I’m a proud Aucklander.

My job often takes me overseas. I’m actually writing this from Brisbane. And often when I fly back to Auckland I find a small tear forming in the corner of my eye. I’m happy not just because I get to see colleagues, friends, family, and Baby Kuku (see below). I just generally love being home in Auckland.


I also find that every time I get back to Auckland something new is happening. I stumble across new cafes, new stores, new buildings etc. Houses on my street are being renovated and painted and generally tidied up. Even if the city is not perfect, it feels like things are heading in a positive direction. It just feels good.

Recently, however, the NZ Herald has started to run a number of very negative articles about the Unitary Plan (UP). In this recent post Matt outlined a number of ways in which these articles have tended to misrepresent information about the UP in an attempt to create “bad news” stories. This concerns me.

For all its talk of “multi-storey” development, the Herald has not – as far as I know – provided any examples of what 4-6 storey buildings look like overseas. Let me assist. The photo below, for example, shows a 6 storey building (including the attic) in Amsterdam. As Maurice put it “be ye not afraid.”


Now I accept that the UP is not perfect.

But the trade-offs involved are complex. Auckland is growing (nice problem to have), development needs to happen somewhere, less development in one area means more development somewhere else, different development patterns have different implications for infrastructure costs, and so on.

Raising height limits, for example, reduces the need for greenfields sprawl, and vice versa. The UP tries to find a balance between these types of issues.

From what I can tell the Herald is having none of it. This latest article by Bernard Orsman spends a lot of time taking things to a whole new level of uninformed emotive negativity. The views of a local resident and landowner, for example, are paraphrased as follows (emphasis added):

Statements like this provide little comfort … they confirm her worst suspicions that the council is paying lip-service and acting like the Government of Cyprus to steal property rights for a bankrupt agenda.

Even when you ignore the bizarre connection to Cyprus, this comment is simply illogical.

Let’s get this clear: Raising height limits enhances property rights, because it enables landowners to develop their properties more intensively. Repeat after me: “Raising height limits enhances my property rights“. To claim that the UP proposes to “steal” property rights is, in this context, completely illogical.

What’s more frustrating than the comment itself, however, was that the journalist does not subject it to any critical examination. There was no reflection on the tension between the resident’s property rights and the rights of her neighbours, nor how they might be resolved in a manner that was fair and efficient for the city.

Hypocrisy underscores much of the emotional rhetoric. The local residents, for example, felt:

“We are the landowners. We are supposed to have ownership of that land, but we have this group of people who have come to Mt Eden and made sweeping changes …”

At this point I had to laugh. Was the journalist not tempted to point out that all the UP does is enable development rather than require it. So if all the landowners don’t want to develop their land then that’s fine. If some of them do, then they can – up to four storeys. Sweeping? Hardly.

I guess it’s just easier to encourage NIMBYs to squeal like entitled little piggies. Not good enough, in my opinion. But then the article finishes with what struck me as truly awful journalism:

Hate speech is coming to a street near you – if you live in a quiet piece of suburbia, like Poronui St in Mt Eden, and object to your neighbourhood being rezoned for apartments and infill housing. In a sign that the council is losing the battle to persuade middle-class suburban Auckland to adapt to a new way of life, it has appointed 28-year-old councillor Michael Goudie to counter more conservative views.

Not only that, but wise heads like deputy-mayor Penny Hulse are turning a blind eye while Goudie promotes an anonymous blog article, We Hate Nimbys (Not In My Back Yard) that labels a “sea of grey hair” opposing a new planning rulebook “selfish, arrogant, narrow -minded and parochial people” who should “just hurry up and die”.

In one fell swoop the article seems to be implying:

  • If you object to the re-zoning proposed in the UP, then you will be subjected to hate speech.
  • That the Auckland Council is, first, trying to persuade people to adapt to “new way of life” and, second, that they are losing that battle.
  • Councillor Michael Goudie has been appointed by Auckland Council to promote the UP. But Goudie, sanctions hate speech and is tacitly endorsed/supported by Penny Hulse.

Weasel words like this are a red-flag for me, and they are often used by extremists like the Tea Party movement in the U.S. As Michael Higgins notes in this entertaining and impassioned debate with a Tea Party advocate, the general strategy is to “get a large crowd, whip them up, and try and discover what is their greater fear. Work on that and feed it right back and you get a frenzy” (1:05).

The greatest fear held by some of Auckland’s residents seems to be multi-storey development, and the Herald is now dutifully whipping this fear up into a frenzy.

Now I appreciate that the Herald needs to sell newspapers, and the negativity they push may achieve that end. I also understand readers of the Herald tend to be older and more conservative, which in turn is likely to be reflected in the types of articles that are pursued by Herald’s editors and journalists.

Basically, I understand that the Herald has a commercial prerogative to reflect the views of their readers.

Nonetheless, I think the Herald’s coverage of the Unitary Plan has now crossed some sort of ethical line. Their negative and imbalanced reporting on the UP is certainly not what a responsible newspaper would do, nor is it – I suspect – what decent Aucklanders want.

Most decent Aucklanders would, I think, recognise the UP is too important to be exploited for political or commercial gain. To do so would be akin to crapping in your own backyard – because your actions will, in the long run, harm the community around you (that you rely on for your business).

By not providing more balanced reporting on the Unitary Plan I think the Herald is betraying the future of our city. Emotive words perhaps, but that’s nonetheless how I feel.

At the end of the debate, Higgins suggests his Tea Party opponent should “be proud to be a decent American, rather than be just a wanker whipping up fear” (4:12). I’d like to send a similar message to the Herald.

Be proud to be decent Aucklanders, rather than just wankers whipping up fear.

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  1. Quoting you Stu: “At the end of this fiery debate, Higgins suggests his Tea Party opponent should “be proud to be a decent American, rather than be just a wanker whipping up fear.” I’d like to send a similar message to the Herald.”

    LOL, please send that message to the NZ Herald after I posted this remark today (having enough messages in your Twiter box is enough to spawn action): “He won’t give up since being called an Ageist Old Fart a couple of weeks ago. Well seeming Orsman can’t do his job nor will be able too with the Unitary Plan at this rate it is time to let the Fairfax papers (your Couriers) take over (they seem to be doing a better job) and have blogs run their parts as well. Seems it is the only way you are going to get balanced coverage.”

    Then again I can’t forgive Orsman after his ANZAC Day attack against the Deputy Mayor on ANZAC Day ( I have the transcript from Facebook on my blog from Orsman’s piece) either…
    Ageist Old Fart…

    And yes Stu – I am proud to be a decent Auckland – rather than just (a) wanker(s) whipping up fear…

  2. Good post Stu though I’m not sure why we have to get the Tea Party into it. To be honest the left in america are just as bad on stuff like environmentalism, the so called ‘war on women’ & so on.

    BTW the blog article mentioned in the last quote is Eye on Auckland & while I like some of their coverage, cheap shots at NIMBY’s & quotes like ‘just hurry up & die’ aren’t exactly going to help make this issue less divisive. I myself condone this & I hope others do too.

    1. You’re absolutely right insofar as extreme ideologues of all political persuasions use these tactics. In this case I mentioned the Tea Party because it 1) is an extreme example of this line of argument and 2) is relevant to the debate from where I draw the quotes.

      Yes I also condone indiscriminate cheap shots, unless they’re obviously intended to be satirical (hence my “squealing little piggies” comment). I think the Eye on Auckland was initially intended as satire, but frustration meant spilled over and it unfortunately ended up going too far.

      1. Yes, the comments on those EOA posts were out of hand in my opinion and as someone who supports the intent of the UP, it even got me wanting to support the NIMBY’s. Being told they are of less intelligence than Sydney just because their views are different was over the top. These people are living in a very expensive area and they didn’t get there by accident. I can only imagine the rate of change that has ocurred in their lifetimes (hell even in my 42 years) and the older you get the more resistant a lot of people get to change. It doesn’t make them less intelligent, they just have different skills and learning.

        1. That’s a bit rich.

          People in expensive areas can be every bit as self-interested as people elsewhere. Play the ball not the man, I suggest.

          1. Absolutely Stu and some of the pro-intensification commentators would do well to ‘play the ball’ also rather than calling people stupid or of low intelligence just because they have opposing views. Telling the oldies to just move out if they don’t like it is exactly the same as being told to go and live in Hong Kong if you want a high density urban lifestyle. Short term compromise will get the right result.

          2. Anti-sprawl may be a more helpful term than pro-intensification don’t you think, Bryce? If you want to understand their point of view. Auckland’s intensification as proposed in the draft UP will take it nowhere near the density or population of Hong Kong.

          3. Whose point of view? I’m in favour of the UP but I have some reservations about the implementation over some areas. The other issue is that LB keeps rolling out examples like London and HK which, understandably to me, is giving the older generation the jitters.

    2. Yes that nimby blog shouldn’t be held as a defender of the unitary plan. People’s adversion to change needs to be heard and in some cases is understandable. It also shows their passion for auckland. The infrastructure concerns are understandable.

      What needs to be heard by the herald is the councils responses to these concerns. The council does work on these infrastructural concerns with watercare, Auckland transport, etc and are planning accordingly. This info needs to be heard from the herald not just create irrational hysteria.

      The herald should also have examples of intensification working well for balance.

  3. “Auckland is growing (nice problem to have)”

    Growth of resource consumption on a finite world is actually a bad thing.

    “So if all the landowners don’t want to develop their land then that’s fine. If some of them do, then they can”

    The point you miss, is that if someone lives in a leafy neighbourhood full of trees and birds, because that’s what they like, then having a neighbour cut down the trees and replace them with a four storey building, and losing the birds, has a major impact on your lifestyle, to the point where you have to sell up and go and find a leafy neghbourhood somewhere else. The UP gives power to a minority to inflict this impact on a majority.

    1. So what makes you think you’re entitled to stopping people doing what they want with their land? Seriously, how can you justify stealing the property rights on other peoples land for your own benefit?

      1. Nick, your argument frankly, is stupid. If you really believe that property owners should have the right to do what they want with their land, then you would be in favour of having no UP or plan of any kind.

        The whole reason for having a plan, is to guide the development of the city, and like any democratic plan, it should reflect what the majority of residents in any given area want for their neighbourhood.

        1. I am Geoff, I’d prefer to have as little regulation and constraints on land use as possible. like I’ve saidany times I’m more than happy to do away with them completely and let the city evolve organically.

          1. Democracy is not mob rule. That’s why we have bodies like Councils tasked with resolving competing interests, rather than say holding referendums about everything.

    2. Geoff with all due respect those are really weak arguments.

      First, stopping intensification will not stop population growth. The people already exist first, our intensification is a response to that. If you’re worried about over-population then that’s another issue (and off-topic so please don’t bring it up again).

      Second, if you like trees why don’t you buy enough land so you can plant as many trees as you want? Rather than free-riding on your neighbours trees, and in the process trying to pass rules that prevent then from developing their property as they see fit.

      1. Stu, are you the prototypical “nasty neighbour”? Most people live in communities, not islands of wealth creating landlords. They are no free-riding they are living together. This “all for me” attitude is one of the many people immigrate to NZ, to have a life, not a war

        1. you’ll have to ask my neighbours ;). But seriously I can be nasty, but I’m generally good natured.

          And generally agree with you – living together is different from free-riding. I’m a committed social democrat at heart, albeit with strong liberal tendencies. I’m also a spatial economist, so know a fair bit about “spatial spillovers” (positive and negative).

          My personal leanings and my professional experience leads me to support strong communities. But I am very wary of social “over-reach”. I believe there’s much better ways to foster community than letting nosey neighbours dictate what others do.

          Geoff’s presumption that you should be able to dictate what your neighbour does with their trees, and the land they live on, qualifies as over-reach in my mind.

    3. Geoff, the point you miss is that many of the current restrictions are rolled over. The UP does not give power to a minority, any more than the current plans do. It intensifies in fairly sensible areas, and there are rules about how new buildings are allowed to impact on current buildings.

      Also, most of the neighbourhoods I’ve lived in overseas have been pretty leafy, full of trees and birds. Lots of gardens/parks/green space and wildlife. I think that’s because the buildings were multi-story and attached. Each house/dwelling had a smaller footprint and they were not surrounded by concrete driveways… so there was more space for trees and birds! How about that?

      But all that aside, I think that trees are something that we perhaps should be concerned about, but certainly not because of the UP. Instead due to the changes in the regulation about cutting down trees over a certain size. Maybe you could focus on improving tree protection, which benefits us all and you obviously are interested in, rather than claiming that the UP is going to ruin everything.

  4. But also nothing absolutely nothing that Orsman said or implied could happen to that street actually can because of the heritage and sight line overlays. He clearly knows this but still wants to pretend it can. Yes the UP is complex (so is a city) and the way it is designed may seem contradictory and perhaps it could have been done another way, but I do get why they chose this model. It makes for greater simplicity; only five zones instead of well over 100, with the complexity and variation being added by overlay. Very elegant. But haters are gonna hate.

    And Geoff I have a lot of sympathy for your concern but that isn’t the problem that the Herald raises they just want growth elsewhere, not in leafy wealthy parts of town. Try to see how far you get with a steady state economy article, Roughan will never let anything so radical through, he can’t even cope with a train.

    1. Well yes, raising height limits (and most other regulations) would be expected to lead to higher property values.

      That’s one benefit that should be promoted more. Under this plan the collective value of our city will go up.

  5. The Amsterdam building certainly doesn’t seem like a standard 50’s style, maybe they have some crazy rule that things must by “sympathetic” to the existing area.

    The fact that we have no such rule is why myself and many others have no faith in the Council.

    Last Decembers (due) style guide not coming out til the Plan does is another huge alarm bell.

    I’m not surprised people are scared…

    1. I’m not completely sure of the buildings age – just that my suburb (De Pijp) was developed in the post-WWII period.

      Re: style guide. I want to develop my villa into a shrine that pays tribute to Dame Edna. This require painting it in a sparkly purple colour and setting it up so that every time someone opens the front door it shrieks “HELLO POSSUMS”.

      Do you think that would comply?

      1. The original Victorian owners, early gentrifiers and Polynesian familes all painted their houses crazy colours.

        So yes! Please! Anything would be better than the charcoal/ taupe/ putty/ neutral boring colours that everything is painted in at the moment. Bring on some colour!

    2. Geoff: and you think the current rules are any better? If area characterisation is the problem, then submit feedback on that so that it’s included in the UP. I do think that many of the rules in the UP support that idea, but I haven’t read all of them so I won’t try quote any at the moment. I do know that most of the heritage area rules are rolled over.

      Regarding awesome house colours – yes please! I saw a carrot coloured house in Victoria (Canada) that was very cool.

      1. Liz- The current rules are terrible. So the new improved Plan should be better. But it’s not. And after spending a good chunk of last year pointing that to the UP people and having them ignore everything it makes you doubt the sincerity of their engagement policies. Bring on Community Led Planning!

          1. Sailor Boy, as someone who remembers the devastation of Auckland’s historical buildings in the 80’s I can well understand Geoff’s points.
            Perhaps if developers came into Ponsonby with designs for new ‘old’ buildings as they do in historical parts of Europe, they would be well accepted? Why not new 3 and 4 storey buildings that share design aspects of existing buildings (not copies)? http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5254/5445992657_04e916cb4f_z.jpg

            Heck even in Mt Eden, I could imagine a large development with view shafts designed into it but the architecture in keeping with existing buildings. This piece of the argument is not about restricting density, more not creating big odd boxes in an area with cool old buildings. Want to build a big contemporary office, there are plenty of suitable areas around Auckland already.

          2. There are no end of design restrictions to respect the existing character built into the UP.

          3. Sailor- can you tell us which bit of the UP?

            All I’ve found is ignoring local character as built but matching things that will be built in the future…

    3. Certainly this is a early 1950s or late 1940s building. The style complies to the taste in Europe of that time, you find similar buildings all around in major cities. And i agree a bit more color to the houses here would be actually nice. All white, grey, cream….. where are bright blue, green, yellow, red houses?

        1. Stu, out of interest has anything been built across the road from the red house on your street since the Google Street View car went through? That empty section would be ideal for a mid-density development with design features complementing the surrounding houses, and focused on that beautiful tree…

          1. from what I understand (hearsay) the developer wanted to develop something of medium to high density, but could not meet the parking requirements or height limits, so was denied by council planners. After spending a few years in a stalemate the developer turned around and simply whacked in some single-detached houses with big garages.

      1. Being only a temporary citizen of Auckland (I’m originally from Holland) I don’t feel like I’m entitled to have a say in the future of this city and the UP. But I can say something about the building in Amsterdam 🙂

        This building is from the 20-30s, it’s located in one of the neighborhoods (Apollobuurt) that was built as a part of Berlage’s expansion plan for Amsterdam, Plan Zuid, designed somewhere in the early 1900s. I believe this plan created housing for about 80.000 people and was essentially greenfield development. It was built in a completely different style (Amsterdam School) to what else was built in the Amsterdam at that time. The materials however are generally the same which probably make it seems like it fits with the rest of the historic city, but it really was all new at the time.

        That crazy rule in Holland does exist too. We refer to it as ‘Welstandscommissie’. These are independent bodies, appointed by the council of each city themselves, who advice the city councils regarding building consents. They check the appearance and placement of a building and if it. The down side of a body like this is that you are dependent on how conservative or progressive its members are. On the plus side you won’t have to deal with rules that in themselves don’t say anything about the quality or local integration of a building project. Such as this 2 or 3 story rule (sorry, now I did say something about the UP).

        1. John, does Amsterdam have a housing affordability problem? Do young Dutch families say they cant afford a first home like in Auckland? I know the culture is quite different and renting for life is more common but is the debate happening here also in the Netherlands?

          The reason I ask is that organisations like Demographia suggest that affordable dense housing is impossible. They argue that only cities like Houston with vast sprawling neighbourhoods can deliver affordable housing. However, it is very hard to get information on that if you dont speak Dutch. It is certainly difficult to find examples of dense New World cities that are affordable – cities like Vancouver and Portland laos have those problems.

          Do you know about other dense Northern European cities like Copenhagen or Stockholm? Do they have affordability problems?

        2. The Dutch seem to have better rules than us.

          Maybe I’ll suggest it in my submission.

          Are the Amsterdammers happy?

  6. Most of the leafy areas are protected by the Single House zone, which restricts subdivision more than at the moment.
    All the areas that were not covered by existing Heritage protections have had pre 1944 demolition control added, making it near impossible to demolish any pre 1944 building.
    Agree there are some complex issues around tree cover in suburbs, and is great to have native birds throughout suburbia. However most significant trees are protected. There should be some rules to ensure vegetation is saved where possible, and replanted in the non developable areas that all residential sites have. This can be covered in the Design Manual though I think, as is difficult to have good rules around this.

    1. Luke- the pre 1944 demo control is toothless. To quote from one of the intelligent commentators in Sydney’s rant-
      “Demolition consent for a pre 1944 house can still be sought, with heritage assessments provided by the developer. But with no notification currently planned, the decision will be made solely by council staff, with no heritage information from the neighbours, local boards, or community heritage groups.”

      The UP specifies “fuck heritage” and even specifies that new developments must look like what the area will look like in the future. Whatever the hell that means.

      Undercooked Plan from what I have seen so far…

      1. Geoff, it’s not “undercooked” – It’s just a draft plan that will go through a public consultation process and get improved.

        Personally, I think you have a very unhealthy pre-occupation with heritage, which leads you to 1) try and impose your values on others and 2) disregard other issues that are equally if not more important, like housing affordability.

        In the words of Michael Higgins “that’s very dangerous stuff”.

        I have a degree in history. I like history. But I don’t like the way people of your ilk advocate for “preserving” Auckland as if it’s some form of museum. To do so is to consign us to more sprawl, more motorways, and higher house prices.

        RANT OVER.

        1. Amen bro. I like history. I miss living in an ‘old world’ country where the history oozes from every inch of the land, where the houses I lived in contained stones robbed from roman walls and timbers from broken-up tudor warships. I think we should celebrate our stories in this land and protect what is truly of value.

          But freezing history into a version that suits our early 21stC lens is a mistake. The history I love is multi-layered and complex, many stories woven over each other. That is not an excuse for the nonsensical destruction of key stories/buildings in Auckland in the past. But it is also a reason why we should not obsess over every last inch of something that predates 1944. Maybe we should all start obsessing over the late 20thC monuments as well, like the DoCoMoMo dudes do. You know – “Fight for the CMJ!”, “Save the ASB Tower!”. Which takes precedence next to each other – the villa or the modernist classic? Pickling our city in aspic will kill it – forcing Ponsonby and the western bays into the appearance of the early 20thC will do no good.

          With reference to your earlier post, Geoff – style and good design are different things. MIght sound like splitting hairs – but it is critically important. Good design stands alone, discreet from style. I expect the Auckland Design Manual to talk about what constitutes good design, just as many other design manuals around the world do, with little reference to “style”. Style is a veneer that changes over time, a fashion that architects and designers tend towards as an expression of their place in time/space/culture/history. Good design transcends this – it’s the guts of whether something is well put together as an idea, as a means of meeting needs and expressing values, of relating to the things around it, and how well it is executed. I’ve seen plenty of poor historicist reproductions and contemporary architectural designs that are NOT good design – and plenty of both that are.

        2. “Personally, I think you have a very unhealthy pre-occupation with heritage, which leads you to 1) try and impose your values on others and 2) disregard other issues that are equally if not more important, like housing affordability.”

          I think that’s a bit harsh Stu.

          Anyhow, here’s a recent quote from a former mayor of a high density European city (Amsterdam) – “It’s important to combine the history with the future. The fabric of a city is important.” Job Cohen

          Note: not remove the history.

        3. Stu, you also have unhealthy preoccupations in forcing your view on others. Everyone on here is pushing for something.

          I’m pushing to ensure development In My Neighbourhood is appropriate. The UP is not pushing that.

          Hence- dust ups.

          I still wish we could do grass roots planning like Vancouver, but the third generation of Bad Auckland Planning can see no option but “top down”.

        4. Stu, you also have unhealthy preoccupations in forcing your view on others. Everyone on here is pushing for something.
          I’m pushing to ensure development In My Neighbourhood is appropriate. The UP is not pushing that.
          Hence- dust ups.

          I still wish we could do grass roots planning like Vancouver, but the third generation of Bad Auckland Planning can see no option but “top down”.

      2. A plan that doesn’t advocate closing Auckland’s borders to all-comers, with sprawl as far as the eye can see for the current residents and their natural offspring, would be “undercooked” in your eye (singular), Geoff.

  7. Give it another week and then maybe a complaint to the Press Council about lack of balance over time (individual articles don’t have to be balanced)? It’s fine to be one-eyed in editorials and columns because they’re presented as opinion pieces, but “factual” pieces on the same topic must sum up to balance when viewed as a whole.

  8. Not sure why some people are so concerned with the Herald coverage. It is good they are now on the issue and fueling debate.

    I think a common issue people have with the UP, is that it is obviously a rush job.

    Other than a strawman Auckland Plan. The UP does not appear to have a solid foundation. For example, the Council’s capacity for growth 2012 study is totally devoid of reality and meaningless. To understand you may want to take a look at the study maps of your local area and you will see schools, gas stations, churches, transport yards, supermarkets etc all identified as having capacity. Within 10 mins you will eliminate a whole chunk of capacity.

    It is no suprise that residents are getting wound up. Their communities already have issues and therefore people have very valid questions when handed a plan to increase the number of people in their community by say 50%.

    Where are the enablers, new roads, sewers, parks, schools, jobs, etc… maybe if we started with this, the community would get on board. It seems we have started at the wrong end and said here are a million people and we will stack them up here and here and then AT and Watercare etc will solve all the problems you have today plus the new ones caused by the stack of people in your hood.

    1. I’m sorry but the Herald is not fuelling “debate”; they’re peddling negative misinformation and fuelling NIMBY sentiment. They don’t even provide links to the Unitary Plan or any of the supporting material, or explain how people can participate in the process.

  9. The unitary plan has plenty of restriction of property rights in it. So it is quite hard to argue convincingly that the UP is enhancing property rights in one particular area. I initially thought this, but the more I look at it the more I see it as restricting rather than enhancing. Take the nebulous design standard the dep mayor keeps talking about for example, not to mention, of course, the RUB.

    The herald is just doing what it always does. Everyone with any capacity for independent thought can get angry at the Herald for their nonsense. I used to get livid at least once a week. My advice: don’t read it if it upsets you

    1. HI Swan, I most of what the unitary plan proposes is less restrictive than what was allowed under the old District Plan (which are currently operative). So in a relative sense the Unitary Plan is certainly better for property rights.

      In terms of the Herald, I do normally ignore it. In this case, however, they appear to be running a concerted campaign against the unitary plan, without providing any insight or information. And for that I think they deserve to be called out.

      1. Seems to me the plan is jack of all master of none. It indicates that we dont want urban sprawl and so therefore you can do all these things…. but then on the other hand it says to a developer…. here are all the tiny properties you need to buy and amalgamate, here are the hoops, here are the costs and by the way here is the uncertainty. Seems no one wins… People will worry that a 4 storey apartment will be built 5 metres from their lovely home however reality is that with all the hurdles and uncertainty nothing much different will happen… A few cheap apartments and then mostly sprawl.

      1. But what are the chances of beautiful buildings being built in Auckland under the UP? At the end of the day, the buildings need to find a market, and there is not much evidence of anything happening in the apartment market in Auckland other than developers putting up the most profitable types of building – cheap to build, easy to sell (preferably at inflated prices). That might be good for developers, but I don’t think it is good for Auckland.

    1. I don’t think you need to look overseas for good 3-6 level apartments/ terraced housing. There are plenty in Auckland.

      I think a major problem is people can’t visualise intensification working well.In the mt Eden example in the herald the fear is somewhat understandable as the area is blighted by some average units.

      I think some terraced housing like opposite the domain could work there.If I’m not mistaken with another street, the street mentioned in the story has some pretty rundown houses prime to develop in the future. 3 levels would work well there.

      1. “I think a major problem is people can’t visualise intensification working well”

        Agreed – and who is helping them do so? Where are the pictures and words to support that conversation?

        1. The council has provided examples and they have a modelling thing on their website, shape Auckland. Still hard for people to visualise I’m guessing.

          Good terraced housing should be talked about more. A lot more affordable and relatable.

          1. Can you please link to these examples Council has provided. I can’t find any. The simulator doesn’t show what places look like at street level, and the fly-through videos are only in ghostly block form. Neither of them provide much built-in context.

            I want photos or realistic renderings of actual buildings, streets and points of interest, with stories about what they are like to live with, work in and travel through. For the amount being spent on this crucial exercise, surely that’s not too much to ask for?

        2. Sacha, I spoke to one of the council staff about this at the UP meeting I went to. She was in agreement with me that the visuals were not particularly appealing, but apparently that’s what was provided to her. I am working on getting photographs of examples… it’s just taking longer than I expected! If anyone can recommend some good examples please add a streetview link and I will try finish the photos this weekend!

          1. +1 for the Ockham that Luke C linked above (more here: http://www.ockhamie.com/tobIE.html )

            These townhouses are pretty typical for Auckland: http://goo.gl/maps/WdhXT http://goo.gl/maps/kfhXP http://goo.gl/maps/PczU6

            There’s lots of good images of the sort of buildings that are encouraged in local centres and town centres at http://midrisemixeduse.tumblr.com/

            Or staying in Auckland, you could always go back to the future: http://goo.gl/maps/QGuQZ

            You could look in Wellington: http://goo.gl/maps/f7oZs http://wellurban.blogspot.co.nz/2006/02/density-done-right-wright-street.html http://wellurban.blogspot.co.nz/2005/08/urban-eye-ebor-st-townhouses.html

            Or take a boring detached house and add a storey: http://goo.gl/maps/3qvv2

            And my favourite Wellington building: the Mondrian Flatiron: http://wellurban.blogspot.co.nz/2005/12/density-done-right-summit-on.html

          2. Cheers 🙂
            I have a bunch of photos already from SF, Vancouver, Melbourne, Amsterdam, etc. I was particularly looking for Auckland examples – so thanks heaps for your suggestions!

          3. Geoff – I didn’t mean that Kelburn house had actually been modified, just that there’s a lot of very similar houses with only two stories. I don’t know if the third storey is original or not. I think it had some serious renovations about 6-8 years ago, though, including recladding, which would be why it looks so cohesive.

            Right nearby is this: http://goo.gl/maps/ZYnRe which is nice, but wouldn’t quite be allowed even in the Terraced House & Apartment Zone under the UP in Auckland. It’s 4 stories, but the side setbacks are probably about 1m, not 3m, and the setback to the street isn’t 2.5m for the whole width.

  10. Nice. That said I would not want it 5 metres from my backyard… bricks might fall off in an earthquake and crush my camellias.

  11. Yes, flying can be quite tear inducing. Tend to support a UAE airline as they clearly do not get enough of my petrol money. They also have less of those large flight attendants who cannot fit down the aisles and knock your tea 😉

    Good try with the rose tinted specs view on intensification. It is a bit like anything though, the good suburbs will have some ok developments, the lower income suburbs will end up with major issues as happens throughout the world. The Herald should (ideal world) focus on the low income suburbs which should be complaining more as lack of sunlight, more noise and overcrowded public services are heading their way in general, as they tend to not be able to afford the fancy environment court lawyers to stop the cheap and nasty developments.

    To be fair to the New Zealand Herald they are having the occasional good transport story though http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10879997

    The verbal abuse noted in that article seems pretty common place in Auckland now. The lack of consideration is amazingly bad. Great how the article also shows how a little increase in cycling spending could go a long way.

    And just in case you missed it:


    A potential Chinese PPP for the CRL? Seems to make sense given they will be Auckland’s masters in a decade or so. Has the price changed yet again though?

    If you do not like the Herald there is always Stuff or Scoop btw….vote with your clicks.

    Nice puppy placement btw.

    1. puppy actually placed herself under the duvet – I just walked into the room and there she was, with those dark labrador eyes that pierce deep into one’s soul. All I had to do was take the photo, which as a doting member of the pack I duly did.

  12. Nice post Stu. By coincidence yesterday I went cycling down the road where John Key lives and I noticed that together with big mansions behind some leafy trees there were also quite tidy 4 storeys apartment buildings. Didn’t look like slums, unless poor people own Porsches nowadays.

      1. Even more interestingly less than 10 houses away is the well known white apartment block that is over 10 stories high.
        There are quite a number more 4 storey type apartments on Brighton Road too, agree they aren’t the prettiest, though they views would definitely make up for that.

        1. Luke- there’s the problem in a nut shell. The folks who live in them look at the nice view and never at their building. Everyone else has to look at the not pretty building.

          It’s the victor Hugo? Eiffel Tower story. He had lunch up it every day so that he didn’t have to look at it…

  13. The NZ Herald will always be a bunch of wankers whipping up fear because they’re in the business of selling advertising, and (sadly) nothing attracts an audience better than fear.

    Having just been overseas to see some wonderful multi-storey developments (Baden-Baden Germany was delightful) and some awful ones (London central – what a characterless mish-mash) I have to say that I think Aucklanders have cause for legitimate concern. Previous councils have never enforced planning rules in way that could give anyone any confidence that we will not destroy the character of entire suburbs, and have them replaced with an incoherent jumble. If I felt confident we would end up with central Paris (or Baden-Baden) that would be awesome. But having previously bid at auction on properties that could not be subdivided, only to find them subdivided by slick developers six months later gives me no confidence in Auckland Council’s ability to create rules that could achieve this, and actually enforce them. I doubt that destroying the character of entire suburbs is high on your agenda.

    If you take close looks at specific examples, they show all the hallmarks of a council planning department with too much work and too little time. It has been a desk exercise with no clear reference to what actually suits the area. Arch Hill, for example, is a south-facing slope containing some of the most run-down damp villas in Auckland. Can one build something modern, multi-storey and better? No – the UP won’t allow it. But in narrow streets like Edwards Rd, Grey Lynn and Peel St, Grey Lynn unsuited to the extra traffic that will result, multi-storey is all on.

    I think there are some good places around Auckland to encourage multi-storey developments, and some bad places. I just don’t think the UP shows any evidence of having done more than tossed coins on the matter.

    1. Some good points. Yes to me the concern is poorer areas. In poorer areas I’ve seen sections sliced and diced poorly that further bring down the value of the area. An example would be the area by Sunnyvale train station off Seymour road. Great location but houses cheaply built and mish mashed on top of each other.

  14. This whole debate is moronic. It’s like arguing over music taste; “I like BIG buildings”, “I LIKE small buildings”, “Wanker”, “Tosspot”…

    *Sigh*; I guess that’s collective planning though huh? Everyone deciding what everyone else should do.

  15. I wonder if Auckland would have been a different city if the Auckland Star had have had the morning slot and survived rather than the grindingly dull and ultra conservative Herald.

  16. Yes, not a bad example. I think there are a lot of places this building could work. However, one issue this shot does illustrate really well is the impact of shading. Whilst the sun is to the north (i.e. minimum shade time), a shadow is cast right across Rossmay Rd onto the opposite property. I can’t understand how Council will get community buy in when they are proposing only a 5 metre setback for buildings of this size when they adjoin 2 storey zones.

  17. I can’t believe that anybody actually takes Brian Orsman seriously – I refuse to give him any platform at Eye on Auckland, he isn’t worth the effort. The Eye has obviously bruised his ego and he just can’t get it out of his system. That in itself is a good thing. He resorts to sensationalism which reeks of desperation and fear. He quotes out of context and implies that The Eye wishes nimbys “dead” – where he gets that from is pure speculation. Some comments refer to “won’t they just hurry up and die” but that’s the heated views of readers.

    He conveniently forgets to add that nimbys have also left very bitter comments attacking younger generations – all is fair in love and war. He has also made no effort to contact The Eye which goes to prove that his views are one-sided. I have had many interviews with local newspapers in the last week and I have a radio interview coming up. He has no excuse, if others can make contact so can he.

    Most importantly somebody has had the backbone to speak up and tell it as it is. If it wasn’t for The Eye there wouldn’t be anything to talk about – nimbys would still be ruling the roost and walking all over The UP. Sometimes one has to resort to tactics of shock and awe in order to awaken people. Love it or leave it but Eye on Auckland doesn’t tap dance around stubborn ignoramuses.

    1. very very interesting, I would say that Bernard (and the NZherald in general) is a journalistic dinosaur bumbling its way towards extinction.

    1. That’s just Stu, he recently lived in Amsterdam and loves the place so is always posting pictures of it. If you want good local examples, check out Chapter 11 of the Auckland Plan. It has a nice catelogue of good examples from Auckland at various heights and densities.

    2. The first example does look like a crap knock off of the Square Coliseum (as featured in Salo from memory). I’m also impressed you got a shot of Summerfield Villas in Grey Lynn without the plastic covering it!
      Many people share this fear, I’ll check out Nicks examples in chapter 11 too

  18. Campbell Live’s stories tonight on the Unitary Plan included photos and renderings like I was asking for above (though missing the case studies and stories around them). Maybe they’re from UP meeting presentations or suchlike, but not the references linked above. Why aren’t they somewhere easy to find?

    1. Sacha- i just checked out the Campbell live piece
      http://www.3news.co.nz/Learning-from-Aucklands-housing-mistakes/tabid/367/articleID/295946/Default.aspx This story filled me with even more fear- Penny Hulse telling us the non-statutory design manual IS statutory, the Portland example of what the planners think of as good heritage and new (if the yellow abomination at 11.55 is typical); and mostly the fact that the Urban Design Manual doesn’t get released until September- when the Plan becomes operative. “Don’t worry it’s all covered by something we’re not going to show you til afterwards”- great victory for democracy there…

      1. the underlying these of your comments seems to be “what Geoff likes is good” and that AC should just trust the “community” (i.e. outspoken people like Geoff) when evaluating developments. Is that a city I would like to live in? Hell no!

  19. I see that orsman is at it again today’s. lies about being able to willy nilly have 3 stories when its staying the same as it always has been at 8m.

    1. Have you read it all? This bit backs up what he says doesn’t it?

      Ms Pirrit said applications to increase the height to 10m were a non-notified restricted discretionary activity, which meant they would be decided by officers with no input from residents.

      1. Geoff do you really think there is any problem with 10m high buildings? Do you really believe three stories is ‘high rise’? The moral panic and hysteria around the UP is insane and Beranrd Orsman is among the worst offenders because as a journalist he must know the difference between campaigning and reporting, and between sensationalised nonsense and calm and balanced outlines of the facts. Are you in his camp really?

        Oh dear.

      2. From Wikipedia’s page on Ponsonby (not my usual source, but reliable in this context I think):

        “1859 New Street is put through the middle of the St Mary Mount estate and Bishop Pompallier presents land on the eastern side of the street for the creation of St. Mary’s College. Almost unaided the sisters erect a three story (sic) convent building and open it in 1861. The only surviving building from this period is the Kauri St Mary’s Chapel constructed in 1865 by Edward Mahoney for £1100”

        I’m pretty sure the community got no say over this design. And I’m pretty sure the three storeys would not have been a disaster. And I’m pretty sure it would be classed as part of the heritage that Geoff is so keen to retain (admittedly I’m not a Ponsonby resident – is the building referred to still with us?).

        So – where is the problem with three storey? It’s a normal urban form of walkable proportion. Heck, in this instance it is the very definition of Ponsonby Heritege. It really defies logic when reactionary politics blows issues up this far out of proportion…

        1. D’oh. Building clearly it still with us. Logic still stands I think – three storey is not a crime against heritage, context, or the community.

          1. The Plan has always said: 8m of right, 10m RD. And you can have pretty much what you like if you apply for full consent beyond this. The plan text has never lied.

            The question is: what is “allowed”?

            To most people it is what is permitted of right, because we know how much hassle anything else is. On that basis, describing the zone as being 2 storey is not lying. Lets be clear on that.

            However, pretty much anything is “allowed” (apply for 4 storeys if you want…) if you are prepared to chance your arm and have some good arguments regarding why it is a better outcome. That’s the absurdity of the RMA for you- a 2 speed system that actively incentivises the lowest common denominator. None of this is any different, in principle, from pretty much all of the existing plans now.

            Putting aside accusatory statements such as ‘lying’, I do agree that the communications of the UP have been disastrously handled. The dialogue should between Council and the community should have started a year and a half ago, and should have been a two way true engagement. However- that is not the same as lying.

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