I want to make this clear right from the beginning, this post is not about sprawl or intensification, it is about how we develop. This is especially important as the unitary plan proposes that quite a bit of the development that is to occur, will happen in greenfield areas. As the city grows outwards, the residents of these new neighbourhoods are very likely to demand access to public transport. A reasonable enough request yet even today, after years of knowing we have developed suburbs the wrong way, we continue to do the same thing.

By developing suburbs the wrong way I mean the way they are laid out. Our traditional suburbs, like those originally served by trams unsurprisingly tend to be some of the best performers for PT use. This is because they were designed for PT to work in them. Dominion Rd is probably the best example of this, the road is straight, with town centres in various locations along it. The side streets are also straight and easy to navigate making it easy for residents to walk to Dominon Rd where they can catch buses. This was explained by Kent last year with the image below showing just how much coverage of the isthmus is achieved by just a handful of routes.


Compare that with the Millwater development going in around Silverdale, the location of which is shown below in the red circle while the new busway station and park n ride is going in where the blue square is.

Stillwater development 1

As you can see it is a quite big area and a feeder bus service from the busway station, perhaps looping though through Orewa and back to the busway station might be an ideal way to serve this area. But let’s have a closer look at the layout thanks to this map from the developers.

Stillwater development 2

I assume the blue routes are the main roads. Even with just a quick glance you can see the stupidity of the road layout that means there is no easy way to run a bus through the development. In order to serve the population a bus would have to make all kinds of circuitous detours that would make it slow, unattractive and therefore unused by anyone but the most desperate with no other options. The thing that annoys me most is that we have known about this kind of issue for a long time now yet our planners at the council, and AT still seem to let this happen.

If we have to allow for urban sprawl, as envisioned in the Unitary Plan, then its issues like this that we are going to have to address unless we want the developments to be completely dependent on cars as the only option for transport.

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  1. It’s bizarre that council has all sorts of specific requirements about relatively trivial things like landscaping and fence heights, but it’s happy to let developers lay out the streets any old how. That street layout could well last for hundreds of years, when most of the buildings have long since been replaced.

    1. Second that. It’s like the macro stuff is too hard so they default to the nitpicking… if you’re outside a height-to-boundary by an inch all hell breaks loose but meanwhile the developers – and that includes HNZ who historically are probably the worst of the lot – swan about dropping sprawl bombs that can will always he hideously expensive to reverse-engineer outta car dependency. We suck at cities in this country.

    2. Agreed. Especially as Council takes on ownership…. It seems there are guidelines & details for Africa relating to the gullies, kerbs, lamp-post constructions, but no real requirements around:

      A. How well roads connect A to B. Wierd, as this is, arguably, the primary function of roads (as opposed to streets, before you shoot me down).
      B. How attractive streets should be, as the primary public space created in every a settlement.

    3. Anyone care to investigate whether the draft Unitary Plan improves this situation? It’s a pretty key issue.

      1. I don’t expect the Unitary Plan to change anything about this. Location of specific roads in NEW developments that haven’t even been planned yet is a bit too detailed even for most zoning documents. That would occur at the next step down.

        I guess the closest one could get is some wording regarding required proximity to a main arterial (which then presumably would be PT-suitable).

        1. The district plan sets out the principles by which planners supposedly judge the structure plans for new developments, and they pay all the lip service you could want to walking and public transport. But so far that’s just ended up translating into exactly the sort of thing we see in Millwater.

      2. Well, it makes all the right noises about requiring a connected street network that provides for public transport, but so did the Rodney District Plan that gave us Millwater.

        1. How’s this for a radical idea? When we zone greenfield land we overlay a concept network. Not hard, a few hours would see the entire Unitary Plan growth area sketched out. Developers could always propose alternatives, but at least a baseline model of connectivity would be in place.

        2. That is a good thought – council could draw a crude grid pattern with a quick look at the topography. Then developers can propose a different network if they want, but have to show that it would be at least as connective for walking, cycling and PT as the “sample” network.

  2. AC really need to encorporate issues like road layouts suitable for PT routes into their design guidelines and developers be required to include bus stop locations into the development and sales plans so that getting stops in is not a monumental struggle down the track

  3. I didn’t look at the street names in the developer’s Millwater map but, at a guess I reckon they’re called Key Boulevard, Joyce Avenue, Brownlee Place, and Smith Street. That’s why we’re building things like that. It looks like a 1960s developer’s wet dream and you can imagine painted advertising images for the development embellished with Cadillac station wagons with blonde ‘wives’ and 2.56 kids and happy ‘dads’ mowing lawns, waving to their neighbours, etc.

  4. With all those schools located on the south eastern side, you are almost guaranteeing that 80% of the kids in the area will be driven to school – or are there dedicated bike lanes through the neighbourhood?

    Overlooking the tranquil valley where mighty Kauri trees once stood, Ridgedale is located just metres from the planned Wainu Road motorway access and a short drive from bridge access to Orewa

    I’m guessing not.

    1. The middle-class don’t let their children walk or even ride to school any more. Everyone knows the woods are just swarming with Pedobears.

      1. I liven in a middle class suburb and and have noticed recently that parents are letting their primary school children walk and cycle and school alone. Actually made me quite proud that it was happening.

    2. Even more silly when you consider the wonderful cycle path around the Orewa estuary that even has a connection right to the High School. What a waste of an opportunity.

  5. My guess is it is designed that way to slow down car traffic – sweeping bends rather than dragstrips.

    Agree that public transport routes should be incorporated into new developments.

    1. Except that there’s plenty of research that shows that curved streets are more dangerous for both pedestrians and drivers. You can’t see what’s coming, and you’re more likely to hit something with disastrous effect. The effort of orienting your field of sight to something constantly new is also a slight unpleasant strain.

      If you want to make a street safe, you slow it down. It’s that simple.

      1. I’d like to see that research. I have never heard of that, at least in such a generic statement sense – please provide some links or report name citations so I can have a look?

        Also, most of these curves above are rather large radii, so making this point at least partially moot.

        1. Someone mentioned it in a post on here about a year ago. I can’t find the exact link just now.

  6. Although the houses are not really my taste, in contrast Stonefields in East Auckland seems to have a good old fashioned grid layout for its streets to disperse traffic and allow PT access.

    1. Although the layout within Stonefields is pretty good, the whole development is a dead end, since there’s no link out to the south. It desperately needs a connection or two to Lunn Ave.

      1. Problem of course with connecting to Lunn ave is the 20+ m cliffs left over from the quarry. It would be nice if they could put in a couple of stairways to allow pedestrian access to the cafes and restaurants however.

        In terms of PT, Lunn ave does not have any bus routes as far as I am aware and does not seem all that great a location for one in the immediate future due to the auto dominance of the retail developments along it and vast amounts of turning movements and congestion associated with it.

        1. There’s room enough at the far western corner, and potentially at the southern corner, using a terrace to work up the side of the cliff. Lunn Ave may not be a great environment for anything other than a car at the moment, but the pattern of development can change pretty dramatically in 50 years. The street layout can’t, and it’ll get a lot harder if Lunn Ave is built up more on the northern side.

        2. I saw plans for just such a stairway in the southwest of Stonefields some years ago when I was working on a development for Lunn Ave that failed to get traction. Hopefully, they will still be allowed for in some sort of easement etc…

  7. In a more positive vein, the street network seems reasonably permeable for walking & cycling – lots of lanes and cross-running park strips, presumably with walk/cycleways? And 1.5km maximum distance to the schools in the southeastern end is really not exactly too far to walk & bike! That’s more down to the nitty gritty of the road design / cross sections, which we can’t really see from this plan.

    1. Had a look at the Google Earth aerial, which is pretty brand spanking new (but sadly not so detailed up north). The streets look like narrower versions of the classic Kiwi subdivision roads.

      The “Greens” are major disappointments though (like the Galbraith Green or the Major Henry Greens in the northeast of the development)! Instead of nice little park links – Greenways connecting the areas together for walking and cycling – all they seem to be are essentially double roads (because: road now provided EACH side of a thin green strip) with a 1.5m walking path in the middle of the green. Fail.

      1. I mean, look at this. Just makes you want to skip along there, doesn’t it?


        Maybe it won’t be so bad once trees are grown, and the streets may be narrow enough to keep speeds down. Its easy to be cynical. But hey, if they had kept car access of those Greens, they could have been such a neat way of having an alternative path network. Now it feels like its all cut apart by roads again.

    2. I’ve driven through and stayed there fairly often as I have a friend living in there, it doesn’t feel like a walking and cycling and bussing community – it feels like you need to get in the car to do just about anything, and you do.

  8. The council really needs to be in charge of making the master plan for transport in all these developments rather then just giving these pockets off to developers to do as they see fit. This is what has stuffed Auckland up in the past and they seem to insist on doing it again.

    1. Developers don’t really have the time or money to develop master transport plans for Auckland and hope everyone else follows their plan, this is the job of the council much.

      The developer can make the place PT friendly as this one may very well have done so. The issue is that if you get 10 more such developments done in isolation that you build yourself into a hole.

      Decades later the council will finally come along and spend a fortune to bandaid it just like what we see with AMETI.

  9. It’s a shame that developments like this are going ahead, when people already know how to build pedestrian and PT friendly subdivisions such as Hobsonville Point.

  10. After 30 years of battling planners their stupidity knows no end. Why do we have legions of planners on high salaries and we get crap cities. Manukau is a classic example a green field city that was a so called planned city. The common denominator is the planners. There is increasing academic research that shows that planners are actually the problem and the answer is to get rid of them. At best they are control freaks and at worst bloody minded and obstinate. Ask yourself the question where has a planner produced a good result. Now before anyone accuses me of being too negative I have worked with planners all my life and hired a planner on my staff for many years so I see both sides of the story. Because the planning process clearly doesnt work the planners come up with more rules instead of changing the process. The result applications for everything get bogged down with mind numbing inertia. However when the community is given power to shape its own neigbourhood the results are fantastic .
    Council and Government need to completely dismantle the planning regime and get the community taking ownership and engaging consultants to help them design their hood.
    Currently I am working with my community and I am amazed at the high level of involvement by the community in our efforts to replan our local shopping centre to how we want it. Council planners have fought tooth and nail to try and take over but with the support of our local community board we have kept it a community project and we are beginning to make head way.
    The planners still insist on holding us up at each step along the way but the community backs us to the hilt.
    We are redesigning our main roads building a new town centre park come event and gathering place plus planted a community garden and bringing the community together.
    I think the community hunger to take charge of their own hood and will get involved if we can keep the mindless planners away.

    1. Notice how the most desirable parts of Auckland are those where the least planning has taken place – the inner suburbs built before about 1920 especially, and elsewhere the places that have gradually built up are better than the places built in one single master-planned go.

      1. I would argue that those inner suburbs were in all likelihood MASSIVELY planned. The street layout and block layout would have been all done by Councils or public works administration, wouldn’t it – not private developers, and certainly not just ad-hoc. Don’t curse today to hell, and praise the past to high heaven. It still stands and falls with the quality of the planning, not whether there is or isn’t planning.

        1. The street network was one of the few things about them that was planned. But little else. It certainly wasn’t very nice at the time – no waste collection, no sanitation, and industrial uses mixed in with houses. I don’t praise the past – we can do far better these days.

          But we see the best of the past, because we kept a lot of the good bits, and very little of the bad bits.

          This is the problem I have with planning – rather than having the flexibility to try many things and keep our options open until we see what stands the test of time, we think we can decide up front what we’ll need in the future. Then we end up binding ourselves with easements, covenants, unit titles, private roads, strange lot shapes and so on, things that are hard to unpack later, if it turns out we were wrong.

          Street layouts are an exception, because they can’t be easily changed later no matter what we do. We need to design them to run somewhere, and we might as well pick something that will serve us reasonably well even if the use of the area completely changes.

        2. Although speaking about industrial uses being mixed in with houses, our modern-day planners are planning to allow just that, under the unitary plan, by rezoning a big swathe of residential Mount Wellington as industrial.

  11. Totally we should be having the Council define regulations to control. The only way society will move forward to achieve best outcomes is to stamp down on this market driven nonesence

    1. Well now you mention it, and I’m not being sarcastic here, Mogadishu does have a pretty good street layout compared to most of Auckland’s exurban sprawl.

    2. Not sure whether more planning regulations are the answer here. As you say above, the best bits of Auckland are in the places where the least planning occurred.

      Though now we’ve done things badly for so long I feel that a “push” the other way is probably necessary. Looks like it’s time to read up on the requirements for structure plans in the Unitary Plan.

      1. Yet hasn’t this blog, in many other ways (such as on parking controls, and lot sizes) argued for LESS regulations? A tension there…

        I tend to be for more regulation, but then the downside is that you can always get a Mr Joyce writing the regulations.

  12. Yopu could have put a road straight down the middle of that development and just chucked some roundabouts in for traffic calming, but no.

  13. I’d be very interested to learn more in answer to the actual question of the post, which few commenters above have adressed: why does it happen?

    Who designed this subdivison and who approved it? What factors were they considering? Given that the planning document says ‘ensure that the area has an effective street layout and can be efficiently and effectively served by public transport’, what are the countervailing forces which lead to the result that this is given only lip service in practice?

    The ‘three grades of spaghetti’ subdivision plan has been overwhelmingly fashionable for about the last 50 years. Why? Does it have real benefits, and what are they? Is it just a matter of following fashion and not thinking about all the issues – or are there real sacrifices that would need to be made to make such a subdivision bus-friendly? What are they?

    Are the people who design and approve three grades of spaghetti knowingly disregarding the planning goal about making the area serviceable by public transport? OR do they think they are doing the right thing, but are just ignorant about bus network design issues? If the latter, who is responsible for setting them straight, and do those people realise that they have that responsibility? etc

    I’d be really interested to know if anyone has done ‘the social history of the three grades of spaghettti subdivision plan’**

    ** and, at a larger scale, more recently, the ‘bunch of grapes’ subdivision plan, where each grape is an area that is highly disconnected from the arterial road for pedestrians, yet is too small to support a bus route of its own, and is only busssable by doing an in-and-back diversion from the arterial road. In such areas the lot size may be quite small, and the overall population density quite respectable (from an urbanist’s point of view), but they are still effectively impossible to serve by public transport. So we get the outcome ‘higher density with 100 per cent car dependency’, with predictable results for traffic cogestion.

  14. It seems like the Unitary Plan has had a reasonable crack at ensuring this type of situation doesn’t happen again. Looking at the Structure Plan requirements: http://unitaryplan.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/Common/Output/HTMLtoPDF.aspx?e=n&hid=32339

    The following issues need to be identified, investigated and addressed:

    • Integration of land use and the local and strategic transport network.
    • The layout of the transport network and facilities (roads, public transport, cycle and pedestrian networks, parking) that are safe, direct, legible, attractive and well connected with a choice of routes to public transport, local facilities and amenities, that are integrated with land uses and the surrounding area.
    • The road network and hierarchy to support the movement of different types of transport and accessibility that is interconnected and includes the location of connections to ensure a number of access points to and from the area.
    • The transport related effects of the scale, intensity, mix and distribution of land uses and the mitigation and management of these effects.

  15. I know the Millwater estate very well. Most of the homes are 4 and 5 bedrooms with 2 and 3 car garages. The people who buy these homes do NOT use public transport.

    1. I don’t think that is fair Bob, one only needs to look at the people on the Northern Express to see they represent a wide cross section of society. The busway and rail lines seem to have helped to break down many of the perceptions surrounding PT. Lets not forget that 50% of people enter the CBD by PT.

      1. You’re right. I was being a little disingenuous. The shame is that the layout does not lend itself to PT at all. There was, as a previous contributor pointed out, a perfect opportunity to introduce a feeder service perhaps via Grand Drive (now that the new link road is about to open) and Orewa to the Silverdale Park and Ride. It would have given a lot more people the chance to opt for PT. Wasted opportunity.

        1. A bit of self fulfilling prophecy no? Will people who prefer PT move to a peri-urban cul de sac based neighborhood where bus services can never be particularly quick or efficient? Will these new residents become public transport fans such an environment? I suppose those who end up living there are doomed to that outcome whether they prefer it or not n

  16. All very good debate.. Assuming that we must remain stuck in some hopeless 19th century public transport paradigm! Surely to god we need to raise our aspirations and demand (design) a quantum leap in personalised urban transport for our urban cores, rather than harness our futures to transport that was second rate in the victorian era? What is acceptable about stopping for 100 other people’s trips on every major journey we undertake? It is absurd. No wonder that anybody but the poor and PT flagellationists play ball with this nonsense! I think that we really need to assume that buses and rail are unacceptable (buses due to time and cost and utilisation, rail due to time, affordability and very poor network density). If we want to become anything other than a quaint post-industrial backwater we need to make a quantum leap with something that is likely very fast, light, modular, probably computer controlled, flexible, safe(ish) and cheap – I dont think thats too big a brief for a genuinely innovative engineering team. Time to take the problem out of the hands of the civil engineers and “transport planners” (im both btw!) and give to the electrical/chemical/civil & mechanical engineers as a joint problem of national urgency in my opinion.

    1. Yes well do let us know when you have broken through the laws of physics and have got teleporting operational…. or do you have something else in mind? Seriously what is your answer; because to me the busy and social Victorian street has a great deal of appeal, especially over these deathly dull auto-dependant suburbs…. It is not enough to say that because something worked in the past that it is wrong now or no longer has value. In fact it seems to me that not only is a bit more of the old ways of using the public space we call streets likely but most certainly desirable:


      Of course that doesn’t include either the 19C feudal social order or the absence of decent plumbing, but the rejection of 20C social isolation and over-reliance on the unsustainable internal combustion engine.

      Your assumptions are not supported by evidence; by far the most expensive way of ordering a city is to rely solely on the private car, it is this system that cannot be afforded and will be shed as this century unfolds….

      Anyway this is how the future arrives; as the past dressed up in a new frock and lippy.

    2. While the blog seems to do it’s damnedest to try & squash driverless cars, I think thats the new transport paradigm shift we are going to see. It’s probably not going to be as transformational as some of the ardent supporters think it’ll be but it should improve efficiency, be a lot safer & so on.

      Also I have to laugh at Patrick’s assumption that car’s are going to die over the century (and people say this blog isn’t anti-car, ha)! That effectively means society will go down a pedestal & would be a great loss of freedom which just isn’t going to happen.

      1. Ooooh Frank I don’t think ‘cars are going to die’, that’s overstating it. I am pretty certain that they are going to be much less central to the the cities that are the most successful, and this is a change that is already underway. Am I anti-car? I am anti-autodependancy. I am against the that habitual design of our built environment around the car, I’m am for a better, more affordable, enjoyable and sustainable and successful city. Anyway what a strange accusation, ‘anti-car’ is: it seems to imply this might be akin to me being racist or something. Cars are just tools, often very useful ones but not things with feelings and rights…. our society really is unhinged about them it seems to me if we so unconsciously anthropomorphise them in this way.

        Anyway as the philosopher said the only constant is change. The only thing we can be certain of is the future will be different from now. In what way and how fast are questions that absolutely fascinate me, I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about these things and have a pretty good track record of picking trends. I do have a bit of a pro-change bias, can sometimes get a bit ahead of things, get the timing out a bit. But when we remember that most of society has a status quo bias, you know has trouble imagining anything changing mine is not such a bad problem.

        I agree that new technology is almost never really new, just the adaptation of things that are already current, cars will go on morphing with other technologies in areas of their control and power sources, but along with those changes they will also become less widespread and less central to urban lives [note I am not calling that for the countryside] I am certain of that as it has already started.

        here’s an interesting read from Atlantic Cities:


  17. I notice that both loop roads are on the perimeter of council reserves and esplanades, from my experience councils in resource consents require that such type reserves require reading on perimeters, so like the cases I am familiar with ( and can not see anything different here) that the council would have stipulated the main arterial roads. I am aware that part of millwater parkway were existing roads.
    So how are developers to improve roading layouts when they are bound by existing road networks and council requirements. To object to these council requirements and fight takes a large amount of money and time, so many just accept the less than ideal situation and try to remedy a bad situation to a slightly more improved but still not ideal solution.

  18. I rate teleportation as option number one – lets aim high and dare to dream – although to be fair most of us now get by on the next best thing called “the web!” – why do we even need to make these damn trips…
    Another option is to get rid of kids (school trips) – that would free up the roads by at least 30-40% – lets just plug them into the inter-web and train them up that way – oh thats right they already are trained that way – in the classroom!!

    1. Interestingly the ability to work remotely has never led to a net decrease in travel, in fact the reverse keeps occurring despite all predictions to the contrary, especially by technophile shut-ins.

      Not pigeon post, the mail service, the telegraph, telephone, faxes, email, txting, sexting, skype, the interent, not even faustbook, Twitter, or pininterest have managed to stop humans wanting to get together physically for work and play.

      Ain’t gonna happen; humans, it seems, are very keen on being with other humans, in quantity. How else can we explain the the persistent and growing success of the city globally and historically?

      So lets stop pretending and design this thing properly. Like a real city. That is essentially the core of the conflict between the two sides represented by the Council on the one hand and Government on the other: The former recognises that Auckland is now of the scale of a city and requires the appropriate infrastructure to succeed as one, the other want to believe Auckland is just an overgrown provincial town, so therefore only needs some more roads. Bah!

      Basically this government behaving like an out of touch parent that hasn’t noticed that their biggest child has grown up; keeps trying to send it to bed at 9:30 and trying to stop it having its own views and making it’s own decisions….. Confused, emotional, out of touch. Not to mention overweight, balding, having a crisis…..

  19. Have it on good advice from several builders I know working in Millwater that a lot of other builders (with certain cheap imported labour) are taking dodgy shortcuts with building construction (ie removing insulation after the building inspector has checked it and using it for the next house then repeating – leaving poorly/uninsulated houses, other examples are having an inspector see all the reinforcing steel in the foundation/concrete base and approving it then ripping it out and using it on the next house then pouring in the concrete unreinforced. This will probably break apart in 10 years just outside the house warranty! another leaky building type situation about to occur!).
    Have to agree about the poor road layout of Millwater! It’s a bloody maze, there is a lot of wasted space (narrow roads with a stupid island strip in the middle) and I fail to see how buses are going to be able to access it effectively. Should have had a big main road through the middle (or 2 roads) that are within walking distance of every house in the subdivision.

  20. I believe the road layout was by design awkward to deter using Mill waters motorway off ramp as and millwater as a through road to whangaparoa. Also the bus service has started going up bankside rd and there is never anyone using it as far as I have seen. As a previous poster said people who live in millwater dont use PT I will never use it…

  21. What a lot of nonsense you all talk. I live on Millwater Parkway where buses roll along. People walk all over Millwater and the Estuary cycleway is well used. It is a fabulous suburb with it’s own community spirit, own magazine free to all residents; its own Facebook page; buy/sell/free page and works a treat. Our community did it’s own “firght night” in the Millwater bush for Halloween and we have our own patrol on the pedestrian crossing morning and night because stupid motorists speed – probably through the area, not FROM the area.

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