On the whole the government’s new policy of opening up excess land in Auckland for development is not a bad one. As I mentioned when it was announced, the devil was always going to be in the details and on that front the government hasn’t been doing so well. The two most prominent issues that have emerged have been:

  • The dispute with local iwi over whether they should have the first right to buy the land. Interestingly the iwi have noted that they support the policy and actually want to be involved in the development of housing. They are heading to court today over the issue.
  • That the vast majority of the first piece of land the government showed off turned out not be owned by the government but instead by the council. The site is shown in yellow below.

Govt Manukau Land Sale

Combined the issues suggest an element rushed policy making where the details simply haven’t been thought through. In my view, of the two the first is by far the most serious issue and one probably best left with others to talk about. The second one raises some additional questions – some of which have been highlighted well by Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

First and foremost, as part of the Unitary Plan the site is zoned as part of the metropolitan centre as shown below.

Unitary Plan - Manukau

The zoning means it’s possible to build mixed use and up to 18 storeys on the site although it feels like it has mixed potential. It’s sandwiched between the motorway and some large, not overly pedestrian friendly roads – Manukau Station Rd should have scaled down after the motorway was finished. It kind of has the feeling of being land in the middle of a motorway interchange.

The image below shows the intersection of Manukau Station Rd and Wiri Station Rd/Davies Cres. As you can see it looks like a traffic engineers dream with slip lanes on all corners and extra lanes for those turning right

Govt Manukau Land Sale - Intersection

On the plus side it is just across the road from the Manukau Train Station and new MIT campus while obviously a short walk to the rest of the Manukau city centre. That alone makes it odd that the government suggest only putting around 60 terraced houses on the site. This isn’t to say the site should have to be developed to 18 storeys but given its location and the demand for housing it seem insane to only think about putting 60 dwellings on it.

The situation raises two questions in my mind.

  1. First why is the government aiming so low. Is it just that they simply don’t get the urban reality and think that everyone only wants low rise? Some government ministers – such as Bill English – have at least acknowledged that intensification is needed and issues such as NIMBYism need to be addressed. This is one of the locations that such intensification can easily occur without any issues from surrounding neighbours. Bernard Hickey had a good piece in the Herald yesterday suggesting that the council and government need to do more to show that density isn’t bad, this is just one of many easy opportunities to do so.
  2. Secondly one of the reasons this hasn’t been a bigger issue is the council have said they’re keen to work with the government on developing the site (to a higher density). Given this is the case then what have the council and its CCO’s being doing just sitting on the land for so long. Surely if they were concerned about it they should be getting on with developing the land rather than just sitting on it, effectively land banking.
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  1. I feel like something of the scale of the Rose Garden development in Albany would be good here. I think this section of Manukau Station Road could just about be closed and no one would notice. Should at least be taken down to a single lane each way.

  2. Terrible site; land value destroyed by over scaled road-orgy; again. How about a highrise prison? Very handy to the police station and courts…

    Weirdly despite all that tarmac even vehicle access to this site will be poor; getting in and out will be difficult, otherwise I’d suggest autotrades of some sort, in reality it looks destined to lost to any economic use sandwiched as it is between motorways [in effect].

    Proving the words of the great Czech writer, Milan Kundera, correct: ‘The highway is the triumphant devaluation of space’.

    1. It’s not great but I don’t think it’s terminal. De-tune the local roads and connectivity improves remarkably. Also I think it looks worse thanks to being vacant.

      1. Agreed Matt. The roads will be changed and the pedestrians will be accommodated. THe AC is right to delayusing this site until the Bus/Rail station hub is built. Otherwise selling those apartments off the pan will not realise the benefits they should. I believe that Council land should not be sold to developers but leased.

    2. You can’t build any government buildings on this site. It is too far from Westfields carpark for their visitors to bludge parking.

    3. I’m with you on this, Patrick. It’s a dog of a site, and if it was my dog, I’d put it down.
      The main (although I hasten to add, not only) group impacted by high house prices is low-income families with children. I can’t help thinking this is not a particularly child-friendly site. Oh yes, and the ‘affordable’ houses will be really really small – not so good for families.
      Given the high level of passive surveillance provided by the roads and motorways surrounding this miserable chunk of land, it would, as Patrick suggests, be the perfect place for a prison. Or public housing. That’ll teach people for being poor.

    4. Can anyone imagine calling this address home? Is there any redeeming feature that would make a person proud to tell other people they live here? Just about everything that people value in a location is lacking, other than infrastructure which is so brutal it negates the value it brings.

      1. You have a park and railway station right over the road plus walking distance to a town centre. Once the roads are fixed (sounds like they have already been improved), it will be ok. And once the rest of the centre is developed as per the paup, it will be thronging. Regarding particulates, they will get better the higher you go. There are plenty of city centre apartments in similar proximity to roads.

        1. There’s roads and roads. Apartments next to Auckland CBD roads have all the other amenities of downtown in compensation, my point being that this site has, well, Manukau centre. A site of last resort perhaps. It’s the development equivalent of a Stroad – it doesn’t know what it is, and it was created by over-eager highway engineers.

  3. As an aside (so don’t let me thread jack) why did the train line stop where it did? It seems utterly mad to me that they didn’t run it an extra 500+ metre to take it up to the (former) Manukau Council buildings. That would have put it in the immediate vicinity of the shopping mall and adjacent commercial buildings, but instead they stopped it where they did. They could have used the open car park but they didn’t. They could have had a bus interchange, but they didn’t.

    1. The old council (including the mayor) didn’t want to spend about 10m more it extend it to the carpark. I think if it was under the carpark with the western end at about Davies Cres it would have been fairly good.

    2. Has another station close to Great South Road been considered? It would good to have some planning for this now – as it would allow another station in Manukau without having to deal with crossing SH1 (yet)

      1. The station was designed to prevent future extension. From memory (there’s a post about it on the blog) it was recommended to allow for it but councillors voted against it with Len saying there would never be heavy rail east of there.

        1. I’m sure that never and really expensive aren’t quite the same thing.

          The question will be when the extension of transit down the Manukau – Botany corridor occurs what system is used and how it is interfaced with the then current components.

  4. That aerial of the Manukau Station Road intersection is actually out of date – all of the slip lanes have since been removed, as has the davies ave grassed median (now painted). Small win I guess?

  5. That piece of land is pretty much good for nothing. It is completely isolated for pedestrians and cyclists, and like Patrick has pointed out, it would also be awful to access by vehicle. It would be interesting to see how much land around Auckland is like this – totally isolated as a result of terrible traffic engineering.

  6. I don’t know what the rental situation is like in that part of town, but is student accommodation with an elevated pedestrian bridge to MIT a worthwhile avenue to explore? Could release student flats in the vicinity for other renters.

      1. Google Earth has a timeline feature, and you can often use this to view more recent images. Those indeed show the slip lanes are gone.

      2. “AC must have more up to date maps/aerials available”

        Surprisingly (or un-surprisingly, I guess) the Council hasn’t got new imagery. They’ve been talking about acquiring new images since (at least) mid-last year, but — as far as I’m aware — have not yet got round to it. Given then general state of their spatial data, I don’t think that this will be too high on their to-do list.

        1. Just a thought – about where the Councils get their aerial images from – NZ Aerial Mapping went bust last year, from a bad business deal with the Saudis, and so there is no aerial service any more. A tragedy really. Not sure who got all the old negatives.

          Do Councils just but images from satellites now then, instead of planes?

  7. I’m also a bit sceptic about developing dwellings on that land. The thing with apartments is you don’t have much private space, and in a lot of buildings, not a lot of common space either. But you often have plenty of places to go to nearby, within walking distance. Here I can see the mall, and Rainbow’s End, but what about for instance bars or restaurants? And how pleasant will it be to walk to the mall or the park across the road anyway? Traffic lights on these big roads usually make that fairly cumbersome.

    1. Im sure there was a few bars or cafes outside the mall? If that massive road underwent a diet it would be a pretty good place to live with everything so close.

    2. My apartment in Auckland is on the other side of Cavendish Drive and would suffer from the same severance issues as this block and everything, including the Mall is within easy walking distance.

      Cafes, restaurants and bars are all within an easy distance, whether you want to go to them is a different question.

  8. Well said. Well designed medium/high rise apartments with shops on first floor would be a much better use of the space. In response to claims Manukau station could have been more effective 500m close to Manukau it was suggested that developments around the station would move the centre of Manukau closer to where the station is now. Government suggestions on what to do on land that does not belong to them could undermine that objective.

    What effect will regulations mandating parking minimums have on developments on this site? Seems a bit crazy when the google map looks more like a train line TO a carpark rather than a city centre.

    1. I have to say I’m quite amused by the number of people that don’t understand the function of this intersection. The east-west connection is the most important as it is the direct route between the airport and Manukau. If anything, Wiri Station Road is the useless/duplicate link – they shouldn’t have bothered building it over the new motorway – Wiri traffic heads to motorways, which can both be accessed from Lambie Drive.

      1. Exactlly, Wiri Station Road shouldn’t have been built, but let’s use it to detune Manukau Station Road.

        I struggle to think of anywhere, except inside the actual Manukau CBD where the fastest route to the airport would be via the Manukau Station Road, all other people should be using the Redoubt Rd onramp.

        1. The whole Manukau city centre and surrounds are a gleaming example of the stupidest most wasteful and useless highway-first planning. Should be used as a what-not-to-do case study in every planning and transport planning course in the land. Stat.

          1. Which is why Patrick keeps hammering away at it.

            Having done a walking & cycling audit there in April, I can totally agree with him. A concrete wasteland that will need a lot of repair, despite being brand new.

          2. Well Manukau has a grid layout and a rail line that goes straight into the heart, which is good compared to other centres in Auckland. Another thing is that Manukau is relatively easy to fix. The motorways deter traffic around Manukau, and the only reason people cut through Manukau is because the roads haven’t been cut down. Gosh if only the council put in more vision and investment. No need to go out when there’s so much land to go up.

        2. My preferred method is via the Lambie onramp, given that most of this was at 4am-ish and traffic wasn’t really an issue. The weekly commute to Sydney isn’t recommended as a way to achieve work/life balance.

          Heading to one of the parking lots on the northern side of the airport, I’d be using the motorway to get to 20A, not 20B. If I tried there would only be 2 sets of lights between myself and the motorway, so there was very little chance of delay from traffic lights.

        3. Wiri Station Road existed long before Manukau City existed. It was the orginal route for farmers to the Station for transport to town. Even in the 70s it was one of the few roads in the area.

        4. I was meaning from the airport – if you don’t go off at Lambie Drive, you’re either heading to Otara or Manurewa. The alternative is to go off at Cavendish Drive, which is what most of Flat Bush/Botany people would do, but not Totara Heights etc.

          And I agree that Manukau Station Road between this intersection and Gt Sth Rd (ex Wiri Station Road) is too wide for its own good. Just saying that the connection along Manukau Station Road would need to be retained.

          1. If I was heading to Flat Bush/Botany from the airport, I’d probably still come off at Lambie and either head left to go down Cavendish or straight down Manukau station road, depending on an assessment of likely traffic at the Gt South/Cavendish/?? corner.

            Could that section be closed with minimal impact, probably.

  9. Wiri Station Road has been there for a long, long time probably since the 1860s. Until the 1960s it was just a simple country road that gave access from the Great South Road to Wiri Station, surrounded by paddocks. When I was growing up in the 1950s, there was nothing, and I mean nothing, between Browns Road, Manurewa and Puhinui Road, and even then Puhinui Road was virtually brand new.

  10. This is beyond a farce. Lets be really honest here and just say it the way it is, National haven’t got a clue or a coherent policy when it comes to the mess that is Auckland’s property market. Proof if needed is the example you have given at Manukau. Nice outlook Dr Smith, a railway, a suburban highway and a motorway, a little lethal insofar as the indoor outdoor flow goes however. Hey Nick there’s some space around the off ramp supports at Waterview, did ya think of that?

    They have told us its a shortage of housing thats the cause to avoid addressing the main issues but what have they done to address the cause. Have they stopped foreign investors, No, have they stopped Greed Inc buying up multiple houses, No, have they tried to curtail immigration where they can, No.

    So many conflicts of interest for our government, too many MP investors, too much reliance on cheap immigration to keep wage growth frozen and good working conditions to a minimum and far too much reliance on Auckland’s dodgy property market producing growth for Bill English to claim as his own. As each week passes I await the bumbling Dr Nick Smith and his equally inept colleagues latest epic adventures on how to look like you are doing something useful when it is in fact the last thing you want to do.

  11. What’s really sad and summed up well in the title of this post, is the park gets arterials and parking but the people get to live by the motorway. Priorities much?

    1. You are advocating the council block housing development to maximise its own return? That’s a fairly myopic policy I would have thought?

        1. Sorry, I misread proactive as protective. Yes agreed, the council could be master planning thousands of homes.

  12. I read the Government site on New North Rd was freed by the motorway going into the tunnel.

    I thought the motorway was being built on railway land – has anyone seen if the housing will impinge on land for the line branching to Mt Roskill (and beyond)?

    1. Good Question. Hopefully the land referred to in this case is that empty space just next to the railway designation.

  13. There’s no slip lanes anymore, since MIT was built, Lot 59 is being covered with bus interchange and Davies ‘avenue’ has had a road diet with some traffic calming cobbles & pedestrian crossings. Trip down south anytime soon?

  14. The old site of the Saint George Tavern close to the Papatoetoe Railway station and the old Papatoetoe shops would be another peiceof land which could be developed into apartments or maybe high rise. Maybe its to close to the flight path. Its only being used for parking at the moment but its not needed there is plenty of parking around the area. Council owned.

  15. I think this site is best suited to highrise development, 18 floors being a minimum and preferably this limit should be pushed. Shading isn‘t an issue as there is only motorway to the south. Floors near ground could be cafes, food outlets & shops. They could be linked to MIT & the station via pedestrian underpass or bridge. Some office space might be useful above shops and the bulk of the upper floors could be mixed size apartments.
    This would be a good place to live with the park, campus, westfield all within walking distance and adjacent access to motorway and rail.

  16. I just come he to admire the debate you people have about the infrastructural needs of your City. I am tempted to start this in my area. We are the users of this infrastructure….and why not. They need to take our input on the same.

  17. Fill in the piers of Mangere bridge then reclaim about 400 hectares of Mangere Inlet with spoil from Waterview tunnel to build say, 8-10,000 mixed use dwellings with a mangrove fringe around the edges. Good links to hospital, trains, industry and airport. Put a tidal generator at the bridge for good measure.

  18. Every time the government talks of opening land, they mention the land was just sitting empty, previously allocated to education and transport. Not a good idea to sell that for housing. You can build all the housing you like, but if you don’t future-proof the infrastructure to support it, why bother? You build housing to support a city’s growth. If it’s choked by it, the growth and incentive to grow do too. As is, Auckland needs an infrastructure revamp. Why haphazardly add housing in a manner based purely on “that’s where we can see a patch of green” which will cause further infrastructure headaches? Plan, then build, leaving regions for future-proofing (and recreation).
    Much of that land is best left uninhabited. Access? Environmental issues (nice air about there probably…. and noise)?
    Every time you see about auctions, it’s either people who have bought multiple houses, or a couple looking for a four bedroom home. Part of tackling the issue has to be more acceptance of “buy what you need”. Investment properties need to be discouraged as they sit empty, doing no good (houses are made for a place to live, not make money off) and people should buy only two rooms if they only need one or two, not seeking huge.

  19. Think about Mangawhau school in Mt Eden and the problem it faces with burgeoning role and limited space. Now think of schools without playing fields and what we do about it in the intensified housing future? Schools need to be smaller scale not larger, and primary schools ideally need to be local (walking distance)

  20. Is there a way to put numbers to the vacant houses in Auckland. ie houses that have been empty for more than say 6 months and are not being actively altered, improved or subject to planning approval etc.

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