The two most important documents that set the transport programme for Auckland are being updated or written at present: The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) and the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP).

Strong leadership of change will be required if they are to reflect the Zero Carbon Act and the Auckland Climate Plan, and support Labour’s work on children’s health, equity, wellbeing and poverty.

In January, the Government’s NZ Upgrade Package provided $2.2 billion for Auckland sprawl roads, including the building of Mill Rd and Penlink, and the widening of SH1 from Papakura to Drury. In April, Council put Matakana Link Rd on its wishlist for the Post-Covid Economic Recovery Package, and were “successful” in this bid.

These roads are incompatible with our emissions targets and undermine Labour’s social goals. But they weren’t included in these packages by mistake – they are there because the Auckland Development Strategy creates sprawl, and roads are being provided to serve it. The packages simply brought the roads forward.

The Auckland Development Strategy puts the majority of our planned growth into locations that demand either new roads, or ongoing widening of roads. The “Brownfields and greenfields” segment below, for example, actually includes the sprawl of Westgate, Albany and Manukau:

The strategy allowed significant sprawl for two reasons:

First, intensification was prevented by restrictive regulations within the urban area. Phil Twyford’s work on the National Policy Statement for Urban Development (NPS-UD) has directed these restrictions be eased.

Secondly, the strategy defined feasible development as:

Feasible development = The amount of development that is commercially viable, taking into account current costs, revenue and yields.

By assuming the market would provide the bulk of development and the process couldn’t be rushed, extra land had to be made available. Developing our city in a compact, environmentally and socially responsible way was thus prevented due to having to follow the then-government’s ideological aversion to large public investment in housing. Note that this feasibility wasn’t about construction capacity – Increasing the amount of land involved didn’t increase construction capacity; it swallowed up a lot of construction capacity due to the additional infrastructure required. Twyford’s NPS-UD has changed how feasible capacity can be calculated, and his Infrastructure Funding and Financing Act is intended to free up funding and financing possibilities. (I haven’t studied this in depth.)

As we can change both the type of development and the way we fund it, the Auckland Development Strategy can be overhauled, allowing us to throw sprawl roads out of our transport plans.

We must do so for multiple reasons.

First, the roads and the sprawl they enable ruin the land we need for biodiversity, ecological health and food growing.

Secondly, the sprawl requires enormous outlays of public money; money that should be going to repair and upgrade our existing urban areas. For example, Drury is requiring about $6 billion in transport infrastructure alone.Thirdly, it costs much more to maintain a larger city. Even running a programme of relatively infrequent bus services through new development areas costs a lot in opex. Maintenance of the pipes, roads, footpaths, libraries all adds up.

Fourthly, bringing these roads forward will tip the balance of development even further into greenfields.

Finally, the roads will exacerbate car dependence and induce a lot of traffic, worsening emissions, safety, accessibility, children’s development and public health.

To illustrate, here’s a 6-year-old map of emissions per commuter from a post by Peter Nunns, which shows the patterns well. The average emissions of a commuter living in outer sprawl are 10 times that of a commuter in the city centre:

Compact development allows more residents (new and existing alike) to have easy access to the things they need – as currently enjoyed by the low-emissions central residents.

Housing more people on the edge of the city makes things worse. It costs way too much to give these residents reasonable transport choice to all amenities. They drive long distances, on average. And so will anyone visiting their suburb: tradespeople, salespeople, cleaners, couriers, retail staff, consultants, friends, customers, clients, teachers.

This is true no matter how dense the new development is. Putting higher density settlements on the edge of the city is not a “compact city strategy.” As Litman says:

Density is only one of many land use factors affecting vehicle travel… residents of high-rises in isolated, automobile-dependent location tend to drive a lot, and conversely, residents of small towns and rural villages tend to drive less… density confounds with other factors that tend to reduce automobile travel such as land use mix, walkability, transit accessibility, reduced parking supply and increased parking pricing, to name a few.

High density expansion is unsuitable for Auckland. It still ruins farmland and fails to harness development as a regenerative force that can repair our many urban form problems.

Our Councillors recently required an important change to ATAP’s draft Terms of Reference:

“Improving the resilience and sustainability of the transport system, and significantly reducing the greenhouse gas emissions it generates

They are also concerned about private plan changes that are “out of sequence”, leaving a shortfall of infrastructure funding or that ruin prime agricultural soil.

New transport minister Wood can now use the groundwork laid by his predecessor, and support the urban Councillors to withstand pressure from the political economy of car dependence. Could action be fast enough to ensure the next ATAP and RLTP are made responsible for climate and wellbeing?

Strategies that can’t deliver on goals is a problem worldwide. An International Transport Forum discussion paper released late last month discusses how urban policy practice clashes with intentions to reverse car dependence and encourage alternative, less damaging forms of movement:

In the majority of towns – even those with the most advanced sustainable transport initiatives – there are three fault lines:

a) continued and very large scale spending to produce increases in road capacity in many parts in and between towns;

b) continued allocation of scarce space to car parking in preference to other uses; and

c) continued encouragement of land use planning for patterns of activity which depend on car use for access.

That’s us in a nutshell.

Why are we building more carparks? Image Credit: NZHerald, via twitter

But the paper gives a hopeful message:

consideration of climate change requires more attention to ways of reducing or counteracting it. It seems that at present, while there are many examples of good practice, there are no cases where all the available policy instruments have been implemented in a consistent way. Opportunities still exist, then, for greater impact.

In overhauling our strategy, trends from overseas should never limit how fast we attempt to achieve change.

Let’s look at figures used for Auckland:

[the] population is estimated to be 1,657,200. The land area of the Auckland region is 489,363 hectares, with the core urbanised area of the city covering just over 50,550 hectares… The city’s population is projected to continue growing with an anticipated increase of 833,000 people between 2013 and 2043… the core urbanised area of the city is expected to increase in size also; the extent of the ‘urban’ and ‘future urban’ type zones the Auckland Unitary Plan (operative in part, November 2016) cover 59,453ha, potentially increasing the city’s main urban area by 18 per cent.

Using these raw figures, our average density would increase from 33 to 42 ppl / ha under the current plan. Instead, by not expanding our footprint at all we could go to nearly 50 ppl / ha.

At 50 ppl / ha, Auckland would still be far less dense than cities in Europe, South America or Asia:

Credit: Alain Bertaud, according to Scoot! Via Twitter.

Stephen Davis’s post How Dense is Dense? Part 2 gives pictures of real world examples at each density. Here are his examples around the 50 ppl / ha mark.

Greater London (55 ppl / ha):

Notting Hill, London. Image: Flickr user S Pakhrin

Amsterdam (49 ppl / ha):

Amsterdam. Image: Pixabay user neshom

Auckland needs to achieve this within 30 years. To avoid widescale disruption and a wasting of embedded resources, we’ll need to have pockets of more dense development. How dense?

Modal, Image Credit: Ockham

In a Stuff article recently, Todd Mark of Ockham – a development company providing quality housing in Auckland – said:

My building in Mt Albert (Modal) is 35 units on 700 square metres…

I’ve got 600 units across four sites, totalling less than one hectare

These figures don’t include all the non-residential land represented in the city-wide density figures, but they are still worth considering: 500 to 600 units per hectare is impressive.

How much of the city would we have to redevelop at 600 units/ha to house all our required growth?

The Greenhouse​ , Image Credit: Ockham

The “medium” scenario in the Auckland Development Strategy shows we will need 319,000 new units by 2050. Developable land required for the residences themselves to meet this medium scenario, at Ockham’s average density of 600 units / hectare, is 532 hectares. I’ll round that up to 550 hectares.

Strung out along Auckland’s arterial road network, at a depth of 50m either side, we’d need to develop 55 km of arterial roads, over 30 years, or 1.8 km per year. Even at 3 km, to allow for side roads and parks and incorporating the odd heritage building respectfully, that’s not much, is it?

Not when it can replace the entire Supporting Future Growth programme. It would also relieve the pressure on suburbs to accommodate backyard infill, with all the paved driveways and loss of greenery that entails.

At the same time, we could upgrade the arterial road to a beautiful urban boulevard with better underground services, trees and safe biking.

Logistically, it would be superior to the sprawl developments because it would involve less overall construction and fewer trucks carrying aggregate to build roads. It would also be superior to backyard infill because proper safety-based logistics plans could be established that keep trucks away from children and people on foot or bike.

It’s useful to look at the land area that Kainga Ora is developing at the moment. Some of Kainga Ora’s “developable land” is illustrated below:


The projects total 667 hectares (including roads, etc, I imagine). These Kainga Ora developments are way better than most development happening in Auckland, but they could be higher density, less designed around the car, and more supported by good streetscapes. Some are already higher-than-average density. For example, the Bader Drive development is 95 units / hectare.

Kainga Ora’s Bader Drive Development. With 60 km/hr speed limits! Really, AT?

There’s no excuse for not having excellent bus services and connected safe biking infrastructure at a location like this, allowing for fewer carparks and more gardens and amenities, but funds are tight because we are sprawling. Bus opex is going into bus services for sprawl areas instead of here, and the capex for road building is money that could be spent creating safe biking infrastructure.

We can also harness many hectares of paved land, like car parks. What’s critical is that we leave our parks, bush and other green space alone. We can put that to better use in the future when we understand climate change better.

Our housing crisis has gone on too long. Government need to lead with a massive master planned apartment-building programme that really sets the standard of quality intensification.

Right now, the urgent task is to shift the RLTP and ATAP budgets away from road building and widening entirely, knowing the sprawl laid out by the Auckland Development Strategy is neither necessary nor desirable.

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89 comments

  1. We need to demand our new Ministers – of infrastructure, housing, transport etc make systemic changes to our pattern of urban development to achieve the goals we value. That we honour are climate change commitments, that we reduce poverty, especially child poverty, that we make our cities more productive and rewarding places to live.

    I have written a report with a key recommendation that making room for thousands of medium density houses near transit hubs is necessary for rapid transit to be successful, and that the Government should look at providing capital grants to community housing providers to fund circa 25 per cent of these to be affordable build-to-rent properties, in a similar manner to the Austrian housing model. This approach provides two significant benefits, it reengineers cities to grow sustainably around rapid transit and it better supports those most ill served by the housing crisis.

    I think this approach best reflects our values.

    Check out the full report here.
    https://medium.com/land-buildings-identity-and-values/if-not-now-when-f995dd596c1

    1. The grant should be given to not just community housing provider, it should also be given to other developers.

      We don’t want a high concentration of low income people living together.
      It will create a ghetto neighborhood over time. This will have a negative effect on land values and desirability around transport hub.

      The best strategy is to allow a good mix of affordable homes, and also upmarket private developments that target the middle income people and may be a few penthouse at the top floor. This will build a balanced and diverse neighborhood.

      1. I agree on the need for balanced and diverse neighbourhoods. Ethnic and cultural diversity in a neighbourhood breaks down racism and prejudice, age diversity allows the different age groups to complement and assist each other, and income diversity brings a richer understanding of each others’ needs.

        Can you see that it’s not about having a high concentration of low income people living together that’s the big problem though, Kelvin? It’s when there’s a high concentration of high income people living together that the real globe-destroying problems develop. I see it all the time with friends in a number of suburbs. Their consumerism, holidays, travel patterns, renovation swank and so on are quite abnormal by historical standards. Yet when surrounded by others of similar income levels they seem normal and indeed people follow the behaviour of the biggest spenders. This isn’t something we can sustain.

        1. +1 Heidi.
          The typical roads-only NZ new suburban private sector development drip feeds plots onto the market and uses restrictive covenants to deliberately target higher socio-economic groups who pay higher prices. It is business/marketing model that restricts supply, only produces homogenous stand alone housing/building types and at its heart is exclusionary.
          NZ needs to systematically create new urban environments around transit hubs that doesn’t restrict supply, has heterogenous housing types and is inclusive to differing ethnicities and incomes.
          My report attempted to describe that system…

        2. Thanks, Brendon, for all your comments. I’m enjoying your report… I’m so busy unfortunately I’m reading it in chunks.

          On drip-feeding (and sorry if you do cover this in the report) I’m a bit concerned that Council might respond to the NPS – UD in a way that pushes property prices up unnecessarily. I can see this happening if they dripfeed it by starting with a short ‘walkable’ distance then a longer ‘walkable’ distance, and eventually to a longer ‘bikeable’ distance that’s probably appropriate in the first place.

          I think the dripfeeding allows the land bankers to sell some property there, making capital gains without having developed at all, and buy further out then sit on it until that’s rezoned, etc. Just as they’ve done with greenfields land.

          What are your thoughts?

        3. Yes I agree Heidi. For competition and lower house price reasons we need the wider not narrow definition of what area around rapid is an accessible by walking and active modes.
          P.S I think reading my report in chunks, going back over parts, and so on, is a good idea. It is a hefty read with lots of moving parts to absorb so it might be difficult to comprehend in a single reading session. I tried to write it in as simple and readable manner as possible but it still turned out to be a 40 minute read!

        4. NPS UD would discourage land banking when it forces minimum 6 storey around transit. Council could only use heritage to limit some development but not to a big extend to drip feed supply.

          This will vastly increasing land supply to practically unlimited for 20 or 30 years.
          With abundance of land, it make no sense to land bank.

          By the time it reaches 30 years, the same land banker would make more money by investing elsewhere.

        5. Yes that is the hope Kelvin. I think we could still go a bit further with another NPS-UD(2.0) by directing the accessible area around rapid transit be rated on its land value only (unimproved value) so we don’t tax building up. And I think we need to find a solution to setback and recession plane limits which in many cases will prevent building from being 5 or 6 stories tall. My hyperlocal/ reciprocal intensification proposals could be helpful for this task.
          Greater Auckland have over the years covered reciprocal intensification quite well. At the beginning of this year a US progressive thinktank gave it a good write-up,
          https://www.sightline.org/2020/02/28/bottom-up-upzoning/

  2. The myth that there is cheap land – when everyone else pays $2.2 billion to be able to access it.
    Invariably that land never remains cheap and so those charged with providing solutions ever widen the search.
    I wonder who is going to pay the carbon charges when NZ fails to achieve the 2030 target, as it inevitably will, given that there is still no coherent plan to reduce emissions.

  3. But “surely” sprawl is better than dense housing.
    Doesn’t sense housing have bad sides such as
    Drive down house prices
    Bring more people to my area
    Encourage kids to walk rather than have me drive them?

  4. Why is Helensville rarely mentioned as a possible growth node? It has an old town centre aching for renewal and revival and is closer to Auckland than either Pukekohe or Warkworth. It even has an existing rail line and railway station. Helensville needs some love folks! Bring her back into the fold.

    1. Helensville definitely needs some love. But I don’t think sprawl on its outskirts would improve it. Remember, it’s on a flood plain, and I imagine it won’t get protection priority when the waters rise. And while it’s the same distance from the centre of Auckland, it’s far further from the edge, making it near not a lot of amenities or people. Even if rapid transit is provided at great per capita cost, most people will still drive, so such sprawl would put Auckland’s emissions up and make our transport network throughout the city less safe and more congested.

      Helensville could and I think, should, make much more of its village feel, and recreate itself as a “weekend in the country” destination. It would need support from AT and NZTA; safe walking and cycling should be normal ways to get around. Horseriding, even. A low traffic neighbourhood design would work well. And Parakai, too. With the hot pools, the different horticultural operations, the views of water and countryside, and the cool heritage buildings, the only thing letting the town down is its lack of safe transport and nice placemaking.

      The bus service is quite good already – I’ve used it several times. It just needs to be more than at a token frequency.

        1. It’s not Gary. Most if it’s on a hill.
          Not to worry though. Plenty of overpriced sprawl houses developing there.

  5. Feasible development under the old NPS was not supposed to be a forecast or projection of development. It was supposed to be a dynamic measure of the market. But clearly government holds the reins on a lot of factors that affect it.

    The Strategy’s stated low feasible development capacity in the existing urban area essentially acknowledges the government was not using its powers to enable intensification.

    I don’t know what form the intensification should take but your numbers showing the small amount of land that could be involved are impressive.

  6. Excellent Heidi, and thanks.
    How would $4/litre petrol&diesel change our land developments ? I’d move closer to city centre – or transport hub. Cars are cheap transport.

    1. In general, higher driving costs will help people to choose other modes of transport. It should help put demand on for more central development, too. But in reality, that demand is very high already. The reason the market hasn’t responded by providing lots of well-connected housing choice within central areas is a combination of:

      – ease of developing in greenfields instead, so the developers keep doing what they’re used to,
      – subsidy to greenfields housing via the long tracts of transport and other infrastructure (and via environmental damage and public health costs, etc), as I’ve discussed in the post,
      – ease of reasonably ineffective and very destructive backyard infill, so small investors keep doing this, which prevents a better urban form developing,
      – regulations still limiting what development can happen in urban areas,
      – Council imposing other bias when it comes to consenting. Eg one level brick and tile with next to no permeable land being left is easy to consent in a THAB zone cf Cohaus having its difficulties because of ‘insufficient’ (but plenty of) parking in Grey Lynn!
      – a mythology that warns developers away from intensification.

      But back to what higher fuel prices could do: AT have just released an app to enable you to compare times and costs of public transport and driving. https://twitter.com/AklTransport/status/1323399913888206850?s=19 It’s a good start – needs cycling added and a factor added in for different levels of congestion likely.

      1. Yes and the results from the calculator need to be used to fix things. From Te Atatu Peninsula to the North West shopping centre it cannot calculate my journey as ” No Public Transport journey found” – there is of course a PT journey available taking 1hr 6 mins to cover the 8km distance or I could drive in 10 minutes. Personally I would chose to ride my bike ( 35 mins) but understand not all can.

      2. Thanks. Much to ponder.
        I’ve noticed council/govt ignore planning then have an OMG moment. Btw -patumahoe to britomart on the app – 5h/day return on PT. Ford Ranger for me. FreeeeDommm.

      3. Good points, but you have left out perhaps the biggest issue – high build costs of apartments. As I have said many times,we will only get apartments built en masse if the government builds them. Otherwise they will continue to be a relatively niche typology, generally speaking.

        1. Re the high build costs per square meter for apartments and multi-unit dwellings. I believe this is a function of lack of economies scales and lack of competition. Basically NZ needs to have half a dozen Ockham Residential specialist apartment and medium density housing builders that are each building at much higher rates then the current Ockham Residential. This would drive innovation and productivity improvements.
          To do this the government should look at replicating the Austrian housing model where housing support spending is directed at housing capital grants. And like Vienna they should look at creating land acquisition fund and master planning policies around rapid transit. Especially Developer Competitions, based on an four-pillar system: each subsidised housing project—some 7,000 to 13,000 apartments annually in Vienna—are judged by an interdisciplinary jury along four sets of criteria: (1) social sustainability, (2) architecture, (3) ecology, and (4) economics.
          https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5cae4d7ea9ab9533d3a45357/t/5d2b6c3f80735f00017e679a/1563126856931/2018+-+Peter+O%27Connor+-+Austrian+Housing+Policy.pdf

        2. We are too small. Only the government has scale.
          I tire of the nonsensical view that anything other than a massive government house building program will meaningfully address the issues.

    2. Just adding costs onto motorists without any improvements in access to public transport in areas reliant on vehicle transit is just going to make people poorer. If you’ve got stacks of cash and can afford to move centrally then great. Not everyone has that luxury.

      1. Yes, decades of bad planning can’t be fixed with a simple pricing mechanism; even one that will be part of the big picture once we start putting more of the other elements in place.

        1. Heidi
          The carbon emissions problem does not allow us the luxury of making changes once all the elements are in place. AT is adding kms of roads at a faster pace than they add cycle lanes, so when will the latter issue be fixed? When will someone judge that we have a PT system that meets everyones’ needs?

          I wonder too who is going to be affected the most by pricing mechanisms. European research showed that the greatest users of motorways are the most wealthy, perhaps for the obvious reason that they could afford discretionary travel and were ambivalent economically about undertaking regular long journeys.

          A pricing mechanism will be a disincentive for many to drive. Maybe we should consider that the revenue collected be apportioned selectively to reducing PT fares to provide a credible alternative?

          I particularly liked a tweet of the new Minister, “The most effective emissions & congestion buster in our cities is public transport.” Evidence from cities who have, or are making, substantial progress towards reducing emissions shows that it is driven by great PT. A road pricing mechanism will nudge people to use it. It will encourage people to make rational economic decisions about where they choose to live.

          I am also concerned about the consequences of a do nothing approach. Sobering figures out of the US show that adverse weather events currently cost the country 10x what they cost in the 1980s.

          I hope that AT will adopt measures that have a predicted chance of producing results rather than what seems an inspired guess that 55% of Auckland journeys will be in EVs powered by who knows what?

        2. I don’t disagree, John. 🙂 There is nuance between:
          “once we start putting more of the other elements in place” and
          “once all the elements are in place”

          There’s a real risk to relying on pricing alone. Price – and fail to use that money or any other money for real alternatives – and we really do create more inequity.

          However, adopt a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan – with VKT reduction and modeshift at its core – and pricing becomes an important tool.

          AT needs to make that major step to having the INTENTION of reducing VKT at the required rate. Then everything else falls into place. Both the road capacity expansion and the road network optimisation programmes get thrown out, and safety and amenity for users of the sustainable modes takes centre stage.

        3. Heidi
          there is a subtle nuance.
          We are absolutely on the same page regarding the SUMP. Is that a concept that is known to AT?

  7. NZ doesn’t need to go full Amsterdam. It just needs to have more population concentration around central nodes in 2-6 story buildings. Residential buildings or mixed-usage residential & commercial, and other convenient facilities located nearby (libraries, swimming pools, parks, gymnasiums, theatres, town hall, etc). NZ’s population isn’t that big nor dense to necessitate anything too drastic.

    Build up around the existing train stations, and major road intersections. And build commuter towns laid out along those principles, along the rail and rod corridors. Instead of more of those horrid North American styled “cul-de-sac” streets of detached housing that are utterly automobile dependent.

    And areas of lower seismic risk such as the Auckland region should be allowed to have double-brick construction. The entire nation across all it’s differing local environments doesn’t need to have one universal set of building regulations.

    It really shouldn’t be that hard, it’s just NZ’s narrow-mindedness that’s preventing it.

    1. I wouldn’t mind a good cul-de-sac street layout neighborhood. It is essentially doing what we want to do with blocking off streets to prevent rat running. The massive issues with them is that they are usually built with very low density housing, don’t usually allow low impact commercial space in them, and don’t usually have shortcuts / walkways for walking and cycling. They aren’t inherently bad, just usually are due to other planning mistakes.

  8. The problem is it is cheaper to develop greenfield then brown field.

    With brownfield, there are more risks such as complicated resource consent and dealing with submission from nimby oppositions.

    There are also limits for existing infrastructures, such as upgrading new water pipes, which would be expensive if it requires digging the old road.

    At construction there are more cost such as noise, traffic management plan.

    Even the government itself trying to do large scale development in Mt Roskill/Unitech struggling to deal with those issues.

    With those costs and barriers, brown field would be too expensive and too risky to develop compare to greenfield.

    1. Kelvin, this is what the post is about. We’re spending so many billions of dollars on the sprawl infrastructure, so of course it ends up costing the developer less. In the long run, we pay dearly for this again, in many many ways, and suffer in the city it creates.

      We have the choice to stop this, and put our billions into the infrastructure to support regeneration instead, making it easier for developers to build apartments in brownfields locations. In the long run, this investment will mean we’ll have a far more affordable and prosperous, healthy city.

      But this choice won’t happen with an incremental shift. It’s a 180 degree turn. A challenge to the status quo. It needs leadership.

  9. That Ockham building features something that was popular in blocks of flats in Australia 5-10 years ago that I can attest has proven to be problematic; Sheet metal cladding on sections (in this case: on the top).

    They basically use that sheet metal roofing as cladding for the sections at the top of the building. I don’t know if it’s because it’s cheap or because some people think it has good aesthetics, but after a few years that sort of cladding has been found to be not durable at the sheet metal always expands under heat, warps, forms gaps in the coverage and inevitably leaks which also traps mildew and is taken advantage of by vermin. And they also have terrible heat insulation and rattle a lot in the wind.

    NZ not learning from other nations experiences as always.

      1. In Scandanavia they use thicker, special-purpose panels iron panels and join and seal them using special joining techniques that builders in this part of the world aren’t familiar with. Because they’re thicker; they’re less likely to deform and have better thermal insulation.
        Builders in Australia just use the cheap & thinner stuff that have been used on rooves in this part of the world. And I suspect it’s the same in NZ (because those available roof panels are from Australian suppliers).

    1. That sounds more like shoddy construction techniques than anything inherently wrong with the cladding. Plenty of buildings in NZ use sheet metal cladding without problems.

      1. It’s okay for something like a shed, where people don’t reside inside and thus aren’t as subject to vermin mildew.

  10. I don’t know why you have listed Penlink as encouraging sprawl? Whangaparaoa is almost fully developed, the only real development to go on there going forward will be infill and higher density/brownfield development ie not sprawl.
    I’m presuming the only reason why you have put it in there is because it will make the drive distance and time shorter for people in cars (which also doing the same for buses, bikes and pedestrians). Or is it that people that don’t live in the city itself but who still pay rates shouldn’t have nice things?

    1. Whangaparaoa is an example of a part of Auckland (and there are many like it) where we shouldn’t have sprawled; it should’ve remained a beach holiday / outdoor recreation / biodiversity amenity area.

      I wrote of locations that “demand either new roads, or ongoing widening of roads.” Whangaparaoa is a residential location where, having sprawled there inappropriately, the demand for better roading connections has grown steadily.

      People choosing to live in residential locations in Auckland that multiply their travel emissions by 10 times that of a central city resident, or 4 times that of an isthmus resident need to understand their transport is everyone’s business. Just as people on the city fringe need to understand that their heritage overlays are everyone’s business.

      The dynamic lanes induced traffic. What should’ve happened was that buses were given priority and bus users and cyclists were given safe facilities. Penlink will simply induce more traffic and then create mayhem on SH1. Emissions nightmare.

      1. That doesn’t sound super expensive, but still it amounts to about $10,000 per m². We might be used to a lot worse but still it is a lot of money for what you get. Are townhouses in this area also this expensive?

        I was looking at the rather posh looking Greenhouse. The same website also lists those prices. Over 1.4 million for a 61m² apartment. 1 bdrm + study. So yeah, if you had to ask…

    1. I’m sure you can do your own price comparisons but here is what Todd said in that Stuff article I quoted:

      “My building in Mt Albert (Modal) is 35 units on 700 square metres, and the average price in the building is $580,000 – while the average house in Mt Albert is $1.4 million,” Todd told Stuff.

      So that’s what they have it valued at, but you can’t buy the Modal ones; they’re keeping them all as rentals:

      “Modal is an all-rental development from Ockham – 32 apartments that we hope residents will make their home for years to come. Our minimum lease is one year, but if you want longer, that’s no problem.

      “Because this is a long-term thing for us. We want to offer our residents the security to make their home at Modal so they can plan ahead, look to the future, lock in schools etc. We want to play our part in shifting the rental market to something closer to the European experience. Aucklanders deserve this. Good quality homes, close to train stations and on major bus routes – and within easy cycle range of the city.”

      Must say, with the farmers’ market and now a great bakery just next door, it’s a pretty nice location. Much nicer than it seemed when they first started building.

        1. Then don’t live in one. Plenty of stand alone housing options in Auckland to choose from. But why the snark for those who do want that housing option?

        2. Yes there are standalone options. What a great place to live.
          It’s funny though. No comment on the snark directed at those who want this option?

        3. Doesn’t have to be for everyone. Live in a house somewhere even on a lifestyle block, there is plenty of them still but as long as a fair share of this lifestyle is paid for by the user and not those choosing to live in a more compact form. We can’t keep sprawling forever.

  11. I live in one of those new greenfield developments, where just about every driveway has three vehicles, the family car or SUV, her car, and his company ute. Where families are out and about in the evenings with their dogs, and the smell of barbecue cooking is in the air. I asked one of the young tradies who shifted in recently why they chose to live this far out of town, and the answer was simple, we wanted a backyard where the kids could play on the trampoline, and splash around in the backyard pool in the summer. You just can’t get that in an apartment in town. Why am I here? Well this evening we dined on our own lettuces, and look forward to dining on our own tomatoes, beetroot and beans in the next week or so; our flower garden is alive with the sound of bees and we are awoken to the sound of birdsong in the morning. Magic.

    1. That’s great, I would not want to deprive you of that housing option (as long as pay a congestion charge, carbon taxes via a functioning ETS scheme and land value rates – so building upwards is not taxed).

      But you should know the suburban housing dream you describe is not scalable to meet the needs of everyone.

    2. Many of those kinds won’t be playing in the back yard. And it will be dullsville for them by the time they’re in their early teens.

        1. I will give you an example of a poor choice why that is the case:

          A few years ago the council did a consultation to somewhat sanitize the design of Cook Street in the city centre. Because it is quite dangerous, but also on the way to Victoria Park from a lot of the apartments there.

          But then the council decided to do nothing. A bit later the completely obvious consequence happened, someone got badly hurt. But still nothing happened.

          The council also decides to turn a blind eye to people double (!) parking their cars on the footpath.

          All of this sends the signal around that if you venture out of your apartment onto the street on foot, you do so at your own peril, and you should not assume other people will avoid getting you injured or killed.

          So for younger kids you’re looking at being stuck in an apartment vs. being stuck in a backyard. The first one is clearly worse. And that is before you consider the fact that a lot of apartments and flats over here don’t have any soundproofing.

          For teenagers, I guess it is a toss-up between more stuff to do nearby, vs the much more hostile environment for actually walking somewhere.

        2. You’re basing everything on the example of what exists in Auckland, a city in a nation of garbage urban design.

          But that’s not anything inherently wrong with flat/apartments. That’s the fault of the planning authorities who approved these flats, with no easy access to public parks or open spaces or other facilities, like most blocks in the world have. Even in Australia; the urban authorities only approved blocks of flats/apartments if they had convenient pedestrian access to some sort of public green space.

          And have you seen some of those cookie-cutter suburbs out Botany way? Not much of a backyard for the kids to play in anyway.

          And a lot of those suburbs of detached hosing across NZ aren’t exactly safe to walk around anyway, especially after hours.

        3. ” an apartment will be dullsville by the time they are 18 months old”
          Really? In nine of the last ten years Vienna has been judged the most livable city in the world, Average housing space per person is 30 sq m. So when everyone spends less on housing there is plenty left over for all those other things that are important: great, cheap public transport; open spaces, parks and amenities.
          I suspect that kiwis are constrained in their thinking by what they have always known and their dream is enabled by the rest of the community that enables and pays for sprawl.

    3. Oh and you can barbecue if you have a flat or apartment with a balcony. Not that you can do it in NZ for much of the year with NZ’s weather anyway…

      1. The best barbecue set ups I’ve seen have been in apartment complexes in Victoria.

        They have the barbecues away from the buildings because it’s better for fire risk. And under a roof so you can barbecue all year round. Away from the house and under a roof means they’re under a separate roof. The roofs are high and big because otherwise it’s pokey and dark, and you need space for tables so people can keep you company while you cook, cutting up the salad or whatever.

        The nicest ones are surrounded by plants so it feels like a resort. And they often have a fenced pool adjacent – but you could have a trampoline or whatever. Nothing like several families living there for children’s company to keep the kids happy and active and off their devices!

      2. My apartment has the option of a barbecue on the private balcony in amongst my flower garden in the shade of the great london plane trees in the street (no tomatoes but I do grow lemons), or using the sunny podium deck at the back of the building, which is purpose designed for barbeques and gatherings amongst the manicured garden.

        Also the idea that you can’t splash around in a pool in an apartment is preposterous, many have a pool that is much bigger and better equipped than anyone could have in their back yard.

        1. I certainly can, but I’m not sure if my kids can. With kids it is not about bigger, it is about not too deep so they’re less likely to drown.

          Also, manicured, you you just mean ‘maintained’, or actually manicured? The sounds like off-limits for kids. Anyway, neither are common around apartments, the thing you would usually see is as many parking spaces as they could possibly fit in the space.

          To be clear, I don’t mean to knock on apartments in general, but on the poor choices around them that we make in Auckland.

        2. Thanks for the clarification that it’s just the poor choices around apartments in Auckland that are what you’re talking about, Roeland.

          You often harness your experience of shitty apartments in shitty streetscapes to improve the discussion about well-designed apartments in well-designed streetscapes, and that’s really constructive.

          Our children are most restricted by the transport danger and unhealthy, unpleasant streets. That’s caused by sprawl, not by apartments, which are part of the solution. I know you know this, but it’s important to ensure our discussion doesn’t support the resistance to improving Auckland’s urban form and planning.

          Even though we’re all disillusioned, and burnt out to boot, we need to keep having constructive conversations for the kids’ sake.

        3. Another thing; many blocks of flats in this world have gardens on the roof for the residents. Or they have gardening space for the tenants on the general property.

        4. By manicured I mean nicely designed, planted and maintained. It’s not off limits to kids and is pretty robust. My balcony garden is a bit more manicured.

          Ok sure, I guess a suburban house is better for having a childs pool installed that you replace with a deep one when they are older.

          Our outdoor podium is over the carparking, which sits in a sub basement. It’s pretty common to have a podium and/or roof level common space, especially on the new build apartments coming out.

        5. Most people have no strong intention to ever have any backyard swimming pool anyway. They cost money to maintain and they’re not much usage during winter. Nor most of Autumn & spring.

          With higher population density; public pools are convenient to more people.

    4. “Where families are out and about in the evenings with their dogs, and the smell of barbecue cooking is in the air”
      I don’t where you speak of; but most of those cul-de-sac streets have NOBODY out on them doing anything.

    5. You can 100% have a veggie patch in a terraced house. Your vege patch probably occupies an absolute maximum of 30m2, a well designed terrace could achieve a 30m2 garden on a 100m2 section. We don’t need McMansions on 800m2 to have veggie patches and I wish sprawl advocates would stop telling that lie.

      1. Well designed — and therein lies the problem. In a context where well designed terraced housing doesn’t exist, that assertion is true.

        And while 800m² is exagerated, I don’t have the impression that anyone over here knows how to create a house on a 300m² section which still has usable outdoor space. No, we can and must fit that 220m² single storey ranch house on that section.

      2. Most terraced houses in Europe and North America have enough of a back yard for a garden. One household doesn’t need that much space to grow the most commonly-used vegetables & herbs (potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, maybe celery or capsicums) for their own usage.
        Maybe if you’re planning to grow squashes, especially pumpkins, or if you want grape vines or you’re wanting fruit trees; you might be wanting more space.

        I mean for most of their history; they had enough space for a toilet outside…

  12. Apartment living is not for everyone, just like living in a semi-detached house is not for everyone. A well designed apartment is a good way to get a first step onto the property ladder, but I have seen some apartments that are shockers with tiny rooms and no room outside for anything except to park a car. But I do find it interesting that the very trades people and contractors needed to build and service those apartments into the future are those choosing to buy new houses in the greenfield developments.

    1. What’s your point? In other parts of the world people are happy to live in apartments all their lives. Greenfields growth is unsustainable and unaffordable so we have to stop sprawling. And so we have to get better at building apartments.

      I’ve proposed putting in quality apartments at higher densities, so people who want to live in apartments can have nice places to live at minimum cost. Other advantages of more compact development include:

      – less infill in other suburbs so more full sections (and green space) are left, and less construction disruption, and
      – people in suburbs won’t be swamped by the traffic of people from greenfields development and instead will get to enjoy the public and active transport improvements made possible by the intensification (more ridership because people who only have to travel short distances can be well served by public transport, plus more rates/ha to cover footpath maintenance, etc.)

      It’s actually a solution that means everyone wins.

      1. People in other parts of the world don’t know any different, apartments are the only choice many have, that’s one of the benefit to living in New Zealand, there’s a lot of choices in housing types. Just about everyone I know who has immigrated to NZ from Europe loves the fact that they can buy a house, including my own parents.

        Unfortunately there are people in NZ who want to limit people choices for there own selfish agendas.

        1. It’s not like houses are going away, that option will always be there, but artificially enforcing the vast majority of the market to be like that with planning and zoning rules like we have is pretty crazy. No one is saying all houses bad, people are saying we should probably stop or significantly slow the rate these far flung developments are built and instead build for a market that is better for the city. Anyone could still buy a house if they wanted.

        2. “there are people in NZ who want to limit people choices for there own selfish agendas”
          There are people who are trying to limit sprawl because ultimately humans need to behave in more sustainable ways, some of which are: to have less carbon emissions because we travel less; we preserve planted areas as they sequester carbon; and we preserve fertile land close to our cities as a source of food. I really struggle to see how this could be considered a selfish stance. But all means if you want to buy a house do so, but you may have to pay more for it because far flung sprawl isn’t a sustainable way of living.
          Respectfully there are plenty of houses in Europe that were available for your parents to buy; at least there was when I visited last year. But they come at a price because they are a scarce commodity as much of Europe realised, long ago, that development had to up and not out.

        3. Apartments aren’t sustainable either.
          There’s nothing sustainable about 8 billion people in the world.

        4. Apartments can certainly be part of a low carbon system if designed well.

          Our average NZ lifestyles are 2.5 times the per capita carrying capacity of the earth. (This varies from 1.7 times (Otara), to 3.7 times (North Shore). There’s a big difference between being:

          – Somewhat over… 33%? (due to a too-high population), and
          – 150% over (due to wasteful lifestyles). Let alone 270%.

          It’s the lifestyles and the systems that enable them that must change. We also need respectful, humane approaches to reducing our population gradually. We can do this through good education and empowerment of girls and women and through the eradication of poverty – which requires changing our economy from exploitative to regenerative.

        5. John Wood look at the post war up and outs, a lot of them turned into slums.

          Heidi it doesn’t matter if our lifestyles are out of wack there are so few of us it’s not worth the effort.

        6. “Unfortunately there are people in NZ who want to limit people choices for there own selfish agendas”

          Oh, the irony.

  13. I live in the periurban edge and commute across the transport routes (Waitakere to Albany) but would work mostly from home but our copper phone lines cannot cope with broadband. If Council and Chorus would support better fibre broadband it would get workers out of their cars and cut the “necessity” for more roads. We saw this in Vivid lockdown. I don’t see any recognition of this in AC planning or the NPS-UD.

    1. Once again this reinforces the idea of far flung places being less efficient infrastructure wise. I know it’s not roads you are talking about but even broadband to a few houses would take a lot more cost & resources (local & wider environmental harm) than in a more dense area.

      1. Grant, spot on. All those things come at a greater cost proportionately: phone, water, waste water, schools, public facilities etc where they are shared over a smaller number of people.
        There is a huge cost to sprawl and it is born by others.

  14. I live in the rural edge to restore indigenous forests, grow food for my extended family, be self-sufficient in energy and so I don’t have to live in a Covid cluster. I was just pointing out that investment in communications infrastructure my be more efficient that densifying. Additionally in NZ densifying translates into almost no green spaces (and certainly none with biodiversity) and streams and our natural coastlines destroyed.

    1. Hi Mark, thanks for your comments and good on you for your contributions to a better future. There is a tension here between the cost of providing more infrastructure, as John and Grant have pointed out, and the potential for this one particular type of infrastructure, as you’ve pointed out, to reduce emissions from transport.

      Here are my thoughts. Installing broadband in a less dense location provides less benefits on the surface than it does in more dense locations, so if it’s to be done with public money, there needs to be a very good rationale for doing so. Clearly, it will encourage people to work from home, so we need to consider the effects of this.

      Work from home has the potential to send our emissions either up, or down. They’ll go up if people decide to move further out of the city to where it’s cheaper – or to a different town entirely – because they find the cost in time for the occasional trip to work remains about the same. For the entire household, this could send the emissions way up, as everyone’s activities might end up involving more driving. And many people seem prepared to telecommute by flying once a week, which ends up being diabolical for emissions.

      They’ll go down if people stay put within the city. We can enable this with great neighbourhood centre support services, beautiful places to be in the city, and so on.

      If we fund broadband for people like you, are we also prepared to consciously price flying and driving to cover all their externalities? If so, I think that could work.

    2. “Additionally in NZ densifying translates into almost no green spaces (and certainly none with biodiversity) and streams and our natural coastlines destroyed.”

      Infill causes that, and sprawl causes that, particularly the roads, driveways, parking lots.

      They are the two types of development we should avoid. Quality intensification should do the opposite.

      Did you read my post, “Good Density”? https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2019/07/04/good-density/

      Key to creating a green, compact, low-emissions city with a small ecological (as well as geographical) footprint:

      – higher rise (4 to 5 storey) buildings, to leave plenty of land for permeable land, in the form of community gardens, native plantings, natural recreational space;
      – minimal car infrastructure. The car parks, driveways, garages push the cost of apartments up and cover too much soil that should be growing things.

      1. Heidi
        I agree with you about good density. That good density will make the provision of PT a more economic proposition. Better PT will enable a number of people to choose not to own a vehicle, thereby reducing the collective cost on the rest of us supplying more roads, more parking spaces and more parking buildings.

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