Welcome back to Sunday reading. This week, we’re starting to get evidence of what will happen as a result of the Roads of National Significance: induced traffic and congestion stuff-ups.

Here’s Damian George (Stuff) reporting on outcomes after the opening of the first sections of the Kapiti Expressway:

The $630 million Kapiti expressway has actually doubled the amount of time it takes to commute into Wellington during the morning rush, some motorists say.

One Kapiti Coast resident believes the morning crawl into the capital is now so bad that she is vowing to use the train instead, even though it will cost her $100 more a month.

Councils across the Wellington region have asked the New Zealand Transport Agency to look into the problem. But there may be no quick fix until construction of the Transmission Gully motorway is finished in 2020.

The problem is that while the new four-lane expressway between Mackays Crossing and Peka Peka has shaved minutes off the journey through the Kapiti Coast, it has also created a traffic bottleneck where it connects to the old two-lane State Highway 1, just north of Paekakariki.

Raumati Beach resident Natasha Donald said her 45 to 55 minute morning commute to Wellington’s CBD, which she car-pools with three other people, has ballooned out between 80 and 95 minutes since the expressway opened in February.

That’s not a good look. Unfortunately, the only “solution” that the transport planners are offering is building more highways. Is there any other industry where a forecasting failure on a project that costs hundreds of millions of dollars is rewarded by yet more money?

This isn’t a problem with a single road, by the way. It’s systemic. In the Guardian, Gwyn Topham reports on new research showing that new roads built in England have “almost all failed to either relieve congestion or boost local economies”:

Researchers found that traffic increased much more rapidly in areas with new roads, putting pressure on adjoining roads and giving negligible reductions in journey times. Only one in five road schemes promoted as a boost for local economies demonstrated evidence of any such benefit. Meanwhile, most of the analysed schemes harmed protected landscapes and attempts to protect rare animals and plants were not always successful.

Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of CPRE, said that in announcing the biggest road-building programme since the 1970s, the government had “junked the evidence … saloon bar policy-making won the day”.

Ralph Smyth, the head of infrastructure and legal at CPRE, said: “This a programme that will for ever fail on its own terms, producing a depressing, self-perpetuating cycle of more and more roads that do little for the economy and harm the countryside.

“This landmark research shows that any benefits from roadbuilding are far smaller than thought but the harm much worse. Rather than looking to the past, the government must invest in a forward-looking mobility strategy that puts quality of life ahead of the car.”

This isn’t just a rural highway issue, either. What we’ve been doing isn’t working well for our cities. In The Spinoff, Simon Wilson comments on Auckland’s current transport woes:

In the last five years pedestrian numbers on Queen St have doubled, to 60,000 a day. No other city in the world has seen such growth on its main street. There are now 45,000 people living in the central city: that’s the number the planners said we’d reach in 2032. There are 22 percent more people working in the CBD and the number of commuters arriving on public transport has risen from 13,000 to 40,000.

There are now more people living in the city centre than drive in by car. In fact, the number of cars in the central city hasn’t grown at all.

Walk down Queen St these days and you’ll find the pavements stuffed with people. Drive down, and you could well have a clear run – who, apart from service vehicles and taxis, takes a car into Queen St anymore? Yet it is still a four-lane road from top to bottom.

As for High St, there are now so many people there it’s almost impossible to walk its length – it should be a shoppers’ haven and yet cars, and carparks on both sides, continue to get priority! Why?

The inner city is not what we thought it was going to be when the council adopted the City Centre Masterplan (CCMP) in 2012. Change has been faster and far larger than anyone predicted.

Now it’s time to revise the plan. But guess what? Although car numbers are static and bus and walker numbers are way up, the planners are not going to change tack. To the dismay of many councillors, no big rethink is on the cards. Auckland Transport appears to believe all we should do is delay some plans and rejig some others. The government, which controls most of the money, thinks much the same.

Meanwhile, further afield, things are arguably even worse. Did you know more than half the peak-time commuters on the harbour bridge now ride to work on a rapid transit bus on the dedicated busway? That’s great.

These are North Shore people, who supposedly would never get out of their cars, and yet somehow they have.

That’s rapid transit in action, proving its worth. So why, if we look west, did the widening of the northwest motorway not include a dedicated busway? That one’s on NZTA, the government’s transport funding and planning agency. The word for that decision is: incompetent.

I tend to take a bit more of an optimistic view than Wilson: transport choices have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. The success of the Northern Busway and the growing pedestrian volumes on Queen Street are recent phenomena. But it’s also true that we have a hell of a lot more to do, in a challenging environment where urban growth is bursting at the seams.

Speaking of bursting at the seams, Bernard Hickey (Newsroom) had a great column the other day exploring five reasons why Auckland can’t build enough homes:

Auckland’s housing supply and affordability crisis is proving devilishly hard to fix, partly because the high prices that should help solve the problem have found at least five ways to make the problem worse.

These feedback loops could be broken with the help of least five interventions proposed in recent months, but that is only possible with the political will to overcome the objections of those who benefit from sky-high prices.

First, it’s worth remembering that high prices are supposed to encourage new housing supply, which should in turn help solve the problem of high house prices. That’s what happens in normal markets where land supply for housing is plentiful and the development and construction industry mobilises to address a housing shortage.

Christchurch achieved a burst of new housing supply that has flattened prices since 2014, but only because the usual rules around consenting were relaxed and the central Government poured cash in to build infrastructure. It is the exception that proved the rule, and only happened because a natural disaster broke the business-as-usual rules.

Auckland’s experience over the last 15 years demonstrates how rapidly rising prices have perversely made it even harder to solve the supply crisis. Anyone doubting the extraordinary accelerations in Auckland house prices should look at this Economist chart showing New Zealand’s stunning out-performance vs Australia, Britain, Canada, the United States on a variety of house price measures since 1980, including price to income and price to rent multiples. That is all about Auckland’s two booms over 2002-07 and 2012-16, which have recently infected the likes of Hamilton, Tauranga and Whangarei.

Housing isn’t New Zealand’s only case of policy and market failure: as a new OECD report shows, our environmental performance is staggeringly bad. Kate Gudsell reports in Radio New Zealand:

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has made 50 recommendations in its third environmental performance review, which is held about every 10 years.

It said New Zealand’s economic growth model was approaching its environmental limits.

Among its concerns were irrigation, the Emissions Trading Scheme, transport taxes and declining biodiversity.

The OECD recommended the government review its support for irrigation, saying 75 percent of the country’s water was used for the practice and freshwater was scarce in some regions.

Nitrogen in waterways had increased in step with the growth in dairy herds, and water quality continued to deteriorate in some regions due to agricultural and urban run-off.

The OECD report said gross emissions of greenhouse gasses in New Zealand increased by 6 percent between 2000 and 2014, compared to a 5 percent reduction in the OECD as a whole.

Nearly half of those emissions came from agriculture, the highest share in the OECD.

It said a clear date needed to be set to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme, or alternative pricing and regulatory measures should be introduced.

It also said the transport system was highly dependent on roads, and in need of coherent taxes and more investment in low-carbon transport modes.

Public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure received only 10 percent of the National Land Transport Fund between 2012 and 2015, while 78 percent went to investments in roads.

For anyone arguing that urban growth must be stopped because it’s unsustainable, note that two of these three problems – water quality and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture – arise mainly due to the rural economy. And the third – the environmental impact of transport – will be alleviated, not exacerbated, by the development of towns and cities where it is easier to walk, cycle, or take the bus.

That, by the way, is a no-brainer for a whole range of reasons, including health. In the New York Times, Gretchen Reynolds reports on a new study on the health effects of walking activity: “Should 15,000 steps a day be our new exercise target?

…countless large-scale studies have substantiated that finding, and at this point, there is little doubt that moving or not moving during the day will affect the health of your heart.

But precisely how much exercise might be needed in order to avoid heart disease has remained very much in question. The threshold of 10,000 daily steps, incorporated as a goal into many activity monitors today, has not been scientifically validated as a way to lessen disease risk.

So for the new study, which was published this month in The International Journal of Obesity, researchers at the University of Warwick in England and other institutions decided to refer back to but also advance and expand upon the results of that foundational Transit Workers Study by examining another group of employees whose workdays involve mostly walking or sitting. They turned to postal workers in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Glaswegian mail carriers generally cover their routes on foot, not by driving, and spend many hours each day walking, the scientists knew. But the mail service’s office workers, like office workers almost everywhere, remain seated at their desks during the bulk of the workday.

[…] The risks were magnified at the extremes. For every hour beyond five that workers sat each day, the researchers found, they added about two-tenths of a percentage point to their likelihood of developing heart disease, based on their cumulative risk factors.

Meanwhile, almost any amount of standing and walking reduced a worker’s chances of having a large waistline and other risk factors for heart disease.

But the greatest benefits came from the most exaggerated amounts of activity. Those mail carriers who walked for more than three hours a day, covering at least 15,000 steps, which is about seven miles, generally had normal body mass indexes, waistlines and metabolic profiles. Together, these factors meant that they had, effectively, no heightened risk for cardiac disease.

To close, two pieces on the social order created within cities. First, in the Washington Post, Will Wilkinson asks: “Why does Donald Trump demonize cities?” The answer, he argues, is that cities show that the liberal experiment works, ie that people of many races, colours, and creeds can live side-by-side productively, peacefully, and happily. Great cities always invalidate blut und boden nationalism:

…more and more of America’s dynamism and growth flow from the open city. It’s difficult to predict who will bear the downside burden of disruptive innovation — it could be Rust Belt autoworkers one day and educated, urban members of the elite mainstream media the next — which is why dynamic economies need robust safety nets to protect citizens from the risks of economic dislocation. The denizens of Trump country have borne too much of the disruption and too little of the benefit from innovation. But the redistribution-loving multicultural urban majority can’t be blamed for the inadequacy of the safety net when the party of rural whites has fought for decades to roll it back. Low-density America didn’t vote to be knocked on its heels by capitalist creative destruction, but it has voted time and again against softening the blow.

Political scientists say that countries where the middle class does not culturally identify with the working and lower classes tend to spend less on redistributive social programs. We’re more generous, as a rule, when we recognize ourselves in those who need help. You might argue that this just goes to show that diversity strains solidarity. Or you might argue that, because we need solidarity, we must learn to recognize America in other accents, other complexions, other kitchen aromas.

Honduran cooks in Chicago, Iranian engineers in Seattle, Chinese cardiologists in Atlanta, their children and grandchildren, all of them, are bedrock members of the American community. There is no “us” that excludes them. There is no American national identity apart from the dynamic hybrid culture we have always been creating together. America’s big cities accept this and grow healthier and more productive by the day, while the rest of the country does not accept this, and struggles.

In a multicultural country like ours, an inclusive national identity makes solidarity possible. An exclusive, nostalgic national identity acts like a cancer in the body politic, eating away at the bonds of affinity and cooperation that hold our interests together.

To close on a directly related note, some new research into ethnic diversity and social cohesion shows that people of different ethnicities get along better within neighbourhoods when their society and city as a whole is not segregated. James Lawrence investigates these relationships in the UK:

This study replicates the increasingly ubiquitous finding that neighbourhood diversity is negatively associated with neighbour-trust. However, we demonstrate that this relationship is highly dependent on the level of segregation across the wider-community in which a neighbourhood is nested. Increasing neighbourhood diversity only negatively impacts neighbour-trust when nested in more segregated wider-communities. Individuals living in diverse neighbourhoods nested within integrated wider-communities experience no trust-penalty. These findings show that segregation plays a critical role in the neighbourhood diversity/trust relationship, and that its absence from the literature biases our understanding of how ethnic diversity affects social cohesion.

In other words, if you’re worried about immigration or increasing ethnic diversity affecting trust and social cohesion, don’t try to keep newcomers out of your neighbourhood. Welcome them in to your homes, workplaces, churches, clubs, schools, and playgrounds instead. A segregated society is a dysfunctional society.

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42 comments

  1. Often politicians point to Christchurch as the example for why housing supply measures will work in Auckland. But really they are on different paths for 3 reasons.

    Firsty in Christchurch the crisis was acknowledged by all -Councils -especially Waimakariri and Selwyn, the government and the private sector. There was huge political will by all sectors to get on and rebuild. Good people could quibble over the nature of the rebuild -I think it was too dispersed but the simple fact is houses did get rebuilt.

    In Auckland there has not been the same cross sector acknowledgement of the housing crisis -for many years important sectors have denied that a housing crisis existed in Auckland. If there had been a cross party consensus in 2012 -if KiwiBuild had started then -the programme to build 100,000 houses in 10 years would be almost at the halfway mark. What a missed opportunity that was. https://twitter.com/brendon_harre/status/847630032532946945

    Secondly, the combined political will from all sectors in Canterbury meant that by the end of 2014 to the beginning of 2016 Canterbury was producing 12 new houses per 1000 people.

    In Auckland this rate is only 6 and it has not increased from a year ago.

    Thirdly, Christchurch’s housing crisis was a few one-off demand shocks -earthquakes destroyed housing -mainly the Sept 2010 and Feb 2011 earthquakes but also aftershocks continued for a year or more after that. Once this earthquake sequence was over increased supply could address the demand backlog.

    In Auckland the demand shocks has come in different forms, speculation and possibly foreign investment -but a huge factor is the increase population coming from rampant immigration (50% from less NZ citizens leaving due to a lack of international opportunities, 50% from an increase in non-NZ citizens). This demand shock isn’t a one-off or a short series of one-offs. Immigration has yet to peak and what little housing supply increase Auckland has achieved is not enough to eat way at the demand backlog.

    1. The problem with “fixing” Auckland’s housing problem is its sheer scale. You could build a few thousand houses in Christchurch and deal with the challenge. In Auckland we’re talking like 50,000 to get our head back above water, plus 14,000 a year for growth. The scale of fixing that is just massive.

      1. For a year or two between 2014 and 2016 -Canterbury was building about 7000 houses a year. So more than a few thousand. It took several years at that rate to break the back of Christchurch’s housing crisis -for instance median rents increased $130 from $320 per week to $450 in Christchurch, a 41% increase in three and half years from 2010 to 2014 and only recently have rents dropped back a bit.

        Canterbury’s current building rate -which is probably at its steady state -because this was about the rate of house production in the last immigration/building boom it will produce between 3500 and 4500 houses a year.

        Sure that is not the scale of the problem in Auckland -but it is a reasonable production capacity representing the fact that Greater Christchurch is New Zealand’s second biggest city.

        Auckland should be able to produce 14,000+ houses a year -it has the biggest labour market, the deepest collection of private firms, the biggest Council, the most MPs…… Unfortunately though the housing market as Bernard Hickey details is seriously messed up.

      2. But you keep running into one of the giant problems the government refuses to address and that is the speculators/investors. You can build all the homes you want but if these creatures keep buying them to add to their “portfolio’s” then the prices remain inflated and people still cannot get into their own homes because the few own the many.

        1. If you understand ‘supply and demand’ you would not make such a silly comment. Investors invest because the price goes up, the price would not go up without demand. Immigration creates the demand and it is a no brainer to invest in property, for as long as demand exceeds supply.

          1. Funnily enough I do understand supply and demand and I also understand the drivers behind punting on houses that is inflating prices. 44% of all buyers in Auckland are speculators aka investors, not buy to live in home buyers. There was a similar “this can never end attitude” that came to an end in the US and elsewhere in 2008 rather badly. Does ring any bells?

            Supply of houses is also constrained by investors who are hoovering up housing stock on cheap finance and non existent tax, then “flipping” them to one another and all of that helps drain that supply. Whilst someone is making a quick buck it only encourages inflation of prices but without any real justification.

            The market is shitting itself through sheer unaffordability and colossal debt. The serious long term debt problems any genuine new house owner/dweller will wear has yet to manifest itself in this country but it will.

            We will not fix the supply problem fully until Greed Inc is dealt to!

  2. On the issue of how bad New Zealand’s environment performance has been. The big issue down here in Canterbury is water. It has the potential to be as big a crisis as housing is in Auckland.

    A proper review of the what the experts are saying is truly frightening. Yet for political reasons the issues are being denied, smudged over and community collaboration exercises have been corrupted.

    New Zealand relies on its clean, green image -that is what drives industries like Wine and Tourism. If we lose that reputation that would be a massive loss to New Zealand. Further, New Zealand needs to diversify its economy -not provide hidden subsidies to favoured sectors -by allowing these sectors to privatise the gains and socialise the losses -by shifting the pollution costs to the community.

    Something needs to be done about Canterbury’s Cowtopia -read how bad this situation is here -https://medium.com/@brendon_harre/canterburys-cowtopia-796f06185af7

  3. You’d think the writers here would understand the “Network effect” as it applies to all transport forms.

    This site advocates building complete networks for cycling and trains yet when it comes to other transport forms the concept gets thrown out the window in favour of hatred and vitriol. The network effect also applies here. Congestion is caused by insufficient vehicle priority (IVP) at the end of the Expressway. What is required is a co-ordinated network approach through Wellington running all the way from outside the city, through the center via the Basin flyover and out to the airport. Instead the Expressway runs into a third world roading system and we wonder why congestion results.

    It’s also sad to read this piece in light of a previous piece about roading deaths. Our roading deaths are high due to our third world roading infrastructure. Yet when we improve part of this network to a safer alternative the Jihad on cars re-appears.

    1. Pretty sure everyone here understands the network effect, most of us just disagree that an already comprehensive road network needs to be endlessly expanded, at massive financial and environmental cost, when complementary and more efficient networks lag so far behind in investment.

      Also pretty sure that best-practice evidence-based road safety approaches =/= building shedloads of motorways. Nice concern troll, though. I give it a B+.

    2. In what sense are AKL’s road networks incomplete, or in any way as incomplete as the other networks?
      Additionally traffic death and maiming is, sadly, a feature of the system, so building more roads and encouraging more driving at the expense of all the other safer modes (everything else, basically, including flying), will not reduce the carnage, rather it will increase it.

        1. “It’s a fact” is it? Over the particular stretch of highway that the motorway replaces maybe. However the effects at either end of this motorway and further afield are likely to be more traffic, moving faster, on existing roads. It is here that traffic problems including accident-stats are likely to get worse.

          So at what point can we say that the building of new roads actually ‘fixes’ the problem? Or, put another way, what will our environment (and economy) look like, if we manage to build enough roads to fully accommodate all traffic, everywhere?

    3. Given that they are unfeeling lumps of plastic and metal and unable to communicate for themselves, someone needs to thank you on behalf of cars for your work fighting the humans and their evil jihad.

    4. Dear “Unreal Matthew” – you keep harping on and on about NZ having a “third world roading infrastructure” – you clearly have no understanding of either roading or of the 3rd world. NZ is clearly not 3rd world in its roading – but of course it is not up to scratch in terms of real 1st world countries. We are a definite B grade nation – not at the top, not at the bottom – and we should be happy with that. We don’t have enough money in our economy to build roading to the very best top of the line standard, and nor should we expect to be.

      Do you reckon you could drop your bullshit, faux outrage schtick and grow up on that level?

  4. An increase in land prices is not necessarily an immediate driver of development. If you own land that can be developed and that land is increasing in value at 9% tax free and you can only get 2% if you put your money in the bank then just wait. The difference in Christchurch is there was shortage that everyone new would not last so owners raced each other to develop. In Auckland we all expect future land price increases so we hold.

    1. So if we turned Auckland’s housing demand to a one-off event, by for instance, turning off Auckland’s immigration driven population growth ponzi, then more land would come to the market, prices would drop and house production would increase, until the 40,000 odd housing shortage is filled? Weirdly that might actually work…..

      1. “turning off Auckland’s immigration driven population growth ponzi” – say what you mean, putting Australian style “F*** Off We’re Full” signs up. You clearly ignored the other article on how big, liberal, cultural diverse cities equal wealth.

        1. Last time I was in Manila I saw an awful lot of diversity and bugger all wealth. But anyway say that to people living in cars, people who work for a living, in Auckland Daphne!

        2. Obviously you can’t let a lot of immigrants in, and at the same time choke the supply of housing. That’s crazy. I think even if you’re not a racist it makes sense to slow down immigration until we’re actually able to build more houses.

          1. Thanks Roeland that’s what I meant -we have a simple choice -either massively remove restrictive building practices i.e. let Auckland build up and out a lot more than we currently allow – enough to house the 45,000 people new arrivals that came to Auckland last year.

            That means every year Auckland either builds a Wanganui on top of the city or outside of the city or some combination of the two (most likely).

            Or we cut back on immigration, reduce the demand for housing.

            I am all for the supply increasing but I think we should be realistic and cut back on immigration to make our task a bit easier.

            And as Roeland says, collectively sticking our heads in the sand, pretending the problems with housing, immigration, infrastructure…. do not exist just mean the most vulnerable sections of society gets rationed out of decent housing.

    2. I tend to agree with mfwic on this: Competitive pressure/tension seems to be important for keeping property markets in balance.

      Currently, people appear to expect long-term capital gains on land, which in turn creates an incentive not to develop the land that they own. Doing so enables them to maximise lands’ future option value when sold. When you develop the land, you more or less lose much of the option value, especially for bare land.

      In contrast, if/when people start to expect housing supply to meet demand, then you can expect property prices to decline and sales of land to increase as people start to lock in the capital gains and move onto higher yielding assets.

      Basically, in the current climate property in general and land in particular seems like the best place to “park” money. That doesn’t lead to development however, in fact quite the opposite.

  5. So if we are rapidly reaching our environmental limit and 1/3 of emission increases come from people/transport etc why the f**k are we letting in 70,000 net immigrants a year?!!!
    Overall we would probably have stayed net emissions neutral if we had only grown by a net 10,000pa over that timeframe (emissions per capita have been decreasing except for agriculture). But hey let’s let in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from those bastions of environmentally soundness (China, India, Philippeans, etc).

    1. They give so much for so little. They give us the illusion of growth and suppress wages and conditions. And provide cannon fodder in the form of tenants for housing investors! Great system we have.

        1. “Citation needed”, the go to answer of the current systems supporters who want to make things go away. Funny that this government doesn’t collect such statistics or fund academic research into it isn’t it. They don’t want official evidence.

          No, its what I have seen in my industry, those who will work longer cutting corners without pay, just so they don’t rock the boat to get residency. Its a great scam and employers know it.

        2. And here we have an example of what we call “political correctness” in Europe.

          If you mention anything negative which even remotely involves immigrants you’re automatically a “racist”. That way, if there’s any issues with immigration, you can stick your head in the sand indefinitely and whenever someone is concerned about this you can immediately dismiss those concerns as racism or fascism. But if there is in fact a problem, this will also actively pre-empt any attempt to solve it, because you’re not allowed to point out there’s a problem in the first place.

          Politicians in Europe have been doing this for longer than I’ve lived. That way lies madness. There’s this story of a group of men who went to a public place (a station IIRC) to gang-rape a few women. Because those men happened to be immigrants, nothing could be done about it because that would be “racist”, and instead the mayor made a lame announcement that women should be careful about what they wear in public. And then wondered why people were so angry about that.

          And now everyone is looking around, incredulous, wondering why so many people voted for far-right parties.

          Racism can be solved (as pointed out above). But if political correctness takes hold, it’s game over.

          1. This section contains no references to external material, please consider adding sources.

            “There’s this story of a group of men who went to a public place (a station IIRC) to gang-rape a few women[?]. Because those men happened to be immigrants[?], nothing could be done about it [?] because that would be “racist”, and instead the mayor made a lame announcement that women should be careful about what they wear in public.”

            P.S. You’re completely right that screaming racist is a really good way to shut down any discussion on an appropriate level of immigration. But citing without references a story that clearly has racist undertones in the reporting the whole way through isn’t a good example.

        3. ahh yes there she is… the typical response to any comment that Daphne doesn’t agree with she pulls out the “racist” card. Grow up.

      1. People, this is getting ridiculous. Unless people can break out of the acrimonious spiral, I’d like to discourage further comments on the matter.

        Commenters are encouraged to refer to the user guidelines before doing things like implying that immigrants from specific source countries are morally decrepit or otherwise undesirable (as AKLDUDE did) or calling other commenters racist (as Daphne did). Neither of these things contributes to a positive or constructive conversation.

        For the record, I agree with Will Wilkinson: the nice thing about cities is that they bring people together from all walks of life and (if they are working well) enable them to live happily together. I’d prefer to see us enhance that aspect of our cities, rather than putting up walls. And I think it’s a serious error to focus on the rare negative stories, like the NYE assaults in Germany, rather than the overwhelming majority of positive stories of people getting along and building better lives together. As the saying goes, hard cases make bad law.

  6. Some of these posts, perhaps more appropriately belong to April 1! Certainly AT’s and NZTA’s determinedly head in the sand approach to building more roads go well with double stack motorways. It is a bitter victory to observe the stats proving what we have known for years – that we are at the end of the days of mega dollar massive road building having anything useful role to play in our large cities. In every respect they are a huge drain on the country.

    My beloved country of origin really has to re-boot what it does in respect of transport, housing and the environment. Over here in Melbourne, we are about to head off to visit friends across town, MYKI cards at the ready…..

  7. Clearly the Kapiti gridlock road has NZTA and its political masters spooked. And it is quite abundantly obvious with Waterview something similar in their crystal ball gazing is scaring the bejesus out of them. But for Gods sake, just open the bloody thing. You can run but you cannot hide. It will either work or it won’t.

    And if it doesn’t well there can be at least 3 years of lying and explanations of “Its Labours fault”, bedding in issues, teething problems, fictitious claims of an incomplete motorway system that just needs a few more lanes and motorways built elsewhere and a general muddying of the waters (NZ Military style) in what will be a failed policy.

  8. Anoher issue in Auckland is cost. We don’t have many builders that can live on the salary a houseowner expects to pay for a house here.

    This has lead to building sites being filled with cheaper labour. Labour, often from Asia, that has never worked in construction before. These employees work really hard. Many start their own subcontracting companies and become our traditional tradies. BUT the skills that once went into a profession is lost and the quality is suffering enormously. Add on the usage of the cheapest material, constant pushing for higher margins by the monopoly called Fletcher who contract out heaps of their work and we will see issues (read costs) in Auckland that make leaky buildings pale.
    Insurance premiums will go up, a lot…

    Most know this, anyone who has had the misfortune of inspecting a new built project. A chines company brought in some of heir own staff ad they just shook their head saying the quality is dangerously poor. It is shocking. University graduates, having studied business are 4 months after graduation shiftleaders on buildingsites responding to the demand for blue collar workers.
    Its a system that will make people shake their heads in 20 years wondering what we were thinking.

    That leads to the question on why the Waterview isnt opened and my humble opinion is that some honest people have pointed out all the issues that is with that project. Normally NZTA wouldn’t care but this time it suits both politics and upcoming fund-allocations not to publicly show off another failure.
    With Steven Joyce in charge of money, they might be set for another giant gift so why show all the failures.

    1. Exile, hold on – can I get you to confirm what you mean – you are saying that Chinese workers coming here are saying that our quality standards are poor? Did I get that right?

      I haven’t been on the Waterview site (are you talking about that site?) nor to a building site in China, but I find that hard to believe. Surely our level of quality would be better than over there?

      1. I think this is where Auckland needs Labour’s KiwiBuild programme -if NZ could get at least six big building firms with independent supply chains -committed to building high quality prefabricated housing, with a highly trained workforce, who make this investment because they know they can rely on 10 years of consistent demand -then gradually build quality can be improve and costs can come down.

        I say we need at least six firms because from memory this is the number that avoids collusion/cartel behaviour.

        Mike Greer was a step in that direction for Christchurch with his investment in the Concision factory in Rolleston. http://concision.co.nz/ This factory can produce a thousand houses a year.

        The country needs another half-a-dozen Concisions….

        1. Actually, sorry to say this Brendon, but you may be wrong. I’ve visited a couple of prefab companies, and the interesting thing is that as they are a factory, they can employ relatively unskilled workers. It does not take a highly trained worker to build a house when the house is made in a factory. It actually takes way more skill to make the drawings, and get the design millimetre perfect, so that the guys on the factory floor can just build to order. Just like building a model T Ford – the factory line speeds up production, but you don’t need to know how to build a whole car.

          The Mike Greer / Concision thing is a different matter altogether, as he has bought and installed robots to fabricate and assemble his house parts. Millions of dollars of machines, and again, I would question whether the person on the factory floor would be better off being a skilled carpenter, or would be better to be a skilled programmer or robot wrangler….

  9. It seems to me that the solutions to any housing crises in any part of the country do not lie with artificially allowing “local” investors to pick on the relatively unrisky proposition of “flipping” houses or otherwise sitting on properties. Think about what those sorts of policies do. You do not remove the supply of those properties from the market, but you do reduce the number of buyers… this lack of competition could depress the rates of increases, but in principle it just allows investors with slightly less money into the game again (as opposed to would-be occupants, i.e. the only desirable kind of existing house consumer). Meanwhile, those formerly priced-out investors are definitely not going to be looking at the riskier market… instead they’ll stay with the low hanging fruit as described.

    What does that mean, simply? You’ve reduced the pool of potential investors for new developments, which means they have to provide more of the money themselves to develop as much, which means you force them to take on more risk. Essentially, any anti-foreign policy must be seen as exacerbating the issues noted in the piece linked above and therefore as further paralytics. Which means you do nothing to solve the crises, unless you also believe that a certain level of crisis starts causing people to abandon Auckland or wherever… and move to other regions which (one hopes) have spare housing in proportion to their desirability.

    Now imagine if, as I suspect is the case, it turns out that foreign investors aren’t particularly important…

    The moral, which has been obvious for years, is that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, unless you’re investing in responsible new developments (i.e. not mad sprawl), you and all who are okay with your behaviour are part of the problem.

    To be quite honest, I often wonder if the best thing to do would be to use the army as a construction force. I mean, they’re always going on about all the trades you can do with them, and it’s not like we have any major commitments of the standard army overseas that they’re doing instead. Obviously you’d pay them, but armies have a long history of doing important construction work anyway so I really shouldn’t need to clarify this.

    1. “Now imagine if, as I suspect is the case, it turns out that foreign investors aren’t particularly important…”
      and yet the figures out there show that the amount of foreign (mostly Chinese) buyers has dropped off significantly in the last 6 months… house prices in Auckland have either levelled off or in many places have actually started dropping during that same time – coincidence? Me thinks not. Look at any developed country with an extremely overpriced housing market the one thing they all have in common is a lot of Chinese buyers – until about a decade ago it was hard for people to get money out of China, now $1.2TRILLION has left China in the past 2 years.
      It is all about turning funny FIAT money into hard assets out of reach of the Chinese government.

      https://www.moneymorning.com.au/20160118/why-capital-is-flowing-out-of-china.html
      http://fortune.com/2016/10/07/china-halt-capital-outflows/

  10. Regarding all the money the government pours into uneconomic highways, a government advisor I know told me a while back that it’s done to put money into the construction sector, propping up the economy. He also said it will never stop, because it’s become such a well oiled machine. The dubious figures are pretty much regarded as irrelevant.

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