Former City of Vancouver Chief Planner Brent Toderian was in Auckland last week and spoke at a very well attended Auckland Conversations event on a range of planning issues that Auckland has much to learn from. We will elaborate on some of the key messages for Auckland coming out of this event during the next week, but for now here’s a different presentation given by Brent back in 2012 which touches on many of the same issues:
While the Unitary Plan does enable some level of increased intensification and certainly places a far greater emphasis on requiring good urban design, the jury is probably still out on whether it truly enables the future that Auckland desperately requires.
Most regular readers will probably know that I haven’t been all that impressed with the stupid berm debate that cropped up a month or so ago. I said at the time of my post on the subject that it would be the one and only post on the matter and that is still the case however I do want to pick up on a comment made in the article today about the issue as it relates to the Unitary Plan rather than the berms as such. The part in bold is the bit that really caught my attention.
But Waitemata councillor Mike Lee, one of three from areas of the old Auckland City who opposed the decision, said the council should not take the findings as vindication of it.
He said the council should heed discontent from the central district, where residents’ rates had paid for berms to be mowed, given that it was earmarked for the greatest intensification. “It would seem the council is relying on people in intensified housing to go out and buy a lawnmower to mow the berm that the council owns,” he said.
To me this shows that either Mike hasn’t actually read the plan or that he is trying to score political points over it. Sure there will be intensification in the CBD and perhaps some in the fringe suburbs but they don’t tend to have berms anyway. For the rest of the isthmus area there is very little intensification allowed for other than a few patches around town centres in the lower value areas. Almost all of the isthmus area has been locked in amber as what exists today by either imposing the single house or mixed house suburban zone thus preventing intensification. This was scaled back from the earlier draft.
Here is the legend
If Mike really wants to see the area that has been zoned for the huge intensification looks like then he should look to the west which has been zoned mostly Mixed Housing Urban or Terraced Housing and Apartments.
Oh and I doubt any of the people out west are also whinging about berms.
Last year the Auckland Plan set a target for 70% of intensification to happen within the existing metropolitan urban area (note that includes greenfield land out to the imposed urban boundary). This was seen as a too radical step for many, something completely different from what Aucklander’s were used to and that would result in people being forced into apartments. The council ended up chickening out on the target and so included a fall-back position 60% intensification.
The debate on intensification heated up again earlier this year during the discussions on the Unitary Plan with again some people claiming that most people want to live on the
traditional mythical “quarter acre paradise”. However I’ve always been a bit sceptical about just how much sprawl has been occurring and back in January I looked at the building consent figures which showed that over 70% of the consents issued occurred within the existing urban area.
The first batch of detailed census data was released last week and as you would expect with the information, there is a lot of interesting results hidden within the figures. The first response of many when the data came out was understandably to look at where most of the growth has occurred – the answer to that was generally the CBD and some of the greenfield developments to in the Northwest and Southeast. The seemingly strong greenfield growth caused some to immediately question whether the councils compact city model was really the right direction for the city should be head – despite the compact city model being a forward looking plan and the census being a backward looking exercise.
However looking at where growth is occurring it can be very easy to overlook some key points. In particular a lot of low level growth across the suburbs may not look that important but it can easily add up to a significant amount when combined together. With that in mind and thinking about the intensification targets that were set I thought I would go have a look at what has happened population growth in a slightly different fashion to what has happened so far. To start with for each of the Auckland Census area units I have put them in to one of the following categories.
- City and Fringe – CBD, eastern Side of Ponsonby Rd, Newton, Grafton, Newmarket and Parnell.
- Metro Centres – e.g. Albany, Takapuna, Henderson, New Lynn, Manukau, Papakura.
- Suburban – Rest of the urban area.
- Mixed – Had some suburban development in 2006 however has also seen some greenfield development.
- Greenfield – Most of the population growth has through greenfield development.
- Rural – should be fairly self-explanatory.
- Rural towns – Settlements outside the existing urban area e.g. Pukekohe, Huapai, Warkworth etc.
Now admittedly it isn’t perfect and we really need the meshblock data to do this exercise properly but still it’s a useful indication. The results in the table below shows that while the suburban areas saw the least growth as a percentage increase figure, they did see by far the most overall growth and accounted for 51% of all the growth that did occur within the region. On the whole population growth within the existing urban areas of Auckland was 64% of all the growth that occurred while greenfield developments accounted for just 24% of the population growth. Perhaps unsurprisingly these results are similar to the building consent ones. What it does mean is that a target of 70% intensification is not only realistic but not that different from what has been happening in recent years.
Further, as you would expect this growth is having an impact on the density of the city. For each area unit I have rounded the density to the nearest 500 people per square km and use that to create a density profile for the region. The graph below shows that density profile for the entire region based on the percentage of people living in each of the density buckets. It indicates that the density curve is shifting higher while also flattening out with the change generally being less people living at lower densities and more people living at higher densities.
However the question is not just whether there are more people living at higher densities but whether the suburbs themselves are getting denser. To help answer this, the graph below shows the density profile based on the total number of people living in each density bucket. What this shows is that there are actually less people living in some of the lower density buckets. For example in 2001 almost 285,000 were living at a density of roughly 2500 people per km², by 2006 that had dropped to 247,500 and in 2013 is at just over 218,500.
What this suggests is that the density is changing due to the suburbs getting denser. It is important though to point out that at this stage that it’s unknown whether that is due to there being more dwellings, more people in each dwelling or less vacant dwellings. We will need to wait for future census data to come out before we can tell that.
One thing that is really noticeable is that there is an almost complete absence of people living in the medium-high densities. Something between the really high density seen in places like the CBD -which reaches over 10,000 people per km² and the low-medium densities in the suburbs. We should really be seeing a lot more people in the 4,500-6,000 range however we will need to address that in a separate post.
Based on what we know so far it is pretty clear that Auckland is getting denser and when you consider the change since 2001 the impact is quite substantial. One useful way of measuring density as a whole is to look at the weighted density which measures density based on what the average density that people experience rather than a simple calculation of total number of people divided by total land area. One of the reasons for using this metric is that otherwise you get some very odd results like that Auckland is more dense than the urban area of New York due to the large amounts of low density housing in places like New Jersey and Long Island. Based on the weighted density measure, the Auckland region comes in at roughly 2,650 per km² which is an increase of 17% over 2001.
One last point that is worth mentioning in all of this. Census area units are very broad and include parks, industrial areas and other pieces of land that can have negative impacts on density calculations. As such the figures in this post are very rough and we will need to wait for the more detailed meshblock data to emerge before giving more accurate results however it does mean that the density calculations are likely to increase. That more detailed data will also eventually allow us to look more closely at how we compare to other cities in NZ and overseas.
So Auckland has been getting denser already and the sky hasn’t fallen, someone should tell the residents of St Heliers and Milford that it’s ok to come out of their single storey houses now.
One of the saddest and most frustrating parts of the Unitary Plan deliberations being held at the moment is the misinformation about density controls and their effects. Phrases such as “unlimited density” create images of high-rise apartment buildings in suburban areas or tiny “chicken coop” sausage flats squeezed onto small suburban sites.
Both of which are simply not possible. Not because some fluffy urban design assessment criteria will stop such things – but because of hard rules like maximums height limits, maximums site coverage controls, minimum dwelling sizes, private open space requirements and more. If we take a look at the residential rules of the Unitary Plan from prior to the Councillors’ changes throughout last week and yesterday (I have been asking the council for a list of all of the changes agreed to but they are ignoring my requests) we find out that a so-called unlimited density development in the different parts of the Mixed Housing zone would have the following development controls applied (as well as requiring a resource consent to even apply to build more than four units and requiring a large site to start with!)
- A building height limit of 8 metres
- Height in relation to boundary rules requiring heights of no more than 3m plus 1m for every metre back from the boundary the part of the building is located.
- Yard controls, including a (stupid in my opinion) front yard requirement of 4m.
- A maximum impervious area control of 60 per cent (i.e. building or paving can’t exceed 60% of the site).
- A maximum building coverage of 40% for sites 400m² or more or 50% for sites less than 400m².
- A requirement to landscape at least 30% of a site, including covering at least 10% of the site in plants or shrubs (including a further requirement for at least one large tree!)
- Outlook spaces of at least 6m by 4m from each main living room, from the principal bedroom of at least 3m by 3m and from other rooms of at least 1m by 1m.
- Building separation requirements, including a requirement for separation from main living rooms of 15m.
- At outdoor living space of at least 40 square metres, including dimension requirements.
- Minimum amounts of glazing in the main living area, bedrooms and out to the street.
- Maximum garage size and impact on the front façade including additional set back controls.
- Maximum building length restrictions.
- Minimum dwelling size requirements of at least 40 square metres for studios and 45 square metres for one bedroom apartments.
- Minimum dimension requirements for living rooms and even bedrooms.
Most of these rules have some logic and good intentions sitting behind them and are an attempt to ensure that development is of a sufficient quality. But, importantly, all the rules will limit the development density which can occur on a site – at least indirectly. What all these controls really do (aside from the minimum dwelling size and to a lesser extent the minimum dimension requirements) is influence the bulk, location, scale and layout of development – how the development will be perceived from the outside world. What density controls do, over and above these other controls, is basically determine how a building envelop is ‘sliced and diced’ into different dwellings.
Density controls have been pretty common throughout Auckland’s planning documents for the past few decades – with the result being this:
What stands out in the image above is the monotony of this urban form. Each site is roughly the same size, each dwelling takes up roughly the same amount of land on the site, each place is basically the same.
- Large houses on 400-500 square metre sites.
- None of them with particularly large backyards.
- No variety of building types.
Importantly, these areas also lack the provision of any affordable housing – because the only thing being built are huge standalone houses. And the reason why the only things being built are huge standalone houses is because the density controls mean a minimum amount of land needs to be set aside for each dwelling, leading to effectively a minimum size of house in order for the developer to make a profit and therefore a minimum sale price that’s often well north of $500,000.
The frustrating thing about density rules is that the urban form above does not necessarily result in more greenspace or less building bulk or a more spacious urban environment. Those aesthetic outcomes are controlled through the use of regulations like height, site coverage, yard controls and the like.
Sadly, yesterday the Council effectively banned the provision of affordable housing in the widespread Mixed Housing Suburban zone by requiring a density controls to be applied for all developments in that zone. Supposedly they did it to protect the character of the suburbs, but as explained above, density rules don’t affect the bulk, scale and location of development.
It seems that the market for higher density housing is starting to heat up with news today that Fletcher Building has set up a special division to focus on building apartments.
Fletcher Building is making a big push into Auckland’s apartment development market, forming specialist new division Fletcher Developments this year to hunt down opportunities on big sites.
Graham Darlow, Fletcher Construction’s chief executive, said this was a new area of focus but Fletcher was not interested in building infill housing.
Instead, it wants sites where amenities can be provided, such as open space and reserves.
As Auckland demand shifts towards higher density homes, Fletcher decided to focus on that area and the formation of Fletcher Developments was a response to that and the general housing shortages in the city.
“Developments is focused on delivering carefully targeted, desirable, high-quality apartment opportunities within Auckland,” Fletcher Construction says on its website.
This is good news as one of the big issues we seem to be have is that most developers/builders are fairly small and simply don’t have enough scale and/or capital to pull off large developments. It also signals that large players like Fletcher definitely see a market for high quality, higher density dwellings which perhaps suggests they have started seeing purchasing trends change. I have heard recently that some builders are finding smaller dwellings selling much better than they expected
Perhaps the most interesting part of the article is that they are not just looking for sites to build apartments on but ones where they can add value through additional amenities which indicates that they recognise that it is the amenities that are critical to improving liveability. Of course amenities need to be more than just a park or open area and most of those needed are unlikely to be able to be provided in a single development but instead would exist within a wider town centre.
In other apartment news, a crane has appeared on the skyline at New Lynn to start construction on the Merchant Quarter Apartments for which more than 75% of the apartments have already been sold. The building is located almost directly above the train station.
I get a very strong feeling that we are going to see quite a lot more developments springing to life in the coming years as we shake off the financial crisis. Not all will make it through to construction but it definitely gives me hope that we might start to see some good intensification occur. In a way you could say that Auckland is moving onwards and upwards.
This is a guest post from John Polkinghorne
I really enjoyed Matt’s post on why he wants intensification in his neighbourhood. I thought I’d write one on why I love it in mine. First off I should explain that I live in a CBD fringe apartment.
1. Work is a ten minute walk away. This is hard to beat, and you can believe me when I say that I don’t miss long commutes. This means more time to do the things I want, and less money spent on petrol. It was also great to be close to the university when I was doing postgrad (again, pretty much a ten minute walk).
2. A slightly longer walk takes me to Britomart, Wynyard Quarter, Queen St, the movies, you name it. There are 650 cafes, restaurants, takeaways and bars in the CBD, there for the taking (subject to budgetary constraints).
A short walk from the finest eating destinations
A slightly longer walk may lead to spontaneous singing of The Lonely Island songs
3. I’m a five minute walk from the supermarket. Sure, it’s a Countdown and pretty expensive, but it’s good for top-up shopping. We try to do bigger shops out at Pak N’ Save, and this is one of those situations where the car comes in handy.
4. In summary, we are very well set up to do a lot of walking to places, rather than driving. This is presumably good for my fitness level.
5. This all means that my partner and I get by very well with one car between us. We’re thankful we’ve got the car, it gives us a lot of options and we wouldn’t want to be without it, but we don’t need two. This is probably saving us at least $1,000 a year.
6. There’s always something happening in the city. Lantern Festivals can break out at a moment’s notice.
World Cups also just come out of nowhere
7. My apartment complex has a tennis court, a gym, a lap pool and a sauna. I don’t use these facilities as much as I should, but it’s nice to know they’re there! If I go for a run, I can take in Princes Wharf, Victoria Park and other enjoyable locales. Or I could head the other way out to Tamaki Drive.
Tennis court provided. BYO coordination.
8. There’s better security. You need a swiper to get in the front door of the complex, and then again for each floor, and you’ve only got access to your own floor. Plus there are surveillance cameras at the main entrances. It’d be pretty hard for people to get robbed here.
9. Higher density living is low maintenance. There’s no worry about mowing the lawn, less outside area to clean up and so on. I actually enjoy the small amount of cleaning up I do get to do outside, but looking after a whole house would stop being fun pretty quickly.
10. This apartment is the warmest place I’ve ever lived, including my parents’ houses and any number of flats. The best insulation you can have is another dwelling attached to yours. In my case, the only surface exposed to the elements is a single wall. I’ve got a little fan heater which I put on now and again in winter, but I can’t even tell the difference between my power usage in summer and winter (I’m the kind of person who records this). On average, we pay $90 a month for power, water and water heating combined. Which includes my share of the water used in common areas and the pool.
11. I’ve got friends living in the same building as me, and I can go and annoy them any time I want!
Sure, there are down sides. If other friends come round, it can be tricky for them to find a park, and of course this is even tougher in the centre of town. But you’re always going to get that in the CBD, and if friends want to take public transport – perhaps it’s a Friday or a Saturday evening and driving home doesn’t seem like a good idea – then it couldn’t be any easier.
Soot and black dust builds up in the courtyard and, to a lesser extent, inside. I’m not too sure what the air quality is like but it’s probably a bit worse than, say, a lifestyle block in Karaka. Our neighbours tried to grow some lettuces in those ready-made potting mix bags that you get from Mitre 10, and that stuff actually built up inside the lettuces as they grew. So growing stuff you’re going to eat is a no-no here. This situation probably has a bit to do with cars and a lot to do with the trucks from the port, but hopefully cleaner vehicles will make it better over time.
At this level of density, it’s not practical (or allowed, in the case of my building) to have pets like cats and dogs. But renters struggle with this everywhere in New Zealand. For medium density, side-by-side townhouses and so on, I can’t see there being any problem with cats and dogs.
I’m also lucky to live in a fairly large one-bedroom apartment (60 m2 plus a sizeable courtyard). It’s not a shoebox and I wouldn’t want to live in one, but some people do and I’ve got no problem with that.
On the whole, high-density living isn’t for everyone, but it doesn’t have to be. This is a point which has been brought up on this blog time and again. People aren’t going to be forced to live in apartments, or even townhouses. But there should be choices available. For me, right now, high-density living is great. I’ve been here three years so far and I could be here another 3-5 years easily.
After that, maybe I’d want to start thinking medium-density, somewhere with a little more space where my hypothetical kids can run around and be closer to schools (which the CBD is not well endowed with). If there were more good 2-3 bedroom apartments available in town, and if there were better facilities for kids, maybe I’d stay in the CBD instead. But low density? Big house, big backyard, long commutes? Not for me.
There has been lot of media interest in the past few days about the upcoming release of the Auckland Unitary Plan’s discussion document – which will go out for public consultation on March 15th. There’s the usual scaremongering from the Herald about how the Plan will enable intensification and that will inevitably lead to slums:
The Auckland Council yesterday approved the draft unitary plan that sets out to change residents’ behaviour and expectations when it comes to their love affair with housing.
Councillors heard that apartments and intensification would not only give Aucklanders greater housing choices, but meet the desire of communities to jazz up town centres.
The proposals have not gone down well with some councillors, who fear it will lead to slums and multi-storey “walls” along popular beachfronts such as Orewa and Browns Bay.
Deputy mayor Penny Hulse, who is leading work on the unitary plan, said it tackled many sometimes difficult issues. “We want as many Aucklanders as possible to have their say to ensure we get a plan for all Aucklanders.”
Under the plan, the greatest intensification will occur in 10 “metropolitan” centres, where apartments of 18 storeys will be allowed. This is followed by 37 town centres, where four to eight storeys will be permitted.
Moving out of these centres into residential areas, the council has created a 250m zone for terraced housing and apartments of between four and six storeys.
The remaining residential areas will have a mixed-housing zone, allowing for one house per 300sq m with no density limits when developers landbank more than 1200sq m to build five or more houses.
The terraced house and apartment zone and mixed-housing zone account for 56 per cent of residential land, leaving 44 per cent for a single-house zone and a large-lot zone.
The single-house zone permits one house per 500sq m and includes the heritage suburbs, while the large-lot zone covers large single-house lots, typically on the urban edge.
There’s a lot of really interesting information in here to digest. But to start with I must say I find the “framing” of the debate exceedingly annoying – that the Plan is trying to ‘force’ people into changing their behaviours and all the references to slums. As we’ve been arguing on this blog for a very long time, there’s quite a lot of evidence that people really do want to live in a wider variety of housing if it means that they’re able to live closer to amenities, employment and so forth. By loosening the controls on development the Unitary Plan is simply enabling what people want to do.
There will be a lot of discussion about height limits, but at first glance it seems that the Unitary Plan is taking a reasonably balanced approach by linking height limits quite clearly with a ‘hierarchy of centres’: much higher limits in metropolitan centres then stepping down to medium-rise for town centres. Whether this leads to “walls” or “slums” comes down to detailed design qualities in my mind, rather than the height limit itself.
Moving away from the centres, it seems like a fairly generous apartments and terraced housing zone is proposed. I just hope that there’s also some alignment of the zone to places with really good public transport and the 250 metre limit isn’t applied too arbitrarily – often in some situations I think it could probably extent much further (for example in areas around more major centres like New Lynn) while elsewhere it might not make much sense at all (say in a place like Howick which is pretty isolated).
The mixed housing zone sounds like the most widespread zone across the entire city, so getting it right will be critical. It’s very disappointing to hear that the zone will still have density limits – as these lead to incredibly stupid outcomes and militate against the provision of affordable housing – unless someone’s able to amalgamate over 1200 square metres to do a larger-scale development. I would suggest that small-scale intensification should be promoted to a greater extent in this zone, with questions over a proposal’s acceptability or not being more related to urban design controls, bulk and height – rather than how many units a particular building/buildings are broken up into.
Of course it will be the balance of enabling growth while trying to make that growth a higher quality than what’s often occurred in the past which will be the real challenge. Achieving this balance is really really tricky if a Plan is also trying to provide some level of certainty over what someone can and cannot do with a site. I think in many ways there simply isn’t a way to balance all three competing interests so it’ll be interesting to see what loses out.
The article mentions nothing about a changed approach to parking minimums (hopefully their complete removal) which will be something to look at in great detail when the draft is publicly released for comment in the middle of March.
News emerged the other day about the Manukau Golf Club moving to a new location with their existing site having been sold to Fletchers who plan to turn it into housing.
More than 700 members of one of Auckland’s best-known golf clubs are upping sticks and moving south.
The Manukau Golf Club, off Great South Rd near the Southern Motorway at Manurewa, is shifting 8km away to Alfriston-Ardmore Rd near Ardmore Airport, after more than 80 per cent of members voted to leave their 45ha site.
Fletcher Residential is understood to be paying more than $40 million for the site, which could take 500 to 800 houses and is already zoned residential.
Here is the area being talked about.
But it is perhaps the last line of the article that has got a few people annoyed.
Conifer Grove Residents Association chairman Jan van Wijk said people had enjoyed beautiful views across the greens for many years but this would all change once Fletcher moved in. Homeowners on Keywella Drive, Chippewa Place and Aristoy Close would be worst affected and concerns had been raised about traffic and congestion once the new places were built.
“I don’t think everyone is thrilled about it but we can’t object to it. If it comes up for consultation, we’ll certainly make some noises, asking for decent quality housing,”
Mr van Wijk understood a 600- residence low-density development was planned.
It is fairly widely acknowledged that Auckland will need to increase its density to help with accommodating the expected population growth over the next 30 years. The Auckland plan has a focus on on getting 60-70% of all dwellings built in the next 30 years within the existing urban limits. As such I have seen a few comments from people saying that we should be putting medium to high density dwellings in here but I think that ignores a few realities. The first is that the council seems to have realised that one of the key things to making density more attractive to people is that a location needs to have good amenity, particularly in the form of a local centre and good transport links. Unless the council and/or Fletchers decide to put a town centre in here (which isn’t necessarily a bad idea) then there is unlikely to be the needed amenity to really support higher density.
The issue of transport links raises another interesting debate. The North Eastern corner is semi close to the existing Te Mahia however according to the RPTP that is set to close. Even it if were to stay open, which I don’t necessarily agree with for a number of reasons, only the closest of the houses would be within walking distance while the vast majority would still need to use other methods if they wanted to catch a train. That means for public transport, buses feeding into Manurewa are likely to be key so any development whether it includes a town centre or not really needs to take that into account. One big opportunity with the development is that it could enable much better connectivity from places like the nearby Conifer grove. Currently that area has only one access point which happens to be a motorway over bridge so one bad bridge strike by a truck could cut off the neighbourhood for days. This development provides the potential to solve that problem while at the same time potentially providing more feasible bus route and a quick look at the roads suggests that Brylee Dr was designed from the start with this in mind.
One last comment on the issue of density. A quick calculation shows that the density in Auckland as a whole is roughly 2400 per square km while the average house size is 3 people per dwelling. With those figures in mind and the minimum number of potential dwellings being 500, the density of this development would be around 3300 people per square km so while it has been described as low density development, it is not likely to be quite as low density as Auckland is used to. That could change further as it is likely the unitary plan that the council is currently working on will be in place by the time construction kicks off and the new rules will hopefuly dramatically change things like minimum lot sizes and setbacks which would allow for more dwellings.
Personally I think a mix of terraced houses and traditional standalone houses are what is needed here but really we will need to wait to see what plans Fletchers produce (Fletchers feel free to get in touch with me if you want to share your plans). One thing I would almost bet on is that we will see a whole heap of roads in this development with golf themed names.
Included with the City Centre Future Access Study documentation released late last year were the answers to a number of questions that the previous Minister of Transport, Steven Joyce, had asked in mid 2011. As well as requesting the preparation of what turned into the CCFAS, Joyce requested the following:
- “Finalisation of the spatial plan and master plan including establishing achievable growth projections for the CBD
- Demonstration of a commitment to resolving current CBD issues, for example by improving bus operations and addressing capacity issues
- Evidence of rail patronage increases, particularly in the morning peak, residential intensification and CBD regeneration as a result of current investment
- Beginning implementation of large scale residential developments along the rail corridors
- Implementation of additional park and ride sites, and changes to bus feeder services”
There’s a lot of really interesting information in Auckland Council and Auckland Transport’s response to these questions, but for this post I’m going to look at an element of the third question: evidence of residential intensification as a result of current investment.
To help get an understanding of the level of intensification past/current investment in the rail network might have stimulated, the report compares growth since 2001 in areas with good proximity to the rail network with growth in other areas that were already urbanised in 2001 These are the areas looked at:
A couple of years back Steven Joyce suggested that most intensification in recent years had actually occurred away from the rail corridors, by saying this:
Yep, we should allow the city to increase in density (watch councillors run a mile when it comes time for the district plan changes), and we should support cost-effective transport options that support that. But we also have to understand that people like to live where they want to live, and provide cost-effective transport options (roads even!) for those people too. Amusingly, Auckland has increased in density in recent times. But largely not where the central planners said it would, (along the transport corridors) and instead in the beach-side suburbs. Fancy that.
I suspect that Joyce asked Auckland Council the question about where intensification occurred because he thought he’d be able to say “gotcha!” then the results showed that investment in rail had not had any impact on development patterns.
Comparing the level of growth in Census Area Units near the rail corridors with the level of growth elsewhere in Auckland would test Joyce’s assumption and also help answer his question – of whether the investment in rail upgrades had coincided with higher rates of growth in nearby areas (recognising of course that correlation does not necessarily mean causation.
The results are quite interesting:
These results are reinforced by analysis of consents by type (looking just at the Auckland City Council area this time):
This shows that almost all “higher intensity” housing typologies like apartments and terraced houses constructed within the old Auckland City Council area over the past five years have been in the rail CAUs.
The report concludes that it would seem Steven Joyce was wrong and intensification has definitely been occurring at a higher rate in areas close to the rail system compared to other parts of Auckland:
Both population trends and building consent data indicate that intensification has occurred at a faster rate within the rail CAUs than elsewhere in Auckland since 2001. Development within the rail CAUs has occurred in a variety of different ways, reflecting different development markets in different parts of Auckland. Some important trends include:
- Significant construction of apartments in the city centre.
- A number of larger-scale intensive developments around inner parts of the rail network (e.g. Newmarket, Mt Eden, Kingsland and New Lynn stations).
- New development areas around stations in the outer parts of the network (e.g. Sturges Road and Takanini stations).
- General infill and small-scale intensification across the network.
- Increasing household sizes in the outer Southern Line part of the network.
Combining analysis of population trends and building consent information with economic analysis suggests that improved rail services boost property values and therefore makes intensification more economically viable. It would appear that this process has happened in Auckland over the past decade, although in different ways in different areas – reflecting varying market characteristics across Auckland.
I think the way in which the report notes how intensification has occurred differently in different areas is quite important. I suspect the assumptions made by Steven Joyce (and others) around ‘apartments next to railway lines’ is an over-simplification of how intensification can occur. Apartments are clearly only market attractive in some locations and it’s unrealistic to expect them to be built right throughout the rail corridors any time particularly soon. However, other forms of growth such as general infill, new growth around some stations, small-scale intensification as well as apartments and terraces have happened and overall it seems clear that there has at least been a correlation between the rail corridors and a higher level of development over the past decade.
Not for the first time, it seems that Steven Joyce was wrong.
This piece from Federated Farmers slipped out a couple of days ago. It includes a few odd solutions and urban myths, that show they don’t fully understand urban/Auckland issues, however it is still quite important in that it shows they are at least heading in the right direction. The background to it seems to be that they are sick of urban sprawl, especially in Auckland taking over farm land. Anyway, here is their piece in full
Sunday, 30 December 2012, 11:19 am
Opinion: Federated Farmers
Lets take the lid off our Cities
New Zealand is a big country – at 268,000 square Kms we are bigger than the United Kingdom; we are 67% the size of Germany, 72% the size of Japan. Our coast line is longer than both mainland USA and mainland China. Our economic zone is more than half the size of Australia. But these countries have far greater populations than we do. Demographics drives a lot in any country, any economy.
We have to get over this small country mentality and mindset and back ourselves more. Some are simply having the wrong discussion – is growth good? Yes it is. The question for New Zealand is not about weather we grow, but how we grow.
Human capability is critical to all parts of our community and economy. In most parts of New Zealand, except Auckland, the population is flat or in decline. And like all the other slow growth indebted countries, we also have an aging population. There are not enough people to produce the exports, provide the services, pay the taxes and build a future at first world income levels. We simply need more people.
But we need to be smart about it, in two ways
First, we need to take the lid off our cities. When driving along Manakau Road to come into Auckland CBD from the airport, it seams like the tallest building is a corner dairy. We should stop building out and start build up. Perhaps Manakau road needs to have 200 -300 buildings 8 – 30 stories tall, and then run a mono rail down the middle to the airport. Wellington is doing a pretty good job of “Mahattanising” on its Te Aro flat around Courtney Place. Surely Auckland is capable of similar. With forecast of another million people, there simply needs to be more density of population per square km.
This would mean
1. we stop gobbling up productive land – we’ve already lost 30% over the last 30 years to urban sprawl and the conservation estate – now 35% of NZ.
2. It means Auckland might have some chance of becoming a green or even an international city. Right now Auckland it has no chance of doing either. It’s a series of little low level villages. It simply cant be compared to Paris, Singapore, New York or London. The strategy seams to be to spread it out all the way to Taumarunui. It needs less traffic congestion, more public transport, better utilization of resources, more integrated and diverse communities. To do this it simply has to go up, not out. Public transport will never work unless there are far more people in far less space.
3. And it means more affordable housing, so home ownership becomes a reality, not just a dream. Instead of 3 bedrooms on a 400 meter section you might have 20 to 120, which would make the land component per bedroom somewhat less in theory.
Secondly, we need to be smart and spread the population growth across the country. This means investing in networks such as broadband, water, science, roads, public transport, energy and housing right across the nation, not just Auckland. It’s important for New Zealand that Auckland is successful absolutely, but Auckland is not New Zealand, it is but one part of New Zealand.
So we need to increase our population in smart ways and we have got to stop thinking like a small country. Taking the lid of Auckland is an obvious next step.
I’m just going to list a few of my thoughts on the piece.
- It is all very well quoting the physical size of the country but it would probably be more useful to think about things from the amount of productive land. A large amount of the country is rugged and or covered in bush that is unsuitable for either farming or urbanisation.
- I think they have generally been smart not to fall into the trap of suggesting that we try and curb Auckland’s growth and force people out to the regions but instead seem to recognise that if we want to get more people into other places then we need to make them more attractive. Indeed they even seem to recognise that a Auckland growing isn’t a bad thing and is probably needed for Auckland to become more internationally competitive.
- Coming from the background of not wanting more urban sprawl they correctly point out that for Auckland to handle its growth, it will need to get denser however this is also where they make their biggest mistake. Suggesting that the solution requires turning Auckland into a version of Manhattan with 8-30 story apartment blocks all around the place is simply ridiculous. Spreading the growth out through a lot more medium density development (e.g. terraced houses and low rise apartments) would cover off a large proportion of the forecast growth for the next 30-40 years, possibly longer.
- I did find it really interesting and positive that they actually linked higher densities to helping improve housing affordability issues that the city has.
- On the issue of PT, more density will help but it isn’t the necessity that they state. Much better PT is already on the way in the form of the new bus network along with some of the other projects going on at AT.
- I admit I did have a little laugh at the suggestion of a monorail down Manukau Rd but perhaps the positive side is it means they at least support some form of rail to the airport
All in all I think this is actually quite positive from Federated Farmers and seeing as they support rural interests, perhaps the rural/urban divide isn’t as great as it thought to be. It would be good if perhaps the Chief Executive of Federated Farmers had a word to his brother about this.