There was a report in the Herald today of Councillor Dick Quax’s ‘gobsmacked’ and ‘horrified’ reaction to a recent study on possible models of intensification in Auckland [by Patrick Fontein of Studio D4 and Tim Robinson and Alistair Ray of Jasmax]. The report itself is very detailed and asks for a more thorough analysis than I can give it quickly. However even a brief look it does seem that it emphasizes more how the existing council regulations will need to change in order to achieve greater intensification than to be an attack on the proposed plan itself. It also seems to be arguing for a very developer friendly model with very light regulation. Is Patrick Fontein the previously bankrupted property developer of Kensington Properties? [Or another Patrick Fontein?- my apologies if this is not the case, and nor does this previous role mean that he has nothing to offer but it may be a sign of a particular point of view]. Here is a sample of the executive summary:

This report finds the intensification projections in the current draft Auckland Plan unworkable without substantial amendments.

Without major re-zoning SD4 believes only 45-60,000 extra dwellings can be provided in intensified form in the areas highlighted in the current draft Auckland Plan (this compares with the Plans projections of 300,000).

With major rezoning and sticking to town centres (as current draft Auckland Plan), an additional 90-120,000 extra dwellings could be provided (compared to projections of 300,000).

• Substantial upzoning in almost the entire isthmus of Auckland, in coastal areas and areas with good outlook is needed, to achieve anything close to the draft Auckland Plan’s additional intensification dwelling targets (300,000).

• If there was major rezoning in most urban areas of Auckland (requiring HUGE political resilience), this could provide an additional 200-270,000 dwellings. Images are provided in sample neighbourhoods by Jasmax Architecture, which highlight the level of intensification that would be achieved with an extra 200-270,000 intensified dwellings.

Interestingly among the authors Key Findings are the view that our town centres are ‘already substantially improved’ and that ‘there’s no sales demand to live on transport corridors’. The former is a very strange position, virtually every town centre I can think of has plenty of scope for improvement and intensification, except a few like the Remuera shops perhaps. And some say like Takapuna, New Lynn, and Mt Albert offer a great deal of opportunity for going up- as in fact the report then goes on to conclude. But then maybe the authors consider oceans of carparking an intense use, and current building height an ideal? The second claim is interesting as at no point did I find any view on how the provision of transport amenity may influence property value or utility. It makes no attempt to tease out an ‘accessibility quotient’ in any area’s particular value. It seems to me that this report is blind to the role of transport in land use. So there is no thought given to how investment by AC, AT, and NZTA, might stimulate demand on corridors, or the isolation of new distant suburbs and increased traffic pressure may negatively effect land values. But then the authors seem to have a firm idea that the council has no role outside of helping private developers: ‘Direct Council intervention to develop in areas not market attractive is not needed’. Like all economic analysis there are a lot of assumptions dressed up as conclusions.

The body of the report looks at 14 different neighbourhoods around Auckland where the Auckland Plan proposes some level of intensification, then undertakes a ‘fine-grained analysis’ to test the level of intensification that’s been assumed against what the authors consider to be realistic. Here are the results: In some areas (Glen Eden, Oratia, Manurewa and Parnell) the report suggests that the Draft Plan has over-estimated the number of dwellings possible, while in other areas like Birkenhead/Highbury, Mt Albert and Te Atatu Peninsula the report suggests that the Draft Plan has under-estimated the extent of intensification possible. Overall, the difference is around 6,000 dwellings across the 14 study areas taken as a ‘representative sample’.

Some of the critiques make good sense, like that of Farm Cove as an intensification area – which makes little sense as the area has been developed quite recently and doesn’t have the potential for much to be added unless you were to wholesale demolish the area (which would be silly as the houses are relatively new): Other critiques make less obvious sense, such as that of Onehunga – which seems to have more potential for intensification in the short-term than the fine-grain analysis gives it credit for:

A lot of the focus is on a few of the diagrams at the back of the report, which give some indication of what the areas in question may look like post-redevelopment, if redevelopment was to happen to the extent envisioned by the study. The Herald article picks up on Birkenhead (presumably because that’s where community opposition may be strongest), but ignores New Lynn and Tamaki for some strange reason: Not exactly ‘forcibly cramming everyone into Victorian slum conditions’ like Councillor Quax’s words would have you believe? Also note that the intensification in both of these examples are focussed around the rail corridors. No awareness of how the improvements in this network can influence property development viability. Especially if supported by other incentives. In this sense the report imagines a more intense Auckland of structures but not of movement: clearly the two will have to grow together.

Here are the authors’ recommended answers, to help implement intensification to a greater degree than has been done before, something critical to achieving the goals of the Auckland Plan:


10.1 Community Consultation

• Council have to take responsibility for community consultation and providing the planning regime that encourages quality development.

• Council needs to provide a very substantial communication programme promoting the community benefits of high quality urban intensification.

• Council will need to deal with the legal / RMA issues of the substantial upzoning

• If the developer is providing what the Council desires, minimise developer community consultation requirements. Fast track approval for quality projects

10.2 Reducing Council barriers inhibiting good quality intensification

• Update planning rules that provide rule “bonuses” for good urban design. It’s so simple: incentivise good urban design: all developers will provide to the level

• A fast track development consent processing scheme, for high quality projects

• Provide Council Case Managers for good quality projects

• Say NO to bad design: developers will very quickly understand and adjust!

10.3 Providing incentives to encourage developers to develop in target areas

• Reducing or eliminating development levies and rates in target growth areas for the first “x” properties. This was very successful in the CBD in the 1990’s

• “Council Project teams” that encourage and nurture early stage development in target areas. Eg Wynyard Quarter. Need development savvy members in team

• Develop community facilities, parks and reserves etc ahead of development.

• Encourage development: Council not to intervene where the market will not go!

Reduction or elimination of parking minimums would be top of my list, which would both lower building costs and increase the opportunity for better building design. Not to mention contribute to reducing the auto-strangulation of the city. But also there are opportunities for flexibility  in regulation, say additional height being allowed in exchange for public amenity- yes ‘incentivise good urban design’. ‘Develop community amenities’…Yes. Like providing world class public transit. I am surprised that the study doesn’t talk about that.

I am very enthusiastic about the demand for good design, but no mechanism is suggested for achieving this, outside of ‘incentivising it’. There are models for design quality control in action overseas that should be looked at. In fact in general I think there are quite a few models for how Auckland could grow in the bigger cities across the Tasman, but that will have to be the subject of another post.

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    1. Yeah I think we’re a bit beyond the days of smokestacks and satanic mills infesting our city. Just need planning rules to catch up 100 years.

    2. I don’t know about that. After all there are plenty of examples of low density slums Soweto, American trailer parks etc. I think what Dick Quax is saying is that sharing a wall with your neighbour makes a slum, not quality of build, local amenities etc. This is why demand for properties in Papatoe are soaring through the sky while semi-detached houses in Freeman’s Bay and Ponsonby are struggling to attract any buyers.

      I love how people argue that what people want is to live on a quarter acre on the outskirts of town. Personally I would rather live in a mansion in Epsom. However I am realistic of my chances and would choose to give up a backyard in order to live close to the city.

      1. James B- HOW are semi-detached houses in Freemans Bay and Ponsonby struggling to find buyers? I keep a fairly close eye on the market here and can’t see how you could possibly think this.

        A more accurate comment may be “Buyers are struggling to find semi-detached houses in Freemans Bay and Ponsonby”

        I am, as are many other I know…

  1. It is strange how much the report advises council against being the developer. Perhaps Mr Fontein doesn’t want the competition or he is really burned by what happened at Kensington Park.

    Most commentators say that council needs to get involved in land development much more. That’s what happens overseas a lot.

  2. I suppose the scope of the report is dependent on what was asked for by Auckland Council at the time.

    Well we have the report now and it made very interesting reading when I got home last week indeed.

    Enough to say that the report will be used heavily in debates on which way the Draft Auckland Plan will finally swing.

    James – bit one sided on the last two lines of yours
    I say you have both – those who would like to be close to the city and those liking the lawn. For me after buying our first house – it was the lawn we wanted and chose Papakura while both of us work at Britomart.

    Case of come what may when deciding.

    As for commenting of the report itself – made my case at my blog

    1. Not really one sided. I just resent being told by people that I live in a slum purely because I share two walls with my neigbour.

      1. I share a wall with my neighbour. I live in a Grey Lynn villa subdivided into 3 flats. Personally I consider this ideal for my living conditions. If we could build new units in the central cities which were more like subdivided villas than soul-sucking concrete block flats, we might be better off.

        1. Doloras- You understand Grey Lynn. Please accept a senior planning role in the Council (cause they don’t).

  3. “Interestingly among the authors Key Findings are the view that our town centres are ‘already substantially improved’ and that ‘there’s no sales demand to live on transport corridors’.”

    I can’t think of many ‘town centres’ in Auckland that couldn’t do with improving and that aren’t substantially unchanged in 20 years – take Pt Chev, all that’s changed in this time is the addition of some drive through fast food joints. The rest of the town centre is composed of masses of carparking, petrol stations and an approximately 6 lane road through the middle. Pt Chev is pretty typical of mainstreets all over town and most of these could do with some decent improvement and increases in density – furthermore, commuting from Pt Chev to town is very quick and easy so it’s a shame that drive through McDonalds and KFC is what is considered an a substantial improvment if the authors of this review are to be believed.

    1. Most town centres could do with a serious revamp. Both Hunters Corner and Old Papatoetoe need some serious upgrades. Hunters Corner if redeveloped could be a nice town centre with the plaza as a anchor point and the under development land as some nice 2-4 story terraced housing, bus station with a frequent 15min shuttle bus to Papatoetoe Rail station – the list goes on.

      While I did call the intensification chapter (Chapter 8) of the Draft Auckland Plan a Lemon – Transit Orientated Development could work – Tamaki would be a good test bed for medium density TOD development with the redevelopment program underway over there.

      Now what we need to see is how the submissions came about and the debate at Council next month in finalise the Draft Plan.

      Just a tad off topic in relation to the Partisan thread from admin – I am what some here would call of Centre-Right leaning

      1. You’re falling into Quax’s scare-mongering trap Ben. Also you are assuming everyone is like you and wants a big yard. Like doloras, I much prefer the idea of living centrally and not having the hassle of all that grass to mow.

        I suspect that the report ignores Takapuna deliberately as it’s a great location for market led intensification on a huge scale.

      2. Hunters Corner used to be only the second street in Auckland to have a late night, many of the large shops and supermarkets now was there first along with a movie theater and probably the first and last georgie pie. The most recent upgrade I’ve seen in years is a new sports complex and tennis courts.

  4. Hmm no.

    I will post on my views later
    But in short Please do not assume at all that everyone is like me and wants a bog back yard – just as I do not assume everyone wants to live centrally or in terraced housing or high rise apartments.

    As I stated – Chapter 8 of the Draft Auckland Plan is a Lemon, my blog states that before Quax commented.
    I also state my views on the 75:25 ratio, my call for a 60:40 ratio and no RUB, my submission to The Draft Auckland Plan which if you look in the CMCP section I favour medium and high density in those areas as examples including my new home town of Papakura. The SLDP section I also wrote in the submission also allows for both sprawl and intensification depending where it is and the demands of people and the simplified zoning system I devised from out of all places Sim City 4!

    I am also writing a Draft Auckland Plan series explaing my logic around the Centralised Master (Community) Plans and Semi-Liberal Planned Districts – the two growth methods for Auckland.

    Port of Auckland also got a mention as well as I am watching that saga carefully.

    Ah well my so called line in the sand stuff – hope that helps where I am coming from

    Admin of VOAKL

    1. You miss the point of my comment Ben. I am suggesting that you’re falling for the same trap that Quax does, although perhaps not as deliberately.

      Why 60/40? Do you realise that means 160,000 dwellings outside the current urban limits. That’s almost another Christchurch. A lot of sprawl.

      Debates over the right mix between intensification and sprawl are a good thing. But don’t forget to look at both sides of the equation.

      1. You are right Peter, debates over the mix is a good thing and rather healthy to for both democracy and city sake.

        Yes I am aware that is 160,000 new houses outside the current areas – I would say you would get a good proportion in the areas highlighted for sprawl (I think it was yellow) in The Draft Auckland Plan.

        So we have two issues if we take my 60:40 with no RUB as per my submission
        First is intensification. Now I have called for 60% intensification which means around 240,000 houses – why am I publish this – go read this I gave the numbers there if we went 60:40

        Now I recommend reading chapter 8 of the Draft Auckland Plan and checking where the Sprawl Areas are (again I think highlighted in yellow and Josh has commented on it)and my submission to the Draft Auckland Plan very VERY carefully.

        Effectively per The Draft Auckland Plan, 100,000 new houses would have fitted in those sprawl areas set out in the Plan, my extra 60,000 houses would also fit and also fit in the extended sprawl area I drew up which is in my submission (well South Auckland is any way).

        However the Port of Auckland changed the dynamics a little bit and I called for an enquiry into POAL
        This enquiry again is covered at – check Port of Auckland Index
        I covered extensively and still am how POAL can change and affect The Draft Auckland Plan especially if the port is relocated (which is quite possible). And so am adapting my submission via my blog to reflect this – especially again if POAL gets relocated to somewhere like South East Auckland.

        So yeah, that is a further look on where I am coming from in this debate

  5. So basically the argument is over whether to put the additional 60,000 dwellings somewhere within the urban area or somewhere outside it that goes beyond the yellow areas in the Auckland Plan? That raises a few questions in my mind:

    1) If you want to control where urban expansion does and does not happen, why would you not have an urban limit?
    2) What makes you think the port will shift? I’d say pigs flying is more likely.
    3) What makes you so sure people want to live in the boondocks rather than in the inner suburbs?

    I wonder if generally we are losing sight of the fact that this is a 30 year plan and won’t all happen at once. There are too many unknowns about 2041 to really plan for it exactly. Let’s get some certainty for the next decade but leave our options open for after that. Finding room for 140,000 dwellings over the next decade is what’s really important.

    1. Answering number three: What makes you think people will live in the inner and not outer suburbs? The question goes both ways. For me it is a case of where people want to go in a more freely matter. If they want to live in the inner suburbs then let them do so and allow the market with the council cater for that. If they want to move to the outer suburbs like I have, then let them and allow for the market with the council to cater that. Now both decisions have consequences and people need to accept the consequences – I have accepted the fact its a 53-60min train ride to my work place in Britomart from Papakura – but I can live with that. Also when selecting our new house we had a requirement of a 1km radius from a station – and our house is. So choice and responsibility of consequences was there – that option should be extended to all house dwellers but it isn’t due to supply being hamstrung by Council rules.

      I do not believe in the RUB per se as it is currently touted – again as per my submission I go for more the softly softly rule with a soft RUB and allowing developers to develop as the market allows and requires – hence the SLPD system I devised.

      As for the port – do not discount the impossible if it deemed possible.
      As for POAL shift – I say it has the possibility of happening – ports have shifted before.
      It is also the reason why I have begun lobbying Council to hold and enquiry into POAL options in owership and location. That way we have a nice document that can “tell us” what best to do with the port and take it from there. Thus I have worked on “plans” on all three options for POAL no matter which of the three options have taken.

      By the way? What is your beef with the outer suburbs? Please tell me you have not fallen for the central core fallacy model? And are you assuming that the extra dwellings down south will go work in the CBD?

      Hmmm might want to read my submission again

      1. What makes me think people will prefer the inner to outer suburbs? Well, generally house prices are highest in the inner suburbs and also seem to be rising the quickest there. Plus the inner suburbs are generally most likely to have brownfield areas more suitable for intensification. You can see in the above table on Farm Cove (or read the one on Manurewa, it’s similar) to get an understanding about the problems of intensification in the outer suburbs.

        Quite simply, most often it simply doesn’t stack up.

        If you have a softly softly (does that mean meaningless?) RUB or MUL or whatever, then you won’t see intensification happen as much as is required – and you’ll struggle to get anywhere near 60% (let alone 75%) of growth through intensification.

        Interestingly, between 2001 and 2007 over 70% of the new dwellings in Auckland were through intensification. So it’s not impossible.

  6. “‘forcibly cramming everyone into Victorian slum conditions’ like Councillor Quax’s words”

    Gosh, are all North Shore politicians so blatantly hyperbolic? First we get “I ‘d rather DIE than see Aucklanders get a city rail tunnel” Maggie Barry, now this.

  7. I grew up in Wellington with all kinds of repulsed stereotypes about what JAFAs are like. Now that I live here, I realise that those stereotypes are only true on the Shore and in Howick. 🙂

    1. Hey I’m from Howick! As per your first post I totally agree about the split villa designs being so much more personal than the concrete boxes that are currently being built.

  8. I find it funny how Quax can fake concern for the disturbing Birkenheads views and environment but hes not concerned about destroying our city greenfields. Smacks of hypocrisy. Yes and no concern for less affluent suburbs like Tamaki or New Lynn. Wonder whats that all about?

  9. Intensification around Pilkington Road in Tamaki, The Ponsonby end of Great North Road and area’s similar that won’t effect heritage, parks and provides existing public transport should be concentrated on. Also good looking apartments with style and soul should be built.

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