This is a guest post from Alistair Ray, an urban designer at Jasmax. It was originally posted on the Urban Design Forum’s blog and has been reposted here with permission.

Massive mixed use regeneration proposed for prime waterfront land half way between the city and the airport

Quiz time. Guess which part of the city is being referred to:

  • Almost exactly half-way between the airport and the CBD – less than 10km to each.
  • Largely flat, or gently sloping, bounded on its southern edge by water, with several kilometres of water frontage (admittedly the water is to the south, but still, any views over water are now regarded as good from a real estate perspective).
  • An important part of the city’s historic fabric, with part of the site the location for what was once the city’s busiest port and working waterfront.
  • Well served by rapid (non-road based) transit.
  • Also well connected by road, sitting right next to the city’s motorway network, including one of the city’s major water crossings.
  • Over 100 hectares of relatively low density employment (industrial, service and distribution) that does not really need to be next to the water, or utilises the rapid transit.

Can you guess where it is yet?

Given the above characteristics, it is perhaps no surprise that the area has been the subject of some major strategic planning exercises, and also no surprise that the conclusion is that the land is perfectly suited to a massive mixed use urban regeneration project! What? Are we making this up?

The project is described as follows:

  • Much of the site will be transformed to deliver a vibrant, mixed-use community that pays homage to the site’s historic past.
  • At its heart, it will include 2.5 kilometres of dedicated riverfront, with a mix of parkland and community space. These spaces will complement the combination of residential, retail and commercial opportunities on site.
  • Over the next 20 years, approximately 15,000 residents are set to call this place home. The precinct will also be the employment location for around 10,000 in retail precincts and office parks.
  • Development will be based on principles of excellence in urban design and architecture, best-practice environmentally-sustainable design and transit-oriented development.
  • It will be designed to deliver an urban environment that promotes a healthy and safe lifestyle with high levels of pedestrian and bicycle access, integrated open space and parklands, and public and civic spaces

Now, how many of you thought I was talking about the land at Onehunga foreshore east of SH20, facing Mangere Inlet? How many are now confused by the regeneration work I described above?

Well the piece of land I was talking about is not in Auckland…sorry.  It’s actually known as Northshore Hamilton, just 6km northeast of Brisbane’s CBD. But the similarities are truly remarkable. All of those characteristics described above could be accurately applied to either site.

BUT…the similarities stop when you consider what is being proposed for each site.

Northshore Hamilton is Brisbane’s largest urban renewal precinct. The land is currently being transformed from relatively low density industrial uses to one of Brisbane’s new mixed use, high density suburbs, with two CityCat terminals offering express transport to the CBD in under 30 minutes, as well as major bus routes to and from the CBD and the airport. The site also includes Brisbane’s international cruise ship terminal, which is being incorporated as a major part of the regeneration project. Additional industrial areas to the north will remain, with the regeneration project focussing on land adjacent to the water where it is recognised it could serve the city better.

You can find more details on their website, whilst the images below show the degree of proposed transformation.

Northshore Hamilton – existing state
Northshore Hamilton – regeneration proposal

So what of Auckland’s equivalent piece of land? It too has been the subject of major strategic planning work over the years, which has recently reached a conclusion. An opportunity for mixed use regeneration? More intensive use of the land? Parks and recreational routes?

No, a motorway corridor!

Onehunga foreshore – existing state
Onehunga foreshore – proposed motorway

Given the land’s strategic positioning between two of Auckland’s most popular motorways, the abundance of land in Auckland for building stand-alone houses elsewhere, and the copious amounts of water views, it is perhaps right that we have concluded that there is no better use of this waterfront land than a motorway link between SH20 and SH1. It could be one of New Zealand’s most iconic sections of motorway, with uninterrupted views over the water as people sit in their cars, and mainly trucks, rattling along at 15 kph in the ramp-signals queue trying to avoid jams on either of the other two motorways.

And to cap it off, we can provide a walkway / cycleway nicely sandwiched between the motorway extension and the water, to help provide much needed walking and cycle connections for anyone willing to enter this corridor with its beautiful outlook and air quality. There might even be bridges or tunnels to connect back to the highly activated and busy industrial areas to the north of the motorway. Indeed in 10 years’ time when completed, it could be nominated for numerous urban design awards, especially if we use pretty koru patterns in the concrete and the cycle way is painted in a very vivid colour.

Of course I’m being sarcastic (at least I hope you picked that up)!

Yes I know that development economics and the scale of urban projects is different in Australia. But given this piece of lands’ strategic qualities, are we really getting the best possible outcomes for Auckland? Or are we simply reacting to pressure from small interest lobby groups?

Please discuss!

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  1. An excellent article, but sadly something of a sidebar issue now as we all wait with bated breath to see if we get the ‘moar roads’ existing govt back in power or an alternate that will scale back the EW link.

  2. Good article, thanks. Perhaps it’s a sidebar issue. Or perhaps pondering again on the lost opportunity, cost to society, and arrogant flip of the bird from government that is the EWL, and how NZers could let it happen, is the same as what we’re all pondering on at the moment, anyway… 🙂

    1. The EW link is almost as bad as Kirkbride intersection – well over$200million (promised at $160 million) when a road bridge could have been done for $60million. Will the government really be stupid enough to pay $1.8 billion = over $200billion for this ….white elephant doesn’t even begin to describe it

    1. +1. I live in the area. Myself and the rest of the residents of Onehunga and Te Papapa only want a few small improvements to the Neilson St – Gloucester Park Rd and Church St – Great South Rd intersections….thats all.

  3. Waterview is a proper, underground dug tunnel and runs two tunnels for a total of just over 5km. It cost 1.4 billion. The East-West link is 5.5km at a cost of 1.8 billion. Why not just cut and cover it and use the spoil to increase the waterfront? Can’t be any more expensive, and everyone wins – the road builders get their road and the rality based community doesn’t lose the waterfront.

    1. I think that one other reason not to go underground here would be that – as you may have noticed at Waterview – is that boring tunnels takes up quite a bit of room on the surface as well. EWL is so short really, and heavily constrained at each end, that there would be little room for that – plus, the levels are likely to be all wrong for what essentially is a trucking route – i.e. level is better for that, rather than going up and down…

    2. Large amount of the cost is dealing with the rights of existing users. Cut and cover would not solve that. NZTA would still need to buy land, mitigate losses, etc.

      Also that wouldn’t actually solve the real issue that they claim they want to solve. Adding 4 or 6 (in future) lanes of additional traffic into Onehunga will not solve congestion.

      The spatial aspect and geometry of the Onehunga junction makes it very hard.

  4. Great piece.

    It’s not entirely a sidebar issue. Even if the BOI approve there is still room for appeal. We just need to keep up the pressure.

      1. yes, that’s correct. In the Basin Bridge case, the only one in which the Board of Inquiry has sad No to the government, the only thing that NZTA could do was to go back with cases of Law. They presented about 25 points concerning the Law – and all were thrown out as not actually being points of law. Case closed. No Basin Bridge.

        Similar thing here with East-West Link – if NZTA’s consultants have done their homework right, it will be approved and there will be no chance of appeal except on points of law. Conversely, if the EWL gets the approval, there will be nothing opponents can do, except for Law. Which, obviously, are a hard thing to prove.

      2. I’m told that Mercury would likely appeal. I’m not sure on what basis/channel they will use.

        The BOI might also approve with a lot of mitigation. It may become even more uneconomic. Politic action might then be more effective.

        Whatever the case, even if National do form the next government we should continue to focus on getting better outcomes.

      3. Correct. That’s the whole point of the BOI process, although that didn’t stop the Government trying to find valid points of law in the Basin Flyover decision.

  5. Am I right in saying that NZ First doesn’t support the East West link? So hopefully that could at least lead to it being watered down even if National are in government.

  6. What is the appetite for a public protest against the full scale EW Link. Are we still a nation hiding inside our houses or will a hīkoi along the waterfront get a good turnout?

    I care enough to go.

    1. I get the sense it’s still a local issue. Even given the cost.

      People outside the area either don’t know or think it’s the solution for congestion.

      That said the INZ stuff was great for getting the issue out to the wider audience. Not a PR person, no idea if that could be turned into more effective messaging.

      Maori themselves are divided – some of the South Island Maori have made a deal for support with NZTA where the get some claim to the (new) foreshore.

      1. I think you’re right. The Waterview Connection took years of protest for the locals to get it undergrounded, and only the locals took any major interest. It looks like a similar situation here.

        I used the word hīkoi but meant it in a general protest march sense, for all locals – iwi, residents, business owners, community groups or otherwise.

        Fingers crossed that it’s a NZ First priority to avoid the full extent of this Sochi Road of the South Pacific – that’d cover all coalition bases.

        1. If we had a media in NZ, and if NZTA didn’t have massive amounts of money at their fingertips to advertise on tv, etc (as we saw for the WC) the public could be engaged on the issue of nearly 2 billion dollars being spent on inducing traffic and preventing sensible development of the foreshore (when the money could be used for so much good). Sadly, we don’t, (and they do.)

          However, even without the resources to match what the government has, the effort of trying to educate the public on the various outdated processes and mindsets that have led to such a situation might be worth it in the long run.

    2. I’d be happy to march or do anything else to stop this disaster.

      I support local businesses, in fact I love having a large choice of mechanics, tradies, and wholesalers, all within 5 minutes of home. But this plan does not have a solid business case, and will totally sever the community from the coastline. We should absolutely make improvements to Neilson St and adjacent roads, but at a scale that makes sense for all stakeholders – and the environment.

      But this plan is madness. To even be considering it in 2017 is absurd.

    3. I can’t imagine their being a lot of appetite for a protest. Typically protests happen when houses are being removed or iconic landscapes are destroyed, cost and BCRs aren’t a big motivator.

      This would possibly be the least appealing bit of the NZ coast so I can’t see a lot of people being particularly worried by it’s demise.

      1. It seems to me that anyone who reads this blog, and supports its stated aims should actually be pretty engaged by this issue.

        1.8 Billion spent on a road that doesn’t stack up, along city coastline that will affect wildlife, as well as destroy amenity for the community is in fact exactly what this blog should be leading the fight against.

      2. If I didn’t browse this blog on occasion I wouldn’t have heard of a EW link. And if I did see mention of it I’d just assume another expensive solution for congestion (I remember I was against the Victoria Park tunnel but once it opened the improvement was great so I now try to control my innate conservatism). The forces for it are wealthy and have the ear of the politicians whereas the well argued case on this site can only snipe from the sidelines.

        Is the problem the inability of average voters to comprehend big numbers? The National’s $20pw tax reduction was a powerful message for anyone on a tight budget (average young family in Auckland) but $1.4b or $1.8b is hard to grasp. However with roughly 1.4m inhabitants it is $1000 per Aucklander or in my family $6,000.

        1. Much of NZTA and National’s road building budget don’t seem to meet business case tests.

          There are alternatives to EWL that would cost less and likely produce a similar benefit.

        2. Yes, Bob, if I ever talk about it to others, I have to explain what the EWL is. I wonder if some voters are either comfortable to believe the best decisions are being made, While others are resigned to believing that they never are, but that there’s nothing we can do about it?

          I believe it behooves us to talk more, and I am thankful to this site for getting such a lot of information out. However, at the time Trump was voted in, I remember reading a psychologist explaining that there are a lot of people who feel a strong reaction to anyone questioning the status quo and suggesting change, believing that such change is actually the problem and what one must fight against. It was fascinating, and worrying.

        3. I think part of this is the expectation that authorities work in our best interest.

          “Congestion is a problem. Naturally NZTA’s plans to solve congestion are right.”

          Part of the problem is lack of access to good information prevents good activism and lack of good consultation prevents wider understanding.

  7. Is there any petition against the EW Link? Fingers crossed we get a new government or the consultations force a change. But we may need a plan B…

  8. Isn’t a lot of the foreshore you show is part of the old Pikes Point landfill? My understanding is that there is a lot of asbestos plus landfill gas issues associated with Pikes Point. Not to mention geotechnical issues (the basalt is very thin in that location) …. so for large apartment buildings like are proposed for Brisbane are going to require expensive foundations. Dealing with the contaminated land issues, ground gas issues (CS3 + building protection measures) plus geotechnical issues will make it very expensive for residential land use under the NES/RMA.

    While it would be technically possible to develop it like Brisbane, there are a large number of other sites in Auckland which would be far cheaper to develop like you are suggesting.

    I think the proposal for the area which Panukau Development Auckland proposed is a far more likely scenario.

    (Note: I am not supporting EW link but I’m not sure that Brisbane Northshore Hamilton development is the best fit for the Onehunga Foreshore ).

    1. Do you know if the Hamilton North location doesn’t have any similar concerns (I don’t know myself, but I wouldn’t imagine that location is clean either.)

      Which other locations in Auckland are you thinking of (with the same level of history and proximity to the cbd)?

      I suspect the real issue here is that the landfills put in such terrible places are going to cost a lot to clean up, and we should be doing it now. We haven’t learnt: we still allow industry to pollute and get away with it, we haven’t fixed the problems with our lifestyle which leads to so much rubbish and pollution.

      1. Sadly not many people give a toss about wasteful expenditure on unnecessary roads. Certainly the government doesn’t care even embracing it. And for most members of the National caucus the only meaning that Paris has to them is a coveted spot for a government funded junket. I don’t wan’t to do a disservice to every caucus member though as probably for Paula Bennett the word conjures up the perfume from Farmers.
        I’d love for NZ to follow the example of Brasil where many new roads are funded by tolls because presumably that’s the only way they can be afforded. Arguably NZ can’t afford our roads either as why else would we have a public hospital system in tatters with a combined deficit currently around $117m?

  9. The only small interest lobby group is toes. This is a great improvement to the foreshore with a new cycle way and wetland. Storm water runoff treatment will help with leachate from the landfill. The cost per km is much cheaper than Waterview. Toes are anti progress nimbys.

    1. This is a lie.

      The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) released a report earlier this year showing 685 people submitted on the East West Link.

      The number of submissions opposing the project in full or in part was 582, or 85 per cent.

    2. How much would a cycleway of this length usually cost? And a wetland? Not 2 billion dollars. That’s a lot of our money. Are we supposed to tip our hats and grovel as we say thank you?

      I’m not a nimby. I don’t want this for any community or any foreshore.

  10. Only Winston stands in the way of the East-West link now. If he goes with National, it will happen. If he goes with Labour, it is dead in the water (pending a cost-benefit analysis and probably scaled back significantly)

    1. Has the BOI delivered its veredict yet? What I have heard they have given the EW team a grilling. I would not say it is a forgone conclusion yet.

  11. For those not familiar with the area, the cycleway is already there. From memory it was one of Auckland’s first shared path cycle and pedestrian ways, and runs from just east of the Manukau Tavern, or whatever it is called these days, to the power station. I presume this project would see it linked with the cycleway that runs alongside the south-eastern arterial through Sylvia Park, but linking the two could be done a whole lot cheaper, and quicker, than the EW link.

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