The council’s decision to withdraw their [not really] out of scope changes is already seeing it’s chickens starting to come home to roost. As Radio NZ’s Todd Niall reported yesterday

Auckland Council has withdrawn staff from crucial hearings on the city’s future, saying its hands are tied by political revolt.

Few of the council’s planning staff and expert witnesses are to appear at the Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel, which is set to begin considering future zonings tomorrow.

The withdrawal follows an unprecedented defeat for council leadership 10 days ago, when councillors overthrew some higher-density housing proposals already before the panel – by a vote of 13 to 8.

In legal advice prior to the vote, councillors were told they should not withdraw any evidence and that doing so would have significant legal consequences.


Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town wrote to councillors and the chairs of the local boards, explaining the withdrawal.

Mr Town said the only exception would be if the panel itself called council staff, or if other submitters sought to cross-examine them.

While council staff would be unable to argue in person over the housing zonings that a majority of councillors opposed, the written arguments remained before the panel and could be argued by others.

On Thursday, Unitary Plan Independent Hearings Panel chair Judge David Kirkpatrick told a packed hearing room that it would not be removing any evidence already before it, nor would the panel refuse to call any witnesses.

Thanks to the decisions of councillors under the fake pretence of process, they’ve now turned the whole process into a farce and an even bigger process mess. Instead of representing the views of the city and its people, the council are now sitting on the side lines and not representing anyone. Those 13 councillors shot their own feet at point blank range.

Areas shown in red are those where the residential zone was “upzoned”
Areas shown in red are those where the residential zone was “upzoned”

Perhaps they might claim it was an unintended consequence but the outcome is exactly what they were warned would happen. Below is the independent legal advice Radio NZ reference that the council received over the matter. It is pretty unequivocal that the councillors should not have voted to withdraw evidence.

Despite this councillors like George Wood and mayoral candidates like Mark Thomas continue to believe that council staff should be able to merrily turn up and pretend the evidence, the panels interim guidance as well as other factors simply didn’t happen. Here’s George Wood on Morning Report yesterday.

or listen here.

While most of this recent Unitary Plan episode has been frustrating, one the positive in recent days has been MP David Shearer injecting himself into the debate. First with this comment

Then this excellent piece.

There’s an old saying that Auckland is great at planning – for yesterday’s needs.

So I was disappointed at last week’s decision by Auckland Council to reject the plan for greater housing density in Auckland City. It betrayed short-term thinking and a lack of vision by our city leaders, and will leave our city about 200,000 homes short of what we will need by 2040.


High density is nothing to fear. It’s bad design we need to guard against.

It’s bad design that has frightened some Aucklanders off the high-density living our city so desperately needs. Look at the Scene One, Scene Two and Scene Three apartments at the bottom of the city: they’re ugly, towering examples of where we’ve got it wrong.


So the need for higher housing density in Auckland is clear. It’s obvious. Let’s get on with it.

And instead of fighting what Auckland so desperately needs, we should embrace density and henceforth put our energies into insisting on good planning, thoughtful rules about building envelopes and heights, robust restrictions that protect privacy and light and – always- quality materials that will further beautify our city and stand the test of time.

This is good to see from an MP whose electorate contains some of those most opposed to change. It’s a shame other MPs have been so silent about it – perhaps like their council colleagues out of fear of angry property owners resistant to change.

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  1. I looked up my submission at and my several page submission was summarised to the following points:

    – Apply more Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings and Mixed Use zones
    – Rezone Light Industry areas near rail lines and other transit routes to Mixed Use
    – Retain 16 Spring St, Freemans Bay as Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings
    – Stage the Future Urban zone to limit sprawl and keep over 70% of growth within city limits
    – Apply the Homestar and Greenstar rating tools to all houses and all new commercial buildings respectively
    – Ensure all developments are subject to a design review with strong assessment criteria
    – Remove rules which make development uneconomic and allow the conversion of a dwelling into two dwellings
    – Expand the Mixed Housing Urban zone, particularly near the city centre
    – Focus high density living and commercial use on transport nodes, particularly the city rail link and Newton, Morningside, Greenlane and Ellerslie
    – Remove minimum parking requirements, particularly from residential zones

    Only one of my points specifically mentioned an address. How do my other points relate to out of scope and the council? Does that mean they won’t be disagreeing with my points?

    1. Brendan if you don’t think their summary of your submission is accurate you can tell them at the hearing. Your relief is supposed to be within the ‘four corners’ of your submission and if you have been vague about defining what you actually want then you have an uphill task. You don’t need to specify addresses but you do need to be clear.

  2. Meredith Connell are unequivocal in their legal advice: “Withdrawl of the Council’s evidence with in whole or in part would result in significant detrimental legal and practical consequences to the Council and its community” (at para 2.1 (b)).

    That the 13 councillors chose to disregard this advice represents serious gross professional negligence on their part.

    1. The lawyers gave the Council officers the advice they wanted. It is an opinion not a judgement and they are both quite different things.
      You can shop for any opinion you like. Making a governing decision is the Councillors right and no lawyers opinion can constrain their prerogative.

      1. Just like you shopping your arguments to a certain frame for the last few years?

        I would give that Opinion full weight given Judge Kirkpatrick stated the Out of Scope was going to remain before the Panel and in play.

        That said I am aware he is due to make another announcement soon on the matter

        1. Ben it is just stupid to think any politician should be sacked for doing their job. Just because you dont like the outcome. The system worked, they listened to arguments and points of view and did what they think is best.
          What other decision do you think the Judge could make? Evidence is exchanged and it is up to his Panel to consider it. He can hardly prevent that can he. But that doesn’t mean he or the Panel will agree with the evidence.

  3. Lets face the reality. The planners stuffed it up from the start by not pushing density harder from the start when the plan was notified, By using a last minute back door to try and get some more density they fully deserve what they got which was a revolt. To those of you blaming councilors have a think about what should have been done from the start. I have said before on this blog that there needs to be a complete rethink about the RMA because frankly it doesnt work.The UP is a joke right from the start and anyone who has attended hearings will realise that the only people in the room who have the cities best interest at heart are the commissioners
    Most of those attending are lawyers representing commercial or government department interests. .

    1. “By using a last minute back door”

      That’s a funny way to ‘by responding to consultation which overwhelmingly supported increased density on the balance of evidence’.

      I note for example that my submission to up zone all of Forrest Hill Road was considered out of scope.

    2. Exactly Robert. Is it really that hard to do things properly? Did they have to try and force the Councillors hand? Of course they could have put intensification in the notified plan had the Councillors wanted it. And if they didnt want it then it had no place there. People shouldn’t blame Councillors for doing what they think is right even if you personally dont agree. The real issue is why did two Councillors and a bunch of staff try to hijack a process rather than work within it?

    3. Matt that probably the most biased thing I have read from you. You are usually reasonably balanced- but clearly not this time. Maybe you are still angry but describing their view of process as fake is just nasty. If you are angry about a lack of intensification then by all means take a shot at them for not including it in their plan. But trying to achieve it by stealing it at the end is not the way. Can you imagine how cross you would be and how betrayed you would feel if it was the other way round? The Council can bring a plan change in any time they like so let them and accept that people who are against it actually get a chance to be heard.

      1. Im beginning to think you actually have no idea what the statutory process for the UP actually entails. Out of scope recommendations due to the evolving process of the hearings were explicitly envisaged by central government. If these peoperty investors had been diligent and obtained competent legal advice back when the PAUP was notified they would have known all this.

        1. It seems our low opinions of each other must be mutual. The Government allowed the Panel to make out of scope recommendations, they still can if they want. Nowhere does it say in the Act it was due to an evolving process as you claim. More likely it was to let the Panel come up with something better if it occurred to them. The council’s position should be that of the majority of the governing body and that majority agreed they should not put forward something people had no chance to submit on. What is hard to understand about that? The way this has unfolded means the evidence is still in, the Panel can recommend it if they want and the Council has made clear to everyone what they think is a fair process and what is not. Seems to me it has worked out fine so far. When the staff and a couple of Councillors went of the reservation they got a swift check from the governing body. And surely anyone who thinks doing sneeky stuff like that might now understand its just not a good idea.

          1. As I am sure you are aware Acts of parliament dont record all the reasoning behind why laws are written the way they are.

          2. “Let the panel come up with something better if it occured to them.”

            Good lord thats clutching at straws isnt it!? Hey guys the panel might have some good ideas of their own. We should modify the whole process, cause they be worth listening to!

          3. Some tidbits of interest from the select committee:

            “The majority of us recommend amending section 143 to prohibit the
            council, in making its decisions, from considering new evidence or
            any other material that was not available to the Hearings Panel. This
            is intended to reduce the likelihood of the council making decisions
            based on inappropriate political lobbying, and ensure that it follows
            fair process requirements”

          4. Matthew that is why the Council is prohibited from hearing evidence after the Panel makes its recommendation. It doesn’t in any way justify the Council staff changing their position to something the full Council didn’t want or approve of some two years after submissions closed.

          5. Isn’t independent expert evidence just that, independent? You cant dictate to an expert witness what to put in their evidence. I know clients often dont get this but its the law.

          6. It is. But it is the client’s right to not call any expert if they dont like what they are saying. That is why this should have gone to the governing body prior to evidence exchange. Also had the Council’s lawyers known the Council would not tolerate out of scope changes then they would have briefed experts on that and experts could have either written only about in scope changes or told the lawyers they couldn’t support the Council position. But no. Doing things properly was too hard.

          7. True. If they had known the GB would not tolerate out of scope changes they may not have so carelessly labelled them out of scope :).

          8. That’s true. Had they known exactly how unpopular their work was they could have stooped to all sorts of behaviour.

          9. You jest but it would appear that the councillor’s really dont understand that the evidence wasn’t purporting to show that the proposed changes were in fact out of scope, and that that would have to be determined by the IHP. I got a response back from Chris Darby that demonstrated he had completely failed to grasp the nuances of this. Same with Denise Krum. Yet to get a response from G Wood.

          10. No I think you are right there Matthew. It was out of scope one week and then when they were caught out it was minor issues and consequential changes and then no big deal and then actually it was in scope after all. 🙂

      1. Not Councillors – Local Board members who have no jurisdiction in planning matters!

        Letting Local Boards get their colouring pencils out was when the whole process turned to shit.

        If you want to be angry with Councillors it should be that they didnt keep the Local Boards in check!

    4. So the Councillors didn’t do their job in supervising and guiding the planners, and you are now proposing the planners cop it, while Council, you have understanding for? That’s not management or leadership, that’s trying to blame subordinates.

    5. So the Councillors didn’t do their job in supervising and guiding the planners, and you/theyare now proposing the planners are to blame? That’s not management or leadership, that’s trying to blame subordinates.

      1. Clearly you do not understand how local government works. Planners and urban designers at council have their own agenda and hide behind councillors when the shit hits the fan. The planners have been making it difficult to get on with building an intensified city due to their obsession with over regulation when they really do not understand design,or how a city really works. The RMA is the root cause as it was primarily intended to protect the natural environment and resources. Sure keep the RMA for non urban areas but bring in some new legislation for urban areas that actually works.

        1. Robert – I agree with your conclusion. But your criticism of Planners is off the mark. The planning profession has been calling for intensification since the Auckland Growth Strategy in 1999!

          Local politics has been getting in the way since.

          1. But the Planners and even the Planning Schools have themselves, been refusing all along to consider evidence that their recommended policies have unintended consequences. Arthur Grimes and Andrew Aitken in a 2010 paper, pointed out that standard “models” are incapable of predicting actual “supply of housing units” under plans and zoning. The British have been finding this out the hard way for decades.

            Grimes and Aitken provided an alternative model with much stronger predictive power, based on the reality that urban land rationing pushes up the price of urban land (and even upzoning within a rationed supply of land, pushes up the price of land faster than space is sacrificed by households). The rate of inflation in the price of urban land makes it more profitable to simply buy it up and hold it – there is less profit to be made in actually building structures and making a modest, honest return on additional floor space provided. In fact developers make less profit on actual building than in the past, all the increased profits from demand pressure and shortages are reaped by land owners and developers paying more for sites (a LOT more, in fact) than in the past, are carrying much more finance cost and risk. Every property cycle in the UK wipes out a whole lot more developers and reduces the industry’s ability to address the shortages.

            UK urban economists like Alan W. Evans, Paul Cheshire and various colleagues (especially at the London School of Economics) have been bashing their heads on a brick wall for years trying to get the planners and politicians over there to listen to reason based on evidence. The dynamic little democracy of NZ is capable of learning a lot faster than this.

  4. @Robert The Unitary Plan process is an attempt to rewrite the RM Act process. It is that rewrite of the plan process that struggles to work, not the RM Act.

    1. Evidence has not been formally withdrawn as Council has not sought formal leave to do so as required (yet).

      That said Judge Kirkpatrick is due to rule again on out of scope this afternoon. So if Council has sought formal leave then yes 4.8 does apply.

    2. He hasn’t expressed an opinion on it and he won’t be asked to. The Council passed a resolution, their lawyers have asked for leave to withdraw part of their evidence and the Judge has replied submitters can make there position clear in legal submissions but that expert witnesses are bound by their duty to provide independent advice. He is telling them if the evidence is in it is all in as it is the witnesses evidence not the Council’s.

  5. I live in a distant suburb.The houses are close together.
    I think some apartments are more attractive than many rows of similar 2 story houses.
    In my house two bedrooms upstairs get a nice view.
    My view is of a fence from one window and the back yard from the other.
    Most apartments get a view of the street and the sky.
    That’s fine. Only a few people get views of the water and with intensification around the stations the majority of people wont be affected.
    I just don’t get it that some people don’t mind seeing our green areas used up and replaced with concrete and asphalt.

      1. Brilliant insight. In fact the densest modern cities are that way because they are built “up”, NOT because they have built over most of the available surface space. Auckland is one of the world’s worst cities already for having built all over the available space, and chopped up sections into little new sections. Only it is low-rise stuff. Now if we want bigger blocks of buildings, assembling worthwhile sites is a nightmare, the land prices are prohibitive, comparatively new buildings must be demolished, the logistics of construction and infrastructure work in crowded urban surroundings is an inefficient nightmare. Refer to the UN Habitat Report “Streets as Public Spaces and Drivers of Urban Prosperity” for a comparison of Auckland to dozens of other cities around the world. There are actually several paras devoted to Auckland because it is such a Kafka-esque outlier among “first world” cities.

        Houston is the world’s fastest intensifying first world city today, because it has no centrally planned zoning, many areas are not protected by private sector covenants (which substitute for zoning if they exist), there is a lot of spare space, the land costs are mind-blowingly low, and the local economy is evolving in the direction of becoming a “global” city to rival New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, etc. Houston is second only to New York in number of Fortune 500 Head Offices located there, and the rent of an apartment within walking distance of these jobs is risibly low. This is how an actual free market in land use is supposed to work. As the corollary to this (and what keeps the land prices low regardless of local agglomeration effects), you can build a whole new mini-city on legally purchased farmland in the region if you want. Look up “The Woodlands”. A good private sector planner with a clean sheet of paper and land costs of $5,000 per acre can include bike paths to die for, a bus interchange, green spaces, apartments in the right places, and still sell 1/4 acre McMansions with 4 bedrooms for $250,000.

        But in the surplus space near Houston centre, large sites are going straight from “old warehouse” or “car rental site” or “house with 4 acres”, or even “unused space”, to “30 story building”.

          1. Nick, it’s not a Venice, but it’s not a ‘heap of shit place’ either. It’s decent, clean, well organised, safe, and – affordable. Extremely functional, in sum. That’s a lot, compared to the rest of North America, some of Europe, and most of Asia and South America.

  6. Hmmm. One interesting question that’s been debated ever since this issue blew up is “why did council adopt such a narrow definition of what was in-scope?”. Reading through the Meredith Connell advice, it seems to me that council was deliberately conservative in order to preserve the appeal rights of as many affected people as possible (perhaps knowing that they would have limited opportunities for further submissions). It sounds like if a recommendation is considered “in-scope” there only very limited rights of appeal to the Environment Court later.

    1. Yes I think that is right. That is the irony of the whole thing – they were only labelled out of scope to enhance the appeal rights of affected parties.

  7. Maybe they all visited New Lynn RSA Memorial Plot and witnessed the Unitary Plan in action spilling out of the tower block there. A bit too much action for my liking.

    1. Luckily 90 something percent of the city is proposed to be retained as the low rise sprawl you want. Meanwhile people are fighting to make sure that any of the density others want is possible.

    2. I live in New Lynn, sir, and the deros hanging around in front of the library have nothing to do with the new apartment tower

      1. I got a hell of a fright in Queen St on Monday. I walked past some beggars and one was making ticking sounds at her hand. She had a mouse sitting on her hand while she feed it crumbs! She had a feral mouse as a pet. Lucky they found each other I guess.

  8. Can someone please tell me
    What is simply going on? In a few words? I don’t understand the issues. Has the unitary plan been rejected completely? What is now the solution ? Please transportblog less emotional and more facts? Do we now have a new plan to be voted on with less density and if so how much less density? Are we still getting a plan or not?

    1. To answer your questions:
      – What is simply going on? Can’t answer that in a few words, sorry. General message is: 1) Council notified plan; 2) Submissions on plan were received; 3) Council made a further submission to the hearings panel with new evidence and possible changes; 4) NIMBY’s exerted undue influence and forced Council to withdraw further submission; and 5) Hearings panel now needs to make up it’s own mind without hearings Council’s further evidence.
      – Unitary plan has not been rejected entirely.
      – There is no “solution”, just a process to work through. Hearings panel will now report back on plan and recommend changes, Councillors consider and vote on changes, and then we see what happens.
      – No, Auckland Council now has very little input into the process. Indeed that is the irony of the NIMBY’s efforts thus far: It is possible likely that in the absence of the Council’s evidence the hearings panel actually recommend more density.
      – Yes, we will still get a plan at some point.

      1. Cool thanks Stu, I have googled a bit more info and I think; We Should be happy this is an amazing time for Auckland.
        Lol wow so the density is happening it’s just the new load of density they are complaining about lol. Seems fairly reasonable for Auckland. I guess thier’ll be a compromise with Mt Eden and Rumera left as big green spaces and many other areas going higher density.

        Pretty amazed it is happening at all , I mean yeah it’s a bit dubious to put out of scope changes in and rezone big areas without discussion.. Although I hate discussions, all that fluffle.

        Ps: I prob move back to live in Auckland now with the city putting in dynamic policy’s and a few smarter things…

      2. Actually it was more like this:
        – 1) Council published a draft plan with intensification, people hated it so they dropped it out; 2) Council formally notified plan without intensification; 3) Submissions on plan were received two years ago; 4) Council staff and 2 Councillors put intensification back in as part of the very last topic being heard before the Independent Panel thinking they would get away with that; 5) People complained and asked for chance to make a submission on it but Panel said no as they would not be able to finish by June if there were more submissions; 6) People complained to the Council who got a lawyers letter saying stuff the people just press on, they could have made a submission 2 years ago on something they didn’t know about; 6) The Council didn’t take that advice and have told the Panel they don’t now want those changes 5) Hearings panel will still hear the Council’s evidence including intensification as the evidence is already in prior to the Council meeting and has not been withdrawn. 7) the Council can’t remove the evidence as other people will ask to cross-examine the witnesses and ask them if they still stand by what they said. Even if the Council doesn’t call the witnesses then others can call them by summons and ask them to read their statement.

        1. Thank you, mfwic, for an intelligent and fair summary of ‘what is going on’.
          (as opposed to the nimby-this-nimby-that rubbish a few lines above)
          Even your superbly succinct and straightforward 7-step list shows how convoluted the process has become.
          But this legal-procedural circus is not over …. more waste of time, energy and money is coming.
          And all of that at our expense – the ratepayers and taxpayers. The AP/PAUP tab by now must be running into millions of dollars…?
          That’s what happens with plans which have been conceptually wrongheaded from the first day.
          How could this happen? And keep going for five years, while engaging hundreds and hundreds of educated people??
          The roots of this biggest urban planning disaster in NZ history are in a fantasy book called Unleashing Auckland.

    1. Thank you, Geoff, for providing the link to Mike Lee’s commentary after the vote.
      Mike’s uncommonly candid comments expose the ugly games behind the curtains of the super-city. Most of the enthusiastic supporters of intensification as a cure for the housing crisis are blessedly unaware of these games.

      And here is another one, by Chris Trotter:

      Together these two articles present a good lesson in politics for all those who rush to slander people by calling their views ‘hateful’ and labelling them as ‘Tories’.

  9. Mike Lee’s nasty, hateful comments on Gen-Zero surely disqualify him from ever claiming to be a “left-wing” councillor again. He’s bought and paid for by rich old property owners. He’s just another Tory now.

    1. Are you referring to the following comment by Cr Lee:
      “… ‘Generation Zero’ argues that the all-out assault on the historic garden suburbs of Auckland is a good for young people, taking as an article of faith vague promises from the developers of ‘affordable housing’ close to the desirable city centre…”

      Actually Cr Lee is to be commended for his skepticism. If you are well-read enough in the urban economics literature, you know that “site value is elastic to allowed density”, and worse than that, all the evidence is that the correlation is that the site value inflation under higher allowed density is greater than the sacrifice of land footprint by households. Under this kind of urban planning, you do get smaller and smaller average housing units and higher and higher average prices, not lower prices. The owners of sites absolutely cream it in profits. The most obvious proof of this general point is that the most expensive “average housing unit” cities of all, like Hong Kong, are tens of times denser than EVERY median-multiple 3 city. The median “home” in US cities like Houston and even Philadelphia is a suburban family home with even more than a 1/4 acre section (on average) and this is literally 1/5 the price of Hong Kong’s equivalent, the 50 square metre dog box in the sky.

      In fact it is people of the Left who support compact city planning, who are blindly acting as useful idiots for the biggest wealth gougers in modern economic history. Even Thomas Piketty’s famous thesis about rising inequality can be shown to be substantially contributed to by the turnaround in urban land prices as automobile based expansion was curtailed after decades of flattening urban land rents.

      1. Brilliant, Phil, brilliant. I hope they are reading you:

        “…In fact it is people of the Left who support compact city planning, who are blindly acting as useful idiots for the biggest wealth gougers in modern economic history.”

        Why is this so hard to grasp, when both Mike Lee and Chris Trotter have written so cogently about this?

        1. In years of involvement in these issues, I have come to realise that there is something completely outside of political and even cultural backgrounds, that allows people to “get it” or not. Perhaps they are born with brains wired the right way? In fact I think I know more Labour loyalists who “get it”, than I know National ones. ACT ones mostly “get it”. Green ones mostly do not, but there are exceptions, just as Patrick Moore, Bjorn Lomborg, Jesse Ausubel, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus are genuine environmentalists who see optimistic solutions rather than punitive ones. That is what I see your insights on urban form, as similar to. Strangely, most environmentalists back a few decades were all about going “off grid” and “back to nature”, something strange morphed the movement into advocacy of concrete, steel, lift shafts, stairwells, clothes dryers, air conditioning, asphalt, cafes, bars, and city night life. There is a beautiful essay by James Heartfield (another genuine environmentalist advocating optimistic solutions for urban existence) entitled “Herbert Giraudet and the Plastic Concept of Sustainability” in which he suggests that many early greenies found life on the Commune in co-existence with nature, a bit too harsh…

          But I have also learned that there is a “Tory” “capitalism” that is possibly the biggest offender of the lot in all this. It is illustrative that the academics of the Left who designed Britain’s urban planning system, included compulsory acquisition of greenfields land under Plans, to ensure that prices did not inflate. At the time, the British were growing weary of more and more radical Statism from the Attlee government, and the Tories milked the issue to the maximum, calling it – of course – “communism”. So Labour enacted the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act without the compulsory acquisition provisions and the toney Club-going Tory land owning and financier classes have been laughing all the way to the bank ever since. And it is virtually impossible to even talk about reform.

  10. What is so great about David Shearer supporting the Plan? The Plan which:

    (1) got utterly wrong how much Akl should grow up and how much out (70%:30%, instead exactly the opposite);

    (2) wants to make Auckland a ‘compact city’, while Auckland obviously and unstoppably is evolving as a linear city (and no plan can change that);

    (3) wants to pepper the intensification in random manner all over the city instead with some strategy in mind (such as along the main transport corridors);

    (4) does not understand that density/upzoning does not necessarily result in affordable housing (because it entices even more speculation);

    5) has been born out of a shonky, secretive process which would get a pass only in North Korea, and is an utter and ugly breach of natural justice and principles of local democracy.

    What’s great about that?? Supporting affordable housing is one thing, and this Plan completely another.

    Perhaps all Labor MPs should read first these two commentaries before taking a stand:

    1. The fact that you support someone as economically illiterate, and opposed to all change as Mike Lee explains a lot about the linear city.

      1. Frank, I do not ‘support Mike Lee’ (I did not vote for him), I support what he explains is happening behind the whole intensification circus. And it’s not about ‘economic literacy’, it’s about political literacy (too hard?).
        The reason I trust it’s correct is because I have similar information from other sources. You need to read your sentence again to realise (perhaps) what a piece of incoherent nonsense you have written.

      2. I definitely would not criticise someone who smells a rat about the claimed correlation between higher densities and affordability. It is high time people noticed the evidence, even if they lack the time to study reams of established urban economics literature. I and several of my contacts have been asking advocates of this kind of planning, for years, where is their evidence from anywhere in the world, that intensification rather than greenfields expansion, delivers housing affordabliity? Hong Kong’s median multiple is 17 for a median “home” of a 50 square metre dog box in the sky, while median multiple 3 cities in the USA tend to have a median home with several bedrooms, on 1/4 acre or more of section. No answer has been forthcoming yet, except nonsense answers like “Vancouver” and “Melbourne” – cities with median multiples of 8 to 10?

        1. Can you name a city that has actually liberalised land use sufficiently to provide for decades of growth with genuine competition between developable sites?

          1. Literally every city that has scored a median multiple of 3 all along in the Demographia reports, has liberal enough land use policies for that to be possible. NZ for several decades, also had policy liberal enough, as did Australia, Canada, California, France, and most of the first world. The UK were an early exception that proves the rule.

            But if you are asking if any city has reversed the once-liberal status quo, got a housing supply problem, and re-liberalised and solved the problem – the only possibility is that some cities in Florida are in the middle of this process now. So far, the problem has been deeply entrenched everywhere it has taken hold. The British have been in a housing market disaster ever since the 1950’s and have still not learned.

            I believe there are some cities in France and Germany, not covered by the Demographia survey, that have sustained housing affordability against the trend. In these cases, interestingly, the urban area density is similar to Auckland’s or even less. And in France and Germany, it is not all a question of clever planning around PT, better site assembly, and the path “TO” more concentrated density, as some advocates like to claim. Focusing on these is like trying to replicate a delicious cake including the same almonds and liqueurs along with the flour, but failing to notice it has eggs in it too. In France and Germany’s case, the eggs are the Autoroutes and Autobahns and hence massive amounts of exurban property accessible to urban economies (due to the high speeds). Many French and German cities would have multiple radial Autobahn routes heading out in different directions, which in contrast to Auckland’s mere “North” and “South” at a snail’s pace, would practically allow for access to something like 100 times as much exurban property. There will be a far closer similarity between France / Germany and the USA, in terms of automobile access to land supply, than we might have noticed. The Germans being able to do twice the speed, means in terms of simple mathematics, that the extra land volume accessed by urban workforces is the extra speed, SQUARED, TIMES “pi”.

            There is also the reality that in France, Germany and all “old” countries, their famous dense population nodes were once much denser than now. It is far easier to have an urban core fall from 20,000 people per square km to 10,000 over 100 years, than it is to have one increase from 5,000 to 10,000 in a couple of decades. The former is compatible with falling land prices and affordability, the latter is absolutely not.

    2. Dushko, theory in every field is indeed the right and proper endeavour for academics, however when those same academics wade into public debates [and I believe they should more than they do in our culture] it behooves them even more to check their pet theories against the facts.

      And here is where you are embarrassing yourself and your institution mightily, this claim is simply not factual, in fact it is 180 degrees wrong:

      ‘(1) got utterly wrong how much Akl should grow up and how much out (70%:30%, instead exactly the opposite);’
      (2) wants to make Auckland a ‘compact city’, while Auckland obviously and unstoppably is evolving as a linear city (and no plan can change that);’

      In the years 1996-2011 Auckland 71% within urban area and 29% in Greenfields [lineally or otherwise]:

      We discussed these publicly available numbers in a previous post which you can find here, as it appears your research has missed it:

      1. Patrick – by insisting for a third time that I ‘am embarrassing myself and my institution’, you are embarrassing yourself.

        Do you know how to play the ball, not the man?

        The original question was ‘over three decades’, not two. Never mind. There are several problems with your (Matt L’s) statistic. The principal one is that it counts all development inside the MULs at the time, as ‘intensification’, while a lot of it is actually traditional suburban development on the edges (thus ‘sprawl’). Second, another big chunk of that development is actually back sections and other in-fill opportunities inside the city – shall we say, ‘densification’ rather than ‘intensification’. Third, some of the ‘new’ construction is simply replacement for old homes, therefore not intensification under any category. Lastly, this statistic probably does not account for various forms of outer, peri-urban development, some of it non-residential anyway. So the real scale of Auckland-generated regional growth (sprawl) is not in the picture.

        If we did a rough compensation for all these measurement-induced anomalies, I reckon we’d arrive at 30:70 for the (real) intensification/expansion ratio. Which is what I have been saying is ‘normal’, that is achievable for Auckland without political blood and tears.

        This is all very interesting. It shows that the whole panic over the ‘evil sprawl’ has been exaggerated from the start. So one inevitably has to ask: why then have we had this five year-long orgy of strategic planning which must have costs us by now tens of millions of dollars and endless debates and hearings? Why? Is it so that the new super-city mayor and his planners can look really important? Or to break open the land market in Auckland’s more attractive suburbs for developers and speculators, because the era of the soft, ‘organic’, mainly neighbourhood-friendly densification is over, and the only way to continue milking profits from the constrained land supply is to bulldoze the houses and build apartments. Or both?

        I actually don’t know.
        But I smell a rat.
        And I have the feeling that TransportBlog has been pushed into this without being aware it’s being used.

        After all, read Matt L’s intelligent and intriguing conclusion.
        I am really tired of tutoring you for free, at the expense of my students. This has been going on for a week now. And you are not a fast learner, from the evidence so far.

        1. I’m just so disappointed Dushko, I am intensely in favour of an increase in intellectual input into daily discourse, so I support your activity. But we all need the quality of that input to increase. Theory is great but it must be based in fact and evidence in order to reach beyond dreamland.

          The data above is not Matt’s, but is from the Council’s independent research unit and is factual. What it shows is what ‘the market’ wants, ie what people want, and that is that many [but of course not everyone] values proximity to the centre of economic, social, and cultural activity. That this has mostly, but not only, been in the form of ‘garden gobbling’, ie infill housing is probably something we both regret, but that is simply a function of both current regulation and economic reality. In other words, people’s dwelling choices are bounded by regulatory and economic realities.

          However we are indeed at the very moment when the regulatory aspect of these choices could change, which is to say that we could change the set of planning regs formed in the sprawl/motorway era so that this urge for proximity could be allowed to express itself in ways that result in better urban form outcomes, to further satisfy more people’s various desires in dwelling location and type.

          Or we could promote unrealities that simply give support to those that wish to enforce exclusionary urban land use policy on everyone. Intentionally or otherwise that is the outcome of your public promotion of unrealistic endless outward urban development and criticism of any kind of density increase in Auckland. I’m sure the thought behind this is sincere but it is nonetheless regrettable in outcome, because it undermines real possibilities while offering nothing actual in return.

          1. But isn’t the reality in what you are saying, and Dushko is pointing out, that “garden gobbling” has reached its limits, people’s preferences have largely been satisfied, they and their neighbours have sold off the unwanted backyards, got a lot more houses crammed in, and now they are saying “no more”? Auckland’s overall density has reached 2500 per square km, which is right in French / German / Dutch 1-million-population city territory, and only Toronto in the Anglo New World (with 6 million people) is any denser? I fully accept and agree with you that there are different measures of density weighted to reflect that the density is far more efficiently located in European cities – but then the reality is that they had incredibly high densities at those locations back in Victorian times. The modern “high” densities actually represent a decline since then. This is consistent with housing in all locations remaining affordable overall as a population drift to suburbs occurs. It is also consistent with some proportion of centrally located property remaining “blighted” and affordable to low income earners (and a deliberate policy of allowing poor people to remain in redeveloped locations, reflecting in lower prices paid for sites). But attempting to reverse the population drift in a New World city that never had the Victorian era tenements, is absolutely impossible under Anglo Property rights status quo, because prices will rise to a level most people cannot afford, long before much population relocation has occurred.

            Some urban economists and commentators have coined the term “dense sprawl” to describe cities like Auckland. A myth that has been put across the NZ public, is that Auckland is the epitome of low density sprawl and condemnations of this sort of sprawl in US cities where it really does exist, is co-opted into Auckland’s context when it is not relevant at all. Dozens of US cities are 1/3 Auckland’s density, and have an average section size of 2/3 of an acre. Even the 1/4 acre was only ever enjoyed by a minority here, and there are now exactly ten 1/4 acre (or larger) properties left on the Isthmus.

            The “dense sprawl” we have allowed already, now is an unintentional barrier to more efficient intensification. There are that many more “neighbours” to negotiate with and aggravate, there are less large sites appropriate for easy development to apartment blocks because low-rise stuff has already been done everywhere it can be. Add to this, that speculation in land values (in land-rationed cities) actually reduces the investment in building new floor space and shortages are the new norm regardless of how much on-paper upzoning is done. Decades of such planning in the UK has only resulted in a worse and worse shortage of housing. It is absurd to blame “restrictions on density” for this in UK cities, when dozens of square miles of city all over the pace have been upzoned and redevelopment is happening at such a snail’s pace, seriously lagging the “supply” assumed in the Plans, in the face of a desperate shortage of housing. Auckland is heading the same way.

          2. Patrick, why are you so heavily criticising people with your dogma. You are a photographer who wears a hat whos only knowlege with rgards these issues is what you read on this blog. Why dont you let other people have their own opinion

          3. Phil which UK cities have huge quanties of upzoned land? Are you just talking about brown fields ex industrial sites?

          4. @Phil “people’s preferences have largely been satisfied”

            Which people? That’s the underlying issue here. If I want to live in a sea of detached dwellings, I have miles of options. A denser form close to amenities I value? Not so much.

        2. I think there has been a series of coinciding factors that have led to this blind alley in growth policy. Not the least of them, is that Auckland (and many other cities around the world) have reached a point where the existing 3 waters infrastructure is starting to require costly repairs and renewal, and steep rates increases would be required to cover this. Along with this is the excellent point made by Cr Lee on his blog, that PT subsidies are becoming an increasing cost burden without actually providing as significant an amount of travel as in the past.

          A con trick has been pulled on the public to the effect that “your rates will have to go up if we keep allowing greenfields sprawl” – which is because the infrastructure for greenfields sprawl would be financed by rates charged to the residents in those developments, while ratepayers in existing areas would have to pay for the run-down state of their own infrastructure. The con trick involves the falsehood being peddled to the public that “intensification would save on infrastructure costs”, with the impression created that there is spare capacity in that infrastructure. In fact the trick is to force developers to pay for the infrastructure under the guise that it is “capacity expansion necessitated by your new apartments” and by extension, force the new residents to pay upfront in the cost of their housing, for what should have been covered by rates. It is a “new revenue stream” to get the Council out of a fiscal hole. The arguments for the compact city are made in totally bad faith.

          But the damage from this bad faith does not end at “the cost of infrastructure being shifted from rates to the price of redevelopment to higher intensities”. if only it were only that! The rationing of land within the growth boundary causes inflation in the price of it by factors of tenfold to thirty-fold, meaning that every new entrant to the property market from now till forever, is paying many times the averted rates burden of “cost of infrastructure”, in the price of their home, regardless of where it is. The averting of the rates bill for infrastructure has created an ongoing wealth transfer orders of magnitude greater. I have confidence in Kiwis fair-go attitudes, that if they were given the facts and the options, they would opt for the comparatively modest rates increases over their children and their children’s children being turned into mortgage slaves and “generation rent”.

          There is actually a study in the USA that put figures on this issue – “The Costs of Sprawl 2000”. While the figures in the aggregate were forbidding, when it is expressed in terms of “cost per household per year” to finance the new infrastructure, it worked out at $50.

          1. “force developers to pay for the infrastructure under the guise that it is “capacity expansion necessitated by your new apartments” and by extension, force the new residents to pay upfront in the cost of their housing, for what should have been covered by rates.”

            Please explain how come other ratepayers should pay for the infrastructure to support new residents?

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