Industrial is important

In more than two years of Development Update posts, I’ve hardly ever mentioned industrial development. It’s hard to show in a map like the RCG Development Tracker, so I don’t cover it there.

But even in a modern economy like Auckland, with a strong services base, industrial properties are important. Warehouses, factories and other industrial buildings are where a big slice of the economy happens, and where 100,000+ Aucklanders work.

Looking at aerial photos of Auckland, the industrial areas are pretty easy to spot. They’ve got a characteristic grey colour. The big ones are:

  • Onehunga/ Penrose/ Mt Wellington
  • Airport Oaks, on the way to the airport
  • Wiri/ Manukau
  • East Tamaki
Source: Google Earth

These four major industrial areas form a square (roughly, at least). There are some mid-sized industrial clusters around the city, and plenty of smaller pockets scattered even more widely. But the areas above are the big ones, and if anywhere is in line for those mystical things called agglomeration benefits, chances are it’s there.

Most of the major industrial areas have had expensive road upgrades, or are in line for them. But the “third main”, a third railway line running to the port and potentially connecting many of the areas above, has had to wait. In a small sign of progress, the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) at least lists the third main as a project which could be completed in the next decade.

The current scene

But I digress. This post is about development, so where is new industrial happening?

Not only are the ‘big four’ above the largest industrial areas today, they’re also getting the lion’s share of industrial growth (based on recent building consents).

Highbrook, in East Tamaki, is a whopper. It’s probably the largest and most valuable business park in New Zealand, worth more than $1 billion and with more than 380,000 square metres (sqm) of floor space. Eventually, that will reach 530,000 sqm. Highbrook’s not a typical industrial setting – it has a mix of industry, offices and even retail and accommodation. Some of those uses are shown in the Development Tracker.

The airport is another big growth zone. Most of the new buildings you’ll see going up on the way to the airport are on land owned by Auckland Airport itself. It owns huge areas of land north of the passenger airport, but it’s only in the last few years that it’s stepped up development there.

New buildings are also going up around Wiri/ Manukau, one of the recent examples being Z Energy’s biodiesel plant. This opened last year, converting waste tallow into low-emissions fuel.

The biodiesel plant. Source:

Onehunga/ Penrose/ Mt Wellington is pretty much all developed, but there’s still growth happening as existing buildings expand or get replaced with newer ones.

Oh, and one more thing: industrial buildings are currently in short supply in Auckland, just like most other kinds of buildings really. Colliers, one of the big real estate companies, reckons that just 2.1% of industrial floor space in Auckland is vacant, “the lowest on record since our survey began over 20 years ago”. Eep.

The future

The Unitary Plan makes a lot more industrial land available – e.g. in Drury South, undeveloped land east of the airport, Silverdale and Westgate – but it’ll be years before these areas become major employers. Growth tends to want to go more centrally, and industrial has long timeframes anyway. Highbrook was zoned in 2001, and it might be fully developed around 2021.

And some non-industrial stuff

Other kinds of buildings keep getting built around Auckland and New Zealand, and you’ll find many of them in the Development Tracker. More proposals for buildings keep popping up, too. The Pacifica is one of the exciting ones – on a city centre site which has just been used for surface parking for many years.

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  1. The four big heavy industrial complexes with Drury South making it five. Of note four of the five are in Southern Auckland with Manufacturing and logistics providing a strong core to the South.

    Bringing more land online at Wiri and Drury South for industry is crucial but so is the connections to rail as well to back them up.

    Also the importance of linking industry up at an inter-regional level

    1. Wonder what the effect of all the buzz around Drury South will be on the Papakura and Takanini Heavy Industrial areas? Will it pull business away, or will it spur greater development in those areas?

      1. It creates more of a cluster around Papakura/ Takanini really, room to expand in that area. But as per the post, industrial takes time to develop. Buildings could be popping up in Drury South in a few years’ time, but in 20 years most industrial workers in Auckland will still be in those ‘big four’ areas.

  2. Hengyi’s Melbourne constructions are all of a high quality and visually attractive.

    Interestingly at 178m the Pacifica would hardly be noticed in Melbourne.
    Auckland has been particularly conservative with its height limits and urban development restrictions.

    There’s an upside to that of course, in that land of particular urban amenity has been conserved for future use and enjoyment. We see that pretty clearly with the huge parcels of land surrounding the airport, many of which are highly significant.

    1. Yes I agree George. I would like to see within the CBD in particular no height limits so that we might be able to get some supertalls in. Parts of Takapuna could also do with that too.

      1. There are no height limits in the CBD actually. What there are, are viewshaft from parts of the motorways to various volcanoes that limit height in a lot of places.
        It’s kinda bullshit, especially the viewshaft from the old harbour bridge toll plaza, where people don’t even stop any more.

  3. The Pacifica is being built on Commerce Street on a site that was unitil recently several buildings holding offices and restaurants. The site on Customs Street where there is another taller residential building going in is what is replacing parking.

  4. Geologically, Melbourne is a lot more stable than Auckland. You know, without the possibility of volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunami etc. and other such things that may spook investor confidence. May have something to do with the lack of super-tall buildings here…

    1. Melbourne ~ 4 million people, Auckland ~ 1.5 million people. I suspect that is the main difference. We do love to compare our NZ cities with much larger overseas cities.

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