Yesterday I attended two events related to the unitary plan. The first was held by the council and covered off the next steps of the Unitary Plan along with the Auckland Design Manual. The second was a talk on the issues with the plan hosted by Construkt.

Council – Unitary Plan

As many will know, the Unitary Plan will be officially notified on Monday. At that point the entire plan and all of the updated maps will be on the council’s website (replacing the Shape Auckland site). Due to the size of the plan and with Christmas looming, the council will hold allow for submissions up until the 28th of February. That’s 5 months which is twice as long as was allowed for in the draft consultation earlier this year.

During November the council will be holding events around the region so that people interested can find out more about the plan. I think one of the issues with the draft plan consultation is that perhaps there weren’t enough events later on in the process so hopefully the council will also be holding some in late Jan/early Feb so they don’t get caught out in a wave of negative publicity like they seemed to last time. The council are also working with the planning institute to hold sessions about the process including giving people tips on how to make a better submission.

For the consultation the council have also put together a a number of documents intended to help the public understand the plan including local area factsheets that show how the zoning in the local board areas have changed from the draft plan to what is being notified. This is a good step although I still think that there simply isn’t enough easy to obtain information for people as to what zoning exists now. It leaves me concerned we will see a repeat of the draft consultation where lots of people complained about building heights in areas that weren’t actually proposed to be changed from what already exists. Also hopefully it is just my copy but it seems a decent number of the maps have been stupidly printed upside down.

After consultation closes it likely won’t be until sometime in May that we get the first idea of what the feedback actually and that is when the council will release a summary of the submissions. However it will take officers a longer time to properly work through everything and the formal hearings are not expected to start until 2015. If you remember the government will be the ones appointing the hearing commissioners and that is meant to be happening before the end of this year.

If you remember we got an idea of some of the changes to the maps from the documents that came out during the final stages of the council discussions. The maps below give a good indication as to just how much the local boards have pulled back on intensification with most pushing for the much lower Suburban version of the Mixed Housing Zone.

Original Proposal
Original Proposal
Amended Map
Amended Map

Council – Auckland Design Manual

Auckland Design Manual banner

This was the much more interesting part of the council talk as it has been something that a lot of people have been waiting to see. It too goes live on Monday with the unitary Plan. The intention of it is great, while it’s a non-statutory document, it is meant to work alongside the Unitary Plan and contain “the latest design guidance, best practice processes and real life examples”. The council also said that the manual and how they are implementing it is a world first for a best practice guide.

Created by Auckland Council, the Auckland Design Manual (ADM) will tell readers everything they need to know to achieve the high quality houses, neighbourhoods and open spaces Aucklanders want – and the best return on investment.

The manual will work as a practical companion guide to The Unitary Plan – the new rulebook for Auckland’s built and natural environment. Put in simple terms, the Unitary Plan will say what can be built and where, while the ADM will say how those rules can best be met – with developments that look great, work well and are economically viable.

Unlike the Unitary Plan the ADM will be non-statutory, which will enable it to be updated regularly and quickly with the latest design guidance, best practice processes and real life examples.

The website will also be a continual two-way conversation – welcoming feedback and suggestions from the public on page content. This will create a dynamic resource with the most current advice and guidelines.

Initially the plan will launch with only two sections

Design for Auckland will explain how your project fits into the bigger picture – because no matter what the scale, your project will shape the community as a whole.

Design for Places is the ‘how to’ guide within the manual and will give practical design tips through case studies and worked examples

While in February additional sections will launch.

Design Process – a step-by-step guide through the design and development process to ensure you know what to do and when.

Design Thinking – a portal for the key design issues and principles that matter to Auckland.

Resources – useful tools such as a home buyers guide and checklists for what to look for in different house types

We were only showed a brief glimpse of the manual and how it worked so I will need to reserve full judgement until it is published but it certainly looked pretty. Users will be able to drill down to get real life examples of good developments across a wide mix of different building types and price points. If you’re interested you will even be able to get site specific details including the location, floor plans and many other attributes.

The council want to use as many local examples as possible and initially they have 12, eight from Auckland and four from Wellington.  But it also raises my first issue/concern. They used the excuse that they need to keep it mostly local as they are worried that if they show international examples that people will just dismiss it saying that it can’t work here. They will eventually release international examples but it sounds like those will be much more limited in comparison to the local ones. I can understand why they are doing it this way but I do worry that it means it will take longer for great design ideas to catch on. Further people will be able to submit their own examples of good designs to appear on the site – after they have been checked of course. One of the hopes is that appearing in the design manual as an example will become something that developers (of all sizes) strive for and therefore raising the quality in Auckland.

The initial sections that launch will include examples on housing and parks however eventually it will be expanded to include design examples about good streets and even good neighbourhoods. All up the manual sounds really good but I guess my main concern is that simply it ends up being either too ambitious and doesn’t deliver or that it, or the dedicated staff who will be maintaining it become the victims of some future round of budget cutting.  That could leave the site languishing to the point that people simply stop using it. On the other side of the coin, if it does catch on like the council hope, it should become an excellent resource.

Construkt Event

Some of you may remember a report which came out last year while the council were discussing the Auckland Plan that criticised the council over how much growth the plan would actually allow for. Well one of its authors, Patrick Fontein was speaking about the unitary plan and some of the issues with it. At the time the report was picked up on by the likes of Dick Quax to suggest that intensification simply wasn’t going to work and that we should open up more greenfield land however it was pretty clear from Patrick’s talk that he was saying quite the opposite. He was suggesting that we needed to be bolder and allow for more density if we want intensification. One of the key reasons for this is that just because a site is zoned for say apartments, that doesn’t mean apartments can or will be viable to develop there.

Interestingly he provided a list of the key recommendations he made to the council back in 2011 when he produced the report and had marked them against what has happened with the Unitary Plan. The sad thing is the areas where we have had the biggest concerns about the plan were also the same things he raised back then. The recommendations included:

  • Intensification zoning needs to be bold
  • Political resilience and backbone to support quality intensification, especially when facing substantial NIMBY resistance (NIMEY?) – NIMEY stands for Not In My Election Year
  • A major public relations campaign to show the benefits of good quality intensification to the wider community.

A crap public relations campaign (was there even one?) that did little to talk about the benefits of intensification and the dis-benefits of not intensifying combined with not highlighting to people what zoning currently exists led to a lot of NIMBYs. Those NIMBYs then complained loud enough that some of the weaker politicians folded scared they wouldn’t get re-elected and as a result any bold intensification zoning was scaled back (except for in the Henderson-Massey area where the local board went bolder).

What is scary is the result of all of this. In 2011 when he produced the original report, Patrick estimated that the Auckland Plan would allow for about 67% intensification which was just under the council’s target of 70%. By the time the first draft of the Unitary Plan was released he estimates the changes in zoning have removed the potential for about 100,000 extra dwellings in the urban area, bringing the intensification level down to 45%. With the latest changes to the plan following the consultation he estimates it has removed another 50,000 potential dwellings and brought the intensification percentage down to about 32%. One of the reasons for it dropping so much is that the reduced height limits in many places have not only removed potential dwellings but have also made many of the sites no longer viable for development.

What all of this means is that in a few years we are likely to need to go back and fix all of the issues with the plan. Effectively re-litigating across large portions of Auckland height and density limits as well as historic protection rules all over again – in other words all of the most contentious parts of the plan. I’m sure that is a sobering thought for many, particularly those who have been fighting for the plan to be better.

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  1. Judging by the colours and layout, it looks like the Amended map has a zone type the original Draft map did not, that sits between mixed use and single dwelling zones (3 shades of residential zoning in Draft vs. 4 in the Amended map). Is that correct? If so, the old plan looks pretty much unrecognisable, since there remains very very little “mixed use” zoning there. It’s quite disheartening and looks to set Auckland in a completely different direction.

    Is it even possible – politically and legally – for this to be reversed after the UP has been confirmed? Is there any way the council could add back more mixed use zoning during the formal notification phase?

    1. Yes that’s right. The mixed housing zone was split in two, an urban and suburban zone. The idea itself is useful but it is the implementation that I have an issue with. The key differences between the two versions is the urban (darker shade) allows for up to 3 storeys and smaller lot sizes while the suburban is capped at 2 storeys with larger site sizes. As you can see most of the local boards across the isthmus have chickened out and gone for the lesser suburban zone. The only significant area of urban zoning appears to be in the Henderson Massey area where politicians aren’t as scared to do the right thing.

      Yes the commissioners could change this but it would likely require a lot of very good strongly evidenced based submissions.

  2. The March draft version of the Unitary Plan was a moderate plan for growth which really needed to have been done over 30 years ago. The version to be notified, scaled back by the local boards, is largely a plan to protect the status quo.

  3. Well in my area you can thank the tireless efforts the well meaning dolts of the Grey Lynn Residents Association who sought and seem to have won the complete removal of any dynamism from our area. It’s hard not to get a little ad homonym with these self-deluded do-gooders, who will bang on about what they like about the area, diversity, funky retail offerings, bohemian types, dynamic progressive people etc, but cannot work out that they are completely slamming the door shut on that continuing let alone growing. If they want another Parnell they sure are going the right way to get it; rich, pale, and stale.

    I currently live in a detached house in the area but have both terrace house and apartments in my street [typologies now banished] and I know that it is the addition of these people that has lead to improvements in some many facets of the neighbourhood. Certainly the arrival of specialty retail like Farro Fresh, new cafes, and other service and employment opportunities. But also just more people walking the streets; more life, smaller family units. And I fail to see the threat that the addition of these more affordable [but not cheap] dwellings and their occupants make to the community and particularly to the value of the existing single dwellings. There is no rational thought behind the activism that opposes the addition of more of these slightly more intensive dwellings; just fear of change and snobbery. Wrongheaded.

    These dimwitted liberals think they are preserving something that is somehow perfect now and mustn’t be allowed to alter.

    And, most tragically they think they are heros for doing so. They imagine themselves to be later day Jane Jacobs. Well this ain’t the Lower East Side, and a little more dwelling diversity and some real mixed use streets [like what JJ fought to keep] is not an urban expressway. They are fighting the wrong enemy in the wrong place. A generation with such great world changing ambition and quest for freedom has reduced itself to fighting to prevent anyone near by living higher up than one floor. Oh great New Age!

    Grey Lynn is gentrifying, which of course is fine if that’s what you want, but that isn’t the story these handwringers tell themselves. Oh they care deeply about housing affordability and are so sad that the Polynesian families and the students no longer seem to be able to afford to be in the area. Yet they campaign for things that completely shut out anyone not old enough to have bought in when the area was dynamic and affordable or rich enough to buy in now [with much tut-tutting about this though]. They can’t see what the outcome of their efforts will be, are already? Well then the kindest word for them is delusional.

    As well as having no idea about change and the fragility of place culture they also have no idea about heritage. Which of course is the big idea that keeps them up all night scheming and sweating to prevent anything happening ever again near them except bijoux made-up faux versions of a past that never existed. As they fail to understand the present and the past they are then certain to be baffled by the future as urban vitality goes elsewhere.

    Or perhaps these old campaigners are tired and ready for a quiet smallminded dotage of nodding sagely at the pages of the Herald….?

    Oh and they are also ensuring that there won’t be a single place in the neighbourhood for them to downsize to as they age [quite soon for most of them]. They’ll all have to leave their cherished slowing down neighbourhood to an apartment or aged care facility somewhere else.

    1. You can practically see the tumbleweeds blowing down Parnell Road now. It was before my time, but I’ve heard there used to be some form of life there?

      The same thing is happening in Grey Lynn, and it can’t be long before there is not a single under 50 left in the area.

      I share your frustration with the misguided do gooders, imagining themselves heroes in their great battle against the ‘evil developers’. I like to call them ‘lifestyle liberals’. For them being liberal is about an aesthetic and a lifestyle choice. Its about buying an organic brand of coffee, and turning up to protest against a new development as a good way to socialise on a Saturday afternoon. Its fashionable to pretend to care about the less well off but not if they have to live on the same street.

      1. Yes it is worrying that there seems to be a very vocal, unholy alliance of very left and very right against the UP. Both are equally misguided.

        The lefties think they are preserving the environment by stopping more people in their area but really they are just going to encourage sprawl which is even less environmentally appropriate. As you say, for them it is a matter of do what I say, not what I do.

        The right of course just think the “market” should rule unless the rules are actually adjusted so that the market may work against what they want. Yes the RUB restricts sprawl through regulation but the rules around exclusionary zoning (e.g. minimum lot size, minimum parking, minimum set back) are far more regulatory and restrictive. It is amazing to me to see people who consider themselves neo liberal stating that capitalist, free market developers cant be trusted and need to be regulated. If those developers arent the “market” then who is?

        1. Spot on, the so-called right are hopelessly devoted to their protectionist, anti-market rules and regulations. They support wealth creation only to the extent that they are able to preserve and enhancing their own lot. Nothing remotely liberal about them, and long run disastrous to NZ Inc

        2. Yes that’s very clear, but my point above, as Ben says, that the liberal left has been no better on the UP, but for different reasons. In my view delusional and possibly harder to deal with misplaced high minded ones. So there’s been no contest of ideas; just two groups of daft and selfish ‘no change’ hystericals.

          And let me be clear; there’s nothing wrong with self interest by political groups but misguided self-interest, where you fight for things that have opposite outcomes is just stupid. It is depressing how the forces that shape the urban world are misunderstood and open to misrepresentation by apparently intelligent and engaged people of all stripes.

        3. Yes the liberal view has not been coherently or clearly made at all. Disappointing, and a missed opportunity I feel. Gen Zero the exception that proves the rule?

          Agree too that misguided is worse than self-interest. But do you really agree there’s nothing wrong with self-interest? Is the “common good” too high an ideal?

        4. A bit of semantics really; my activism is motivated by the pursuit of the common good, but that I see that as, broadly speaking, the self-interest of the majority. Not direct self-interest in the sense that I believe one policy or another will make the value of my property go up or down or something, but rather knowing that an improved city makes for a better and more successful society and economy:

          All our self-interest = The common good.

          In other words neither altruism or self-sacrifice are required by people who support better cities; they will be the beneficiaries of the good outcomes. I am more interested in showing how people’s self-interest aligns with the common good than asking anyone to support something that may harm their interests.

          Naturally there are forces that benefit directly from Business As Usual and will fight for the status quo, and we get them here in these comments, and it would be naive to expect them to be open minded and or even reasonable. But they are not really that powerful without the acceptance of the vast majority who have so much to gain and nothing to lose. So don’t waste energy on lost causes, focus on appealing to the middle ground.

      1. I agree, it’s right up there and it nails the real issue. But it’s very hard to break down delusional thinking when there is so much misinformation and dysfunctional illogic out there. Nonetheless it’s a good start to call it what it is.

        There seems to be is a similar problem in the current maelstrom of deception around the publication of the new IPCC report. Try reading comments in any online populist newspaper. All messed up.

        What happened to the age of reason?

        1. Getting of topic here.. but that’s a good summary of the problem goosoid, thank you, in the AGW context. I really hate the way the BBC and others try to portray everything as an even contest between two implicitly equally valid positions. I heard an announcer start an article today “now if you believe the IPCC then…” before going on to present a counter view that the earth hasn’t warmed since 1998. Eh?!

          Perhaps we need to bring in more non-anglophone views into the dialogue on transport, urban planning, sustainability. Actually you do that quite frequently. I will be in Europe for a couple of weeks soon and will try to find some perspective.

    2. “Polynesian families and the students no longer seem to be able to afford to be in the area”
      That sounds like the election blurb for a particular candidate for the Auckland Local Board. I voted for her thinking it sounds like she’s into housing affordability! But maybe that was a bad inference to make..

    3. Who are these people who supposedly representing Grey Lynn residents? Terrifying we have our own little St Marys Bay RA right here amongst us. There is a complete lack of information on their website about who they are and through what process the nominated themselves to speak for Grey Lynn. Not cool.

      1. Afaik the people “supposedly representing Grey Lynn residents” are, unsurprisingly- Grey Lynn residents.
        Who would have imagined it?!
        Although not a member, and unable to speak on their behalf, it seems fairly obvious the residents have taken Len Brown’s opening statement of the Auckland Plan to heart.

        “Each community will consider the appropriate degree of compactness and level of intensification that goes with this”- THE AUCKLAND PLAN P3

        So they did. Nothing wrong with that right?

  4. The Design Manual is a good thing but it’s a shame it’s not in someway ‘statutory’ – I’m not trying to say the guide should be strictly adhered to but the ‘old’ design guide didn’t stop anyone totally ignoring it and putting up ‘Stalinist’ apartment blocks or other inappropriate designs. Maybe there could (or should) be some form of incentive to follow the Design Manual.

    1. Yes I would be keen to hear some more thoughts around this. One of Gen 0’s submission points was to make it ‘statutory’ but that probably was an oversimplification of matters. Due to the legalistic nature of RMA probably not possible to exactly make it a statutory document, but as long as their are strong links between the UP and the mannual should work. I think we will have to wait for the first court case before we really find out how much sway the mannual has.
      If anyone has any ideas for submissions to make on this would be happy to hear them.

  5. I don’t think it will necessarily be a bad thing that this version of the plan had less intensification in some areas. Now that opportunities for intensification are more limited/concentrated, it makes it more likely that whole areas will intensify more quickly. Then, when the unitary plan comes up for review in ten years, people will see how well the intensified suburbs are doing, and will put their hands up to say ‘ok, maybe I do want that in my suburb’.

    I’m optimistic that the 30 year vision of the Auckland Plan will be achieved. This first 10 years under this iteration of the unitary plan may not be too rapid, but I think that could be for the best.

  6. It’s hard to tell (is there a link to an online viewer for the latest version of the plan like there was for the original?), but I think we’re in an area that has gone from mostly ‘mixed use’ to ‘suburban’.

    Per Patrick’s comment, I think this reflects a certain NIMBY-ish-ness, but I think Luke E also has a point.

    The March proposed UP did seem to offer developers so many possible locations for development, that it was quite likely that we’d have wound up with the occasional somewhat out of place apartment block near a railway station or whatever, which would have been enough to add residents to a neighbourhood without being enough to draw the additional development in terms of cafes, shops and other amenities that would constitute real intensification of meaningful scale. There is a reasonable chance of developments like that just ending up ‘out of place’ and not very attractive at all – you get a small apartment without much in the way of compensatory amenities.

    With fewer nodes available for intensification right away, there is a much better chance that meaningful intensification can happen in those places – enough to make the case for it by example, as Luke E suggests.

    Having said that, it is clearly absurd for places that are almost-urban already like Parnell and Grey Lynn (the best we’ve got) to be zoned ‘suburban’ to defend I don’t know what against an imaginary threat, when it is exactly the vitality of those neighbourhoods (and their central location, obviously) that has made them so desirable in the first place.

    1. I wish I could share your optimism; it’s a hopeful theory, well for some places. So you picture little islands of new urbanism in a sea of auto-dependent low density dormitory suburbs? Hmmm- well they’ll be expensive, and flooded with cars as the ‘bridge and tunnel’ folk drive in for a bit of intensity on the weekends and evenings….

      Grey Lynn is lucky, because of its age it is already mixed use, so it has commercial and residential mixed together, and some degree of improvement will continue, though low level, and auto-dependent. As the bedwetters of the residents association want to clamp down on using the existing commercial areas to lift the intensity for reasons that just completely escape me. So obsessed with building height; perhaps it’s the only thing they can imagine? The DUP was already a moderate document and they have gutted it. I have yet to hear one sensible line of explanation from these people; just emotional nonesense about ‘developers’, and ‘change’, and ‘threat to heritage’.

      Still, it’ll be better here than in any of the newer duller monochrome ‘burbs, just nowhere good as it could and should be.

      We’ll be trucking in the Polynesians, youth, and other groups for the Grey Lynn Festival so the old liberals can still pretend they have a diverse and funky vital neighbourhood, the Hero Parade I hear is likely to leave Ponsonby Rd as there is no real GLTG culture on the strip anymore. Just cushion shops…. Parnell West.

    2. They didn’t scale back the Urban Boundary however, so we can expect most growth over the next ten years to take place there. Then when the plan gets reviewed and they find we’re running out of greenfield sites and housing is still overpriced, the council will probably expand the boundaries again.

      Luckily notification doesn’t mean the plan is final. Hopefully groups like Generation Zero will work on formal submissions that we can support, that will reduce the controls that limit density and affordability (e.g. 40m2 backyards, requiring balconies on dwellings in the mixed urban zone, apartment zone, metropolitian zone & cbd), and also submissions lifting the height limit in key areas (CFN corridors).

  7. The frightening thing is that the ” rusty and crusty” brigade is swelling at an alarming rate as our population ages. I am constantly embarrassed that I am close to that age group and that I might be associated with it.

    Patrick, I share your frustration about Grey Lynn. As I recall there is block of apartments that have been recently been constructed on Richmond Road. How can they possibly diminish the overall appeal of the area?

    I argued for substantial areas of my suburb to be intensified. It can work. And if you don’t like high rise in your area the good news is that the increasing land price will mean that you can take your bundle of cash and buy elsewhere – in the case of Takapuna it is IaamMilford. (It’s all about me Milford).

    The argument on the Shore seems to be that if we intensify then our local roads will be more clogged. The irony is that by pushing that development to Silverdale our road to the city is more clogged and we have to also pay the greater price of subsidising the Silverdale residents who wish to use public transport; we pay the cost of their roads; their civic amenities and often the social cost where a family is dislocated by one or more partners who are away for hours at a place of work. As a nation we pay the cost of their fuel, a cost we will be unable to meet should our dairy industry falter; and we pay the greater depreciation on their vehicles.

    I am amazed that large parts of the Unitary plan lock us in the 1890’s -we had two storey houses then! What can conceivably be the problem (amongst other things) with a 3 storey house of say 240 sq m on a moderate sized piece of land? In Takapuna these sell for over 700k. It is hardly bringing riff raff to the area.

    I firmly believe that those of us who think this way need to be more organised and more vocal. We need the help of our Gen X friends who can most effectively work and influence via social media. And once the election is out of the way we have a better chance to influence politicians who may be more brave.

    I am passionate about this change as I have teenagers who will struggle desperately to buy the “kiwi dream” of a stand alone house. It seems eminently reasonable that there be a range of alternatives to living in Silverdale.

    1. There are several blocks of flats on Richmond Road in various old industrial areas and seemingly we’ve all survived their influx. Absolutely crazy we are restricting opening the suburb up to a wider group of people.

  8. Great post Matt.

    I think you’re right. The total lack of clear communication from AC re the UP led to a lot of kick back against it.
    Time and time again we appeared at “Key Stakeholder” meetings and suggested they get the community on board and find out what the people want and need but every time we were told “we know what we’re doing”.
    They had the option of real involvement, they chose not to take it- this is what results.
    Perhaps next time they’ll do it differently? Knowing Auckland- probably not though eh?

    1. Geoff Houtman – It wasn’t perfect but the Council did organise 200 public meetings, three months of submissions, and a revised plan based on those submissions all before notification. I’m not sure what you think ‘real involvement’ looks like. And a lack of ‘real involvement’ can’t be blamed for the result. As patrick noted much of the blame can be laid on hysterical groups such as the Grey Lynn anti-change association and local boards all too quick to cave in to their pressure.

      1. Frank- My point is that the UP folks should have engaged with the “Grey Lynn anti-change association” and got them on board. Wouldn’t you rather have allies pushing with you rather than enemies pushing against you?
        And yes- they threw loads of meetings, their communication was still shit though..

    2. Geoff I’m not convinced that the community actually know what’s best. As Patrick points out above, many people think they are trying to preserve neighborhoods but in the process are actually destroying what makes those places interesting and unique. What was needed was for the council to actually sell the benefits of what was proposed and show how it would make those neighborhoods more livable.

    3. Geoff aren’t you a member of the GLRA? Can you explain the thinking behind the actions of your group and its great success in keeping people out of the area? Oh and BTW, have you found somewhere affordable to live in the neighbourhood?

      1. Hi Patrick,
        No, not a member but lots of folk round here are…
        Nope, places like the Isaac are wanting 2/3 of a million for a two bedroom! Where’s this affordable housing we hear about?

        1. Well look at those maps above… will there be more or fewer dwellings to choose from now?, and will there be more or fewer different sizes and types of dwellings at different price points in Grey Lynn?

          And therefore will there be more diversity, more youth, and more vitality now that dead hand of Gerry Hill and his ilk have got the result they want?

          So what’s the solution for someone like you finding somewhere here? I think we can agree that you’re a Grey Lynner; be good to have you domiciled here happily….

        2. Well thats more affordable for the $1 million plus for an old villa nearby…
          Because the rules make it difficult to build apartments, the only ones that are built are very high spec. Make things more certain, will have lower land holding costs, more competition, and will get more affordability. Before I start to sound too right wing, the other best way to lower costs is to have local/central government build the apartments which will slash financing costs.

        3. “More affordable” is not quite the same as affordable though, but round here I don’t think affordable will be built. Unless as you say central or local govt lead it. Neither has shown interest thus far sadly..

        4. Geoff detached houses of the type that the GLRA want to enforce as the only typology allowable are selling for way beyond 1million, so an apartment below that figure down to 1/2 a million is definitely more affordable. And more affordable is as good as it will ever get no matter what ‘the government’ or anyone else does as the natural desirability of this neighbourhood will always keep the value up.

        5. Perhaps “the natural desirability of this neighbourhood ” is exactly what they want to protect?
          The council and Gummint are the only people who could make it happen. You know that…

        6. Yes by not giving in to wrongheaded NIMBYs. It’s the location, the mixed use, and the density that makes it so good, not old wooden houses. They’re alright, once you’ve made them habitable, but they don’t define the area as much as the quivering ninnies think.

          That obsession speaks of an inability to read place, it only looks at surface.

        7. Geoff you just can’t have it both ways- either you want a stuffy and hyper priced museum suburb, or you’re happy to put up with more built diversity and one you can actually live in.

          There’s a vile and stubby 80s office tower at 15 Hopetown St that is about to be converted into apartments. Good-oh, it can’t get any worse through this process, and is likey to be considerably improved, although the 3 floors of carparks will still be there. And still I don’t see you wanting to live in it. Wouldn’t it be great to have 3-4-5-6 story apartment blocks right up to the street with retail below like Paris or Barcelona in Grey Lynn? Who;e blocks say between Crummer and Great North Rd? Isn’t that the sort of thing you could live in. But apparently if such a thing can be just seen from a current detached house that’s too much for these old hippies as it will ‘destroy’ the glorious heritage of the little wooden shacks….

        8. Oh Patrick- where to start? You know I’m a fan of area appropriate intensification, yet you claim there are only two options. Clearly there’s at least 3 options but you’d rather not face that?

          I’ll ignore the Philistinic suggestion to destroy entire blocks of RES 1 which are the largest surviving colony of Viccy Villas IN THE WORLD…

          Your mind reading skills aren’t very good though because I’m interested in the vile Zespri building (Victor Hugo styles- “If I live in it, I won’t have to look at it’s ugliness”. I’ll put that one down as you assuming?

          Your derision of democracy, the “spectre of local planning” and your fellow Grey Lynn residents, makes it seem you’re not not happy here? Maybe you could sell your house to someone who would be and move into a glorious apartment? Thoughts? 😉

        9. ‘Appropriate’ intensification as judged by your mates is simply elsewhere isn’t it? Whereas I simply want more quality in my neighbourhood, of all kinds. And increasing quality. But then I don’t share your friends’ moral panic about change and sharing a place with others.

          Surely the past is a layer to be added to, not one either to be frozen nor, especially, to be mocked and devalued by bogus copies. What is contemporary architecture but future heritage? Our focus should be on making it good contemporary architecture rather than trying to ban all change and addition outright.

          In any event I find your description of the various old detached houses to be too idealised, only some of which are Victorian, only some villas, [I do have some expertise in this matter] and all have been altered and adapted over the years, which is absolutely fine, yet you imagine that they are somehow pure. It is my view, [again not exactly without study of the matter] that it is precisely the jumble of styles and periods and conditions that gives these streets their charm. In other words precisely because this place is not one thing, not all Victorian Villas, for example, but like many great places the result of accretion and addition…

          Also, I’m fine here, as you know, I’m in, it’s not my nose pressed up against the glass not allowed to join the party because of the fearful bullying of some old fools. I still can’t possibly understand the moral danger of adding terrace houses and apartments to this mix and all the additional life and vitality that their occupants would bring. Oh and our next move almost certainly will be to an apartment… melt down the crazy value in the big family home, I just hope it can be in an area I like and not one in an area deemed ‘appropriate’ by a bunch of people who misunderstand place and cities so profoundly yet don’t let that stop them forcing their views on everyone else…

          I struggle with this conversation because I suspect I am misunderstood; I am not proposing the wholesale removal of the existing residential buildings in GL, far from it! And nor did the DUP, yet it still wasn’t good enough for the do-nothing-gang. There is a middle ground and the first iteration of the DUP was closer to it than what we have now. So this looks like a disfunction of democracy; the hi-jacking of a process by the loudest screamers, again. But we can agree that the Council officers did a very poor job at communicating their work.

          And very pleased that you’re housed in the hood!

        10. “Nope, places like the Isaac are wanting 2/3 of a million for a two bedroom! Where’s this affordable housing we hear about?”

          The other commenters have noted that 2/3 million is still much cheaper than 1.5 – 2 million for a Villa, and that Grey Lynn’s desirability makes it naturally expensive. Both good points.

          What hasn’t been noted is that with so few places in Grey Lynn where it is possible to build apartments (owing largely to local NIMBYism) any apartments that are built in Grey Lynn are extremely scarce. So scarce that any local could probably name every apartment building in the Grey Lynn Ponsonby area. Scarcity pushes up values. If there were more places you could build apartments, more would get built than just the Iasac and prices would be pushed down.

          Supply and demand is not just a text book concept, or a conspiracy ‘right wing’ people use to dupe communities and destroy heritage.

          “Your derision of democracy, the “spectre of local planning” and your fellow Grey Lynn residents”

          Your version of democracy seems to be that people should get to make decisions at the smallest possible local level without any concern for the impact on the wider public. In that case why not let every property owner decide the level of intensification they think is appropriate for their property. If they want to build an apartment block they can, but if they don’t want that no one will force them to. No one else’s wishes will be forced on them from the ‘top-down’ and everyone can make decisions at the most local level possible, the single lot. Perfect local democracy just like the resident’s associations want.

  9. David O, I have to strongly disagree with you. I think that this revised UP produces the worst of all worlds. The limiting of intensification to such a relatively small area is likely to have two effects: the first being that developers are competing for small areas of land (cf anyone wanting to buy into Grey Lynn – you don’t pay a premium because you are buying a wonderful property, but because you are competing with dozens of others to buy this poorly insulated, hard to heat liability to your financial stability. I can say that as I owned many such structures around Mt Eden). The effect will be force prices up and so we will have even less affordable inner city housing. That will of course only happen for so long because development will cease as the cost of development can not be passed on to buyers.

    I think this revised UP is an unmitigated disaster.

    As an aside I fail to see a problem with isolated high rise around a transport hub. First, development has to start with something. Second, being near to that hub allows people to use that hub to get to the amenities they need.

    1. Yes, I agree. Although not ideal, having density just around transport hubs would at least be a beachhead for urbanism that would show the NIMBYs that it doesnt mean carmaggedon. Also once the Baby Boomers start retiring and looking for smaller housing, they will slowly lose control over the low density suburbs and the next iteration of the UP in 10 years will be able to expand those dense areas.

      I do find the revised UP and the scaremongering that read to the chnages depressing. But I also think it is a matter of, at least partially, losing a battle but not the war. Baby steps.

  10. Would help if their maps weren’t such subtle shades of a few colours, so you could actually distinguish zones. Not rocket surgery.

  11. There’s a difference between the quantity and quality of engagement. Unfortunately it is not the number of meetings that counts.

  12. My off-topic question this Sunday morning: Should the bicycle section of trademe be under sports or under Cars, Bikes & Boats?

    1. Didnt you know that cycling is only a sport and that it requires lycra, glowing clothes and a stupid looking piece of polystyrene? One day those silly Dutch and Danes will wake up and realise how ridiculous they look in shorts and summer dresses.

  13. It looks like high density is only going to be allowed in the worse areas – the exact opposite of what we need. High density in good areas works well, but in bad areas it creates slums.

    1. yes, it strongly reinforces the perception that higher density living is designed for low-income households. I don’t want to be too dramatic, but it feels like Auckland is on a very slippery slope towards a highly segregated urban form, where low-income households are concentrated in small areas on the urban periphery while “richies” with a sense of entitlement and a faux sense of heritage dominate the inner-city suburbs.

      1. Well said Stu. We happen to live in a townhouse in an affluent area. If not for that town-house we simply couldn’t live here. It was built in the 1970s, yet from what I hear, post Unitary Plan it would be difficult to duplicate it in future in this ‘burb. On the other hand, it does appear that the Unitary Plan for what ever reason was very rushed, and there were certain areas at one stage nominated for intensification which just weren’t physically suitable, thus adding credibility to the campaigns of the naysayers.

        I hope that there is now going to be time and space to review the Unitary Plan on a street by street basis. When is the next formal review? 10 years? That is not that far away within the context of an entire region, and gives opportunity for some great background work….and a very focused approach on getting some excellent quality case study projects built in the meantime. Yes they may be in poorer areas, but that should be an inspiration for the highest possible development. It may also enable some “top down” direction in funding, master planning and architecture. When I consider the legacy left by the first Labour government in the quality of the state houses from the 1930s that was able to be maintained right up into the 1950s, I think there are exciting times ahead.

      2. OK – coming back to making city/inner suburban suburbs affordable…….. parts of Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Mt Eden etc may be too tough right now, but this should prompt a fine-tooth comb investigation of sites through the inner city that may be available. It may be more tower block oriented rather than town-houses. Make the air-space over the inner suburban rail stations one battle to take on next time round. And it may be time to take another look at how sensible those volcanic view sight-lines are through Newmarket for example. Thoughts?

  14. Probably too late to revive this thread but it seems like my comment produce some responses, so this is my response to those responses. I wasn’t applauding the plan as it now stands as an end point I was assuming that it will continue to be updated over time. My thought following on Luke E’s was that if in the first instance apartment and other more intensive development is only allowed in a relatively small number of areas then there is a chance of meaningful intensification in those areas – at a level where the follow-on advantages of intensification in terms of other amenities would be obvious. I would then hope that more intensive zoning might be rolled out more widely.

    I agree with Patrick that for an area like Grey Lynn that is central and highly accessible it is insane not to be zoning it already for intensification.

    My phrasing “that we’d have wound up with the occasional somewhat out of place apartment block near a railway station or whatever” doesn’t really convey what I think very well. Of course railway stations are perfect spots for more intensive development – absolutely agree. But isolated little clumps of intensification will achieve nothing. If there are relatively few areas where intensification is allowed, then there is more chance that we’ll get some properly intensive development, and not just isolated occasional blocks scattered around.

    To be honest, I think the best chance for Auckland’s future is for people to start seeing how well New Lynn works as it evolves. We seriously need a good example of intensification that works – Newmarket and the CBD don’t really cut it as exemplars (too much ugly and badly made); and Parnell, Ponsonby and Grey Lynn are great, but they’re too particular to their specific histories to be examples that can be rolled out elsewhere (and lots of people seem to think that what these cases demonstrate is that renovated villa-mansions are what works, and not simply density).

    1. Probably the best example of a higher density, walkable neighbourhood in Auckland is Hobsonville Point. Unfortunately, apart from an infrequent ferry, it is placed well away from any decent PT.

  15. Good debate! What I feel gets often mixed up is density and height. Height does not necessarily equate to density, and vice versa. Some of the most densely populated places on the planet have rather stringent height restriction. As height is what gets most people going, I have often wondered whether the whole height discussion is but a red herring. People do not like high building – ergo they dislike density. I believe the UP will not achieve good outcomes because the minimum plot sizes are far too large, and the idiotic side-setbacks of yesteryears have survived. I’d be perfectly happy with a height restriction of 5 storeys, if we got the built urban form of Barcelona, Amsterdam or Paris with this. Apart from maybe Manhattan: show me an example of an area with high-rise apartments done well. There’s no shortage of areas with high-rise apartments done terribly. I am not scared of density – but I am scarred of high-rise buildings, because I believe they can easily fail dramatically, see them as not necessary to begin with, and doubt that they actually contribute to density (as they do require setbacks for a chance to work at all). Count the high-risers here (there are a handful, but mostly offices). Density: 15,991/km2.
    Selling density to the masses by requiring higher buildings is a) inevitably fruitless and b) needless. Density should rather be demonstrated by pointing to places that were built up before minimum plot size requirements were in place, and where everyone admires the ambience. And of course: we need an experimental building zone. I propose a brownfield site of, say 2000sqm, that gets subdivided with a perimeter block pattern into 100 sqm plots that are sold separately to owner-builders with very few restrictions on what can be done (one would be to build on the side boundaries). I predict the outcome to be a) fabulous, b) affordable, c) dense.

    1. Completely agree kara, but we aren’t talking about high rise at all here. The opponents to the DUP claim that two stories is ‘high rise high density’. It’s insane. The 4-6 stories of Barcelona or Paris is exactly what parts of AK needs but apparently the horses are too frightened for that.

      And perhaps Vinegar Lane in Ponsonby is your experimental example?

      1. Totally agree. I was living in a 4 storey, 8 apartment block in a green leafy suburb in the north of Bucharest, Romania with Light Rail running nearby. I guess the block was on about 500sqm but cant be sure. It had an outdoor area for hanging out washing – no parking. It was great, a really nice atmosphere, no lift. It was incredibly cheap on heating and maintenance as it was very simple. Our apartment was about 80sqm and 700 euro a month.

        It was built by 4 families of architects in the 1970s in one of Ceausescu’s more lucid moments when he allowed the building of private residences for a while. Unfortunately, the grey Baby Boomers who control Auckland havent quite reached that level of lucidity yet.

        As you say Patrick, this is exactly the kind of development that would enhance the Auckland streetscape and allow affordable housing in a pleasant environment.

      2. I have gone through the new UP and found that my apartment and builidng would fail on several counts… this is the same building that is actually included in the Auckland Plan as an example of what we need to build more of!

        Some of the more ludicrous requirements are for apartments above ground level to have a 10m2 balcony (mine is half that size, yet perfectly adequate). That’s the same size the UP requires of the master bedroom! In most cases you’ll end up with a balcony bigger than the living room.

        Speaking of the bedroom, mine is non complying because it is only 2.8m wide and not the specified minimum of 3m x 3.5m. Not sure why they must be so big, mine is more than enough to fit in a queen size bed and all the rest of the furniture, and walk right around it and get to the ensuite too. It’s ludicrous to specify such huge sizes for things, all it does is remove the ability for architects to design rooms and placements appropriately.

        1. Hi Nick,

          agree with the balcony -ridiculous. As for bedrooms: some dimension of universal design probably requires the bed to be accessible with a mobility help – which may explain the specifications. But: you are quite right that it really helps to actually model what it is you recommend, and check against stuff that works really well. There is also no guarantee that occupiers are using rooms the way the developer intended. We certainly don’t, so instead of talking about “bedrooms” and “living rooms”, there should be recommendations for “rooms”. N.B. on balconies: ours has to be used to house the recycling bin, as no spaces on ground floor have been specified for this. Our balcony is about 3 sqm, and the bin takes up some of that. Every fortnight we have to wheel the bin through the apartment and into the lift. Haven’t seen the design document, yet, but wondering whether they have anything on space requirements for rubbish, bicycles, prams, mobility scooters and the like. This has to be generous, as we may need to sort our rubbish a lot more in the future (eg organic matter), and cycling is on the rise (most of my friends in Europe have at least two bicycles: one for off-road, and one for on-road cycling).

        2. Yes, there’s rules in the UP for each of those. It requires:

          * a communal area for rubbish bins for any development with 10 or more units.
          * 4 cubic metres or more of enclosed general storage, per unit, for developments of more than 5 units (not counting storage within bedrooms and kitchens).
          * a bicycle parking space (can be shared with a car garage) for each unit in a development of more than 20 units

        3. Thanks, Steve!
          In other words: none of the above for buildings with 4 units, and no rubbish places for buildings with 9 units, and space for bicycles only in buildings with 20 or more units? Our building is mixed-use. I reckon the residential units are <10. In this light: there'd be nothing in the new rulebook for our rubbish bin issue. I don't quite comprehend why not!

        4. Well, be sure to make a submission about that! The rules are written for residential zones, where buildings need to have a large outside space where you might as well store bins and bikes anyway, the way you would in a suburban detached house. The rules are just incorporated by reference in the business and centres zones, so I don’t know how much thought went into deciding whether they needed to be stricter in zones where you’re allowed 100% site coverage.

          However, IIRC dwellings over 5 units also need to get 6 stars in the Homestar rating, which gives extra points for having a rubbish area, although it’s not absolutely required.

        5. Kara, there is a separate section on universally accessible dwellings with different criteria again. Accessibility isn’t an issue in my bedroom anyway, my 1.5m wide queen size bed could still have 1.3m access alongside it. They would do better to regulate which way you put your bed!

          As far as I can tell the only reason for bedroom minimum sizes is that someone likes having an extra big bedroom and though everyone should have nice big bedrooms whether they wan’t them, can afford them, or not.

          Note that there is a requirement for 40m2 of outdoor space for any unit that has some or all parts on the ground floor. That covers basically all developments with four or less dwellings anyway.

        6. Nick R: the outdoor space requirement won’t affect buildings with commercial units on the ground floor.

          If you’re interested in making sure housing is more affordable, it seems silly to focus your opposition on higher design standards, when the main cause of high costs is both absolute bans on building (like in single house/”character” zones) and density limits. Relaxing the density limit from 1 unit per 250sqm or increasing the coverage allowance from 35/40% would have a much greater effect on affordability than cutting a few corners on the design.

        7. Steve, these silly bedroom and balcony sizes are still there even in the zoning that has no density limit, such as large sites in the Mixed Housing and THAB zones, or in the Metropolitan and City Centre zones.

          Sure lowering the density requirement is a good idea (you might have seen me advocating for a 125m2 limit yesterday in the Mixed Urban and above, with the corresponding 50% coverage). But that doesn’t change things when you have a minimum requirement on various aspects of design. I don’t see that as cutting corners any more than halving the density limit is cutting corners. It’s removing restrictions, allowing designers to work. For example, my apartment has two 2.8m bedrooms along one frontage. Those are both fine, good sized double rooms. However if you insist that the master has to be 3m wide then the second room can only be 2.6m wide. Instead of two good sized rooms I’d have one that is bigger than I need and one that is getting too small for a double. That’s just dumb.

          Outside the CBD the UP says that a one bedroom apartment needs to be 45m2 plus 10m2 of balcony. Saying the smallest home that anyone can have is 55m2 isn’t good for affordability. I lived for quite some time in a 33m2 flat without any balcony (just a big window) and I can’t see the point in forcing people to make them 60% bigger than that.

          It also says that the bedroom must be at least 3.5x3m (10.5m2) and the living room 3m x 3m (9m2). Those together are less than half the basic dwelling, presumably the other half of the flat is occupied by a kitchen and bathroom, and storage and other rooms. My main query is why bother having minimum room size when your minimum dwelling size is already large. Is someone really going cut corners to put a 7m2 bedroom into a 45m2 one bedroom flat? What would they do with the other 38m2? Jeez, let the designers work out what the room shapes should be, if someone wants a long and skinny living room why stop them?

        8. Nick:

          That’s a nice theory, but experience says that developers aiming for low cost will simply build the cheapest, crappiest thing they can get away with. Cheap apartments aren’t even “designed” in any real sense. They’re just picked out of a menu. It might be nice to be more flexible for apartments that actually involve an architect, or are aimed at only owner-occupiers rather than investors, or aren’t trying to be as cheap as possible – but that’s not the segment that we’re talking about when we talk about affordable housing.

          In any case, you can always go get a resource consent if you think that having all the bedrooms narrower than 3m is fine. It’s only Restricted Discretionary to breach any of the minimum room/dwelling size controls.

        9. Yes, if you leave it to the developer, the outcomes are typically horrible, market driven and the cheapest cra# anyone gets away with. Why on earth do we need them? They are the literal middle-man. Why don’t we have housing co-operatives (over 4 million Germans are living in one – they are one reason why housing is cheap as chips over there – the other being the absence of a property ladders, i.e. property speculation. Taxation helps!). Allegedly, developers can build so much cheaper as they build bulk – but in reality, building bulk only maximises their profit – why would they share their savings with the buyer – as long as the market tolerates this type of extortion. Yes, there will be a tipping point, when simply no one can afford to buy any more – unless friends in high places come up with ways of sponsoring developers, by awarding all kinds of home buying help to folks who could otherwise not afford to buy. Or accommodation supplements, that do the trick for overpriced rental accommodation. Let’s be our own developers. It’s not like developers have a degree or any special skills – they are ferryman, who are selling dreams to the highest bidder. Yes, they have their contacts – but anyone of us has, too. It’s not like developer are always successful, either. So: why are we keeping up with them?

        10. Steve, what is wrong with developers aiming for low cost building the cheapest they can. Isn’t cheaper housing what everyone wants? Why legislate against developing affordable housing? Not everyone wants or needs a massive balcony, but it looks like everyone is being forced to buy one anyway.

          Anyway yes I can’t see any developments meeting all these silly rules, they’ll all be done under a resource consent which makes it a bit farcical to have them in the first place.

        11. You may have misinterpreted the opening sentence of my comment, Nick. There’s nothing wrong (and plenty good) about trying to make a product that’s cheap – but apartment developers, for the fraction of the projects where they are aiming for cheapness, tend to build something as absolutely miserable as legally possible, that’s built with almost no thought for the people who will live in it, since it’s intended from the start to be owned by a landlord. Developers do build stuff that’s good if it’s aimed for owner-occupiers, but that tends to be super flash. There’s almost nothing in the “basic but competent” level, the way there was for detached houses for much of the last century.

          Just throwing it out there, but I’d support a law that wouldn’t allow anyone to rent out a brand new dwelling until they’d lived in it themselves for at least a year. That might improve the quality of properties intended for investors.

          I’m not saying that the design controls are a great idea that’s worth vigorously defending, but they’re not hugely important in the grand scheme of things. They do at least lead to better quality housing, even if people wouldn’t have chosen to pay for that quality. Whereas the density controls are pure waste. They have a huge effect on affordability, since we’re demanding that people buy far more land than they need and then just sit and leave it abandoned.

          For councillors, the design controls give them political cover – “we’ll have density done well!” – that plays much better than “it’ll be crap but so what”.

          In any case, as you point out, the Unitary Plan pretty much won’t even exist. It’s so restrictive that almost any construction will require resource consent – so decisions will inevitably be made by council planners, the Environment Court, and central government. The detailed rules will mean little. Local body voters are kind of reaping what we sow, in a sense – by demanding unworkably restrictive zoning, we’ve guaranteed that we’ll have no say at all.

          Although having the central government completely override the local council is actually more democratic, in a way, since that government also represents the interests of non-Aucklanders, and was elected by a much larger turnout.

    2. The 100m2 sections idea could be a real winner. Someone did a great post on here last year about Freemans Bay having all these 200m2 sections with 100m2 house on it and enough room for everything else.
      Should be included in the options for density I reckon.

      1. Hi Geoff, I built two generous 2-bedroom apartments on a 120 sqm section, and we still had a decent sized veggie-garden in the back. This was of course built to the boundaries; we attached to our neighbour. There was an empty plot next to ours, which is probably build up by now. Some parts of Ponsonby e.g. have rather small plot sizes (dating from the time before minimum plot sizes). Pity, the houses on them were not build to the border, as there now is a metre wide strip between them that causes all kinds of privacy problems, and awards no amenity at all. But: heaps better than any of the new subdivisions by a large margin. Most of Wellington has very small plot sizes as well. 300 or 250 sqm is madness. And once you’ve forked out for this amount of land, you pretty much have to build a mansion on it to make any sense of the expense at all.

  16. Excellent point! I had ask Council folks whether they did some simulations to check what outcomes their rules may yield. They pretended not to understand what I mean by that. I explained that I would like to see some scenarios (20% built to rule maximums, 40% built to rule maximums, 80% …) for some areas, and have outcomes compared to a set of alternative rules. Never heard back from them … It is not too hard to do this, and a lot easier than realising 20 years down the track that we shot ourselves in the foot – yet again.

  17. “unless friends in high places come up with ways of sponsoring developers, by awarding all kinds of home buying help to folks who could otherwise not afford to buy.”

    Like this clownish government’s new provincial subsidy package, you mean?

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