A lot of the angst over the Unitary Plan seems to have been directly at the Mixed Housing zone – which is the most extensive residential zone throughout Auckland in the Plan [covering around 49% of all residential zoned land]. While some of the fears are simply stupid as they seem to driven by people who think the only good plan is one the prevents any change happening anywhere [especially near them] but looking into the zone in a bit more detail seems to highlight that it isn’t really quite sure about what it wants to achieve and therefore probably both misses out in intensification potential in places where it does make sense while also tremendously ‘scaring the horses’ in places where intensification is probably only sensible at a fairly minor scale. It is probably like this as most of the provisions in the MH zone are roll-overs of the the current regulations, but also because it allows a big potion of the city to go in various directions, based on local imperatives; it has a certain flexibility. Yet the question remains: Is this flexibility a strength or a hinderance to the quality of urban form and the growing needs of the city?
Let’s work through the zone bit by bit to get a better understand of it – firstly the objectives and policies:
This zone is the most widespread residential zone in Auckland. It enables two storey housing in variety of sizes and forms – detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, town houses and terraced housing and low-rise apartments. The variety of housing types and sizes provided for will increase the supply of housing, create diverse neighbourhoods and provide housing choice.
This zone encourages new development patterns by providing increased housing densities with the highest density levels enabled on large sites with wide road frontages. The basis for these provisions is that the larger the size of the site and the wider its frontage, the greater the opportunity to integrate the development into the neighbourhood and provide a range of dwelling types. Over time, the appearance of neighbourhoods within this zone will change but they will retain their suburban residential context.
A resource consent is required in this zone where five or more units are being built on a site. A key part of the resource consent process will be determining if the site is of a size, shape, slope and with sufficient street frontage to achieve quality residential development.
The zone provisions also ensure that development does not detract from the amenity and character of adjoining development or sites.
Non-residential activities are provided for but the range is limited to those which include a residential component or will benefit the local community.
1. Housing supply and housing choice within neighbourhoods is increased.
2. Developments provide high-quality on-site amenity for residents.
3. The amenity of adjoining sites and the residential character of the surrounding area is maintained by development.
4. Development is of a scale, form and appearance that responds to the site and neighbourhood’s suburban residential context.
5. The density of the development is appropriate for the physical attributes of the site.
6. Non-residential activities provide convenience and choice for the neighbourhood while ensuring the residential character and amenity of the area is maintained.
1. Enable increased densities of development, in a variety of forms and sizes, including detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, terraced housing and low-rise apartments.
2. Require development to be of a scale and form which allows immediate neighbours to have adequate sunlight and privacy, and to avoid excessive bulk and dominance effects.
3. Require residential development to achieve a high quality of on-site amenity by:
a. providing functional and accessible outdoor living spaces
b. providing the amenities necessary for day to day living
c. designing each dwelling to be functional and enjoyable to live in
d. prioritising pedestrian access, safety and movement
e. providing safe, convenient car parking and garaging that does not dominate the street
f. designing developments to provide easy access for all people.
4. Require development of five or more dwellings to integrate into the neighbourhood and achieve an attractive built form when viewed from the street and adjoining sites by:
a. being well connected into the wider neighbourhood
b. using a housing type which is suited to the physical attributes of the site
c. using a form and layout of development that responds to the natural landform and natural features of the site
d. dividing the mass of the building into smaller scale parts in order to create interest and positive relationships with surrounding development, including historic character and historic heritage areas.
5. Limit the density and/or the height and scale of development where this is necessary to take account of one or more of the following factors:
a. achieve a balance between making the most efficient use of the site, being respectful of neighbours and providing good on-site amenity
b. the proportions or topography of the site or the length of the road frontage mean that it is not possible to maximise development without generating adverse effects on the street and surrounding area.
6. Limit non-residential activities to those of an intensity which is compatible with the residential character and amenity of the zone and require any non-residential building to be of a scale and design that is complementary to the surrounding residential context.
Looking at some of the key rules we can see that it doesn’t involve much upzoning at all. An 8 metre height limit as a permitted activity, a density control of one unit per 300 square metres for sites under 1200 square metres and without a 20m frontage and a fairly normal array of other controls [site to boundary, site coverage etc.]. We also, unfortunately, see minimum parking requirements retained in this zone. Two stories [three with a resource consent in some cases] and mandatory on-site parking makes for low rise, low density suburbia, just with some smaller dwellings with smaller gardens possible [Although why some of these couldn't be without garages instead if the market supports it I have no idea].
But critically there are really two zones in one here – all dependent upon whether the site being developed meets two key criteria of the 1200m site size and the 20m site frontage. Sites which don’t will see a fairly low level of intensification down to 1:300 m2 of density [a bit more enabling than current rules which are generally around 1:350-1:400 in the "standard" zones]. Sites which do meet this threshold will still have the same key height controls [two levels as permitted, higher with a resource consent as is the case in existing plans] but won’t have density controls and therefore will see a much wider range of development typologies occurring.
The trouble with squeezing two zones into one is, as I said earlier in this post, that I don’t think we provide for either of the sought outcomes very well. I think there are quite extensive tracts of Auckland where three level terraced housing would most certainly be appropriate – yet that kind of development would probably be quite difficult in the Mixed Housing zone, yet the Terraced House and Apartment Building [THAB] zone is quite tightly limited around centres and in places where we might want more intensive housing than freehold “fee simple” terraced housing. But similarly, there are probably quite significant tracts of Auckland where we don’t want intensification to happen much beyond what’s there now [or provided for in existing plans] due to poor transport access, a lack of infrastructure capacity or the particular character of an area.
A good example is to look at the North Shore, where it seems pretty much everywhere not specifically identified a low density or which isn’t in or immediately around a centre has been lumped into this Mixed Housing zone:
The way the zone is currently structured makes me worry it’s nothing more than enabling “garden gobbling” infill across a massive tract of Auckland: not the targeted intensification that we actually need in order to integrated our planning and transport better or to provide affordable housing in the right places. Certainly too strict in the places we want growth, maybe too lenient in the places we don’t really want growth.
So what’s the solution? Well perhaps this zone should really be split into two?:
- A “Main Residential” zone which has something like a density control of one unit per 350 square metres, a standard site coverage requirement, 8m height limit (perhaps full discretionary status to go beyond it?) with standard allowance for another minor unit within the main building – something all zones currently provide for. This would probably cover most of the area currently proposed as Mixed Housing, except for areas close to the THAB zone or on really good public transport routes.
- A “Terraced and Town House” zone. This would explicitly allow three levels, not have a density control but have other amenity controls which direct the zone towards providing intensive housing typologies which still sit on their own bit of land [rather than apartments which rely on Unit Titles and Body Corporates]. This “Terraced and Town House” zone would be the best bits of the Mixed Housing zone and perhaps the “pushing it” bits of the current THAB zone – which in turn could properly focus on providing for good quality apartments and narrow the area it applies to [or just merge with the Mixed Use zone].
This would lead to four ‘steps’ in intensity for typical residential zones: Single Dwelling with little infill potential, generally Single Dwelling with some infill and some duplex potential, Terraced Houses & Town Houses and then Apartments. This might hopefully lead to Auckland being able to better explore those “middle density” housing typologies that seem to have been squeezed out so often in the past and led to not much being built between detached houses and big apartment buildings. It might also allay many community fears of ‘garden gobbling infill’ and direct intensification to where it actually makes sense.
But to really gain the density advantages from this new zone it would need to be more flexible to allow different typologies and this should mean the ability to go below the 300m^2 Minimum Lot Size, remove Minimum Parking Requirements, and Height in Relation to Boundary controls, where appropriate. As exampled this post. And in the spatial order of many of our older suburbs:
These houses all fail the MH regs as being too close to each other, on lots too small, and in most cases having no off street parking. Yet I am pretty sure that the people who pay huge sums for these houses and those that wish all suburbs could be Victorian or Edwardian are more than happy with these features yet they are not possible in the MH zone. Further coverage of this disconnect between the actual building blocks of successful old neighbourhoods and how we plan now here.
So perhaps the MH zone is seriously flawed; neither one thing nor the other. Could it be chopped in two or would invite even more boundary issues? And I guess the downside to this is a loss of flexibility for the market to determine over time where is more suitable for either of each of these two new zones, but rather have it left up to planners to pick and choose now….. But then currently the loudest complainers are people who seem to want the Council to further restrict their property rights, be more proscriptive, not give them more freedom.
This is a guest post from Andre de Graaf who is a principal at Construkt
We are all still slowly digesting the ramifications of the Draft Unitary Plan and I suspect it will be a while yet before further scenario testing and some prudent ground “truthing” moulds the Plan into a mechanism that will allow the aspirations of the Auckland Plan to be executed in any real sense. The essence of the Unitary Plan is certainly to be applauded. The creation of a more compact city is paramount for many reasons.
But like with many things, I think there are parts of the Unitary Plan where the overwhelming tendency is to simply offer up that, which already has tried and tested patterns established. To support this so called line-of-least-resistance, we are inadvertently ensuring that portions of the planning frameworks do not stray too far from the past. Perhaps it’s also a case of – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
While there is always a good argument to be made for that, I can’t also help but think, ok so it works, but could it work better!
Although the draft Unitary Plan is a great step in the right direction, I do have some concerns about the detail (specifically some development controls) that I believe will frustrate good compact urban form.
Given my involvement both at masterplan level and with some of the housing designs , I thought it useful to reference the mostly completed (stage 1) housing at Hobsonville Point to demonstrate my thoughts. However rather than simply offering an overview of the actual designs, I want to focus on some alternate thinking in respect of the development controls that guide the urban form and have a substantial effect on the streetscape and density of our neighbourhoods.
Fig 1: View of stand-alone houses along Station Street, Buckley Precinct, Hobsonville Point.
Fig 2: View of stand-alone houses facing laneway (off station Street), Buckley Precinct, Hobsonville Point
Figures 1 and 2 show stand-alone houses already completed within the first stage of the Buckley Precinct. These have proven to be very popular and whilst I do not necessarily advocate these to be a perfect example of housing to be rolled out across the wider Auckland – in fact there are always lessons to be learned – the feedback has been very positive and they have sold very well.
At this point it is worth noting that the development controls developed for the Buckley Precinct (as part of the masterplan) include neither a Minimum Lot Size nor HIRB control.
It is these two particular development controls, so ubiquitous in all our planning documents I wish to discuss.
Minimum Lot size:
Whilst this varies depending on current zoning provisions across Auckland, and whilst this makes sense in certain character areas, one has to question why this provision should be there at all for other zones that anticipate intensification – perhaps it comes down to how one defines medium density as this appears to be a relative term. The following are site size requirements for current and proposed zones that contemplate medium density housing:
Operative District Plan – Residential 6A zone, stipulates 375m² as a minimum lot area.
Draft Unitary Plan, this density appears to be captured by the Residential – Mixed Housing zone, which imposes a minimum site size of 300m² (unless total site area is 1200m² or greater in which case no minimum applies).
Fig 3 below is a snap shot of the first stage housing that was constructed at Hobsonville Point. I have shown in red the lot area for some of the sites that we have designed the houses. As you can see most of these sites are below 300m² and in some cases well below.
Fig 3: A portion of the Buckley Precinct already constructed at Hobsonville Point
Escalating house prices seem to have many reasons in Auckland (too complex to go into here), however a large component of a ‘house and land package’ is the value of the land. For this reason the land component to house type should be keenly interrogated such that – what I call “slop” land – is eliminated or at the very least reduced to a minimum. Within the Auckland isthmus a single section is now likely to sell for approximately $750.00 per m².
The example above of stand-alone house sections on lots of say 275m² (vs the current minimum of 375m²) gives an area difference of around 100m² – producing a cost difference of around $75 000.00 for the land alone. Of course under the Draft Unitary Plan, with a minimum lot size of 300m², that difference reduces to $18,750. But 18k…. is… well 18k, and for many families possibly the difference that determines where and how they live.
In my view we should also consider terraced houses as single or individual sites as they do in countries like The Netherlands, but this is worthy of a separate discussion that I will not progress here.
Increased housing choice and a shift in expectations on the ability for households to pay are backed up by sales evidence that smaller homes are proving very popular at developments like Hobsonville Point .
With a shift in housing choice, and affordability a real issue, one has to wonder why setting minimum lot sizes (for a zone clearly anticipating intensification), is sensible at all? In answering that question we of course need to consider the intention of minimum lot sizes and why they are imposed in the first place, but I will come back to that later .
Height in Relation to Boundary (HIRB):
Below is an extract of this development control contained in the Draft Unitary Plan (only slightly different from the current Operative Plan that has the boundary height at 2m).
Fig 4: HIRB diagram – example from draft Unitary Plan
The purpose of this control is stated as;
Manage the bulk and scale of buildings at boundaries to provide sunlight access to neighbouring properties and provide space between buildings.
Now, while such controls are well intentioned to preserve these amenities, the reality is that section sizes historically have been larger and these controls have allowed sufficient design “wriggle” room to create our desired suburban form and landscape. However in the last decade or so with the progression to more tightly spaced, yet increasingly larger dwellings , we have ended up with some very poor outcomes. In my view this particular control has simply not adapted.
An example of this is depicted below – redolent of many areas around Auckland housing built in the last decade or so. Ignoring architectural merits, what I see more than anything else here, are houses as “slaves” of the HIRB control, all the more so as lot and house sizes have inversely grown.
Fig 5: HIRB as typically denoted by red lines.
Below is an example of stand-alone housing at Hobsonville, where the development controls for this precinct do not impose HIRB. A clearly defined street edge becomes possible.
Fig 6: Note – Windows to side boundary are secondary windows. The primary window faces the street boundary.
Of course the other housing form that was exempt from the HIRB (as they pre-date), are around the older parts of Auckland. A typical example is shown in Fig 7 below.
Fig 7: An example of housing from the older parts of Auckland.
So coming back to the intention of minimum lot size and the purpose of HIRB – sunlight and space between buildings, I have contemplated some alternatives that nevertheless seek to protect the same amenity values.
If we take a ‘let-the-design-dictate’ approach we might consider setting distances from boundaries relative to the rooms or spaces that they relate. For example the distance from a living space to an adjacent boundary would be much greater than say from a garage or bathroom. This is actually a concept covered in the Moreland Higher Density Design Code, specifically the section dealing with Building Separation of which I have extracted the relevant page below:
Fig 8: Building separation guidance from Moreland Higher Density Design Code.
Of course the context is very different, but I did find the very notion of outlook as a separation control intriguing.
We interpreted this for the Hobsonville Point project and developed this idea with Council. Essentially it is a building spacing or separation based on outlook rather than a generic default boundary control. By way of example the following scenario was proposed:
Primary Outlook: This relates to living spaces (lounge, living, dining) and requires a min 6m setback from Lot boundary
Secondary Outlook: This relates to private spaces (bedroom, study) and requires a min 3m setback from Lot boundary
No Outlook: This relates to service spaces (garage, laundry, passages, bathroom) and allows a min zero setback from Lot boundary
Note: These are to lot boundaries – so it is the cumulative total of two outlook types on either side of the lot boundary that will determine overall building separation.
If a room has more than one external wall you simply nominate the wall that is subject to the outlook setback requirement.
We have tested many different scenarios with actual house designs to see how this would unfold and I have included one example as Fig 9 below – lot no. 2 being the subject site.
Fig 9: Scenario testing diagram.
Essentially the outlook setback attempts to give the designer greater freedom, to place and manipulate, the house form and space allocation to best suit the site conditions, orientation and context (including neighbouring properties).
Now what I have not yet mentioned is that additionally there is an overall height limit and importantly that there are specific requirements to ensure solar access to the private open space (POS) is achieved. This can easily be demonstrated by way of shadow analysis along the lines of the example diagram in Fig 10 below:
Fig 10: Example of shadow analysis diagram.
Note: Whilst unit 2 is in this case the subject site, all neighbouring properties (either as existing or as proposed) must be included to demonstrate that they either retain solar access to their POS or for a vacant site that the POS for a proposed house can be located in a way that meets all the development controls.
Note: The minimum solar access requirements are defined in terms of min number of hours (in this case 3) at set times of the year when at least 50% of the POS must receive sunlight.
I assume that for some designers demonstrating shadow analysis can be somewhat intimidating and or technical, but if a clear and simple methodology is established, that all designers can easily follow, it is actually quite straightforward. In my view shading diagrams (particularly as urban form intensifies) should form part of any basic analysis in arriving at a preferred design.
How Council vet or test an applicant’s proposal for accuracy would of course also need to be considered.
One last thing I will touch on is the issue of privacy and overlooking, as this is invariably raised when attempting to work with medium density environments.
In terms of physical separation the outlook setback control would deal with this in the same way that say; yard setbacks, HIRB or minimum lot sizes would have influenced building separation.
Design (again particularly as urban form intensifies) should always contemplate the issues of privacy and overlooking at the outset, and just as shading analysis, should be a basic up-front consideration long before secondary yet simple mechanisms such as screens and planting, assist in maintaining privacy.
I do think we sometimes have an unhealthy obsession for privacy. As long as people have privacy when they choose it and can adjust their environment to invite neighbourly interaction when they do seek it – is in that, not the real value and health of communities?
As Jane Jacobs in her seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, observes;
“Architectural and planning literature deals with privacy in terms of windows, overlooks, sight lines. The idea is that if no one from outside can peek into where you live – behold, privacy. This is simple-minded. Window privacy is the easiest commodity in the world to get. You just pull down the shades or adjust the blinds. The privacy of keeping one’s personal affairs to those selected to know them, and the privacy of having reasonable control over who shall make inroads on your time and when, are rare commodities in most of this world, however, and they have nothing to do with the orientation of windows.”
We live in an ever-changing world with ever-changing life styles. We need to ask ourselves if some current development controls have kept pace and are they the best we can do in enabling innovative design without necessarily precluding a more traditional approach. I am not talking about architectural merits here but more about the placement, size and footprint of houses. I would argue that the notion of minimum lot size is premised on the site coming first and a house design that follows. This is true for the past several decades, but the fact is many new land developments in Auckland (both brownfield and greenfield) has moved on and a masterplan focus is brought to bear that clearly contemplates a particular urban form long before lot size and its shape factor is settled on.
The question is when more often than not the house comes first and the lot is sized around it to preserve certain amenity and outlook – is a min lot size the best way to achieve this? And if the site (say infill) comes first and the house design follows does an outlook setback control still hold?
Additionally – if space between buildings can be more responsive to the actual house design through an outlook setback control, whilst preserving solar access to Private Open Space – do we need a HIRB control at all?
We can play around with development controls, and it is important that we do to ensure good outcomes, but in the end the real test must be that of quality and beauty. Nick Boles  a planning minister in the UK makes the point:
“In a nutshell because we don’t build beautifully, people don’t let us build much. And because we don’t build much we can’t afford to build beautifully.”
Hobsonville Point has its own design guide and a design review panel. Every house design is subject to the design review panel process. Good design and quality, no matter what the urban form, must be at the core of everything we do if we truly want to make Auckland the world’s most liveable city.
 Both in association and in a joint venture with Isthmus Group, providing urban design services to Hobsonville Land Company (HLC).
 Under a separate engagement with Universal Homes, one of several builder partners involved with the construction of housing at Hobsonville Point.
 Depending where in Auckland you are this would be higher or lower – I have simply averaged this for the purposes of this discussion.
 Chapter 11 (Priority 2) of the Auckland Plan gives a good overview of the shifting demographics and household make-up.
 See first two paragraphs under: Summing Up.
 See Auckland Plan, Chapter 11 – Priority 2, Increase Housing Choice to Meet Diverse Preferences and Needs.
 See the Spring issue 2013 of Urban Design Group Journal – 126 (Page 34, A manifesto on 21st Century suburbs).
Part of me can understand why there seems to be such significant opposition to intensification in the Unitary Plan. Many people like the place they live the way it is and they’re fearful of change. Furthermore, they’ve seen what developers have built in relatively recent times and don’t trust planners to stop bad developments from happening in the future. They also, perhaps correctly, feel that the process of the Unitary Plan is being rushed for political reasons and there’s a good chance of mistakes being made in that rush.
That said, many of those very same people probably don’t want to see Auckland sprawl forever either. Yet burying our head in the dead on this issue, or coming up with draconian measures to stop Auckland from growing, aren’t really viable options so there really is a key tradeoff to make here:
The more we stop intensification, the more Auckland will need to sprawl.
There are many reasons why sprawl is a bad idea - especially sprawl that isn’t planned properly and based around enhanced public transport networks. Let’s just cover a few key points:
- It’s typically much more expensive to service with new roads, pipes, schools, hospitals, parks etc.
- It destroys the countryside, with potentially massive environmental impacts and a reduction in productive rural land
- It leads to car dependent urban development, which itself creates many environmental and economic problems (people in distant suburbs tend to have to spend far more of their income on transport than inner areas)
- It undermines the economic benefits of agglomeration and also creates more severe congestion than more compact urban forms
At the moment the Unitary Plan is working off somewhere between a 70/30 and 60/40 intensification/sprawl split. Given that Auckland’s development in the past 15 years has been 70% intensification this is a slight shift towards sprawl compared to what’s been happening on the ground.
I thought it would be a good idea to visualise the impacts on how much land is needed under a few different scenarios. To do this the maps below are based on any sprawl being at the same density as recent suburban developments.
If Auckland’s growth over the next 30 years was to achieve the 70/30 split, then the red on the map below shows the extent to which the city may expand into areas that are currently rural:At this scale it doesn’t look too shockingly large, but these areas represent around 120,000 dwellings – which (to give a bit of context) is only 22,000 fewer dwellings than were in the whole of Christchurch in 2006.
At a 60/40 split the red areas unsurprisingly grow quite a bit bigger. Remember that the Council is planning for this level of urban sprawl (of course we don’t know exactly where it will go yet) “just in case” it proves difficult to achieve 70% intensification.
Now we’re looking at 160,000 dwellings outside the existing urban limits. For a bit of context the entire Waikato region had 147,000 dwellings in 2006.
At some of the meetings on the Unitary Plan it seems like there’s a bit of push-back to change the intensification/sprawl split. I assume that doesn’t mean a higher proportion of dwellings being on the intensification side of the ledger. So let’s look at a 50/50 split and how big an area that might take up:
By this stage we’re looking at every single greenfield option currently being considered and a significant amount more. If it looks like the red “explodes” as the proportions are wound back there are two reasons for this:
- Growth to rural towns like Waiuku, Helensville is likely to occur as some of the earlier development outside the current urban area so as the numbers get bigger a greater proportion of growth needs to go in the main sprawl areas.
- As the numbers get larger it’s likely that development would have to take place on more difficult land, meaning lower density of development and therefore more land for a certain number of houses.
At “50/50″ we’re looking at 200,000 houses outside the current urban limits, which compares with 178,000 dwellings in the whole of the Wellington region in 2006.
Pushing things a bit further, the map below shows what things might look like in a “40/60 scenario” with only 40% of growth through intensification and 60% through sprawl:
With 240,000 dwellings of sprawl in the 40/60 scenario, we’re looking at the number of dwellings in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions in 2006 combined. (Think of how many schools, hospitals, roads etc. in those two regions!)
As perhaps an extreme example, (though maybe not to Dick Quax or Nick Smith?) the final map below shows a “20/80″ scenario – with 80% of Auckland’s growth outside the existing urban area:
In this scenario the red areas total up to around 34,000 hectares – which is the size of the red box. The 320,000 dwellings outside the existing urban area in this scenario is not that far short putting Wellington (178,000) and Canterbury (212,00) regions together in term of the number of dwellings they had in 2006.
Of course many of the maps above are fairly fanciful and I doubt there would be a market for that much sprawl development even if allowed, but it gives some indication of what people should keep in mind while opposing intensification.
I’m not sure whether it is driven out of selfishness or just a sheer lack of understanding but the opposition and reporting of the unitary plan now seems to be bordering on lunacy. Almost the entire concern about the unitary plan so far seems to have been in relation to height limits. First the focus was around the heights of apartments but opponents of the plan have now moved on to the height limits in the mixed housing zone. For these opponents even three stories seems to be scary so thanks to Google, I went for a look around some of their neighbourhood and look at what I found:
Looking around a few other suburbs we also have.
In all it took me only about 5-10 minutes to find these 3 storey houses and interestingly none of which appeared as if they were out of place in their local environment. Yet somehow try to build something the same height but as a group of terraced houses, or apartments and the development seems to become evil (some are taken from Trademe listings).
The same height limits that allow for the large houses in the first sets of photos are the ones that affect many of the terraced houses and apartments in the second set of photos.
But I wonder if these people actually realise what the existing height limits are? I suspect they don’t so I went and had a look. Here are the limits in residential areas for the former North Shore City Council:
22.214.171.124 Maximum Height
a) Residential 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 zones: 8 metres.
b) Residential 6 zone:
i) Intensive Housing on sites exceeding 1500m²: 9 metres.
ii) All other activities: 8 metres.
c) Special Height Restrictions:
i) RNZAF Airbases – refer to Rule 14.10.1.
ii) Mount Victoria and North Head – refer to Rule 8.4.3 and Rule 8.4.4.
iii) Dairy Flat Airfield – refer to District Plan Map 3.
iv) 94, 96 and 98 Mokoia Road (Lots 6, 7 and 8 DP 12148) – 9 metres.
By means of a Limited Discretionary activity application:
a) Residential 1, 2b, 2c, 3, 4, 5 and 7 zones: Up to 9 metres.
b) Residential 6 zone:
i) Intensive Housing: Up to 10 metres.
ii) All other activities: Up to 9 metres.
c) Residential 2A zone: Up to 11 metres.
Most properties on the shore sit under residential zone 4a so have a height limit of 8 metres with council officers having discretion to increase that to 9 metres. Seeing as in the unitary plan the mixed housing zone is the most common, what does it say about height?
Part 4 Rules»4.3 Zone rules»4.3.1 Residential zones»4. Development controls»4.3 Mixed Housing zone»4.3.1 Building height
Purpose: manage the scale of buildings to generally maintain the low-rise suburban residential character of the zone (two to three storeys).
1. Buildings must not exceed 8m in height.
So it is 8m as well or in other words for the majority of people on the shore, there is actually no change to height limits at all. Not that the scaremongers like Wood, Quax, Brewer and a host of local board members would tell you that. Unfortunately they have been assisted by the hopeless attempts at comms by the council. We said very early on that effort should have been put into showing what was allowed under current rules vs. what is proposed. For most people this would have shown that there was actually no change at all and therefore nothing to worry about which is a point that Brian Rudman also highlighted a few days ago.
Our Eastern Highway April Fool’s Day post was intended to be a funny joke, but since then a number of matters have made us wonder whether that post cut a bit closer to the truth than we had suspected. The first was Gerry Brownlee’s rather strange remarks during an interview with John Campbell where he was meant to be talking about the AMETI project, but came across as though he was talking about the Eastern Highway.
The second is obvious if you look a bit closer into the online Draft Unitary Plan – into the designations section under Auckland Transport you get designation number 1620:The area the designation covers seems to be quite significant – my best guess is highlighted in red in the Unitary Plan maps below:Like most people, I had thought that this project was long dead and buried – considering the significant grief it has brought over time to its promoters. Further south, the AMETI project generally picks up the parts of the old Eastern Highway project which made some sense and has attempted to stitch them together into a sensible project.
The designation description also seems to be in something of a time warp:
Proposed Eastern Transport Corridor.
This requirement for a designation has been carried forward from the former Auckland City 1991 Transitional District Plan, with its purpose being to secure the opportunity for a future transport corridor.
At the time of public notification of the Proposed District Plan (1 July 1993), it was not possible for the Council to delineate the final form of the transport corridor designation, as the necessary transport studies had not been completed.
The Council expects to be in a position by the end of 1997 to decide in principle the appropriate form or forms of transport for the transport needs and options for meeting them. As part of this process, the Council will consult with local residents and provide them with all relevant information as it becomes available.
If the Council proposes to carry out any development on the proposed Eastern Transport Corridor, the Council will withdraw this designation and replace it with a fresh requirement, in accordance with Section 168 of the Act. That fresh requirement will be publicly notified, and determined in accordance with the provisions of Part VIII of the Act.
The expiry date of this designation was extended to 1 November 2015, by S78 of the Local Government (Auckland Transitional Provisions) Act 2010.
Note: In accordance with section 184A(2)(b) of the Act, the council resolved on 11 August 2004 that it had made, and was continuing to make, substantial progress or effort towards giving effect to the designation and extended the designation lapse period until 11 August 2014.
It’s worth noting that this designation does not provide for the construction of the project, but rather just secures the corridor so that it can’t be used for other purposes (although seemingly most of the land it covers is already owned by NZTA or the Council). Yet it seems strange to even bother having this designation retained for a project that is not even in the 30 year vision of the Auckland Plan.
Unless something weird is going on behind the scenes over trying to revive this project, the Unitary Plan certainly seems like a golden opportunity to finally bury the Eastern Highway forever as a bad idea. We’ve already got a high-speed, high-capacity route along its alignment – the railway line. The last thing we need is a motorway to duplicate the line and funnel a heap of traffic right into downtown Auckland, at a gigantic cost and with huge environmental destruction.
Over the next week we’re going to try and focus a lot on the Unitary Plan – as the May 31st deadline for closing of submissions looms closer and closer. Given that the NZ Herald seems to have gone off the deep end in its complete misunderstanding of the planning system, while the Council doesn’t seem particularly effective at getting the message across, perhaps this focus can be constructive in looking at what’s worth supporting in the Unitary Plan and what should be amended to make the plan better. This posts picks up on a number of key points that we plan on making in our submission on the Unitary Plan: points that might be worth reiterating in your submission.
It is important to start by repeating that there are many good reasons to support the intent of the Draft Unitary Plan- the core purpose of it. In many ways the Unitary Plan will make perhaps the most important contribution to the Auckland Plan’s vision of making Auckland the world’s most liveable city – in the way it seeks to manage the tricky balance between making development easier (to ease affordability problems) but at the same time ensuring that development is good quality, in the right places and supported by necessary infrastructure. Critically, the Unitary Plan has taken the opportunity to not only bring together existing District and Regional Plans around Auckland, but also at the same time provide for a transformational shift in the future shape of Auckland in a way that supports the development strategy of the Auckland Plan. This bold approach is to be encouraged and must be maintained.
Key parts of the Unitary Plan we support include:
- Provision for ‘upzoning’ of land in a number of strategically important locations around Auckland. In particular, there appears to be good alignment between the zoning structure of the Unitary Plan and Auckland’s existing and future public transport network.
- The Unitary Plan includes robust assessment criteria to ensure that intensification is of a good quality. In particular the criteria relating to ensuring carparking does not dominate the streetscape are utterly essential in creating quality centres.
- The removal of minimum parking requirements in a number of zones gives effect to Directive 10.6 of the Auckland Plan and reflects growing international evidence that minimum parking requirements are perhaps the most critical planning rule that shapes urban form and transport outcomes.
- The removal of density controls in the Terraced Housing and Apartment Building zone, and the Mixed Use zone. Density controls undermine the ability to provide affordable housing by encouraging very large houses so developers can maximise their profit. Density often also has little to do with environmental outcomes as a single very large house can have greater effects than two or three much smaller houses.
Of course there are also a number of parts of the Unitary Plan that need improving. We’ll try to look at a number of these in detail over the next week but generally they are:
- In some locations it appears as though obvious opportunities for enabling intensification have been missed or the zoning is just illogical. We’ll try to pull together a reasonably comprehensive list of these but it’s worth scanning through the zoning maps to see whether anything “sticks out”. There’s a weird block of light industrial zoned land in the middle of Grafton, which seemingly obviously should be Mixed Use, for example.
- The urban land supply section of the Plan’s Regional Policy Statement needs to give clearer guidance in ensuring greenfield land is planned for appropriately and only released if absolutely required. There should also not be any ability to extend the rural urban boundary. While this might be overridden by the Auckland Housing Accord in the short term, in the longer term there’s likely to be a big risk of “hodge podge” sprawl randomly proposed in various parts of the new greenfield areas.
- There should be some variation in the future development potential of Metropolitan Centres based on their particular characteristics rather than blanket rules across all of these key centres.
- There should be the ability for some areas zoned Mixed Use to develop to a greater extent where the effects on surrounding communities would be minor and there is particularly good public transport access. Great North Road between Grey Lynn and town is a great example of this.
- The parking rules should be re-looked at quite extensively, including the removal of minimum parking requirements completely (particularly in the Mixed Housing zone).
- The Mixed Housing zone and Terraced Housing and Apartment Building (THAB) zone appear to be trying to do the job of three zones, with three-level fee-simple terraced housing (a typology with much potential in Auckland) being ‘squeezed out’. A third zone, specifically aimed at providing for that typology, is suggested. We’ll talk about this in more detail in a day or two.
Perhaps the one further thing yesterday’s Herald article highlighted is the need for the Unitary Plan to be clearer about what it does want and what it doesn’t want. It does seem weird that building anything in the THAB zone (which we obviously want to happen) requires the same level of consent as breaching a height limit (which we probably don’t want to happen 95% of the time).
Please add your suggestions for improvements, with reasons why in the comments and we’ll aim to generate a good crowd sourced submission.
Last week the Government announced it had reached a housing accord with the Auckland Council in a bid to get more houses built and ease issues over housing affordability.
The legislation, to be introduced to Parliament as part of Budget 2013, will enable Special Housing Areas to be created by the Auckland Council with approval of Government. In these areas it will be possible to override restrictions on housing put in place by Auckland’s eight predecessor Councils, like the Metropolitan Urban Limit.
Qualifying developments in these Special Housing Areas will be able to be streamlined, providing they are consistent with Auckland’s Unitary Plan, once it is notified, expected in September this year. New greenfield developments of more than 50 dwellings will be able to be approved in six months as compared to the current average of three years and brownfield developments in three months as compared to the current average of one year. The streamlined process will not be available for high rise developments that will need to be considered under existing rules until the Unitary Plan has been finalised in 2016.
“This is a three year agreement to address these housing supply issues in the interim until Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan becomes fully operative and the Government’s Resource Management Act reforms for planning processes take effect.
“The Government respects in this Accord that it is for Auckland to decide where and how it wishes to grow. The Government is giving new powers for council to get some pace around new housing development and is agreeing on aspirational targets to ensure Auckland’s housing supply and affordability issues are addressed.
Overall the accord seemed straight forward enough and fairly sensible. At a high level the council would decide on a number of Special Housing Areas. Qualifying developments within these areas are able to use a fast tracked process to get consent and would have to comply with the rules in the Unitary Plan when it is formally notified later this year.
To me the accord seemed fairly positive as it would make it quite easy for medium density developments – the kind that will likely be the majority of intensification that occurs – to happen in any brownfield areas selected. This was especially the case as a site only needs capacity for 5 dwellings to qualify. There was one issue though, while the council would be able to select the special housing areas, the government had to approve them. That leaves the question of what happened if the council and government couldn’t agree on where the special housing areas should be.
Today it seems we have our answer. Along with the budget, the government has introduced the legislation to enable the special housing areas to be designated. Nick Smith has also issued a press release about it which includes this.
“If an accord cannot be reached in an area of severe housing unaffordability, the Government can intervene by establishing special housing areas and issuing consents for developments.”
Budget 2013 includes $7.2 million over four years to help the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment fund the initiative.
The legislation will go through its first reading as part of Budget 2013 before being sent to a select committee for a shortened six-week timetable for urgent consideration and progress.
“This legislation is an immediate and short-term response to housing pressures in areas facing severe housing affordability problems,” Dr Smith says.
“This provides time for the Government’s substantive changes to resource management reforms and the subsequent council planning processes to bear fruit and address these land and housing supply issues in the longer term.”
In other words, if the council and government can’t come to an agreement on the locations for the special housing areas, the government will simply override the council and do what they want. It makes a complete mockery of the announcement that the government and council made last week. It turns out that this is not a case of both sides compromising but one of the government twisting the councils arm behind its back to get their way while also forcing the council to smile at the camera and pretend everything is good.
Len Brown has obviously also been surprised by this as he has already come out with the statement below.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown has welcomed the introduction of legislation for housing accords, but says he will be seeking clarification on a number of points to ensure the final legislation is consistent with the draft Auckland Housing Accord.
“There are clauses in the bill introduced today that appear to be inconsistent with the Auckland Housing Accord,” says Len Brown.
“My expectation is that the Select Committee process will provide an opportunity to clear up these inconsistencies.
“Clearly, in relation to the accord, the point of the legislation is to give effect to the agreements we reached.
“The accord still needs to be considered and agreed by the Auckland Council’s Governing Body. Before we can do this we need to be certain that the legislation is consistent with the agreements in the accord.
Len Brown said he would be writing to Housing Minister Nick Smith to raise questions about the consistency of the accord and the current bill.
The Housing Accord is an agreement between Auckland Mayor Len Brown and the Minister of Housing aimed at tackling issues of housing affordability and supply in Auckland.
It is subject to agreement by Auckland Council.
The streamlined consenting process outlined in the accord can only take effect once the council’s draft Unitary Plan is adopted for notification – expected to be September this year.
It would also be interesting to see how the government determine housing unaffordability, my guess would be the flawed Demographia study as it is something that the government have pointed to in the past.
There was an excellent post by Pippa Coom who is a member of the Waitemata Local Board on the Shape Auckland website.
How we regulate, control and plan for parking has a huge impact on Auckland’s urban design, the environment, housing affordability and our transport.
The subject provokes strong opinions and calls for free parking. Many decisions about parking have been based on myths, false assumptions and poor evidence. When defining issues in our city as “parking problems”, as “experts” we turn to more parking as the solution.
Regulations made with good intentions, have led to poor results, holding back our city’s potential.
We now have the opportunity, through the Unitary Plan, to put in place a best-practice approach to car parking that has the potential to unleash economic, social and environmental benefits.
UCLA economist Dr Donald Shoup (author of The High Cost of Free Parking) extensively studied parking as a key link between transportation and land use, with important consequences for cities, the economy and the environment. His thinking influenced Auckland Transport’s proposal for a city centre parking zone (implemented late 2012) with the aim of better managing on-street parking as a finite resource competing for other transport priorities. The scheme applies “demand-responsive pricing” and includes the removal of time restrictions, increased on-street parking prices and extended paid parking until 10pm.
It’s early days but all indications are pointing to success with greater availability of parking, a reduction in tickets and more casual visitors. The city also benefited from reduced maintenance costs with 62 per cent of parking poles removed. Other business centres are now looking at applying similar principles to free up on-street parking for customers.
At a Getting Parking Right for Auckland seminar in April we heard that parking supply is not the problem, rather poorly managed oversupply. A total of 80 per cent of off-street parking is privately owned, which hinders its effective use. For example, minimum parking quantities in our current district plans means some car parks are only used during the day by commuters and shoppers while other car parks are used only at night for entertainment. Using land for empty car parks is hugely wasteful.
Traditional city requirements to include car parking with affordable housing have also been a major barrier to higher-density developments as a car park is not always required by inner-city residents.
Parking in the draft Unitary Plan
So how is the draft Unitary Plan shaping up when it comes to car parking requirements? The plan requires that car parking be managed to support:
- intensification in and around the city centre, metropolitan, town and local centres and within mixed-use corridors
- the safe and efficient operation of the transport network
- the use of more sustainable transport options including public transport, cycling and walking
- the economic activity of businesses
- efficient use of land
It proposes that maximum quantities (with no minimums) apply in and around:
- City centre fringe area
- Centres zones: metropolitan, town, local
- Mixed-use zone
- Terrace housing and apartment buildings zone
Everywhere else minimum quantities apply with no maximums – except for offices (to discourage “out-of-centre” development motivated by the ability to provide parking).
The rationale is that in and around centres, maximums and no minimums supports intensification and public transport. Elsewhere the planners have explained that minimums are required as they are less willing to rely on the market to meet parking needs and are more concerned with the effects of “parking overspill”.
The removal of minimum quantities around town centres but retaining them for new developments appears to be a solution for today’s lack of public transport. But it creates a problem for future generations who will have to deal with the oversupply of parking and poor land use (plus the uneconomic bundling of car parking costs with housing).
The rationale for controlling the effect of parking overspill is poorly thought through. Instead we should allow the market to provide the right level of parking, allowing for overspill onto surrounding streets is a good use of otherwise empty road space. If that space reaches capacity – as has happened in our city fringe suburbs – the response should be to better manage the on street parking, for example, with a residents’ parking scheme.
When providing feedback on the draft Unitary Plan’s parking requirements, take the time to consider the evidence that emerges when parking is stripped back. Cities around the world are taking a different approach and being richly rewarded.
As I said, it was an excellent post, the only thing I am going to add is add in the tables from the unitary plan which show the exact requirements proposed in the Unitary Plan. For carparking it says
1. The number of car parking spaces required or permitted accessory to any activity is set out in Table 1. These controls apply unless the Unitary Plan specifies otherwise. The number of car parking spaces must:
a. not exceed the maximum rates specified in tables 1a, 1b and 1c in the locations where these apply
b. meet the minimum rates specified in Table 1c in the locations where these apply
c. meet the minimum rates and not exceed the maximum rates specified in Table 1c in locations where both apply.
2. Where a site supports more than one activity, the parking requirement of each activity must be separately determined. The parking rates for the parts of any activity must also be separately determined where separate rates are listed in the table which applies. If any activity is not represented in Table 1c, the activity closest in nature to the proposed activity must be used.
What’s interesting is to compare these requirements with what is being proposed for the new Convention Centre. The centre will sit on a 14,000m² site and have three floors (each with a height of 12m). At the most that means floor area of 42,000m². Under these rules the maximum parking allowed would be 200 spaces yet SkyCity are planning for 900. What is also odd is that the Heads of Agreement signed between SkyCity and the government actually states a minimum of 780 spaces, well outside even the current requirements of 1:150m² (max 280 parks). Anyway back to the Unitary Plan requirements:
Lastly the council has actually included some minimum requirements for cycle parking as well as other facilities to support it. Hopefully this will help in eventually making cycling more viable for a wider range of people however it is odd that medical facilities are singled out separately.
This is a guest post from John P
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.
Much of the debate over the Unitary Plan should be over the question of how should Auckland grow. However, this debate has been somewhat derailed by a reasonable number of people questioning whether Auckland should grow at all – or whether it should grow as much. I think it mainly comes out of selfishness and shows a complete lack of understanding from where the growth is coming and something we’ve tackled on the blog before. As a theoretical question, there are perhaps pros and cons of New Zealand’s future population growth being focused so much in Auckland and perhaps there is an argument that central government should do more to encourage people to settle elsewhere in the country.
Of course the next, related, question is whether such an approach would work. Or how nasty you’d have to actually get in order to make a difference as – after all – Auckland’s comparatively high house prices are already a pretty huge incentive to live elsewhere in New Zealand. In yesterday’s NZ Herald, an opinion piece by Warkworth resident Bryan Jackson looked at this issue:
The debate should firstly be about the need or wish to increase Auckland’s population by one million. The UP looks at an Auckland population of 2.5 million by 2043. This would mean 600 more Aucklanders each week for the next 30 years. Is that what you want? Is this population imbalance good for the rest of New Zealand?
There seems to be a fixation in some quarters on growth. And in order to have growth you have to have more people in Auckland. But bigger is not always better.
What are the reasons for not wanting 1 million more people in Auckland? A major reason is the congestion they would cause in our schools, hospitals, parks, on our roads plus the cost of accommodation. At present Auckland’s infrastructure in relation to transport is not coping.
The lack of sufficient houses being built is only making the future look bleaker. So where are the additional people to live? One of the aims of the UP is to allow the building of 35sq m apartments. Will you be rushing to buy one? Increased congestion, pollution, noise and crime are definite consequences of another million people living in Auckland.
I have no issue with small apartments, and clearly the fact that most apartment buildings in downtown Auckland are full suggests that people are happy to live in them. But I can see where Mr Jackson is coming from generally – if there’s spare infrastructure capacity elsewhere in the country why not utilise that rather than pumping most people into Auckland where infrastructure is often bursting at the seams.
But then the opinion piece starts to get into the more curly question of “how”:
But why not limit the population growth? Of Auckland’s population increase, 33 per cent is derived from immigration and 66 per cent from births.
Reducing the number of migrants coming to New Zealand each year would be a first step. Short-term visas for migrant workers should be abolished. The number of foreign students should be reduced and they should not be able to receive residency while studying here. If the Government wants 80,000 students a year then it should direct a large number to study outside of Auckland. Over the past 10 years NZ has taken in 7500 refugees. We should have a hiatus period of taking none or they could be directed to live in the South Island. Compounding the position is that both immigrants and refugees then bring family members to New Zealand to settle. This reunification should be abandoned.
Redirecting people away from settling or living in Auckland would be a positive step. A good example is in Invercargill where students pay no fees. The fees at Auckland learning institutes should be increased and those elsewhere removed or reduced significantly.
Another group who could be redirected out of Auckland are those who wish to live in retirement homes. Banning the building of any more in Auckland could be followed by rate or compliance cost reductions to developers who build their retirement homes further afield.
It is interesting how migration tends to get picked on, even though the bulk of population growth is from natural increase. As New Zealand’s population ages I think it’s actually really important we have a steady flow of well educated young migrants coming into the country – after all them and their children are the ones who will end up paying for my pension one day! Sure we could perhaps encourage migrants to settle somewhere other than Auckland, but that seems pretty harsh as often the migrant communities are best established in Auckland, making the settlement process easier and more pleasant. Cutting refugee numbers or disallowing family reunions just seems nasty and unlikely to reduce the growth by more than a drop in the bucket. Further it would impact on our international commitments and regardless, I believe quite a few refugees are settled outside of Auckland anyway.
And how about natural increase – where the bulk of population growth comes from?
As so much of the population increase is likely to come from an increase in births, a decrease is urgent. Incentives need to be provided such as free contraception, especially to those under 20 years of age. The provision of family benefits regardless of whether you have two or 10 children should be looked at.
I’m pretty sure there already is free contraception for under 20s, but it starts to seem like we’re going to some pretty ugly and extreme ends to avoid Auckland growing by quite so much. Is the pain really worth the gain – I’m not quite so sure as it seems pretty easy to end up on a slippery slope to some pretty nasty policies in order to battle against the overwhelming attractiveness of Auckland as a place for people to live.