This post is about:

  1. How spillovers from the Auckland boom are driving growth in nearby regions.
  2. The opportunities for these communities to benefit more from this economic change.
  3. The central role of inter-regional transport infrastructure for reviving small towns and enabling their residents to take part in the bigger urban economies.
  4. How the centres of Hamilton and Tauranga can compete better with attractive walkable mixed use cores through a proactive urbanising strategy.

Hamilton is ideally placed for strong growth. It is at the centre of the busiest part of the country with over half the nation’s population within reach. It is surrounded by highly productive pastoral farm land. It is connected directly to the country’s two biggest ports by road and rail. It is even rated the most resilient NZ city in terms of vulnerability to natural disasters; distant from major faults, well above sea level and away from coasts. It sits powerfully on the hinge of the Golden Triangle; a nominal subregion containing half the country’s population and generating half the country’s GDP. A commanding position on our greatest river, as you would expect of a town that began as a military garrison.

Of course it’s always been there, so what has changed? The really significant shift in Hamilton’s fortunes is what has become of its big sister up the road. Auckland is around 10 times as big, it entirely dominates the Golden Triangle; by far the biggest chunk of that 50% of the nation’s GDP is generated in the Big Smoke (38/50). Auckland is home to some 1.61m souls to Hamilton’s 161k, and Tauranga’s 128k (Council areas, 2016, here). And critically Auckland is exhibiting all the usual successful city stresses and strains. It is tightly geographically constrained, land and dwelling prices are both rising in a frightening way as a result. Transport networks are clogging, accessing staff can be a problem for employers. In short Auckland is behaving exactly like a city, not the provincial town it used to be, but a highly contested intense conurbation with all the opportunities, excitements, pressures and problems that comes with that form.

This inevitably leads to spillovers. People look to solve the problems of dwelling cost in the big city and see that they can live much more cheaply in nearby towns, firms can find staff and land at lower cost elsewhere too. Both these conditions are clearly in evidence: real estate prices have shot up in the Waikato, especially close to Auckland, and new industrial land is opening up in Hamilton, promising just these advantages. But both these solutions face the same problem, the former arbitrage is only successful if you can still earn in the big city, and the firm relocating to a cheaper base still wants to access the big city market and skills. Clearly this problem needs transport solutions.

So far the only solution underway for this been the massive investment in the Waikato Expressway, the duplication of State Highway 1 through the Waikato. This does speed road freight and car users through the verdant farmland and Waikato River swamps toward Auckland, but of course has the problem of simply delivering these vehicles onto the already congested Auckland road network. Condemning these very users as well the growing Auckland population and businesses to delays and uncertainty in travel time. This is not a long term solution.

So a complementary system that avoids this congestion and offers an alternative would clearly be of value. Freight already has the rail option, and we think it is time that people did too. We have outlined our ideas for this here: Regional Rapid Rail.

The complete Regional Rapid Rail network in stage 3

This is only further supported by recent announcements of major developments in the Waikato, particularly those involving Tainui, like this huge industrial and residential project at Ruakura close to the city centre and the University on the east side of the river. Described in the Herald:

“Hamilton is also an ideal business location due to being relatively close to international shipping ports, Auckland International Airport, and the growing number of manufacturing, health, education, freight and logistics companies now based in the Waikato. It’s less expensive to do business here compared to Auckland with employers able to tap into a growing youth population. The city is forecast to see a population growth of 74,600 residents – a 50 per cent growth – between 2013 and 2043, which would see Hamilton reach a total population of 224,800.

“With land in Hamilton being less expensive than Auckland and the fact that the city has low natural hazard risks for disasters like earthquakes or volcanic activity, Ruakura Port will tick a lot of boxes for potential tenants.”

Smith says the massive project will be “a game changer” for the Waikato and potentially for Auckland and other areas of the country – offering greater scale and efficiency for importers and exporters to move cargoes as sustainably as possible.

“With Ruakura’s rail system allowing many of the shipping containers to be transported by train, the current congestion on roads in Auckland and the Waikato can be expected to be alleviated.

“At capacity, it is expected that Ruakura will process 1 million TEU [twenty-foot equivalent unit] shipping containers per year. Ports of Auckland and Tauranga combined currently process about two million TEU per year.”

So clearly the freight industry has seen the opportunity in Hamilton’s position and the semi-dormant resource our existing rail network. This must surely lead to further investment into rail lines in this region which will also support the opportunity to add passenger services to the system.

As well as enabling people to move within the Golden Triangle without taking part in or adding to traffic congestion, revived Regional Rapid Rail can also have a positive effect on the economies and vitality small towns on its route and this is something I will visit in another post (Real Satellite Towns). Here I want to focus on the potential impacts on the Hamilton City Centre, a place with a great deal of promise. All transport infrastructure alters the form of the places it serves, and this is even more so when other policy supports these impacts. There are good signs of positive change there already, but there is so much more that can be done, particularly to exploit the boon of the Auckland spillover.

The centre of Hamilton has been struggling to compete with new malls on its fringes for business, in a way consistent with this pattern over the last 60+years worldwide. Free parking and easy driving plus the entirely car free all weather environment of the large mall has been an irresistible competitor, indeed as it was in Auckland too. Old main street business groups and Councils have almost always responded to this by trying to compete head on for the car bound customer, by lobbying for more and widened roads to the old cores and, especially, more and more publically subsidised parking. See this article for example.

This strategy is usually only ever partially successful, first because it plays directly to suburban malls’ greatest strength, driver convenience, and paradoxically, by enticing ever more cars onto city streets, it degrades the customer experience once out of their cars on these very streets: A car clogged downtown is not an attractor. The most enduring and successful response for old main streets is to instead seek to build a singular and un-mall like competitive advantage in what it offers the customer. Heading downtown has to find a way to return to being a thrill, being there must be a treat, and not simply a difficult to access awkward version of visiting the mall. This is what is finally fixing Auckland, and the same thing on a smaller scale can revive Hamilton too, over time, and with conscious effort.

So what does this mean in practice? It means Council and associations should work to stimulate all the things native to old urban centres and unusual in malls. This is a longer term project, and requires a consistent strategy of small steps, in partnership with the private sector, as these tend to be self-reinforcing and ultimately transformative. This means creating, attracting, and maintaining more:

  • Local Residents
  • Local Employment
  • high quality Pubic Realm
  • high quality Public Green Space
  • Sports Stadia
  • Palaces of Culture and Public Art
  • Real Streets with activated building edges
  • Car Free Access; cycleways and high quality Transit
  • Transformation of parking craters into temporary and permanent uses
  • Public Events

Hamilton already has a bunch of these, and there are good signs that some others are increasing, like city living, here, and the entirely sensible return to downtown of the region’s administrative organisation. These are vital as they make for customers who are already there, by far the most valuable ones, as proximity always beats mobility. But other features need work. Public Realm is a very important attractor, and this doesn’t just mean grand squares but probably more importantly pedestrian optimised streets, and whole systems of thriving street trees. There is a new adage in commercial development:

‘Public Realm is the new anchor tenant’ -Marcello Corbo, Chilean property developer.

These various factors can all be summed up by the term walkability. So for Hamilton this means: Shorter blocks, laneways, higher pedestrian priority, cyclelanes, river access, finer grained retail scale, clustering with public realm and cultural offerings, active building edges, breaking up of parking craters through temporary activation until more permanent and intensive development arrives.

Then of course there’s transport. Cycling in a flat relatively small city like Hamilton is surely an important contributor. But with that desire to connect into the wider resource of the Golden Triangle let’s also look at the opportunity that Intercity Passenger Rail could offer to focus this revival in the inner city, to help recreate a real heart to Hamilton. 

Above is the city centre. The red line is the existing single track rail line currently only used for freight. It is underground from the Kmart building to the river. The Kmart building which is about to be redeveloped, as the probable location of the new Waikato Regional Council head office. The yellow square is the existing central bus station. Everywhere are oceans of at grade car parks. Adjacent is the cricket ground, within easy walk is the Waikato Stadium, the Waikato Museum, and all the hotels and restaurants of the city centre. A proposed new subsurface through-routed passenger rail line is shown in blue under Bryce St, the new development on the Kmart site could be a a real transport focussed Britomart-styleone right in the heart of downtown. Double track the rest of the surface route to serve the growing freight demand too. Already perfectly connected with all the city buses and set to turbo-charge the already underway city centre revival. This would be a game changer for the city compared to the current underserved and under-used station just visible at the extreme bottom left hand corner of the map.

This is just a quick high level overview, clearly it opens up the opportunity for much further work in both transport and urban form. Particularly the need to reassess the bus system and connections with the University to the east. Even a cursory glance at the current map suggests the system could likely benefit from a Auckland New Network type shake up:

While serious efforts to tame Auckland’s dwelling supply and cost issues hopefully will be forthcoming, it seems likely that the effects of Auckland’s relatively new-found scale and dynamism will remain for the foreseeable future, and therefore the opportunities for neighbouring towns and cities to trade on its constraints will be there to be exploited. Here is an interesting similar observation from the US. Different but similar: suggesting the way ahead for smaller places is offer enough of the new walkable big city experience mixed with small city advantages and costs.

Finally here is a short word about change, from physicist William Pollard:

‘Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable’

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99 comments

  1. Hamilton’s bus services need a good shake up now. I have a friend there who works shifts – a morning shift with a 6 am start one week, and an afternoon shift with a 10 pm finish the next week.

    For medical reasons he doesn’t drive a car, so for the 6am starts and 10pm finishes he has to use a taxi to get to and from home. He has a minimum wage job, so this hits him
    hard in the pocket. He has tried cycling, but has found it too risky, as well as freezing in
    winter.

    It amazes me that a city the size of Hamilton has a bus service that doesn’t cover these
    hours.

    1. The buses in Wellington wouldnt get somebody into town for a 6am start either, they dont think of shiftworkers when it comes to Public Transport in this country. I myself have to use uber to get home from work.

    2. Basically, the city’s suburban and regional bus network is very good but doesn’t attract good ridership as Hamilton is so focus on cars.

      Environmental Waikato and the Wakato Regional Council is increasing and adding new services from 1 Oct 17 for suburban and regional services plus 50 new buses will be added to these services.

    3. If you have high quality frequent services then people will learn to use it – worked in AKL really well, both train and bus. But for all the talk of intercity train services could we see the numbers? Last time I took train AKL to Hamilton it crawled along at 40-50 km/hr in sections…not even 3rd world

  2. Thanks Patrick for great post
    The biggest win for Hamilton people this year is the Access Hamilton Strategy sets a target for ZERO traffic death.

    1. The only way they will achieve that is if there are some serious changes to transport technology (e.g. driverless cars). Why not set a more realistic goal – reduce by 50% or something?

      1. It been zero in the past, we want target of zero ever year

        Hamilton Local roads 2001 Zero
        Hamilton SH 2001 Zero
        Hamilton SH 2008 Zero
        NZ Easter Holiday 2012 Zero
        NZ Queen’s Birthday 2013 Zero
        Hamilton Local 2014/15 zero
        Hamilton SH 2015/16 Zero

        The future is about forgiving (not killing) people for there misteaks

          1. Why wait, when we can have ZERO now. Technology has not proven to be giving safety improvements over last 7 years.
            2010 the average car was of 1996 technology now the average car dates about 2002. Record number of new cars are being added to our roads yet number of people (drivers) being killed in crashes is increasing, 2010 at start of safer Journeys Strategy 180 driver killed, now today 12 months to 22/09 = drivers 200 killed

          2. Sailor boy, maybe in this case (I assume we are just talking Hamilton city) 0 deaths is achievable. But I’ve heard people saying we should adopt it for the whole country. It’s a nice idea but one that will never be met without major technology changes (in which case we can meet it by doing nothing). It is more like air new Zealand setting a target of not producing any green house gasses – knowing that the only way it is possible is if someone else creates a new energy source. In the mean time the target is pointless.

          3. “zero road deaths cannot be achieved without a huge leap in vehicle technology”

            Increases in road deaths in the last couple of years may be a blip. I hope so. Generally, they were reducing. The lack of any reduction in pedestrian and cyclist deaths over 10 years is not a blip; that’s systemic failure. It has nothing to do with vehicle technology, and all to do with a safety audit process that’s focused on design to keep car occupants safe, not on what constitutes a safe environment for active modes.

            I’m hoping that a target of zero deaths will help the agencies become “multi-modal” in their approach to safety.

  3. When global warming leaves Auckland a dissected ghost town Hamilton will take over. So they need to plan for a massive expansion. A volcanic eruption or a 10 metre tsunami like Japan had may empty Auckland at short notice before global warming drowns it.

    1. That sounds a bit over dramatic! Most of Auckland would still be well above sea level even under the worst case scenario for sea level rise.

      You may be right regarding the volcano, but Auckland’s tsunami risk is extremely low.

          1. We’re probably running a workshop soon in Pt Chev on how to deal with waterlogging, if you’re interested. I think we can look forward to it being a big issue some winters.

      1. Thank you for the link; really interesting. My home is in Auckland and deliberately above 10m and so I was being rather dramatic. But being European I tend to think of cities as being long living organisms – fro example Lille was largely built in late Victorian times – a 100 years from now the sea level could be 10m higher and if so Auckland’s main arteries will be submerged.
        I don’t agree about tsunami – a major quake far away could cause a wave to cross the pacific; it might only be a metre high until it reaches the Hauraki gulf and then as it is funneled in it would crest far higher. Refer the old films of tsunami hitting Hawaii or look at the destruction in Japan. I was told that was the reason Maori had few settlements in the North Shore bays.

        1. Interestingly, archeological records from many parts of NZ showed that there were multiple waves of migration inland (after each tsunami) and then back to the coast (as boldness returned).

        2. Even the large Tsunami you described would not make Auckland a ghost town. The only exposed part of the city is the North Shore, and it’s topography sees a relatively quick rise in elevation from the coast. The other suburbs are protected by the gulf islands. Christchurch suffered more damage than I imagine Auckland would and it is definitely not a ghost town.

    2. Oh wow! Most of Auckland is pretty high, sure we have low lying areas but these are actually the minority. It would need to be a major volcanic event to cause such an exit of Auckland. Although possible, not very likely.

  4. Thank you, Patrick! The decline in livability I believe Hamilton has seen in recent years due to poorly-managed growth and resultant sprawls n’ malls, has in my opinion largely resulted from (surprise, surprise) our leaders’ reluctance to deviate from what had always worked in the past.

    I believe we have all of the conditions to be a cycling mecca, our leaders lack the will. It’s great to see more inner city residential developments happening, and in 5-10 years I think this will lead to more pedestrianisation and protected bike paths around the CBD. Then there remains only the problem that the CBD is choked from almost all directions by bridges with poor cycling amenity and/or large and dangerous roundabouts.

    And Hamilton’s bus system, while improving (in the face of gradually declining patronage), is still very sub-par for anyone whose hours of work are not the normal 9-5.

    There are many good people working within HCC who want to see the kinds of developments you suggest; we can only hope that they can sway the people holding the purse strings (although with our current chair of the finance committee, Garry Mallett, hmm…).

      1. There’s a lot of good. The shared path in parallel with Wairere Drive, Maungahakareke Drive, and the rail line are great. However, there is a huge animosity to any attempt to retrofit infrastructure to roads and parking on cycle lanes is far worse here than in any other city I’ve ever been to.

  5. “The red line is the existing single track rail line currently only used for freight” – not 100% accurate – the country’s only long distance Kiwirail passenger service, Northern Explorer, travels through here once a day. The current Hamilton stop is the weirdly suburban out of town experience, which is pretty much like being in a disused cattle yard. Possibly it once was. It would be fantastic if the Regional Rapid Rail was enacted, and the central station was reopened. Currently, the rail line takes you from the centre of Auckland, to pretty much precisely Nowhere.

    1. That is incorrect. The red line shown is the East Coast Main Trunk line (heading to Tauranga), the North Island Main Trunk line (Auckland-Wellington) runs to the west of central Hamilton, through Frankton Station, which I agree is not very well located.

      1. Thank you – i stand corrected. But, so…. could the passenger line from Auckland ever go through the centre of town? The passenger map in the article above shows that the ideal place for connection to the bus network needs to be in the centre of town, not out in the suburbia where it is now.

        1. Yes it can. Hamilton City Council have done everything in their power to kill off the existing centre and allow all the activity to migrate north to The Base at Te Rapa. If they keep going the way they are that will be the centre of Hamilton and the NIMT will run right beside it.

        2. Yes, regional trains are much more likely to be running through to Tauranga than Wellington so it is ideally located. It’s a through line for Tauranga, Rotorua and Cambridge.

  6. I’m ignorant of social dynamics in The Tron at present – I hope the people I know there whose legs move by pressing pedals aren’t indicative of the whole population. What I’m wondering is if there is a resistance to Auckland spillover. And have the farming community realised that the best way to protect fertile farmland from suburban subdivision is through better design and higher housing density in the centre? If not, I would imagine that the discussions in the farming community would be a good idea…

    1. A lot of the farming community often want rural subdivision though – exploit the land while they own it, then subdivide into rural lifestyle blocks once they’re done.

      1. Agreed. Elsewhere not necessarily such a huge issue but Hamilton is bang smack in the middle of the best dairy pasture in the world! Every subdivision eats away at that productive land (could be productive for other farming/horticulture needs too). Hamilton needs to remove density restrictions now rather than later when it has already sprawled.

  7. Patrick, this is a really great post. The opportunities in Hamilton are inspiring. I lived there in my teens and early 20s and while I have never had any intention of moving back there, you have certainly made it seem to be a very attractive option.

  8. Nicely argued Patrick – definitely great potential to connect Hamilton with Auckland (and the towns between) in a way that matters, with quality rapid transit. Bring on Regional Rapid Rail.

    I’ve just been looking at building consent data for Hamilton… heaps of new terraces/ units being built, there’s some real intensification happening. Perhaps under the radar for those of us in Auckland, but Hamilton is delivering a lot of this kind of housing, and at pretty affordable prices/ rents. More in a future post!

    1. The only problem with all the newer more intensive housing is that every unit has one or two parking spaces. This means that despite certain areas getting denser, everyone is still driving everywhere for their daily activities

      1. Yes. Still at the very first stage of intensifying, trying to do it on the auto-dependency model. You will see I choose to remain positive and future focussed in the post. The vision is the key issue, then strategy, policy, and action. The contradictions of ‘dense sprawl’ and ‘car-orientated intensity’ are still being worked through in Auckland. It is, however, to be hoped that Hamilton and Tauranga can look north and learn some lessons and be able to speed up these mis-steps….

      2. I think it is inevitable that people living in terraced housing in Hamilton today will still want parking spaces. It is still a car city for the foreseeable future. They key is making sure urban design ensures an easy transition to a transit city as it’s population grows and public transport improves.

      3. This is unavoidable at the moment in Auckland as well. The de facto parking minimum is two spaces for a house. For small apartments we may get away with only one.

        Sometimes less than those 2 spaces per house get built. If that happens you can immediately tell from the wall of parked cars on the street. It’s hard (or at least very time-consuming) to get around without one car for each adult.

        1. Mind you, having been inside a few of the garages in inner suburbs like Freeman’s Bay and Ponsonby, as well as in the next set of suburbs out, like Westmere and Pt Chev, I believe the cars are on the road because the garages are full of stuff. Stuff that never got sorted from the last move. Stuff from the parent who moved into a home. Stuff stored for the young folk overseas. Crap furniture that looked good in the shop and didn’t last long but could be fixed. I think stuff – filled garages are the rule rather than the exception.

          1. In fact, I’ve never thought about this before, but I think wherever the councils still have minimum parking requirements, they should be ‘exposed to the weather’ parks, as the council cannot be sure that a closed in garage won’t be used for storage (or accommodation!)

          2. Disagree there. At least if council forces you to build a car park a garage can be used for storage, or converted at a later date!

          3. Mmmm, but an outside one can be converted to a garden later, and involves less embedded energy. Let’s face it, we don’t need bigger houses and we don’t need stuff. I think it would keep cars off the street until improved PT makes a car – free lifestyle more desirable for more people.

    1. Yes, there is a plan for a link from Te Awa River Path to Te Aroha, which is where the Hauraki Rail Trail starts. No idea about the timing, but I’d guess probably sometime in the early 2020s.

  9. Hamilton has plenty of off road shared pathways mostly centered around the river. This is currently being connected to Ngarawahia in the North and Cambridge in the South. If you live north or south along the river this makes for a relatively safe commute by bike into the CBD. However I do feel there inst much of a focus on the commuter and these pathways are predominantly focused on the recreational user.

    Outside of these and some of the newly constructed cycleways the on road infrastructure for cycling/walking is terrible. Trying to cross the bridges on a bike is horrible experience either having to deal with a narrow pathway where pedestrians and cyclists are sharing or cycling on roads with zero shoulder and relatively inconsiderate motorists.

    The increase in housing density near the CBD is promising for its future, however the quality of allot of the terraced housing leaves something to be desired.

  10. While I am all in favour of the regional rail link in principle, and especially to regional cities like Hamilton, I hope it really is an express service with few stops. The worst outcome of all would be for Auckland to spread south further and the gap between Auckland and Hamilton be filled in with lots of small but growing urban areas with no jobs, simply because of problems with land supply and a focus on upgrading the highway accessing them. A rail connection to Hamilton with as few stops as possible would be better for Hamilton, the environment, and the broader regional economy.

    I absolutely agree that Hamilton should have its bus services rationalised and improved. I travelled there by bus for IPENZ and the long distance bus service was fine, but the local service was not. I ended up getting a taxi from the bus terminal to the venue. Use the same principles as Auckland – simple, direct and frequent, with easy interchanges.

    1. RRR proposes five stops between urban Hamilton and Auckland, which of these would you want to see cut and why?

      It seems to me crazy to have passenger trains passing frequently through places like Huntly but not stopping there. I can’t see what is wrong with Huntly benefiting from people wanting to live there and commuting to Auckland or Hamilton. Are you wanting to make absolutely sure places like Huntly wither and die?

      1. Scott has missed the point of RRR, it’s main goal is to link the smaller towns in between to the larger centres. Smaller towns that can be compact, walkable but cheap places to live. That’s better for Hamilton, as it means people from the Waikato can get to Hamilton to work, shop and plan without driving… and people from Hamilton can move to Huntly or Pokeno without spending half their waking life on the expressway.

        1. Nick
          I understand that point but I do not fully agree. There is a tradeoff here between accessibility and effectiveness. The more small towns the RTR stops at, the slower it gets. It is essential that it remain time competitive with car, preferably faster, if we want to both get mode shift happening and stimulate the Hamilton economy by faster proximity to Auckland. I have seen elsewhere (notably Queensland) train services go down this path and they end up perversely encouraging sprawl. The rail routes between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast are good examples. I may be wrong, and it certainly merits detailed study either way. But I would be cautious promising every little community fast frequent services before we knew what the effect was on travel time. Every stop a train makes from say 160 km/hr to rest, ads several minutes to the journey time.

          I am a little concerned that there are some existing small communities in between Auckland and Hamilton that we may not want to grow in sustainability terms (deficient in jobs), but better rail access would have the opposite effect. If those communities really can become sustainable then fair enough. But I fear a lot will simply become dormitory suburbs of Auckland or Hamilton.

          1. The RRR proposal has 1:30 Hamilton to Auckland in stage 2 and 1:10 in stage 3, that’s pretty competitive, removing a couple of stops would drop maybe 4 mins off at most.

            What is wrong with these towns being dormitory suburbs? An increased population tends to bring greater services, which benefits the existing population and nearby farmers as well, along with generating more jobs. Dormitory suburbs exist all around the world.

          2. I do agree Scott with the sentiment, but you’re overstating the issue. RRR has a grand total of five stops between the south of Auckland and the north of Hamilton. It’s not stopping at “every little community”, it’s only stopping at two large towns and three smaller ones with big growth plans.

            For example, it doesn’t stop at Buckland, Whangarata, Mercer, Amokura, Meremere, Rangairi, Ohinewai or Hopuhopu. Those are all settlements on the line that used to have train stations.

            The main benefit of RRR is serving the intermediate towns. If you skip them you save at best ten minutes… for what? Half the patronage?

      2. Huntley isn’t actually my concern. It is already bigger with more services and I think a stop there is realistic and would help greatly. But there are also stops proposed at Te Kuawhata and Ngaruawahia, which are both a fair bit smaller. I’d like to see a bit more analysis of whether they made sense.

        1. Nick and Jezza
          Thanks for the detailed replies and comments upon travel time which, upon reflection aren’t as bad as feared. My comparison with SE Qld was probably unfair. I still agree the RRR concept is good.

          On the plus side, construction costs for rail track and rolling stock for this sort of application are actually going down in real terms over time, thanks to standardisation and greater use of precast components. So detailed planning and preserving corridors and station sites is the logical next step. With the area developing fast, it would be a shame to lose the opportunity.

          1. Also in the long run you might run a two tiered service. For example the trains from Tauranga and Rotorua might not stop between Hamilton and Puhunui, while the Cambridge trains go all stops.

    2. The towns between Papakura and Hamilton are also growing, especially Pokeno, Huntly, Ngaruawahia and Te Kauwhata. Hamilton suburban station should be Te Rapa and Horotiu.

      Any train service between Hamilton and Auckland, would need to stop at Hamilton City (if possible), Frankton, Hamilton – Te Rapa, Hamilton – Horotiu (Also the new inland port), Ngaruawahia, Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Mercer, Pokeno, Papakura (for Auckland Airport) Syliva Park, New Market, Britomart.

  11. That under developed CBD has the perfect bones to develop into something quite impressive and trendsetting, generating a lot of envy with the (comparative ease) it could be transformed. I hope the council has the foresight to take the plunge now and get a headstart on the competition.

  12. Great post Patrick, yes Hamilton has a good opportunity now. Hopefully they can learn & develop things differently than what our Auckland has done in the past & is just trying to fix now.

  13. I live in Hamilton and after moving from Wellington. To me, Hamilton suffers from ‘Cow Cocky’ mentality as to its future development especially to the CBD and its regional development, which is holding the city back from any proper planned development. The example of this, is the Base development at the expense of the CBD due to inward thinking city council of the time.

    Hamilton is an excellent place for a hub for regional, inter-regional and long distance freight and passenger rail and bus/coach services.

    Basically, the city’s suburban and regional bus network, especially the Orbitor bus services that connects the outer suburbs including the University with the CBD shuttle and major suburban bus services, is very good but doesn’t attract good ridership as Hamilton is so focus on cars. The city has a central suburban, regional, inter-regional and long distance bus/coach/taxi terminal (Hamilton Transport Centre) that is 3-5 minutes walk to the CBD. InterCity operates 11-13 daily bus/coach services between Hamilton, Auckland Airport and Auckland city with some services having InterCity Gold Seat product.

    The disused Hamilton central railway station is located under the Centre Place Mall (Not Kmart) located in the CBD, ideal for regional passenger between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

    With surplus unused office space in Hamilton’s CBD, the city council is trying to entice building owners to convert this space into apartments. Whilst some of the owners has seen the potential of inner city living, there are alot who are not interested in apartment conversion, which suprises me due to the new river walk project, lots of bars and restaurants.

    The CBD can be can rejuvenated as an inner city ‘shopping mall’ to support inner living.

    To make Hamilton a centre of economic power house and inner city living, the city council needs some forward thinking, out of the square councilors instead of the ‘Cow Cocky’ lack of vision councilors that the city currently has. Also is the city is very National supported which is holding the city back from effective development.

      1. True, but it really is just a single platform next to the single line.

        For the new transport centre the K Mart site is probably better. You could have something like two island platforms with three or four tracks, easily twin tracking back to Frankton Junction, with the single track onward to the ECMT to start with, eventually with a new double track tunnel extension to the east if it gets very busy.

        So basically one through track and two or three terminal ones, with up to three through tracks in the future.

        1. Alternatively build it directly under the Bus Station under Bryce St. Council owned already. Unless of the private owners of the site to the south (Tainui, I think) see the value in a Britomart type development (they Should) and want to integrate the station into a redevelopment.

          Either way i think there needs to be freight bypass, and an easy way to do that is simply leave the current route be…?

          1. Ideally it would be great, but every costly. The other problem is the rail bridge across the Waikato River (the Claudelands Street bridge) is single tracked and the land that surrounds the rail track on the east side of the river is built up residential land.

            On the western side of the river, after crossing the bridge, almost immediately is the entrance to the underground section of the track.

            You could do 2 maybe 3 at a stretch return passenger trains services between Hamilton and Tauranga per day with interfering with freight services.

          2. Looks to me like there is a rather large carpark to the east of Claudelands Bridge, plenty of room to merge a double tracked bridge back to single track before the residential area.

          3. For Jezza. Its all built up housing at the eastern end of the bridge. Not much room for double tracking. Double tracking will have to further to the current city limits.

          4. @kris, there is more than enough room to double track the ecmt right through Hamilton in the existing corridor. I’d recommend standing on the river road overbridge for a good view both ways.

      2. When you are in the Centre Place mall you can hear and feel the vibration of the trains under the mall. You do not hear any trains nor vibration when you in the Warehouse or Kmart buildings.

  14. Organically smaller city like hamilton tend to sprawl because roads are not congested yet and greenfield development tend to be cheap and still close to city.

    It would be hard not to sprawl unless some policy is introduced such as urban boundary, and planning policy that encourages development at city centre.

    Finally it will need decent public transport all going to city centre.

    For hamilton, a couple rapid high frequency trasit with park and ride alongs the routes will work. Local linking bus are not practical for this low population yet.

    1. A real issue with attempting to constrain sprawl, is that most Kiwis have an uninformed bias against medium density or higher housing. Add to that the sad truth that most Kiwis don’t see the problem with sprawl, as it’s not something that they’ve had to deal with.

      An example of not understanding sprawl, look at Hawkes Bay. Like tens of thousands of others, I used to get in my car and drive 20KM to work, then the reverse trip home. Some folks were driving closer to 30KM each way.

      In that environment 20-25KM is nothing really, so to suggest that 25KM in Auckland is onerous is a suggestion that would be met with a hearty chorus of “harden up”. Of course, 20-30KM of mostly open road is a _lot_ different to driving in Auckland, even if you’re talking motorway traffic. Heck, it used to take me 45m to drive 9km in Auckland when I lived in an area poorly served by public transport, compared to 20m on a slow day to do 20KM in HB…

      The countries disdain for Auckland is about the only thing that could help Hamilton avoid making the same mistakes (with sprawl), but only if they’re willing to take a chance learning from our embracing medium density housing…

      1. Likely because a lot of bad stories about poorly managed body corp, maintenance and legal issues that scares people away.

        The body corp act reform is badly overdue.

        1. Hello Kelvin
          Hamilton sprawl is from political driven changes to district planning.

          City of Hamilton District Scheme 1963 (70 pages)
          278 ha (689 acres) excluding streets available for
          Residential Intensification (10% of land in Hamilton)
          1960s Hamilton Population density 1,577 people per km2

          Partly Operative District Plan 2016 (over 1,000 pages)
          210 ha available for Residential Intensification (2% of land in Hamilton)
          Population density now 1,450 people per km2 (2017 wikipedia 161k/111)

          1. Again, I’m ignorant of the city’s situation. Has the pressure to restrict intensification been from people who don’t understand planning, NIMBYs, people who make money from subdivisions on the outskirts, road construction companies, landbankers, or some other group?

      2. When I lived in Hamilton 20 years ago the majority of my workmates (for a job in the Hamilton “CBD”) lived outside of Hamilton. Towns like Cambridge, Raglan, Te Awamutu, Huntly and Ngaruawahia are pretty close at 100km/h

      1. Hello Heidi at 7:22
        Below are some key changes to planning rules. I would suggest the change came from political distaste of seeing low cost housing. There was a survey of people that bought these affordable homes. Here are two quotes from, Residential Survey [Kahikatea Dr] 1989
        “Those in two bedroom houses are more likely to be satisfied than those in three bedroom houses”
        “Residents were overwhelmingly glad to own their own home”

        Below you can see the big change in 1991, by 2017 hundreds of pages where add, the choice of section size is improved, but the tread of reducing intensification zoned land continued.

        1963 – City of Hamilton District Scheme (70 pages) Allotment size
        General residential areas min 400m2, with consent down to 300m2. p34
        Residential Intensification 200m2 with consent down to 100m2. p36

        1991 – City of Hamilton Town Plan (315 pages)
        Residential Medium – Minimum net lot Area 450m2 with comprehensive development not less than 350m2. p133
        Residential High Density – min 400m2 with comprehensive development not less than 300m2. p133

        2017 – PODP – 4.4.1 Density (over thousand pages)
        General Residential min 400m2
        Residential Intensification min 350m2

        1. Thanks, so it’s similar in a way to Auckland. If the council could lead the way with building a few quality high and medium density developments and set the standard, the resistance might hopefully die down, or be reserved just for crappy developers…

    2. Hamilton is already seeing traffic congestion. Unfortunately, major roads in the city limits are not public transport friendly, so we will see bus services slowly down in Hamilton’s version of morning and evening ‘peak hours’.

      1. As far as I’m aware Hamilton has 0m of bus lanes. Surely it would be feasible to create some bus or at least transit lanes along some of the main arterial routes and revamp the bus time table to take advantage of them.

        1. Bus lanes on Peachgrove Road, approaching Five Cross Roads from the north and on Anglesea Street and Anzac parade towards the Ham East Bridge. Desperately needs more.

  15. Vote national, Hamilton is working hard,lots of growth .Hopefully the power water sewerage and rubbish ,are part of the growth plan.council debt has to be monitored..

    1. Its the 2 entrench National MP’s that don’t see the need for train services between Auckland and Hamilton and want to build more roads. That is why Hamilton is so car focus. If we don’t watch it, Hamilton will sprawling city like a miniature version of Auckland. It is starting to have the urban sprawl.

        1. Yep. Same 2 boring entrenched National ‘Yes’ MPs got reelected for Hamilton East and Hamilton West. This mean more cars and more urban sprawl, more traffic problems and passenger train services between Auckland and Hamilton. It wont be long before the yellow haze of pollution will start appearing over Hamilton.

  16. I wouldn’t describe Hamilton as “well above sea level”.
    The Waikato River is only 12-15m above mean sea level as it passes the centre of Hamilton.

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