A couple of days ago Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse raised a point that I’ve suggested from time to time for years, that the council’s investment should match the areas experiencing the most growth. It was part of an article in which she also decried the argument used by some in the recent Unitary Plan debate that suburbs close to the city should not have any change as they are “aspirational suburbs”, something she calls distasteful.

“Not only is more money being spent in these suburbs closer to the CBD, there’s also an expectation that there is not going to be much growth in them,” Hulse says.

“And as someone who lives out west – that really strikes me as being fundamentally not right.”

Zoning along the main transport corridors and close to town centres should be equal “whether it’s Remuera or Glendowie or Glen Eden”, she says.

Hulse says the concept of “aspirational suburbs” has been a recurring theme over the past few months.

Residents of inner-city suburbs have espoused the view that their suburbs “should pretty much stay as they are because they are leafy and beautiful and that people out west and down south should simply accept that their suburbs aren’t as worthy of preservation”.

….

“And there’s a certain amount of prejudice creeping into this discussion, which I find distasteful.

“Their preference is that the west is probably of less importance, and to save some of the ‘lovely suburbs’ in their area, the west should just suck it up and grow more.

“Now if the south and the west were also going to accept the bulk of the expensive infrastructure investment, like light rail which is being promoted in places like Dominion Rd and through the Eden-Albert area, then maybe this would be a more equable discussion.”

It’s an interesting point and as mentioned above, one I’ve suggested before. Population growth across Auckland needs to be supported by a range of physical/social infrastructure and more services. Whether that be better public transport and bike lanes, improvements to our streets, water supply, parks, community centres or a range or other things, the growing population needs to be supported. And in an environment where there is a great desire to reduce rates or keep rises to a minimum that means we have to get better at prioritising what we invest in.

So let’s look at a few examples, below are the zoning maps in the Unitary Plan as it was when notified. If you had $400 million to spend would you do so on a single road to create an additional connection to a peninsula where almost no growth is allowed to occur or would you spend it the area/s that aren’t scared of change and as such have been zoned to allow a lot more people to live in them. In case you need a reminder the darker yellow/orange areas are Terraced House and Apartment zones while the dark peachy colour is the mixed housing urban zone. By comparison the Whangaparaoa Peninsula is almost exclusively a single house zone. That means unless someone is holding vacant sections, the look of the peninsula isn’t going to change much any time soon.

PAUP maps - West vs Whangapararoa

If local politicians knew there wouldn’t be any investment in improvements – or at least much more limited investment I wonder how that would change perceptions on the housing debate?

Of course as usual it would never quite be that simple. I suspect that whatever sense of entitlement that exists around housing will also exist around council investment too and there would be a lot of complaints about paying rates and “not getting anything in return”

There are also other complicating factors, such as where investment is needed due to the impact somewhere else. Auckland Transport’s plans for light rail are a good example of this. They have suggested up to four routes on the isthmus though some of the most hostile anti-change areas in Auckland. As I understand it, one of the key reasons for looking at light rail is the limited space within which buses are already struggling. In that case the primary beneficiary might be someone who lives on/near one of the four isthmus routes who would have better transport options but it may mean that city dwellers and visitors also have big benefits from reduced bus and car volume, noise, pollution, congestion etc.

All up it’s an interesting idea and one that might have merit in some form but it also isn’t likely to be practical for all situations. What do you think, should the focus as much investment as possible on the areas that allow for growth?

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39 comments

  1. To some extent this should happen due to growth projections forming the base behind transport modelling tools. It’s hard to know how frequently the growth inputs are updated though.

  2. I would go further and lower the level of service to any suburbs who have been actively fighting intensification – less frequent road and parks maintenance, etc. And certainly no new community centres, libraries, streetscape or town centre improvements.

    They want to protect their current level of amenity? Let em have the faded coastal village of their memories.

    1. nice: ‘Let em have the faded coastal village of their memories.’

      Even if it was possible; what they often express a desire for is pre WWII visions, quarter acre sites etc, there is nowhere in Auckland like that now or that could be like that, as a way of seriously adding to the debate about the present and future; it’s all sentimental nonsense.

      1. You think apartment buildings will make the area shit? I have three apartment developments going on down my road as I write this. Looking forward to them – they will support even more cafes and restaurants within walking distance of my house – better living for me!

        1. That is a kind view to take Matthew but my comment was more an attack on the mean spirit of saying if you dont allow change you cant have civic amenity (even though they are still expected to pay rates).

          1. Lol – the people who want to lock everyone else out of good suburbs but take their rates money for luxury transport projects are calling others mean spirited.

          2. Why should the rates of residents in areas requiring more infrastructure because they are accepting intensification subsidise whinging numpties who refuse to share their neighbourhood with others? Natural justice, innit.

          3. Yeah its funny isn’t it that people bash sprawl and say there shouldn’t be new subdivisions unless the developer pays for 100% of the infrastructure. But those same people want to stick their hand in our pockets to pay for the costs of intensification.

          4. Because central areas are older, their 3 waters, etc., infrastructure is probably due for renewal sooner than newer outer suburbs, so doesn’t it make sense to upgrade 50-70-year-old pipes with bigger ones than it does to replace 20-30-year-old pipes that still have another 30-40 years remaining in their life cycle?

            Surely this is the practical and pragmatic way to do things; up-zone in places where the infrastructure is due for renewal anyway, i.e., the older inner suburbs, first, and then work out from there. That would save ratepayers and taxpayers many billions of dollars over the next 40 years or so (and the central government is starting to make it clear that they will not pay for Auckland to sprawl, and Auckland Council can’t enable it without central government, so it can’t happen).

        2. It’s nice when someone rich enough to eat at restaurants and cafes imposes his view of what is fitting on the rest of us struggling to get by

  3. I sort of believe the opposite of Sacha!

    Two reasons why: first I think Auckland has under-invested in public transport for decades now,, and we have a real need to play catch up over all of Auckland.

    The model of investment following growth is logical but it assumes that public transport services are already adequate, which they are not for much of Auckland. Start by providing every part of Auckland with access to frequent public transport at a decent cost, then follow population growth to meet future capacity.

    Secondly if you wish to reduce amenity, you should also reduce the rates that you are charging for those services. That said, if an area isn’t growing it might need less investment in any case.

    1. I’m talking investment ahead of planned growth. We do not have leaders who will provide enough support and resources to do the whole netwok at once, so I’d rather see us get smart about what gets done first. The others can join the queue.

  4. I agree with your point in general.

    When it comes to LRT, this should be a value free desicion as much as possible based on corridor capacity.

    Anywhere that wants LRT should first be willing to set up bus corridors with the similar priority as LRT, within practical bounds. That would mean centre running bus lanes through the isthmus. The decision to invest in LRT would then come down to capacity along those routes of LRT vs bus.

    Where future growth comes into it is – if the bus based option reaches capacity, but little future growth in development is possible, then it may be more efficient to just stick with buses at capacity.

    As for too many buses in the city centre – as I have said before lets start reallocating road space before we decide whether to switch to LRT. It appears to me the main issue with buses in the city centre is two fold – both a lack of priority and a perceived need to layover the buses in the city cnetre for a period of time. On the second point, the main reason for this is that apparently it is too difficult to keep a schedule running non stop into the centre and then back out again. But if we have proper bus priority this should be much less of an issue. Buses should run into the centre and out again without dwelling – they currently are stored in the place where space is most as a premium. Rant over.

    1. Yes Matthew where there is space; certainly Queen St should have full time bus lanes and Fanshawe should dedicate more space to the buses doing the heavy lifting. But full on BRT takes space, this is the ultimate reason for the higher capex rail systems everywhere in the world; high capacity and spatial efficiency. Auckland simply does not have spare road capacity for full on BRT [like Buenos Aires]:

      1. Sure I hear what you saying – I dont envisage BRT down Queen St. If ultimately we need to run LRT because the city centre is clogged then we should run it on the highest frequency routes where we will get the most bang for buck. Which probably means the isthmus. However could it mean that the NW busway becomes the NW LRT (instead of isthmus LRT) given growth out there? Not building a busway is probably going to relieve a fair bit of bus pressure. I would be happy with that call.

      2. I understand we are getting bus lanes in Queen St soon. Previous Councils have fought the idea for decades as they didn’t want noisy diesel buses through what they hoped would be a premier retail area. Maybe they have given up on those amenity goals.

          1. It does and I agree. But in a city where they run clapped out buses http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2016/03/10/you-know-march-madness-is-really-mad-when/ you just know they will take the cheap option. Queen Street will become a noisy transit space rather high quality retail. I mean what do you think are the chances of a private mall operator like St Lukes allowing diesel buses to run through the centre of their mall 4m from the front door of their shops. But AT would be fine with it.

          2. Well for starters the buses should be down the centre! Or at least separated from the shops by generous footpaths and cycle lanes. I would hope they put as much urban design effort into the bus corridor as they would into a future LRT corridor (which looks rather pleasant from the renderings that have been produce).

            LRT is clearly not a cheap option. Neither is underground rail. so the council is in favour of spending to achieve outcomes. But yes I agree they should not cheap out or ignore certain effects.

        1. Partial bus lanes coming for Queen St; retaining on-street parking between bus lanes and general traffic lanes, and of course they stop at intersections for the usual traffic engineers’ delight of dedicated lanes-for-every-minor-movement. North of Victoria St only.

          Still a great step in the right direction, while impatient I have become persuaded by the power of the incremental, now lets start chopping out right hand turns into and out of Queen to expedite the high value movements: pedestrians, and vehicles running east-west, and transit north-south.

          https://at.govt.nz/media/1518026/queen-st-external-consultation-plans.pdf

  5. I understand the sentiment, but it would be stupid to build better transport where it isn’t yet needed at the expense of not building better transport where it is needed. By all means make provisions for routes in areas of growth, but don’t build stuff before its even needed.

    The west and south have had billions spent on rail, motorways, etc – isn’t it about time the Isthmus got some of the transport budget?

  6. The suburbs deserve reliable journey times and transport choice too!
    I was at the NW consultation last night (as a resident & citizen). here’s a comment from the public that illustrates our plight:

    “Kumeu/Huapai doesn’t even have its own direct bus route to the city, we have to service another suburb on the way”

    It’s true, our only bus service still goes via Massey. And the timetable hasn’t seen any improvement since all the new houses have been built, it has a 1.5 hour journey time to the city. There are also gaps in the timetable at peak times presumably so that the operator can pick up some cash doing school runs.
    Our bus service has gone backwards in the ten years I have lived out this way (and EMUs mean no more trains for Waitakere), the bus timetable has been slowed down to match worse-case-scenario congestion, so on a day when the bus has a good run home on the motorway, you can look forward to an infuriating 10-minute+ wait at Westgate when we pretend that we were stuck in traffic. Big ups to the West Harbour Ferry though, it is excellent and my favourite commute option.

    There’s now congestion from 630am from Kumeu to Brighams Creek roundabout, I bet that wasn’t in the traffic models that were used to justify the new developments. I hope that those models are being updated to reflect the current situation, otherwise new developments are being consented based on fiction. Where are the public transport development contributions going? From the houses, but also from the new NW shopping centre? The new houses at Riverhead don’t even have a bus service (discontinued about five years ago). If you want to go to the new NW Mall, you have the schlep across from Westgate.

    I am all for development, but it needs to be transit-oriented and public transport services need to keep pace. We can’t all hang out for the NW Busway to open in 2025-2035, that isn’t going to help the locals that have seen their commute drive times grow this year from 1.5 to 2 hours a day to 3 or even 4 hours. When the outer suburbs get clogged, people are more adversely affected because they already had a longer commute.

    It’s good that the consultation is happening and it was heartening to see lots of questions (demands, rants and post-its) about PT at last night’s open day. IMO, the last thing we need is more roading to pour all of the traffic into an already saturated motorway network (the big red line on this map): http://ourauckland.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/articles/news/2016/03/transport-for-new-north-western-auckland-housing/ but I don’t think the general public really understand that we can’t build our way out of congestion, so I hope requests for bypasses and two-laning don’t drown out more cost effective alternatives to providing congestion free choices.

  7. Another option/gambit. Looking at the UP maps, the Manukau Road LRT line looks to have by far the most potential intensification. Should LRT through to Onehunga be the first cab off the rank if the Mt Edenites dont want intensification?

    Which begs the question – why was LRT via Dom Rd considered the best LRT to airport option and not the more direct Manukau Road line?

    1. I imagine Dom road is quicker as it doesn’t go through newmarket and would have a lot less traffic lights.
      – Onehunga already has train options, Mt Roskill doesn’t.
      – Dom road is the busier bus route.
      – Dom road light rail will go down queen street, Manukau down symonds street. I guess they can’t put LRT down symonds street until they get Dom road and Sandringham road buses off Symonds street.

      1. There is no reason why they couldnt run the Manukau line down Q St though. As for Newmarket – it is an excellent reason why the Manukau Road line would be best to go first – it has a huge amount of potential growth and existing density. Sorting transit priority through Newmarket really is an immediate priority. Royal Oak looks to be one of the most intensified centres in Auckland.

        1. I think that the Symonds St, hospital, Newmarket, Manuakau Rd, Onehunga route has much more potential for LRT than Dominion Rd , Sandringham Rd or Mt Eden as it would connect a number of origin and destinations together such as the Unviersity campuses, hospital , Newmaket shopping , Alexandra Park etc. Providing such connections is a known factor for successfull light rail routes overseas as well as the potential for facilitating intensification.

          Dominion Rd is by contrast more of a pipeline that lots of buses are forced through. Unless the zoning can be changed along Dominion Rd to facilitate intensification and create new destinations, I think it will remain somewhere that people largely pass through en route to somewhere else.

  8. I do not have a problem with capital going into areas willing to accept intensification especially if that spending is focussed on semi autonomous regional hubs aka New Lynn. Urban design is about finding a balance . The Albany basin is an example. The land is there, the infrastructure is in place, and the zonings are already sorted. The area could be a showcase of how well intensification could be done. If local and central Government pushed this area to investors so that there was rapid uptake it would result in a major hub of employment ,housing and associated services.The Anzac quarter at Takapuna is another area ripe for immediate investment ( already zoned and serviced ready to go ). Northcote central is another waiting to go and ripe for intensification. The problem with all these areas is finding investors with sufficient capital to complete such massive projects. Council and Government need to choose a couple of areas and get on with it and gets some runs on the board. Argueing about a couple of xtra houses on an individual section in the green leaf suburbs is a complete waste of time. The real issue is masterplanning select areas to invest in and doing it well. Once the community sees how good intensification can be then everyone will want their area developed.

  9. Be very careful what you ask for (cos you just might get it.) Arguments for focussing our transport spend on the outer suburbs is just what the government has been pushing (particularly under Joyce & Brownlee) so we should not encourage them even further. If we provide lots of free-running transport (whether cars or PT) to the outer fringes that will further encourage the long commute. We should be encouraging people to live in reasonable proximity to their principle destination (work, education, whatever) and not providing perverse incentives to travel long distances on a regular daily basis. Where we should be focussing is on a version of the Congestion Free Network based around fast and convenient PT connections between the 10 metro centres envisaged by the Auckland Plan and hopefully realised under the Unitary Plan which should become operative in about 6 months.

    1. > We should be encouraging people to live in reasonable proximity to their principle destination (work, education, whatever) and not providing perverse incentives to travel long distances on a regular daily basis.

      Maybe the Albert-Eden local board could start by supporting adding more housing in their area, since it’s reasonably proximate to the large amount of work and education opportunities in the central city.

  10. > We should be encouraging people to live in reasonable proximity to their principle destination (work, education, whatever) and not providing perverse incentives to travel long distances on a regular daily basis.

    Nice idea but not always practical. Many households have more than one worker and they don’t both/all work in the same place. Knew a couple where she worked in Browns Bay and he worked near the airport. They bought a house in New Lynn. I mean, why not New Lynn?

    Also, people buy houses based on things other than just work – or just one “principle” destination – like neighbourhoods, schools, proximity to family. You don’t want to move house and uproot your kids’ schooling every time someone changes their job. Not everyone experiences stable employment; and living near grandma might be the most important thing because she provides after school care and babysitting.

    1. Exactly, inner ring suburbs are closest to everything so we should allow more people to live there. By also allowing more obs in that area we increase the chances of both partners working nearby too.

  11. I was at the NW consultation last night too. Great to see so many people – clearly a sign of the frustration out this way. Lots of SHAs and other growth, no sign of any transport infrastructure to cope.

    The West Harbour ferry service is good but suffering from under-capacity this year as passenger volumes are noticeably up – AT needs to do something about times and ferry capacity and staffing. The 3.05 ferry couldn’t sail yesterday because too many people boarded for the one staff member to take (the boat was far from full – but there are rules around staffing and passenger numbers) and no one was willing to get off given the next ferry wasn’t until 4.40. In the end the company offered to put on a water taxi and enough people volunteered to wait for that and the ferry was able to leave. I see they have put another ferry on tonight to deal with capacity problems.

    The West Harbour infrastructure needs a big re-think too – parking, pedestrian safety, somewhere to wait in shelter at both ends. Get this right and the ferry service has the potential to take many many vehicles off the NW motorway.

    1. Glad you got along too.
      Yeah that ferry situation sucked, my friend was unable to get back to her donkey on time for its hoof trim at 5.

  12. Strongly agreed as it gives politican an incentive to develop.

    Coming back to your comment about people would complain their rates spent somewhere else.

    Spending on maintance and service should be funded by rates residences paid.

    Spending on capitial investment such as new infrastructure should be decided on the projected population growth, based on evidence empirical study instead of political decisions.

    The cost would eventually be funded by new development contributions, council land holding capital gain, public private partnership, council bond (paid back by total rates increase after development), and central government tax.

  13. Yep, if certain suburbs want to preserve their character and stay exactly as they are then let then. Put the investment into other areas that are reasonably willing to develop.

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