If you’re not one of the avid followers of the RCG Development Tracker – “Trackies”, as they like to be known* – you might have missed a few tweaks I made last month.

The Tracker does a good job of showing discrete, one-off projects, but it’s a little harder to represent major long-term developments. For example, Hobsonville Point is going through massive growth at the moment, and delivering something like 5,000 new homes by the time it’s finished.

What I used to do for places like Hobsonville Point or Stonefields was show some of the individual projects – apartment buildings, etc – but not the overall development. I’ve now added in the outlines of these areas to the Tracker map, and added brief descriptions. The tricky part, which I haven’t quite worked out yet, is how to best represent them in the Tracker tables. Currently they’re excluded for the most part, but watch this space.

Anyway, let’s talk about Stonefields. Looking at Stonefields today, you could be fooled into thinking it’s almost finished, but the reality is it’s not even halfway.

Stonefields in the RCG Development Tracker – yellow dots are apartment buildings

Most of the townhouses and terraces planned for Stonefields have now been built, but there are still around 1,500 apartments to come. So far, only 1,000 homes have been consented in Stonefields, and the master plan (below) envisages 2,500 in total.

Stonefields master plan 08.2011

The first homes were completed in 2007, but those were the ‘easy’ ones – along Ngahue Drive and Magma Crescent, at roughly the same level as the surrounding suburbs, opposite a golf course and in a traditional detached format.

The construction then moved into the quarry itself, not helped by the GFC and recession hitting in 2008 (the original developer, Landco, went into receivership and Todd Property Group took over). In those years, it was much easier to sell detached townhouses than terraces, so the townhouses were built first. In the last few years, there’s been a gradual shift towards building terraces and apartments.

The first apartment building (Saltus) was completed in 2013, two more followed in 2015, and another two are under construction at the moment. There will be quite a number still to come.

Stonefields School opened in 2011, and the Stonefields Market opened in 2014, although the SuperValue supermarket didn’t open until February 2016. The parks and landscaped areas around Stonefields were developed gradually, with the playground opening in September 2014 (although not without controversy).

Stonefields could take another five years to complete, and have a population of around 6,000 people – that’s double the current population of 3,000(ish), and as late as 2006 there was no one living there at all.

One issue with Stonefields is that it has quite poor transport connectivity – the only access routes are along College Rd. In the New Network, Stonefields will be served by the 725 bus linking it to the Panmure and Glen Innes train stations. However, the bus will only run every 20 minutes at peak times, and every 30 minutes at other times.

Hopefully, as Stonefields’ population keeps growing, it will support more frequent bus services…

* I just made this up.

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  1. Yes the connectivity is pretty bad. The developer probably should have been required to build another access point from the West suitable for buses to use. 20 minutes between services is pretty slack for buses, as John mentioned though hopefully that improves once more people live there.

  2. The sale/closure and eventual redevelopment of UoA’s Tamaki campus offers the chance of even more residential in this part of the world, so this should help with being able to justify better transport links

  3. > One issue with Stonefields is that it has quite poor transport connectivity

    it seems almost perfectly misdesigned to have that poor transport connectivity – one big cul-de-sac. The connections would never be perfect given the giant man-made cliff at the western end, but it could still have at least had a connection to the Ngahue Rd end of Lunn Ave, where the gradient isn’t so bad. If there was a east-west through-route it would at least be practical to route a bus through, rather than into and out of Stonefields. Which could justify a better frequency.

    The other issue (which at least is fixable in the long term) is how drearily monotonous it is. Every single building the same materials and same dull lifeless colours. Ghastly, as Prince Philip might say.

    1. There could also be a Whanganui style lift up to Gollam Road to the south which would give a 15 min walk to the Panmure Station.

        1. Or just a footpath.

          The elevation difference between Barbarich Dr. in the eastern corner and Lunn Avenue is only 20 metres. Which is fine. I can tell because the elevation difference between my apartment and the Victoria Street countdown supermarket is about 30 metres.

          It would be really stupid if the people in the apartments in that couldn’t just walk to Lunn Ave.

          OK a lift or cable car would be more awesome, and would fit in well between some medium-rise apartments.

  4. Apart from the weird cul-de-sac layout, this is a quite sane street grid. Both the layout, and the width of the streets (most roadways are about 6 metres wide, which is claustrophobic by NZ standards).

    But I wonder why Bluegray Avenue needs that 23 metre wide right of way.

    All the houses on that street have a garage fronting on a back alley. Why don’t we use that alley as “the street”? We don’t need that roadway at all. And surely we can find smarter ways to accommodate buses and some extra parking.

    The alleys are about 6 metre wide, which is more narrow than your typical street, but given that Stonefields is a big cul-de-sac, it’s not going to have a lot of traffic, so that street will be a shared space. 6 metre is plenty of width then. Those double garages should be enough to park most cars off-street.

    The other stupid thing is that because we have both the street and that alley, the garage moves to the back, and the town house and garage cover almost the entire lot. These are 200 m² sections, which in Europe is usually large enough to have both off-street parking and a decent backyard.

    How come we suck so badly at building town houses? No wonder people are so up in arms about it.

    1. I expect the wider road on Bluegrey Ave is to give the apartments on either side more ‘space’, and sunlight of course. Same deal with Stonefields Ave – these two wider roads have higher density (and taller buildings) along them, so the wider streets mean that they don’t feel as crammed in.

      1. First: If sunlight a concern then the first important thing is to NOT build a garage right next to your unit.

        Second: The argument about space is fair enough, but in that case we don’t need to put that big roadway in that space. Alternatives include a linear park (I’ve seen some examples of this from Germany on this blog before), or bigger private yards.

        And if you think of this a bit more, in any case we’re probably going to have trees in that space which will shade those units anyway.

        Third, to solve the garage problem, you can have the garage on the ground floor, and the units on the first and second floor. That’s a common arrangement overseas. Look at all the space that would free up on the lot. But you need planners who aren’t brain-dead enough to put rules like a 2-storey limit on most of the urban area.

        This comes down to how to use space efficiently. The effect of those alleys and garages, is that almost all space between houses is taken up by infrastructure for cars.

  5. It’s interesting how the mindset has moved on over the period of the Unitary Plan. Fletcher Residential and later Todd Property were always dead against building anything other than detached houses at Stonefields, I recall Evan Davies (CEO of Todd) saying that the only potential apartment dwellers seemed to expect cafes at the base of their building, but no-one wanted to do retail in Stonefields because the locals just drove up to the Lunn Ave retail sprawl that they could see on the quarry rim. In relation to Ormiston (another Todd development) he would ask: why would anyone buy an apartment in Ormiston town centre when they could go two hundred metres down the road and have a 3-bedroom house on its own 400m2 section for the same price?

    1. Why on earth would it be the same price? Or perhaps; how on earth could these two types of dwelling in a similar location be the same price?

      Presumably he’s really thinking of his margin, assuming it will be bigger or more certain building what he’s used to building?

  6. A hideous beige conglomerate. Does anybody know, if you were to buy a terraced house, and wanted to paint it yellow or blue, are your neighbours allowed to interfere? I assume that if you did buy there that you like beige, but housing pressure is such that it may no longer be true, 😎

    1. John is that really warranted given that it was basically in the middle of nowhere and really close to both Panmure and GI.

      1. Maybe not now, but definitely down the road. If the Stonefields apartments are a success, I can see developers moving to develop the now rezoned land around Pilkington and Morrin Road.

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