As I blogged about a few weeks ago, the Council is considering different options for Auckland’s future “Rural Urban Boundary” in the south – as this area was highlighted in the Auckland Plan as being suitable for significant urban development. Digging through the Council’s website, I have found that they’re now seeking public feedback on the different options. Here’s an explanation:

Auckland’s population is growing rapidly. Over the next 30 years an additional million people are likely to live in Auckland. In southern areas of Auckland, about 7,000 babies are born each year. As we grow, our children will need places to live and work.

The Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) will identify greenfield land for urban development and the 30 years of growth projected in the Auckland Plan. It is part of an intention that the Unitary Plan provide for up to 40 per cent of new dwellings to be located in rural towns and villages, greenfield areas and other rural areas, as well as opportunities for the remaining growth to locate in existing urban areas.

The need is to provide adequate room for growth while protecting the things that Aucklanders hold special, such as the natural environment, heritage, productive rural land, valued coastal areas and sense of community.

For the south, it means investigating which greenfield areas could best be used to provide up to 55,000 dwellings of the total 400,000 needed across Auckland, along with business land for up to 35,000 jobs. Five options for where houses and businesses may go are available for public feedback.

The RUB will be included in the Unitary Plan, the rulebook determining where development will occur. We want to hear your views on a range of preliminary options for this long-term development.

All the different options involve massive change for the area – urbanisation of large tracts of what is in my understanding pretty top quality rural land for farming. Here are the options:

Locating most of the growth around the railway line is obviously a no brainer (though it will require additional stations compared to what’s proposed in the extension of electrification to Pukekohe project), so the Karaka North options probably scores lowest in terms of closeness to the railway line. The “rail focus” option would have the interesting result of making Pukekohe no longer a separate satellite down, but the southern edge of a continuous sprawl of urban development – it would be interesting to see how that would go down with the locals!

Stepping back from comparing the different options though, I think there’s a more compelling question to ask in terms of why we are proposing so much sprawl, when there are so many untapped opportunities to intensify throughout the existing urban area. In relatively recent times Melbourne went down the path of opening up massive tracts of land for urban sprawl – with some interesting results:

MELBOURNE’S urban fringe has been swamped with 35,000 unsold homes, prompting warnings the glut could trigger a further slump in property values, and fuelling criticism of the Baillieu government’s ”crazy” decision to expand the city’s boundary.

The stockpile of unwanted housing in many of Melbourne’s newest suburbs has led to warnings by some planning experts that ”suburban ghettos” could emerge on the city’s fringe, creating a social divide.

Of the record 55,290 unsold homes in Melbourne in June – the highest number of any capital city in Australia – most were concentrated in about 50 suburbs on Melbourne’s periphery, where more than 60 per cent of all unsold homes in Victoria are located, according to data from SQM Research.

Opening up all this land on Melbourne’s periphery has clearly been ignorant of the fact that most of the demand is to live in their inner suburbs – just like Auckland. This mismatch has prompted fears of effectively creating two different Melbournes – a highly functional, wealthy and popular inner city and an increasingly isolated, ghettoised outer city.

Returning to Auckland, planning for 150,000+ people living south of Papakura seems something of a recipe for disaster – contributing to the increasing polarisation of Auckland between the haves in the inner areas and the have-nots further out. My alternative of focusing on the provision of significant additional dwellings in Auckland’s “middle suburbs” – providing opportunities for those who would typically have to live further out to enjoy the benefits of relatively inner-city living, if they’re prepared to cope with living in terraced houses or other semi-detached typologies could instead ‘stitch’ back together the inner and outer and reverse the process of polarisation that more sprawl is only likely to accentuate.

While many of these questions may be somewhat outside the scope of providing feedback on the Rural Urban Boundary options, perhaps it might stimulate some discussion around at least minimising the amount of land opened up for sprawl and then pushing back well into the future the actual ‘release’ of that land for urbanisation. Feedback closes this coming Friday and can be made online.

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  1. Comments on the Melbourne article are interesting. There was a consistent theme of poor PT in the outer suburbs. So if Auckland expands into the greenfield zone it is imperative that PT is good to limit the downside risk on prices.

    However in regional Victoria within the commuting zone house prices were holding up. It is no co-incidence that PT within this part of regional Victoria is excellent, with high speed trains that make cities like Geelong, Castlemaine, Ballan and Ballarat within about a 1-hour travel time from the Melbourne CBD.

  2. I would suggest Karaka South and Pukekohe and build around that. Leave green spaces in between. Karaka North does not lend itself to putting PT within reach of it’s potential residents

    1. I kinda like the Opaheke-Drury areas the most as they’d be close enough to Papakura to really support that area. Plus you could have a station between Papakura and Drury on the railway line. Plus it’s to the east of the motorway which means that all the traffic from development on that side wouldn’t have to pass across the motorway to get to the rest of Auckland.

      1. Fair point but I think you would need to keep Mill Rd / Ardmore as green belt in order to keep the ‘hub’ aspect of the ‘town’ otherwise the ‘new’ Papakura / Drury town just becomes part of the sprawl.

  3. In fact, I would also leave Drury pretty much as it is as well. That would put green space between Papakura – Karaka South and Pukekohe. Intensify these areas.

    1. That’d be a relevant point if development didn’t impose externalities on others through congestion and infrastructure spend requirements.

      Because that’s not the case your point is irrelevant.

  4. These areas are a long way from the CBD and centre of population. The areas beyond Albany & Massey are closer. There is plenty of land alongside rail between Swanson & Kumeu, also being closer to the CBD. Britomart to Papakura and to Swanson are both currently is 53 mins, but the CRL will bring Swanson closer.

    1. Ah yes, but if you work in Manukau, or the Airport area, it is not so bad. Also, once the population around these areas grow to maybe 35,000 more employment opportunities will exist to service the residents and companies may relocate there to take advantage of cheaper commercial real estate. As long as the PT links are there in the first place in my opinion. And I disagree with just building along the PT routes as such. The areas to be developed need to be done in a manner that will create a township / small city as opposed to just more sprawl.

    1. People who like the exurbs always say it is because of its rural character. Makes sense. But sprawl kills the countryside, filling in between villages and erasing the very thing it claims to be in pursuit of. If i lived in Pukekohe or similar I would be pretty militant about retaining a decent rural barrier between that country town and the metropolis charging down the motorway…. wouldn’t you?

      Green belt, Urban Rural Boundary, whatever you want to call it.

      Why do the right wing appear to hate the countryside as to be so dead set on paving as much of it as possible, as seen in ACT’s productivity Commission report? Vested interests pushing them loudly?

          1. Also funny how these freedom loving market folk want the council to provide free storm water, sewage, roading and water supply to anyone who wishes to subdivide their lot in the rural hinterland. These also are the same people that decry the ‘huge’ rates they are charged.

          2. @Luke – just a train on the weekend might be a nice start – I don’t mind paying for stormwater or anything else you mentioned, or even the rates increases, as long as I am getting the same from my rates as someone living in Newmarket.

  5. The Herald have published their Property report again this morning. Fascinating in light of sprawl debate.

    All provinces including centres of the dairy boom Hamilton, Tauranga, Northland, Hawkes Bay, Gisbourne…. all down. Inner Auckland suburbs like Grey Lynn, Westmere, Pt Chev > 20% up on 2007 pre crash numbers.

    “Except for a handful of Wellington suburbs everywhere outside of Auckland is below Nov 2007. And 20% AK ‘burbs are down too”

    And where are the Auckland strugglers? Rodney and Franklin and Papakura. Exactly where the sprawl advocates think Auckland should go…

    It really does look like the Melbourne example above is already playing out in Auckland.

  6. The city should sprawl out with satellite towns – preserving the rural character, of which can and should be close to everyone.

    The Melbourne “slums” is not a relevant example. Property developers will build in response to demand, because their $$ is on the line. They will not tend to make more houses than they can sell. There is always
    the risk of a commercial mistake of course, but that applies to anything.

    1. Yes Andrew, and how to achieve that?

      WITH AN RURAL UBAN BOUNDARY, Greenbelt, or whatever you want to call it, but some kind of regulatory limit to sprawl. You know that thing that makes you froth at the mouth and rant so repetitively. The market will not protect rural character by itself, that is nonsense, because, as you say, $$ are on the line.

      1. What is “rural character” and why does it need to be “protected”? This is the sort of woolly thinking that led the UK to introduce green belts, which are largely responsible for Britain having among the most expensive and lowest quality housing stock in the developed world.

        Values are subjective, therefore the only alternative to politicians dictating land uses to people based on their personal prejudices (and those of their voters) is to allow these values to be expressed through the market in order to find the most valued use for each piece of land.

    2. Bizzare response here. At the same time you’re saying we should leave things to the market, the next breath you’re proposing a model exactly how it should be done. The thing is Auckland is in a rich agricultural region, rural land is expensive regardless as well all know there also has been a big rural land boom. So vast low density rural sprawl is definitely a no goer. Clearly just another parrot of american cities whose topography has no relevance to Auckland.

    3. But I dont want rural character in my city. If I wanted rural character I would go live somewhere rural, like where I grew up.

      This is why we have two words, rural and urban. They are different et vive la difference!

      If you like rural character so much, go and live in the countryside and leave us urban people to figure out how to make a nice, livable city. Or do you already and therefore you are just interfering in something you dont understand? Or do you not want to because you cant find the kind of job you like and you find rural communities too quiet? Welcome to the urban world!

      Have you ever lived outside of NZ in a real transit city? Surely not.

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