On the weekend Phil Goff announced his bid for the Auckland mayoralty. Several interesting articles on Goff’s bid have been published, for example ones by the Herald and Radio NZ here and here respectively. A more recent article by the Herald is available here, which suggests Goff may be the favourite and exhorts him to “exert control”.


In this post I’ll discuss and interpret some of Phil Goff’s comments on local government in Auckland. The post is split into three juicy topics: 1) Rates; 2) Asset sales; and 3) Intensification. I should note that it’s relatively early on in the campaign, so in some ways this post raises more questions than answers. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

1. Rates

So what is Goff’s position on rates? Well, for starters at least Goff has his figures right: He notes that rates for the average household increased 3.5%, while also observing that some households experienced increases of up to 10%. Basic data analysis is something that seems to escape some journalists.

Now don’t get me wrong: 10% increase in one year is a big jump.

However, one of the things that got lost in the recent clamour is that some of the increase in household rates was associated with adopting single rating system for all of Auckland. This required harmonizing quite disparate rates across Auckland. Naturally, some people found their rates went up, while others found their rates went down.

The good news for Goff, and any other mayoral candidate, is that the difficult process of harmonizing rates is now largely complete. Len Brown has borne the brunt of that central government hospital pass. As such, the incoming mayor – whoever they are – will benefit from this issue dropping off the radar. So how will Goff seek to keep rates under control in the future?

Well, in his interview on Radio NZ Goff talked “prioritizing” projects, i.e. less important things give way to more important things. This really was the thrust of this recent post which I wrote on the effectiveness and efficiency of local government in Auckland.

Unfortunately we don’t know yet what Goff’s priorities are, so it’s hard to assess the size of the potential savings. There are however a number of poorly-performing transport projects which could be ditched, such as PenLink and Mill Rd. Right there Goff could save the mighty taxpayers of Auckland several hundreds of millions of $$$.

One issue Goff didn’t discuss is Auckland Council’s desire to shift the burden of rates away from businesses and onto residents.

This shift, as I understand it, is designed to reduce the costs faced by businesses, so as to 1) reduce prices for goods/services and 2) increase employment, both of which ultimately benefit residents. While this is a policy direction that I happen to support, it has also contributed to some of the recent increase in residential rates. We don’t yet know where Goff stands on this issue, but it’d be interesting to find out because it is one factor that will cause residential rates to rise faster than inflation.

2. Asset sales

Now we start to get into the nitty gritty about how to keep rates under control. One of the more controversial ideas that has been in the media lot lately is the subject of asset sales. It’ll be interesting to see where the mayoral candidates fall on this issue, because it really is the primary opportunity to find more money to invest in things that will make the city better.

In his interview on Radio NZ Goff distinguishes between what he calls “strategic” and “non-strategic” assets. He says no to the latter, especially in the context of Watercare. Auckland Council’s shares in Ports of Auckland and Auckland Airport, for example, also appear to be in the “not for sale” basket.

Now I can appreciate the need to distinguish between strategic and non-strategic assets, where the former are deemed to provide efficient support to Council’s strategic direction and the latter do not. However, I think there’s a need for Goff to outline not only which assets he considers to be strategic, but *why*. This would help shed light on his underlying values, and mitigate against the “slippery slope” arguments that are advanced by some people in discussions of asset sales.

On the other hand, it should be noted that from the interview it seems that Goff’s views on golf courses are relatively well-aligned with our own views here at TransportBlog. I’ve paraphrased the most relevant parts of the Q&A as follows:

  • Interviewer: What about flicking some of the golf courses?
  • Goff: Remuera golf course is worth $560 million and the subsidy for every golfer is $11,500 per year.
  • Interviewer: So we could expect some golf courses to be sold for housing?
  • Goff: I’m going to look at the facts before I make a commitment on that. But I don’t think it’s fair for Aucklanders to be subsidising those people who are lucky enough to be members of a golf course …

FYI here’s what a subsidy of $11,500 per golfer per year buys them.


Or here’s another fact just to ram it home: The annual subsidy for golf courses in Auckland is approximately equivalent in value to the annual cost of operating Auckland’s rail network. So when someone tries to tell you that asset sales will not have a meaningful impact on Council’s ability to deliver other goods and services, you should tell them they’re dreaming.

Personally, Goff’s views on rates and asset sales seemed fairly reasonable to me, even if more details are needed (NB: The same goes for all the mayoral candidates of course).

3. Intensification

Now let me present one psuedo-question in the Radio NZ interview and the subsequent response from Goff:

  • Interviewer: There’s more talk today about intensification in some of those inner-city suburbs, such as Mt Eden.
  • Goff: I don’t see us putting up tower blocks in some of those really nice areas. What I see us doing is working down the main arterial transport routes, looking at places like New Lynn and Panmure. Those are the ideal places where you might want to put 3-4 storey intensive housing, plenty of public open space and making sure it’s good urban design. I don’t think that you start to encroach on the most beautiful parts of the city, before you, say, let’s follow the transport routes so that people can be close to where they are moving to.

There’s some good stuff in what Goff says, e.g. on concentrating development in areas where transport infrastructure exists and the need to focus on urban design, both of which have been somewhat lacking in earlier iterations of Auckland’s development.

There are also, however, some very unfortunate words and attitudes underlying Goff’s comment. Here’s the part I was most concerned by: “I don’t see us putting tower blocks in some of those really nice areas“.At this point my little red alert warning signals started to go whoop whoop. More specifically, in this comment Goff strays into very dangerous territory my friends.

Let me explain why.

First let’s consider what Goff is trying to say. From where I’m sitting, it seems that Goff is saying let’s not intensify in areas that are “nice”. Why? Well, the obvious implication is that intensive development is not nice?!? Goff meet Ockham. More specifically, if Auckland is to progressively change the discourse around housing, and thereby lance the housing boil that threatens our entire economy, then we need large numbers of apartments and town houses to be built. And we need them to be built all across Auckland’s central suburbs, where people want to live, not just in a few places like Panmure and New Lynn.

Second, in this sentence Goff implies that he will seek to undermine normal market forces. More specifically, if an area is “nice” then people are going to want to live there right? Goff seems to be saying that as soon as an area becomes “nice” then Council is not going to allow development there. By extension, Council will presumably only allow intensive development in location that are not nice? Where there is no demand to live? Great, Council can zone away its heart’s content, but it won’t ultimately change anything, all we’ll get is higher property prices in areas that are unable to be developed further.

Which brings me to the third issue with Goff’s seemingly innocuous statement: Goff’s use of the word “nice”. What does this imply for the areas of Auckland that are not like Mt Eden? Goff seems to think Council can identify a couple of not nice places and direct all the “poor” people (who can’t afford to buy a nice big ol’ villa on a large section in Mt Eden) to live there. Think again. Question: What if people all over Auckland come forward and argue their neighbourhood is nice just the way it is?

Answer: Goff either has to 1) tell them that they’re wrong or 2) roll back the intensification planned for those areas. That’s right: In arguing that we shouldn’t intensify certain areas because they’re “nice”, Goff has unwittingly created a rod that any NIMBY anywhere can use to beat back proposed intensificatio – on the grounds that their area is already “nice”. End result? Whole-sale down-zoning in response to self-interested parochial interests.

Now, in Goff’s defence, he is not alone in slipping down this slippery slope.

In fact, the interaction between planning regulations and political economy has been studied elsewhere. This interesting article from Los Angeles, for example, discusses how their planning regulations prevented intensive developments from occurring in areas where there was demand. Sound familiar?!? These regulations were found to have a massive negative impact on development capacity in Los Angeles, as illustrated in the figure below.


For this reason it is not surprising that Los Angeles has had the “fastest increase in home values since 2000” and “has become the least affordable major city in the country“.

In a nutshell: The more Goff is inclined to pick “winners” and “losers” when it comes to what types of housing can be developed in which areas of Auckland, then the more expensive and segregated Auckland is likely to become. Personally, I struggle when residents and politicians effectively say “we want the kinds of people who live in apartments to live over there, because this area is too nice for them“. That’s the definition of snobbery.

The discourse surrounding this issue is even more farcical when you realise that many of Auckland’s older suburbs are already peppered with 3-7 storey apartment buildings. Like my apartment building, which is over 100 years old. Like many apartment buildings in Auckland that were built before regulations and locals made it too difficult.

And let’s be honest: The debate we’re having is not about “tower blocks”: It’s about whether you should be able to build a 3-7 level building in Auckland’s extremely valuable and desirable central suburbs. You know, like the kinds of development that one finds Sydney and Melbourne. To which I say abso-bloody-lutely.

End result? I think Goff needs to think more subtly about intensification.

4. Conclusion

Overall score for Goff’s initial foray into local government issues? Well, I’d give him a 2/3. When it comes to rates and asset sales, Goff stated some reasonably coherent positions, while also appearing open to debate and discussion. Which is good, because after all he’s only one vote on Council so at the end of the day we shouldn’t overstate his importance.

While Goff is shaping up to be a good centrist mayoral candidate, it looks like housing and intensification may be areas for improvement.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that Goff naturally wants to win, and winning involves appealing to people from across the political spectrum – many of whom like Auckland the way it is and don’t want it to change. But allowing more housing, and more intensification in particular, is the single most important issue facing Auckland right now (yes bigger than transport).

For this reason, Auckland’s next mayor needs to champion Auckland as an integrated city, not a collection of self-interested suburbs.The reason we should sell Remuera golf course is the same reason we should allow for more development in Mt Eden: Because it’s in the best interests of Auckland as a whole. Both now and into the future.

I would like to elect a mayor who doesn’t apologise for the need for intensive development in central areas. A mayor who engages with the concerns of existing residents, but doesn’t compromise on the underlying reality facing Auckland and the city’s growth. Development is not a disease that needs to be quarantined in not so “nice” places. Multi-storey buildings already exist in Auckland’s inner-city suburbs, like they do in Melbourne and Sydney and almost any city of similar size.

Indeed, I’d personally argue that Auckland’s lack of density, and the consequences for civic life, is a primary reason why Auckland struggles to retain its young people. The life of cities like Melbourne, Sydney, London, and Amsterdam is what attracts young peolpe like me. I think our approahc to housing needs to be framed in that context: If you want your grandchildren to live in this hemisphere, then you’ve got to allow for more intensive development in Auckland.

Goodbye, goodluck, and godspeed to you my fellow Auckwooders. May Goff be with you.

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    1. Well, he hasn’t actually unveiled any policies yet – which goes for Stu’s other categories too – it seems he’ll leave those for next year. What we’ve had so far is just some vision statements and a bit of waffle.
      Based on past comments from Goff, I’d expect his transport policies to be pretty good, although hopefully he doesn’t fall into the Len Brown trap of agreeing with every transport project put forward, no matter how half-baked.

      1. exactly John.

        This is really a post about the start of Goff’s campaign with a few comments on policy directions.

        The policies themselves (and our analysis) will come later …

    2. Let’s hope Goff will not only support the CRL and rail expansion but also use his influence and connections in central government to convince the Ministry of Transport to begin funding it sooner rather than 2020, or when targets are met.

        1. exerpt from his announcement speech : “We need to do more than just finish the motorway network. We need to get on with the city rail link to double passenger capacity and deal with congestion at Britomart. We need light rail on the isthmus, in the East and out to the airport. We need more busways like the Northern Expressway. We need greater ability for people to walk and to cycle safely to school and work. That’s how kids used to get to school.”

          as quoted in full in the Herald: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11549402

          not much to quibble with except for the Northern “Expressway”

          1. ahh thank you – I missed those articles containing details on Goff’s transport policies. If what you say is true then that probably bumps his score up to 3/4 :).

            Although Goff’s transport policies probably deserve a post in their own right, and this one was already long enough. So don’t fret – we’ll be back with more on this topic shortly.

  1. The amount of rates required relates to the amount of services provided/things built – as you know, Council works out what it wants to do, then strikes the rate to afford that basket. So a conversation about rates is a little bit around the wrong way.

    What I’d like Goff to commit to is a more logical and evidence-based way of doing things. E.g. we know that plenty of road projects have terrible BCRs, so let’s start actually using those BCRs to make decisions. I’d also like to see some more prototyping of services e.g. different mixes of waste pickup, different approaches to road surfacing, different types of community events, temporary expansions of public transport. These small-scale experiments could identify really valuable areas for exploration.

    I’d also love Goff to clarify roles and responsibilities. Council is both a REGULATOR (e.g. housing), as well as a SERVICE PROVIDER (both legal requirements such as noise control, as well as nice-to-haves like libraries). Council doesn’t “provide” housing (or should it?), and it needs to be clearer on what it does. I think people don’t fully understand what Council does.

    Last but not least, I’d like Goff to bring AT and the other CCOs back in house, and to experiment with greater devolved power to Local Boards. Divvy up the capital spend, take 50% off for regional projects, then split the other 50% pro rata and let them build whatever they want.

    1. “Last but not least, I’d like Goff to bring AT and the other CCOs back in house, and to experiment with greater devolved power to Local Boards. Divvy up the capital spend, take 50% off for regional projects, then split the other 50% pro rata and let them build whatever they want.”

      But doesn’t the Super City legislation forbid that?

      1. It forbids it for AT, Ports of Auckland, and possibly Watercare. But the other CCOs can all be brought in-house if the council wants.

  2. “The life of cities like Melbourne, Sydney, London, and Amsterdam is what attracts young people like me”

    Couldn’t agree more. Moved to Auckland from Sydney a year ago and whilst I’m a fan of the country in general, Auckland’s lack of ‘big city’ feel really gets to me. We’re so blessed with natural assets here, if only the built assets could match them. Such a shame that so many locals feel the need to cling on to the past and their small town mentality.

    1. Hi Chris
      From a moral perspective wouldn’t the existing inhabitants of a space have greater say about the use of that space than later arrivals?
      I can understand if you struggle with that, considering Australian treatment of Aboriginal populations, but it seems to make ethical sense to me.


      1. I assume this is a (poor) attempt at humour…? Either way, I would argue any rate-payer, wherever they originate from, has an equal right to voice an opinion on their city.

        1. I would prefer if the younger rate payer had more say than the older ratepayer – they will have to live with the stupid decisions longer.

      2. > wouldn’t the existing inhabitants of a space have greater say about the use of that space than later arrivals?

        If you’re suggesting that Ngati Whatua be given sweeping dictatorial powers, then yes, I’d agree with you. Mostly because I think they’d do a better job.

        Or giving me dictatorial powers, for that matter? Five generations of my ancestors have lived in Auckland. I’m fine with that.

        But the idea that some Pakeha New Zealanders deserve a privileged right to extra influence over politics is absurd. Just because you bought a house in a leafy suburb a couple of decades ago does not make you the landed gentry of rotten boroughs, telling the dirty, mobile, voteless commoners how to live.

        1. By that argument we should actually be handing it over to the Pakakeha, Ngati Hotu, Maruiwi and urukehu rather than the later arriving Maori since they predate them by at least 3 thousand years.

          Good luck with that though.

          1. For goodness sake! There was no one here before Maori arrived. This has been disproved time out of number but we still have people espousing these racist views. It is an attempt to denigrate the position of Maori and as such is utterly racist.

          2. Really Harry?

            You’re busy calling archaeologists and museum personnel, some of whom I have known for literally my entire life, racists, liars and unprofessional.

            And I’d REALLY like to know how you consider it racist to say that NZ was originally populated by Persians/Iranians/Egyptians, or Peruvians instead of Polynesians of Chinese descent?

            Especially when the oral histories of the iwi say they arrived in a land that was already inhabited?

            And you’re also telling me that I’m deluded about things I’ve seen myself.

            The Ngati Hotu are not alone in having oral history and whakapapa on their side, which should be considered at least of equal level of reliability to that of the Iwi. And also genotyping and carbon dating of structures and human remains dating back well before 0 CE.

          3. Here’s what Te Ara has to say on the topic: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/when-was-new-zealand-first-settled/page-1

            Basically, the genealogical, radiocarbon, geological/archaeological, and pollen data all points to New Zealand first being settled by Polynesians around 1300 AD. There is very slim evidence of any earlier settlement.

            It’s just a weird conspiracy theory. Matthew Dentith (and others, I’m sure) have dismantled it at length: http://all-embracing.episto.org/tag/celtic-new-zealand/

          4. @Peter It’s fun, but really not the place.
            My original point was simply that “longevity of residence” was a foolish criteria.

            And I’m NOT actually mandating that the Ngati Hotu, etc are right. But I personally have seen enough physical evidence to invalidate the “public” history of European VISITS (not colonisation) by well over a century. And that means I think we should actually LOOK. And to be honest, I mostly think we’re not.

            And that could led to a lovely discussion on cognitive bias, self-confirmation and all the rest. Since why would the iwi want to accept ideas that would result in a loss of wealth (by redistribution of treaty claims), and also require them to accept they committed and/or attempted to commit genocide? No one’s really happy admitting that sort of thing despite the fact that all of our ancestors have done it.

            Won’t be surprised if someone deletes this as completely in appropriate, and I’m not going to check back again.

            Page 1
            “permanent **Polynesian** settlement was established around 1300” (emphasis mine)

            Page 2
            “discovery preceded large-scale settlement by a considerable period of time. This idea is supported by the accounts of tribal canoe voyagers arriving to find Polynesians already living in the North Island”

            And as for the genealogical measure? Ngati Hotu and Waitaha claim a genealogy of 77 generations, and there is some evidence of genealogies back over 160 generations

            Page 3
            invalidates the reliability of carbon dating prior to ~1300.
            Unfortunate that

            Page 4
            Talks about climate and ecological chagne from volcanic and human activty
            specifically kumara farming causing land clearance from ~1280.
            But Ngati Hotu / Rapa Nui (Easter Island) claim bringing that from Peru rather than Polynesians
            Hard to say.

            Page 5
            Carbon dating of bones
            Varying between 150 AD and 1300 AD in the same layer, not conclusive either way

            Page 6
            Rat feeding habits indicate ~1250

            Page 7
            Extinctions. Hard to verify

            Rat evidence is dependent on their arrival with a group, so may or may not be indicative, though likely

            Funny you should mention that one.
            The story I’m most dubious about is DNA typing of a human skull back to Wales 3,500 years ago, and I actually know the person who located the remains that were tested.

          5. “I personally have seen enough physical evidence to invalidate the “public” history of European VISITS (not colonisation) by well over a century.”

            And I personally have seen evidence that the earth is flat! Go to Iowa – it’s a very flat place. Just goes on for miles and miles with no contours in sight.

            What are the scientists hiding from us?

      3. This is an inappropriate analogy. The problem with colonisation is that settlers often seized land from indigenous people by force. Or alternatively, acquired it through duplicitous or coercive transactions.

        When we talk about changes to urban environments, we’re not talking about violent dispossession. We are talking about people *buying* land from its legal owners, at fair market prices, and then constructing new buildings on that land. This does not entail any violations of property rights.

      4. 7th generation Aucklander here. Lived overseas for four years (the last two in Melbourne) and will be returning home soon. Chris is dead right. Auckland still feels like a city without a soul. That’s going to change (thanks to external and internal migration), but it’s frustrating to see people try and stop sensible progress due to some misguided belief that Auckland is perfect at this very moment in time. If you’re close-minded and over 45 perhaps it’s ok, but not if you’re young and you crave an accessible city with vibe and personality.

    2. “Such a shame that so many locals feel the need to cling on to the past and their small town mentality.”

      We really need to encourage them all to move to a little seaside village instead.

  3. Good post Stu. My thoughts below:
    1. Rates – quick clarification, the transport levy did actually take the average rates rise to about 10% in the last year. It’s really just hocus pocus to treat it separately as Len tried to do; most households will view it as part of their overall property taxes/ rates. The levy is having the right result in boosting funding for PT and active modes, but the process was a bit shonky, and there’s not much comfort for people in knowing that it might only apply for three years.

    2. Asset sales – I disagree that asset sales are “the primary opportunity to find more money to invest in things that will make the city better”. I think they have a pretty much neutral effect on council finances. Trading off the loss of a future stream of dividends for a one-off cash boost. Discussions around asset sales tend to devolve into ideology so I think Goff’s approach of appearing open to them, but not having a fixed view, is a good place to start.

    3. Intensification – agree, this is now the biggest issue for Auckland and Goff looks very weak on it. It’ll take a lot more than “3-4 storey intensive housing” down arterial corridors to house a growing population.

    1. His quote that got pinged in the Herald this morning was of concern and I wonder if Goff has brushed up on both Auckland’s Geography and the Unitary Plan itself.

      His quote (although this is a Orsman piece) shows no to both questions above.

      I hope his advisers and himself brush up soon or he will be vulnerable on that flank.

    2. John, just to clarify with regards to asset sales: 1) Golf courses generate no revenue stream while 2) shares in POAL and AIAL do generate revenue.

  4. The business rates reduction is an interesting concept. If I recall correctly something like 70% of Auckland businesses are service businesses, and as such by far and away their biggest cost will be their people. A reduction in rates will be in the margins in terms of pricing. For example we pay $14,000 a year in rates (excluding water) approx. This represents less than 0.3% of our overheads. If we paid no rates at all this would have no effect on our prices.

    1. I think the decision by the council to try and change the ratio in such a quick time frame was a really stupid idea. They probably should have made it a 20 year plan or something, rather than residential getting massive increases with businesses getting none.

      1. I understand that the transition was planned to occur over 20 years and this has now been pushed out to 30.

        So the speed of transition was not a major issue.

    2. That’s an interesting point Conan. Hadn’t thought about how small rates was as a percentage of overheads. It does make the mad rush seem a bit pointless.

      1. Note comment above: I understand the transition was already planned to occur over 20 years. Let me know if you find evidence to the contrary.

  5. Another career politician? Surely you jest? Why does anyone pay any attention to them? They can’t lead, they just weasel their way into people minds with pretend good intentions. Auckland needs someone who has actually done something, not another lawyer or political studies graduate, there are hard decision to make!

    1. We had a successful business person as mayor of Auckland quite recently. His name was John Banks. No wait, Dick Hubbard.
      Well, either way, they were both lemons as mayor.
      On the other hand, knowing political process and being able to wrangle councillors opposed to you to run a city well are skills you can’t learn at a business.
      Lastly, who is this mythical business being that will lead Auckland to greatness? John Palino? Emmet Hussey?

      1. John Banks has been in politics for years, 30, 40? What has he done prior? At least he built the “supercity”, and didn’t manage to do anything actually stupid. Dick Hubbard didn’t do anything stupid either? He was mostly a puppet voted in to stop another stupid motorway being built.

        [This comment has been edited due to violations of our user guidelines.]

  6. That same Radio NZ interview you quote also had the interviewer mentioned that Remuera golf Course (the poster bad boy it seems in this argument) has recently had its lease extended to something like 2070.

    So any plans to do anything at Remuera Golf course in the short term are going to cost a lot of (legal) fees I’m sure if council wants to break that agreement.

    In any case, there is this talk of a notional subsidy of $11.5K per golfer there, not sure how that is derived from, but if the council has signed a 50+ year lease on the land to Remuera Golf course then let them pick up the entire tab for maintaining it and keeping it in good order (if they don’t already) and paying the rate on it as an unimproved site – just like say that Former Star building “car park” does in town.

    I suspect a lot of this $11.5K a year subsidy stuff is taken off the back of assuming council is paying a mortgage or loan back on the land and is upkeeping it like a property landlord would.
    Any cost of that land has long ago been paid off by previous ratepayers of Auckland City Council.

    Any “costs” here are really therefore opportunity costs, and for example, the council buying nearby Colin Maiden Park for $60m instead of repurposing a similar sized chunk of Remuera Golf course does represent an opportunity cost of leasing out the golf course like this.

    And there is likely no need for the number of golf courses we have, so lets have a reasoned discussion about this.
    Personally I think council should retain the land ownership and oversee the redevelopment like Waterfront Auckland did/does for Wynyard Quarter. And if that leads to lower-cost but not “cheap” housing being built there, well and good.

    1. There’s a nice tract of native bush within a short walk of my street. And here’s the funny thing.. no-one accesses it. Not even rich golfers. It just sits there “underutilised” in economist’s eyes. Never mind $11.5k subsidy per user, as no-one enters it, the subsidy per user is infinite. Scandalous! Or rather it would be if we valued this land (and it’s quite a few hectares) purely in potential development terms.

      Well I far prefer it as it is than as it would be if it were concreted over. For ever, effectively. AS for Remuera golf course, it would be preferable if it had some access trails and so on.. but covered in houses and roads, no thank you.

      The big deal by far is the overly restrictive zoning in the central isthmus.

      1. hence the definition of strategic and non-strategic assets.

        I would tend to put areas with environmental significance into the strategic asset category.

        Golf course? No way Jose.

      2. P.s. Depending on how it was developed, you might find there was greater environmental services provided after than in its current state. carefully manicured, heavily watered, and fertilised exotic grasses don’t do much for the planet as far as I can tell …

  7. Gordon Campbell says: “If Goff wins the mayoralty, his statements to date suggest that there will be a lot of policy continuity. Despite a few minor points of difference “Len Brown-ism without Len Brown” would be an accurate campaign slogan – especially since Brown’s former media manager David Lewis will reportedly be playing the same role for Goff in 2016. Fair enough, too. It was Brown’s personal peccadilloes, not his policies, that brought his mayoral career into disrepute. Much as the right wing likes of Cameron Brewer may fuss and fume, there is no wide public support for asset sales or any of the other hackneyed baggage of that goes with privatization”


  8. What Goff says before the election and what he says after the election may be two different things. I think he would be wise to position himself as centre as possible and pretend to challenge some of those things that the herald has constantly held against Len – density, ‘toy train sets’ and rates increases. When he gets elected he can start to show his true leanings.

  9. “He notes that rates for the average household increased 3.5%”

    Is that right? What about the transport levy – I think that was on top of the 3.5%. Obviously the transport levy is rates by another name.

  10. “However, I think there’s a need for Goff to outline not only which assets he considers to be strategic, but *why*”

    Agreed. In fact he needs to outline what benefit the city gets from the council owning these assets.I would be particularly interested to understanded what strategic advantage the city gets from owning 22.4% of the Airport, and why we would lose that strategic advantage if we only owned say 15%.

  11. “Or here’s another fact just to ram it home: The annual subsidy for golf courses in Auckland is approximately equivalent in value to the annual cost of operating Auckland’s rail network. ”

    So we could achieve the same thing (and more, much more) by moving to a user pays transport model?? Great lets do it.

    Agreed on your comments around “nice areas”. What utterly disgraceful comments on a whole number of levels.

    The other thing is he is adopting the language of the NIMBYs. “3-4 storey intensive housing”. What is so “intense” about 3-4 storey housing. Sounds perfectly laid back to me.

    1. not necessarily. Depends on the balance of externalities.

      IMO Councol owned golf courses are associated with small externalities (positive or negative). So Council investment makes little sense and moving to user pays would probably improve welfare.

      On the other hand, there is evidence to suggest large (positive) externalities from public transport. Here’s the most recent study looking at this issue: http://papers.tinbergen.nl/15011.pdf. They find approximately congestion reduction ~= 50% of PT operating costs.

      So in the short run we may be better off subsidising PT. In the long run, I’d agree: We’d be better off moving to a user pays transport system. That however takes time …

      1. On the long run v the short run, the completeness of the networks is what matters:

        Long run marginal cost (LRMC) is defined as the change in the total social cost resulting from a unit increase in demand allowing for capacity and infrastructure provision being optimally adjusted in the long run for the level of demand.
        Thus, whereas SRMC leads to the most efficient use of the existing infrastructure, and may be high if capacity is limited because of inadequate investment, prices based on LRMC reflect the optimal network. Clearly SRMC on an optimal network should equal LRMC.

        From Booz Allen et al 2005 MoT: http://www.beehive.govt.nz/Documents/Files/STCCS%20Main%20Report.pdf

        Bigger, ‘lumpy’ investments likely required to make networks suitable for optimising; certainly the case in Auckland Rapid Transit Networks.

  12. “There are however a number of poorly-performing transport projects which could be ditched, such as PenLink”
    Should be funded with borrowing and paid back with the tolls (since it will be a toll road after all) never mind that it will reduce wear and tear on the existing HBC Hwy, save everyone around 15 mins each direction (including buses), save huge amounts of emissions and fuel costs along with providing reliability and redundancy to the only major urban area in Auckland that is restricted to 1 access road only and improving safety no end.

    1. Would be great of that could happen but if I recall correctly there is forecast to be 12,000 vehicles per day on a $300m project. The toll would have to be so high that no one would travel on the road.

      1. $5 per day per vehicle is $21m pa. This would more than pay off the loan and interest within a standard 30 year timeframe (and doesn’t account for growth or inflation).

        1. It would pay off the loan in 30 years yes. However a $5 toll is very likely deter some of those 12,000 vehicles so you’ll be short of your target.

    2. Penlink would make far more sense if it is converted to a rail spur when the North Shore eventually gets rail as far as Silverdale.

      As for a highway, tolled yes, but would still take decades to repay

      1. PENLINK doesn’t make any sense for Public transport at all (unless we’re going to put 60k people past the Plaza). Using PENLINK for PT splits the lines and will a) cost more to provide frequency or b) reduce frequency for the entire region. There is more to the Hibiscus Coast area than Whangaparaoa Peninsula past the Plaza.

    3. Whangaparoa is not a major urban area. It’s a peninsula. Many peninsulas have one road in and one road out by virtue of their geography.

      1. Try saying that to the tens of thousands of people living there. Or are they just second class citizens in your book Stu because they don’t live in central Auckland?! Devonport and Te Atatu are also peninsulas. Are they also not big enough for you?

        1. I think that many of these thousands would have bought in the area knowing the conditions under which they will live and travel, even recognising nthat IF Penlink happens it will take some years toi open, to an extent they are victims of their own choices

        2. The original design for PENLINK, as a 2 lane road to link with SH1 was fine. The current gold plated design in gold plated and ridiculous. And trying to add public transport benefits into the business plan is misguided.

  13. Quite a bit of media mileage is being made about high rise apartments not being built in the “nice” areas of the city, bit if you care to look, that is exactly where they are being built. Okay, so an apartment in one of those high rises might be out of the reach of many on this site but those high rises are being built in those suburbs and not out in the “badlands”. Drive around Remuera and see just how many stately old homes on large sections have been bulldozed and replaced by multi-storied apartments, or apartment complexes.

  14. Just more of the same if all he can name is large transport projects. We need to stop wasting money on “glory projects” and start focussing on smaller more efficient projects – like rolling out bus lanes on all major arterials (including property purchase where necessary). We also need to invest far more in beautification of our town centres – take a leaf out of Melbourne’s book.

    1. yes to small projects and yes to “beautification”; the latter is a key reason why I love Amsterdam. The city is beautiful not just for it’s built heritage and urban form, but because of the attention and investment the municipality gives to little things. Like flowerboxes.

      I believe the economic evidence suggests that such projects are not only more efficient (in a pure benefit/cost sense), but they also tend to employ more people per $$$ spent than the big mega projects.

      So if we want Auckland to be a city where all different sorts of people can find work, then one of the things Council could do is focus less on mega projects and more on the small day-to-day stuff, as you suggest.

      1. Good call @stu donovan. Maybe Auckland/NZ should check out the dutch political system and values 🙂 A great mix if tradition, liberal and conservative, and lots of sensible stuff. They are just good at calling a spade a spade, so most of the crap gets swept away

    2. However this is no hard and fast rule. Sometimes big is indeed best, especially in a growing city with an infrastructure deficit and a great opportunity. And Auckland has that project in the CRL. This is completely unlike the massive mway projects that are simply a doubling down on the existing pattern, and a dangerously wasteful one at that. This is a transformational move. A shape changer. A mid sized bet so worth grasping. A once in a generation fix, like the harbour bridge was.

      1. The crazy thing is that in the scale of thing today, the CRL is hardly big any more, it’s nearly small enough to hide is some minor budget…

  15. I think you’re being a bit harsh on Phil Goff’s approach to intensification – especially given he’s not really given away much so far aside from saying that he supports it where it makes sense and is concerned about it where it might impact on the special character of certain areas.

    The biggest missed opportunity for intensification in the Unitary Plan isn’t so much the areas zoned for Single House Zone or Mixed Housing Suburban (instead of MHU or THAB), it’s that in places that really do “tick all the boxes” the Unitary Plan puts on a 4 level height limit most of the time. Places like Great North Road between Ponsonby and Grey Lynn, or New North Road between Eden Terrace and Kingsland. Or around Avondale train station. Of course “ticking the boxes” needs to include market attractiveness, along with access to good PT, large under developed sites and less impact on areas with true character that really makes Auckland special (not just using this for NIMBY reasons).

    In Washington DC there’s amazing development capacity provided around some of their Metro Stations – particularly in Arlington County: https://goo.gl/maps/oKKVVVi1rB52

  16. “…it seems that Goff is saying let’s not intensify in areas that are “nice”…”

    I’m confident that this is just Goff displaying a bit of the political acumen he’s picked up after 40 years in politics.

    You don’t win a Mayoral campaign by telling voters who live in ‘nice’ areas that the transport routes in their ‘nice’ suburb will be rezoned higher density. You tell them that *after* you’ve been elected, when you’ve had the chance to ‘open the books’ and see just how bad the problem is, and how urgent the need for action is.

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