Bill English has provided a fairly blunt but accurate explanation of the issues with urban development in Auckland. reports

With respect to so-called urban sprawl, I think that’s a nonsense. If you’re against urban sprawl and that means lower to middle income Kiwis can’t buy a house and you can’t build an apartment in the middle of Auckland for less than NZ$600,000, then that’s too high a price to pay. And if it means driving up house prices in a way that wrecks the economy then that’s too high a price to pay,” he said.

“Funnily enough the people who are most worried about urban sprawl live in the middle of the city. They don’t get to see it. How much time to they really spend out the end of the Western motorway or Botany? None actually. They think you should be able to walk to the countryside. Well…welcome to Gore. If you’re really mad, that’s where you should go. But they don’t. They stay in Auckland Central,” he said to laughter from the audience.

“What’s actually happened is that the local authorities were keen for a denser city, but the inhabitants weren’t, so they’ve jettisoned a fair bit of the densification aspect,” he said.

“So if Auckland wants to grow now, it has to grow out because you don’t want it to grow up. Now that’s a fair choice, but please don’t stop it from growing out as well, otherwise we’ll get another few years of 15% house price growth and you get a real mess when it crashes,” he said, adding the special housing areas agreed under the Housing Accord with the Auckland Council “do spread the city because the planning rules don’t let you do anything else.”

“We’re indifferent as a government as to whether you grow up or out. But you said don’t grow up, so we expect to help you grow out.”

I don’t think that all government ministers were indifferent as to whether Auckland develops up or out but from I’ve seen Bill didn’t seem too concerned with either option. As for his other comments though, he is quite correct, if intensification isn’t allowed then the only option would be to sprawl. I think it’s a message that many of those opposing intensification completely ignored.

What I don’t agree with him on is that an apartment can’t be built for less than 600,000. Many of the projects on our development tracker are certainly well under that price.

Don’t forget to make a submission on the Unitary Plan if you haven’t already they close tomorrow afternoon.

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  1. Have we chosen? He’s little quick out of the blocks there, but good to see that our supply side arguments are being noticed; he previously was firmly in Demographica camp on this: Supply is only possible on greenfields at the periphery. This is clearly not true, 70% of residential growth in Auckland over the last ten [IIRC] years has been on brownfields.

    But he still clearly has his head is the sands about the transport cost burden of new living on freshly ruined farmland at the fringes.

    And this makes no sense:

    “Funnily enough the people who are most worried about urban sprawl live in the middle of the city. They don’t get to see it. How much time to they really spend out the end of the Western motorway or Botany? None actually. They think you should be able to walk to the countryside. Well…welcome to Gore. If you’re really mad, that’s where you should go. But they don’t. They stay in Auckland Central,” he said to laughter from the audience.

    It’s the sprawl advocates that believe they are promoting country living. I don’t live in central Auckland so I can walk to a farm…. quite the reverse.

  2. Someone should tell Bill that the 15% houseprice inflation in Auckland started when insurers stopped issuing new householder polciies in our second most popular destination for new immigrants and began “reassessing all the outstanding Sept 4 claims even though they had most of the money they needed already in hand from reinsurers (ie $2bn extra for the banks to lend on housing, but obviously not for houses in Chch since there was no construction insurance available for nearly two years. With those special supply/demand factors for the past three years he shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions that blame land supply constraints for the last three years houseprice inflation)..

    I don’t know if pre-earthquake immigrants are retruning to greater Christchurch yet or whether Auckland will continue to experience these unprecedented extraodinary house price pressures for many years to come but it is very lazy analysis that ignores the wider impacts of the Canterbury catastrophe.

    1. As they say correlation is not causation. But the price boom in Auckland certainly did follow the Canterbury earthquakes…

      1. Yes the price boom follows the desire of people wanting to live centrally, and no increase in supply out in the countryside will add supply to these places to materially affect price. Property is uniquely about location, of course, as we can see from Bill English’s comment about Gore; plenty of supply there.

        1. “Yes the price boom follows the desire of people wanting to live centrally”

          Those people would be a minority of those living centrally. Most are the “needing” crowd rather than the “wanting” crowd. If you look in other cities across New Zealand, where there’s no large central city employment, you only see a very small demand for central city living. It’s made up only by the “wanting” crowd, because there’s no “needing” crowd.

          Deal to the issues that lead to a need for lots of people to live in one tiny area (which is ridiculous in a sparsely populated country like New Zealand), and you cancel out both development and transport problems.

        2. Are you saying all those people paying really high house prices in Freeman’s bay, Ponsonby, Parnell and other central areas don’t really want to live there but rather need to live centrally?

        3. What other cities in New Zealand?, Geoff Auckland is New Zealand’s only city of scale, any place with fewer than say a million people doesn’t fully exhibit urban characteristics. Look to Brisbane, Perth, Portland, Vancouver etc for similar scales and patterns, not Hamilton or Christchurch.

          And what on earth is a ‘price boom’ other than an expression of desire? No-one ‘has’ to spend 2mil on a inner suburb house if they don’t want to…. of course they will probably have to live somewhere else, somewhere further out, unless we allow the construction of smaller more densely organised dwellings, if they decide to not enter or cannot enter that market. The fact that the market is rising or holding at high levels means that people really want to live there are will pay the price.

          People have different tastes, and a whole lot clearly don’t share your taste for living on the edge of the city. Each to their own.

        4. Pretty sweeping generalisations to make about other people’s motivation without any evidence. In what city is there no demand for inner city living? Even Houston has a very healthy inner city residential housing market – however most people dont live there – hard to say if they choose because there is little choice – inner city living is very difficult because of all the exclusionary zoning rules in Houston. Maybe Detroit, so should we follow their model – i.e. bankruptcy?

          Patrick is basing his comment on the fact that inner city housing prices are high and much in demand. What are you basing your coercion argument on? The fact that you would only live in the inner city if you were coerced?

          Most people want a big house, with lots of green space, close to the city. In other words, they want to be rich – no great surprises there.

    2. I don’t think the price increases have much to do with the Canterbury earthquakes – Auckland has three and a half times the population of greater Christchurch, and has been growing faster too.

      1. Actually the growth rates for “Auckland” and “Greater Christchurch” between 1990 and 2010 were very similar if the two statistical areas both include the major growth nodes of the districts adjoining the city, ie Pukekohe and Whangaparoa and Amberley, Oxford,Darfield, Lincoln as the boundary. However the city growth rate was definitely higher for Auckland than Christchurch even though Christchurch had a lot of infill housing, townhouses and apartments particularly within 1km of the four avanues. In support of Patricks argument, the growth in Waimak and Selwyn districts was lifrstyle blocks in the 1990s but has been predominantly subdivisions next to existing towns for the past ten years, utilising the existing community and retail infrastructure as a major needs satisfyer.

    3. His inclusion of “please don’t stop it from growing out as well, otherwise we’ll get another few years of 15% house price growth and you get a real mess when it crashes” is another example of his subtly untrue scare tactics. He says that constricting house supply will cause house price growth but then says these house prices will crash in the future. House prices are hardly going to crash if the increase is due to constricted supply. They would only crash if the increase is mainly speculative (or I guess if everyone suddenly moves out of Auckland which is not credible).

      What could cause a house price crash is if a lot of houses are built outside current urban boundaries while people’s desire to live centrally continues to drive up the prices of centrally located houses. This is also drives up prices of the less desirable houses outside the urban boundaries resulting in even more development outside the boundaries. At some point we suddenly realise that we have far too many houses than we need and want (and also lots of the kind of house people don’t really want) i.e we have a real estate bubble which at some point has to burst wrecking chaos on the economy.

      Not to say that real estate bubbles can’t happen with intensification. Either way if we get it wrong (by setting up the wrong rules) and build a lot of what people don’t really want we are risking a house price crash. Causing house price increases by restricting supply will result in lots of negative impacts but a crash is not one of them.

      1. I understand what you saying V Lee about if supply is inelastic or constricted then why would prices fall?

        There is some excellent graphs here
        comparing Germany house prices and Englands. Germany having the ‘right to build’ written into its constitution compared to England that has Greenbelts and UGB since the 1947 Town and Country Act. It shows Germany has not had any booms and busts and has affordable housing. England has had 3 booms and busts. Each bust is smaller than the previous boom, so unaffordability ratchets up in a saw tooth fashion.

        So maybe inelastic housing supply is associated with unstable prices.

        I think Phil Hayward has some excellent links re Ireland building in the wrong places being part of their property debt GFC problems.

        I think the politicians like Bill English and John Key would use a collapse in house prices to blame the anti-sprawlers and then make their right wing urban planning reforms uninhibited.

        1. Yes, I see what you are saying here. I was perhaps not clear in my post. I wasn’t saying that it impossible to have a real estate bubble with constrained housing supply. I was saying that a constrained supply doesn’t necessarily lead to a bubble which was what Bill English was implying. Certainly constrained supply can lead to a speculative bubble where rising prices (due in part to constrained supply) encourage more speculative behaviour and prices far outstrip their “real value” that the constrained supply is generating. The occurrence of kind of speculative bubble is assisted greatly by availability of easy credit. LVRs in force now will help reduce the risk of this happening.

          I think that the demand side of the equation is more responsible for the house price stability in Germany. Stable tenancy is particularly important. Renting in Auckland has been much cheaper than buying for a while now. The insecurity of renting is a major driver of making owning your own home such an attractive option here. Easy, cheap credit and tax-free capital gains combine to make demand for homeownership very strong. High demand for homeownership is a major driver of increasing prices. Investors looking for high yields (note not speculators looking for capital gains) do not tend to drive up house prices as it quickly becomes an unprofitable exercise to do so. People looking to buy their own home in contrast are very likely to push their finances (too often even beyond breaking point) to obtain their “dream home”. Sure constrained supply is part of the picture of rising Auckland house prices but these demand side parts of the equation are more important in my opinion.

          Under current NZ conditions, I think that some form of urban limits are necessary. The market is far too distorted by factors such as restrictive planning rules making densification very difficult and expensive, extremely unbalanced general taxation (and local rates) allocation to transport modes that favour sprawl over densification and demand enhancing factors like those I mentioned earlier. Urban limits do cause constrained supply which is bad but without them in current conditions here in NZ the high amount of non-market driven sprawl that will be generated by these factors other factors will be much worse.

  3. I do wonder if he actually believes and supports this as the right government policy, or if he is simply mouthing off whatever his audience wants to hear.

    Not sure which is more disturbing.

  4. Also given that Auckland Central population grew 46.5% at the last census, the biggest jump anywhere in the country it seems pretty clear that people are choosing, and it’s not the countryside, or Gore.

    1. That is a very dangerous beats “an anti-sprawl NIMBY” and tehre are lots of them. They agree Auckland shouldnt sprawl but also fight density tooth and nail in their area while poiting off into the distance and saying, build it over there!

      The people in my area are doing exactly that. There is a (I think, great) proposal to build high density housing on the low, low density Navy housing in Plymouth Crescent, Bayswater. The land is woefully underutilised and the area has good ferry links and the bus there will become 10 min frequencies in 2016, once bus lanes are installed on Lake Road. The land is leased to the Navy for another 4 years.

      The locals of course, spurred on by Jan O’Connor, are dead against it, especially when they found out it was Ngati Whatua land (bloody Maoris!). All the typical NIMBY arguments rolled out with no thought of how the development could be done better – just oppose it.

      I think it would regenerate a pretty boring suburb and I am sure the business owners down at Belmont will be champing at the bit. We could get some decent cafes and shops within walking distnace.

      But no, pull the property ladder up behind you and freeze the suburb in amber – pretend nothing has ever changed – even though it is a suburb wholly built from scratch in the 1960s and 1970s.

      I am a BIMBY – Build In My Backyard! Please!

  5. Did a south island MP really say “Well…welcome to Gore. If you’re really mad, that’s where you should go.” ?! That seems like being rather rude to his base. At any rate, there has to be well-edited soundbite loop to be extracted from the comment!

    1. I think by “mad” he means angry rather than insane. It all part of his insinuation that that Auckland has decided we want more sprawl i.e. opponents of sprawl are angry because “Auckland is definitely going to sprawl out further”. A comment spiced with a healthy dose of “humorous” ridicule of opponents of sprawl and their opinions.

  6. Bill English says he or government are indifferent to sprawl or intensification but this is demonstrably untrue. This is a true politician’s speech where he is pretending to not care about either option while at the same time pushing very strongly for what he really wants which is more sprawl (an example of how he is pushing this is his gross exaggeration of the cost of building a city centre apartment as has been noted here). Take out the last sentence of his speech quoted above and it seems a much less reasonable speech and it becomes clearer what he really wants.

    The current government has been pushing for relaxation of the urban boundaries ever since the came to power. Examples of this include policies such as their initial opposition to the CRL (and now delay) and increased funding for roads only. These policies are designed to convince Aucklanders that intensification won’t work while sprawl will (because government won’t fund the infrastructure to make intensification work well but will happily do so to help with sprawl). They have been sniping from the sidelines about the Unitary Plan’s intensification plans – subtly ridiculing supporters of intensification while cheer-leading for opponents. This is just the latest salvo in that battle.

    He is completely correct saying that a growing Auckland has to either become more dense or spread out further. That is obvious. The problem with this speech is that he is saying that Auckland has decided against intensification when it is not anywhere near decided. This type of argument is sometime called “begging the question” or “assuming the conclusion”. If you assume that Auckland has decided it is not going to become more dense then it automatically follows that it has to sprawl out. But this is not a valid assumption but rather a hotly contended point, it is something he has to show to be true first before he can use this reasoning to come to his conclusion.

    Even if the current Unitary Plan ends up with half measures effectively trying to prevent both it is not the end of the process. Perhaps Auckland is not ready to decide exactly which we want, forcing the decision on us now is artificial. Clearly a comprehensive plan throughout the city would be best but perhaps we are just too divided about what is best to do at the moment. There is perhaps enough intensification allowed in the current version of the UP to allow sufficient growth within the boundaries for quite a few years (and also demonstrate how it can work well). The plans can be changed in the future when we are ready to make a more firm choice. Change often has to happen slowly after all.

    1. “We’re indifferent as a government as to whether you grow up or out.”

      That is the biggest lie in what otherwise comes across as slightly more honest than usual. No you are not – we have now close to 6 years of suburb and sprawl-centric transport investment from you guys. That is picking who you want to win, and stacking the deck accordingly.

      1. ‘we have now close to 6 years of suburb and sprawl-centric transport investment from you guys. That is picking who you want to win, and stacking the deck accordingly.’

        Exactly. This site has commented on NZTA’s crazy predictions that despite recent trends, road vehicle use is expected to go through the roof in future. On the other hand, growth in public transport at best is expected to increase at a lower rate than recent years, and at worst decline before picking up growth again at a slower rate.

        Growth follows the market levers and signals…..the current signals strongly encourage sprawl and growth in road transport due to all the new (uneconomic) motorways. Given the extent to which the playing field is being manipulated, possibly those NZTA figures are not so wide of the mark after all. To be fair to Bill English, he probably listens to his brother Conor English who is known to query the encouragement of sprawl without looking at the costs of the loss of productive farmland. He also probably fiscally uncomfortable with the uneconomic RoNS projects (whether funded directly or in future years servicing a PPP loan) but has to toe the “party line”.

        There are outstanding examples of city living just across the Tasman that the “movers and shakers” of the right have access to be able to review. I actually think that in among the business establishment of Auckland, there is a consensus that the future health of Auckland does depend on “up” as well as “out”. This is a discussion that has to be separated from the current soap-box politics preached by Brewer, Quax etc that play to the elderly conservatives, naysayers and TV1 news watchers!

  7. based on the opinions i hear from ppl in my area out west, I’ve got the feeling he’s actually right, and that’s a shame. For all of Auckland. Although it will probably push up property prices in the inner suburbs where intensification is meeting the most opposition.

    1. By that I meant: he’s right in his assessment of where most kiwis’ priorities are, though I don’t agree with these.

  8. Those who advocate for the quick easy fix of allowing Auckland to spread beyond it’s current boundary are still only thinking in the shortest of terms. They say: Auckland needs new housing estates now so we must build them where land is available. ie. out beyond the existing housing on greenfield sites.

    However, that will only provide new houses for those who want and need them now. During the time it takes to construct these new estates the population will have continued to grow and in five or ten or fifteen years the refrain will begin all over again – we need new housing areas; we must build new affordable housing; we must open up new greenfield sites….

    There has to be an end point to this cycle or in fifty years or a hundred years there is the prospect of unbroken conurbation from Wellsford to Hamilton. Sooner or later hard choices have to be faced about what kind of city or urban environment we want to bequeath to our descendants.

  9. I voted Labour eight times because I thought they cared about housing particularly for people on lower incomes and people trying to get a start. Once I figured that most of them didn’t understand and the few that understood didn’t care I swapped and have voted National twice. Reading that by Bill English I am really glad I did.

    1. Labour were very much on the right track in the 1930s and 1940s, supplying a lot of housing for low income families. This paper was a real eye opener for me:

      This was based on a very Northern European model of the state capturing the capital gain in property development (through low interest state bank loans) and using that gain to then fuel further expansion. This was all based around a cluster and connect rail model. And it worked – the Porirua/Hutt Valley project was a big success and still is (although adulterated by later auto centric development). That is why Wellington is much more of a PT city than Auckland.

      However, just like this National government, the 1949 government came in with a motorway, sprawl agenda and went about dismantling the excellent plans for a more urban accessible Auckland. Their wealthy private enterprise mates were pissed off that they were being cut out of the property speculation boom and all the benefits were going to the working class (imagine!). They scrapped the great nested rail plans that were in place and started to build motorways to soulless suburbs with little employment or shopping. So we get what we now have in Auckland.

      We are probably the only country in the world that has switched from a state led housing model to a laissez faire private system so quickly. And look what a success it has been!

      So the real problem is that both parties now refuse to use the model that works well in Europe and delivers cheap, good quality housing to lower income people. Labour because the NZ population has been brain washed into the neoliberal agenda and so is afraid to discuss the possibility. National in the name of adhering to the neoliberal agenda and ensuring the already wealthy private sector gets to maximise profits.

      And watch the inequality grow and the good times roll for the 1%! (;

        1. Actually some of the old Auckland City houses were great. They couldn’t do it at that price now though as they would be required to collect and treat all the stormwater, build a pond and filters and maybe even a wetland!

        2. Is that your best argument retorting my cited evidence? No actual arguments, just a snide little comment with no factual basis?

          “As for those private developers-giving people what they want- there should be a law against it!” – Yes, as Henry Ford said “any colour as long as it is black” – the developers gave what people wanted as long as that was sprawling developments on the city fringe accessible only by a motorway.

          Well the state development in the 1930s and 1940s was also giving people what they wanted – good quality affordable housing with good PT links. The Wellington projects were very successful and popular – except among private developers who wanted to get in on the property speculation – the exact thing that has driven prices so high. The project was stopped by National for ideological reasons, not because they werent performing well. It wasnt more expensive or less able to deliver the housing needed.

          Did you actually bother reading the paper I linked to? Why wouldn’t you read about the history of the very thing you are commenting on? Ignorance is bliss I guess.

          So yes of course, all high density housing has to look like that and that is the only kind of stuff that it is possible to build. That picture is of the Park Hill apartments in Sheffield, built in the heart of the pro-automobile period of 1957-1961 – universally the buildings from that period are absolute crap. You will see from the full Wikipedia page that it has actually been renovated in 2010 and doesnt look anywhere near as bad now:

          But we could build this kind of stuff if NIMBYs didnt just oppose everything and concentrated on ensuring good design (but lets face it, change is too scary for most people (especially older people), so better just to fight it):


          Auckland doesnt need 30 storey apartment blocks except in the CBD. 4-8 storey would be more than adequate in most areas and results in some very nice housing.

          Have you actually ever lived in a high density city or area? Or is this all just theory for you? I have lived in lots and enjoyed it.

        3. Ok so I was flippant. I didn’t appreciate just how much you like the 1946 plan. Pity for you that too few people at the time and subsequently didn’t. But then Auckland’s history is littered with big plans. Big plans that people didn’t have both the money and inclination (simultaneously) to implement. As for the papers suggestion that suburbanisation was forced onto people, well talk about rewrite history. I dont ever recall reading about the protest marches by disgruntled people who wanted to live in a block of flats by a railway line or in a tenement in town. But I have read about the rush to get sections and sign up for a new house package. And all that time those poor naive people were actually being forced. Who knew! But maybe just maybe New Zealanders are not big plan people. Maybe just maybe we actually fear people who tell us they know better than us and what is in our best interests. Maybe this isn’t actually east germany in the 1970s! And perhaps some people think the role of the state is to provide the things people can’t do individually and stay the hell out of those things that private enterprise can do. But of course I could be wrong in all of that. Maybe the people who dont want big blocks of flats next door are wrong and maybe the simple fact they own their property should give them no say in what happens and maybe we would all be better off with a shouty left winger type imposing his will onto them. Perhaps the concept that the Council just puts forward a framework of rules and allows owners to decide how to use their property is misguided. Maybe the state should build everything and just tax us until our eyes water after all its not like we are allowed to leave. oh ….

        4. I have looked right through that paper and I cant find the word “forced” anywhere. The closest I can find is “By 1956 a car-dependent form of suburbanisation had been imposed”. But that is undeniably right – it had been imposed and it was car-dependent suburbanisation.

          No there werent any protest marches but then there havent been any for the draft Unitary Plan now. And there were no protest marches when the Wellington project was implemented in the 1940s either.

          “But I have read about the rush to get sections and sign up for a new house package.” – And there was also a rush to buy the houses developed in Wellington. Of course people bought housing when it was made available – what else would they buy? Hold out for denser housing close to the railway lines that the government said would never be built?

          “Pity for you that too few people at the time and subsequently didn’t.” – There was no opportunity for people to question what was happening. It wasnt the current situation with the RMA Act – everything was fed down from above. There was no public consultation on the issue. It was mainly the National government and property developers who didnt like it.

          “Perhaps the concept that the Council just puts forward a framework of rules and allows owners to decide how to use their property is misguided.” – But you dont want rules from the gummint, do you? I am all for owners being allowed to decide what to do with their property – pity the exclusionary zoning rules dont allow people to do that. But how does that square with “Maybe the people who dont want big blocks of flats next door” – so people should be allowed to what they want but, on the other hand, their neighbours should be able to stop them? Bit confusing.

          You are just rolling out neoliberal platitudes with no real thought. We should be using a system that works, not just an ideolgy that ignores the social results.

        5. “You are just rolling out neoliberal platitudes with no real thought.” hummph 25 years in transport and planning I all I have is platitudes and no real thought. In that time I have learnt how you can front up to a community and annoy the hell out of them trying to impose a ‘big plan’ ideology. As far as zoning around the CBD goes I actually dont care what they do, I haven’t made a submission because I dont live there and have no interest. But I do understand the social contract that comes with accepting a zoning framework. Residents accept they can’t do unrestricted development on their own site in exchange for accepting their neighbours won’t be able to either. Is that wrong? Just because you dont like it doesn’t make it in any way wrong. I like that system because it is respectful of what people who live there actually want. Some of us think that counts for something. You can rage against it and label it exclusionary zoning or wtf you call it. As for rules I am ok with rules I have never claimed to be against all rules just rules that are not aimed at addressing market failure, because I know it fails. By the way we actually do have a system that works. The RMA when it came in had some flaws but the system we have is actually quite a good one. And we live in the third most liveable city so someone somewhere seems to disagree with you that change is needed. Gosh someone disagreeing with you, is that allowed? Good luck with your big plan for Auckland, are you sure other people actually have the inclination and money to support it?

        6. “You can rage against it and label it exclusionary zoning or wtf you call it” – You have worked in transport planning for 25 years and you have never heard the term? Wow that is worrying. It is a widely used term in planning circles –

          Note too that those rules werent always in place. They are a relatively recent restriction on the growth of cities.

          “And we live in the third most liveable city so someone somewhere seems to disagree with you that change is needed” – Then why do you keep arguing against the RUB and MUL? They must have contributed to that at least as much as the exclusionary zoning rules. Not that I agree with those any more than I agree with exclusionary zoning but you cant dismiss one restriction and not another.

          “Residents accept they can’t do unrestricted development on their own site in exchange for accepting their neighbours won’t be able to either. Is that wrong?” – well it depends on the scope of those rules. If they are too strict (like now) then I believe that is too strict a restriction on the private property rights of owners (which as a neoliberal/libertarian you should be rabidly fighting for). It should be necessary to show real and quantifiable harm in order to stop dense development. Not just, I dont like that kind of housing in my area. That is just NIMBYism.

          What about the people living in rural areas or on lifestyle blocks whose homes will suddenly be in the middle of subdivisons after the city sprawls? Wont they be affected just as much?

          Why do I have to pay for motorways to sprawling suburbs? That is just as much public money as rail or busway spending.

          I see you are sticking doggedly with the strawman arguments and not answering direct questions though. Well done.

        7. And if you are so keen to allow private developers to give people what they want – why aren’t you campaigning vigorously for the abandonment of density controls as well as urban limits? Like I am?

          Only then will private developers be able to really give people what they want without being hampered by limitations.

      1. Goosoid this was a fantastic link thanks.

        I have a number of comments. Urban planning has been a political football since the 1940s and probably earlier. Did the left wing politicians favour public provision of urban plans because it created enclaves that would vote for them or because it was efficient and the same could be said of right wing politicians favouring motorways and private developments.

        Going further back Vogelism started because it abolished provincialism in 1876. Vogel who was effectively the PM needed to redirect settlers going to the planned settlements of the South Island and he needed the gold tax revenues from Otago. He used the money and new settlers to swamp Maori in North Island that were undefeated by the Maori wars. Read James Belich’s history books in particular “Making People”.

        So in NZ urban planning is a central government football when in other countries, especially the Northern European countries many here admire, urban planning, including the important ability to choose and fund transport infrastructure is a local government matter.

        1. Yeah Chris Harris writes some fantastic paper that really give a comprehensive view of the decisions that were made to create the Auckland we see now – look up some of his others.

          The only real point to take away (and from your comment you did) is that the Auckland we see around us was a choice that was made by politicians. There is nothing inherently special or unique about Auckland that made the transportation system and urban planning (or lack thereof) that we see around us inevitable.

          Good questions and I dont know. Certainly I suspect National’s attitude now (and probably in the 1950s when NZ was much more rural; certainly it was part of Muldoon’s motivation in denying funding to Robbie’s Rail) is to appeal to their rural base, because NZ cities in general dont vote National.

          I would love to see more transportation money available at the local level and I am sure it would be used more efficiently – the CRL would start construction tomorrow. But it will be very hard to pry it away from the central government as it is their way of controlling the cities.

        2. “I would love to see more transportation money available at the local level and I am sure it would be used more efficiently…”


          I wish CG would give up treating us like a football. They could easily give taxation power to LG amend the LG Act to include the Alain Bertaud’s objectives of housing affordability and mobility. Leave it up to local people to choose who to meet those objectives.

        3. Re: Certainly I suspect National’s attitude now (and probably in the 1950s when NZ was much more rural; certainly it was part of Muldoon’s motivation in denying funding to Robbie’s Rail) is to appeal to their rural base, because NZ cities in general dont vote National.

          I am not sure this is true. A little known fact is in European times NZ has always had more people in towns and cities than in the countryside. We have gone from something like 50% urbanisation to I think about 87%. So it wasn’t that the rural vote outvoted the cities causing National to be the dominant party of the majority of last century. There has been significant parts of our cities that vote National, perhaps in the past because they agreed with the agricultural products export economic policy.

          I am not sure what the current motivation is for urbanites to vote National. I think John Key has to a certain extent triangulated voters with his promises of a national cycleway, RoNS and the odd new PT project. But the reality as others have noted is quickly moving with sprawl projects and moving slowly with PT projects. In Christchurch since the earthquakes we have moved backwards re PT.

          The shame in my eyes is both the sprawl and PT projects are done on an ad hoc basis that will not systematically solve our problems.

        4. Regarding the urban-rural divide in NZ, there’s certainly a lot more than meets the eye. Tom Beard at his old blog WellUrban had some insight into the divide just after the 2005 elections:

          “there aren’t many lattes in Waitangirua, and there are very few sheep grazing along Discovery Drive. So, if we are to give names to these two opposing lands, what should they be?

          So, if there’s a division in New Zealand, it’s not between urban and rural but between urban and suburban. Between apartments and state houses on one hand, and McMansions on the other. Between urban diversity and vitality, and the quietly comfortable “mainstream” respectability of suburbia. In short, between Urbanland and Sprawlistan.”

        5. Indeed, the heart of the problem is that transport policy is too heavily centralised in NZ. It’s just the same in America, going back to the Federal Aid Highway Act 1956.

  10. Proponents of sprawl always conveniently dismiss and belittle the effects of increasing private travel costs. Sprawling cities simply can not be served by efficient PT and the cost of private transport by car is increasing steadily and will continue to do so in the future. Often they point to increased efficiency and scientific innovation leading to new technologies as a means of getting around this. Even if this were possible (as a scientist I am no where convinced that we can innovate our way out of these problems), these new technologies will be more expensive than current ones. They will also all need to be imported. Spending more and more on importing what we need to get ourselves around via private transport is really not what we need when we are already struggling with a serous current account deficit. We are going to have to adapt our lifestyles and not just cross our fingers that some smart people overseas are going to fix all our problems for us.

    1. I am not sure than all dismiss it. I know for a fact that travel from the periphery to the centre costs more if the periphery is further out. I also know that in the monocentric model of a city the land closer in costs more (because people save on travel so bid up land prices). But here is the cool bit- not everyone travels to the centre. I live on an outer bit and work at home. I get lower land price and cheaper travel. Because the state was kind enough to build a motorway system after I bought here I can travel off peak anywhere I want reasonably cheaply without ever having to put up with the hell that is buses. Of my six neighbours only one drives into the CBD or more correctly Newton. The rest go elsewhere. As for efficient PT I think that might be an oxymoron. I have a definition on my wall. “Public Transport: An expensive and fuel inefficient way of going slowly, from not quite where you are, to not quite where you want to be, at a time that doesn’t suit, in the company of people you may find offensive.”

      1. The cost of private transport applies to more than just the daily commute. All private travel will likely become more expensive in the future (including your own pattern of travel). If that happens and we have invested in massive amount of motorways and houses sprawled out into the distance we are in big trouble. These areas can’t be serve by public transport efficiently. More and more of our foreign exchange will be spent will be on private travel. For a small country absolutely dependent on foreign trade (and no possibility of changing this) this would be very damaging.

        Obviously not all public transport is efficient and this is really my point (PT in low density areas is too inefficient to be viable). But efficient public transport is not an oxymoron no matter what you like to define it as. Public transport serving dense populations is efficient and much more so than private transport could ever be. It is all about scale. Moving lots of people at once is always more efficient than moving them one by one but you can only do this if lots of them want to travel between the same places. For that you need more density and less sprawl.

        Your definition only applies to PT in low density areas. In high density areas it is much more like “Public Transport: A cheap and efficient way of quickly going from where you are to where you want to be, whenever you want while sitting in comfort and snatching a moment to read/work/surf the internet or whatever you want.”

        1. Are you sure private travel is more expensive than it was say 30 years ago? Cars are cheaper to buy. I think you will find that if you inflation correct the costs private transport is probably the same cost or cheaper than it was for your parents,
          I also wonder how PT costs compare from 30 years ago – just saying!

        2. Where did I say private travel is more expensive than 30 years ago? Don’t put words in my mouth Phil. Private travel is still very cheap at the moment, my point is that the price of private travel is increasing and likely to continue to do so.

      2. Have you ever actually lived in a city with good public transport? I have and it is far more convenient, fast and efficient than travelling by car.

        You have no experience of the things you are talking about. It is all theory and based on a neoliberal philosophy that you just apply to everything without looking at the results. I am more intyerested in what works well and delivers good results for the majority than what fits in with any particular philosphy.

        Also, what would happen if you wanted to change jobs and it was on the other side of the city? Would you move houses? Or would you now be faced with the prospect of a long commute? Or would you only accept jobs close to your house, thereby really limiting your choice of employment?

        Those are the only options.

        You have the typical pro-sprawl tactic of never answering a direct question and raising straw man arguments with no evidence. Very frustrating and intellectually dishonest.

        V Lee – I like your arguments but you are wasting your time. He will be a peak oil and climate change denier as well. Ideology is all that counts.

        1. I also personally don’t really believe in peak oil in the way it is normally thought of i.e. as some kind of global catastrophic event. The same with climate change which is quite obviously happening but is never going to be a global catastrophic event. These are slow moving and escalating problems. Their main effects is that they are going to dramatically increase the costs and availability of certain things we are accustomed to living with. They could certainly lead to localised catastrophes (and are already doing do to a limited extent) such as wars and extreme climate events (storms and droughts). How well we adjust our lifestyles and manage to mitigate them will determine how widespread these localised catastrophes become. I think the fact that they so often get expressed as major global catastrophes makes it too easy for deniers to ridicule them and discount them. Like JohnP’s snide remark about Y2K.

      3. JohnP you very may have a poster on your wall but the assertion that transit is ‘fuel inefficient’ compared to everyone driving around in individual powered vehicles is patently absurd. Of course transit can be run inefficiently, as it has been in Auckland for decades, but that still doesn’t make the process of moving people together less efficient than moving us all separately. Additionally transit can be slow, as it still is in Auckland by failing to run it efficiently, ie on its own ROW. But there are plenty of places where this is not the case, and, this is one of the central themes that the CFN addresses.

        For example Manhattan is many time more fuel efficient than Atlanta or Houston by every metric, per capita, per unit of GDP output, whatever. Because there is much much less driving, much more walking, much more Transit use.

        Similarly a highly dispersed and polycentric city does not mean that less movement occurs because some people will be living near where they work, because it is just as likely that a great many people will work on the opposite side of town, which will be further than getting to the centre of a more compact city and these various complex patterns of movement will be more difficult offer efficient transit links leading directly to inefficient and conflicting movements.

        The example you give is completely irrelevant as anyone working from home has a zero commute whether the city they occupy is compact or dispersed. Working from home in a compact city will still allow shorter distances for meeting or delivery and supply movements than a highly dispersed place.

        Auckland does have various centres, but it still has one dominant centre and this is great because the stronger the heart of a city the stronger the efficiencies of proximity accrue. This is what agglomeration is: the very nature of the city. But this does not mean that everyone has to either live or work in or near the centre, but the city as a whole will thrive when more choose to, so we ought to be pleased when more are, as is happening currently.

        1. Hi Patrick. Thanks for your comment, I will try to answer without being a smart alec as I do like your comments regarding urbanism which I can see are thoughtful and honestly held. As opposed to some who feel they are right to change someone else’s community for them whether they want it or not. You are right PT can work far more efficiently than cars when many people want to go to the same destination and PT is an important part of any city as even when dispersed some people have no other travel choices. I have worked as a rail planner and I was a business analyst on the Folkestone to St Pancras line so I know pretty much what can work and what is BS. My part of the planning of that route was to cater for domestic commuters which dictated where the route actually went. The international trains were a given (although in the office the model of international services was called the Scottish model after McBeth because it kept crashing computers every time someone said its real name brought us bad luck) . Statistics NZ put out a CD of the 2006 Census Journey to Work data and called it commuter view. It is out of date now but still the best data source freely available if you are interested in how people commute and where they travel. PT to and from the CBD can and should be better. Where I start slinging off at people is when they push ‘big plans’ to change landuse and transport and claim you can ignore forecasting. It isn’t perfect but it does allow you to reflect on actual revealed preferences. That is factual evidence rather than conjecture. I do tend to wind people up a bit I know but the idea that you can just choose any outcome you would like and getting it is just “woodwork” is just so outrageously and aggressively ignorant that snide remarks are deserved in my view.

          You comments on polycentric cities are fair. They can and do increase total travel. That is mainly because the cost of travel is actually quite low so some people are prepared to go long distances. Why do they shift? Well two people in a household can end up working in different places and the benefit they get from living where they live and working where they do exceeds the costs. We can’t really impose on them a lower cost solution without reducing their utility. The fact is we live in a polycentric city. Ask Stats NZ for commuter view and you will see that (it will also get you on the list for the update to 2013 if they do one). Focussing on reducing costs is a trap that even economists fall into. What is important is that people gain an advantage of benefits that exceed costs. For some such as yourself you would probably pay a premium to live in a vibrant and busy city centre, I would pay a premium not to, neither of us is wrong we are both maximising our utility, we just have a different set of tastes and preferences to maximise to. I guess politically I am just skeptical that the ‘grand plan’ approach works. After paying poll tax in Camden Council I am not sure high spending Councils have much to offer us either.

        2. I too disagree that a “Grand Plan” approach can work. The problem as I see it is that we already have a “Grand Plan” in place – one that forces sprawl and prevents intensification. Planning rules that prevent intensification, government spending on motorways and not public transport (roading projects proceed despite terrible business cases while PT investment with excellent business cases is denied funding or delayed), lack of capital gains tax etc all promote sprawl over intensification. I don’t see how relaxing the rules that are preventing intensification and demanding a fairer share of public money for public transport (as most pro-intensification people on this blog are pushing for) is in any way trying to force their view on how other people live.

          Relax the rules and distribute resources fairly and then people can decide what they prefer. No one is forced to build apartments in Terrace Housing and Apartment zone but they can if the want. They can also build a single house if they want or not build anything.

          Regarding costs you seem to be forgetting that we are not only talking about private costs and utility. A lot of public money is going into motorway and infrastructure suited for sprawl. You are right that you can’t force low cost solutions on people without reducing their utility. This is not what I have been proposing. What I am saying is that high public spending on sprawl related infrastructure and policies that force sprawl over density is actually forcing high cost solutions on people without increasing their utility. In current conditions many people who would gain much more utility from the ability to live in a highly urbanised environment are prevented from doing. This is because current planning rules and policies make it impossible for them to do so because these urbanised communities are not permitted to exist in Auckland. These people are force to endure much higher costs living in suburban areas which do not suit their lifestyles.

        3. Thanks for your reply John. Couple of things. The little borough of Camden [used to be my council too] only really has the power to frustrate or urge things to happen in a little area rather than to shape the whole of London, and whatever it does or doesn’t do is likely to be matched by its neighbours doing the reverse so is in no way comparable to the new Auckland Council which has the power to shape the forces of change across the whole region. But still the key there is that even powerful governments has can only attempt to guide or deflect the direction of the change they really can’t ‘force’ a new world if there is no desire for it. If this idea is what you are sceptical about then I agree.

          But let’s look at the trends, people bidding up central properties, Aucklanders choosing apartment living for the first time in any numbers, poverty has long left the old inner city and inner suburbs for further out [these are the people who are ‘forced’ as they have such limited choice]. In general growth and change across the whole city. And we can observe broadly that in contrast to last century out is out and in is in. Not for everyone, but the trend of the change is clear.

          Anyway the model you present of the transport planner measuring current demand in order to design an appropriate level of service is rational and sensible in a static market, but that isn’t what we have in Auckland at the moment at all, we have dynamic growth and it is rational and sensible, actually vital, in this context to take the opportunity to shape that demand. Not least because only then can we be certain that the supply of capacity is in the right places; or looked at from the land use angle that the new developments are well served by capacity. But also we can get more of the kind of city we want and less of the one we don’t [of course what that is is up for debate], which is much harder to do in an undynamic economy and social context.

          We have also seen that whenever we provide a quality transit route and service [eg Britomart, Northern Busway] it busts all predictions with demand, so it isn’t possible to know what demand could be with different investment, and current demand is frankly irrelevant if those investments are transformative. Therefore measure and provide is a poor tool here.

          So now it would frankly be a huge failure if the Council were not planning and funding land use and transport TOGETHER at this point. It’s just the only rational and responsible way forward.

      4. JohnP, actually rereading your initial reply to my comment it looks like we were perhaps talking at cross purposes a bit. My initial comment was about increasing private travel costs in the future (mostly due to increasing fuel costs) and it seems that perhaps you thought I was talking about increasing travel cost as you got further out from the city centre (due to increased distance travelled to the centre). Is this correct?

        I looked back over your posts on this subject because it struck me that what you have been saying on this subject had seemed rather evasive and off-topic when you are usually pretty reasonable in your comments. When you are not making snide remarks that is! 🙂

        1. Hi VLee yes I was on the further out costs more track, sorry if that was wrong. Your point about rising fuel costs I accept although I wouldn’t ever try to predict fuel prices. If you look at the last 40 years there is an overall upward trend but it bounces within that for geopolitical reasons that would not be in anyone’s model of a future price. Eg if 50 years ago you predicted petrol prices into the future probably nobody would have included the Yom Kippur war or the Iranian revolution, or the protracted drops in price that occurred as well. I am simply not brave enough to guess what petrol will cost in 10 years time. It will be due to supply and demand but both factors will likely be manipulated. I am reluctant to accept some sort of Malthusian apocalypse because that hasn’t happened with other goods that have an increasing price. Malthus didn’t know about substitution and he ignored technology. Making investment decisions based on an expected rapid increase in petrol costs has been ruinous for NZ in the past. Gas to Gasoline, Main Trunk Electrification, Marsden Point B. The first burnt up large amounts of the Maui resource producing petrol that cost more than world prices, the 2nd almost wasn’t turned on because of costs and the third I think was abandoned (not sure about that though). I think the best we can do is just assume the futures market is right but that tends to be fairly short term. I have wondered in the past if the fall in petrol price that we get periodically isn’t as harmful as the supply shock we get with the increases. Each time people get going on alternative technology due to higher petrol prices they get financially ruined by a subsequent fall in fuel price. I am specifically thinking of ethanol and even gas which was big for a while. Maybe if we could get a minimum price for petrol established and fix it at that level the tech companies could succeed long enough to be there through the price falls and still be going in the next price peak. Govt has to collect taxes somewhere so why not collect more each time the world petrol price falls.

    2. V Lee:

      Your whole argument is based on one significant assumption:

      “…… the effects of increasing private travel costs…..”

      “…….mostly due to increasing fuel costs…….”

      Anthony Downs (it is hard to get more authoritative than him) points out in his book “Still Stuck in Traffic” (2004) that although the cost of crude oil has gone up and up and up, the real cost of travel by private car has steadily fallen. One of the reasons for increased VMT is simply that poorer and poorer people have been able to afford car travel. And women getting mobility and joining the workforce.

      There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the price of crude oil is only a fraction of the final cost of petrol. And incomes have been rising too, virtually matching the rise in petrol prices.

      Secondly, people have chosen more and more to buy more efficient vehicles as these have become available.

      Thirdly, the real cost of all other costs of running a private car have fallen, as they have got more reliable. This also means that the cost of car use right at the bottom of the car ownership sequence has fallen the most – a second-hand car that is old enough to be worth almost nothing, is now a heck of a lot more reliable than a comparative car 40 years ago. I remember my father spending almost every Saturday fixing up the family car.

      Aggregate figures for the cost of running cars is dragged upwards by discretionary choices of high performance cars and SUV’s and so on by those who can afford them. It is ironic that the more people can afford inefficient cars, the more the anti-car activists point to the figures and say “the end of car driving is nigh, look at those horrendous costs”. Meanwhile most poorer people will tell you that there is no way they would do without their old Toyota Corolla or Mazda 323, and that the cost of running it is barely any more than bus fares. Bus fares for routes predominantly used by carless poorer people are of course not subsidised anything like as much as rail and bus routes used by wealthier people to travel to CBD’s.

      You might argue that this phenomenon has gone into reverse in recent years. I doubt it is permanent. There is virtually no scope for the cost of crude oil to make much of a difference for many decades. There is an “upside down pyramid” of supply of fossil fuels – the higher the price goes, the more of it there is worth extracting. This means that the higher the price goes, the slower the rate of inflation in the price in the future.

      When we actually do reach a point where this phenomenon reverses, there is a lot of scope for choice of more efficient cars even at today’s technology, let alone the technology of the future.

      1. Phil, if we accept your suggestion that the costs of vehicle ownership/operation have been falling, then does that not make it all the more remarkable that VKT per capita has been falling in almost every OECD country for the last decade or more?

        Hmm … if we accept your assertion that the price signals are going one way (down) while demand is doing the same (down), then the only plausible explanations are:
        1. Underlying population preferences are changing; and/or
        2. Alternative technologies are substituting for car-based travel demands.

        And if you also accept that going forward we should see more deregulation of the parking supply (i.e. the removal minimum parking requirements) and time-of-use transport pricing (i.e. higher costs for driving at peak times), then it possible that the downwards trend in the cost of vehicle based travel may also be arrested? In which case the rate of decline in VKT per capita would accelerate?

        To paraphrase Ed Glaeser, regulatory barriers to density are likely to be more of a binding constraint on development than regulatory barriers to outwards urban expansion.

        Food. For. Thought.

        1. Where is the data that shows VKT per capita falling in OECD countries? By the way, there is an excellent correlation with employment and income levels to take into account too. I wouldn’t interpret a fall in VKT in Spain or Greece as “peak car”.

          The parking and congestion problem is everywhere a factor of commuting to CBD’s; which also almost everywhere is less than a quarter of total commuting; and commuting is well under half of total travel. Decentralisation of employment is the norm and as Ed Glaeser and Matthew Kahn said in “Sprawl and Urban Growth” (2004):

          “……But while it is sensible to tax driving on crowded streets, it does not seem sensible to
          respond to congestion externalities by fighting sprawl. Before employment
          decentralization, when sprawl meant suburbanites driving downtown, the link between
          sprawl and added street traffic on congested roads was tight. However, the
          decentralization of employment actually reduces the pressure on crowded downtown
          streets. By moving to lower densities, the traffic problem is actually reduced. Indeed,
          one of the major appeals of sprawl cities is that they have shorter commutes than dense

          That was an excellent paper and Glaeser seems to have gone wobbly since. His assumption that building “up” can substitute for building “out” in terms of affordabliity is something that has put him right out on a limb in the urban economics profession. This is nonsense. All that upzoning does is increase site rents. There is no example in the world where allowing more density under the conditions of fringe growth containment has achieved anything except fatter profits for the owners of sites being developed at higher density.The real-world evidence is undeniable, even if a fringe of theorists like Glaeser think they can conjure up some supposition to the contrary.

          The only choice is whether you end up with unaffordably-priced row-houses and high density accommodation, as in the UK’s cities; or unaffordably-priced housing of large size on large sections, as in Boston and in parts of California. The unaffordability of the actual prices is little different. The only cities that have affordable housing, have affordable new houses being built on sites with MINIMAL economic rent embodied in the price – they are therefore usually sections of decent size but only a fraction of the cost of either Boston’s large minimum ones or the UK’s (and ours, now) absurd crammed-in pocket-kerchief “sections”.

          Landlords, site owners, the property rentier class, the finance sector, and the local Council’s fee-chasing bureaucrats prefer growth containment WITH upzoning rather than without; for obvious reasons.

        2. Phil,

          VKT per capita trends (you’ll have to scroll to the right page in some of these docs):

          Do you have any research to support the statement that parking and congestion costs are solely a factor of city centres and/or commuting? Sounds like bollocks to me.

          Incidentally, I tend to agree with Glaeser and Kahn’s conclusions. I disagree with your suggestion that he’s “out on a limb” with his more recent work. He’s done some very useful research into the negative effects of building height limits and other regulations on urban development.

          Building up often is a substitute for building out. If we remove barriers preventing intensification (which you somewhat bizarrely refer to as “upzoning”) then the city would sprawl less than it would in the presence of those regulations. Here’s some recent research looking at the impact of height limits on urban development in Beijing, for example.

          I was not suggesting containing fringe growth and allowing more intensive development.

          I was suggesting that in a hypothetical world where we removed *all* land use regulations then we would see higher densities, not lower.

      2. “the price of crude oil is only a fraction of the final cost of petrol”

        Yes but its the MAIN ingredient of petrol, so the fraction is pretty large isn’t it? even if its not 100%
        So crude oil prices *are* the main determinant of the pump price of petrol, especially in countries like NZ where its not subsidised.

        “Bus fares for routes predominantly used by carless poorer people are of course not subsidised anything like as much as rail and bus routes used by wealthier people to travel to CBD’s.”

        Got any evidence to show that is true in a *NZ* (and more specifically) Auckland context? That statement sounds like utter BS to me.

        The Rail subsidy is the same across all rail journeys in Auckland and Rail is (as part of Government Policy) required to obtain over 50% of its costs from the fares and not subsidies. So there is no “rail” subsidisation for wealthier train routes in Auckland (or I’ll bet Wellington) – the main NZ locations with any commuter rail.

        As for Buses, some bus lines have higher subsidies than rail would but these tend to be the ones serving those “uneconomic” locations, and these are more likely than not going to be those that run in the very outer suburbs where the carless poor are forced to live. So, if anything the carless poor are getting a bigger subsidy now than the wealthy bus users, whether you measure it per journey or per passenger KM.
        Yes poor carless people may have to make multiple journeys to get from A to B than some rich dude who works in the CBD and lives in Remuera.
        But that doesn’t mean they get less of a subsidy in either absolute $ terms in in KM travelled.

        “Meanwhile most poorer people will tell you that there is no way they would do without their old Toyota Corolla or Mazda 323, and that the cost of running it is barely any more than bus fares”

        Agreed to some extent – but thats **only** because the true external costs of the car mode they use are not properly captured (externalities), so the poor car driver (like all car drivers) probably doesn’t contribute anything much to the true costs of their mode choice, and more often than not, he/she probably also fails to maintain the car properly, so that one old dunger Mazda 323 car is often an even bigger polluter than 10 new SUVs from the rich guys who live closer to their work. And if its a Diesel powered dunger, then its probably even worse as a unmaintained diesel vehicle is a pollution nightmare.

        As for paying registration/maintenance and road user charges (if its a diesel), or even having any insurance – well thats usually not even in their thoughts either, so of course any old bomb of a car without any maintenance, good tyres, insurance, registration and/or paying Road User Charges is going to beat any subsidised or not “PT” mode you name hands down on price/cost – unless they can get on the PT without paying any fare that is – then the PT option may be cheaper.

        When congestion or road taxes in Auckland are bought in and/or free/employer subsidised parking at work is taxed properly (as it should be) then the “car mode” may prove to be much less attractive to these types of car users going forward – so much so, that they do stop driving the car – even if the price of fuel to run it on is cheap as the water used to refine the petrol they put in their tanks.

        What these “carless poor” actually want is mode choices and living choices that don’t consign them to have to live in the outer burbs and don’t force them to drive unwarranted/unregistered cars with no insurance simply to be able to get around. They want the same

        And while the rich guys may not consciously say that,thats what they also want too, in practise that is what they want – when they live in the inner suburbs, and can easily get to work without a marathon journey required multiple modes and when their kids can walk/cycle or get the bus or train to the nearest half decent school.

        1. I thought it is common knowledge that PT fare subsidy structures in Auckland and Wellington are biased towards longer trips. The fare charged for the first zone is highest, and the fare charged for each of the second and third zones is higher than that charged for subsequent zones.

          This is not explicitly stated as a greater subsidy to longer rail trips; but the fact is that most short trips are made on buses and most longer ones on rail. I know Tony Randle has crunched the figures on this. He is trying to get some proper public scrutiny of this issue done.

          And most PT trips made by carless poorer people are certainly not long commutes to a CBD.

          But your point is good that subsidies to uneconomic bus routes where poorer people are “priced out” to, will be high in per person km terms. I would turn this around and say that it is costlier in person km terms than the cost of running a car for each trip by a poor person.

          The problem with the “50% of rail costs are covered by fares” assertion, is that firstly this is operating costs only, not capital costs; and secondly it is forecasts done at the time heavy investment decisions were made; not reality. I stand by what I am saying; a future Labour/Greens government will be hit up for billions in bailout by the GWRC and probably Auckland Super Council as well, over PT subsidy cost over-runs. Especially if Len’s Train Set goes ahead.

          Car users pay for their own capital costs and most of their running costs. They also pay petrol taxes. Their “public subsidy” and externalities per person km traveled might be 3 cents, possibly 7 cents maximum if the most adventurous anti-car activists dream up every imaginable externality. And the subsidy cost and externality cost is largely falling on the same people who create them. PT is unlike this in every aspect. The capital costs are subsidised, the running costs are subsidised, per person km the actual cash subsidies are at least 20 cents and often run to more than $1 in the case of absurdly inefficient routes. Heck, anyone knows you can run a car for far less than this, and the “subsidy and externalities” don’t change anything at this magnitude of cost-ineffectiveness.

          You seem to be an amazing mind reader about what poor people really want. I don’t know anyone at any income level who wants to catch public transport everywhere in preference to having their own car. Maybe there are a few utopians not known to me other than via blog arguments, who imagine a PT system that actually provides them with equivalent mobility to that of car users, and imagine that they and all the poor people they care about won’t be priced out of the locations served this well by PT. I could hardly think of a proposal more likely to bankrupt a regional economy well before it was even 25% enacted.

          In fact you are right, many people, poor and rich, will say “what they want”; but trade-offs and real world limitations are not taken into account. Everyone would love to live just down the road from their job, and their missus’s job, and their kids school, and have free public transport on demand that takes them everywhere; and generally they will want a bit of lawn and trees as well and room for the kids to play out of sight of prowling paedos.

          The people of the former USSR couldn’t wait to get cars after decades of being compelled to live in apartments and catch trains, even if they endure the world’s worst traffic congestion as a result (the commies having neglected any spending that enabled personal freedom of movement for all of course).

          The “polluting old bangers” problem is solving itself just as the “car exhaust emissions” problem, period, is solving itself.

          As I quote Glaeser and Kahn above, decentralisation of employment is what has reduced commute times just as long as people can actually afford housing at most locations rather than NOT be able to afford housing at most locations. It is obvious in international commute time data, that the outliers on the long side all suffer from housing unaffordability and the “pricing out” effect. There is no correlation at all with “sprawl”. There are far more short-to-average commute low density cities than there are long-average-commute low density cities. All the outliers on the high side are growth-contained, unaffordable-housing cities.

        2. Phil – “I don’t know anyone at any income level who wants to catch public transport everywhere in preference to having their own car” just means that you should get out more! For instance, just look at the park and rides up the Hutt Valley (Petone is a good example) that are full of cars that could otherwise have been driven to town, so all those hundreds of people at each location are choosing to use public transport in preference to their own car – and that’s after they’ve paid the fixed costs that seldom get factored in to the true costs of running a car (let alone the externalities – for example, road users pay nothing towards the enormous capital tied up in the road system and the land it occupies).

          And I’m sure that the 2004 books you quote are very interesting, but the world has moved on a lot since then. It’s not hard to find out that VMT/VKT per capita have been static or declining in western countries (eg the USA) since about 2005. People actually don’t want to drive, particularly when they can occupy the time that would otherwise be wasted travelling by working, reading, surfing… Regrettably, the people who seem to be most pro-choice about where people live seem to be the same ones as deny them any choice as to how to get there and back – a rather strange conundrum.

        3. Mike, it is ironic that you responded to my assertion that I don’t know anyone who wants to catch public transport EVERYWHERE in preference to having their own car, by pointing to “park and riders”. As you point out, they own their own car and presumably use it for a lot more travel than just driving to the park-and-ride lot.

          It is also ironic that this cost – of driving to the park and ride lot, and of the cost of providing all that car parking – does not seem to get factored in to “costs of public transport” studies – at least I have never seen one that does factor it in.

          Of course these people would not use the train if they had to pay anything like closer to the true costs; and if they were not getting “subsidised parking” (oh the irony!). It would also make a LOT of sense to simply have office blocks on the space taken up by the park-and-ride lots, and have the park-and-riders working there instead of in Wellington CBD. After all, Wellington is an international outlier for share of employment in its CBD, so there is plenty of latent potential for a bit of beneficial dispersion.

          The problem here is really that the commuter rail system is the prime “end in itself” in regional planning policy. The 2-corridor, rail based urban model bears the same relationship to the modern amorphous city that the old magnetic tape that computers were based on, do to the modern silicon chip. Rewind, stop, fast forward, stop, rewind again; ad infinitum. Meanwhile the amorphous silicon chip has transmitted data in all directions simultaneously and back again several times.

          I can’t stop recommending Alain Bertaud’s latest paper on this very point. Link provided by Brendon Harre above. Is anyone who is following this thread actually reading it?

      3. You seem to be forgetting about increasing demand for both fuel and other materials needed to make cars from China, India and the rest of the 6 billion people that don’t yet live like we do (but are going to be doing so more and more in the future). They aren’t going to be using resources in the amounts we do per capita any time soon (this would actually be impossible) but they are certainly going to be using many times what they use now. It is this ever increasing demand that is likely to make private travel more and more unaffordable for everyone in the future even in “developed” countries. Increasing demand and decreasing supply mean steep price rises. Maybe new technologies for building and running cars or extracting oil may make it possible to meet future demand without ruinous price rises but I do doubt it.

        1. You doubt it. I don’t. I am glad you at least suggest the possibility.

          I wish more people read “Popular Science” these days instead of Malthusian propaganda publications with “Eco” in their title.

          My favourite forward look, is embedded solar power generation in and surrounding road surfaces themselves.

          And separating surface freight from personal travel. Personal travel shouldn’t have to be on surfaces engineered to carry 20 ton vehicles.

          My biggest fear (and I think Matt Ridley has said something like this) is that replacing “Popular Science” with Malthusian propaganda as reading material for everyone from the age of 5 up, might turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Far more kids are growing up determined to “save the planet” via ideologically-activist “science” rather than dreaming of being the famous person who invented and/or commercialised the technology to do it.

          It is interesting that George P. Mitchell was one of those at the first Club of Rome event, and instead of joining the Rockefellers in funding grossly self-enriching activism to constrain everything, he set to work on how to get at the fossil fuels still trapped in rock strata. Decades later, we have fracking. He deserves a posthumous prize for practical humanitarianism. So do the guys who have developed nuclear energy into the form in which it can now be offered. I think it possible that developing countries will leapfrog decadent Luddite first world countries because of their willingness to adopt “scary” new technology to improve their own people’s condition.

          I miss the late Prof. Sir Paul Callaghan on all this sort of stuff.

        2. You are absolutely right. AS THE ONLY PERSON HERE IN THE OIL INDUSTRY let me tell you that the informed expectation is for transport fuels to get cheaper. Fracking is a huge game changer and I don’t care what anyone in hemp jeans and sandals tries to tell you – fracking is here to stay.
          Adjusted for inflation cars are cheaper than they were 30 years ago – especially in NZ with our nasty jap imports. Cars are dramatically more fuel efficient as well and while some may say that fuel efficiency has just been squandered on making cars fatter – the ‘poor’ do dot drive Range Rovers.

        3. True I don’t read “Popular Science”, my scientific reading tends more to actual scientific journals that is when I am not actually doing science and publishing in them. It is very easy to come up with all kinds of wonderful ideas of how we can allow more and more people can have a “Western” lifestyle but a completely different story when you are actually working to make t happen everyday. It is great that you have so much confidence in myself and my colleagues to solve all the problems of the future but in my professional opinion I would say “don’t count on it”.

  11. There has been a bit of discussion above about a paper, “Lost City: Forgotten Plans for an Alternative Auckland” by Chris Harris

    I am appalled that no-one is bothering to discuss the aspect of compulsory acquisition of land by the State. Almost ANYTHING will “work” if you do that. Mostly it won’t if you don’t.

    Attempting to increase population density in existing built areas is nigh on impossible because of the effect on land rents and site rents. RE markets are very reactive to “increased demand”; the prices can easily double within a few years and before much actual intensification has occurred. It is absurd to extrapolate a “first wave” of increased population at central locations into the future indefinitely unless you are prepared to “take” the inevitable capital gains off the land owners.

    The same goes for strictly rail-based development. If you don’t compulsorily acquire the land for this, how are you going to make sure the land owners don’t gouge ridiculous sums of money out of the public? The whole POINT about the past plans, to my mind, is that they were based on compulsory acquisitions. Why is no-one today who admires those plans, drawing attention to this essential aspect of them?

    Harris himself wimps out of discussing this aspect. He mentions that “…..The government of the day was accused of crowding out private development and interfering with freedom…..” and then goes on to discuss the harms done by the abandonment of the plans, yet without candidly addressing whether or not New Zealand as a country would be prepared to go back to compulsory acquisitions and major State provision of housing and development.

    Even Labour today with their proposals for a new program of “State” housing, is wimping out of compulsory acquisition, and instead using smoke and mirrors to promise “affordability” by making the housing tiny, and throwing taxpayer subsidies at it. Meanwhile the original site owners will be laughing all the way to the bank, nothing changing in this respect.

    Colin Craig is the only well known person in political advocacy of any kind that I know to have had the cojones to refer to at least the THREAT of compulsory acquisition to moderate the unreasonable “holdout” demands of site owners to the detriment of housing affordability.

    1. I have read the Harris paper, I don’t recall that “compulsory acquisition of land by the State” was a central plank of his views or the Government of the day.

      What he did say was that the (then) Auckland Councils had a policy of capturing 50% of the uplift in land values caused by (state) initiated land developments which the private land owners would otherwise “get for free”. these payments were enforced through rates and other land based taxes.

      Hardly call that “compulsory purchasing” of land do you? No one buys your land from you, but its becomes worth more through no effort from you – shouldn’t you pay for some of that windfall? The IRD certainly thinks so.

      When the council rezones a area of land which includes private owned land and build road/water/sewerage etc services to service that rezoned area, is it not fair for all the land holders who benefit from this, with the increased value of their land – to help pay for those services which they will be able to benefit from in the future?

      Seems perfectly fair to me.

      There is some merit in perhaps saying that these “uplift” taxes/rates don’t apply to you as private land holder until you develop your land further (e.g. subdivide it) – from how it was when the rezone happened..

      And isn’t that in essence what council developer levies are all about – they are giving land owners delayed “zoning uplift” payments for the increased value of the land due to rezoning and (public) services being provided by the council?

      So isn’t this fair recompense to the “state” (Local or Central Government) for their investment?

      Doesn’t seem like socialist land acquisition to me.

      1. He was saying that Wellington did it right, Auckland didn’t. In Wellington region, massive swathes of land in Porirua and Lower Hutt were bought up by the government and land value uplift was used to pay for the infrastructure. He, and you, can’t seriously claim that Auckland could have “done it right” without doing it the same way.

        The problem with NOT doing it this way when you have a UGB or strict planning of where growth is to occur, is that the land value has already uplifted due to a monopoly rent effect before anyone buys it for development; and there is nothing left to capture for infrastructure. Councils are trying to do this via DC’s but this is the wrong time in the process to be trying to do it. Acquire the land first at RURAL values. THEN capture the uplift.

        The problem with “making new developments pay for infrastructure” is that the inflation in land values does not stop at the point where the new development occurred. Land values are derivative by location. If the cheapest land in the urban economy, at the fringe, is inflated in price, ALL urban land is inflated in price. The “cost of infrastructure” at the fringe, built into developed property prices at the fringe, capitalises into windfall property value gains for everyone not at the fringe. The way rates are calculated, the incumbent beneficiaries do not pay for THEIR windfall benefit. This is why it is far fairer and more efficient for everyone to simply pay rates all their life. Your parents paid for the growth that kept housing affordable for you; you do the same for the generation after you. It is far cheaper in the long run, and the increased cost of doing it the currently fashionable way ends up in the pockets of the private sector rentiers in property and finance – hence, I believe, the “popularity” of the currently fashionable policies.

        Now land taxes are different – your arguments are perfectly valid if you are talking about land taxes. These have the advantage that they capture value uplift that occurs for whatever reason, not just calculations by bureaucrats re new infrastructure costs that are dishonest anyway most of the time. One of the many contradictions of “smart growth” is that building “up” is still taxed, even though this is allegedly something desirable. Taxing land, not buildings, would constrain urban growth without the need for any arcane, distortionary and inequitable boundaries and levies and unearned increments. One of the best things you can read on all this is Mason Gaffney’s 1964 “Containment Policies for Urban Sprawl”. But of course things have to be done the way that benefits the land and finance sector rentiers, not the way that actually achieves the alleged objectives best and with no harm.

        Do you think that Auckland CBD property owners should be “levied” to pay for the new Rail Link, and if not, why not? There is actually good solid academic justification for this – unlike levying fringe developments, levying incumbent property owners closer to the city centre actually tends to reduce, not increase, urban land values; and after all, they are the principal beneficiaries of the “investment”. To the extent that the “investment” is paid for by others, this constitutes a wealth transfer to the benefiting property owners. But a land tax would take care of this without any need to calculate and wrangle over shares of costs.

        1. Phil H this might be a dangerous idea. But NZ needs more transport infrastructure, some of it in rural areas. NZ needs more housing. The State acquires the land for the rural based transport infrastructure by compulsory purchase at rural prices. Is it such a revolutionary practice that the State acquires some extra land for housing too….

          Given the right checks and balances would it be possible to get the mix modal transport/ urban density mix that many want here and affordable housing?

        2. I think if you read Harris closely, he says that Auckland *was* doing it right post WWII and then went of the rails in the 50’s.

          Yes I think CBD land owners should pay for the CRL especially those who get benefits from it that are through no work on their part. whether thats an upfront levy or simply derived from rates is not the issue. I don’t see that as distorting the market as some would see it.

          If a developer links their new development to a CRL station and pays for the complete costs of doing so, then they are entitled as I see it most (i.e. half or more) of the resulting value uplift they get. What happens to the rest? Well I think that as Harris says the old Auckland Councils were doing – and that was taxing that and using it for infrastructure (like paying for CRL).

          As for some land owner in the CBD who does nothing yet gets uplift from being near a CRL station – well rates will take care of that on the basis that all surrounding property owners also got uplift, so they should all pay something on a “average uplift” basis.

        3. “Acquire the land first at RURAL values. THEN capture the uplift.” – This is exactly what the government did.

          Page 3 of the paper – “The NZ government bought up large tracts of land in Porirua and the Hutt Valley, and used the development gains to pay for new railways and other amenities.”

          I am not interested in whether this is “socialist” or “neoliberalist” or any other “-ist”. The question is, did it (and does it still in the countries where it is used, mostly Northern Europe) work. I think the answer is yes. It supplies a new urban enviroment with good PT links and a pleasant living environment. This could be done in areas that are now very rural like Drury or Waiuku or maybe somewhere on the northern rail line.

          One of the best examples is from the Netherlands, Houten ( This created a small town of around 25,000 a 10min train ride from Utrecht (population 327,834) which is very cycle friendly and with excellent PT links to Utrecht and beyond. The demand was so great that another rail station was built and the town expanded – it now has around 44,000 residents but will probably need to expand again.

          What I dont understand is that if you are a die hard free market, neoliberal, why are you against eliminating anti-density zoning rules while eliminating the RUB? Surely if you really believe in a free market, all restraints should be eliminated. If you say you dont trust developers and they will just produce rubbish, well sorry but they ARE the free market. The very capitalist investors neoliberals are meant to support and deify.

          If you are truly in favour of neoliberal, free market policies all restraints (up and out) must be lifted – as I believe should happen. Otherwise you are just cherry picking a result and indulging in social engineering as much as any central government “socialist” planning system.

        4. I wouldn’t go north of Auckland using the rail alignment. The bus corridor is the most direct and more logical.

        5. Yep, a dedicated separate busway (i.e. not on a motorway but a separate route, otherwise massive severance) would work just as well. Mode neutral.

  12. The Harris paper contains several quite material errors and false assumptions.

    “…….The overall residential population density of the Auckland urban area is under 300 people per square kilometre of land area. This is very low compared to large overseas cities which can
    typically have population densities of well over 1,000 residents per square kilometre…..”

    Figures this low can only be conjured up by using municipal boundaries that bear no relationship to the density of the actual built area. Auckland’s current density is 2,400 people per sq km, which is denser than many European cities – and I doubt it has ever been much lower than 1,600 people per square km although quality data for the past may not exist.

    Infill development has probably been a bigger success story in NZ than anywhere else in the world of post-automobile-development-cities already. There would hardly be a single quarter acre section left anywhere now – they all have been chopped up and had at least one new dwelling built on the back or front half; and more often up to 3 townhouses.

    But we have hit the limit to what Kiwis are prepared to tolerate in this regard.

    Harris makes sweeping statements about Auckland being the car dependent city, while “we will never get Cantabrians off their bicycles or Wellingtonians out of their trains”. This is absurd. Private cars are the dominant mode everywhere, and we are talking about single percentage figures of difference in relative total kms travelled by each mode. Private cars are well over 70% of this in every city.

    For one thing, most travel is not commuting at all, and most commuting is not to CBD’s. Wellington is an international outlier in that it has 33% of regional employment in its CBD. Most cities are below 20%, and there is little difference between cities in the USA, Europe, or anywhere, in this regard. The decentralisation of employment is an inevitability. Alain Bertaud’s recent paper linked to above by Brendon Harre is very helpful and informative about the processes that drive this. So is Richard Mudge and Eric Beshers, “Business Location in the Modern Economy”.

    Relatively centralised employment, as in Wellington, is a give-away of an essentially parasitic nature of the local economy. “Weightless” employment sectors – that earn incomes by way of garnishing wealth created elsewhere – can exist confined to offices in tall buildings. Expecting a nation’s entire urban economy to also exist in this form just for the sake of rail as a primary transport mode is only slightly less absurd than expecting the farming sector to also exist in tall buildings so farm labourers can get to their jobs by rail.

    It is also absurd to describe Auckland as having gone crazy blowing money on highways and infrastructure to support automobile dependent development patterns.

    It appears in a comparison of Auckland and Indianapolis, that Indy has nearly 3 times as much highway and arterial road capacity, has around 20% more VMT than Auckland for a similar size population, and has a congestion delay per hour of driving of 15 minutes versus Auckland’s 47 minutes…….

    In the TomTom data set, Indy’s total highway network length is 269 miles, and non-highway network length is 1,517 miles. Total vehicle miles is 1,184, 017. Congestion delay is 15 minutes per 1 hour of driving at peak.

    Auckland’s total highway network length is 162 miles, and non-highway network length is 782 miles. Total vehicle miles is 916, 380. Congestion delay is 47 minutes per 1 hour of driving at peak.

    But “network length” is not lane-miles.

    TTI data shows Indy’s highway lane-miles to be 1,082. This looks right because most of it is 3 lanes each way, and 4 lanes each way in places.

    I am guessing Auckland’s would not exceed 400.

    I am also guessing that Auckland’s non-highway network roads will tend to have fewer lanes on average than Indy’s.

    I think it is basically nonsense that “induced traffic” means you can’t build your way out of congestion, or that public transport spending makes a measurable difference. It is also nonsense that Auckland has “over-spent on roads already”.

    I think it is time this stupid myth was ended. It is a global myth, and widely believed in, but still a myth.

    Indy is also a density of 800 people per square km; one third of Auckland. Its house price median multiples have remained stable at around 3 at all times, including episodes of growth of as much as 22% in a single decade.

    Kiwis are being defrauded of a 1/4 acre, affordable-home, low congestion, high opportunity future in the name of an ideology based on false assumptions.

    The costs of keeping a PT system going are far higher than the cost of financing road and highway building and maintenance. Per person km of travel on PT, the public finances fork out 20 cents to $1+, and this cost mounts up in perpetuity, whereas for roads and highways the cost falls steadily over time. Authoritative data suggests less than 1/10 of a cent for “maintenance”.

    Indy will have SOUNDER public finances if they have spent on highways instead of PT. Wellington is being driven broke by the sheer ongoing cost of its outlier commuter rail system. You can bet the GWRC are desperately holding out for a future Labour/Greens government that will be a soft touch when they reveal that they are billions in the red and need a bailout.

    It is also nonsense to assume that longer and longer train trips out to planned exurbs is more efficient than an amorphous form of urban development with short car trips predominating. Again, I recommend the Bertaud paper that Brendon Harre linked to above; and also William Wheaton’s “Commuting, Ricardian Rent and House Prices in Cities with Dispersed Employment and Mixed Land Use”.

  13. Phil H your entire world view rests on the assumption that all people share your taste for dispersed living. This is not true now even if it was indeed more true in the postwar sprawl years. This is simply an outdated assumption that colours all of your conclusions.

    Please note I am not saying that everyone wants to live in the city, that would simply be to repeat your mistake, but rather to observe that there is an increasing appetite for both more compact and more densely ordered living with a higher degree of proximity to the centre than has been the case in our recent (65years) history. And that Auckland has a generous supply of large family homes in suburban settings but an under supply of smaller inner suburb dwellings especially ones well connected by transit and cycling and walking amenity to fit this demand. The biggest demand growth in household type is for one or two people dwellings.

    Furthermore this demand just cannot be positively affected either in quantum or price by the spread of more auto-dependent detached tract housing on the periphery; these are separate markets. No one is suggesting the ‘forcing’ of people out of suburbia or ex-urbia but rather the addition to this existing supply of new dwellings appropriate to this market and their necessary infrastructure.

    It is you that is blinded by ideology in your insistence that everybody wants and must have a 1/4 arce section with a big house on it. This is arrant nonsense, and a practical impossibility in Auckland. This typology virtually no longer exists now and is not what has been being built on those recent subdivisions at the periphery over the last 20 years. Are you writing from 1955?

    1. Patrick; my central point is obviously not being grasped.

      I am neutral as to choices. You want to live in an apartment in the CBD, fine by me.

      I am just trying to alert EVERYONE who wants to live HOWEVER; that the cost of YOUR preferred option is inflated at the same time as the cost of the option YOU DISLIKE – and wish to see proscribed.

      Push up the costs of fringe McMansions and you push up the cost of mature central suburbs housing of all kinds; you push up the cost of townhouses and infill housing at central locations, and you push up the cost of CBD apartments.

      I comment at length above about the erroneous assumption of planners and even some economists who should know better, that intensification will compensate for urban land prices being inflated by a UGB. I call on the real world evidence in my support. There is no example in the world where intensification inside a UGB has been anything but unaffordable to all. In all the affordable-housing cities, there are not just affordable new fringe McMansions – mature central suburbs are cheap too, and CBD apartments are a fraction of the cost that they are in Vancouver or Sydney or Auckland or any UK city.

      Can you look at RE sites for yourself or do I have to post endless links to actual advertised housing as proof? I have done so before but some people seem to never learn. What is their motivation, I often wonder?

      It does not matter who you are or what choices YOU want to make. YOU are being ripped off by urban planning fads, unless you are one of the rentier gainers yourself. Hmmmmmmm………..

      1. Not convincing at all. You are a single issue obsessive who sees reds (planners) under every bed. You accord this group mythical powers they just don’t have. The price of inner suburb properties just cannot be so strongly affected by supply of properties in completely different places with completely different qualities.

        For your argument to work Bill English’s wise crack about Gore would have to be relevant; as if the supply of properties so distant can influence Auckland prices. What is RE if isn’t about location? There is a naïveté at the heart of your campaign almost as vast as your tirelessness.

        1. In a way I am obsessive about the issue I describe, but my obsession bears no resemblance to the caricature you have drawn of it. I am rightly obsessed because it is extremely important that people, including the planners, wake up to see consequences of well-intentioned but misguided policies.

          This is just careless waving away of what is a real and serious problem:

          “……The price of inner suburb properties just cannot be so strongly affected by supply of properties in completely different places with completely different qualities……”

          Open your eyes and see the real life evidence in cities all over the world. Including in your own city. I have seen this happening in NZ cities in my own lifetime. NZ cities were once systemically affordable. At this time, a new fringe starter home was around 3 times average income; and a fixer-upper home quite close to the CBD was actually even cheaper. I look on RE sites for affordable cities (now restricted pretty much to parts of the the USA) and I find the same thing still applies. Cheap fringe McMansions; slightly cheaper near-the-CBD older houses and townhouses.

          When growth is contained and fees lumped upfront into the cost of fringe housing, the resultant “housing cost inflation” is all in the land prices, and this inflation is some tenfold or 20-fold, leading to the low value of a depreciated house structure in mature locations, completely swamped by the land value. The million-dollar old dump near the CBD has literally had the land under it inflate in value from under $100,000 to close to $1,000,000.

          This observation does not contradict established urban econ theory either. Urban land rent curves slope up from fringe to centre of a city. There is plenty of research from UK academics on what happens to urban land rent curves when a “discontinuity” is introduced into it at the fringe. Fringe land by the time it gets developed in UK cities, is inflated by a factor of some hundreds of times over rural values, making it more expensive than what CENTRAL land is in cities with no fringe growth constraints. In fact some cities urban land rent curves only slope up from rural values at the fringe, to 20X that value at the very centre. The UK’s cities tend to start at 300X rural value at the fringe and end up several thousand times rural value at the centre. In fact a 1/10 of an acre with an old dump on it in Mt Eden selling at over $1,000,000, is an example of land values being hundreds of times rural land value. In contrast to affordable cities where land at the same location might be a mere 10X rural land values.

        2. That is rich coming from you Patrick – you are so singularly obsessive you will delete this post as soon as you see it 🙁

          This is not about forcing people to live in the burbs or the city – this is about you wanting to live in the city and as you cant afford an apartment – you want building regs changed so that you can.
          1. Political intervention in the property market is dangerous and undesirable
          2. No Aucklander with any conscience wants to see the city filled in with cheap housing

        3. “Political intervention in the property market is dangerous and undesirable”

          I agree. So you must be looking to see the elimination of all regulations that prevent the building of property – both out and up. Only then can neoliberals like yourself really see the effect of the free market you have so much faith in. That is definitely what I want to see. Or are you afriad that land owners/developers/buyers might choose up over out? I know many of my developer clients want to choose up as they see little demand for out and it is already largely met by current supply.

          “No Aucklander with any conscience wants to see the city filled in with cheap housing”

          I agree, but that applies as much to the fringes as to the centre. So let’s scrap all the exclusionary zoning rules and the RUB and concentrate on ensuring good design outcomes and good quality housing.

          You must agree surely? Or do you really just want to scrap the RUB and keep exclusionary zoning so as to distort the “free” market in the direction you prefer, i.e. low density suburbia?

  14. Manchester UK central city property, sorted by price low to high (bear in mind that the cheapest stuff is “shared ownership” as low as 25% – this is the sort of thing that happens in severely distorted unaffordable markets):

    San Antonio TX central city property sorted the same way:

    If YOU want centrally located accommodation of modest size, why on earth would you regard it as smart to have to pay Manchester prices?

  15. Let’s make it even more interesting by seeing what someone with a HALF A MILLION dollars PLUS to spend, gets in central San Antonio:

    And Manchester, for 250,000 pounds plus:

    So there you go. In San Antonio, a low income earner can still manage to “buy in” to the same area where there are expensive condos. In Manchester there isn’t a hope. Auckland is probably worse.

    1. You’re still missing my point from above: Regulations preventing intensification, rather than those preventing sprawl, are likely to be a greater cause of our current housing affordability issues. Consider this as an example. Auckland’s recent Unitary Plan proposes a *minimum” apartment size regulation in most of the city of 40 sqm. The current minimum is 25 sqm, i.e. an increase of 15 sqm.

      The capital cost of building apartments is approximately $6-$10k per sqm. Therefore the 15 sqm increase in minimum apartment size will add approximately $90-$150k to the cost of a one bedroom apartment. Whereas the market could previously supply small apartments for circa $150k, they will now cost $240-$300k minimum.

      That’s a massive increase in the cost of developing apartments.

      Given that most of the projected growth in households in Auckland is in the 1-2 person category you cannot tell me that regulations like this are not responsible for our over-inflated property market. There’s absolutely no way that removing Auckland’s metropolitan limits, for example, would drop $100k from the price of houses.

      And that’s just one example of a regulation preventing intensification! You also have to add in height limits, floor-area ratios, minimum parking requirements, building set-backs …

      It seems that your the one out on a limb, not Glaeser.

  16. Repeating the exercise, with “rents”:

    BUT note that the cheapest ones in Manchester, if you read the fine print, are for ONE ROOM ONLY, WITHIN a two, three or more room apartment. Again, this is the sort of nonsense that ends up happening in grossly distorted, unaffordable-housing cities. And even these single ROOMS are in any case twice as expensive as a whole condo in San Antone…….

  17. We cannot afford classic, low density, sprawl. The on going costs of maintenance of services (roads, wastewater etc) is not affordable. What we can do, however, is create a network of mixed density towns on the PT routes that allow people choice and allow enough density to provide local jobs for some and viable transport alternatives for others. In other words, kind of like towns such as Almere in the Netherlands.

    1. Why do you think that Bryce?

      I wonder how much growth is left in Auckland? Surely both sprawl and intensification are mute points anyway unless we all think Auckland population is going to quadruple. The population of Sydney is 4.6m – Auckland is 1.2m. Currently Auckland takes up about 6000 square km – just under half of Sydney which is 12600 square km.

      Are we not pressing the panic button over nothing?

      1. I can’t answer your last question but if we are not at least planning for these outcomes then we’d be foolish. This includes planning our satellite towns. Allowing Auckland to spread as it has done has really got us nowhere other than sitting in traffic. The more people we place on the fringes without quality PT links just adds volumes to our inner city motorways and arterials which disadvantages those who live in the city (as opposed to those on the outskirts. Like it or not, the CBD and it’s surrounds, attract jobs and people. London is the same right? We can’t (or shouldn’t) force employers to relocate elsewhere. I do think that there is a lot of potential to attract business (other than retail) to the likes of Manukau and Albany but the immediate areas need a population density to make it work. Manukau is changing already. Albany less so due to it’s big box set up.

        1. Fair comments Bryce. My only concern is that we dont lower standards just to create density. I get the impression some people on here would turn Auckland rather Orwellian if they got there way 🙁

        2. Re: standards. Yes, we’ve done that before and got a horrid bunch of leaky, shoddy looking apartments in the CBD. A good case for not repeating that mistake. I do believe though that the new range of apartment options coming through are considerably better. As for terraces and the like, there are some much better examples being built. The key is to tie them into the wider community with shops, some employment potential etc.

        3. To me the standards and the density are two not directly related topics. You can build extremely well in a high density setting (see all central European Cities) but you can also build extremely crappy in low density. There are plenty of examples for the latter in Auckland. E.g. in my street i know 3 single houses which would not comply with any building regulations in Europe and simply be classfied as “slum”. So I think essential for the unitary plan is also to make some form of regulations regarding the building quality compulsory.

  18. Hello Phil Hayward –great comments, sorry to wordy for me, but I think Nicholas Barbon (eldest son of Praise-God Barbon) does a better job at explaining what I think you are talking about.

    An apology for the builder: or a discourse shewing the cause and effects of the increase of building.
    Page 7: NEW Buildings are advantageous to a City, for they raise the Rents of the old Houses. For the
    bigger a Town is, the more of value are the Houses in it.
    Houses in the middle of a Town are of more value than those at the out-ends; and when a
    Town happens to be increased by addition of New Buildings to the end of a Town, the old
    Houses which were then at the end, become nearer to the middle of the Town, and so increase
    in value.

  19. Two issues:
    1. removing restrictive planning regulations that prevent intensification of the existing urban area;
    2. ensuring adequate supply of fringe land to serve the market for greenfields development.

    You may or may not do 1 or 2 or both. Supporting 1 does not imply neglecting 2.

    Genuine information question (I’m not au fait with the details of Auckland planning): Is there a shortage of ready to build urban fringe land? Is you your Unitary Plan likely to create one?

    PS I don’t think anyone is suggesting Auckland should become like Tower Hamlets. Straw man.

    1. I would suggest that there is a shortage of ready to build affordable urban fringe land with good transport links to the bulk of the Auckland Market. There certainly is in Christchurch which I am more familiar with. I am all for creating a new city with high and low density areas and excellent transport links both public and private to Auckland. Say with an aim of 50,0000 people by 2030 and and a similar but smaller version for Christchurch 20,000 people. I think this would give the best combination of affordability and liveability.

      1. There are actually a bunch of existing properties within Auckland that are affordable but they are not in the desirable areas (look up Massey on trademe). There are reasons for this and most of it has to do with suburban form. On the other hand, properties on the rail routes are now increasing in price. A lot of this is, I believe, due to speculation by investors. What that tells me is that we need to reform these suburbs and town centres to enable a better mix of higher density dwellings.

      2. Brendon Christchurch is clearly in a unique situation because of the earthquakes, but even before them Christchurch and Auckland are very different, most notably because Christchurch is on a plain with less physical constraint, and it had already settled into a highly dispersed form with a weak centre. Even the University moved to the suburbs. The response to the quakes has accelerated and reinforced this extremely flat and coreless pattern. Auckland has a dominant centre that has been growing as a proportion of the whole over the last 20 years and is now accelerating this pattern.

        The two cities are not models for each other and are in fact heading in diametrically opposed directions. What you see in Christchurch is unlikely to be relevant in Auckland now.

        1. Patrick I think all our cities are different. Wellington being different again from Auckland and Christchurch. Our smaller towns have unique transport issues too with bridges, bypasses, bike lanes, underpasses etc to worry about. My point is funding and responsibility should be devolved to the appropriate local body, I would suggest regional or supercity councils.

          But that is not the case currently. Auckland transport funding mainly comes from the national pot as does the money to mitigate the high cost of housing. State housing, Accommodation Supplement, Working for Families etc. So while it is all taxpayers funding your transport dreams and dealing with the consequences of poor housing I believe as a non Aucklander I have the right to comment on it.

          I believe that if you took the best ideas from this discussion, Goosoid, Bryce P, Phil H even yourself we could do a lot better than what we do now.

          I think Labour should refine their 100,000 affordable homes offer by stating they will be put many of them on rural land at rural land prices with excellent transport links like what they did in Wellington as per the Chris Harris paper. That these houses will be medium to high density with high amenity values, PT, Bike lanes, commercial area and public spaces. Along the line of Houten that Goosoid discusses above. Give the right to build further away from the transport links.

          Outside of these core areas of new towns and cities. We should get rid of green belts, UGB and just plan a massive ‘in anticipation’ plan with transport right-of-ways, high density hub areas, car free bike centric areas, commercial, industrial areas, future parks etc. Then let developers, and households choose where they want to locate.

          This is not to suggest the all the developments would occur, just if they do occur it is planned for.

          Give the voters a choice between National who has done too little too late because John Key is caught between sprawling and crony capitalism vs. Labour with a plan that has worked in NZ and overseas.

        2. I’d go one further and say council itself should be doing the ‘master planning’ (including using the likes of and then allow the developers to carry on from there.

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