It is very hard to consider Manukau City Centre up till now as anything other than a planning failure. Or at least an indictment of the auto-centric policies that it manifests. Despite huge investment in driving and parking amenity, siting at the confluence of motorways and arterials, and many efforts to stimulate growth and development there, it has conspicuously failed to thrive for the decades since this plot was plucked from its bucolic obscurity and chosen as the poster child for the decentralised centre idea. Sure it has not entirely failed; it has bumbled along with the help of central and local government investment [IRD, Courts, police, City Council, etc etc, all built here to give it a reason to be].

Along with the clear contradiction in its conception: A centre designed by those who believe that having a centre is a bad thing, it has long been clear that wilfully siting the place just too far away from the nearby main rail line [because cars were the only future] has long been a critical mistake. Which is why we now have the less than ideal work-round of the stubby branch line with its currently suboptimal low frequency and poor siting.

However, help is at hand. In one bold move the first MIT campus building looks like it really could go a long way to redeem this whole series of poor decisions. That is a lot to ask of one building and it will take more time and other changes to the area, in particular the planned bus interchange station, but the quality of this project gives real hope for Manukau City Centre. How so?

1. This is a TOD, Transport Oriented Development, of the first class:


It’s not just handy to the Train Station: It is the Train Station. And this is no accident, as with the coming Bus Station, there is a lot of thought behind this integration; obviously the new facility will bring a new source of users [up to 5000 students, plus staff], but that each of these public amenities are so well intertwined that they will feed off each other; MIT will benefit from the people passing through its flagship campus to use the transit amenity and visa versa, in a virtuous circle:

“Weaving the train station, bus interchange and education institution together is our way of welcoming people into the space, encouraging people to look around and interact with the building without barriers. If the travelling public can see members of their own community studying, it’s a daily reminder that this education is a real, accessible possibility for them too.”

-MIT Chief Executive Dr Peter Brothers

The building opens to students in September, just as the new Electric trains start on the Eastern Line, and a new better timetable in October.

2. This is a fine building; and it has been shaped in many ways by the architects’ determination to mesh with the Station below. The six story atrium is a powerful space with a light touch, because of the train trench below both the inverted gable of the roof and the floors around the space are suspended from above, floating lightly from hangers rather than resting on columns:



All that structure that’s not in the Atrium is clearly visible elsewhere in the building, particularly in the exterior ‘diamond brace’ pattern, but also in this massive cross brace at the entry; dramatic, sculptural, and reassuring.


3. It’s just the beginning. This the first of a series of MIT buildings planned for the space above the Train Station. When complete they will not only occupy currently low value land, bring thousands of more students to enliven the Centre, and all with plenty of alternative options to driving, but also act to contain Hayman Park; providing it with a useful barrier to the busy arterials and tough weather from the south, but will also provide people and eyes onto this currently rather formless and underused public space. Even more important the expansion of the campus this way will help pull the balance of the whole Manukau Centre towards the Transit Stations and help mitigate the suboptimal siting of them on one edge of the Centre. Buildings instead of parking and space over the station here:


4. View through the brise soleil and part of the exoskeleton down on to the site of the coming Bus Station; shifting the balance:


5. Humanising a dreary part of town. Here’s the side facing the Park, this will have food outlets and will bring life and containment to this end of Hayman Park:


5. AT and AC have put the previously flabby Davies Ave on a road diet too. As outlined here when announced. So there is a real chance of this area becoming a rare island of peopled civility between the big box vapidity of Lambie Drive and the standard dreariness of the mall over by Gt South Rd.


The dramatic pattern of the MIT building’s expressed structure cuts a fine figure in the watery winter light. Very pleased MIT upscaled the original plans to seven stories from four. That would have been too squat on such an empty site [They’re subletting some of the space they don’t currently need].

And finally this is exciting because it is a concrete example of an engaged and motivated client working well with Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, and talented designers like Blair Johnston and the team Warren and Mahoney coordinating Transport Planning and Land Use, public and institutional investment, and good design for an all round better result.

What all of Auckland needs and hope for Manukau City Centre yet.

The building is officially opened later today. And on Saturday there’s an open day with free train travel:

MIT Manukau’s Open Day Festival

10am – 5pm on Saturday the 28th of June

Manukau Train Station & MIT Manukau

Cnr Manukau Station Road & Davies Avenue

Manukau CBD

Free train travel to and from the Open Day + Free entry – everyone is welcome.


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  1. While retaining some green space, needs a people filled strip of restaurants, retail, grocery and services linking the station to Westfield mall. Will provide shelter for pedestrians, a safe environment and strengthen the link between the mall and the interchange.

    1. Very much in agreement. There are many cities around the world where direct pedestrian connections between railway stations and the nearest shopping mall are commonplace. That kind of connection is simply taken for granted in the initial designs and would be considered unremarkable anywhere but here.

      Make it wide, well lit and sheltered from the weather. Maybe even equip it with travelators. Line it with small shops. In Manukau’s case that is the least that should be done to make up for the short-sighted decision to build a short rail spur.

      While on the subject, I’m still baffled by the failure to build an air-bridge across from Henderson station into West City Plaza. Why isn’t that sort of connection blindingly obvious to the designers?

  2. The m central building currently being constructed will help do that with retail being planned for the lower Two floors. Its just walliyng distance from the train station and MIT building. Still needs more buildings to fill those large dark voids we call carparks

  3. Very impressed by the outcome, particulary given the state it was left in after Mainzeil’s collapse. Given that a substantial patrongae will likely be from students from all over the Manukau region, I think there that a southern link would have been very useful.

  4. Those parking voids between the Manukau Civic Building and MIT is meant to be filled in with a Bus Station and buildings whether it be AT’s disaster saw tooth design or a more conventional linear approach like New Lynn and Britomart.
    The parking voids at Manukau Mall is an issue to look especially as the land the car parks sit on is Council owned and leased back to Westfield

    For the rest it is the long start in reviving Manukau City Centre to become the main hub of South Auckland as it was meant to be. Continued pushes in more urban renewal which is what I have been advocating with Council via the Super Metropolitan Centre concept. That said the Councillors are coming out for a tour this way next week so it will be good to show them around.

    As for getting more passengers in by rail into Manukau as well as allowing MIT to be served by its more tending population base? Waiting on the South Link:
    “As a result of this second conclusion I think that there is a way to make a southern connection to Manukau work because there are important trips for it to serve – quite long distance trips where speed is important and coverage perhaps less important. That is a shuttle between Pukekohe and Manukau – however I think it is only after the significant greenfield development occurs between Papakura and Pukekohe and we see new stations at Paerata, Drury and perhaps somewhere between the two. Until then I think buses can probably do a better job at providing connections between Manukau and the hinterland to the south than a train can – and probably for a much lower cost.”

    Well that significant Greenfield development is under way in the SHA’s of Addison, Wesley (the largest Greenfield SHA in Auckland) and Pukekohe

    1. Oh and we should publicly know once and for all about the Manukau South Link later this year. On last correspondence with AT they are working through the processes with Council (as they are with Pukekohe Electrification) but have not ruled out the South Link thus far

  5. So much traffic in Auckland is caused by students – perhaps with the rise in online learning capabilities e.g. MOOCs, this will reduce onsite demand for certain courses like arts, business etc. Auckland would be a better place traffic wise if a fraction of the motorway funding went into this technology instead.

    1. Engineering already put pretty much all lectures online and yet we still go to class. The enormous majority of students aren’t even in cars anyway.

      1. Completely agree. Im also an engineering student at Auckland – Just about all my lectures are recorded with video and audio, however most students still turn up to class.

        In my third year transport class in March, the lecturer asked for a raise of hands about how we got to uni that day. There were well over a hundred in the class – from memory the majority caught a bus, 15-20 caught a train, 9 cycled, and just one person drove.

        1. I always ask my students that; the best answer I got was one student who did a PT/skate combo. Driving is always an outlier [AK Uni] but there are usually hide and riders; drive/PT combo.

  6. Very nice. There are some lost opportunities, but it does good things and does them well.

    Does the station have adequate ventilation for diesel engines? That will be a temporary issue.

    A longer term issue is the South Link. If this station is successful, it will draw in thousands of students and southern commuters. Many of whom live south of Manukau. It seems strange to have a large destination station inaccessible to the people of Manurewa, Pukekohe, and the giant SHAs being designated.

    1. The ADL and ADK diesels park in the open air part of the trench for ventilation reasons. The EMU’s should be allowed closer in when they are operating from October.

      As for the South Link – as I said above. Hopefully something in the form as a public announcement in September. Will keep people posted more comes to hand (I keep in regular contact with AT over this)

  7. Very nice building indeed! I think it’ll take a bit more than that to ‘redeem’ Manukau though. It’s car hell at the moment, really uninviting. I remember going to spotlight there a couple months ago, and wanting to then go to another shop in the mall just across the road. I considered crossing on foot and, after observing the traffic for a minute, decided against it because it would have been too unsafe. You need a car to cross the bloody road in this zone, pretty much in ‘downtown Manukau’. How crazy. In retrospect, I remember feeling a bit unsafe even in the carpark of the spotlight because drivers behaved like they had right of way everywhere. It’s got to be one of the worst designed areas in Auckland.

  8. Is “Manukau City Centre” what it’s officially called now. I thought after the Auckland Council came into power it became just Manukau

    1. Always has been Manukau City Centre. Council don’t like to recognise it as such but as I keep pointing out both The New Zealand Geography Board (which gives the names) and NZTA (ex Transit) recognise the place as Manukau City Centre, just check the signs as you approach the area.

      Manukau is the residential suburb directly south of Manukau City Centre. Oh and something I like to give the planners a bit of stick with, we have “two city centres in Auckland:” The City Centre and Manukau City Centre….. 😛

  9. Puhinui Station is not fit for an interchange station for those travelling from the South to Manukau. The box shelter had all its glass broken and the station is generally not that safe. Maybe AT could look at providing a better solution for the station such as the shelters that are seen at most stations and some better security.

    With the potential for MIT to expand out west of their new building, Hayman Park due to be upgraded (I haven’t heard much about it lately, any update about when it is due to start Ben?), and the potential for the space between the station and the mall, I think that the location of Manukau Station was a blessing in disguise.

    1. Perhaps employing a full-time Station Master would be cheaper than painting over graffiti and rebuilding the shelter several times a year?

    2. Okay answering two questions here:
      The Manukau South Link: September-October (so later this year per AT correspondence) we should hear a public announcement on the Manukau South Link. As I noted above AT have not ruled it out (yet) and are well hoop jumping with the main Council like the Pukekohe Electrification project is doing right now.

      Hayman Park. Have not head any more on that myself. Might go check with the Local Board if not someone in Parks Services to see where that is heading

  10. What’s the bike storage like at the train station? I am considering a house purchase within 5km of the project and my plan would to ride to the station and train into Britomart…. Hopefully with a brand spanking new station, bike storage has been factored in. Overall though, this is a good step in the right direction for Manukau.

    1. You would think there’d be ample bike parking. Even if there was no train strain there, universities and the like, usually provide quite a lot of bike parking for students

  11. Good question, Pete ! Send it to AT and see what they say?
    And while we’re at it – check out the little lift which is the only way people with bikes can get up from the platform. I struggled to get 2 bikes and their riders in the lift and didn’t want to contemplate how it would be at peak hours. I suggested to AT the site warranted the bigger lifts that Britomart has but was told these are standard issue irrespective of anticipated demand.
    This is shows little awareness and and vision for the benefits of promoting travel combining PT and cycling.

    1. Can you not just pick up the bike and take it down the escalator? My observation is that even when lifts are provided, most cyclists still just use the stairs/escalator just like everyone else

  12. I will offer a different view. I like the interior very much – the materials, the space, the light. Well done. I don’t like the exterior at all. It looks like an example of a bad university campus building from the 60s that today everyone wishes they could tear down but can’t justify the cost. I can’t understand why NZ architects haven’t moved past the 70s modernist stuff that was/is so bland, inhuman, and at odds with their surroundings. I’m always surprised to find out how new are some buildings that I thought were old.

    1. New Zealand architects follow quite strict design rules. Houses must look like offices, offices should look like warehouses, warehouses should look like agricultural sheds and all public buildings should look like factories preferably tractor factories in the former eastern bloc.

  13. Beautiful interior, almost thought that was a canal I could see from the window, but cars don’t float ( generally ), nice use of recycled scaffolding to produce repeating geometric shapes. Can I order one of these for the North Shore? ( trains inclusive , or is that extra?)

  14. Yes there should be one of these for the North Shore and the station should be proximate to Albany Mall, the Stadium and Massey and in one simple swoop much of Albany’s traffic congestion would be eased. I’d plump for light metro as it is much cheaper than heavy rail and could have a lot less operating cost.

    Something like this should be part of the visionary planning that AT is contemplating. And what is wrong with construction proceeding demand as we do with roads?

    The difficulty is that all the money is going into lane extensions on the Northern motorway and the next step will be to then unclog the arterial roads made so by the lane widening.

  15. Absolutely. Although I’ve not looked at it in great depth, beyond my local area, regardless of what happens on the motorway north, the planned intensification of atleast part of Sunnynook, and the East Coast road in the region of Forest Hill, is going to do interesting things to the roads in any case.

    I’m guessing atleast in Sunnynook, people are supposed to use the busway, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they opted to head for the nearest park and ride, or drove.

    Odd sections of Mairangi Bay are also scheduled for more intensive housing. In an ideal scenario, the council might buy up tracts of land to create new arterial busway/ cycle way etc links in a hub and spoke style. Sadly as intensification is atleast partially piecemeal, it seems we’ll get a fair few more people, in slightly disconnected locations, and a natural inclination to drive. This new feeder system will hopefully help though.

    Apologies for going off topic, and stealing Manukau’s thunder for a deviation to the shore.

  16. Bloody hell. When I took a ride to Manukau early this year the place was a building site and now all this has happened. A nice pick me up after Brownlee’s announcement of another 30+ billion for roads.

  17. The building looks great, both inside and out. I seem to have missed it if you did say it, but: who are the architect and engineer? And, perhaps a crazy question, but is there any way the train line to Manukau could be extended / diverted to the airport?

    1. A line (or busway) from the Airport to Panmure, via Botany, is the logical answer. (well, to me anyway).

  18. WOW, the Southerly is unbelievable. It was hitting hard yesterday around the new Campus. Thought I was back in LA all Bay.

  19. I think you could run an ‘Airport spur’ to Manukau, the main reason being it would be shorter and surely easier, cheaper and faster to consent than pushing down from Onehunga (NOT that the two are exclusive!!!).
    The Airport spur could run along SH20 & 20B and connect north to the Southern line above Wiri as Manukau does now.
    It would only need to be about 7-8km of line through mostly airport and farmland.
    This would mean that you could run trains from the Airport to Britomart on both the Southern and Eastern lines, on a semi-express level:
    Airport to Britomart via Newmarket – Middlemore and all stops from Penrose
    Airport to Britomart via Panmure – Papatoetoe, Otahuhu and all stops from Sylvia Park
    No stops at Puhinui or Westfield
    With the Airport spur you could now also run a non-stop ‘shuttle’ to Manukau.
    If Manukau becomes the South Auckland bus hub, has a lot of parking space and is the start of future light rail extension to Botany and Howick the station starts to become quite effective.
    Airport users could use Manukau as Airport ‘Park & Ride’ if there was a short regular connection.

      1. If you built an Airport spur it would be to connect to the Southern line.
        You wouldn’t build to Manukau… except… that they already have – so a non-stop Airport – Manukau 8-10min shuttle would become possible as a side benefit, especially if Manukau becomes the South Auckland hub for bus and future light rail.
        I think trains running from the Airport north of Papatoetoe could just be considered Southern or Eastern line trains depending on how they get to Britomart and timetabled accordingly.
        I know an Airport spur would be sub-optimal but my post is really just trying to offer a positive as to how to better use Manukau and what seems to be a quicker cheaper solution for getting rail to the airport using mostly existing rail infrastructure and fairly ‘open’ land.

        1. It’s not actually much cheaper, according to the last long term plan. There are some big issues around getting over the motorway and connecting to the southern line. Building a new line across farm land isn’t much cheaper than building it up the side of the motorway corridor, especially if you can do some of the work at the same time as the motorway widening.

          A simple spur isn’t much good for a couple of reasons. firstly because it only serves one station at the airport, rather than new stations at mangere bridge, mangere town centre, the airport industrial park and the terminals. Compounding that you have to either start a new service pattern to serve that one station, or you have to take trains away from n existing pattern. Ideally we’d want trains every ten or fifteen minutes. We probably can’t justify adding all that service cost for just one station, while taking it away from the southern line would mean cutting service to all stations south of puhinui bigtime. Come from the north and you are simply extending and improving the onehunga line, which also makes things better for the two existing stations on the branch. No need for new patterns or taking service away from elsewhere.

          One frequent line serving seven new or improved stations is a much better idea that an infrequent branch line serving just one. Having manukau on a spur branch is a minor balls up, doing it again for the airport would be a major one.

          Personally I like the CFN idea of an express bus linking botany, Manukau, the southern line and the airport. That would cost almost nothing to implement and be quite efficient to run. manukau to the airport is basically a high speed direct run down puhinui Rd so it wouldn’t take more than about ten minutes anyway. Perhaps in the long term that’s a candidate for upgrading to rail, but it certainly shouldn’t come before the Mangere extension.

        2. Good analysis – I totally agree with almost all your points, and in my previous posts I said a spur would be sub-optimal and that the Onehunga extension is not mutually exclusive but rather that I thought it would just be longer and harder to consent / implement.
          I do prefer the Airport line to come from Onehunga but you say that the costs wouldn’t be so different? Really?
          Can you link me to the info from the long term plan that says that?
          3 things that I would have thought would add cost;
          Length, say 7km of track one station vs 11km of track and 4 stations
          Building rail to and then crossing the Mangere Inlet
          Onehunga to Penrose – wouldn’t there need to be an upgrade of this section of track?
          If costs and consenting / implementing are roughly the same then great, go Onehunga.
          I like the CFN Botany – Airport Busline / BRT too (with future (light) rail potential), but I’d like to see it extend to Howick up H5.
          From Howick I would also like to see a BRT (with future (light) rail potential) run to Morningside and the Western line via Panmure, Greenlane stations and Balmoral / St Lukes Rd basically extending the CFN Howick Busline / BRT through Dominion Rd (the Epson Busline / BRT?)

        3. Yes single track existing O-Line needs upgrade, and at least some double track and level crossing removal, not cheap. And 11 km is obviously more expensive than 7. But value is considerably higher as it would be a Mangere Line with the Airport at the end, not just an Airport Line. Especially it would serve the fast growing employment area before the Airport. More about residents and workers than just travellers. Triple the catchment; a line with intra route travel demand as well as strong anchors.

          Operationally far superior, and rail investments are very very long lasting so it is well worth spending for better than choosing routes simply to save capex. Opex eventually swamps it.

          On cross town BRT, the Frequent Network that AT are rolling out over the next couple of years has exactly such a route, but how much road privilege it gets is unknown…

        4. Just one quick point there John, I do think they are mutually exclusive in practice. At least, if you build a spur on the Manukau side it’s unlikely they would ever justify building a second airport line, especially if the first was a failure as I would predict.

  20. Thanks Patrick,
    There is some form of BRT planned for Howick to the Western line via Epsom?
    Yeah I think I emailed you about that a few weeks back, so cheers for the info in your comment.
    That sounds good, the bus network might really be special in a few years in Auckland.
    Again want to put my hand up and say I support the Onehunga extension but one more question;
    Realistically when do you think the work required to get it to the Airport will be done?
    How much time do you think will be needed to wait for the ‘optimal’ solution?

    1. When there is a different government; one with a balanced transport policy and not just a roads policy, and one that understands that cities are real contributors to the economy and require different thinking than the provinces. And although by then the cupboard will be bare, we will at least then know what the experts at MoT, NZTA, and AT, really think are good urban transport solutions…..

  21. This looks like a great step forward for creating a genuine mixed-use centre in South Auckland, however it does still seem to be missing one essential component – an integrated residential community. A mixture of both students and ‘real people’ (ie: not transient residents) would encourage the centre to function as a genuine walkable/cyclable neighbourhood with access to amenities, employment and transport all available with minimal car use. Residential use keeps city centres active throughout the day and night and makes them safe places that people are attracted to.

    1. excellent point and I think that will hold Manukau back for a long time, possibly forever: No one wants to live there because there’s very little amenity.

    2. A mixed use centre is possible…I believe there is at least one residential tower block currently in Manukau, and possibly more.

      There is a heart and soul to Manukau that could find a focus within a mixed-use residential, business, retail, cultural and student hub in future. At the moment, all pretty diffuse and nebulous, but all possible to bring to sharper focus with smart investment, good quality on-going engagement with the community, and clever ideas. A work in progress, with some very fine steps in the right direction made with the MIT and transit development.

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