Winter is a quiet time of year for real estate agents. People tend to hunker down and stay where they are. This has always seemed silly to me – if I’m thinking about moving house, I want to see the new place at its worst. With so many NZ homes damp and poorly insulated, winter is when you can really tell the good from the bad.
Anyway, as it goes for moving house, so it is for developments. You won’t see a lot of new apartment buildings launched to the market this winter; developers (and the agents in charge of selling) prefer to hang off until spring.
Construction companies, the guys actually building the homes, aren’t slowing down though. Our free RCG Development Tracker keeps showing more homes being built each month. As one example, The Antipodean apartments, marketed since late 2015, are now well and truly underway with a crane installed over the weekend. The Maritime, just around the corner, looks like it’s starting demolition this month.
I’ll be back to looking at Auckland housing next month, but in this post I’m going to tackle education buildings. We don’t show these in the Development Tracker, but of course they’re pretty important.
New schools (and school buildings) help to cater for population growth; they’re a key part of the infrastructure the government is always banging on about. As for tertiary education, the universities and polytechs have been investing too: they have a lot more independence than schools, and invest in new buildings as a way of catering for growth, competing with each other, or attracting international students.
The University of Auckland has been on a major investment path for some years. That’s included new student accommodation, as well as a number of new buildings for learning and research. There’s a huge new science building on the corner of Symonds St and Wellesley St East (finished last year), an engineering building due for completion in 2019, and various smaller ones besides. Added to that, the University bought the old Lion Breweries site in Newmarket a few years back, which – despite the excitement over it – hasn’t resulted in much student activity yet, with only some postgraduate engineering based on site.
AUT is also expanding. It’s been developing a new “South” campus in Manukau, where the $56 million Mana Hauora building opened earlier this year. AUT is also working on a new Engineering, Technology & Design building on the corner of Symonds St and St Paul St, due for completion in 2018.
Apart from the universities, there’s been school expansion in many parts of Auckland, including new schools at Hobsonville and Flat Bush (covering the whole range from year 1 through to year 13), plus most of the other places we’re sprawling to. Western Springs College is getting almost completely rebuilt, a $75 million project. Many of the college’s buildings are leaky, and others presumably just obsolete.
Outside of Auckland, in case you’re interested, new schools are being planned and built in Tauranga, Queenstown, Christchurch, Rolleston and Hamilton. Christchurch has been through major changes in the last few years, with the government shutting some schools and creating others following the earthquakes.
Education for All?
Over the last 21 years for which I’ve got data, the amount of new school buildings added (or replaced) each year has been remarkably consistent. There’s a bit of fluctuation, but no real trend. Population growth trends have been much more varied – e.g. a migration boom in the early 2000s, and another one now. At the same time, there’s been the long-running trend of an ageing population which reduces the demand for new schools.
What this suggests is that the Ministry of Education is indeed making decisions based on long term factors rather than short term ones. At least, I hope that’s what it means.
Another way to look at the data is to show what fraction of new school buildings are being built in Auckland versus the rest of the country. Based on the consents data, Auckland tends to get around 40% of the new buildings (leaving aside the last few years, which would have been affected by the Canterbury earthquakes).
By comparison, Stats NZ population estimates suggest that over the last 20 years Auckland had 83% of New Zealand’s growth in kids aged 5-9, 86% of the growth in kids aged 10-14, and 63% of the growth in young adults aged 15-19.* Based on this, Auckland schools seem to have been woefully slow to expand. Maybe they’re underfunded. But hey, what do I know?
* Overall, Auckland gets a bit over half the country’s population growth, but because Auckland’s population is younger and not ageing as quickly as the rest of the country, the city dominates growth in the school-age population.