A few weeks back I highlighted something that did appear to be relatively hidden away in the Unitary Plan documentation – a possible connection between Karaka and Weymouth, including a rather long bridge. While this project isn’t in the Council’s 30 year Auckland Plan, nor in Auckland Transport’s 30 year Integrated Transport Programme, the sheer scale of sprawl proposed by the Council in the south of Auckland sounds like it might make this project something of an inevitability. Here’s a reminder of the route: By the sound of things, there have been a few public meetings where the bridge has been raised as a significant issue. It has also been picked up by a few of the local newspapers. Here’s an article from a few days back in the Manukau Courier:
A sleepy coastal community will be ripped in two if a proposed bridge across the Manukau Harbour goes ahead, residents say.The bridge would start at the tip of Weymouth Peninsula and cross the Pahurehure Inlet to Karaka.It would then allow for a four-to-six lane transport corridor linking the Southwestern Motorway to Karaka via Roscommon and Weymouth Roads.The bridge was pencilled in as an addendum to the Unitary Plan after a collective of Karaka landowners approached Auckland Council regarding extending the Rural Urban Boundary.The landowners want to develop new housing and communities on their side of the harbour.But Weymouth residents are against the bridge idea, saying it would turn their sleepy community into a thoroughfare and split the peninsula through the middle.They’re worried about the impact it would have on their lives, the harbour and the health of those living closest to the proposed highway.
I’m glad that Council included mention of the bridge in the Unitary Plan material (along with a major additional wastewater treatment plant that will discharge somewhere into the Manukau Harbour) to ensure that the public was made aware of the implications of having so much sprawl in the south. The Council’s approach to sprawl recently has been pretty reckless, bandying about numbers like “70/30″, “60/40″ and even “70/40″ without much discussion of the potential infrastructure implications of that much growth outside the current urban area. It’s excellent that we’re finally having such a discussion – even if it is just about one particular project. At a meeting last week a bit of clarification was provided by Council staff about the bridge, in particular the issue of whether it’s the location of the Rural Urban Boundary or the sheer amount of sprawl proposed, which leads to the bridge being necessary. This from the same Manukau Courier article:
Council transport strategy manager Kevin Wright says no decision has been made on whether a Karaka to Weymouth bridge is required. Transport studies have been done to look at how to cope with more housing and the bridge is just one option.Early modelling work indicates reliance on existing transport routes could mean the possibility of overloading State Highway 1, Mr Wright says.And it might take decades of growth before the council can justify installing a bridge.“That is why there is a dotted line on the map shown in the addendum about the different rural urban boundary options.“This is to let people know there is a possibility that there could be a Karaka to Weymouth bridge,” Mr Wright says.“We need to get feedback about how the rural urban boundary options impact so that some decisions can be made about the rural urban boundary,” he says.The sheer scale of growth in the southern area is likely to increase the demand fo movement and the Karaka to Weymouth bridge is a potential option, Mr Wright says.“But in no way are we in a position to say ‘yeah, that’s proposed’ or ‘that’s the best solution’.”
Another article in the Papakura Courier highlights – quite importantly – that there are a lot of people in Karaka who don’t like the idea of the bridge either. It seems to me that the fundamental issue is the extent of sprawl proposed in the south – it’s just too much for the transport network to cope with (even with high levels of use of the trains, a lot of local employment, widening of SH1 and so forth). However, the Rural Urban Boundary options also seem pretty important in deciding whether it will be possible to avoid having to build the bridge. If Karaka West (and perhaps even Karaka North) ends up inside the RUB then that will effectively make the decision over whether the bridge happens – as the area is incredibly isolated without the bridge in place. If development happens in the other proposed areas then perhaps that leaves open more options for avoiding the bridge and at the very least is likely to delay the need for the connection to much later in the 30 year period of development the Unitary Plan is intended to provide for. But ultimately it seems like the only way to ensure the bridge doesn’t happen is for the amount of sprawl in the south to be reduced. The big question is: “by how much?”
It’d be fair to say that there’s quite a bit of unease around parts of Auckland at the level of change the draft Unitary Plan appears to allow. In particular it seems as though the raising of height limits in town centres seems to terrify people of a certain age (just check out the grey hair at many of these public meetings- how many of these objectors will actually be around to be outraged when anything is actually built?) However, quite a lot of the opposition also seems to result from people just not wanting change in their area – an example is the Devonport article linked to above.
But looking just at what’s in the Unitary Plan only tells half the story in terms of upzoning. The other critical component is to understand what the existing plans provide for and how the Unitary Plan might be different to what’s currently allowed. To get a better understanding of how existing plans provide capacity for growth, the Council undertook what’s called the Capacity for Growth Study, a fairly complex computer modelling process to assess – in quite a bit of detail – the number of additional dwellings that could be accommodated under existing planning rules in the following ways:
Development of currently vacant land inside the existing urban area
Infill opportunities (i.e. adding further dwellings while keeping the existing dwellings on the site)
Redevelopment of residential land (involving the removal of the existing dwelling)
Residential opportunities on business land (in those zones which allow or encourage residential activity)
Development opportunities in rural residential areas
Development of greenfield land
The results report emphasises that the purpose of the project is not to analyse the likelihood of redevelopment occurring, but rather to give us an idea of what development potential exists in different parts of Auckland if sites were to be developed to their potential. The study also assumes that development will comply with the development controls (like height, driveway widths etc.) and only the lowest level of resource consent for an activity is used (i.e. densities that are permitted activities or whatever the easiest consent to get is if nothing is permitted).
The results highlight that a huge amount of development potential exists across Auckland under existing planning controls, in a wide variety of different ways:
The report notes that you can’t simply add these all up to get a final result as some capacity is mutually exclusive from other capacity (i.e. you can either infill or redevelop a site but you can’t get the additional capacity from both), but it’s clear that existing planning documents do contain a pretty large amount of capacity, although not quite the full 400,000 additional dwellings Auckland will need over the next 30 years. Though remember this doesn’t include any of the additional greenfield land or any of the capacity the Unitary Plan potentially allows.
A map of where the additional capacity is located is included below:Looking at this map you can start to see one of the most important tasks of the Unitary Plan is not necessarily to provide a whole lot more capacity, but rather to provide capacity in places where it’s more likely to be taken up and – from a transport perspective – has good access to public transport. For example, there seems to be a huge amount of existing capacity in the former Waitakere City Council area – even though much of that area has relatively poor public transport access. There’s also quite a lot of existing development capacity around Howick, another area with pretty poor transport access.
As I said earlier, while much of this potential capacity is unlikely to ever be utilised (for example on Great Barrier Island or the unlikely subdivision of large residential sites with swimming pools in Remuera), I think most people will be fairly surprised to see the extent to which their areas could intensify under the existing planning rules.
While a similar modelling exercise has not yet been done for the Unitary Plan – and may take some time as I suspect the goal is to focus on analysing what’s in the notified version of the Plan, there has been a comparison undertaken between the existing capacity and the level of growth for each Local Board area that the Auckland Plan envisaged as being required to reach the “70/40″ target (with a 10% wriggle room for more or less intensification). This comparison highlights some fascinating results:
You can see that in 10 out of the 21 Local Boards (Great Barrier, Henderson-Massey, Hibiscus and Bays, Howick, Kaipatiki, Manurewa, Otara-Papatoetoe, Waiheke, Waitakere Ranges and Whau) the amount of existing “redevelopment capacity” is actually greater than the area’s share of the planned growth in the Auckland Plan. In other words, if we ignore the need to “overzone” (required as not all places will ever redevelop) then in almost half of the local board areas we don’t actually need the Unitary Plan to provide additional capacity.
What’s critical to note is that these areas tend to be places with comparatively lower public transport access or areas where the market demand for intensification is likely to be relatively less. The places where existing capacity isn’t enough are the areas with good public transport access, inner areas where there’s likely to be market demand for more intensive dwelling types – oh, and the two rural local boards where the Auckland Plan proposes a stupidly high amount of sprawl. But let’s set those aside for now.
The key takeaway point of this study, in my opinion, is that the key job for the Unitary Plan is more around ensuring the right areas are upzoned, rather than ensuring all areas become upzoned to allow more development. In many parts of Auckland the existing plans provide a surprisingly high amount of capacity – and perhaps the need for the Unitary Plan to change things very much in these areas is minimal. However, it is clear that current plans often seem to have additional spare capacity in the wrong places and therefore it is critically important for the Unitary Plan to be successful in upzoning areas within Local Boards such as Albert-Eden, Devonport-Takapuna and Maungakiekie-Tamaki: inner areas with good public transport access and a likely strong market for intensification.
The point is that many of these place are less likely to see that much increased intensity because of a lack of demand in these areas, including new much further out new sprawl-burbs.
In other words, we shouldn’t care too much about raising height limits in Howick Village but we should make damn sure they’re raised in Morningside and Onehunga.
There is a further issue that needs a lot more analysis too; how much will the sweeping do-not-touch-anything-pre-1944 Heritage Overlay actually trump the up-zoning in practice in these very areas; the older places like Onehunga and Morningside?
Somewhat hidden as an addendum to the Unitary Plan is information about where and how Auckland will sprawl over the next 30 years to accommodate the 160,000 dwellings (larger than Wellington or Christchurch) planned for outside the current urban limits. There are three main greenfield areas where the bulk of this growth will be located – the south, the northwest and the north.
In the south, there are a number of different options being looked at for where growth could occur – an expansion of options presented late last year. Here’s the most recent range of options being looked at: Perhaps the most interesting addition to this map from its previous version is what I’ve highlighted in red – a connection between Karaka and Weymouth. This is the first time we’ve seen this connection in any of the Council’s plans – it doesn’t come up in the transport network map in the Auckland Plan or the Integrated Transport Programme.
The main reason for the inclusion of the possible future project in the maps seems to be a few paragraphs in the engagement report about the earlier options, which highlight feedback from Auckland Transport and NZTA:
Preliminary feedback from Auckland Transport (AT) and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) highlights some key concerns about the impact of growth on the function of the transport network (particularly State Highway 1) in the southern area. AT and NZTA recognise the need for significant areas of greenfield development and recognise that a significant amount of transport investment will be required to support this growth. Locating and sequencing growth in a way that promotes employment self‐sufficiency, makes best use of existing infrastructure where spare capacity exists, encourages the use public transport, discourages long distance car journeys and avoids attracting local trips onto strategic transport routes (i.e. SH1) is encouraged by AT and NZTA. AT and NZTA are particularly interested in mechanisms to control the release of land for development so that it can be linked with the provision of transport infrastructure.
Preliminary transport modelling by AT and NZTA of the residential and employment growth proposed shows substantial congestion on SH1, SH22, Hingaia Road and at Drury, even with Mill Road and rail network upgrades and greater public transport trip share and local employment rates. This would cause significant trip suppression from congestion and impact on the inter‐regional connection and freight corridor functions. In order to retain the functionality of State Highway 1, a major new north-south corridor (most likely a Karaka to Weymouth bridge connection) will be needed to accommodate the levels of growth proposed for the south. While areas east of SH1, close to Pukekohe and close to existing infrastructure of the rail network are preferred to more distant areas, it is likely that the need for additional transport connections will remain the same no matter where the RUB is located.
In a way this result is unsurprising. Planning for so much growth to the south of Drury, when the natural landform of the harbour inlets creates a number of bottlenecks is always going to result in huge pressure on the existing routes across those bottlenecks and increase demand for additional links. As the feedback summary above notes, the main issue seems to be having most growth to the west of State Highway 1 whereas the additional planned Mill Road corridor is to the east of the motorway. And while it is advantageous and utterly essential to have the railway running right through the middle of the growth area, the sheer scale of growth seems like it overwhelms the transport network – creating pressure for this new connection.
Of course, such a link would hardly be cheap. Let’s take a look at just the bridge crossing itself – which seems most likely to follow roughly the alignment shown below:That is one pretty long bridge we’re talking about here – even if a small amount of the southern end could be constructed as a causeway. If you push the bridge to the next landing point to the southeast (to keep a straighter road) then it’s about 1.2 km in length – longer than the Auckland Harbour Bridge!
In addition to this, the road would need to be linked back to the existing road network at both ends in a sensible way. The earlier map suggested on the southern side this would be around the corner of SH22 and Glenbrook Road – resulting in over 9 km of new road/expressway/motorway needing to be built through to the southern abutment:
At the northern end it seems likely the existing roads would need to be widened – both Weymouth Road and Roscommon Road. For Weymouth Road in particular, which is currently a pretty quiet road serving a pretty quiet local community, the impact of the widening and the vast increase in traffic flows would be huge. Looking at the aerials it seems like widening would be required in the area shown below at the very least:
Fortunately along the western side of Weymouth Road there seems quite a large setback, so the widening would be possible without having to acquire a huge number of properties (looks like this connection has been planned for a very long time!) Even so you’re probably looking at a lot of cost and certainly a lot of impact on the local community as it seems likely this would be a very busy road. An earlier study, with lower growth projections, showed that the bridge would be used by a very large number of vehicles per day.
The issue of this bridge highlights the conundrums which occur when you plan for so much growth through urban sprawl. Don’t build this bridge and State Highway 1 is likely to become increasingly clogged up, unable to perform its important inter-regional connection role. Roads like State Highway 22 – which really needs to change its function to more of an urban arterial over time – would be so incredibly busy the road engineers will end up wanting it to be six or eight lanes wide. The transport network as a whole would also not be very resilient – extremely vulnerable at pinch points around Drury and Takanini.
But build the bridge and for a start you have the simply massive cost (my rough guess is that the whole thing including southern and northern approaches would probably be close to a billion dollars, as in 2006 it was costed at $650 million. You then have the potential environmental impact on what seems to be a fairly sensitive environment – from reading through other specialist input on the growth options in the area – which may curtail attempts to put any of the bridge onto a causeway to save costs. Then you have the community impact on Weymouth as their quiet little peninsula will end up having a hugely widened and massively busy expressway right through the middle of it. And then there’s the question of where all this traffic actually goes. Straight onto State Highway 20 to clog that motorway up? Back across to State Highway 1 to clog it up again? Inevitably with road building it seems like we find ourselves “shifting the problem” rather than solving it.
I struggle to see the benefits of the Karaka-Weymouth connection outweighing its costs – the financial, environmental and social costs. But if the level of growth in the south is dependent upon having this connection built does that mean the growth numbers need to be revisited if the ‘powers to be’ decide they really don’t want to see this project happen? That seems like the big elephant in the room question that needs to be answered.
There has been a great deal of emphasis on the zones where higher buildings will be allowed in the media coverage of the Unitary Plan. Especially giving voice to those who see this as unwelcome. Yet the plan isn’t by any means only about Auckland ‘growing up’, it also includes the quite substantial expansion of the current city limits. So I thought it might be useful to have a look at this side of the plan, particularly in order to try to get a sense of the likely character of the future city. Will Auckland still be a place where people with the attitudes of the man in the cartoon below will still be able to fit?
Malcolm Walker Metro April 2013
Below is a chart from a doc on the Council’s UP shapeauckland.co.nz site:
This chart says there are currently 20,000 sites ready to go outside the existing MUL [Metropolitan Urban Limits] and 50,000 properly rural sites plus 90,000 new ex-urban greenfields new suburban ’sprawl’ sites adding up to 160,000 sites for new low rise detached dwellings in [potentially] leafy environments proposed under the new plan.
This is to complement an identified additional capacity for some 280,000 dwellings within the existing MUL. These of course will not by any means all be apartments, it includes for example the current conversion of the Manukau golf course into new low rise suburb of detached houses by Fletcher Building.
Auckland has around 485,000 existing dwellings most of which are detached houses. What that proportion is to apartments is hard to find, the best I could do is the following from the 2006 census. This site says that in 2006 of a toatal of 437,988 there were:
approx. 311,000 = separate houses
approx. 98,500 = two or more flats/ houses, town houses/ apartments joined together
So back in 2006 there were just under a 1/4 of dwellings of a more intensive typology. But not all apartments by any means, as this grouping includes anything that isn’t a detached single dwelling, like suburban flats, townhouses, as well as partments. It will be interesting to see how this may have changed in this year’s census. This is what they say about this ratio:
The proportion of occupied dwellings that are separate houses appears to have declined slightly during that time, while the proportion of flats, townhouses and apartments appears to have increased from 21.7 per cent in 1996 to 23.9 per cent in 2006.
The bulk of these multi-unit developments have been in the CBD, with other significant higher density housing in areas in the periphery of the CBD e.g. Newmarket, Mount Eden and Grey Lynn. Other centres in the region are also seeing higher density development such as Henderson, Papakura, Takapuna, Botany, and Albany.
Looking ahead to 2041 will 1 million more people require say 300 000 more dwellings? And even if we assume the bulk of the new dwellings are of the attached typology, say 2/3, we are only looking at shifting the balance from about 24% to 38% of the total. Auckland in 2041 under the Unitary Plan as it is now will still predominantly be a place of detached houses. Especially because as observed above the attached dwellings will remain in a small number of places and, of course, because these places will be more densely occupied by definition, they will cover a much smaller area of the city than will the detached housing. Of course it is important to note that it is those that are happy to live a more urban existence that will enable Auckland to grow yet preserve whole areas of existing low density suburbia. Somewhat ironically. And only if there are some areas where greater density and higher buildings are allowed.
Of course a great deal will no doubt change over that period so whether the population does grow this fast and how people will choose to live is, of course, uncertain. But it is pretty clear that there is nothing particularly radical in the Plan in terms of restricting the future of Auckland in any one direction. If anything it just continues the recent gentle increase of ‘city-like’ habitation in Auckland. In other words Auckland is slowly morphing from having a big town nature towards having more city like characteristics, but slowly. This seems likely and natural and not unlike what has happened in Sydney and Melbourne.
My personal view is that it would be a poor outcome if all of the land identified for possible greenfields suburbs got developed in the way we have been, but it is certainly possible under this plan and it may be. Likewise I would prefer to see more intensification in selected areas, but it is clear that this is by no means certain under the plan. It will depend mostly on people’s desires, as expressed by the market.
It will be interesting to see, as this century unfolds, whether Auckland continues the international trends already observable here and best summed up in this book.
Whichever way Auckland grows, and my guess is it’ll probably be both up and out, I just hope that we do it better with more local walkable and compact centres and much better transport options than we bothered with until recently. And it does seem that on balance the Unitary Plan goes some way towards making these improvements more likely.
Now, if we could just get a much more rational approach to transport investment by central government then this plan will go a long way towards building more successful communities of all kinds in our biggest city.
Looking in this post at the northwest, a map has been produced which shows the current thinking about the new areas that are most likely to be suitable for urbanisation:From a transport perspective it’s pretty clear that there are three main corridors to be focusing our attention on:
State Highway 16, which is likely to be the most attractive corridor for trips to the CBD, isthmus and probably areas further south
State Highway 18, which is the main link to the North Shore
The Western Railway Line, which probably offers the best route from this area to places like Henderson and New Lynn
In fairly recent times we’ve seen the Northwest Busway project advance into future plans (although it seems to be being completely ignored in Te Atatu interchange designs) while the Auckland Plan also talks about a busway connection between Westgate and the North Shore along the SH18 corridor. Finally, while electrification of the Western Line finishes at Swanson, development of the scale proposed here may make it viable in the future for electrification and double-tracking to be extended to the Kumeu/Huapai area, although that doesn’t seem to be in any of the plans at the moment.
Looking at how the urban form in this area might be best allocated to support an improved public transport system in Auckland, rather than just adding a whole pile of cars to the carpark called the Northwest Motorway throws up some interesting questions:
Can something be done about the flooding issues which seem to have put off development around the railway line in areas like Taupaki?
Should more development be concentrated between Kumeu and Westgate (around a busway potentially extended between the two) rather than spreading out to the southwest of Kumeu?
Is there really any justification in trying to keep Kumeu/Huapai separate from the rest of Auckland – other than for ‘identity’ reasons?
Could development be pushed a bit further south so that it fell within the catchment of Swanson train station?
I guess overall while there seems to be a little bit of logic in what the Council have come up with, it just comes across as looking like a pretty strangely-shaped and rather disconnected urban form. Hopefully there’s still plenty of scope for it to change.
There have been quite a few battles in parliament between Housing Minister Nick Smith and Labour’s housing and Auckland issues spokesperson Phil Twyford over the past couple of weeks on the issue of urban limits, land supply and affordable housing. Here’s today’s stoush (transcript here):
One thing that keeps confusing me in this argument is why everyone seems to be focusing so much on opening up additional land for rezoning to urban uses (effectively the “busting the urban limits”) when it seems like the real problem is that existing land zoned for urban development and serviced with main roads and bulk water/wastewater simply isn’t getting to the next stage of being subdivided up and put on the market.
This is the difference between the 15,000 units worth of land that’s ‘ready to go’ in the sense of council having done everything in its power to rezone, provide main roads and bulk infrastructure – and the 2,000 subdivided sections which are ‘ready to go’ in the sense that someone could build a house on them tomorrow. In Flat Bush, the two sit side by side:So not only is ‘busting the urban limits’ completely stupid in that it sets up an urban form nearly impossible to service with infrastructure (because the powers to be just never know where future development might occur), it also seems like such a policy would make absolutely no difference to what’s holding back the delivery of sections on the market which are ready to build on. That seems to be a problem largely caused by the development industry – whether wilfully (in the form of land-banking) or just because the owners can’t get themselves into a position to do this work.
The government’s report on land supply and housing affordability released on Wednesday is actually a really good document – I like how it’s structured as a very visual document (almost like an extended powerpoint presentation) rather than dense text. The document also contains quite a lot of very interesting information about how much greenfield land there is at various stages of the ‘ready to go’ process as well as some of the discussion about housing affordability and what’s happened in the past decade in terms of housing supply.
The first page that really captured my attention was the analysis of future household sizes – especially how it’s projected the sharpest increase in household numbers will be those households with just one or two people:
Smaller household sizes in the future should mean that most demand will be for smaller dwelling sizes – as 1 or 2 people households aren’t that likely to need places with more than two bedrooms. However over the last few years we’ve actually seen a pretty big decline in the number of smaller dwellings being built:
During this same time period most of the decline in the total of new dwellings being built hasn’t come on the urban edge, but within the existing urban area. Larger houses and those on the urban edge have continued to be constructed at a relatively constant rate over the past decade:In short, we’ve seen the share of new dwellings that are apartments or other higher density housing types decrease fairly dramatically compared to the numbers in the middle of last decade:Well so what? The reason this all matters becomes quite clear in the next slide – that apartments and other higher density dwelling types are much much cheaper than your typical standalone detached house.Effectively what we have seen is as follows:
Most of Auckland’s affordable housing is provided for through the construction of higher density typologies such as apartments, townhouses, flats and studios. Very little standalone housing can be built at ‘affordable’ pricing levels.
The supply of higher density typologies dropped off dramatically in the past five or so years.
Therefore, the supply of affordable housing has dropped off dramatically in the past five or so years.
This is summarised in the diagram below:What all this information seems to clearly highlight, therefore, is that if we want to improve housing affordability then we need to figure out what killed off the supply of higher density housing units and we need to do something about it. Today’s release of the Unitary Plan might go some way towards resolving that issue but it seems like there are other matters such as the state of the development industry and the finance industry to fund the developers which needs to be sorted out before we’ll see progress. The other clear indication of this report is that increasing the supply of standalone houses and houses at the urban edge is likely to do nothing at all for housing affordability because those places tend to be very large and very expensive.
The question of how many available sections there are in Auckland for development has yet again raised its head in the last couple of days, with much debate over whether there are 15,000 or 2,000 or some number in between of sections available to build houses on. This from yesterday’s NZ Herald:
Auckland has 2000 new sections ready to build houses on, says Mayor Len Brown, who last month claimed there was enough land for 15,000 homes.
As debate grows about housing and land supply in Auckland, Mr Brown is no longer claiming the city has enough new land to build 15,000 houses “right now”.
Instead, he is saying there is capacity for 15,000 homes on ready-to-go greenfield land in areas such as Flat Bush, Takanini and Hobsonville, but only 2000 sections have reached the building stage.
“The remainder require subdivision and internal servicing by private sector developers to create sections,” Mr Brown said.
Much of the debate seems to be around semantics – what constitutes ‘ready to go’ land? What is the role of Council in delivering land to that point? What is greenfield land?
Clearly there’s a process that developers go through to turn what starts out as countryside into urbanised housing. I’m not really an expert but it seems like it probably goes along these lines:
Land is highlighted as suitable for future urban growth (i.e. placed inside the urban growth boundary). Usually this land seems to get a ‘future urban’ zone or something similar to prevent further subdivision that would make it difficult for that land to be comprehensively redeveloped in the future.
Structure planning occurs to highlights where roads, parks, schools and other facilities should go as well as which areas should be zoned for what activities/intensities in the future.
Rezoning occurs to enable redevelopment. Bulk infrastructure (water mains, arterial roads etc.) is provided.
Land is subdivided down to section sizes and internal roads and pipes, electricity and phone lines are provided to each site.
House is built and then occupied.
At some point (between steps three and four it would seem) the job of council is done. The main roads have been built, the land has been rezoned, the bulk water supply, wastewater pipes and so forth have been put in. Unless the Council is fulfilling the role of land developer, which in some cases they might well be (like Flat Bush town centre, which I think the Council owns) then it’s hard to lay too much blame at Council for not forcing developers into the final processes of subdividing and building on their land. Ironically one of the biggest greenfield developments on the go at the moment is at Hobsonville – where the government is effectively ‘the developer’. Maybe they need to tell themselves to hurry up and develop that land a bit quicker?
So it seems to me as though something is clearly going wrong between the ‘rezoning’ step and the actual land subdivision step – the difference between the 15,000 figure (which is quite a lot of capacity) and the 2,000 figure (which really isn’t that much). Some developers are sitting on land that has been rezoned and has been provided with bulk infrastructure yet for some reason they’re not subdividing it down to urban sized lots and either building the houses themselves or getting someone else to build the houses. It would be really great to get a better understanding of what’s needed in that process and what’s going wrong at the moment.
Of course Housing Minister Nick Smith’s proposal to get rid of the urban limits doesn’t do anything about resolving the issues that are clearly holding back the supply of sections in current greenfield areas. It’s way back at step one – vastly increasing the amount of land highlighted as potentially suitable for future urban development. Not too dissimilar from seems to already be happening actually.
Dr Smith vowed to break the “stranglehold” of the council’s policy of containing urban sprawl – a policy he says is “killing the dreams of Aucklanders” by driving up house prices.
The minister wants to open up more land outside the existing metropolitan urban limit to peg back land prices which, he said, were the biggest factor putting home ownership out of reach of many.
Mr Brown hit back, saying Dr Smith was advocating a flawed Los Angeles model of “suburban sprawl” going back to the 1940s and 1950s.
The mayor said the new unitary plan – a draft is being released on Friday – provided for a balanced approach of intensification of existing land and releasing new land to house a further million people in Auckland over the next 30 years.
Ironically of course the government’s process for the Auckland Unitary Plan means that no new greenfield land highlighted in the Plan will actually become rezoned for development (i.e. step three) until quite a few years from now – as pointed out by Phil Twyford in parliament today and by Brian Rudman in the NZ Herald last week.
We tend to focus on issues related Auckland however a recently a video from the NZTA caught my attention. The main purpose of the video is to show some very pretty animations of what stage 2 of the Christchurch Southern motorway will look like. The project is part of the Chistchurch RoNS and is currently going through the Environmental Protection Authority process to get consent, it’s open for submissions. I guess the video was put together for to help show the impact.
I don’t know enough about the project to say if it is needed or not so won’t comment on that aspect. What struck me in the video is the amount of sprawl that is suggested will occur over the next 30 years. This is highlighted as occurring in Rollerston, Lincoln and Prebbleton. Showing each area separately helps to reduce the impact but when you look at the the areas shown, you see they all merge together forming one large continuous mass in an area that it appears would almost rival Christchurch for size. Here are the images I’m referring to:
Now perhaps the video is just trying to show the potential area where growth could occur but if that is the case then it just seems sloppy. If that much land is actually planned for growth then I am very very worried for Christchurch and it would be another case of them making many of the same mistakes Auckland has made.
The NZTA have also put this video out showing what the road may look like from the drivers seat. Do they really have that much money floating around for crap like this? Silly question, of course they do.