We are generally supportive of the new government’s direction when it comes to transport, how could we not when many of their key initiatives originally came from us? Furthermore, we’re also supportive of many of their housing initiatives, especially the need to accelerate the delivery of affordable housing in Auckland and looking to build around rapid transit.

One area we don’t support the government’s direction on though is their intention to remove Auckland’s Rural Urban Boundary (RUB). Last month I explained why this is a stupid idea, concluding the following:

I’ve noticed that many of those who advocated against the MUL in the past don’t seem to have understood the key differences between what that was and the new RUB. I wonder if Twyford has fallen into this trap too, so it makes me wonder whether this is a policy designed to fix a pre Unitary Plan problem where the urban growth limits truly did prevent pretty much any outwards expansion of Auckland. However, the Rural Urban Boundary actually now does a very different job. It’s much more about providing certainty than about actually restricting growth. Undermining this certainty, through getting rid of the RUB, is actually likely to slow growth down and make it much more expensive.

That makes it a pretty dumb idea.

It’s not yet clear how the government intends to pursue this policy, whether through legislative change to the RMA banning such a policy, or through encouraging Auckland Council to change the Unitary Plan voluntarily. In any case, a big risk of removing the RUB is that the government and the council end up subsidising inefficient and environmentally destructive growth patterns. Things that will undermine huge other parts of the government’s policy agenda.

So, how might we go about removing the RUB while avoiding massive subsidies to inefficient and environmentally destructive growth patterns?

The key to answering this question is ensuring that any sprawl truly “pays its way”.

As I discussed recently, when looking at a paper by the Council’s Chief Economist, there are ways in which financial tools could be used to much more fairly allocate the cost of growth. This paper highlighted the huge cost of providing sprawl with infrastructure, around $150,000 per dwelling just for trunk transport, water and social infrastructure. Add on to that the further costs of building local roads and providing services like schools, hospitals and police stations. Importantly, the paper highlighted that the main beneficiaries of this investment are landowners – through higher value of their property:

The paper points out that current financial policies used by the Council are terrible at reflecting the true cost of growth. For example:

  • Development contributions are set way too low, covering less than $40,000 of the $150,000 average cost of serving these areas with infrastructure.
  • Development contributions are way too standardised, leading to perverse outcomes where areas cheaper and more efficient to serve with infrastructure end up subsidising costlier locations.
  • Recovering the cost of infrastructure through development contributions incentivises landbanking, because the value uplift occurs when the infrastructure is put in place but the development contribution is only paid when housing actually gets built.

Thankfully change is coming to these crazy policies. In the 2017/18 Annual Plan there was a major shift in the Council’s financial policy to enable targeted rates to be applied to cover the cost of infrastructure to serve developing areas. Targeted rates completely change the landscape for incentives by actively encouraging development and, hopefully, can be far more nuanced to truly reflect the cost of infrastructure to support growth.

If the government wants to ensure that removing the RUB doesn’t result in terrible outcomes that undermine their efforts to focus transport investment on public transport, to tackle climate change and to protect important environmental areas, then they need to insist on aggressive changes to the Council’s financial policies to fix the problems above. This doesn’t solve all the problems with removing the RUB (especially around providing certainty to major infrastructure projects about where and when growth will happen), but it will go a long way to avoiding mass subsidised sprawl.

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84 comments

  1. Thanks Matt
    Could you provide 3 or 4 lines on what the RUB is? I wondered is it only in Auckland? How long has it been around?
    Ta

  2. The article makes sense. Sensible planning decisions need correct costing. If you add a new property you should be paying for the cost of the infrastructure needed. However with a little reflection this sentence seems wrong: “” Add on to that the further costs of building local roads and providing services like schools, hospitals and police stations.””
    Owning a small house on a large section in a northern suburb where most of the sections have long been sub-divided if I could handle the fuss and also the many costs (surveyors, council, Geo-tech, new driveways, etc) it would be possible to add a couple of new houses. So taking the four items in order:
    1. Our local roads have become congested in recent years; parked cars are common on the road I live on but a decade ago they were rare and car-based congestion now delays local trips; note the congestion affects our local buses too.
    2. Our local primary school has already added a few extra classrooms in the last five years reducing the size of the school playground.
    3. My last trip to North Shore Hospital (a truly excellent place by the way) found it full to over-flowing despite recent new buildings.
    4. OK we don’t need more police stations
    The other significant expenditure on services are stormwater and wastewater. Both were upgraded in recent years. I suspect the cost of the upgrade would have higher than laying new pipes in a new suburb.

    It is wrong to think intensification has minimal costs. Only the accurate costing recommended by the author can resolve the balance between intensification and sprawl.
    My gut feeling is spend heavy on major transport links: rail and bus ways permitting access to well designed new suburbs with deliberate nodes of intensification (mid-high apartment blocks) along the route. This seems to be roughly what is happening except for the critical rail and bus ways – maybe it is hard to persuade North Shore residents like me to pay for replacing level crossings but in the long run we all win with a well functioning city.

    1. Yes. In your point 1, we have to remember that this huge increase in parked cars in the suburbs (which is marked where I live too) cannot be explained by infill. There are not 10 x as many people living here, there is not a massive reduction in garage space – indeed the opposite is true – but there are 10x more cars parked on the road.

      These parked cars are from 0 and 1 car households becoming 2,3, and 4-car households, as more and more people have become car dependent. And this is a result of the motorway building and road widening programmes. More and more households have adults working at locations a long way away, and more and more trips are uncomfortable by active modes so are taken by car. (Also more and more people own multiple cars.)

      And the extra traffic on the road is partly from the extra driving originating in the suburb itself. But mainly it’s from the extra traffic coming through our suburbs from new suburbs further out.

      So I believe the congestion and parking problems are a result of road expansion and sprawl, not – as I think you’re implying – as a result of intensification. We could have had the infill (or better yet, proper medium density design) in the existing suburbs without these problems. What that would have required was a rethink of the road system so that PT and active modes were improved, and car travel made more difficult, but still possible.

      And that’s what we need to do now.

      1. Heidi – as usual you give me food for thought. You are right we have many parked cars on my suburban road; maybe ten times as many in the last decade but we have had very few sub-divisions because they occurred about 20 years ago.
        More parked car – why? You believe more motorways and more spending on roads. It must have an effect but I suggest very minor compared to increasing numbers of adults living in houses – children who cannot afford to leave home; they cannot afford a new house over $500k but can afford a car under $5k. I judge by how many remain parked during the day. Some will be employees at houses that have converted to pre-schools but more being just parked so the commuter can catch a bus to work.
        My point being a social cost caused by intensification or as you might put it – badly implemented unplanned intensification.

        1. Yes, those are factors too. We can discern between the daytime “Hide and Ride” and local worker cars and the (usually) nighttime residents’s cars by recording during the day and night. When I find time from somewhere 🙂 (maybe giving up reading GA), I’m thinking of doing just that, and perhaps asking for vehicle registration data by suburb.

          Due to a quirk of circumstance, I happen to know a lot about the people in my street. From 47 houses, I am aware of only one couple who fit into the grown children category. There are tertiary students with cars, but not necessarily a higher percentage than in the past. And there are secondary students with cars they are not yet licensed to drive alone. (!) There are often house-sitters in the grown children category. There are international boarders in their 20s, who don’t own cars. But there are a number of houses where the ratio of cars to drivers is 2:1 or higher. I imagine your observations are also correct, and there are pockets of suburbs with different demographics… In short, I believe the car dependency and road building programme is a big, probably the biggest factor, but please pass along any studies that confirm, deny or confuse this theory. 🙂

  3. I imagine the majority of the infrastructure cost is transport. So why not move to a system where transport is fully funded by fuel taxes and fares, not by rates? Then sprawl users that travel long distances would pay their fair share. Nice and simple, right?
    I know people think housing is in some way special and needs all sorts of regulation, but in reality if housing was left to the free market we wouldn’t have half the problems we have now. The best thing the government could do is remove almost all powers from the council.

    1. The market has been proven to be a terrible provider of housing. It gets rid of industry capacity during downtimes, encourages speculation during boom times, none of which are particularly useful for providing a basic human right.

      The problem isn’t so much that we intervene too much, it’s just that we tend to intervene when we shouldn’t and stand back when intervention is needed. For example we have a whole lot of brownfields development rules that are basically about keeping things the same for existing residents and businesses, that we really shouldn’t have. On the other hand we stand back and let the market work when it is clear that a downturn is the best time for the government to be doing some building itself. It gets cheaper tradespeople and helps keep them in NZ.

      1. I don’t really have a problem with the government participating or competing in the market. It’s the rules on what you can build, where you can build, who can build, etc that are causing problems.

      2. While hindsight is of course 20/20, I do wonder if the government could have had the vision when the financial crisis hit to announce a large house building program, which would have kept people in the industry employed and we wouldn’t have lost all that capacity and we wouldn’t be struggling to play catch-up now.

        1. Vision? National? Same sentence???? Those 2 words don’t belong together. They’re more interested in cronyism and looking after their foreign friends.

    2. “but in reality if housing was left to the free market we wouldn’t have half the problems we have now.”

      This doesn’t apply to human rights like housing. Just look at the disastrous healthcare system in the US to see what this would look like.

      1. Food?
        As above I don’t necessarily mind the government building or owning houses – although looking at the crappy state houses on huge sections near us, it looks like they have predictably made a hash of it.
        Its the zoning / building rules that are the cause of all of the problems we have today. We don’t need the government or the council to tell us what we should want…

        1. I completely agree that we need to remove/massively relax a whole lot of zoning rules.

          Food is different to housing and healthcare for a few reasons. Housing goes through speculative booms where the entire market increases in book value (see USA 2000-2007 and NZ 2008-2017). Food only goes through speculative bubbles in isolated markets dominated by single crops (Kenya and Ethiopia are good examples).
          Food is a relatively fixed cost. You can feed a human in New Zealand pretty well for $40 a week give or take, every week. Healthcare is not a fixed cost. You might have no healthcare cost for years and then suffer a car crash needing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of care. Covering a lumpy cost like this is really hard, especially if it happens while you are young or if you are on the challenging end of the economic ladder and can’t use accumulated wealth. The cost to enter the market as a provider also makes it really easy to form a local monopoly on healthcare that is much harder with food. Just look at how many fruit and veg shops and Asian supermarkets can operate cheaper than supermarkets, for example.

          Government is involved in food to ensure safety and involved in healthcare to provide competition for private operators and ensure safety. It should do both for housing as well. Building code to guarantee safety, market involvement to provide competition.

          1. I have no disagreement about healthcare.
            Yes I think the government should control the safety of buildings, but 90% of the building code is about ensuring the longevity of buildings. There is a lot of paperwork, inspections, etc, very little of which is about safety, mostly about making sure the council doesn’t get sued for shoddy building work. I can’t sue the council if the pie I buy at the supermarket doesn’t taste great, why can I sue the council if the eve-less cardboard house I buy leaks?

          2. Same argument as the healthcare. If you buy a poor tasting pie you lost $3 and you can still eat it. If you buy a leaky house then you lost $250,000 and can’t even live in it.

            This is government regulation to make sure that a house is habitable. This is similar to government regulation to ensure that hygiene practices at restaurants are suitable. I don’t want restaurants to give me food poisoning or shoddy builders to give me rheumatic fever.

            A poor tasting pie is more similar to an ugly house. Council shouldn’t regulate either, because a consumer can decide what is ugly. A consumer can’t assess how insulated a house is, how the framing is treated and assembled, how the waterproofing is managed, or whether the raw and cooked meats in their pie are separated during preparation.

    3. I have been thinking about that a lot lately. Technology has become available with GPS tracker etc that every vehicle movement could be measured and charged for. EV uptake will make a new road charging system such as this necessary in the near to medium future. GPS tracking also allows road congestion charging. So lots of benefits. There is some issues to work through like privacy -but they do not seem to be insurmountable.

      I would suggest that total road (not footpaths and cycleways which would remain a local govt responsibility) maintenance cost be calculated by a clearing house/maintenance provider who would then calculate a easily understood charging system based on distance travelled and axcle weight. Congestion could be charged in relation to the number of minutes travel on particular routes over freeflow rates.

      Congestion revenues could either go to a regional transport board or a national body to be used to contribute to the capital costs of new mode neutral transport infrastructure.

      This would put road transport on the same basis as other modes such as rail, air and sea which internalises its infrastructure costs.

      1. I think privacy will be a serious issue. We would require a system that can anonomyse users but at the same time make the correct links that ensures the right people are billed and more importantly convince the public that they can rely on this. I think this will be extremely difficult.

        Dumping the data after a fixed period may be a solution to this, but I’m not sure NZ is as open to this level of surveillance as Singapore is.

  4. The graph is misleading by omission. I think the big uplift in value occurs when you get an operative residential zoning. Prior to that you can’t subdivide or build. After that you have the right to. Infrastructure installed is the last stage at which new titles can be issued. The speculation occurs prior to the installation of infrastructure at the point where it becomes clear there will be an operative zone approved. Like most nonsense coming out of the Council the graph is just spin. It is pushing a narrative that infrastructure is the single thing that adds value to a developers land while trying to hide the impact the Council’s zoning policy has on limiting land supply and increasing prices to the homeowner, with consequential effects on housing affordability and homelessness.

    1. “The graph is misleading by omission. I think the big uplift in value occurs when you get an operative residential zoning.”

      How is this any different? You need the infrastructure to get the zone, therefore, the infrastructure causes the lift in value.

      1. “You need the infrastructure to get the zone..” That is simply not true. Nobody builds infrastructure without having the zone first. I have a zone that allows me to split my site into four. I haven’t put in the pipes, driveway or wires needed to get a 224c certificate. Current market value is the sale price of four sites less the development costs less the developers margin.
        Ask yourself why they left out that important data point from the graph. They are not there to provide the world with independent economic advice. They exist to provide cover for the Council’s current position and to find new ways to increase funds for the council. Their game is making people think that developers are getting a windfall from the public provision of infrastructure. If you want real economic advice then try Arthur Grimes instead.
        And while we are at it, if you are right then you would have to believe the nonsense assumption in that graph that streets and pipes in the north cost $265/sqm of site in the north and only $138/sqm in the west. I am calling bullshit!

        1. I had assumed that the cost in the graph was with infrastructure installed to the boundary/street, rather than to the site. Maybe I need to have a more thorough wade through to confirm or deny.

          “And while we are at it, if you are right then you would have to believe the nonsense assumption in that graph that streets and pipes in the north cost $265/sqm of site in the north and only $138/sqm in the west. I am calling bullshit!”

          Why would I have to believe this? The infra to both might only cost $10/m2 but the infrastructure would lead to that uplift in value.

          1. Because north shore people have a greater preference for pipes?
            Anyway if you went right through the process it would be:
            Farmland
            Future Urban Zone
            Plan Change to Residential Zone
            public infrastructure like trunk sewers etc (this is linked to the above usually through a structure plan)
            Resource consents for land use and subdivision
            Install infrastructure- streets, parks and services
            pay all the levies
            224c certificate
            new titles issued

            Under the old system the big value increase was getting the MUL relaxed around your land. These days it is getting from FUZ to Residential zone. Either way the uplift is just the relaxation of the Council stopping you from developing and the premium you get because the Council limit opportunities elsewhere. My point is it is a all about regulation and these dudes don’t want to say that. They are pushing the story that homeowners should pay more and the Council should pay less.

          2. “They are pushing the story that homeowners should pay more and the Council should pay less.” Given that the council is wholly owned by homeowners, it’s an argument about which homeowners should pay.

            What is your argument here? You have put a whole load of premises together without making any conclusion. Is your argument that we should remove the MUL and zone everything as residential?

          3. “Because north shore people have a greater preference for pipes?”

            No, because people have a need for pipes and a preference for land on the North Shore.

          4. So you have given up defending the indefensible and gone on the attack. That means I am getting somewhere. My point is the graph is bullshit and any argument based on it is unproven and possible a weak argument. That’s it. It is important to be aware that marketing and propaganda can be in the form of a graph sometimes.

          5. So your only point is that the graph is misleading? Sweet, given your statements above, I agree that it is misleading 🙂

  5. The new improve heavy rail will pay back every thing and increased income and will make housing a lot cheaper with extra money in every one pocket even the poor get the same the train is the safe on the planet every one will see

  6. The only question of relevance is “how do New Zealanders want to live”? You then make that happen. We don’t want a situation where we are all social engineered to live according to someone else’s ideology.

    So, how do the majority of New Zealanders choose to live, the length and breadth of the country? That’s right – in houses, on sections. That’s where the desire and demand is. And in this country there will be enough land to keep building houses on sections for several more centuries before it causes any problems.

    What is wrong with subsidy if that’s what people want, which they clearly do? Your rapid rail proposal is all about subsidy after all. Is subsidy good if it matches our ideology, and bad if it doesn’t?

    Suburban living delivers on cost, and on lifestyle. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    1. yes this dose delivers every thing and this new train dont have any requirements at all and it will help all subsidy it dose fix on cost and lifestyle and no more idiots on roads and no more accents on road and what i mean in that pay things back like pay for more houses reused every ones power bills and save on gas and there bill is lot cheaper by $1 thats all and if yous want lots off traffic every day then fine but you all ways turn up late and saying traffic is bad and block up gas stations while trains running and say u cant beat me im winning and it knows to much and u cant fool it and it can pull u over if any one likes it or not

    2. Interesting idea. “The only question of relevance is “how do New Zealanders want to live”? You then make that happen.”

      I think there are some bigger questions. Like “Can the planet support that lifestyle?”

    3. I’d say most people around the world like living space but they also like proximity to work, people and activities. In New Zealand there is ample choice to live affordably with plenty of space, I believe you have been doing that for the last while. Why on the earth would be subsidise this in Auckland when the opportunity exists in many other places?

      What we lack is the ability to live affordably in reasonable proximity of jobs in our main centres. There would be many people who would trade space for this proximity but don’t get the choice.

      1. The trading space for proximity concept needs to be further defined. Densification indicates more people are living in a given area. So at some level cities trade space for proximity.

        But all the evidence points to residential space being a normal good. In other words as people’s incomes grow they consume more residential space per person. There is an excellent graph of Tokyo Precinct in the following link showing this https://medium.com/land-buildings-identity-and-values/successful-cities-understand-spatial-economics-95c272ac04c9

        The Tokyo experience shows intensification does not stop its residents from consuming more residential space.

        1. Yes, mind you I think the space Jezza is referring to is land area, as admired by Geoff. I don’t think Geoff was talking about apartment floor area. Your point is valid, we can have sufficient space in higher density living.

  7. We have urban sprawl, and Auckland is sprawling outwards at a very high rate. And one of the reasons that the sprawl, especially into greenfields developments such as Kumeu/Huapai, around Silverdale, Weiti/Okura, Karaka and Paerata, is they are where you can build a three to four bedroomed single storied family sized house on a reasonably sized section where you can have a trampoline for the kids, a vege garden, and a hobby shed down the back for dad. Getting the services to those developments would not be cheap, but why should they be subsidised by the rest of Auckland’s ratepayers.

  8. Councils certainly do not like the narrative that restrictive zoning (both up and out) contributes to high house prices. Much of their public statements are about diverting attention away from that point -as Miffy points out. Another example of this is Auckland Council has hidden the massive reduction of estimated feasible dwelling development that the new Unitary Plan allows in 2017 compared to 2016 (meaning if it was honest with itself AC would urgently relax land-use restrictions -especially in the worst affected area -intensification).
    https://medium.com/land-buildings-identity-and-values/aucklands-unitary-plan-update-b04457da495e

    Around the world land-use regulations are increasingly being pointed to as a significant cause of housing crises in many cities. I write about this here https://medium.com/land-buildings-identity-and-values/why-is-it-hard-to-enter-some-cities-land-use-27433fc2b166

    I think underneath all this controversy and debate there is an opportunity for a new type of urban growth. One that is post automobile centric -taking advantage of new ideas and technology, such as EV bikes/cars, Mobility as a Service, walkability etc and that takes into account the increasing pressure to relax land-use regulation to allow for affordable housing. I think the places which get this package right will be very successful going forward.

    Removing subsidies for sprawl will be part of that process.

  9. Housing is a human right, and neither Council nor Government have ensured this basic need has been met. This housing crisis is pushing women into survival sex, children into lifelong preventable diseases and interrupting their education. We need to build new high-density apartments in well-connected brownfields locations asap. And both Council and Government should be doing this. Plenty of cities consider this provision of housing to be core Council business. We should too.

    The Unitary Plan has already failed, as Brendon pointed out – the economic changes of just one year now results in the model now showing HALF as many feasible new brownfields homes. This shows the model was incorrectly applied – anything so sensitive to a slight change in economic situation in just one year was a model that could not be relied upon for planning purposes. Shame on you, Council.

    The only solution I can see is compulsory acquisition of underdeveloped commercial sites by Council. For there is no such thing as property rights when basic human rights haven’t been met.

    1. Heidi is right. The housing crisis is creating misery for many. A basic need (and right) is being allowed to inflate to extortionate levels. We cannot let this continue. Compulsory acquisition is one policy solution and it should be on the table.

      I think there are some other solutions as well. But I am not against throwing the kitchen sink at this problem. For too long we have let ourselves be distracted, turned a blind eye, allowed public bodies collectively to put their head in the sand….

      I have high hopes that in 2018 NZ starts to address the housing crisis with meaningful action. That the good words of Jacinda Ardern, Phil Twyford and co are turned into action.

      1. +1, compulsory acquisition is going to be needed in some places. I would also like to see government agree to investment in certain suburbs if the zoning is changed to allow way more intensification.

        1. First we regulate the crap out of a market until it completely fails, then we fix it through government production and compulsory acquisition? This didn’t work for the communists did it?

          1. Compulsory acquisition isn’t a communist idea. It’s been used in New Zealand for many projects. My own family’s farm was taken for war purposes, and never returned. What you can tell about a society is not from whether the government uses compulsory acquisition, but for what that land is used. It’s telling if compulsory acquisition is only used for big boys’ games: war and motorways and big industrial projects, but never to provide housing or amenity for the vulnerable.

          2. +1 to what Heidi said .

            Compulsory acquisition is used by governments to get around the market failure problem of contiguity or the holdout problem of site assembly.

            If governments did not have this ability network infrastructure such as roads, rapid transit, electricity supply etc would be under provided and much more expensive as the important links in the network would be held to ransom by the monopoly position of selfish landowners (the ones who only consider maximising their personal benefit not what is best for society).

            As Heidi states it is interesting when compulsory acquisition is used? Is it used to benefit the few or the many?

    2. Don’t you think just letting people develop their land would be a better place to start. Two years ago I wasn’t even allowed to subdivide my 980m2 section in Mt Roskill – lord only knows why. Now I am allowed, but it would cost an arm and a leg with every possible hurdle put in the way.
      Why can’t I just build another 3 houses without begging (or even talking to) the council? Is there really any need for the council to control this? Some sensible height to boundary rules would be required so I can’t completely destroy my neighbours, but are any other rules actually needed? Is it worth having people living in their cars so the council can make sure every house meets their requirements?

      1. Most of the rules now are pretty sensible. In the denser zones you can pretty much do anything now as long as you consider the things that impact on your neighbours and the factors that the council has to mitigate or manage on behalf of the community.

        So yeah, you’ll have an impervious area rule because a council body has to manage stormwater flows and flooding. You’ll have a 1m side yard so that you and your neighbours can have basic access for maintenance (unless you agree on a party wall). You have rules around driveways because a council body has to ensure traffic enters the street system fairly safely and efficiently.

        There are actually pretty few ‘quality of life’ rules that don’t impact anyone else, things like the minimum yard sizes and outlook spaces. But those are considered much less important and if you have breaches that only infringe on your own property then odds are they’ll disregard them.

        As I understanding the gold test comes down to whether there are any significant external impacts. Council will sit down with you for free to check over a concept, mostly it’s just confirming what you do won’t cause significant problems for the council or neighbors.

        1. So what you are saying is that it will be really easy and inexpensive to subdivide my property? I just go in and the local council guys says ‘yeah sure no permeable area and boundary issues, go for it’?
          I’m sure the real process involves multiple surveys, architects, bureaucracy and untold costs. Probably $100k plus just for the privilege, not to mention lots of time and stress. Having just done some building work I know full well how good the council are at preventing anything being built.

          1. No not saying that at all. I’m saying you can now do a lot more if you prove the nominal breaches are negligible or internalised. Yes you still have to prove it.

      2. Clearly you are some sort of dangerous radical. There is no way the Council could have created the Penny Hulse Auckland Residential Housing Crisis (PHARHC) or its associated Unitary Plan (PHARHC-UP) if they let people make choices.

      3. Jimbo, “their requirements” are our requirements. Using up every square inch of permeable land for standalone land-hogging houses removes the ecological services provided by soil and trees. That gives us flooded landscapes in storms, overflowing sewerage, polluted harbours, poorer air quality, more extremes of urban temperature, social and mental stress.

        So, no, I don’t think a free-for-all is better than what I suggested. Good design benefits us all.

        1. But the result of the endless rules is that I have ended up increasing the size of my existing house instead of subdividing and providing new homes to the market. More people sleeping in cars, more 200m2 houses on big sections. It’s kind of like the council saying we all must eat caviar or nothing.

          1. Mmm… the larger house thing is definitely happening, so fair point. Question is how someone in your situation could have been encouraged to develop – without it having the drawbacks of multiple standalone houses and little green space remaining. Is it the endless rules, or is it the associated consent and development costs that are the barrier? (Or is it the combination?: Realising the hassle will make it all unpleasant and the cost make that hassle not worth it.)

            Would having nice local examples of 3 to 4 storey apartment buildings have helped you consider that sort of development? I’d imagine there’s a fear of being the first in the area and getting kick-back from locals. Which is partly why I think government (local and national) should be leading the way by building quality medium density apartment buildings in each suburb.

            Alternatively, would tiny houses in your yard have worked for you somehow? We’re considering this…

          2. “Question is how someone in your situation could have been encouraged to develop”

            I disagree, the question is how could Jimbo not be so actively discouraged. The answer is obviously to make planning far easier to get. ie council could (or government could force council to) set up a whole lot of formal exemption to rules and remove a whole lot of rules. I.e.:
            Government makes it illegal for council’s to consider HIRB an issue with neighbouring resident and landowner consent.
            Primary outlooks from windows can be over a property boundary when the boundary is between two subdivisions or with adjacent property owners consent.
            Remove all paring minimums.
            Raise maximum heights to enable three stories everywhere.
            Make shared walls a permitted activity and free with registration by both adjoining property owners.

          3. Yes, fair point, and I’d go for all those changes. But I’d also keep and make more strict the permeable land rules and reinstate some control over keeping big trees.

          4. Big tree rules are terrible, they incentivise chopping trees down before they get big as owners fear the costs involved if they have any problems with the tree in the future.

            I completely agree with you on permeable surfaces, these are vital and are definitely a form of good regulation. I also think if you have sufficient permeable surface coverage across the city you will inevitably end up with a decent number of trees on these surfaces.

          5. Strongly disagree on big tree rules Heidi. We should be planting them on land owned by council and government. There is more than enough of it!

          6. Good discussion. I think some sort of agreed upon relaxation of rules/costs for intensification is necessary as part of a wider NZ urbanisation reform process. Especially if the process is removing the hidden subsidies for sprawl. At the same time we need to look at removing the hidden restrictions/costs for intensification.

          7. Trees have to get pretty big and old before they start offering any substantial service in the way of evapotranspiration, urban cooling, air filtering. We have a strong history of cutting them down before they get to that stage.

            Planning around the big trees is indeed possible. And putting them on Council land? Pffff! Lesson one as a community gardener is not to set up your garden on Council land. There is more security on anyone else’s land.

          8. I’m typing this from Hamilton. From here I can see over 100 trees over 10m tall on Council land. Planting, pruning, and felling trees on council land is a council decision, the council should make that decision rather than forcing every home owner to do so.

          9. And it’s the only option in the inner city. Since the areas up for intensification will also need more small parks, maybe the solution is that the larger trees cannot be cut unless Council has first considered buying the section to make into a small park. And some sort of requirement that Council does so if there is a need in the area?

          10. ‘Trees have to get pretty big and old before they start offering any substantial service in the way of evapotranspiration, urban cooling, air filtering. We have a strong history of cutting them down before they get to that stage.’

            Agree, and having rules on what you can do if a tree gets over a certain height ensures we strengthen that history of cutting them down before they get to that stage.

            I like trees, however under the old Auckland City rules there is now way I would have let any trees on my property get over 6m (I think it was), as I loose a lot of control of what I can do with it in the future.

          11. Anyone actually got some research on it? Of course that can happen, but many trees get big while noone’s noticing – commonly because the biddies who planted it way back are used to it. My reckon 🙂 is that these big old trees represent a small fraction of what were planted at the time, and that most of those didn’t make it for a whole range of reasons, rarely to do with a need to get rid of it before Council rules ticked in.

          12. I think you are making it way too hard Heidi.

            Council has a policy for a net change of say 5,000 trees over 6m within the MUL every year. Simple policy. Then every streetscape upgrade will include trees, every park upgrade will include heaps, new developments will include areas for large street trees. They might have a policy of 500 per board area too.

            As an example, council are extending Fairviw Avenue to Oteha Valley Road and will fell 6 mature trees. They could plant a large tree every 10m on both sides of the road and in the median. That’s 60 new trees and 6 removed. A net change of 54. Do that over 10 projects every year in each board and they are sorted.

            This can also be scaled up by a factor of ten really easily. THen council actually gets an increase in big trees.

          13. But planting big trees is a mug’s game. Unless you restrict yourself to a few species that are known to cope better, they don’t do well. Indeed, we’re creating a lack of diversity in our big trees for precisely this reason.

            Sorry if it looks like I’m putting up barriers, but in my designs, I map all the features, including built, ecological and social capital, I show the external influences and the problem spots and I design using well-established principles. It’s a different mindset, but it turns problems into solutions and is generally a lot cheaper and less energy and resource intensive.

          14. Because you can design at the suburb scale. Large trees are an ecological asset of the community, just as much as waterways are, and permeable land is, and sunshine.

          15. Bees are an ecological asset. We don’t force every home to have a beehive.

            What would the regulation look like and what would it achieve?

          16. I’ve written two very detailed replies and then scrapped them because they’re too long. 🙂 Might have to be yet another post that I never get around to writing. Sorry…

            In the meantime, let’s push for rat-runs to be blocked with clusters of tiny houses…

          17. “I’ve written two very detailed replies and then scrapped them because they’re too long. Might have to be yet another post that I never get around to writing. Sorry…
            In the meantime, let’s push for rat-runs to be blocked with clusters of tiny houses…”

            Looking forward to reading it. Lets block the rat runs with tiny houses and huge trees. 🙂

        2. Whilst some rules are heavy handed horse shit and should be scrapped completely (who was the arrogant arsehole who decided they should be able to dictate what colour I paint my house?) the real problem here is the sheer cost, time and effort required to show ‘compliance’.
          Tens of thousands of dollars in consultants fees, engineering reports and council fees just to show that what you’ve planned meets their rules.
          There’ll be no low cost housing under this process.

          1. Of course. But there are two problems here
            The complexity of those regulations means that only specialised consultants can understand and therefore carry out applications.
            And secondly, the council have a monopoly over the processing of applications and have no incentive to reduce cost.

            The other big problem is the building code. If we accept that housing (shelter?) is a right then we should also accept that building your own shelter is also a right. The building code prohibits this. But people will always find cheap shelter. It’s human nature. At the moment that cheap shelter is cars.
            Or the bloke down the road who has set up a bunch of relocatable houses on an under used commercial site.

          2. Where are you, Tony, that your house colour has been dictated? That is crap. I’d imagine that isn’t a council thing but a developer’s rule. I have a bit of a subversive streak (actually, in case no-one had noticed) and so the front of my house is red and the back of it is yellow. 🙂 It makes me happy every time I look at it.

          3. Outside the metro area Heidi. And it is a requirement from the council applied at the subdivision resource consent stage.
            Known as ‘recessive colours’. There doesn’t seem to be any supporting council document for this stupidity just some vague fluffery about a lower than 35% light reflection value.
            Most of the colours they reference are horribly depressing so of course as soon as the council have fucked off we will paint in our own colours.
            That’s the other thing about silly rules is that they get ignored.

          4. Yes, when I had a farm up north, every neighbour disconnected the greywater from the septic system and put it to use on the land…

  10. 1) The RUB should be removed. Its an artificial device dreamed up by urban planners with no evidence or analysis justifying it. There are plenty of studies showing why RUBs/UGBs cause artificial scarcity of land and drive up land prices.

    2) Developer contributions should be removed. All they do is drive up the initial up front capital cost of housing making it yet more unaffordable.

    To mitigate the above:

    3) All land zoning rules limiting density should be removed and replaced with a national standard based on effects.

    4) Targeted rates / infrastructure bonds should be used to pay for the infrastructure. Its the users that create the demand not the developers.

    5) Congestion tolls should be introduced

    1. Big plus 1 to point 4. If development fees would be $40,000 that should be changed to a $4,000 annual targeted rate for 10 years.

  11. I don’t support many of Labour’s policy just scrapping the urban/rural boundary is one policy I do support.

    As we have seen forcing an increasing number of the people into a confined space unsurprisingly results in land prices increasing and people being locked out of home ownership. Land supply needs to increase as the population increases.

    This blog loves to talk about the cost of sprawl. That cost is minor compared with the carnage we’ve seen arise from recent housing policy.

  12. Kiwi_overseas is making a lot of sense with points 4 and 5. I have lived in local bodies in New Zealand where work has been done by the council with loan money which was paid off by those directly affected by the work with targeted rates. However, I recall them being outlawed some time ago by the government, but my memory could be wrong on that one.

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