This is a guest post from reader Liz

I have to start by saying that I grew up in Ponsonby/Grey Lynn, a ‘heritage’ area, and count myself as very lucky to have had this chance. I have stayed involved in the area even since moving to other, less expensive, parts of Auckland. In particular, I attended the Waitematā local board Unitary Plan meeting last year, and was frustrated to see it hijacked by a few loud people arguing that density and the Unitary Plan would damage ‘heritage’ areas.

Since then I have wanted to write a post about WHY we like ‘heritage’ and ‘character’ areas, and how focusing on the real reasons could actually benefit the rest of Auckland. I’ll be using the Ponsonby area as an example, although this will be a rough area and some of my examples or pictures may show parts of Freemans Bay, Grey Lynn, etc.

We all know that Ponsonby is desirable and unaffordable. But WHY is it desirable? Why did people want to live in old, cold, run down houses? Before the houses were renovated I can assure you that many were freezing and damp! Why do people pay millions for a small house on a small section? Sure, the neighbourhood looks nice these days, the houses are pretty, cafes are everywhere and Ponsonby Road is booming. But that came with gentrification, it wasn’t the driving force behind it.

The real reason can be seen in the pictures below. Ponsonby, and most other heritage areas, are WALKABLE. They are real, mixed use, functioning neighbourhoods, and this came about by designing neighbourhoods around the needs of people as pedestrians.

Tram built suburbs

The main aspects of this are not confined to Ponsonby, but can be seen in all the thriving and desirable heritage areas of Auckland.

  • Walkability
  • Availability of amenities
  • Ease of connection to other parts of the city.

There are secondary characteristics that fall under these:

  • Walkability and availability of amenities
    • Housing/building density
    • Permeable grid street network with small block sizes and pedestrian walkways
    • Easy access to local shops, services, parks, and other amenities
    • Safe pedestrian environment (footpaths, narrow streets, fewer driveways)
    • Activation and interest at street level (house fronts instead or walls and garage doors)
      • This last point is where the look of houses comes in, as part of the overall look of the neighbourhood. As you can see, it’s much less important than the other factors.
  • Ease of connection to other parts of the city.
    • Proximity to CBD
    • Good bus/train/ferry routes (assisted by grid networks)

It is frankly hypocritical to campaign against any densification in heritage areas, as density is one of the main reasons that heritage areas are so lovely to live in now. What we should be aiming for is ‘density done well’, and seeing how we can allow more people to enjoy the benefits of these areas.  We should also be taking the good examples set by heritage areas and applying these to other parts of the city.

Terraces Norfolk St
Terraces Norfolk St, Ponsonby
Six Sisters John St
The ‘Six Sisters’, John Street, Ponsonby
Raycourt apartments
Raycourt apartments, Jervois Road, Herne Bay
Cottages Summer St
Cottages, Summer Street, Ponsonby

These are what we should be embracing and expanding to the rest of Auckland. The sad fact though is that it’s currently ILLEGAL to build a neighbourhood like Ponsonby. Our zoning regulations enforce low density areas, wasted space around houses, mandatory parking whether or not you have a car, single purpose zones that require you to get in a car to go to the shops or to a café or to work. I find it funny that we zone for all this unnecessary space around houses, and appear to have a phobia of density, and yet places like Ponsonby are the ones where the property values go through the roof – not the new spacious suburbs on the edge of the city. We should be concentrating on fixing our zoning regulations to prioritise people as pedestrians.

Tui Lodge
Look, no setback! (Tui Lodge, John Street, Ponsonby)
John St
No off street parking (John Street, Ponsonby)

Anti-density arguments are often also hidden in campaigns against demolition, change or development in heritage or character neighbourhoods. I do understand that there is a genuine desire to protect neighbourhoods, and that campaigning is seen as the only option because our heritage protection seems almost useless at times. But I worry about scaremongering and about residents’ concerns being co-opted to prevent ANY change or development.

I have to state now that I do not believe that old is always good and new is always bad. It’s not that simple. And I have a degree in Ancient History, for goodness sake. I LOVE old buildings, I love seeing the history in the fabric of a city. The problem is that if we get caught up in the old=good vs. new=bad dichotomy, we forget the reasons that those heritage areas WORK in the first place. We also forget that cities are all about change, and no development means no vitality or renewal in that area.

Terraces George St
Terraces, George Street, Newmarket

The Issac

It is also a mistake to talk only about the type of and ‘look’ of buildings. You could take the nicest villa and set it in an auto-dependent suburb like Howick, and I doubt it would be as desirable as an ugly house in Ponsonby. The fact is that although the heritage and character styles are nice to have in a neighbourhood, they are never going to do the trick if the neighbourhood isn’t functional and walkable already.

Ponsonby Mixed Use

Botany Unmixed Use

It’s also important to remember that the desirability of house styles changes, whereas a walkable, functional neighbourhood can be desirable independently of the house styles within it.

Renall St
Renall Street, Ponsonby. Once considered a slum and was planned to be demolished.

The draft Unitary Plan included increased density allowances and suggested mixed use zoning in many parts of Auckland, focused around town centres and transport links. Most local boards voted down this density, under the misapprehension that it would damage their neighbourhood and ‘heritage’ areas. We need to change this attitude, and encourage neighbourhoods that make it possible and safe for residents to walk to the local shops, walk to school, walk to a café and bump into their neighbours. A neighbourhood wiWe need to allow other parts of Auckland to be desirable through walkability, not just confine this desirability to a few inner suburbs.

We can make submissions to the Unitary Plan until 28 February 2014. Mine will be arguing in favour of walkable, dense, mixed use neighbourhoods for all Aucklanders, not just those who are rich enough to afford Ponsonby.

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  1. Walkability was very important to people before they had cars, which is why it’s the pre-car era suburbs that were designed to be walkable. Such design ceased to be of much relevance to most people once the option of buying a car came about. Given the choice, people cast off the shackles of development dependency and embraced the freedom of being able to live in such areas as Howick (what you call wrongly call auto-dependent, but is actually of free will and by choice).

    1. Of nobody wants inner suburban walkable living then why are tiny cottages on small sites in Grey Lynn and Ponsonby worth such a fortune?

      1. Because the big corporates are cramming hundreds of thousands of jobs into an area smaller than my brother-in-law’s farm. As a result, more and more people have to choose between fighting congestion to get to work each day, or fighting other buyers to get a home close by. Central city living is an induced demand, the same as sitting in traffic is.

        1. You wont believe this Geoff but many people love the vitality of the inner city. There are retired people living in apartments down town. There goes your commute argument.

          1. That would be the natural demand portion that I referred to. Even small towns have an apartment building or two close to town.

            Meanwhile, regarding the plane suburbs I mentioned in another post, wouldn’t this be a fantastic way to redevelop somewhere like Whenuapai or Ardmore?


          2. That clip is supposed to play from the 11 minute mark, but oh well. Jump to the 11 minute mark for the part I mentioned.

          3. I think you’re mad but weren’t they developing North Shore aerodrome in this way? Pauanui is the same. I can just imagine a kid riding into a prop.

        2. Geoff – You have an odd concept of induced demand. Usually induced demand would mean demand induced by some kind of public spending or policy. I don’t know how you think businesses freely choosing to locate in the CBD (due to the numerous advantages of doing so) is not ‘natural’. It is like arguing that demand for coastal property is ‘induced’ by the ocean.

          1. The term induced demand does not imply who/what is the cause.

            Build more motorways – you induce demand to use motorways. Put more jobs in the CBD – you induce demand to live there.

    2. Yes Geoff the price spread says otherwise. In Auckland along with the extra value of coastal property there is a marked price premium on all the old ‘Tramway’ suburbs; Walkable mixed use, closer to the Centre City, higher density, less driveable, harder often to park in, with better Transit services. People pay a lot of money to live in these areas, and pay a whole lot more to make the Victorian or later shacks inhabitable.

      The real estate industry loves to say that this is to do with school zones but the evidence doesn’t support that as only some of these suburbs fit that description [not Herne Bay, for example, our most valuable suburb]. Also school age households are slipping as a proportion of the whole. The housing stock while good in places is all old and even when it started life well [by no means a majority] they still require multiple hundreds of thousands spent on them in addition to purchase prices double or treble new drive-land ‘burbs. Yes they are leafy, but give a place 20 years with a bit of effort and the newer areas could be just as leafy. And in fact Ponsonby for example was no where near as leafy 30 years ago as it is now. Gentrification here has come with intense planting.

      Of course this a relatively new phenomenon, it wasn’t the case in the 50s-70s. But it has been accelerating ever since, and now is so entrenched that it is unremarkable. If someone sold their melting Ponsonby villa for an edge city drive-land house of comparable at any point over the last 10-15 years they would have absolutely no chance of swapping back in without ponying up a whole lot more cash.

      1. My parents’ generation was probably the last to buy relatively affordably in places like Ponsonby. One of their friends observed recently that the problems these days with kids who grew up in Ponsonby is that we don’t want to leave… and it’s true. But it’s not because we want a house that is worth $1m. It’s because we value the walkability and the neighbourhood. If you don’t interact with your neighbours, it’s not a neighbourhood – it’s just a suburb.

        Unfortunately us millenials have been priced out of an area that we lifestyle that we cannot have out in Howick (walking, cycling, etc) by a generation that mostly brings its car culture with it, even to Ponsonby.

    3. “free will and by choice” – That may have been true for the baby boomers who thought cars were the future and would solve our urban problems. As that appears to be increasingly untrue the new generations are stuck with Henry Ford’s choice: “you can have any colour as long as it is black”

      You cant now claim choice when the exclusionary zoning rules (also put in place by the baby boomers) prevent anything but suburban sprawl.

      If pro-sprawl advocates were so confident that everyone wants to live in low density suburbs on the fringes, why would they fight so hard to preserve all the rules that stop density (minimum lot size, minimum set back, maximum coverage etc)? Let’s release the hounds; take away all restrictions, including the RUB (OK maybe some height restrictions within reason) and let the market decide. Developers wont build what won’t sell – but apparently they can sell high density, good quality housing as fast as it is built – I know because some are my clients.

      Or are you a Socialist, Statist who wants to dictate to private land owners what they can do with their own land thereby devaluing private property rights?

      1. Would you ever stop with the baby boomer bashing. It’s rather trite and tiresome. Let’s lump every person born between certain years and say they are all exactly the same. As on of your despised cohort I can tell you that I never thought cars were the total future and I haven’t owned one for 10 years or so.

        1. Really, because every single person I have ever met who is against walkable neighborhoods and density is a baby boomer?

      1. [continued reply to Geoff Blackmore after pressing send prematurely]
        … be that as it may, the motivations of people in the past, or the motivations of the people who live in Howick today, are not really relevant to the main point of the post, which is:

        1. Ponsonby has characteristics which, today, are highly sought after.
        2. Over-prescriptive planning regulations effectively make it impossible to recreate those characteristics in new developments.
        3. That’s crazy.

        1. You say Ponsonby has characteristics that are highly sought after, but since people seem to be largely seeking it closer to the CBD, I put to you that it’s induced demand, not natural demand. Keep putting more and more jobs into one small area and you are going to get two outcomes – people fighting over scarce land, making the homes smaller and smaller, whilst at the same time, more and more expensive. This is not a good thing, it’s very bad thing.

          I agree with you that planning regulations need to change, but ideally I would prefer to see different styles kept to their own areas, so like-minded folk can live together. Leafy suburbs with large sections should stay that way, as that’s what the people who live there enjoy. But it should also be possible to create a suburb that is walkable, for those who don’t want a car. I don’t think in a city the size of Auckland though, that such a lifestyle would be desired by many. In the US they even have suburbs where every home has a plane hanger, in fact it’s quite popular (300+ suburbs where the streets are for cars and planes, and every house has a garage big enough for the car and the plane). There’s also suburbs where there are no roads at all, where every home is accessed by water canals or footpaths. New ealand should have greater variety, but each approach should have it’s own area, otherwise you compromise the concept by letting neighbours do completely different things.

          1. What do you mean, to paraphrase, “keep putting more and more jobs in the CBD”?

            Nobody ‘puts’ jobs in the CBD. Jobs can go anywhere that businesses and their staff choose to locate. The zoning allows for office towers in manukau and Henderson, unlimited height buildings can be built in Albany (god knows they’d love to have them), office parks in Westgate etc. The fact that there is little job development on the fringe and plenty in the core isn’t due to some planning or government regulation, it is the market responding to natural geometry. The simple fact is businesses want to be in the centre where they have access to the greatest pool of workers, and workers want to be there to have the greatest job market opportunities and access to services and resources.

            Likewise with study, universities can and do have their campuses in suburban locations. However none are nearly as popular as the two central city campuses, and of course we know the University of Auckland is abandoning it’s much hated suburban campus to relocate to Newmarket instead.

            Your focus on employment is a little interesting, I would think most people have more varied and interesting lives that just going to work and spending the whole rest of the time at home.

          2. I’m unsure of your point Nick, it’s a fact that more and more jobs are being put into the CBD. Thus, demand for living there is induced, as is use of the transport links such as motorways. That’s what induced demand is – build it and they will come.

            The reasons for why big business sets up there is irrelevant.

            Ever increasing prices for ever decreasing property sizes is a bad thing, and is a result of induced demand by having more and more jobs in a finite space. It’s not happening because people want to live that way. The number of people who would willingly choose to pay more for less would be a very small minority.

          3. So what would you like to do? Pass a law forbidding companies from strating businesses or moving into the CBD? Its funny because anti-CRL advocates say that we dont need the CRL because there is so little employment in the CBD – depend which reality you want to live in I guess.

            Houston and Atlanta have been very good at decentralising their employment. This has meant that pretty much everyone has to drive everywhere because PT cant meet all those transport needs. You are also cutting down on the number of jobs people can realistically apply for becuase of the travel times – it is like going to live in a smaller city with less opportunity.

            LA is a different example because it has diversified employment but still clustered it, which can be quite good for PT as you can have full trains/buses going both ways.

            Recent research has also shown that sprawling cities with decentralised employment (which is how Auckland would end up with what you are suggesting) is very bad for social mobility as it cuts down on the jobs available for lower income workers and also increases ghettoisation ( Arent we emant to eb trying to create a n egalitarian society? Or did we give up on that because it was too hard?

            What you are proposing already exists in places like Atlanta and Houston and it is one way a city can function. However, the evidence is that over time it is not very good for the residents and especially not those at the socio-economic bottom of the heap.

          4. It’s not a fact that more and more jobs are “being put” in the CBD, what is a fact is that more and more businesses are choosing to locate there instead of elsewhere in the region. “Being put” implies some sort of central control or compulsion, like the council or somebody decides where to put the jobs. The reality is the council has zoned for job development all over the region and individuals and companies decide where they want to set up.

            And what do you mean ” It’s not happening because people want to live that way.” That is, to be frank, complete bullshit.

            There is a mountain of cheap land for housing and employment development on the fringe of Auckland, all zoned up and ready to go. Many people chose to live there and build houses too, although the employment isn’t quite so popular and the likes of Albany lie fallow.

            If people don’t want to live and work that way, then why do they spend so much more for that lifestyle when there are much cheaper and accessible options elsewhere? Why spend a million on a shitty villa in Kingsland when you can get a modern house in Papakura for a third the price? Why do businesses consistently choose to locate in the centre when they can get land and rents of 1/10th the cost in the suburbs? It is far far easier to build an office building or lease a floor in Albany than the city, obviously there is some reason.

            So what? They don’t want it, but someone has a gun to their head forcing them to base themselves in the city against their will?

            It’s funny how you always tell us how people willingly chose to live where they want to live and the market reflects the natural choice of the people, when it comes to promoting your particular flavour of periurban lifestyle above others of course. But the second people chose to live under different circumstances they couldn’t possible want to do it. Yeah right.

            There is absolutely nothing holding Auckland back from full decentralisation. We have the land available, we have the zoning designed to promote it, yet it just doesn’t seem to be that popular. The fact that businesses and residents choose, despite planning designed for the opposite, to locate as close as they can to the centre of the region must tell you something. Maybe some people actually want to do it? Maybe businesses and workers find it more efficient and productive to be central to their client and worker base, rather than located off on the edge of the urban area?

          5. “It’s not a fact that more and more jobs are “being put” in the CBD, what is a fact is that more and more businesses are choosing to locate there instead of elsewhere in the region.”

            The jobs are being put there by those big businesses setting up there. More and more jobs in a finite space, pushing up property prices and therefore making it harder and harder to work in those jobs. You either have a difficult commute, or pay more than you should for your home.

            Towns and cities should be developed for people first, businesses second. Businesses should not be the ones determining how people live.

          6. “Towns and cities should be developed for people first, businesses second. Businesses should not be the ones determining how people live.”

            Since you’ve got some pretty strong ideas about this, just how should people live?

          7. Apparently he wants regulation to prevent business setting up where it is most efficient for their operations and most productive for their staff.

            New laws to drive business out of town, literally and figuratively. Pretty hard to work a job that isn’t there at all.

          8. Get those businesses to pay the costs of the issues they are creating, such as building the transport links and providing affordable housing, instead of passing on the costs to ratepayers and taxpayers, then see how “efficient” it is for them to cram more and more jobs into a small landlocked location.

            When a business wants to build another skyscraper and put 5,000 jobs into it, the councils first response should be “ok, pay for X percentage of the City Rail Link, then we’ll talk….”

          9. Geoff, exactly the same, or more so, can be said for your suggestion that the businesses be dispersed at the fringes. Would they pay for the costs of building motorways extensions and widenings all over the place? How efficient would they be if they had to pay for the congestion caused by such a scheme?

            Who, for example, do you think is paying for the Mill Rd corridor and widening the southern motorway? Not the low value light industrial tenants going in around Drury.

            The CRL is an excellent point. A two billion dollar project yes, but by adding the ability to move 20,000 people an hour to any given station in the region it provides the same capacity as three entirely new motorways. The CRL plus bus feeder network can support an extra 50,000 workers in the CBD, and indeed about half that each at the likes of Henderson and Manukau.

            Consider the transport requirements of dispersing 50,000+ workers around the region such that they have no real option but to drive, many of them on very long trips from a suburb on one side of Auckland to a employment site on the other. A lane or two in each direction added to every motorway, doubling the width of main approach roads. Is that even feasible? Ten billion might get you started there.

            Ironically a targeted rate around rail stations would be a very simple and easy thing to do, particularly in the CBD (we have them already). Perhaps a better idea than simply increasing everyone’s rates for a highly dispersed general expansion.

    4. Geoff – you seem to be very confused about what your suggested urban environment will produce and your attacks on cyclists below baffle me. You say that this community in the Netherlands looks really good (and I agree):

      “Another example:

      I think a suburb like this would be great to live in.”

      But then you seem to be suggesting that Houston/Atlanta type auto based sprawl will deliver this. You cant really believe that can you? That type of urban design only produces huge freeways, strip malls and low cost housing miles from anything and are the antithesis of that green, quiet community.

      What will deliver those kinds of communities you like at a very low cost is the bicycle. For example Vauban just outside Freiburg (,_Freiburg), Houten just outside Utrecht ( and also the Toronto Islands, just off the coast of Toronto in Lake Toronto (

      They are idyllic places with a lot of green and very quiet streets. The biggest characteristic is that they are dominated by bicycles and the car is either banned or relegated to third place, behind pedestrians and cyclists.

      Your insistence on placing cars at the centre of communities is exactly what creates the urban landscapes that you think further density will exacerbate. The car cannot create pleasant urban environments unless priority is taken away from it.

  2. Well written and well argued post.

    The planning profession has failed if the type of built form we appear to value most is illegal and the car dependent crap of Botany is legal.

    I don’t know if the Unitary Plan reverses that fundamental failure. Keen to find out though!

    1. Built form like Ponsonby is not illegal. It just requires resource consent, the same as Botany. The ease/ cost of gaining that consent is the real issue.

      1. Illegal in the sense that you cannot build them under the current rules without asking for an exception. Have you seen the ridiculous setback rules? Perhaps that needed a slight re-write for clarification, but I was more focused on the intent of the post rather than getting into all the details. The point is that our zoning regulations make it extremely difficult if not impossible to build a neighbourhood like Ponsonby. Happy to respond to criticism or make corrections in the comments.

        1. I get your point entirely, but to correct your article you should note that it is also “illegal” to build development like Botany as well. Terms like illegal are more appropriate in criminal proceedings rather than RMA matters

          1. No, as a correction I would say that the zoning regulations as they are would not permit an area like Ponsonby to be built.

  3. Yes indeed, space is a luxury but so is proximity.

    If the Unitary plan does nothing but moves our regulations on from the outdated separation of activities enshrined in the zoning codes and shown in the two shots of Botany above then it will have achieved a very important thing. But really there are dispersal rules all the through planning regs and they all need to go.

    Everywhere, in essence, should be Mixed Use as a default, with exceptions for things like heavy industry.

    People who wish to live further out and with more space will still have plenty of options to do so, but there’s no reason why they should be allowed some amenity, some employment within walking distance too.

    1. Something like Paris? I remember reading somewhere that they have only 4 zones:

      – Forest/nature
      – Parks/urban greenspace
      – Industrial and major services (hospitals, water treatment, railways, etc)
      – Everything else

      I think they have additional rules about the structure of buildings, but basically it is mixed use everywhere except those 3 other categories.

      p.s. I think you meant *shouldn’t in your last sentence?

  4. Great post, thanks. Being forced to own a car and use it to get anywhere meaningful is a strange interpretation of “freedom”.

  5. Isn’t the primary reason for the gentrification of Ponsonby, proximity to the CBD… Walkability really is a bonus that is a result of the historic pre-car planning. That said we can learn a lot from these ‘heritage’ suburbs.

    1. If you can’t walk to your local shops, bars, park, etc then what’s the point of being close to the CBD? You’re still going to have to get into your car to do anything, so you might as well live further out and have a larger section.

  6. Great post. I can’t wait to one day live in an intensified Glen Innes, with a five minute bike ride to the beach, twenty minutes to town along the Tamaki Drive cycle highway, ten minutes to town on the train (twenty to Eden Park through the CRL), a great neighbourhood walking and cycling network, lovely new terraced housing and with the host of interesting new shops and cafes that comes with the increased population and popularity of the area. If Auckland neighbourhoods can do intensification right, there is so much to gain!

      1. Yes it’s not just about places that already have proximity, it’s about manufacturing proximity with the radical up scaling of Transit and about inventing local place quality through the magic of density and walkability.

        Yesterday I took the train to Papatoetoe. By rail that very un-intensive town is 15- 20 mins to the tertiary and employment centres of Newmarket and the city. No different or often quicker to these centres than from Grey Lynn where I live.

        With appropriate planning regs and, ideally Council involvement, affordable higher density dwellings could be built close to the station in the town centre that could be a quarter of the price of Grey Lynn ones. Remember that electrification will not only radically improve service but also profoundly improve quality of life near the tracks. Leaving only the less frequent freight trains making the noise and stink.

        Yes at first it would be a punt in a currently low value area, but then I can remember people telling me I was insane for buying my first house in the slums of Ponsonby for 130k (ha!).

        Density done well and quality Connectivity are the secrets to lifting these currently lower value old ‘burbs up, like those of the previous period. The places with natural proximity have been upscaled already.

        If it’s your thing, there are fortunes to be made along the rail lines…..

        1. “If it’s your thing, there are fortunes to be made along the rail lines…..”

          I am considering doing just that. You want a $320k house with a relatively quick trip to the city? Opportunity exists right now. Don’t listen to the media.

  7. Excellent writeup!
    It seems to me that new developments are expected to adhere to zoning controls that are intended to apply if you were re-developing a site with neighbours already in place. Height or yard setbacks, for example, shouldn’t be a factor in a new street, since the people buying there will do so knowing the conditions that exist…no one would be harmed. (Whether a new home buyer is the sort of person that wants a Ponsonby-esque cottage would be another matter).
    Interestingly, Stonefields’ urban design was based on the Ponsonby “Villa Suburb.” Once all planning rules have been applied (and bent in places, eg narrow road widths) and the realities of development economics & engineering factored in, Stonefields is what you will end up with. Hobsonville Point may be considered an evolution of that concept in many respects, the pedestrian being given a reasonable priority. Both suburbs have been criticised as “very difficult to drive around and find a park.” Both are walkable (internally) and desirable, yet for the time being, have very limited amenity! (schools, parks and a couple of shops). It would be great to see these types of neighbourhoods linked by great public transport to the CBD.

  8. No matter how far flung, all suburbs should aim to cater well for walking and cycling with easy access to local facilities and importantly ensure excellent connectivity to the citywide integrated public transport network.

    The next suburbs for gentrification will be some older and slightly run down areas requiring a bit of elbow grease ,as Ponsonby once did – Those that will suddenly be very commutable when AMETI and CRL are complete.

    It’s a pity a new suburb like Stonefields was laid out in a way means most residents will drive to their dairy. Stonefields might have been planned on the stone age car dependency of The Flintstones Bedrock?

      1. Parts of Stonefields are excellent, but overall it is relatively “unmixed” use of land.

        Internally well connected for walking (but not cycling)..

        But hardly connected at all with the neighbouring areas: around the entire north / west / south sides (where most people might want to go) there are just two paths in/out.. one of them up Mt Wellington and the other one I believe is to be closed when the Warehouse is built on the Lunn Ave / Ngahue corner. So the bars, cafes and shops on Lunn Ave will be a 2 km drive away.

        Even the Stonefields Market shops are away at the edge of the development.. as Jeff H says, a drive to the dairy.

        Each to their own, but I hope I never have to live anywhere where I have to drive to the dairy.

        Panmure by contrast is very well connected.. internally and externally, great mix of amenities plus the Lagoon, River, and the Mountain and will be very commutable with the electric trains and AMETI. My pick for the next Ponsonby.

  9. Walkability is good and i like a good apartment. But density does not only equate to Ponsonby. Ponsonby is one example of density. But you could live in a walkable houseing estate walking distance from the train right now! In Sunnyvale for an affordable price. Where are the pictures of that. Or Glen Eden. You could . But the herald NEVER reports on these nice and affordable suburbs. Only some ridiculously overpriced doer uppers. But we, as the white uppermiddle class, grow up feeling we are entitled to a life of wealth and privilege and convenience. A wealth that creates exclusive neighbourhoods and keeps social problems away from their doorstep. Because it’s nice to live densley with successful well off people. But State housing in the UK and the U.S. has always been dense and urban. And there are guns drugs and slums. Not desirable. People want to live with other rich people and send their kids to the same schools as these well off people in the hope that the success is contagious and they can make friends and business contacts. Away from people with social problems and crime and the great unwashed. They want to walk to work and have the riches of council bestowed upon them with museums and libraries and free events etc. Not have to join committees where you look after your own buildings and have no events or cafes and no job opportunities. Density is ok. But we need to address some of the social issues in Auckland. Or the gap between where you want to live and don’t want to live will only grow. No matter what shape size or density you make the buildings.

    1. Connectivity and local vitality are related but are two different things. Low density but well connected place already exist, like Sunnyvale, but the low density means that they cannot support local commercial activity much beyond a diary. To get the double wammy of high quality Connectivity AND Local Place Quality at least medium density is required along with the physical features summed up by the phrase Walkability.

      One out two is good but not the full deal for a thriving place.

    2. Inner city suburbs like Grey Lynn still have portions of state housing, and some families from when they were much poorer suburbs overall. So while they have gentrified there are still elements of the old suburbs left. Its a far cry from Remuera which has always been an exclusive area. Suburbs like Glen Innes will keep their past for decades to come, as will still be substantial state housing stock there, though will be higher population overall with affordable first homes as well as state housing. Not sure how else to stop gentrification apart from state/council housing. Wouldn’t be equitable at all if low income people were pushed into inaccessible sprawl neighbourhoods far from jobs, so do need to keep cheap housing in the central area. Density good way to help this along.

      1. State housing in Ponsonby and Freemans Bay too, though admittedly not much in Ponsonby. But still, right by a park, 5 mins walk from a dairy and cafes and schools in one direction, 5 mins walk from Ponsonby Rd in the other. Definitely not a slum. Round the corner from where I as a “white uppermiddle class” person grew up. The residents probably have many more options for how to use their income more efficiently, as the zoning doesn’t force them to own a car and pay all the associated costs. Isn’t this what state housing should be aiming for?

        Some US/Canadian cities have encouraged development which includes a mix of private housing and affordable or rent-controlled housing. This also helps to avoid slums. Some developments include other amenities such as retail, public services (e.g a library), community space, studio or work/live space for artists or people starting businesses.

        Density and walkability can make such a difference. If only that silly viaduct had been buried… then the bottom of Freemans would be truly connected to an underutilised part of the CBD that is ripe for regeneration.

    3. Dense and Urban are 2 very different things. Those high rise developments were dense, but they were often isolated from services, jobs and shops.
      Also heavily influenced by Corbusiers ideals of tower in a park, accessed by motorways. Not urban at all. Brent Toderian calls this vertical sprawl which is entirely appropriate.

  10. I don’t know what they were thinking with Stonefields. It either needs better connections to the established town centres of GI/ Panmure/ Meadowbank, or it needs to proviode its own town centre. Hopefully the latter will develp over time. It also needs MUCH better PT connection tothe CBD.

    I agree that Panmure is going to boom in the next ten years. It has some really nice streets, great parks, an excellent library, a decent community hall, a swimming pool complex and will soon have great connections to the city. I hope this brings some life back to its main street, which has great bones but has died a sad death since the arrival of Sylvia Park.

      1. Good poiont – they are sorely lacking! There are actually some OK cycle lanes on some of the neighbourhood streets. These just need to be linked in to some proper cycle lanes on the main streets (particularly Apirana Ave and Jellicoe St). The Tamaki Regeneration Program has devlopment of a cycle network as one of its goals in its strategy document so hopefully they will help advocate this with AT.

        1. I have lived in the area (well, Mt Wellington) twice and really really tried to use my bicycle. It it flat, wide roads, everything we apparently “need” for cycling. But Mt Wellington H’way has great damn container trucks going along it! Not to mention the majority of drivers going at 60km/hr. I would have loved to have cycled to the library or the train station. Instead I walked (quite a way) or drove. Pretty sad.

  11. [Reply to Liz at 10.36am replying to Geoff Blackmore at 7.56am]

    I agree with your last comment wholehearteldy, as a millenial with exactly that conundrum. I don’t want to live on a half acre section in Howick or Albany or Massey or Papakura and have an hour commute to work. I would rather sacrifice space to live in a neighbourhood with reasonably proximity to the CBD (although this could be proxmity in commute time rather than geographic proximity), with a good community buzz, some good local bars, cafes, parks and schools within a safe and easy walk. I want to live in a neighbourhood where people feel connected to each other and their community, and in my view this is promoted by denser neighbourhoods. I think that this is what a lof ot millenials want in our city. I also think that this is the kind of city that the Unitary Plan was trying to acheive. Unfortunately it has been held back by a group of (mostly) older people whose vision of Auckland is influenced either by their memory of an Auckland where you could easily drive from the sprawl suburbs into the city (a world that has long since passed and is not coming back), or by their own privileged position as property owners in the very neighbourhoods that we want to access or recreate. As a result we will end up with planning laws which prohibit many people from living their lives how they would like to – talk about restricting freedom!

    1. I don’t even want to ‘sacrifice’ space. I don’t want a big lawn in the first place, nor an oversized house. Same way I’d rather drive a compact hatchback instead of a big four wheel drive or station wagon. It’s no sacrifice for me to drive a Mini Cooper instead of a Ford Falcon or a Humvee.

      It’s a little bit of semantic wrangling, but the debate needs to move on from the idea that everyone wants a big house on a suburban section but should be willing to *sacrifice* that for reasons of cost, transport or the good of the city. Some people just don’t want that in the first place, so sacrifice has nothing to do with it.

      1. Also, for those who do care about having a large house and garden, density doesn’t even have to mean less space. Just more efficient space. I’ve stayed in a terraced house on a section 6.5m wide that had a much larger garden then the house I lived in out in Mt Wellington. The reason? No side setbacks, minimal front setback and no giant driveway using up all the outside space.

        However I agree with you Nick, as I don’t want a big house or a huge garden. Something like the terraces on Norfolk St or the little 2 storey cottages would be my dream long term home (something even smaller would suffice at the moment to be honest). If only terraces in walkable neighbourhoods were all over the city, I’m sure then they wouldn’t cost $850k+.

        1. I agree with Nick too, but it is also obvious that space, and by that I mean more space, is generally considered to be a luxury and will cost you more. This is not unreasonable. Badly utilised space like you describe Liz is simply a burden and no luxury. But other factors are also luxuries, especially proximity, but also design and build quality [which includes character], and of course setting, views [especially of water], and to some, address.

          The most expensive properties triangulate the three most valuable features of space, proximity, and setting. So large, inner city, harbour-side, properties in Herne and St Mary’s Bay, clifftop Parnell and Orakei, Inner Devonport, kill it value wise in Auckland. After that there are trade-offs. Some value scale over proximity and will go for mansions on more distant cliff tops in Glendowie or the East Coast Bays. Others prefer proximity over scale so live in top-end waterfront apartments, or relatively small Victorian cottages done up to death in the old inner suburbs, both at eye-watering price per square metre.

          These factors are universal and observable in Sydney and Vancouver and pretty much everywhere.

    2. Everybody does. That’s why they are expensive. So try a slightly further out suburb. Buy in a transitioning suburb and bring your dreams with you. Open a great shop or a bar or gallery. Make another suburb prosperous great and vibrant.

      1. I think you missed the whole point, which is that restrictive and bad policy prevents people from creating transitioning suburbs in the way they desire – they’re locked into a historic homeostatic holding-pattern.

        1. No I see the point. But again their is plenty of high density, terrace housing in the just slightly outer suburbs with good train links,connectivity, and density. A google of Waitakere /Town house /realestate gives 54 options for about 300k. That aren’t exactly flying off the shelves. It’s not being held back by planning. They might be missing the cool shops and bars and vibrancy. That part of the answer is with the Unitary Plan and part of it could be people who have advocated for this type of housing moving in and bringing the neighbourhoods to life.

          1. Yep. If that’s what you want. Neighborhoods are dynamic. And that people can change them from the inside as well as planners from the outside.

          2. Unfortunately I wouldn’t consider any of the western suburbs well connected tothe CBD by train (until the CRL is built). For example Avondale (which is about as close as you’ll get for “affordable” housing) is 30 minutes to Britomart at 15min frequencies on a weekday morning so potentially 35-40minutes, plus (say) ten mins either side for the walk = 60min commute time. The cycleway is one big advantage, however there are days when I can’t / don’t cycle.

            Fortunately I live in GI, which is going through exactly the process that you describe, partly because it is now a special housing area and the Council has relaxed planning regulations to allow for much greater intensification.

          3. West Auckland will be amazing once the CRL is in use. I currently live next to the Western Line, and would love to catch the train instead of the bus. Sadly, due to the Newmarket detour and the fact I don’t work that close to Britomart, the train is significantly slower than the bus.

          4. Yep the rail loop will be transformational. And even the electric trains are going to make a big difference to commuters and communities. Apart from the speed it’s also a pretty nice way to travel. The southern line is quite satisfying whizzing past the people stuck on the motorway while on a train. But the key is in the whizzing. Clunking on a stinky deisel not so good. They need to fix the ticketing stations though. None of the people at my stop or the stop before us paid as the ticketing machines weren’t working.

  12. Would be fascinating to look back 30-40 years at house prices in different parks of Auckland to see when the value of proximity became important.
    When new houses were built in Pakuranga in the 70’s, I assume they were much, much more expensive than houses in Ponsonby/Grey Lynn. However now the inner suburb houses will be much more expensive.
    So frustrating when sprawl advocates use inner city price rises since the 70’s to show housing unaffordabilty, because this really shows changing values about the value of the inner city neighbourhoods.

    1. So right. It’s important to make sure that each part of the city performs to the max.

      CBD needs to be as intensive and eventful as it can be; the streetcar suburbs need to retain and enhance the walkable qualities Liz is describing, even as the reductionist heritage attitude seeks to pickle them in the face of such obviously appropriate medium density solutions.

      But perhaps the big imminent opportunity for Auckland might be the ‘lower value’ next ring out. If it’s got good bones- connectivity, an adaptable commercial centre with at least some fine grain and rudimentary character to hang off- then put your stake in the ground and be part of driving some good change happen. This is not theory, a planning fad, a politicised agenda. The city belongs to the people that live in it. Be the city and enjoy life.

      There are some places that will be real tricky to fix; too reliant on the motorways that strangle them, too poorly connected in the local grid. They can wait til real political consensus on how to create productive and liveable places exists. But surely the major urban challenge for this era is fixing the ill founded aspects of suburbia.

      I must confess, I was slightly incredulous when I saw the purple slug of density shown out west on the Auckland Plan concept maps. But maybe it was just too simplistic a representation. Maybe the reality will be more finely tuned around what is walkable and on transit lines, and where some vitality might just spin up from the seeds that are there. I’m seeing plenty of apparent development investor buy-ups around me in Glen Eden, evidence that there is appetite to deliver the increased density that the Local Board, to their credit, supported in the Unitary Plan.

  13. We’ve moved our family from a 3 1/2 brm Bungalow on a 1,300 sqm property to a 2 brm apartment in Kensington Park in Orewa. Now, the main reason for the move was to be near the beach and to be close to shops (cafe’s etc) and schools (walkable or rideable). Then I discovered Kensington Park. So, it’s not really urban in that it 30km from the city but then I don’t generally have to work in the city and do not usually have to travel at peak times (in fact, I’ll leave early and have brekkie in town if that’s the choice). The small place though is amazing. The shared places are awesome and the contact with neighbours is the best thing I’ve had in a long time. Just tonight I got home from work at 8 and saw a neighbour having a drink on his deck so I opened a beer and went over and had a great chat, Unless you’ve experienced this you don’t know what you’re missing. Also, we’ve eaten out at restaurants more times in 6 weeks than we have in the past 4 years. Awesome! I’ll never move back to the ‘burbs as such.

    1. is it one of those places where you need to be a baby boomer or a war veteran to live there? Any young people or non white? Just curious, not a sarcastic question.

      1. No limitations. Whilst predominantly over 50, there are a number of younger families there and in discussions with neighbours (which is a big part of why i like it so much) the majority would like to see more families / kids there. Price might be an issue – 2brm at $520k – but that is primarily due to the location. Lots of residents still working.

  14. Walkability is a great part of living in the older villages that are part of Auckland. I have lived in Arch Hill, Mt Eden, Ellerslie, Devonport and now Greenhithe Village. I am sure there is a premium in these old villages over the houses that have been built in the filled in bits between the villages but I think it is a stretch to say walkability is why Ponsonby gentrified. Surely it was simply because the places there were so cheap that the baby boomers on high incomes realised they could get the best bargain in town, a house near the CBD with a very short commute to work at a depressed price. The cost of renovating to make the house habitable could be spread over several years and increased their value. In hindsight it would have been better to level vast stretches and build higher densities this close into the city like 4-5 floor walk-ups. It may not have cost that much more than throwing good money after bad on old and derelict houses. Never mind twee often wins the day especially if it starts out as cheap. Heritage? humph the night soil man was part of the heritage of these areas, should we bring him back?

  15. Walkability is not the whole storey, proximity is indeed the greater part. And I should know because that’s me; the archetypical Ponsonby gentrifier. But Liz is correct that while ‘heritage’ is the visible quality that the uninformed cling to as surely the source of all value here actually it is the secret density and accessibility that really provides the greater share of neighbour quality and vitality, for which walkability is a good shorthand It is this that makes this place so good in itself. In other words on top of the benefit of proximity to other places especially the CBD.

    As a built environment this place was indeed an absolute shitter, and has been extensively and painstakingly rebuilt over the last 40 years. It heritage is, in a sense, new.

    Fun fact, something I haven’t bother to notice before reflecting back on my history here: I have demolished three garages in Ponsonby/ Grey Lynn over the years. Two of those replaced by buildings rendering off street parking impossible. Ha! What would be considered economic vandalism in almost any other part of NZ, but here it has just added to quality of the built environment and property value.

  16. I visited a house last year where a young woman with a baby had no off-street parking and I had to tell her no real prospect of adding it due to the road being higher than their house. Because the street is close to town commuters flock in and use the free on-street parking all day. If she drives anywhere including the reasonably short distance to the supermarket then she ends up parking a long walk from her house and has to walk many times to the car carrying or pushing the child to get her groceries unloaded. AC and AT had little interest in a new resident parking scheme despite the fact that the parking is being used by free loaders. These are old houses in old streets being used by modern families. A car is a fact of life for most people even in a walkable area because not every thing is available close by. If the Council can’t be supportive of these inner residential areas through residents parking then the sad fact is they would be better off moving to Glenfield and driving everywhere. I couldn’t believe the lack of interest by the Council.

        1. While I agree with about the personal automobile not being the only answer, have you considered that the trip to the supermarket might be this woman’s only interaction with an adult in a day? And given current (lack of) facilities for cycling, she might feel well feel reluctant to risk her baby on a bike? It is easy to say that should have have known when she moved there, but my observation is that people (including myself) underestimate the change that having a child brings.

          1. Firstly, I have a child so I know only too well the challenges that brings. I’m also a very passionate supporter of bringing quality bike infrastructure to Auckland so my comment is made knowing the challenges we face and I guess what I’m trying to do is highlight a different way of looking at these kind of problems. This is what happens when you build a city for one transport mode.

          2. Not meaning to impugn your parenthood Bryce but most people (often male) have no idea what it is like to be stuck at home, all day, every day with a young baby (not saying his is the case with you). It is a totally different experience from going to work and dealing with a child when you get home (I have done both). Something as simple as a trip to the supermarket can be the highlight of your day (sad but true). Of course that is a very good argument for walkable neighbourhoods because popping baby in a pram and walking to the shops is much easier than wrangling an infant into (and out of) a car seat several times.

          3. Hence we used a mix of ways to get groceries and why my wife managed to get a part time role contracting. I contract as well and have had my time at home while my wife was overseas on business so i understand the need for adult contact. Funny enough, I see the intensive areas as a great place to be a parent as you have so much more contact with neighbours. Wish we’d been where we are now, 6 years ago.

    1. “despite the fact that the parking is being used by free loaders”

      How is someone who lives in the area and uses on-street parking any less of a free-loader if they’re not paying for it?

        1. Main issue with that is it pushes people to install parking spaces and huge garages in front of their heritage houses, which really wrecks the streetscape.
          Better to have people park out front of their own house.
          Also discouraging drive and ride, or drive and walk is a useful thing to do. If people are going to drive 90% of the way then get PT, they should be pushed to get PT the whole way.

          1. Exactly.

            1. Price on-street parking appropriately
            2. Don’t allow any additional crossings
            3. Watch the letters from multi millionaires flood in to the Herald complaining that they are being discriminated against because they don’t get given an expensive public resource for free.

          1. It’s not trolling, it’s a legitimate question to Frank. If the view is that parking a car on a street is a use of a public resource and must be charged for, then it would be contradictory to say that other users of the same resource should be allowed to use it for free.

          2. You can charge us foe parking Geoff. That’s about 8 bikes to a single car park at, say, $12 per day which is $1.50 per day. No problem.

          3. Who parks their bike (or shoes for that matter) on the roadway? I can think of one example in Ponsonby where bike parking exists inside the kerb, but apart from that I don’t think anyone is using roadspace to store their bikes.

            But indeed, if we want to start charging a fare and true cost for that then so be it. I’m sure bike riders would have no problem paying for parking at 1/8th the rate of a car.

          4. Indeed, we’ll do that at the same time as charging a fair rate for traffic infrastructure provision, to the motoring community.

            I suppose when fuel taxes/RUC have to skyrocket accordingly we’ll see plenty more people making some different choices.

          5. I read something the other day that suggested, based on damage done to roads, that if cyclists were charged $100 a year then every car would need to be charged $12m a year. That’s because damage equates to the fourth power of axle weight.

          6. I would gladly pay the minimal costs my bicycle imposes on the public, if motorists would pay the true costs they impose. Without the distorting effect of the mass subsidisation of motor vehicles we currently have the city would have a lot less people driving, and a lot better conditions for cycling.

            Also – you can get a whole lot more bikes in a single parking space than 8.
            16 – 20 would be closer.

      1. “How is someone who lives in the area and uses on-street parking any less of a free-loader if they’re not paying for it?” Good question Frank. The answer requires us to think of opportunity cost. Both would pay nothing to park there is parking is not priced (a public good). The commuter who drives in in the morning and parks there all day and walks is saving the cost of paying off-street charges minus the cost (or inconvenience) of a walk. If they don’t park there they just make a substitute of parking elsewhere or riding the bus.The person who lives there particularly someone with a small child who needs to use their car has no substitute available. The opportunity cost to them is the cost of building a vehicle crossing (destroying one on street space) and a parking area on their own site with consequent loss of land and amenity. For the site I looked at the cost with retaining would have been about $20,000. They were prepared to pay that so the benefit to them must have been greater than $20,000. The benefit to the commuter is at most the cash value saved from parking elsewhere less there walk ($6.60 and hour for the average commuter walk in 2010 prices ref EEM1 Appendix A4.2). Even if they only get a $1 benefit the commuter will still park there and the resident has to forego a higher amount of utility.

          1. I don’t follow your argument. Are you suggesting pricing a good at the opportunity cost of the highest value user? If you want an efficient allocation of the parking then you charge at a rate just about fills the street with parked cars but not quite. That is close to the marginal cost. $20,000 is probably at the top end of the demand curve, you want to price it where the demand curve cuts the vertical supply line.

  17. Yes it is funny how people don’t want their neighbourhoods to ‘change’, but are quite happing putting up double garages, high fences, huge extra basements and additions, the list goes on.
    Even the Character Coalition were asking for minimal bureaucracy for the heritage rules!

    1. Also – the lack of driveways across the footpath is one of the things that makes the character (that those NIMBYs proclaim to love) of heritage areas so pleasant.

  18. Luke and Patrick have made the point clearly. The problem is the on-street parking is provided as a public good so demand exceeds supply and because it is free it is regarded as worthless. Lack of price and excess demand incentivises the homeowner to build a crossing and one parking space removing one space on street. That means they are privatising one space but at least it is then allocated to the person who values it higher. A more efficient outcome is pricing the on street parking and then it will be allocated efficiently. As far as the other comments go I don’t think AT can turn you down for a crossing particularly as the District Plan requires you to have one to comply. As for living without a car well I guess people can wear a hair shirt if they choose but most people are far too sensible for that.

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