The advertisement below is from the last local government elections. Here Councillor Denise Krum rallies against the draft Unitary Plan, especially the degree to which it enables “intensification”. Denise’s advertisement claims the draft Unitary Plan is “too intense” and will “change our streets forever”. Instead, Denise advocates for greater restrictions on the degree to which property owners can develop their property in the urban area, and more expansion of the city. Denise was subsequently elected.

Denise Krum

Denise is particularly critical of 3 storey height limits, and goes to the trouble of hoisting herself up (some might say by her own petard) in a scissor-lift so as to highlight differences in building heights.

From this advertisement it seems clear Denise does not support the draft Unitary Plan and instead considers restrictions on intensification as being necessary to preserve community well-being. It is notable the advertisement does not contain any references to any research or surveys which support the positions Denise adopts on these issues. Is it too much for me to expect political advertising to include references to evidence supporting the positions being advanced? Perhaps.

When it comes to planning, however, evidence matters. Recent 2013 amendments to the RMA increased the burden of proof with regards to S32 reports, especially in terms of the economic analysis that should be undertaken to support proposed policy provisions. For those who are not familiar with planning jargon, a “S32 report” attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of proposed policies in comparison to potential alternatives. The 2013 RMA amendments requires S32 analysis to identify, and where practicable quantify, the economic benefits and costs of proposed policies. Some smarty-pants lawyers had this to say about the RMA amendments at last year’s NZPI conference (source):

“Arguably the most significant and material change is an expansion and detailed elucidation of the reference to “benefits and costs”, in the context of assessing efficiency and effectiveness … Post 2013s 32(2) requires, in much more detail, the following:

An assessment under subsection (1)(b)(ii) must—

(a) identify and assess the benefits and costs of the environmental, economic, social and cultural effects that are anticipated from the implementation of the provisions, including the opportunities for—

(i) economic growth that are anticipated to be provided or reduced; and

(ii) employment that are anticipated to be provided or reduced; and

(b) if practicable, quantity the benefits and costs referred to in paragraph (a).

The task of complying with these requirements is not insignificant. A systematic approach will need to be taken in preparing s32 reports to ensure that they are compliant and address environmental, economic, social and cultural effects, including opportunities for economic growth and employment.”

Ever since the RMA amendments came into force I have pondered how they might impact on the proposed Unitary Plan, especially with regards to density controls? I have also been wondering how the strategic direction established in the Auckland Plan, which I think was developed under the auspices of the LGAAA, would be relevant to the Unitary Plan?

My interest was further piqued when councillors, such as Denise, dramatically reduced the level of intensification that could occur in metropolitan Auckland, since which time house prices have soared. The differences between the draft and the proposed Unitary Plans is highlighted in the map below. Areas of red show areas where down-zoning occurred, which includes most of the isthmus. These are the areas where property prices are high (and increasing), i.e. where market-driven intensification seems most likely to occur.

Down zoning

From this it seems fair to say that proposed Unitary Plan imposes tighter density controls. The question is whether these controls are supported by economic evidence that meets the requirements of the (amended) RMA? And, moreover, how apparent tensions between the strategic direction of the Auckland Plan and the approach adopted in the proposed Unitary Plan would play out in a hearing context?

The economic costs of density controls are relatively intuitive: They forgo and/or displace land use development. This means we get less of it, especially in higher In terms of the economic benefits of density controls, those who are opposing intensification, such as Denise, will need to present evidence to show that levels of density which are common-place elsewhere, e.g. cities in Australia and Europe, will cause significant harm to communities should they be replicated in Auckland.

I’m skeptical as to whether this evidence exists. Most of the research I’ve read, such as this review by UNSW for Queensland Health, finds no conclusive evidence that higher density development has negative impacts on well-being. In fact, there’s evidence it’s beneficial to many outcomes, such as childrens levels of physical activity and obesity rates. So much for the meme that children need a big backyard to stay fit and healthy!

In my experience living in Auckland and overseas, buildings of approximately 6 storeys seem to have relatively negligible negative impacts on well-being and/or amenity. The photos below illustrate two buildings from Amsterdam and Auckland, but I could have easily added many more photos of multi-storey buildings from Brisbane, Sydney, and Stockholm. While there are large differences in style, I find both buildings quite attractive (the first photo is used under license from myself; the second photo belongs to Ockham).

Amsterdam nightmare

_CM15340 crop-600-600-450-450-crop

For these reasons, I have been somewhat heartened to read the interim guidance on view shafts that was issued by the Commissioners who are overseeing the Unitary Plan hearings process. In this guidance the Commissioners note “the objectives, policies and rules in relation to viewshafts do not meet the s32 requirements of the Act” for several reasons, most notably “amendments were made to s32 in 2013 to require employment and economic growth opportunities (including lost opportunities) to be taken into account and these post-date many if not all of the legacy plans.” The Commissioners go on to note the “PAUP is the first substantive planning process to propose increased levels of intensification to achieve a quality compact city so it is appropriate that the viewshafts are now re-evaluated within that strategic context” and more importantly “… if it is possible to quantify those costs of the viewshaft provisions, then that would assist in decision …

I want to emphasise from the outset that I don’t have a strong view on the relative merits of view shafts. This post is less concerned with the nitty-gritty of viewshafts than it is with understanding how the 2013 RMA amendments and the Auckland Plan may impact on the Unitary Plan, most notably:

  • First, the presence of planning provisions in legacy plans is not strong evidence (in of itself) that those provisions should be retained in the Unitary Plan, mainly because the legacy plans pre-date both the 2013 amendments and the Auckland Plan. Hence, they have not been tested under the current legislative and strategic context.
  • Second, the Commissioners appear to consider that the strategic context provided by the (non-statutory) Auckland Plan, in addition to the Regional Policy Statement, is relevant to the provisions of the Unitary Plan, especially with regards to the development of a quality compact urban form.
  • Third, in light of the 2013 RMA amendments the Commissioners appear to place a higher expectation on economic analysis, especially where proposed provisions do not appear to align with the aforementioned strategic direction of the Auckland Plan.

The Commissioners thus seem to be attempting to strike a balance between strategic outcomes and economic analysis, and do not seem to be placing too much weight on legacy plans. This is heartening because, frankly, the legacy district plans contained many provisions that are of dubious value. Moreover, where provisions proposed in the Unitary Plan run contrary to the Council’s stated strategic direction, then there seems to be an expectation from the Commissioners that this misalignment is supported by robust economic analysis.

Of course, whether this preliminary guidance on view shafts is indicative of the Commissioners’ ultimate position and/or whether it apples to other topics, e.g. minimum parking requirements, is something that will only become clear in the fullness of time. In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Professional and personal disclaimer: The views expressed in this post represent the theoretical and philosophical musings of a not quite defunct economist. This economist is not a planner nor is he a lawyer (so don’t expect to be able to sue me for much money). The views expressed herein should not be construed to represent the views of my colleagues, clients, friends, or pets. They do represent the views of my Mum, whom I love very much. Nor do they necessarily represent my own views in the future – at which point my views may have changed in response to further evidence and information. 

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82 comments

    1. Completely off topic now, but does anyone know what the cost would be to say buy 4 to 6 of these (200!) and run (single) track around the Wellington waterfront from Waitangi Park to say the Bluebridge Ferry or Wellington station?

      Basically using them as a streetscape / ornament like Wynyard, not so much as fundamental PT infrastructure.

      Could run them single track from the start of Oriental Parade at Waitangi Park past the front of Te Papa before turning in between St Johns and the Wharewaka. Run them up the back of the Aotea Lagoon through Frank Kitts Park then between the Museum of City and Sea and Queens Wharf / TSB Arena and up the shared space office / bar area to Bluebridge Ferry and a possible hard left into the Wellington station grounds out front.

      Elegant 90 year old trams just cruising along the waterfront with a couple of stops / passing loops… a little bit of functionality but mostly just tying in the eclectic mix of waterfront space in Wellington.

      So 3km of single track and 4 to 6 trams as going concerns from Melbourne, what would be the costs do you think?

  1. While people like Denise Krum fights against intensification & thus keeping house prices up in Auckland, people with surnames like me continues to get scapegoated for property speculation.

    The injustice of it all makes my blood boil.

    1. Yes, and it is rather embarrassing. My advice would be to ignore the neanderthals.

      Or if you feel the need to engage with these people, then just politely point out that NZ was, to some degree, founded on speculative foreign property investment (from the U.K.) via the NZ company. For people nowadays to turn around and decry the same concept from other countries seems to demonstrate a lack of critical awareness and historical perspective.

    2. Denise does not make house prices high. Thomas Auckland is for sale, in the last few years mostly to foreign buyers, no surprises there and hardly Denise’s fault. Are you suggesting that when the entire city is full of highrises with no sun, no outlook and no intrinsic values whatsoever that prices will miraculously drop? Denise and others like her are on the money. Destroying the character of a city to ‘save’ it is plain dumb. No matter how many apartments you build, how many high rises, the desire for accommodation, profiteering and foreign ownership will not change one iota. Auckland has physical, geographical impediments to any massive expansion, and that is simply a reality. There isn’t any more land and there are more foreign buyers who covet Auckland than there will ever be properties available.

      1. Hi Ricardo, there’s a wealth of economic evidence (e.g. from Arthur Grimes) which suggests that density controls do make housing more expensive. In advocating for density controls, Denise is effectively saying “I value low densities more than I value cheaper housing”. That’s fine, provided that she is honest about the trade-off being made. Her advertisement, for example, does not mention this trade-off, which I think is irresponsible.

        1. The same thing could be said of people who favour urban growth boundaries. They are choosing empty paddocks over affordable housing.

      2. ‘Lack of land’ is EXACTLY why we should intensify and build upwards. Building up does not take up any more land area than what the ground floor has already covered.

        1. Auckland does not have a lack of land, rather a lack of land that is appropriately zoned with supporting infrastructure ready to be developed. The council keeps using infrastructure costs as an argument against greenfields growth, but there seem to be rather large infrastructure costs associated with densification as well…

          1. Yes, there are. But they are significantly cheaper than greenfields (if not “cheap”). It is economies of scale – the thinner you spread your settlement, while people expect of you to provide the same services, the less bang you get for your buck. And that doesn’t even include those services that are simply more expensive because you got to bridge the big distances to get there first with whatever “pipe” (be it for water, power, roads or rail) you have to build first to connect to your existing system.

  2. Personally I think we have to be wary not to let technocracy overtake democracy

    If the people want an 0.4 BCR project and not a 1.5 BCR project – let them.

    There are plenty of ways to stop them. Run for office. Submit a parliamentary bill.

    1. And this article is an example of exactly that democractic process. Arguing against a politician’s stance. With data and arguments, even!

    2. Interesting point. I think it’s important to recognise that planning in NZ attempts to blend democratic and technocratic processes, for good reason. On the democratic side, everyone and anyone is able to submit on a proposed plan. However, the technocratic process is designed to weight these submissions based on the quality of the arguments and evidence therein.

      Why do we need the technocratic process? Well, to help avoid the “tyranny of the majority”, whereby the masses impose their views of the world unfairly on someone else’s property rights. It also ensures that local plans are consistent with national legislation, e.g. RMA and LGA.

      So I don’t think it’s quite as simple as saying “democracy versus technocracy” but instead observing that the two need to be combined in some way so as to balance the need for both.

    3. The legislation is passed by parliament – democratically elected.

      I think when it comes to application of the law at a local level, following a due process is very important. Arbitrary decision making goes against the very heart of the rule of law. Planning itself is in tension with the rule of law, as well as basic freedoms, in this way and so it does need to be very carefully controlled. Zoning is a process of making a decision about individual properties – if that decision is arbitrary, you are heading towards mob rule.

      Should we all get a vote and get to have a say on the outcome of a court trial? Should our elected representatives be able to send someone to jail, or strip them of assets?

    4. I generally agree with this point. There’s no law that says that people (or elected representatives) have to vote for the option with the best economic assessment.

      Even as a pointy-headed economist I can think of a number of things that I would not support because they violate my environmental or human rights bottom lines. For example, my support for preventing climate change is not conditional on BCRs. Even if the cost of cutting emissions was much higher than it actually is, I’d still argue in favour of doing so as I believe that runaway climate change would impoverish our planet in innumerable ways that can’t be measured or monetised.

      However, I also believe that it’s important to have good information before making major decisions. In particular, we need to:
      * Understand the full range of options available to us – i.e. not just focusing on a single solution, as so often happens
      * Understand, and probably quantify, the costs and benefits of each option
      * Only then make an informed decision about whether to sacrifice economic efficiency in favour of other values.

      I don’t often see that happening in public policy debates. Some politicians appear to be either (a) ignorant of any relevant analysis or (b) deliberately misleading about the conclusions reached by analysis. In any case, they often present their preferred policies as having all benefits, and no costs. In my view, this is harmful to both democracy (as voters have been misinformed about what they’re voting for) and technocracy (as the wonks then have to figure out how to minimise the adverse effects of bad ideas).

      1. I’m sure she comes armed with great “evidence.” She probably has Demographia, Wendell Cox, and Owen McShane on speed dial.

        1. the interesting thing about all those “sources” is that they advocate again policy intervention to support intensification, they don’t provide a basis for not allowing market-driven intensification to occur.

          I think that’s an important point: In the case of density controls we’re not arguing whether intensification is good, instead we’re simply discussing is whether we should allow it to happen naturally as and when driven by people’s preferences expressed through normal market operations.

          In general, it’s the difference between policy intervention designed to support something, and policy changes designed to allow something to happen. Subtle distinction perhaps, but one which is often confused in debates about density controls.

  3. Agree completely Stu. Its just crazy to be limiting height in places like Newmarket which have significant potential for growth and great access to PT.

    1. That is interesting as Newmarket (a Metropolitan Centre) was restricted to 8 storeys (so no High Rises) owing to the View Shafts. Well if the View Shafts get the chuck does that mean Newmarket reverts back to 18 storeys again which is the default for the Metropolitan Centres

    2. Yep, allowing 18 storeys in Papakura but only 8 storeys in Newmarket because of some dead volcanoes is ludicrous.

  4. Stu isnt your post a bit of whistling given that mediation for the Unitary Plan Residential Zones start next week?

    This is where things are with the submitters at the moment before we go into mediation: https://www.scribd.com/doc/270025222/059-063-Residential-Workshop-Outcomes-Session-1-5-Monday-22-June-Friday-26-June-2015

    The marked up versions to be mediated over next week can be found under 059-063 Residential Zones – Evidence https://hearings.aupihp.govt.nz/hearings – note the Mediation sessions are open to submitters only.

    Given what came out of the Centres Zones sessions the appetite for greater intensification is certainly there. Whether Council gets in the road of this is yet to be seen.

    1. not exactly sure what you mean by whistling? I’m simply commenting on 1) things that I’ve been thinking about for a while and 2) the Commissioners’ interim guidance (which is publicly available). I think it’s fair game to post on these issues so as to stimulate more informed debate? Especially if it can lead to a more informed mediation process. And remember that even once the Commissioners’ recommendations have been made the Councillors still have to vote on them, and the public still have to vote for local politicians.

  5. Crikey! A politician told people what she actually stood for before an election and the people elected her? That is so radical it must be against the rules. I wish we could get someone like that in our area.

    1. I agree politicians adopting clear politicians is good.

      My preference, however, would be that these positions are supported by evidence. And/or if they are found to be unsupported by evidence, then the politician is honest enough to admit it.

      In this case, I’m not only commenting on the evidence (or otherwise) for the positions that have been adopted, but also exploring the implications should these positions be found to be inconsistent with the intent of the RMA. I think it’s important the community knows that what politicians claim they can do with respect to intensification may not pass the RMA test.

      In a nut-shell, I’m simply looking for politicians to be held accountable for the positions they adopt, not just in the short-run (i.e. when they are elected) but also in the long-run.

      1. Stu, the problem is that if the pro-intensification crowd are proved wrong down the track we simply can’t undo the damage. The obsession with increased intensification is quite scarey. These are people we are talking about, not lab rats. I for one would become very vocal if some ‘developer’ in his greed for money or ideology were intent on blocking natural sunlight from my property.

        1. “I for one would become very vocal if some ‘developer’ in his greed for money or ideology were intent on blocking natural sunlight from my property.”

          Why limit yourself to speaking out? Surely the most effective solution would be to purchase the neighbouring properties and then exercise your property rights to prevent any development that would overshadow you. It’s a free country (and free market) – you’ve got the choice!

          1. Spoken like a true economist. One owner internalises all external costs. But Peter you forgot to suggest the economists missing markets fix- making people pay for daylight and let the market determine the allocation of “sun rights”. If the developer values the space more than the owner they could purchase the ‘sun rights’ etc etc. Smart arsery aside I do think it is daft that height to boundary protects daylight to every part of your site, even your carpark. Surely sunlight on windows is a necessity but direct sunlight to your driveway nothing but a means of controlling what the neighbour does.

          2. I agree Peter: The alternative course of action is for people who oppose intensification to get together with like-minded people, buy neighbouring properties, place encumbrances on the title (e.g. height limits), and then sell them again. Such forms of collective “social enterprise” has many advantages compared to the alternative.

            However, under the current planning framework the profit-maximising strategy (i.e. “greedy”) for people like Ricardo is to try and exert pressure through the political system.

          3. Except that the original owner’s property rights have actually been violated by the second, who has blocked the free flow of photons onto the property.
            If you want to defend property rights, then you have to oppose the light-blocker

          4. “Spoken like a true economist”

            You misspelled “internet troll” 😉

            Seriously, though: A while ago I went looking for empirical evidence on the impact of overshadowing on property prices, heating bills, or any other quantitative measure. Simply put, there isn’t much evidence – a few studies on the impact of tall buildings on heating/cooling costs, but nothing from the hedonic price literature.

            This was surprising. Given the attention that overshadowing gets in public debates over planning, I would have expected these effects to have been studied more carefully. Contrast that with the large and robust empirical literature on heritage properties and the impact of urban trees on property values and heating costs.

            One possible explanation is that economists (and other quantitative analysts) have been too lazy to measure overshadowing, but I’m not sure this explanation stacks up as I’ve seen economists put a lot of effort into measuring a lot of other obscure stuff. Another explanation is that the negative impacts of overshadowing are not large enough to be measurable. This is not an entirely stupid hypothesis. Some studies on the impact of overshadowing on energy costs have found that the pluses and minuses roughly balance out – in effect, shaded buildings pay more for heating in winter but less for cooling in summer.

            In any case, who really knows?

          5. You are still doing it Peter. Some things are not based on economics. Sometimes people want what they want and that can include a bit of sunshine. The daylight controls were never based on a economists view of the cost of heating a house but on the principle that people should get some fair allocation of the available daylight. Height to Boundary controls are as old as district schemes in this country and simply represented the idea that some things cat be bought or sold and just need to be spread among the populace. That doesn’t mean they should always stay constant. I accept inner city areas should have terraces and apartments but that is a political process not a matter of an economist adding everything that can be added and ignoring everything that can’t be added. Intangibles matter to people. Light in your window is more than a source of warmth. It can make you feel happy.

          6. But mwfic – no one’s arguing that light and externalities in general are not important.

            However, there seems to be little doubt that the RMA amendments, in a nutshell, place the onus on the proponents of regulations, such as rules which preserve light to properties, to demonstrate that the proposed policies are beneficial (in a net sense) and also the best way to achieve the desired outcome.

            The economic analysis is meant to complement the planning analysis, not replace it. I think Peter’s point – which I tend to agree with – is that in the absence of clear evidence one would tend towards less regulation not more. This is not only something I support in principle, but also something which seems to be required under the current legislative framework.

            You’re more than welcome to lobby the government to amend the RMA, and/or work to change the government, but I don’t think those value-judgments are that relevant to this discussion, which is: How might the RMA amendments, the Auckland Plan, and the interim guidance issued by the commissioners impact on the Unitary Plan?

          7. Are “sun-hours” able to be quantified on a parcel basis at a low enough cost that they could find their way into hedonic pricing models?

          8. good question – and it’s something we’re looking into right now. But just to be clear: The onus for this research, in my view, lies with the proponents of regulations. Unfortunately, in my experience, these people are often very quick to duck their responsibility for undertaking such research.

          9. “Surely the most effective solution would be to purchase the neighbouring properties and then exercise your property rights to prevent any development that would overshadow you. It’s a free country (and free market) – you’ve got the choice!”

            Well stated Peter. Given that it doesn’t matter in economics who has the initial endowment then surely just as effective would be to require apartment developers to buy up the neighbouring houses before they get to overshadow them, then build whatever they want and then see how much they can sell the houses for.

        2. The same developer (or his clients) could turn around and say you are being “greedy” with your land and the fact that you assume you can deny others the opportunity to develop their property. There is too much inherent subjectivity in your views to make them workable at a city level.

          In general, I don’t believe words like greedy are useful. Your property, and indeed most of Auckland, was at some point developed by a “property developer”. Welcome to a market-driven capitalist economy!

          1. Do whatever you want on your property, as long is doesn’t affect mine through blocking light/water/air/heat.

          2. Under the RMA, you have to show that the benefits of preserving your light outweigh the benefits of developing more intensively.

            Simply pointing to the presence of an externality is necessary but not sufficient to warrant policy intervention. In some ways that’s the point of this post: By all means we can consider restrictions on development, but for these to pass the RMA test we have to know that their benefits exceed their costs.

        3. Ricardo, did you miss the fact that there are provisions in regards to shading in the plans?

          Right now, even if a developer has a site 500m across, in most of Auckland he couldn’t build a central building in the middle that was 10 storeys high, even though that would shade nobody for the longest part of the day.

          Stepping down at the edges to lower-height properties / other zones is a relatively easy and logically understandable fix to those concerns. However, it seems to be totally ignored by the public.

        4. I for one would become very vocal if some ‘home owner’ in his greed for money or ideology were intent on preventing the existence of my future home in a thriving, sustainable, healthy urban environment.

    2. Denise was elected by the people who currently reside in her ward. She didn’t have to consider the view of people who want to live in her ward but can’t as there aren’t enough houses.
      The unitary plan is meant to be what is best for Auckland as a whole, not necessarily what is best for particular wards. She should get a say but she shouldn’t be able to hold it to ransom.

      1. yes, I think this is also an important point: There’s some (useful) tension between local/regional/national views. Denise is well within her rights to represent the views of local constituents, but she also needs to possibility that it this may be inconsistent with regional/national planning/legislative frameworks.

      2. Surely you are not suggesting we are better off letting appointed people control our future rather than elected people? The advantage of elected people is they are easy to replace if they get things wrong.

        1. nope. I’m saying that we also elect central governments and that there is a balance to be found between local/regional versus national interests. Sometimes what is in the interests of a local area may not be in the interests of the region or the country, hence the need for a balance. Hence I believe it is appropriate for the collective actions of local/regional bodies to be accountable/consistent (to some degree) with central government legislation.

          1. We have that balance, the act requires assessment of benefits and costs of “the environmental, economic, social and cultural effects”. Benefits and costs is surely interpreted in the broad sense of advantages and disadvantages. (not just $ otherwise the sentence would mean the economic effects of .. economic.. effects) But after that assessment someone has to balance them. Who better than someone elected who has to represent and lead and who is replaceable.

          2. you’re arguing for a world which places greater weight on democratic rather than technocratic processes. That’s fine, but it’s not really relevant to this post, which considers the legislative processes as they are now.

            Under that process, decisions on the Unitary PLan will be made by Comissioners, Councillors, and (in the event the latter reject the recommendations of the former) the High Court.

          3. “Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. ” Thomas Jefferson 1824 in a letter to Henry Lee

          4. You can guess from his language which party he considered himself to be in. He also forgot to mention the third type of men. 3. Those who kept other people in bondage even if he had fathered them himself.

        2. Personally I think we should elect at an Auckland level, not a ward level. The current setup makes it very possible for one ward’s councillor to hold the balance of power and pretty much ask for whatever they like for their ward.

          1. I agree and note that the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance recommended having a proportion of councillors elected “at large”. This recommendation was (unfortunately in my view) not accepted by Central Government, who opted for a structure where all councillors are elected at the local ward level.

            There seems to be an underlying tension between people who identify as living in “Auckland” (i.e. regional perspective) versus those who identify as living in, for example, “Devonport” (i.e. local perspective). The present local government structure means all councillors to answer to a very local level, which I think is not representative of how many residents define their “neighbourhood”. Personally I’m in the regional camp …

            Not that the local perspective is not important: I definitely think it is. I just think that Central Government missed a trick by not having a proportion of councillors elected at-large across the region. My intuition is that this would have led to the election of a clutch of councillors with more moderate/centrist leanings who were incentivised to find regionally acceptable compromises on tricky issues, such as intensification.

    3. Any politician who deliberately tries to keep house price hyperinflation going in Auckland by preventing intensification is exactly the thing which is wrong with Auckland body politics. Her constituents are no doubt selfish, paper-millionaire one-storey house owners who don´t want the poors moving in next door.

  6. In answer to Bruce, there are two of the old W class Melbourne trams on the boat bound for the Wynyard tramway as we speak. These will complement the small Melbourne X class tram already there and replace the other large Melbourne tram (W2), which was on lease, and has already gone back to Aus. I understand that the two that are on their way here were the pick of the bunch, because overhauling an old tram is time consuming and expensive.

    1. Every time I see those relics my heart sinks. They reinforce the cliche that trams, streetcars, light rail, are historic artefacts suitable only for children on holiday and sentimental old folks. Let them rot in Melbourne please and get on with building a real urban transport network that actually goes somewhere with cutting edge technology… I don’t buy the argument that they can act as some kind of ‘gateway drug’ to a real modern and useful system. Like in Chch they simply leave the impression we’re building a Noddyland not an actually competetive contemporary city.

      1. Agreed. The Wynyard fun tram is a perfect example of a transport and placemaking project implemented by people that understand neither.

        1. And then, even after building the tram and (hopefully) realising it was a failure, we spent yet more money rebuilding it after we did up Halsey and Daldy Streets. To be fair, it was that exact type of misplaced nostalgia that saved Auckland’s PT network from complete demolition in the 90s. But there’s no future in that.

          Time to let the 7.5-minute-headway City Link do its job, get rid of the tram, and if we really want a tourist attraction, build a roller-coaster or something. Maybe one of those water-powered jetpacks.

          1. Agree with you MOSTLY. However, the design of the infrastructure of the Wynyard loop DOES allow proper LRT to run on it. So if we ever get LRT from Queen Street over a new bridge to Wynyard, this is a ready-made local access/turnaround loop.

  7. “My interest was further piqued when councillors, such as Denise, dramatically reduced the level of intensification that could occur in metropolitan Auckland, since which time house prices have soared.

    Brilliant politicking, you are a credit. Denise Krum is actually part of the opposition grouping in council and has had very little influence over the direction of council for these past five years. Yet you’ve managed to write an entire post about the council, based on the allusion that she is in some way in charge.

    The people who are actually responsible are Mayor Len Brown, Penny Hulse, Arthur Anae, Bill Cashmore, Linda Cooper, Chris Darby, Alf Filipaina, Mike Lee, Calum Penrose, Wayne Walker and Penny Webster.

    *** This is not politicking. The sentence you quote simply suggests that councillors who opposed intensification, of which Denise appears to be one, managed to down-zone much of the metropolitan area. It’s certainly not laying the blame solely at her door, but rather using her as an example of Councillors who actively worked to implement down-zoning. Of course other councillors were complicit in this process, but few made the song and dance that Denise did. Moreover, you should note that this post is primarily not concerned with Denise, but simply acknowledges her advertisement as a catalyst to think about wider issues. The main point of the post is not the views of Councillors per se, but the implications of the RMA amendments, the Auckland Plan, and the Unitary Plan. I’d suggest you take a deep breath and read the post again. ***

    1. Well to a point UC, the mayor proposes and the rest oppose, and often, because there is no whipping, those opposing carry the day. And they certainly did on de-intensifying the Draft Unitary Plan.

      Every vote in Council is like a conscience vote in Parliament. That’s why it’s such a scrap each time, so hard for the Mayor to get things done as he/she has to always try and build a consensus. It can be argued this is great for democracy, it can also be argued that everything is likely to become so compromised by side deals that little happens. Brown, whatever else you think of him, certainly has shown great skill in piecing together different coalitions on different issues. The next mayor will have to be as adroit.

      Perpetual opposers like Brewer have it easy; just shout at everything and never have the burden of actually doing anything. So it goes.

      1. Uhaha-closp is wrong about this, and Patrick is right. These are free votes, and the votes of councillors like Krum against allowing development count for as much as any other.

    2. I don’t believe the factions are as clear as you make out. Politicians shift their votes on an issue by issue basis. In general, Denise is one of several councillors who have placed considerable (vocal) pressure on Council to tighten density controls. She also seems to have actively fostered a climate where other councillors felt pressure to constrain density. To suggest that her views have not been influential simply because she’s (normally) part of a smaller block of councillors seems to be an overly simplistic view of political processes?

      1. Definitely. +1. Agreed.

        If Len Brown had a massive majority on all his key projects, your argument might hold true. He doesn’t. Thus horsetrading is needed (and that’s not a part of politics that I am cynical about – it’s just life). But therefore, even opposition politicos can hold a lot of sway.

  8. ‘Character of community’ more often than not has been misused by Denise Krum and her ilk to justify some kind of gated-community or overgrown-country-town atmosphere. In short, it’s bare-faced snobbery, unless she happens to have a very large investment in the housing bubble.

  9. The council compliance process should learn something from other professional organizations like accountants.

    For example, charted accountants prepare the reports and audit for the company and get paid by the company. The accountant can uses their professional knowledge to make sure their work compliant with the law.
    Corrupted accountant who does not follow the law will be fined, or disqualified by IRD.
    Since accountant gets paid by company, they tend to be efficient and provide full service.

    Back to our council process, council should set up a professional occupation. Such as ‘Council approved auditor’, and grant them ability to make approval decisions on behalf of the council. The consultants are subject to council’s strict certification and professional audit.
    Since those certified consultants get paid by the developers, so they will be get things done quickly without breaking the rules, and provide good service and certainty.

  10. Doesn’t this approach lead to a different “tyranny of the masses”

    The net utility gain of building an apartment tower next to me may be substantial – but *I* lose utility due to a loss of sunlight.

    So surely you need a way to compensate the person who loses from the people who gain? If you gain 5000 utils through a new housing complex, but I lose 500 utils through losing my sunlight, you need to compensate me those 500 utils (which still leaves a net gain of 4500 utils)

    1. Why place the expectation on new developments to provide compensation? Why not expect those who value sunlight to pay for it? E.g. by buying neighboring properties and placing encumbrances on the title? The latter solution has the advantage of not requiring regulations which have to guesstimate in advance what existing/future residents are prepared to pay for to prevent/enable development.

      1. Because they have ALREADY paid for it in their initial purchase price.

        If you have a Porsche you leave in the garage why can’t I take it because I will drive it every weekend at high speeds on winding roads generating a *huge* amount of extra utility (I think you’d need a crowbar to get rid of my grin afterwards)

        Your entire position is logically inconsistent. I have no doubt you wouldn’t allow me to install a gamma ray generator on my property (which pumps radiation onto yours), but you have no problem with me installing a taller building that blocks photons from your property. Would you have a problem with me pointing a massive spotlight at your property? Or are only some photons worthy of property rights? And don’t say what’s legal or illegal, we are talking about what *should* be legal. If I have the right to do whatever I want with radiation entering/exiting my property I’m going to install a massive focusing lens that turns the sunlight into a death ray pointed at your bedroom window. If it melts, you should have bought my property and put an encumbrance on it.

        If you want to affect the utility of *my* property at the current time to generate a greater overall utility, fine by me. But compensate me.

        1. Not quite sure how giving you radiation poisoning is equivalent to blocking a small amount of a resource that you actually have no legal right to.

        2. Ignoring death ray straw men, you can’t own light or views and you can’t buy them. You buy and own land. If you ALREADY PAY FOR IT (ahem) in the initial purchase price then you are a complete retard for paying good money for something that is not anyone’s to own or sell.You can’t build on your property to take advantage of the sun because I want the sun instead. Boo Hoo.

        3. LM is veering off into crazy strawman territory.

          Under the RMA, Council is able to implement policies where evidence shows significant externalities exist, e.g. gamma ray generators, and benefits of controlling said activity exceeds the costs of doing so. In contrast, Council cannot impose policies to control externalities where there is no robust evidence of externalities, e.g. negative health effects of higher density, and/or where the costs of controlling the activity outweigh the benefits of doing so.

          In the case of height limits, my instinct is that the costs of controlling density, e.g. to reduce shading, outweigh the benefits of doing so, e.g. more light. You’re welcome to have an alternative view, but under the RMA the onus is on you to front up with evidence that shows the benefits of more light to your property outweighs the costs of density controls.

          Good luck with that.

          1. On that note, do the likes of Denise Krum, LM & Ricardo want to see the RMA tossed on a bonfire? Would they use it if Donald Trump or the developers of the Burj Khalifa want to build a piece of Manhattan or Dubai next door?

            If the answer is yes to both, then draw your own conclusion.

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