This is a graphical representation of just how much land we’ve turned over to out motorway network. The image below is of what effectively constitutes the Central Motorway Junction (CMJ). This is 49 hectares in size.

CMJ Size comparison 1

It kind of reminds me of some sort of alien creature latched on to the southern end of the city sucking out its life.

As a comparison the second image shows what is really the core of Auckland’s CBD and is home to tens of thousands of jobs. This is also 49 hectares in size including the space taken up by roads within the boundary.

CMJ Size comparison 2

And how they look compared to each other:

CMJ Size comparison 3

Now this isn’t to say that if this land wasn’t a motorway it would be as developed or as valuable as the land in the core of the CBD, but particularly the parts west of Symonds St would be very different. You may remember this post which showed what the area south of K Rd used to look like – a dense inner suburb that if it still existed today would probably look a lot like Ponsonby or Freemans Bay. It’s been estimated that the construction of the CMJ displaced around 50,000 people which at the time was almost 10% of everyone living in the region.

Newton 1959 - 2010 - 2

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  1. “It’s been estimated that the construction of the CMJ displaced around 50,000 people”

    That doesn’t sound right. 50,000 people on 49 hectares is over 1000 per hectare. Assuming the density of homes there previously was about the same as Ponsonby, then you’re looking at about 25 homes per hectare. That’d mean over 40 people per home. And that assumes that the whole of the 49 hectares were homes and roads, without any industry or shops. It also assumes 25 homes per hectare in Grafton Gully, which I believe was actually mostly bush and sports fields pre-motorway.

    1. It’s not just the direct land that was impacted but all the other land around it i.e. all the land at Newton that whose value was destroyed and was then turned into light industrial. Without the motorway that would probably still have been housing.

      1. Much of the land not used by motorway would have been turned into Light Industrial anyway as part of slum clearance. Freemans Bay was rebuilt as town houses because it was northern slopes. The area south of K’Rd was considered southern slopes and therefore less desirable. If you examined the 1959 photo closely you would find much of this area was already being rebuilt as warehouses. As a student in the 1970s I had a storeman-driver job based in Upper Queen Street and delivered to warehouses all around this area and most few were new, so I guess built in the 1950s and 1960s.

        1. Not already rebuilt, but simply exant inner fringe mixed use. Warehouses, factories, shops and houses within walking distance. Lots of warehouses in the 1960s aligns perfectly with the effect of the motorway clearances.

        2. No one in the warehouse I worked walked to work. The nearest was Grey Lynn and a couple from the North Shore. The houses nearby were small, run-down and over-crowded. If the motorway had not taken the land, the warehouses would have taken over the area or state housing would have built some multistory flats like Greys Ave.

        3. Yes but it is the motorway designation that stops a place’s natural and continual improvement dead in its tracks. Then the motorway advocates point to the rundown unimproved structures as evidence for why we might as well whack a motorway through there. Perfect. Te Aro in Wellington is a recent example.

        4. Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and Parnell were exacty the same at the time, small, rundown and full if people. Now they are small, highly renovated, and full of people.

        5. The “clearances” were well under way by about 1964 well before the motorway was even anywhere near the area.

          Being designated as a future motorway was enough for the whole area to deteriorate pretty quickly.
          Previous photos have shown this effect was very pronounced in the early 60’s especially in Newton and K Rd south.

  2. As well as the 49 hectares comprising the actual CMJ, there are also those properties that had extant buildings removed from them for car storage purposes. You need only compare the photographs to appreciate how houses and gardens have been replaced by a sea of asphalt. That’s what happens, I guess, when you surrender responsibility for community planning to the traffic engineers which is, effectively, what we did back in the 1950s and what we continue to do today.

  3. The motorway from the northern end of the CMJ to the Waitemata Harbour, the Fanshawe Funnel, and the land taken for on/off ramps should be considered as lost land too. I’d estimate another 20% beyond what’s accounted for above.

  4. Great visuals, Matt.

    49 ha equates to 36,000 NZTA standard car parks. IIRC that is roughly the number of people who commute by car into the CBD each day..

    So there’s another 49 ha of NZs top value land that isn’t even as productive as the CMJ, which at least carries vehicles through Auckland as well as into and out of it.

    1. I agree, be like Paris or Brussels and cover it all. The initial cost of this outlay would be very quickly recouped in the value of the land made available.

  5. calculate the value of that land, multiply by 8% (to estimate annual capital charge), and divide by the number of vehicles using the CMJ per year.

    Back of envelope calculation would be:
    49 ha = 490,000 sqm x $1,500 per sqm = $735 million x 10% p.a. = ~$74 million p.a. Assume 350,000 vehicles per day through CMJ x 200 days per years = 70million vehicles per year. $74 million p.a. / 70 million veh p.a. = $1.05 per vehicle.

    So internalising the capital value of the land on which the CMJ sits to vehicles using that facility would equate to an additional charge of about $1 per vehicle per trip.

    Note, however, this is just for the land on which the CMJ sits. The length of most trips would mean they traverse a distance much greater than just the CMJ, hence increasing the capital charge. Perhaps 3 times as much?

    What would happen if we introduced a capital charge of approximately $2-$3 for every vehicle trip on Auckland’s highway network? Do you think we’d be widening our highways with such unprecedented frenzy. I think not.

    P.s. This does not even begin to account for congestion costs, although I suspect that introducing a capital charge would reduce congestion sufficiently that it was not worth the hassle.

    1. P.s. The all-knowledgeable transport yoda (Matt L) informs me that I have over-stated the number of vehicles per day by a factor of 2 – which would mean a more accurate capital charge per vehicle is about $2 per trip, i.e. double what I have calculated above.

      1. P.P.s. Although I note that this does not account for usable versus unusable land. The latter includes things like roads and parks, which would reduce the area of land available for development. Probably by a factor of 2 – funny how often errors in BOE calculations tend to cancel themselves out!

  6. Interesting topic. I think that this land should not be undervalued the way it is. Motorways are accompanied by flanks of vegetation, bridges, and other infrastructures. This all contributes some sort of public open space, albeit one that is off-limits in the usual sense. It is accessed frequently as a motor vehicle passenger, and in rare circumstances, on foot.
    The flanks of the motorway constitute reserve land that might be so realised in times of desperation. Life is a roll of the dice and we need buffers. And certainly it can provide refuge for the homeless and space for the landless.
    It`s a green belt. It`s a little unexplored wilderness in the middle of the city. And it`s a good place to run during the zombie apocalypse.

    1. Motorway as greenbelt…. yes that’s what that planting is: vegetative PR by NZTA, or greenwash. Really that is trying to put a very very positive spin on a spatial and aesthetic disaster.

    2. Roger,

      Echoes of City Beautiful there; you’re describing a parkway, which the CMJ does resemble from some angles. The terminal flaw of parkways, however, was how easily their greenness could be compromised in design, construction and maintenance. Here too, just look at Fanshawe St, Wellesley St, Khyber Pass, Howe St, etc. Most viscerally, the remaining fine urban grain of Newton is now rudely truncated by indiscriminate foliage and retained slopes, like bodyguards muscling the motorway through a crowd of plebs.

      For what vista there is, it’s hardly accessible even in a motor vehicle — you’re strongly encouraged to shuffle along at 100km/h. On foot? Enjoy the fumes, noise and hostile geometry. (Oh, and “accessed frequently”? Only if you’re suitably privileged…)

      As a green reserve, it doesn’t yield great flora, fauna or soil anyway, due to significant runoff, leaching and particulates. Like humans, other desirable animals don’t exactly thrive by the motorway, undermining biodiversity. No doubt the landscape helps buffer contamination and pollution, but only at the cost of using that tract for anything else.

      But you might be onto something: as an adaptation to climate change, the gullies (left unfilled) could act as a blue reserve for water.

      A green belt is a fine idea too, so let’s designate one around a compact city. Views, land reserves and buffers, are excellent, so let’s just have urban parks and public spaces for humans. Shelter for the homeless is also worthy, so let’s give them something more dignified than a bridge. Afraid of zombies? Best avoid graveyards, then, especially those dug up for motorways…

      1. But it is only a greenbelt for human experience from the safety of your car; cutting out all the noise and fumes. Compare Grafton Gully as a green space before and after the motorway: no contest.

        1. Patrick,

          Exactly right — not sure if you meant to disagree with anything there. I don’t believe a green belt could be compatible with a motorway (despite engineers’ best wishes) for at least the reasons I gave above.

        2. Yes not disagreeing with you, but with Roger above. I will however concede one thing about motorway gardening, at least in theory, I never seen any research to prove this but I assume that they may make islands for birds somewhat protected from predators by the traffic? I wonder if that’s true, or do feral cats etc still get to them at night? I guess that’s likely.

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