The new Government has made some giant leaps forward in transport policy since they were elected last year, most notably through the 2018 Government Policy Statement and the progress that’s now being made on light-rail. A lot of their housing plans are also excellent, with major developments planned in areas close to light-rail lines, like Unitec and Mangere.

Planned housing at Mangere

However, there’s one area the government seems to be going in a really weird and pointless direction, and that is their outdated obsession with getting rid of Auckland’s Rural Urban Boundary. We’ve talked about this before, noting the high likelihood of this policy completely backfiring:

Therefore you’d probably see the following impacts from getting rid of the RUB:

  1. Greater uncertainty for rural areas. With all rural areas theoretically having the possibility of becoming urban in the future you’d be likely to see less investment into the rural sector (why invest in new processing plants when you might sell up to urbanise in the future?) Furthermore with no way of encouraging urban development to “clump together” you’d be likely to see many small and disconnected urban areas across rural Auckland. These would be extremely difficult to become anything other than extremely car dependent settlements.
  2. Slower infrastructure investment. With urban development theoretically possible anywhere, it will become impossible for NZTA, Auckland Transport, Watercare and other infrastructure providers to plan for where they need to expand their networks. As large “trunk” infrastructure can take many years to plan, design and then build, this uncertainty raises huge risks of misalignment between where the growth happens and where the infrastructure gets built. Given we don’t have billions of dollars to waste on infrastructure that’s built in the wrong location, the most likely result will be a slowing down on investment – which ultimately will probably lead to less greenfield development (not necessarily a bad thing, but hardly what Twyford is trying to achieve).
  3. Further environmental degradation. While Twyford has been at pains to emphasise urban development will be kept away from environmentally sensitive areas, at the end of the day highly dispersed sprawl is terrible for the environment. As I discussed earlier, without a RUB that encourages the “clumping together” of urban areas, it’s highly likely we will see little bits of urban development spread across vast rural areas.

The latest development in this space seems to be something the government is calling the “Urban Growth Agenda” (which does sound a bit sinister). There’s a cabinet paper laying out the details, which is jointly signed by Phil Twyford and David Parker in their roles as Housing and Environment ministers.

Most of the cabinet paper is the usual bureaucratic talk about “pillars” and “approaches” and so forth, with work being focused in five main areas:

Much of the detail makes sense, especially around shifting to a more ‘user pays’ approach to infrastructure provision and revealing the true costs of growth. But there are some really weird little nuggets in there which make me wonder whether the people drafting up the paper (and ultimately the Ministers putting their name against it) really have completely forgotten about the Unitary Plan. This is a classic example:

Maybe they missed the memo where the Unitary Plan opened up 15,000 hectares of land for greenfield development, more than 30 years’ worth?

This translates into vast swathes of land on Auckland’s urban edge that have been earmarked for future urbanisation. Like all the yellow around Dairy Flat and Silverdale.

It seems highly bizarre, just after the Unitary Plan has provided 30 years worth of greenfield land, to keep on having the argument over whether it needs to provide even more.

How much demand there is for greenfield land is further in question from the results so far of the Unitary Plan where most of the consents being issued are for developments in the existing urban area.

Further, some of the impacts of urban sprawl that would happen if the Rural Urban Boundary was removed are becoming clearer all the time. For example on food prices:

A report just released at Parliament this evening said letting market gardens around Pukekohe disappear under houses could push up the price of some fruit and vegetables by up to 58 percent, reduce jobs in the area and destroy a distinctive multicultural community…

…It said that the 4,359 hectares around Pukekohe contained some of New Zealand’s most fertile and productive soils, with a largely frost-free climate and close to transport lines and the population of Auckland. It is also the home of a flourishing population of Indian, Chinese and other ethnicity market gardeners.

The area accounts for 3.8 percent of New Zealand’s land under fruit and vegetable production but 26 percent of the country’s value of production of vegetables.

For a government that is otherwise doing great things when it comes to transport and housing, their obsession with wanting to sprawl beyond the huge areas identified in the Unitary Plan and despite the huge and obvious costs, is extremely strange.

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  1. The house prices have increased since the unitary plan passed. I think the rural urban boundary should be expanded every time house prices increase faster than wages (until the housing crisis is sorted). If the unitary plan has released so much land how come it isn’t all being built on now?

    1. Exactly. Land is not housing. They are not the same. Stop conflating land supply with dwelling supply.

      ‘Releasing’ land is everywhere will not dwelling prices at all.

      1. I thought that the issue with the housing crisis was there was a lack of land to build more houses on. Am I wrong about something? Is the issue not a land shortage but a builder shortage (heard that too)? The fact house prices are so much higher than in the rest of the country indicates that there is some unique “Auckland factor” in it. And regarding population growth I think Aucklands population grew very rapidly in the 1950s and 60s without house prices spiraling out of control

        1. The real problem is that everything is regulated – where you can build, what you can build, who can build it, what materials are used, what standard the build must be done to, etc.
          It is no surprise to me that the most regulated market in the country is by far the worst performing – both in terms of price and quality.

        2. Under the last government the issue was framed as a lack of ‘serviced’ land, i.e. with the infrastructure in place to enable development, with two other questions about: (1) the pipeline of future serviced land to be made available relative to the demand for land to develop; and (2) the concept and scale of the development that the services would have to support.

          Opening even more land seems like providing a ‘get out of jail free’ card in case the council fails (i.e. chickens out of running the hard conversations and decisions) to bring about further intensification.

    2. Actually the date the Unitary Plan was passed correlates well with the date Auckland’s house prices stopped increasing.

  2. This policy workstream could be worthwhile provided it(1) builds from what we already have and (2) focuses on growth constraints more generally rather than flogging the tired old greenfields land horse.

    I’m personally not convinced the Unitary Plan has led to a sufficiently meaningful price correction, even if rates of housing construction has increased. While Auckland’s prices have flattened of late, the same is true of Sydney and Melbourne. So it’s not clear to me that the Unitary Plan is the cause of the small price correction that we have observed.

    1. Agree. The boom was caused by a mixture of greed and panic, so I’d be surprised if something rational like the UP was suddenly having an influence. I think it has more to do with things getting so expensive there is only a limited number of people who can afford the price, which is suppressing demand/

    2. Re: “This policy workstream could be worthwhile provided it (1) builds from what we already have and (2) focuses on growth constraints more generally rather than flogging the tired old greenfields land horse.”

      I agree with your above statement Stu. I also think the Unitary Plan has only led to a minor improvement in housing supply.

    1. Be awesome if it does. Also worth looking at developing towns like Tuakau and Pokeno and maybe even Te Kauwhata and Huntly as satellite towns/cities of Auckland supported by fast trains

  3. Future Urban Zone (FUZ) is actually a terrible zone to have on your land. You can’t develop it yet but nor can you do the normal rural subdivision either. To say the AUP opened up large swaths because they put FUZ on it isn’t really true at all. It is opened up once it gets an operative residential or business zone.

    1. Disagree. Live zoned land without infrastructure is in the same situation as FUZ land. Not much point building a house if the poo doesn’t go away when you flush the toilet.

  4. Sounds like it’s time for a “Minister for Auckland” cabinet position to be created, even if unofficially.

    To be honest, I thought they already had such a role but it’s not showing on the list:

    If that’s part of Mr Twyford’s remit, then perhaps he needs some more staff to keep an eye on inter-cabinet planning. This sort of waste of taxpayer money isn’t a good look.

  5. I think the point is that having a boundary of any sort will increase the price of land within that boundary.
    If people could build anywhere, land prices in general would come down due to increased supply and competition. If all land prices come down, developers will most likely still choose to build near the best amenities because that is where they will get the best prices.
    Instead of restricting where people can build, it would make more sense for the council to advise where they will be providing infrastructure and amenity. If people choose to build or live outside those areas, they do so knowing that they will have to live with bad roads, no public transport, septic tanks, etc.

    1. Land far away from centres of employment, is not fungible with land close to those centres. We are increasingly seeing this effect make itself felt in Auckland as sprawl increases.

      The reductio ad absurdum to prove you are wrong, is the idea that opening up land in Hamilton will decrease Auckland house prices.

    2. I’m not convinced the inability to build on rural land near Waiuku really has much impact on the price of a house in Epsom.

      1. Exactly. This argument tht scrapping the boundary would “release the pressure” is comparing apples and oranges. It makes no sense.

        Build dwellings in Epsom, and yes, you would get that result. That’s exactly why the Nimbies dont want you building there, and insisting its done in Waiuku.

      2. You are arguing that the value of a premium product (land near Epsom) is not affected by the value of a lesser product (land near Waiuku). I’m not convinced.
        If I want a $100k BMW I might justify it if the Toyota equivalent is $50k. But if the Toyota equivalent is $10k, I’m not going to buy that BMW. And BMW would then have to lower their price.

        1. Waiuku is bloody miles away from us and we’re bloody miles away from Epsom, in the right direction. I know some level of commuting exists but these are clearly highly differentiated “products” so it’s probably not really reasonable to view them as either substitute (for house buyers) or related (for developers) goods.

          Even your BMW vs Toyota example probably doesn’t work in practice because of brand qualities.

        2. For the average Auckland worker comparing Epsom and Waiuku would be like comparing a $100k BMW with a 1982 Datsun with rust damage that will fail its next warrant. Many people will go for the BMW.

          I don’t mean to insult Waiukuans with that comment, it’s a lovely little town, just not much use as a residence for someone working in many parts of Auckland.

        3. “If I want a $100k BMW I might justify it if the Toyota equivalent is $50k. But if the Toyota equivalent is $10k, I’m not going to buy that BMW. BMW would then have to lower their price.”

          BMW do not set their prices on what a Toyota sells for. Audis, Mercedes, yes. Toyotas? No. Totally different market and buyer – just like Epsom and Waiuku.

          Yours is not a realistic scenario, rather it is one designed to fit your narrative.

  6. Removing urban growth limits is not about promoting sprawl. It is about moving away from a system where arbitrary rules tightly proscribe where new housing (and other commercial spaces) can and can not be built.

    This ethos has created a pressure cooker situation for housing and land supply resulting in ruinous economic consequences for both inequality and productivity.

    An obvious example this week is the teachers strike which in part is driven by the inability to recruit teacher to Auckland due to high housing costs.

    The Unitary Plan changed the planning rules less than promoted. For instance,there is much publicity about the increased height of 16m in Terrace and Apartment zoned areas. But the recession plane rules remain, which for a 16m wide property is 3m at the boundary and 11m at the ridgeline peak. Even a large 20m wide suburban section the ridgeline maximum height only increases to 13m.

    The Unitary Plan will not transform Auckland’s suburbs into a Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Tokyo. The density growth boundaries/system prevent that from happening. The autocentric stand alone housing urban form remains the default setting for Auckland’s planning system. This has implications for rapid transit success, because ridership growth numbers in the medium to long term will be limited by the inability to build as many houses around rapid transit as there is demand for.

    Here is an article I have written discussing house building around rapid transit.

  7. Hobsonville was completely greenfields and was fully masterplanned to be the complete success that it is.

    Has the government stated that it wants to alter the 60/40 split for development?

    1. If Auckland could provide the kind of housing found in Hobsonville in its existing suburbs -especially in suburban areas within walking distance of new rapid transit schemes this would be hugely helpful in solving problems like the housing crisis and increased traffic congestion.

      The following article examining these issues, is based on feedback resulting from a GA article by myself on Hobsonville.

    2. ‘Complete success that it is’. Thats a bit too optimistic IMO. Just visited friend in Squadron Drive and narrow, souless, sterile, 3storey terrace concrete box with frontage footpath to wide swamp berm and plant strip drain separating two lanes with parking bays on complete opposite side of houses. No bus stops, bike lane to be seen and certainly no sense of community. Is this what success looks like? Or is it the promise for years from now when built out.

      1. All new developments look soulless immediately after they are built. It takes time for greenery to grow and activity to form.

      2. No sense of community — that describes just about any new subdivision. I would be very surprised if Millwater were brimming with life.

        Also I think “soulless” is considered desirable over here. Of course we use different words, like “tidy” or “clean”. It is enforced by the zoning code, and residents associations (as in, you had better not make our development look “untidy” by putting a clothesline out).

    3. The issue of Hobsonville is it has wasn’t planned with transit oriented development.

      The ferry has low services frequency. The bus service are too slow to make it practical.

      Eventually there will be big car congestion as residence grows.

    1. Selwood is right when he says a $650k home is hardly affordable. For years we have had a planning system that tries to push development into brownfields areas with the claim it is cheaper to do so. When the market shows it actually costs more, the planning system responds by restricting greenfields land to push the price up there. But that in turn makes the price of the brownfields rise as those sites get bid up in value due to scarcity.

        1. The problem is that they are connected. People who can’t buy in one place have to buy closer in, people who would have bought there buy somewhere else and so on. Net result is everything gets bid up. That includes every substitute. In the end the richest buyers get a property and build it large and expensive. The affordable part gets priced out. Add to that unlimited immigration and and fewer people heading to Australia and we end up with homelessness and people moving to Invercargill.

      1. Yes although most people find a brand new car unaffordable and hence buy a used car.
        The idea that brand new houses need to be affordable is silly. As long as more houses are built at any price point, the price of the lesser houses will drop.

        1. Over here there’s not much difference, as most of the value is in the land.

          And buying an existing house has its own complications. In most markets you could buy a house which is, say, 15 years old and get a decent house. Over here there’s this thing called the leaky homes crisis and you probably can’t afford the risk of buying a leaky one.

      2. What the market shows is that a house on a 500m² section is more expensive in Grey Lynn than further out.

        The accepted solution in other cities is to buy less than 500m² of land. Now guess what our zoning rules are enforcing here.

      3. Then address the scarcity of brownfield land. Remove all the restrictions that make it expensive and difficult. No minimum lot size, no setback, no maximum coverage.

        Then remove the rural boundary and let the people decide with their cheque book.

        It seems to be the people who argue most for “free market” (a neolib fantasy if ever I heard one) are the ones most opposed to freeing the restrictions on brownfield land. Mostly because they are the already rich, who don’t want density in their suburb. However, they are happy to invest in greenfield development as it is far way and won’t bother them.

        Capitalism for the poor, socialism for the rich. It’s a beautiful thing.

        1. The only one I disagree with there is ‘no maximum coverage’. What I’m seeing happening is that the maximum coverage rules are being given lipservice. So we’re getting MacMansions with multiple driveways and extensive site coverage with parking areas. We’re also getting sausage flat development, with the sausages surrounded by driveways. The implications for our waterways and our flooding problem is huge.

          We can remove the height controls and set back controls but more strongly enforce the maximum coverage rules, and this will help create better urban form, where more compact buildings are interspersed with greenery. It’ll also make developers rethink devoting so much of their limited allowable coverage to at grade parking. And at that stage they start doing the sums on whether internal garages for apartments are really financially wise (they’re not) so there will be a shift to carshare, bike storage facilities and advertising the PT amenity.

    2. Why not make it easier to go towards Tokyo or Copenhagen, whilst making sprawl pay its full costs by introducing congestion charging etc.

      To get Tokyo or Copenhagen Auckland/NZ will need a better planning system.

      The Unitary Plan by protecting stand alone housing which combined with free use of road and parking spaces (like Soviet bread if you could tolerate the queues) subsidises sprawl. Which AC then attempts to control by restricting greenfield growth. Which creates mega commutes/leapfrog sprawl…..

      This was explained several years ago in a paper titled “David Lupton says we need appropriate charges for infrastructure and services so the choices people make do not impose financial burdens on others”

  8. The approach outlined (Central Government making decisions for Local Government) runs at complete odds with the new government’s commitment to work with Local Government, as underlined at the LGNZ conference a month ago. LGNZ is also beginning a campaign to wrest back more control from Wellington – on the international continuum NZ is at one extreme (with Central Government controlling almost 90% of decision making versus Switzerland where over 80% of decision making is at a local/regional level). Having gone through all the pain of developing a regional strategy and codifying it in the Unitary Plan it would be very irksome to have to relitigate substantial parts of the plan so soon after it has come into effect.
    I am astonished by some of the arguments in favour of doing away with some form of urban limit or boundary – most successful cities have them and for good reasons. Even though we have the RUB there are large areas already earmarked for future expansion (the yellow Future Urban zone on the planning maps) but only when they are needed and only when their development has been properly planned, including the necessary supporting infrastructure (social services as well as the so-called “horizontal infrastructure”).

    1. That sounds a lot like Councils telling poor people and those rationed out of places of economic opportunity by high house prices and rent -“let them eat cake”.

    2. The amount of FUZ isn’t the problem and nor is the RUB. The Council now limits development through its extended family. Watercare and Auckland Transport now stymie development needed to house our people. Prior to amalgamation Councils like Rodney, Franklin and Papakura did the heavy lifting. Now the region it is run the way the old Auckland City was and we end up with a shortage of houses everywhere.

        1. And how did it pan out? Did the smaller ecological footprint of those new CBD residences, the lower transport needs of the residents, and the reduction of pressure to desecrate greenfields market garden land mean the investment was worthwhile? Did anyone work it out?

        2. The result was heaps of new flats in the CBD, hardly any houses on the edge of town, and a metric shit-tonne of houses in very distant areas like Pokeno and Pukekohe (on premium soils) because some dickwit thought having a Metropolitan Urban Limits was a good plan. Oh and houses that cost at least $650k that local people can’t afford.

        3. So how do we get the apartments throughout the isthmus, and prevent houses both on the edge of town and in the far-flung places, miffy? Can’t anything inspire you to use your experience to suggest a way to do this? I mean, it’s those CBD flats that have contributed to the rising number of people who aren’t using a car regularly (up 3 %age points per year, to 34%), whereas those houses on the edge of town and in developments in the far flung places are most definitely fuelling our rising vkt.

          CBD infrastructure that requires maintenance has needed maintenance for a long time – it’s just been neglected because people have been allowed to develop on greenfields land as if they have no responsibility to help maintain the city’s existing footprint first.

  9. On the other side of the coin, there IS a huge and urgent need to protect the lands at Pukekohe / Bombay Hills from ever getting developed for housing. Excellent discussion of this on National Radio the other day – I always knew keeping those rich red soils in production for Auckland was important, but perhaps had never realised exactly how important it was. Figures something like – only 9% of our arable land, but provides 30% of our country’s food supply. Products grown there all year round that supply the whole of NZ, and simply are not grown anywhere else in NZ. If we lost that soil to a wasted opportunity like housing, then we lose a large chunk of our home grown vegetables – and they would have to be air-freighted in, at vastly increased cost.

    Personally, I don’t want to go down that route – was amazed to find in England that fresh green beans were flown in daily from Kenya, at vast expense, instead of people just accepting that sometimes it was not the right time of year for that produce. Here in NZ, air produce costs so much, and the fact that at present we can grow all our own fresh food, I strongly believe we need to put in place a mechanism to stop that growth of houses – and safeguard that supply of arable soil. Anybody with me?

    1. and there are the figures in the article – even more so than I had thought – only 3.8 % of the land, producing 26% of the produce.

      1. Make a spatial plan that instead of saying where housing can occur (which is then relaxed every few years) why not have a plan that says where housing can never occur i.e. elite soils.

        What that will do is create growth corridors and no growth areas. Infrastructure could then be focused on the growth corridors…..

        Near Christchurch -their is a similar issue of the unconfined aquifer recharge area between the West Coast Road and the Waimakariri River.

        Spatial planning is one of the five pillars in the Cabinet Paper on the Urban Growth Agenda.

        1. Your are suggesting the same thing but framed in reverse, so how would that be any different?

          The RUB and Councils infrastructure spend are tightly linked and the rationing of new land reflect the inability of Council balance sheets to deliver on the cheques the previous decision shave written – opening up new areas beyond wont help other than to reduce certainty for infrastructure providers (why spend a $1B on stuff needed if its not certain its going to be used and we have others asking for $10B worth of stuff in other places at the same time?), unless…, the requirement/ for Councils to provide (AND expectation that it would take over OPEX when it goes belly up!) the infrastructure at a a significant subsidy is removed.

          Ie if you have a proposal outside a no-go area and you want to provide all the infrastructure then sure – but how many will actually do this when the true coast fall where they aught to?

          However, if that subsidy is removed, i wonder how much development would actually occur in these locations? – Its a similar dilemma to toll roads – we need the road because our modelling shows it will be used if its free, but if its tolled the demand evaporates so we dont need the road…

          Like most planning stuff, its not really the plan (ie the RUB line) thats the problem – its the money

    2. Fully agree, security of food supply is vital. The idea that we might need to start importing things that can be grown in NZ just to build houses is crazy.

    3. Guy M – I agree with you. Auckland is already spread out and the rich fertile farming areas of Papakura, Papatoetoe and Bombay Hills needs to remain food grow areas for for Auckland city the greater Auckland region. Already urban expansion is already encroaching into this fertile farming area.

      Auckland needs to expanding outwards and needs to use surplus land within the city boundaries whether it is its private, council or government grow upwards.

      The Nimbys shouldn’t dictate their out dated thinking that 2 to 7 story suburban apartments and high density affordable housing areas is wrong with the existing city boundaries..

      1. I agree. It’s divide and conquer – yet again the capitalists/Nimbys have managed to get environmental issues competing with social issues. In fact, as usual, both environment and people are victims of the same problem.

        We have covered enough land with our inefficient and polluting development. Now we need to remove controls to enable urban regeneration into a better urban form. If private developers are too slow to get in on the act (and certainly one 45+ apartment consented development on a frequent transit route is in limbo because the market’s not *quite right*), then our taxes and rates should be used to build the homes required.

        Any greenfields growth exacerbates our pollution and transport problems and displays our incompetence in urban planning and effective decision-making.

        1. Yes typical politicians taking the path of leas resistance rather than growing some cojones, removing density controls in popular areas and facing down the NIMBYs.

          This is what has held Auckland back for decades.

  10. Sound like some land banker who acquired speculative land found out his land what was excluded in the unitary plan future zone.

    So they try hard to lobby.

    1. Maybe he was also a bit annoyed that people are actually willing to live in that not-very-family-friendly 100sq m apartment [sic].

  11. Judith Collins and Simon Bridges are saying they will have a significant RMA bill ready by 2019 to take into the 2020 election.

    “Bridges said that RMA Reform Spokeswoman Judith Collins is “working away on an RMA bill for you to look at next year.”

    “We are really clear that if you want to deal with land supply, you need to have significant RMA reform.”

    Collins says National is still in the early stages of drafting the legislation but has promised the bill will “return the concept of property rights to owners of the land.”

      1. And that’s the flip side to the example I used above, in Pukekohe – that people in Pukekohe should have the right to feel their land to the highest bidder – and of course land banking developers will always have far deeper pockets than older retiring market gardeners. There’s the play off between doing what is good for the individual vs what is best for the country.

        Simon Bridges would obviously always come down to the side of the right of any individual to amass more personal wealth – that’s the conservative / National way. But our country, as a whole, would be better off not letting them make a packet pimping their land out for suburbia, but ensuring another 20 generations of market gardeners can farm the land.

        1. “sell their land” … not “feel their land”… good grief. Bring back the edit button so I can correct my fat fingers !

        2. It still exists, possibly not for nested comments/replies though.

          I know it still exists because if it wasn’t for the sketchy internet disconnecting me I’d have managed to edit my previous comment (which I had re-written after having been defeated by the aforementioned sketchy connection a few hours ago, it is now also drastically slow so I’m not sure if this will go through before I get disconnected again).

        3. Guy, yes, “our country, as a whole, would be better off not letting them make a packet pimping their land out for suburbia, but ensuring another 20 generations of market gardeners can farm the land”. Absolutely. The land supports us. Abusing it in the name of developing rights or personal freedoms puts us responsible for leaving a less resilient, more deprived world for our descendants.

      2. I wonder if Judith is thinking about giving transit providers the property right to build more houses around rapid transit stations? Because that is what California legislature is currently considering.

        1. Are you saying that Judith Collins only wants to give ‘right to build’ property rights to car dependent developments?

        2. That, Brendon, will be interesting to see. Why do I have this feeling that the road construction lobby, the car manufacturers, and the oil companies would benefit from any plan Judith devises? Am I being unfair?

    1. In opposition, John Key criticized the Clark government in 2008 for the emerging housing affordability crisis. Then the National party got elected and spent 9 years denying there was any kind of problem. I can’t forgive them for that but I’m glad to see they’re finally starting to change their attitude.

      It’ll be interesting to see what policies they come up with but I’m not optimistic. A strict implementation of private property rights would mean being able to build whatever you want on your land. There wouldn’t be height limits, setback requirements, recession planes, parking minimums, kitchen maximums or other density limits. This is philosophically consistent with the ideals that National and Act claim to support.

      A widespread deregulation of density limits would be fantastic but it’d be terribly unpopular with residents of Auckland’s wealthier suburbs. These are core supporters of National and Act. I strongly suspect their commitment to private property rights ends where their NIMBY constituent’s feelings begin.

      My guess is what we’ll see instead will be National committing to widespread greenfield development (and probably advocacy of more RoNS to go with the urban sprawl). Act policy ( is already not subtle about its support for more greenfield development. After all, development on the urban fringe won’t bother Epsom voters.

        1. Not dense enough considering how close it is to the centre. It needs to be made easier to build medium rise apartments.

          logarithmicbear – totally agree with your comment. Collins will definitely be pandering to her wealthy developer mates who at the same time are NIMBYs in their own suburb.

    2. Great if that means the right of a property owner to develop their land as they see fit. Without their NIMBY neighbours interfering in that freedom.

      However, I suspect their reforms will actually just be more slop in the trough for their wealthy developer supporters to rape and pillage greenfield areas.

  12. Going into the election, I thought it was plainly obvious that we had to two choose between two bad options. We could get buckets of sprawl from Labour (very bad) + banning foreigners (bad) + urban transport modernity (good), or we could get do nothing policies from National (hey, static median house prices) + buckets of pointless roads (very bad).

    The former election era impression was further reinforced when Labour/Twyford saw that Paerata idea (the one which understated how far from Auckland it really is) and nodded along. It’s not at all surprising, therefore, to encounter a formulation of the urban boundary idea (which was previously all talk like Paerata but, imo, less specific).

    Possibly more importantly is that this is just further evidence that Twyford (and by extension Labour) are like Mike Lee… or, at least, the Mike Lee as represented in the GA comments section. That is, Lee loves trains and thus he has useful ideas when that overlaps with “trains are useful”. There is some level of correspondence between these so Lee does tend to be “useful” but it’s actually still coincidental when he is. Now, I’m sure we’d all have slightly different ideas about what Twyford’s equivalent of “Lee loves trains” is but the essential point is that his thinking is systematically out of whack with “good urban policy” even though it does overlap at times. We can’t allow ourselves to forget this.

    I still think Twyford’s obsession with sprawl should see him sacked, though (see also when I called for his sacking in April).

  13. This is disappointing from the new government & Twyford when he seems to be on to every other aspect so well. Is it likely they will change their policy, thinking on this after some research? Sounds very un Green party and I’m not sure about New Zealand First policy on this. Seems they just so keen to get housing supply up they trying everything.

  14. I worry that there’s a risk of incoherent and hence costly and inefficient policy around urban growth.

    A few ministers have also mooted the idea of a policy directive to prevent development on high-class agricultural soils, as mentioned in this article:

    What happens if councils get one directive to prevent sprawl into horticultural areas and another to avoid imposing barriers to subdivision? I can’t see that going well for anyone but the lawyers!

    That being said, I think you could make it work *if* it was coupled with a policy directive to limit constraints on intensification *plus* a government-led initiative to significantly bring down construction costs. (Which are a primary barrier to more intensification in more places.)

    1. We have already had that costly and inefficient policy. Housing has sprawled onto premium soils around Pukekohe because some idiots at the Auckland Regional Council wouldn’t allow development to occur further north at Drury and Runciman. So the development went ‘beyond the environment’ as John Clarke might have said. The demand was for development further north, the rules prevented it, so the substitute was Pukekohe. If they just stopped trying to make rules around sprawl then things would be a lot better. But these people just can’t help themselves.

    1. I think its poor planning history is coming back to haunt Auckland, and it’s very apparent that there are no easy fixes.

      If you look at any major city in the world in the majority of cases you will find that the housing and population density which is so much greater than that found in Auckland. Having allowed the low level, low density city to sprawl across a vast part of the isthmus and beyond over the past 50 years, along with the attendant roads and motorways it will take some very brave and very unpopular decisions and many years (read election cycles) to resolve.

      If ever there was an area of policy where a cross party consensuses were needed, thus supporting the delivery of a non-partisan approach to addressing this most challenging of problems!

  15. Hoe are Paerata. Wesley and Pokeno dealing with sewerage and water reticulation? Is it provided and how?
    I can see the long term benefit from developing along the Southern Rail link but not yet. It would seem to me that the present RUB limit is adequate for some time yet and that the orderly expansion of the existing established urban centres makes sense.
    However the services need to be established in advance of the expansion.
    In fill of the existing Centres around the transport modes needs to be accelerated.

  16. Just changing the subject here, the other thing this government seems to have forgotten is its pre-election pledge to continue with the NIMT electrified service Palmerston North to Hamilton.

    Meanwhile KiwiRail is still steaming ahead with its intention to get rid of the EF electric locomotives next year. These are the same locomotives that have another 20-30 years of front-line service left in them if they could just be given that elusive mid-life overhaul that successive owners have dodged out of doing, finding it easier to write out cheques for new Chinese diesels instead of maintaining these valuable existing assets.

    Are you listening, Phil Twyford, Julie Anne Genter, Winston Peters, Shane Jones?

    1. Yes, the silence from Tyson, Genter, Peters and Jones concerning the electrified NIMT and EF locos is quite deafening. Being an optimist I like to believe their promises and there will be an announcement soon to mid life refurb the EFs.

      1. Julie Anne Genter is a little busy right now… but yes, absolutely hoping for this to happen. Seeing as GA has a direct inside line to a particular MP, I’m assuming that we should be able to find out the truth?

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