Some detail on critical elements of the Auckland Spatial Plan are starting to emerge in the media, although the Plan itself won’t be released for consultation until September 20th. On Monday the ‘Element Magazine‘, which was included in the NZ Herald, noted the following about one of the key issues the spatial plan will face – whether Auckland grows through intensification, sprawl, or a mix of the two (and what kind of mix):

Element magazine questioned the mayor on the sweeping changes proposed in the Auckland Plan and his intentions to drive growth of the sprawling city back into the core of the region by innovations and incentives.

Firstly, we asked about the Metropolitan Urban Limit, an invisible line around the city, which has been repeatedly breached by previous councils keen to develop rateable greenfields. “We’ll pretty much maintain it,” he says. “But what we’re recognising is that over the next 30 years we’ve got another million people coming at us. So not only have we committed to that sense of a compact city and not overly allow sprawl, but we are going to have to provide another 400,000 housing units of different types over the next 30 years.

“We’ve calculated that we could probably do 300,000 within the present urban boundary.” Element magazine readers online recently voted urban sprawl second only to traffic congestion as the most pressing issue facing the region. Asked specifically if the intention is to ring-fence large parts of Auckland, Mr Brown says: “Yes.

“We’re looking basically to construct greater intensification, get a bit of height around some of our transport nodes.” Asked if the Plan will use incentives or penalties to drive change, Mr Brown says he backs Aucklanders to make the right choices once they are given the options. “This generation coming through now and those in their 30s and 40s mostly have travelled, mostly have done gap years, mostly have had their OE. They have lived in cities overseas and like what they see, are used to living in apartments and terraced development – unlike me and my parents, who were raised in the quarter acre Kiwi paradise – so they are looking for choice. So it’s not about walloping them and forcing them into situations. It’s about putting up options for them and allowing them to make the choices they like.”

An NZ Herald article on Monday provided a bit more detail on where the Auckland spatial plan will direct development over the next 20-30 years:

The draft, which goes out for public comment next month, calls for a quality compact international city centre, including the waterfront and city fringe centres Ponsonby, Three Lamps, Karangahape Rd, Parnell and Grafton.

The major metropolitan centres will be Takapuna, New Lynn, Manukau, Albany, Papakura, Sylvia Park and Westgate.

Only limited growth is flagged for the town centres of Howick and Devonport and for local centres Grey Lynn, Kingsland, Mt Eden, Mission Bay, St Heliers, Titirangi and Valley Rd.

Satellite rural towns due for upsizing are Pukekohe, Warkworth and Helensville.

There are no real surprises there. What will be interesting is to see whether any change is made to this map, which appeared in the Auckland Unleashed discussion document: I think the northwest area will probably survive, as may the area immediately south of Drury and between Flat Bush and Takanini. I’m not so sure about the area west of Papakura as a growth area – so watch closely whether that stays or goes. Other changes from the map above to what seems to now be proposed include a greater emphasis on New Lynn rather than Henderson,  Sylvia Park rather than Panmure, while Papakura, Takapuna and Westgate all seem to be ‘upgraded’ in the more recent proposal.

So while there may be some urban expansion in the Auckland spatial plan, it seems that the Metropolitan Urban Limit will be kept intact and most future development focused within those limits. Brian Rudman discussed this in more detail in his Monday column:

Today it is Mayor Len Brown versus Prime Minister John Key. With the release of the Draft Auckland Plan, Auckland Council has thrown down the gauntlet to the Government.

Senior National Party ministers have long fought against Auckland’s old regional growth strategy, based around a metropolitan limit designed to stop urban sprawl into the surrounding farmlands.

They claim it forces land and housing prices up and want it abolished – or at least made more flexible.

The new draft plan defiantly endorses the previous policy, declaring a top priority will be to “realise a quality, compact city”, preserving “a large rural land mass both north and south of its urban heart”.

It was a proud affirmation of past policy, and the Government wasn’t best pleased.

I’m very glad that the Council has taken this position, as it’s incredibly important for Auckland’s future that we do focus on intensification rather than sprawl – to ensure that our infrastructure investment is as efficient as possible. It seems that the government is rather unpleased though:

On Friday, at a meeting between Cabinet ministers and Auckland councillors, sources say the ministers couldn’t stop browbeating the councillors over the error of their ways.

“Quite intimidating and smalltown,” said one.

Fronting the critics was Environment Minister and Nelson MP Nick Smith, backed by Transport Minister Steven Joyce and Whangarei-based Housing Minister Phil Heatley.

Mr Joyce let rip last November waxing lyrical about the quarter-acre section, saying the challenge for Auckland’s spatial planners will be “not to impose their ideal Auckland on us, but allow for an Auckland that reflects the varied ways in which the people of our biggest city already choose to live”.

He found it “amusing” that where density had increased it was not along transport corridors “where the central planners said it would”, but instead “in the beachside suburbs”. The comment was something of an own goal, suggesting that if the growth strategy restrictions on urban expansion were to to be relaxed, urban Auckland would spread inexorably up the coast towards Whangarei.

The Auckland Spatial Plan was initially designed to bring Auckland Council and Central Government much more onto the “same page” when it comes to growth, transport and other priorities. As it seems they differ on such a fundamental issue (as well as obviously disagreeing on transport priorities) one wonders what impact the Auckland Plan will actually have. I am glad to see Council standing up to the government though – after all, Auckland knows what’s best for us.

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  1. Well, this whole super city has not worked out as the government had planned. They thought by this time Banksie would be firmly ensconsed in the mayoral chambers, the CBD loop would have been quietly put to sleep and they would be giving a glowing endorsment of a spatial plan that freed Aucklanders of that evil MUL that the “left” want to force on them.

    This is their worst nightmare and I’m loving it.

    1. Yes and the momentum is becoming unstoppable; even the Herald has largely switched sides, actually running articles about what could be without mocking and citz/ratz-ing the idea [cost only focus]. The recent transformations are proving hugely powerful- this is just the beginning!

      1. I think Britomart and Wynyard Quarter’s influence is forcing a lot of people to change opinions. People look at Wynyard Quarter and Britomart and can’t help but be impressed, inspite of them being unfinished. I also think that well travelled people are coming back and wanting Auckland to be more like a proper city. A vibrant urban environment will lead to less emigration.

  2. And by the time Len is up for re-election, National may finally be getting unpopular (going out on a limb here), meaning that Len’s favouring the CBD tunnel will again get him more votes even if (maybe because) National will keep putting stumbling blocks in the way of the rail link as much as they can.

    Sometimes, political revenge can be sweet…

  3. I question the 400,000 houses in the next 30 years assumption. The population of NZ in 2050 is estimated at 5.3m, and it is currently 4.3m. So does Auckland think it will get all the country’s growth?

    As well, let’s face it, crossing the ditch ain’t going to stop anytime soon with New Zealand boasting both air pollution and low wages. So that 5.3m is probably on the high side.

    South East Queensland will probably see more kiwi growth than Auckland.

    1. Yes, the projections are that something like 75% of the expected growth will occur in Auckland. Josh has written on this in past posts. It’s not just Auckland big-noting iteself, the projections are out of central Government.

      Given that past predictions of the national population have been out on the low side, I would hesitate to rubbish the figures based on emigration. If you can produce models that you’d put up against those used by Stats NZ, go for your life, but right now the best-educated predictions have Auckland gaining many hundreds-of-thousands of residents over the next 30-40 years.

      1. Oh, and that’s not including the net internal migration that already has Auckland’s population growing faster than the rate of natural growth and external migration. There will be a net loss of population in a number of regions over the same period of time, and a lot of that is going to be from people moving to Auckland. Doesn’t take into account permanent displacement from Christchurch, either, which could be good for an extra 10-20k people all on its own.

        1. Perhaps off-topic, but why are people fleeing ChCh coming to AKL instead of, say, Wellington, which is much more similar in terms of ethnography and lifestyle?

        2. If you were leaving a city because of high levels of seismic activity, why would you move to the city that, on 3 September 2010, was expected to be the site of NZ’s next major earthquake?

          Auckland has noticeable earthquakes once every few years, at worst. Wellington has them at least annually. The attraction of Auckland is pretty apparent.

        1. In which case agglomeration economics would suggest depopulating NZ in favour of Sydney would be a good thing.

          If you established a new bank… for argument sake let’s call it KiwiBank… then would you be better off locating its head office in Wellington, or in Sydney or Melbourne where the proximity to other banks would yeild significant agglomeration benefits? Because as far as I can see, people want to maintain a dis-agglomerated bank in NZ. I’m guessing that people in Dunedin and Napier aren’t that keen on seeing all their business and industry move to Auckland either, regardless of how efficient it will supposedly be.

        2. Reductio ad absurdem is your favourite technique, isn’t it Obi? Not sure you make a useful point here except it is worth asking what do we want AK to be like and why. Weirdly the current gov. feels strongly about this although it claims it doesn’t; it has this strange idea that it is on the side of freedom and truth in handing over the future shape of the city to road builders [ie itself through MoT and NZTA] and a small handful of extremely self interested developers with the explanation that this means the people will get what they want. Without, of course, asking any people outside of these two groups. Like so much else this gov. does they have absolutely no claim to any ambition at all, which makes Brown’s target of making AK ‘the world’s most livable city’ the only player on the table.

          It get’s my vote, and as we know, it got a majority of other Aucklander’s votes too.

        3. Yes, obi, moving everyone from NZ to Sydney probably would be a good idea from a strictly economic perspective. But it’s not something that’s happening naturally, whereas Auckland taking the lion’s share of projected national population growth is not something that’s being encouraged by anyone of whom I’m aware. It’s just happening. And since it’s happening, we look at the economic benefits from it happening before suggesting that we should discourage it.

          As for Kiwibank, AFAIK all of the big four have their NZ headquarters in Auckland. ASB, BNZ and Westpac certainly do, and I’m pretty sure that ANZ/National also does.

          You really do work hard to come across as a troll, don’t you?

        4. “You really do work hard to come across as a troll, don’t you?”

          I’m addressing the weak arguments for extreme centralisation. One of the flaws for the rail tunnel business case was based on agglomeration benefits. The assumption was that businesses elsewhere in the country and elsewhere in Auckland would benefit from moving to the CBD. That invites the question why those businesses don’t move to the CBD already. They might be prevented from doing so because of insufficient transport capacity, and specifically rail capacity that would be remedied by construction of a tunnel. But… the rail system isn’t at full capacity at the moment. Therefore these businesses think they benefit from being decentralised in the city or the country. And that is quite obvious when you think of real businesses, rather than theoretical ones in a business case.

          So my point is that these agglomeration benefits aren’t real in many cases. Businesses will continue to locate themselves in Albany and Palmerston North, regardless of anything planners invent or predict. I suspect that most future growth in Auckland will continue to go in to areas other than the CBD, as they have for a long time and despite the wishes of council planners or blog commenters. If the council tries to force growth in to the CBD or otherwise raise costs of locating in Auckland, then businesses that don’t warrant CBD real estate prices or who would enjoy other benefits of decentralisation will go somewhere else.

          And, it is a good thing that most of these agglomeration benefits aren’t real. Because if they were, we’d all be living in Australia. You might call that trolling. I think it is thinking critically about economics.

        5. I don’t think anyone’s arguing for extreme centralisation – we’re simply saying that it might actually be a good thing for Auckland’s population to keep growing.

        6. “That’s assuming it’s a bad thing. Agglomeration economics suggests it might actually be a good thing.”

          And quality of life? What’s the average commute in Taupo, Oamaru or Invercargill. There wouldn’t be too many people out of cycling distance to their jobs in Palmerston North.

          Now what’s the cycle like from Howick to a job in New Lynn?

        7. Well it is trolling to just repeat a daft point over and over without in any way sensibly addressing the answers you receive. As well as boring.

        8. Matt T, what would dumping tens-of-thousands of people into those towns do for the quality of life of the existing residents? Let’s say that 750k of Auckland’s projected growth gets spread evenly around the 10 next-largest towns/cities: 75k each. For many of them, that’s an increase in population of 50%, or more. For some, it’s a doubling.

          Auckland is the only city we’ve got that’s a city by world standards. A small city, but a city nonetheless. People move here because it’s a city, not because they’re forced to. Your suggestions somehow imply that they’re being compelled to come here, which is patently not true, and to fight against it is to fight for continued economic mediocrity.

        9. Why do we want decentralisation? Auckland is only just a reasonable sized city, and there are no others in NZ. In my opinion a 2 million population city will make a big difference to NZ’s future over the coming century. The future will be less about countries and more about cities.

        10. Why? Density is cheaper. If we’re having to build facilities for another million people, it’s much cheaper to extend what’s already there than to build in the absence of anything. Auckland’s population is so dramatically bigger than any other centre that it’s much better-placed to handle massive growth. Auckland’s population is higher than the next-ten largest centres combined.

          Also, how do you know where to build if you’re pushing decentralisation? If you’re quite confident that the majority will be in Auckland, you can comfortably start planning the necessary infrastructure. If, however, you try and push people to not live in Auckland, where do you push them to, and if you just say “Anywhere but Auckland” how do you pre-build supporting infrastructure?

        11. The argument that population and jobs growth should be shared around NZ, rather than concentrated in Auckland, seems similar to the argument that investment and infrastructure should be decentralised around Auckland, rather than emphasising a dynamic CBD.

    2. There will also fewer people per house so even if the number of people stays the same, the number of dwellings will have to go up.

    3. I think its important to look at why Auckland is growing, its happening because people want to live here not because they are being forced to. This is for a number of reasons, for internal migration is is often either jobs or education. Auckland also gets a lion share of the emigration which is for the same reasons as the internal migration but also because Auckland is where most of the international communities in the country are based

      1. Also interestingly, and contrary to popular belief, the majority of Auckland’s population growth is natural increase. Lots of people shift here for jobs & education, then start a family and don’t shift back to other parts of the country until they’re much older. So Auckland has a much younger average age than the rest of NZ, and a much higher birth-rate.

        Our ethnic diversity contributes to that too.

  4. I do believe the 1 million extra people is the “high” prediction, but in some ways it makes sense for that to be the planning target ESPECIALLY if we want to contain sprawl. Otherwise, we will plan too weakly, and if the growth is high, the pressure to burst out of the MUL will only be worse.

    As for moving to Ozzie – well, Len’s trying to change that by making this city a better place to live (whether we have ACT calling for abolishing minimum wage or not), so again it makes sense not to plan for the worst case scenario, but go about it positively. If we ASSUME, as one of our starting propositions, that in the next 30 years we still have made no headway in reducing brain drain, why even start?

  5. is anybody else concerned about how big that yellow area around Whangaparaoa Peninsula is? It’s huge…and miles from any public transport option. It’ll be a long, long time before the busway gets up to Albany – let alone Orewa.

    1. An awful lot of that is already under development (eg Millwater) – it will probably by one of the first yellow zones to be developed out.

    2. AT is in the design phase for a busway station and park n ride at Silverdale, the amount of traffic on the motorway up there means buses are unlikely to get caught in much congestion so probably doesn’t warant and extension of the busway itself but they could definitely extend many of the services up that way which would make a difference

  6. Wow, actually taking on the National party aligned developers who think they own Auckland? I predict a military coup within weeks.

  7. A couple of thoughts:
    New Lynn is pretty obvious considering all of the investment currently going in there and post CRL will only be about 15 minutes away from town on the train. The omission of Henderson though is interesting considering it is also on the rail line and has had a decent amount of investment in the last few years, perhaps they are concerned about having three major focuses our west.

    I agree with Westgate being on the list but perhaps the council should use that to push for an RTN like the NW busway proposal along SH16, I know they are probably concerned it will weaken the case of the CRL but we should be aiming to have all development focused in places served by the RTN network.

    I can understand the upgrading of Pukekohe but I kind of wonder if a focus on Warkworth is to help make use of P2W, a “if we can’t stop it then we might as well make use of it” kind of thing.

    An interesting thought is what will the government with their small town thinking do if the council keeps on this path of defying them. Will they try to reduce their share of funding for things further (as a % its already below our % of population), that would piss off a lot of voters if it came out. They could also try incentivising their funding to things they agree with as a way to try and put positive spin on it i.e. if you remove the MUL then we will provide $X funding towards it but if you don’t you will get $0. Another option is they may just write legislation to force their way but again there would be risks with that.

    1. Don’t be at all surprised if they pass legislation in the next couple of years banning MULs, much as they banned general tree protection throughout the country – a ban that will come into effect early next year.

      1. That process has already begun. The RMA phase 2 reforms propose a national policy that requires a certain amount of developable land to be identified by each urban area. About 20 years worth from memory.

        The crux of the matter will be whether that has to be greenfield land or not.

  8. Matt, I do believe they will try all three things, just as they have done in the past. Transport is in their iron grip already, and who would put it past them to “reform” local government to weaken their powers to set things like MULs?

  9. had an interesting conversation with NZTA which suggested that in two years they will have protected the route of P2W. They are definitely seeing the fact that Warkworth is a growth node as a justification for the motorway (I guess we have to retrospectively justify the Minister’s more crazy ideas somehow 🙂

  10. Lucy, lets hope that by that time, there will still be enough time to cancel P2W, especially if fuel rises again, and National gets less popular. Seeing it built would be such a bloody waste.

    Also: Comment to NZTA & MoT – Auckland decides Auckland’s growth nodes, not you!

  11. The first stage of P2W will begin construction in 2014, and second in 2017 according the current timetable.Labour has promised to axe the road if the win power. While this is unlikely this election, if they win 2014 (especially as they will probably be forced into a coalition with the Greens) P2W will probably be axed. If they win in 2017 (more likely perhaps) then probably only stage 1 (to Warkworth) will be built. The next Auckland Council election is 2013, but the current council has reluctantly agreed to support P2W, to the best of my understanding

  12. NZTA are three laning the motorway from Constellation to Albany, but not including an extension of the bus way at the same time. If that isn’t on the NZTA’s books, Orewa certainly isnt!!

  13. I find it amusing that you think Auckland Council knows what’s best for Aucklander, yet don’t have a response to the point that Aucklanders vote with their money to do exactly what Ministers said – they don’t want to live in high density developments near public transport hubs, but they will live in high density developments near locations desirable for other reasons, like convenience to places they want to go.

    There are costs in the anti-sprawl obsession, and they lie in increasing the costs for housing that people want by restricting its supply. It has to, for if it didn’t, then Auckland would sprawl.

    The fundamental dishonesty behind the proponents of the anti-sprawl argument is that they are unwilling to admit to the negative consequences of their quest. The sole reason it is advocated is to increase the viability of public transport and encourage mode shift because people will be incentivised through regulation and indirectly through price resulting from that regulation, to live in higher density housing closer to planned PT corridors. Old world cities are cited as shining examples of what a success this is in mode share, although the shockingly bad traffic congestion of some of them is quietly ignored, the energy consumption is lauded.

    The tradeoff of this is fairly obvious, in that it means people have to pay more to get the same amount of living space as before, or get less. It can also increase congestion because despite there being an incremental contribution to improve PT mode share, more people in the same space means more car use and more traffic movement. The negatives are greater exposure to noise and air pollution because more people are packed into the same space.

    I don’t know of any new world cities that have adopted this heavily planned approach and not experienced significant increases in housing prices and not seen any measurable relief in traffic congestion.

    The answer to sprawl is to price road use by distance and time. Then people who live far out of cities will pay directly for their extended use of the network. It would make a dramatic difference to urban form.

    Planning for higher densities is not inherently a good thing, it is a response to a market-failure – poor pricing of roads – which results in symptoms (congestion) that people don’t want. The more efficient and fairer response is to fix the market failure, not restrict land use through some arbitrary boundary and creating jobs for planning lawyers and bureaucrats.

    1. Three points to make in response:

      1) The prime justification for intensification over sprawl, at least on this blog, is that it’s cheaper. Fewer new roads, pipes & schools to build. You would be horrified how much has been spent on Flat Bush from public money.

      2) The Auckland Council has started to tweak its growth nodes more towards market attractive areas. This needs to be balanced with ensuring good integration with transport so we don’t get more east Auckland disasters.

      3) You may well be correct in saying that road pricing would be a better mechanism for curbing sprawl than an urban limit. But we don’t have road pricing do we? And we’re unlikely to get it any time soon, so we need something.

    2. “they don’t want to live in high density developments near public transport hubs, but they will live in high density developments near locations desirable for other reasons”

      Libertyscott, I think you are strongly overstating the chicken of the egg question. At least 50% (actually, far more, in my view) of any decision about PT stations or routes IS taken to make PT to and from ALREADY attractive areas better. So therefore, agrees with your statement above about what Aucklanders want.

      The CBD rail tunnel is to make the CBD more attractive, and to make PT use TO the CBD more attractive. The fact that it would also create new, denser hubs around like Newton is almost more a side bonus. But you don’t see us advocating rail to Hobsonville, or building a busway to Devonport, and then densify the heck out of the pensinsula, do you?

    3. And what of the lack of pricing signals of the costs of supporting sprawl in other infrastructure? The emergency services, schools, subterranean utility services…

      Those costs are not captured in any way on an ongoing basis, but they’re no less real. Sprawl is horribly expensive to support. One example is the $50m (yes,
      $50,000,000) Ormiston High school that had to be built solely to ensure that there was a high school within required travelling distance of Flat Bush residents. That money is all from the taxpayer, the upkeep is all from the taxpayer, the costs of a full supporting staff are from the taxpayer, and so on it goes.

      Bugger the road pricing, we need to charge the developers of subdivisions the full costs of supporting their sprawling dreams. Make them pay for the extra schools, extra police stations, relocated or new fire stations, extra libraries, etc. You want to talk about pricing people out of the market, there’s a huge, invisible level of subsidisation that keeps the cost of buying in greenfield subdivisions artificially low. Hell, even a brownfield site like Stonefields has costs associated with it that aren’t entirely captured, especially since it has abysmal road network connectivity to support bus routes.

  14. Increased infrastructure costs for roads, public transport, water, sewerage, power and gas services. Greater ongoing maintenance costs of infrastructure. Consumption of more fossil fuels due to greater travel distances. Less green space.

    Sprawl has far worse negatives.

    Does density mean increased air pollution? On a per person basis people are more likely to be closer to places they use, so less travel time and probably greater use of public transport by these people = less pollution.

  15. It’s the endless sprawling suburbs that put a lot of people off moving to Auckland – the lack of good quality medium density apartments/terraced housing being another. For a lot of young people who have travelled and lived overseas,myself included, the idea of a whole house and a large piece of land isn’t really a dream as it that older generations and it would seem you libertyscott desire. Rather low maintenance apartments with terraces and the ability to easily walk and cycle (or catch PT) to local bars/clubs/restaurants and supermarkets is what people these days find attractive.

  16. “I find it amusing that you think Auckland Council knows what’s best for Aucklander”

    Meh, they know it a lot better than the MoT and NZTA who are trying to change (or cement) our settlement and transport patterns in their preferred image. And contrary to those folks, Auckland Council has a mandate to do what they are doing!

    Unless you are very libertarian (which is an acceptable view, but not one that I agree with in this matter), then letting Auckland Council decide the framework for Auckland’s settlement future is extremely right and proper.

  17. “The sole reason it is advocated is to increase the viability of public transport ”

    I don’t know who thinks there is a SOLE reason for the MUL, like most things, there are a number of factors both for and against,

    My top two reasons against sprawl
    1) Increase the vitality of the inner city
    2) Keep the country side in easy reach of the city.

    If i wanted the ‘freedom’ to live where i want, i’d move to a developing world city like Nairobi where the corruption and lack of regulation produce endless stinking sprawl.

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