic performance’, the urban design, of those buildings while probably not actually making the forms much more attractive. One example, they never should have allowed the ground floor carparking, this rids the streets and lanes of any appeal, vitality and human action.

            Second is more nebulous but works in practice in Australia: design panels, and we’ve had some good outcomes here form this too. Good experienced designers get to give feedback on the whole proposal, so not a list of rules with boxes to tick that often will produce terrible outcomes but evaluation of the whole project. This can, in practice lift the performance of the whole industry, designers, developers and Council.

          • Filde

            But ultimately, improving the ‘civic performance’ is in the best interest of the land/property owner. Why? Because it increases the value of his/her land. What is there now is only because councils through regulations and absurd mis-management of our road spaces [particularly Hobson-Nelson] have consigned us entirely to the automobile. So in effect, you have forced individuals into automobiles so that their lives now depend on it and, now you are saying, oh but you can’t put them anywhere where I can see them cause I don’t like look?

            Personally, I see these spaces as great business opportunities whereby if I had millions I would turn them into apartments out the back and shops out the front.
            Who wants to start a property re-development business? Tasteful Patrick are you keen? You’d better have the millions…

            So I should probably relate this to NIMBYISM; Height restrictions and ‘looks’ are important features to the urban landscape but generally they do come naturally through people working together to add value to their property. The ‘social democratic’ notion of planners figuring out what is all in our best interest creates a complex democratic entity [values and tastes are extremely complex] which a) slows down economic development [50 years of MPRs] and, b) is easily perverted by the wealthy.

            OK; so with no regulation we may have a few ugly buildings around the place, heck we may even get a slum but is this cost greater than waiting for planners and neighborhoods to deem every building acceptable? Which cost is greater? Seems an easy calculation to me; I’m prepared to tolerate a few ugly ducklings like Stu.

          • Filde

            Sorry Stu, you are not thaaat ugly ;-)

        • Dave Smith

          Of course not. For a start the weather would not be suitable on the fabric.
          Those favelas seem quite nice.

    • obi

      Who employed Albert Speer to build a flak tower (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flak_tower) in Palmy?

      Talking of Eye On Auckland… A couple of months ago we had post from EOA about illegal parking. It was one of the funniest posts and comment threads in ages, although the “reasons to love trams” post yesterday came close. It was promised as the first in a series of three posts but I don’t think we’ve had the follow ups. What happened? Now Whaleoil is doing the same thing.

  • Good editorial on the subject in this mornings Herald: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10877495

    The people they are hearing at public meetings are probably not a cross-section of their community. They are likely to be older, established residents who dislike change. When they see designs for multi-unit, medium-rise developments, they say “not in my backyard or next door”.

    And has been observed many are in fact likely to not be either alive or still in their current dwellings by the time the much of the change envisioned in the UP is built!

    • Stu Donovan

      Yes, that takes up back to the topic of the generational differences and long timescales in the development of transport infrastructure and land-use patterns which we discussed a while ago.

  • Mark T

    Great post and all very true. I live in Orakei and would love the point project to get off the ground. I’ve been encouraging everyone I know who cares about Auckland to make generally positive submissions.

    • Stu Donovan

      Thanks Mark; I think the Orakei Pt development would be great for Orakei and Auckland.

      Just one clarification: The point of this post was to highlight how we might engage constructively with NIMBYs. The merits, or otherwise, of the Unitary Plan are a somewhat separate matter – and very much contingent not only on the general direction of the UP, e.g. more intensive development around sub-centres, but also the specific details, e.g. what to do with building/design controls and minimum parking requirements.

      So I would see the post less as a rallying call for the Unitary Plan itself, and more an effort to encourage people who agree with the general direction to engage with the process to ensure 1) it is not dominated by feedback from NIMBYs and 2) we can improve the specific building/design details. Although I agree – there is much about the UP to be positive about and that should be reflected in people’s submissions as much as possible.

    • TheBigWheel

      Yep it’s potentially a positive development. I also live in the area and made a generally supportive submission or two at the time of the original application around protecting the cycling through routes, access to the water fronts on Orakei and Hobson and *increasing* the max tower height.. on the basis that Remuera has a small number of tall towers that you might call iconic, and that one or two more of these would be better than many 4-6 storey blocks covering every last piece of greenery on Orakei Pt with concrete. Come to think of it, how did those towers get permission? There’s a couple in Herne Bay and Ponsonby too are there not.

  • Richard Green

    Great blog. I however take issue with the fact that all MIMBY are selfish nay sayers of change. As a point Chev resident we are experiencing unprecedented growth. My issue is not with change but with a lack of infrastructure to cope with the growth. All very well to grow up but importantly that must be supported. As a chair of a school board I know that neither the MoE or Auckland Council have spoken to each other about the impact on schooling in Central Auckland. You have lived in various places but have not had the pleasure of adding another factor to the mix – family – namely kids. They can change your perspective immensely. I am a keen ‘wanna live in an apartment’ person but realistically won’t until my spawn leave home. Go up – yes, high density – yes but don’t claim all objection comes from selfishness – much of my personal objection is a badly thought out plan. And Penny can take some credit for that.

    • Stu Donovan

      Good points. Just quickly:
      1. Infrastructure – the Auckland Plan outlines what is probably one of the largest and longest infrastructure spends the city has ever seen. Transport alone comes to mega-billions over decades and that’s before you throw in waste-water and community facilities etc. So I think at least the intent is there to ensure that Auckland commits more to investing in infrastructure than has occurred historically.
      2. Education – From what I have heard the MoE are notoriously poor at engaging with city planning policies, whereby the MoE builds schools at the ends of cul-de-sacs and miles away from transport infrastructure and other community facilities that could help manage their impact.
      3. Family – no I don’t have my “own” children. It’s worth pointing out, however, that many many families seem to do fine living in apartments in other cities, such as Amsterdam (in fact the Netherlands seems to have the happiest children by far). So perhaps it’s not children per se that make higher density difficult, but actually the types of development that we have? I note the Unitary Plan places a big emphasis on what we call “the missing middle density”, e.g. terraced housing and such like.
      4. Unitary Plan – The post suggest that most NIMBYs start from a selfish perspective. It does not say that you have to agree with the Unitary Plan – I myself disagree with some aspects of it. But that does not mean I’m jumping out of my tree at particular/individual developments.

      But I would go as far to say that the Unitary Plan (once it has been refined) looks like one of the best plans Auckland has ever seen.

      • Richard Green

        kia ora ano, 1. That is good to hear but doesn’t seem apparent in the first instance – maybe i need to read deeper! 2. Can’t blame the MoE here – being in the thick of this at present it is apparent neither central nor local government have considered the impact – whilst it can be said the MoE have their head in the sand over population growth it can also be said the council hasn’t even considered education as part of their factors – even thought they claim that children were a big part of their plan…3. Sorry, reading that back that sounded like a comment someone would make about Helen Clark but my intention was not so :-). Yes yes Amsterdam is great etc but it is culturally different – let’s not compare Kerikeri Oranges with their US counterparts. We have a long way to go to reach Amsterdam in all sorts of areas – cycle friendly, generations of families living in apartments – you cannot just wipe generational expectations with the stroke of an HB pencil… terraced house works for me – more parks and green space in those areas as well. You may be able to afford to take off to the Waitakeres. 4. Paragraph 4 of your blog calls them selfish… or did I misread that?

        Glad you are happy with the plan – your expertise in this area far outweighs mine and to my peril i trust your judgement. Keep up the good work. Maybe when i am mayor you can advise me.

        • Dave Smith

          Clearly they are selfish. Shame on long term residents for not wanting Amsterdam or Shanghai to come to them and for trying to preserve space and quality of life. Shame on them being too stubborn to just roll over.

          • Stu Donovan

            NIMBYs should not feel ashamed; they just need to broaden how they define community.

            I’m a long-term Auckland resident of 30 years and in my experience of Amsterdam (1 year living there) was that it has extraordinarily high quality of life, so much so that I actually want to move back there at some stage in the medium term. And that’s one thing I’d lilke NIMBYs to consider: If they want to preserve their “space and quality of life” that’s fine – but they will need to accept that, in doing so, more of their children are likely to end up overseas, in places like Amsterdam.

          • Sailor Boy

            Yeah, they are sefish, wanting Amsterdam’s lovely lowrise apartments to come to their particular suburb, when they are likely to be needed scattered all over the city.

          • Frank E

            One persons paradise is another person’s hell…

          • Sailor Boy

            So why force me to live in their suburban paradise?
            That is hell to me.

        • Stu Donovan

          Hi Richard,

          1. Infrastructure – it’s good to keep asking questions about Auckland’s infrastructure. While some of the details are still being worked through I think it’s worth highlighting that Auckland’s infrastructure seems better than in the past. Unfortunately doing too much requires money, and collecting money takes time (if we are to avoid big increases in rates)
          2. I’ll defer to you on education, but I’d love to see a bigger emphasis on the location and design of educational facilities to help maximise their contribution to the community.
          3. Amsterdam as a whole is very different yes. But there are people in Auckland (quite a few I expect given how many kiwis I met living in Europe) who would appreciate *some* of that lifestyle to emerge in Auckland. Note that the unitary plan enables many many people to keep living in single detached dwellings. It’s just the the growth in demand is not expected to be for that type of accommodation, which in turn means we need to think about how we manage other dwelling types.
          4. Yes I think NIMBYs are by definition rather self-centred. On the other hand people who oppose aspects of the Unitary Plan, in contrast to opposing individual developments, are not NIMBYs in my opinion.

          Look forward to your tenure as mayor – but I’ll probably be voting for Len this time around.

      • OrangeKiwi

        “in fact the Netherlands seems to have the happiest children by far”

        As says Unicef: http://www.unicef.nl/media/1290451/rc11_eng.pdf
        Note that Australia and New Zealand do not feature on the list due to lack of data.

      • TheBigWheel

        Mr Green makes a valid point that may well convert a concern that I’ve read elsewhere today and that isn’t addressed by the Amsterdam reference.. increased housing density may be all fine and good, but school roll numbers blowing right out isn’t an attractive proposition to me. Surely a better solution albeit a more costly one is to buy more land up for new schools??

        • Stu Donovan

          Speaking generally, school roll numbers are not an issue. NZ has falling numbers of children of school age.

          What is more of an issue is how we use existing schools as inner-city areas intensify. Again speaking generally, NZ schools have oooooooooooodles of space compared to schools in the Netherlands. So what we may need to do is simply intensify our schools at the same rate as we intensify our city.

          And that means multi-storey school buildings.

  • Sanctuary

    NIMBYism from baby boomers is symptomatic of the relatively sudden transformation of Auckland from over-grown town to small city. Imagine if you are a fifty-three year old male baby boomer, born in 1960. Auckland had yet to reach 500,000 people and Mum and Dad probably owned a bach on Waiheke. To would have gone to Auckland Grammer without having ever heard the word “zone” and you easily identify the location “collision crossroads” on a map of SH1, where Auckland’s roads stopped and provincial NZ began. Orewa and Howick WERE villages and everyone when you grew up was white. A little culture shock is understandable, but at the same time it can’t be allowed to stop Auckland’s city status being recognised and with that the realisation that cities need city solutions, and what is good for Tauranga or New Plymouth won’t work here.

    • Stu Donovan

      Very good point Sanctuary – part of Auckland’s problem is that it’s a victim of its own success: It’s gone from sleep provincial city to busy Asia-Pacific centre within the space of 4 decades. Many NIMBYs definitely seem to fall into the culture shock category on so many levels, as you point out.

  • Geez Stu, good post about about two weeks behind the 8-ball here (Herald seems to be in the same boat too http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10877495 )
    Ah well, glad someone caught up with UP commentary ;)

    • Stu Donovan

      Dear Ben,

      Thanks for the feedback. FYI my posts tend to have a 1-2 week turnaround time. In the interim I’d suggest you try to expand your suite of cliched expressions to include the likes of:
      “Less haste more speed”
      “Good things take time”
      “Do it once; do it right”

      I’m a particular fan of the first one ;)

      • As am I Stu although the second one is the one I often take on some more delicate projects. The Unitary Plan would be one of those projects in making sure the city gets it right.

        However NOW that you have finally opened the commentary your end, we shall put the quips behind us and take lead with the Unitary Plan dialogue and debate? I know we have often different view points (and some similar ones as well) but mash them together and something that is stronger should crop out.

        Or is a comment I am about to post my end going to stand and be rather telling? Your call Stu – my hand of friendship and common good for the city is extended

  • AC

    I really hope these blog posts act as a rallying cry to the ‘silent majority’. Judging by the reaction on the EOA blog there’s plenty of people who are fed up with NIMBYism . I know I’ve taken a far greater interest in what’s going on in my city as a result of these informative blogs. Great post. Onwards and Upwards! (yes that means you too St Heliers)

    • Stu Donovan

      Your comment reminded me of the rallying cry from Braveheart “FREEDOM”!

      Yes, I think there’s a ground swell of sentiment in Auckland that is looking forward to the next round of development that has been really sitting waiting to happen since the GFC and Finance Company meltdown. The Unitary Plan will, I think, go a long way towards unleashing this growth: Primarily because prudent developers are waiting to see what the plan means for yields for making their next move.

      That’s one of the benefits of getting the UP implemented as quickly as possible (allowing for due process of course): I think the uncertainty created by not having a finalised plan is really stymieing development overall.

    • harminder

      One interesting thing about the “silent majority” – I get the sense (but I may be completely wrong) that the debate over Auckland’s UP and PT in general is dominated by long-time Auckland residents, leaving out many new migrants living in the South, North Shore and West who would benefit tremendously from these changes (the CRL and intensification not sprawl) because they are probably more familiar with living in apartment blocks and using trains & buses all the time.

      For someone like me, who grew up in Singapore in the 70s and 80s, when our 6 member family moved from a 40 sq m flat with 1 bedroom/1 lounge/kitchen/1 toilet to an 92 sq m flat with 3 bedrooms/1 lounge/kitchen/1 toilet, and who bought a 100 sqm flat with 3 bedrooms/1 lounge/kitchen/2 toilet after marriage, and has used public transport my whole life, the debate over the CRL and intensification seems especially wrong-headed and hard to grasp.

      I daresay that many members of the “silent majority” share my background, and if they were somehow mobilised to show their support of the CRL and intensification, there would be a clearer majority in favour of these changes and less of an impression that the public is divided (which is what the Herald and the national Govt seem to imply). Note: I am not saying that “migrants use PT because they are poor” or “only poor people use PT or live in apartments, and hence since migrants are poor, they support PT and apartments”. Almost everyone in Singapore uses PT or has used PT for a large portion of their life, whatever their income. The same goes for living in apartments. The familiarity of many migrants with such a lifestyle make them a key support group for the CRL and intensification.

  • Filde

    Stu NIMBYISM is ‘social democracy’. If you are not going to let the market decide and attempt to use complex democracy you will get special interest groups (often the wealthy) bending the rules to their benefit, to the detriment of the rest of society; particularly the poor. Social democracy is economic stagnation while we count the votes on what should or shouldn’t get built.

    There are only two alternatives to this; fascism or libertarianism. I choose Libertarianism.

    • Stu Donovan

      while yours is an interesting topic I think you’re getting off-topic … submit a guest post if you’d like to discuss these political/economic issues in more detail.

      • Stu Donovan

        P.s. As an aside I think the “slippery slope between two political extremes” line of argument is fairly easily rebuked by counter-example: There’s plenty of functional social democracies out there that are neither fascist or libertarian. So as you draft your guest post I’d suggest you try and refine that argument a little, possibly by toning down the ideology a little. Raw ideology never held much sway with me personally.

      • Filde

        The causes of NIMBYISM off-topic? I do see that we are talking fundamentals here and that it opens a huge can of worms.

        Well, if your are happy with the wealthy reinforcing their wealth at the detriment to the poor, and economic stagnation as we exclude the poor, then sweet. Personally, I am not happy with extreme inequality (one slope we seem unable to get off). But alas, I am getting off-topic…

        My ideas are far too uncultivated for a blog post anywhere as of yet. Not even Kiwiblog (moron).

        • Stu Donovan

          Phil, you made some reasonable comments on the interaction between social democracies and special interest groups.

          You then made an very broad and unsupported statement (“Social democracy is economic stagnation …”) before finishing with a presentation of a false dichotomy (“… fascism or libertarianism”) and a statement of your own personal preference (“I choose Libertarianism.”).

          All interesting stuff, but generally a little off-topic: That is, how should we engage with NIMBYs? I think you’ve correctly identified some links between NIMBYism and our chosen democratic processes, but that’s not really up for debate here.

          In terms of what you are talking about, I think you should consider the costs/complexities involved in a libertarian market-based approach to urban development.

          In my mind it would only work if every development calculated the negative external economic costs they imposed on everyone else, and compensate them accordingly. Needless to say such an exercise would be very time/resource consuming to do! Even if it would create plenty of “jobs” for economists such as myself.

          Another “free market” option would be to place the onus on the affected neighbours to calculate their costs and litigate accordingly. That’s not only expensive but also time-consuming and likely to lead to inequitable outcomes between individuals with different financial resources. Both free market options provide little certainty.

          So really it’s a matter of choose your poison: Social democracy, which compromises allocative efficiency for what are arguably lower transaction costs, more equitable outcomes, and more certainty (indeed if the latter has a value). Or vice versa for a free market option.

          Those are the sorts of things I would like to read about in your guest post ;).

  • Roo de Kelter

    Avctually teh real NIMBYs are those Councillors which are making the decisions to intensify everyone elses’ community and neighbourhood except their own. Have a look at the Councillors’ register of interests. Some exhalt taht they live in an apartment and yet have a getaway home up the coast that most people can’t afford. Other have a large block of land,or live in heritage areas that are protected, or single-section coastal zones etc taht are not planned for densification. It would be great to see a full list of the (Dis)unitary Plan and decision-makers and where they actually live. These are the real NIMBYs protecting their own back yard. Not the many community minded people that care about their neighbours.

    • Stu Donovan

      Most councillors I have met (from across the political spectrum) are working very hard on behalf of the community; pecuniary self-interest seems to play little role in what they do (and why they stood for office). Ego is another matter ;).

  • PS1

    And the developers who do the same – live in affluent areas then build cheap housing , with no investment in the areas heritage or community on the other side of town where they wouldn’t live. The changes proposed by council will make a massive change to Auckland. We need to ensure that those designs are done in a quality way. There are some good examples (eg Britomart, Hobsonville Pt) And i think multistory can be cool. But we need to be thoughtful about ensuring a level of design and some community involvement. It’s not NIMBYism to have an opinion on how your neighborhood looks. We need to think about the details. Kids safety on driveways, design, landscaping, sound proofing, maintaining common spaces, transport, infrastructure. Because a busy town can be vibrant like Amsterdam or it can be a slum. I’d rather have something nice built or not at all. Finally the increased density should be supported with infrastructure. Push go on the rail loop already. Ps. Orakei development looks good to me.

  • TimE

    I am absolutely all for intensification, particularly if it was along the lines of a Barcelona style growth. BUT…

    To be fair to the good people of St Heliers…

    The cause of the antagonism towards increased density was the development of the three storey block at 387 or 367?) Tamaki Drive. Locals opposed the design as out of character and the developer essentially told them to eff off and went ahead with what is a monstrously inappropriate design in both size and scale. There was a ton of consultation and signals from the council but it was all for nothing in the end.

    This was then repeated on the other side of the village with another monolithic building of dubious design quality and the Mayor began expressing sympathies, to little avail as, in the end, the developers “complied with the rules”.

    So with that context, you can understand why locals are now fighting the unitary plan at its inception. The rules were against their desires for so long that they’re now kicking up a fuss early on in the process.

    And please, if Auckland had intensified with even a jot of sense over the past twenty years, we wouldn’t have the plethora of hideous, poorly built highrises standing as massive monuments to the dangers of an apathetic citizenry that we have now.

    If someone had lifted a finger to ensure decent design, the opposition you’re seeing now would be far more muted. Tony Gapes, the developer of Orakei Point, built the Scene 1, 2 and 3 developments out of spite to the Council, creating the horrific wall of just atrocious looking apartments along Customs Street/Beach Road.

    Until developers and the Council prove themselves, I have no problem with residents being extremely suspicious and actively hostile if need be. and this is from someone who wants intensification. but for you all to tut tut and shake your head as if NIMBYs are a. a distinct, blanket group and b. complete loons, is disingenuous at best.

    • PS1

      right on – time!

    • Dave Smith

      Exactly right.

      Auckland – the new Benidorm of the South Pacific?

    • Stu Donovan

      Well now TimE there’s a bundle of issues there. The most important of which is that the locals need to fight the right fight: If they are concerned with the quality of development then let’s have that argument. But quality is quite separable from intensity.

      My primary concerns is with residents being selfish/self-centred, which I think it’s fair to say that many are. The suspicion/hostility that greets many proposed developments is not driven by a desire for quality, but instead a desire to control what happens in their neighbourhood – to the detriment of others.

      Yes I agree that Tony Gapes should be ashamed of Scene 1, 2, and 3. That does not mean I can’t support the Orakei Point development however. We need to consider each proposal on its merits – to embark on personal vendattas against developers would just make us as bad as the people we are criticising.

      • Jeremy

        This is the same feeling I’m getting in terms of feedback being not useful becasuse the Auckland Plan has directives for quality and the UP shows you the method in which the UP is developed with objectives and so on.

      • Bryce P

        It’s one thing to say that residents may be selfish and self centred but lets remember that developers are not doing this for altruistic reasons.

  • It’s inspired to to post a (long winded) submission in support (and a (real) threat that no Unitary PLan and no CRL = no me)

    One thing that I raised though is that apartments have a (mostly fair) bad rap – the monstrosities on nelson/hobson are not what we want people to think of when we think apartments. Does anyone else (besides me) on here live in an apartment? I’d love to write something/have some photos (god I really need to clean up first!) that could be seen here, but also more widely – ie for people who think I have to sleep vertically and don’t have space for any possessions… Maybe the herald could publish something? ;)

  • Jeremy

    The UP has a bit in the appendix under design and development talking about St Heliers village character.

    • Maggy

      Yes it does. The two buildings referred to were constructed under the very same St Heliers Village Plan. Therein lies the problem. Developers rights win over community, and they used very dodgy tactics in the process. Council supports the developers. That is why St Heliers people are so frustrated, and completely mistrustful of Council planners. They have been consulting and lobbying Council for years and the Draft UP has changed nothing. The democratic process is a farce. Also, despite being mixed use, two apartments housing 3 people are in the new Maheke development (one family lived above the Westminster Dairy building that was torn down); and 4 apartments are in the Turua St development which replaced 4 domestic houses torn down. Not a single extra person has been housed in these two huge buildings. The St Heliers issue is specifically about the local centre, its proposed expansion, and the location of Apartment/Terraced Housing areas along the waterfront that block people from the sea. All people, that is….anyone in Auckland, and the many tourists, that chooses to visit the waterfront, and many do. 80,000 a few weeks back for Round the Bays. It is not about any general ideas of intensification, indeed most of the suburb is proposed as “mixed housing” and nobody is objecting to that. Much of the suburb is already fairly compact by Auckland standards. Plenty of apartments already here, but it where they are built that is at issue. Council puts them on the foreshore. The Waitemata harbour is cherished by Aucklanders, and Tamaki Drive is a public asset. Thanks St Heliers residents for understanding that, and fighting to retain its character.

      • Bryce P

        Forgive me if I’m mistaken but how does building a terrace house on an existing section block anyone from the sea? Do people currently have access across these properties?

        • Maggy

          It is high density Apartment/Terraced housing zoning on the foreshore that I am referring to, with multiple sites inland. In this suburb that simply means Apartments due to the high value of the land. A “visual impediment” if you prefer, but far less attractive than the mixed housing alternative, when viewed either from inland or from the seaward side. There are other places within the area where Apartment zoning would have far less impact on the foreshore. In January 2013, a comprehensive and consultative document, prepared by the Local Board, and called The Tamaki Drive Master Plan, addressed many issues relevant to the built environment on Tamaki Drive. No evidence of it being utilised in the work on the Draft UP.

          • Sorry where is it high density? The UP is only proposing four stories height limits and that is in no way high density. Hell in St Heliers there are already buildings that height and they don’t detract from the area.

          • Bryce P

            Maggie, if the buildings on each side of Polygon Rd were 3 or 4 storey, the road taken back for pedestrians and trees planted you would have the coolest little beachside town centre in Auckland. All St Helliers really needs is some great PT so everyone can get in and out without having to use their cars to drive along Tamaki Drive. Don’t think about the ‘village’ as just a bunch of, mostly, low rise buildings, think of it as a starting point.

          • Maggy

            I agree with you. Polygon is one block back from the beach and at the base of the hill. Far less impact than on Tamaki Drive. Once again I refer to the Tamaki Drive Master Plan which has consulted on this concept in detail, and discussed the ped. only option. There are many terrific ideas about how to maximise the natural assets of St Heliers and Tamaki Drive, but between the developers (same ones who have built the two controversial buildings own large blocks of St Heliers commercial area), and the Council planners with their “one size fits all” mentality, the reality is that it is “money” not community driven creativity that will determine the outcome. If only it was so simple as “think of it as a starting point”. That is just wishful thinking and will influence the powerbrokers not one jot.

      • I was in St Heliers a couple of weeks ago and had a great time in a bar that was absolutely full in one of the buildings that some locals got very worked up about when it was being built. I spoke to the people around me and they we mostly locals who had walked down on the lovely evening and were making full use of the new amenity. If these places are such a disaster for the area why are they popular once open, especially with locals?

        Yes the waterfront is lovely, the new buildings there mean more can enjoy it in more ways. None of the new buildings are out of scale with the existing commercial buldings. No they are not identical to what was there before, which is a cheerful architectural, stylistic, and period mismash; these building bring a new layer to century plus of building contemporary buildings here to meet demand: I fail to see the problem.

        Oh and yes Grey Lynn where I live has got and is getting more multi-storey apartments and other more intensive uses which adds to the viability of local businesses and activities. And like St Heliers it’s hardly so crowded it causes problems.

        St Heliers must be a lovely place to live, and now with more local amenity and buzz; even better. Although to my taste we allow far too many cars allowed to park on Tamaki Drive and not enough space for walking and cycling [separated].

        Fear of change?

        • Maggy

          No, not scared a bit. But I disagree with you – which is quite a different issue. In my opinion, and I am not alone, those buildings are out of scale.
          So glad you enjoyed your drink in lovely St Heliers, and I trust you walked, cycled or caught the bus to get here. You would have been looking out, past the pohutukawa trees to the harbour. What a shame the view from any number of surrounding areas or the foreshore to your drinking hole would be quite a different experience. Architectural merit is obviously not an exact science – and you will be thrilled that the Council planners agree with you, not me. I am sure the completely blank concrete tilt slabs on 2 sides is a modernist marvel for some. If you ever want to read the thousands of comments (literally thousands) of what a whole lot of other people think….let me know. It can be arranged.

          • Fair enough, but I didn’t say they were or were not to my taste, I strenuously avoided that, taste being as you say personal. I said that the area is characterised, as most of AK is, by buildings that add up to a mishmash of styles and from a number of periods. Buildings that were, of course, all contemporary once, as those new ones are. Each age adds its layer, for better or worse.

        • Maggy

          Hi Patrick. Thanks for your response. Diversity is good, and mishmash does not phase me for a second, and it would be wonderful if adaptive reuse would be viewed as a viable alternative. The threat to St Heliers local centre is that we risk losing most of it in fairly short order. Same property owners as the two new developments, own many of the buildings. Each age adds its layer…agreed, but the only protected building in St Heliers is the library.

          • But i would ask; is protection always a good thing, does old always mean best? Be careful what you wish for, there is no better preserver of the past than total economic stasis. Change, and even that dread word ‘gentrification’ means life, activity, action.

            But hey I’m ambivalent, the South’s loss of the Civil War meant that the whole economic basis of Savannah Georgia [slavery] disappeared and the town fell into a quietude for about a century, only to awake as a tourist destination recently. Luckily for Savannians and us all, the place was built out of stone, so survived, was preserved by lack of economic life. Growth went elsewhere [notably Atlanta].

            A local example I guess is Dunedin. Our biggest city in the middle of the 19thC but stuck at around 100k people ever since, as the action moved north. Also full of wonderful stone and brick buildings that growth may have destroyed, pretty much kept alive by the university [the city of my father's first big building, now old enough to be considered 'heritage' the very Modernist: School of Dentistry]. So if preservation is your thing, better get to a struggling or failing place, that’s where everything stays unmolested.

            But can’t we grow and keep the best of the past? I’d hope so, but what of the not so great, the everyday, isn’t that valuable too? maybe, better than current life and business though? tricky. And how good are the buildings of St Heliers? Perhaps familiar and meaningful to locals no matter how ordinary? But that’s attachment not quality, isn’t it?

            A project like Imperial Lane shows how good a new re-purposing of old buildings can be, but not all old buildings in Ak have such good bones as those do. We certainly haven’t been good at keeping and re-use our heritage, but that doesn’t surely mean we need to keep all that are still standing uncritically. Especially from before the arbitrary date of 1944? Adaptive re-use does depend on the strengths of the existing structure and its suitability for a viable new use….?

  • Thanks Oliver, what is the rationale for 8sqm balconies, that’s huge! Significantly bigger than the more than adequate balcony I have on my 90sqm two bedroom place, as an example.

    With a 30sqm minimum apartment the 8sqm balcony would be almost one third the size of the interior! With those minimums the balcony would be larger than the living room or the bedroom in most cases. Why regulate for such a huge balcony on otherwise compact and affordable places. Big balconies mean big water traps and engineering issues too I might add.

    Actually, what is the rationale for minimum balcony sizes at all?

    • obi

      “Actually, what is the rationale for minimum balcony sizes at all?”

      There is none. If I were living in the tropics then I’d certainly want one. But I don’t have one at the moment and don’t miss it. I do have large windows that I can open to let in the light and the breeze, when conditions allow.

    • Steve D

      I can see the rationale of minimum sizes for apartments, and allowing some of that area to be a balcony. But the UP requires every apartment to have a private balcony of at least 8sqm, or a 40sqm yard on the ground floor, or a 10sqm roof garden. Why?

      The only thing I can think of is some bloody-minded insistence that every household in the entire city should be able to host a barbecue. Because that’s what we do here.

      • obi

        I’ve tried to have a barbecue on a balcony. The smoke (it wasn’t one of those new-fangled gas barbecues) blew back towards the block. I definitely smoked out my own place. I suspect I smoked out some of my neighbours too, which is a bad thing since apartment living relies on people being good neigbours. It was a one time only experiment.

        On the other hand, when I lived in the tropics I spent a lot of time in a hammock on my balcony.

      • Hmmm… didn’t realise I was going to spark a discussion about barbecues. The idea behind the minimum balcony size is to ensure that Auckland’s homes provide some outdoor space, fresh air, space and – yes – a barbecue if you want. The more detailed draft rules can be found here: http://shapeauckland.co.nz/what-are-the-draft-residential-zones-all-about/.
        It’s on these details that we really want to get good quality feedback from people to ensure we get the balance right, and that includes feedback on the minimum size of aprtments themselves (ref one of the other comments on this page).
        And a reminder that here is the online feedback form: http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/planspoliciesprojects/plansstrategies/unitaryplan/Pages/theunitaryplanonlinefeedbackform.aspx

        • I’ll have to look at the details more closely, but I think 8sqm is a massive requirement for small apartments.

          Fresh air and light and space don’t come from a balcony (well not necessarily), and I don’t know if we need to regulate outdoor living at all. Is it something that should be a ‘must’, or is it up to people to decide whether they want one or not? Mine stays closed about six months of the year, and honestly I could get by just fine with some nice bay windows or something in the same place. Doesn’t the council spend plenty on parks and squares and shared spaces, if they aren’t outdoor living then what are they? Do we need to regulate apartments to be like houses. Maybe we should leave houses in the suburbs to be houses in the suburbs and acknowledge that apartments in the city near parks and public spaces don’t need individual outdoor areas legislated in.

          I’m going to provide feedback against this balcony business.

          • Stu Donovan

            Yes me too. Important not to forget that banks impose their own minimum floor spaces for apartments of approx 40-50 sqm – and they do not include area used for balconies. So you’d need a 40 sqm apartment with an 8 sqm balcony = 48sqm minimum to meet the combination of regulatory and lending constraints. I think that will really add to costs of housing for many people.

        • Steve D

          I personally kind of like balconies, and I would only get an apartment that had one. Some people appreciate that you can smoke on them, and maybe you can grow pot plants. But other than that, what’s the point? You can’t actually have a barbecue on an apartment balcony. Having space is important, but why is it so critical that it be outside space? Why can’t people have another 8sqm of floor area instead of a balcony?

          I rather cynically think that a lot of the apartment rules in the Unitary Plan aren’t designed with actual apartment dwellers in mind at all. They are just there so that the neighbours don’t think that the apartments are “cheap”.

          • The 15 story apartment building I lived in, in Korea had no balcony, just one massive wall of windows, oh and a roof top garden with exercise equipment, BBQs, putting course and tables. We also had restaurants, 7/11s shops on the bottom 2 floors, as well as five understory floors of parking.

  • Peter H

    The balcony is not what makes a apartment livable, It is the ability to get natural air flow and sunlight into the apartment, like the Housing NZ Star Flats.

  • patrick M

    Room over crowding aka extended family of 15 living in a 3 bedroom state house – single standalone dwelling – in any of the low rise/low density ghettos of Auckland.

    I’m exaggerating a bit of course, just like the Nimby’s out there. But my last house in Beach haven we had renters living in the 3 bedroom next door. Mum, Dad, 2 daughters, 1 son + Mums sister, her husband and their 2 daughters.

    What wrong with fighting fire with fire?

  • And now the boomers are getting in on the action. Thanks for what you left us with, by the way.

    “Boomers are also looking for walkability, proximity to public transit and diversity.”

    http://www.nbcnews.com/business/economywatch/boomers-blame-rising-urban-home-prices-1C9319688

    • Bryce P

      To be fair to the majority of the boomers who were not town planners or transport engineers, unless you were studying these subjects back in the 50′s and 60′s you would never have heard of Jane Jacobs or Jan Gehl. The age of the internet and the affordability of travel have enabled the younger generations to see how good it can actually be.

  • Peter H

    The three bedroom + bedsit family home I grow up in is now an informal boarding house where the absent landlord rents it by room and has a cleaner come in to clean shared area.

  • Dom

    A bit late off the block however get your facts right please Mr Donovan, it was 3 storey development in Onehunga, not four. The developer admitted in the latest community meeting that even 3 stories was too much. The property owner have never been against against the development. There has been a democratic and open process that has lead to agreements on both sides. Everyone realises that the development will go ahead, the shape of the development is yet to be sorted. If anyone has visited Maria and Yates streets they will realise how small these streets. Real issues for both existing and future residents. Please stop these blanket NIMBY accusations, assess each project on their merits then maybe comment.

    • Stu Donovan

      I’ve corrected the post to read “three” storeys instead of four, although not sure whether that helps your cause? I.e. the locals got all worked up over a three storey development?!? My gosh what’s this “city” (i.e. provincial rest-home) coming to …

      Anyway, the places listed at the start of the post are simply examples of where NIMBY accusations have been leveled recently. Whether the accusations were made by me (in this case not) or others is not particularly relevant to the post. Nor does the post suggest that everyone opposed to these particular developments were in fact NIMBYs. Instead, I simply observe that NIMBY type accusations/issues have been arising more frequently in Auckland of late. That on it’s own should be sufficient reason for all of us to consider our positions, as I’ve personally tried to do in this post.

      With regard to your other comments:
      1. I can’t see why small streets are an issue. I own an apartment in a 7 storey building on Emily Place, which is barely wide enough for two cars. It seems to work fine; cars simply slow down to let each other pass etc. In general, I have found that when residents talk about “real issues”, they usually mean that a proposed development may inconvenience them from time to time – i.e. it’s not a show-stopper; and
      2. I’m not sure giving the community the right to assess “each project on its merits” is the best way to go, if that is what you are indeed suggesting? Basically every development would then be hostage to the fickle preferences of the surrounding community. The latter, I would suggest, should focus their energies on getting the processes and the policies right in the Unitary Plan, for which the implementation should then be left to the council. Where plan changes are required then there would be scope for further community input. I realise this sounds technocratic, but you do need to give some certainty to developers to keep costs down. It costs a lot of money to get plans re-drawn.

  • Bank criteria appears to be 45sqm with a 25% deposit, but they will do less with 50%…. but who has half the cost of a place upfront, even a small studio.

    Another annoying issue is that loft spaces don’t count towards floor area. So you could have a mezannine bedroom of 10sqm or more, but they only count the 25sqm of open plan living (which is actually quite a lot) as the total.

  • Could I do a guest Post on WHY people don’t trust the Planners and the Plan?

    If only we did “Bottom Up” planning instead of “top down”. I bet we’d end up with happier communities and better “outcomes”.

    • harminder

      Good idea, Geoff. One thing to add is that many types of modern technology (e.g. smartphones/mobile devices, wireless networks, apps, crowdsourcing, etc.) make it easier for people to “make” the Plan, rather than rely on the Planners.

    • Stu Donovan

      Of course. I suggest you and Filde write your own guest posts on planning and submit for discussion.

  • TimE

    To add something more positive, I’d like to highlight observations from my current location – Barcelona.

    The city has a fantastic group of inner-villages that consist of 4-6 storey buildings, separated by very narrow streets and configured in squares or rectangles around a central servicing area. The majority of buildings I see in Gracia, where I’m staying, are beautifully designed, ranging from intricate detailing to more simplistic but still immensely pleasing flourished here and there. the balconies are usually very small, but there is one for each window on the street-facing side, usually framed in iron fencing with a bit of design flair.

    The balconies themselves are very small, fitting maybe two standing adults. So I don’t see minimum balcony sizes as being a necessity. Instead, every few blocks, there is a moderately large public space, a square essentially, ringed by cafes and restaurants, with seating, leafy trees and a central monument or fountain, where locals gather every lunchtime and evening to socialise, eat, drink and be merry. This makes up for the lack of “open air” space that is private to them, but brings people together in a way that is very enjoyable and great for kids, who can kick a ball around and play while parents gossip.

    Meanwhile, at street level along these many narrow streets, there are a plethora of small-scale restaus, cafes, clothing stored, speciality services shops, doctors, dentists etc, providing most of what people need.

    Essentially, I think this has to be how we approach intensification in Auckland. While I think minimum apartment sizes are probably necessary for now, the Council needs to step up to create the spaces (and no, not the sterile overdesigned spaces we’ve seen so far) that enable people to live close to each other but also stretch out. Auckland instead relies on vast swathes of mono-residential tracts with a big park or a school every few kilometres.

    So the Council has to step up to the plate as well rather than just regulate away their responsibilities. And for god’s sakes enforce some design criteria that actually make things look solid, permanent and, heavens above, pleasant! Maybe with a few leafy, non-indigenous trees and a bit of street-level hubub.

    • We all love Barcelona, great scale, density, and fantastic public spaces; properly urban squares and courtyards. Really good texture to the buildings themselves, from whatever era [Character is not the same as Heritage], quite a lot of ambiguous spaces too; courtyards and other spaces of uncertain public or private nature…. very different from our highly delineated attitude to space.

      But the key lesson form Barcelona is that up until the 1992 Olympics it was a undervalued and declining city in terms of place, sure it had some great bones and architectural moments but not until that event did it have any sense of it sense building on, retaining, or even improving the quality of its built environment. Especially its waterfront and Transit.

      Change and improvement are not only possible but actually easy with political will.

  • Absolutely love those flack towers; now that’s Brutalism with a purpose!

  • jjay

    Well leaky buildings spring to mind – I agree we need tight design controls and building checks to make sure
    new Auckland builds whatever the size are user friendly, safe and robust. So the odd extreme objector keeps people on their toes
    but theres nothing to stop those who are pro the initiative from making positive submissions as well is there ?

    I would like to say that when I first read this post (and perhaps I misread the meanings) I felt it needed to be said that – its worth bearing in mind one solution won’t work for all. As Auckland grows we will need
    to take on apartment and higher density housing yes – but that’s not going to work for all. While some people are
    not keen to accept change its really important to respect and realise that one persons ultimate living solution for one
    is not someone elses.
    We live in outer suburbs but no-one here I know of objected to the (10 – 15 storey I guess) apartment block that was developed
    in Manukau city a few years ago – it works well at the centre and probably another one or more would not be out of context esp if that campus and train station ever do get finished.
    And the lifestyle works well for a lot of people as does that of terraced housing etc – with minimal ground maintenances etc. Those who like to be out and about etc etc -lots of reasons.
    By the same token I would not want to embrace apartment living myself with a growing family and extended family and guide dog -
    I think I would have found it too overcrowded and missed the outdoor space. So we choose to live in an outer suburb with
    some infill housing flats etc and some of the old fashioned sized sections too. We used our old fashioned sized section (that
    probably could not have been subdivided anyway) not for parking (we are a 1 car family) but to teach our kids about growing
    their own food – room for fruit trees, perhaps a small native or two and a garden patch – for us it was important we could do that.
    So while it wasn’t a huge lifestyle block or anything it was our patch of land – we are not baby boomers but perhaps we inherited some sentiments of old there. But would I object to other forms of housing no – would I object if told it was not appropriate anymore for me to have a patch of land – probably – very different things – but a fine line. And yes some apartments and housing complexes will probably develop community garden projects and shared spaces
    – these will be great provided the dynamic of the neighbourhood and neighbourly relations are good and the shared spaces are safe -
    those sorts of provisions will be vital to allowing a bit of green to remain as we grow. Also if we are going to get housing NZ changing their mode of housing to apartments etc then again kid friendly and safe shared green spaces and gardens will be important parts – both because I see a growing movement in our community to encourage and mentor families in our area using their plots (or which the traditional housing NZ land is often a great example) for growing food for their families and I would hate for that to be lost.

    Anyway we have since moved on – not too far away but to a suburb that has a great mix and I think provides a good example of design- no high rises (yet) but a number of infills, flats, units etc mixed with the 700-800 sq m sections of old and the odd whopping 1600 sq m section (those big sections are not subdividable and are a lot of work so they are not everyones cup of tea – as they are full of protected natives for the most part). We also have a number of small reserves of natives – so amazing a week of so ago on our first
    day to see the wood pigeon in the tree (non native tree) on our section and hear the moreporks cry at night. We are not near the country still a land locked suburb – so I thought it was pretty special and was impressed that those that developed this suburb in the 60s and 70s had allowed provision
    for some green native spaces those many years ago which have flourished in protection since while having allowed growth of the suburb. I think its a good example of something that works and encorporates elements for many people I would probably be on the list of objectors should someone try to pave over the natives – but then perhaps I am a little bit of an old fashioned 30 something….

    • Liz

      Good points about green space – I have seen tui and fantails around town (Albert Park area) lately and am grateful that these green spaces have been protected so that even the inner city can have native trees and birds. I think that is important in all parts of the city.

      I personally am a huge supporter of good quality intensification, but I am aware that if I were to buy a house I would like an outside space. Having said that, I have stayed/lived in high density housing overseas that has access to wonderful outside space, so I think that the two ideas are definitely compatible. I would like to see more innovative housing in Auckland, because I don’t believe that it’s necessary to give up that outside space in order to have higher density housing. We just need to use the space more effectively. E.g. terraced houses can get rid of wasted front and side setbacks, and provide more usable space at the back of the property.

      Some real world examples from my experience:

      - Terraced houses with back gardens big enough to have grass and space for vege gardens, and even a garden shed! (I am disappointed that much of the terraced/town housing in Auckland just has tiny courtyards, when back gardens are easy to incorporate).
      - Apartments with shared garden (usually including clothes lines, grass area, and space to plant some stuff)
      - Apartment with rooftop deck/dining/social area (tables, chairs, bbqs, planter boxes)
      - Semi-detached houses – one with a lovely landscaped garden, another with heaps of big vege gardens, another with a paved patio, grass, and a shed
      - Apartment with balcony overlooking the water (a small balcony but a HUGE sense of space)
      - Block of apartments with large shared private garden/park in the middle
      - Block of apartments with park area for residents around it, including playground for kids

      So I think that we can absolutely incorporate green space and outside space and natives into our plans for intensification. It’s just a matter of showing people what is possible.

      • Liz and jjay, all true. The provision and maintenance of high quality green public space is extremely important. But also, as you say smaller patches of nature and especially street trees are vital. I love the Georgian squares in London, often with communal open space within the block. They cannot, of course be confused with affordable housing however, although my wife did have a whole floor to herself absolutely free in Ladbroke Grove in a Georgian Terrace House in the 1980s; a Squat.

        • Liz

          Not all higher density housing will be affordable housing, but that’s sort of the point. Make the general form very desirable and we’ll see more of it.

          But to be honest, the terraced houses that I have lived in (in the UK) have had bigger gardens than most of the (detached) houses I’ve lived in here… despite taking up a smaller land footprint overall.

        • Liz

          I think that a big part of getting NIMBYs to redefine community, as argued for in the post, is making them want this type of development. If that means building more expensive versions as well as affordable housing, then that might be what we need to do (and in fact I think that this is already happening in some places).

Leave a Reply