While I get my thoughts in order for the ‘Housing 2020’ programme which has largely spilled over into 2021, please enjoy something from the unwritten archives.
There are a few common elements when people complain about new housing. You see the same arguments raised, and often the same photo of dour residents with their arms crossed. It’s a media cliche – see the Angry People In Local Newspapers Facebook page or the Canadian mosaic below:

Source: https://torontolife.com/city/people-arms-crossed-front-things-theyre-taxonomy-stars-favourite-visual-cliche/

In mid-2018, I did what academics would call a “meta-analysis”, looking through some newspaper articles for common themes. But we can just call it NIMBY Bingo! See the table below – although I can’t figure out how to add scroll bars – or the full version here.

Development"Net" New Homes"Not opposed to more housing, but not here""Not opposed to more housing, but not this much"Upset they weren't consulted?Concerns - Class/ CrimeConcerns - traffic/ parkingConcerns - otherPhoto of residents with arms crossed?Mike Lee?Other local politicians?David Seymour?Other government politicians?Alternate views reported?Source 1
Newlands terraces16YesYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/business/residential-property/104099861/newlands-residents-up-in-arms-against-proposed-housing-development2
Poto Reserve sale7Yeshttp://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/local-papers/hutt-news/3137136/Residents-aim-to-halt-development1
HNZ Rolleston St30YesYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/business/residential-property/105448801/wellington-residents-voice-concerns-about-proposed-housing-nz-redevelopment2
Self storage Hobsonville0YesPartialhttps://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/north-harbour-news/95520286/new-fourstorey-facility-opposite-houses-angers-residents-in-hobsonville1
HNZ Maunu50YesYesYesPartialYesYeshttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/northern-advocate/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503450&objectid=120408645
HNZ Epsom20YesYesYesYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/104102224/david-seymour-slammed-for-letter-saying-social-housing-tenants-may-have-mental-health-issues4
Appleby smaller sectionsYesYeshttp://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9814206/Residents-angry-at-developers-plans2
Chicken farm0YesYesYeshttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=119898803
Cellphone tower0YesYeshttps://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/anger-plans-cellphone-tower2
Bucklands Beach homesYesYesYesYesPartialYeshttps://www.times.co.nz/news/neighbours-angry-as-10-houses-crammed-onto-two-properties/5
Struan Place houses6YesYesYeshttps://www.times.co.nz/environment/unitary-plan-destroying-struan-place/3
Ngongotaha SHA190YesYesYes3
9 Farnham Street14YesYesYesYesYeshttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=112297695
Gables pub70YesYesYesYeshttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=116271524
Zion Rd apartments85YesYesYesYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/business/property/102200123/85-apartments-77-car-parks-333-people-not-in-my-quiet-cul-de-sac-say-Auckland-neighbours4
Bridesdale Farm SHA147YesYesYeshttp://www.scene.co.nz/queenstown-news/neighbours-fast-track-fury/3
Mt Albert terraces4YesYesPartialYeshttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=118546293
Shelly Bay redevelopmentTBCYesYesYesYesYesYeshttp://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=1028026
MSD emergency housing9YesYeshttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=119767342
HNZ Asquith Ave20YesYesYesYeshttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=113860184
HNZ Fontenoy St35YesYesYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/east-bays-courier/80293773/housing-nz-special-housing-area-has-residents-concerned3
Eden Park concerts0YesYesYeshttps://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2018/07/former-prime-minister-helen-clark-opposes-eden-park-charity-concert.html3
Hobsonville Marina apartmentsTBCYesYesYesYesYesYesYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/business/property/104068656/apartment-blocks-proposed-for-hobsonville-marina7
L175 apartments28YesYesYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/eastern-courier/104679436/Marina-decision-makes-a-mockery-of-Unitary-Plan-claim-berth-holders3
Mary Potter Hospice apartments39YesYesYesPartialYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/business/residential-property/83646769/Tempers-flare-up-at-community-meeting-on-Mary-Potter-Hospices-development-plans4
Glen Eden apartments168YesYesYesYesYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/western-leader/92527534/neighbours-had-no-say-on-plans-for-the-tallest-building-in-glen-eden5
Countdown expansion0Yeshttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=117962161
Stonefields apartmentsTBCYesYesYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/business/property/89363158/Increased-apartment-height-angers-resident-at-new-Auckland-suburb-Stonefields3
Hillary Crescent SHA270YesYesYesYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/business/78050245/devonport-residents-concerned-at-fivestorey-redevelopment-of-old-navy-area4
Thames retirement village expansion73Yeshttps://www.newsroom.co.nz/2017/12/11/67387/drowning-dreams-apartment-block-where-the-waters-meet1
Kaimai View250Yeshttps://www.sunlive.co.nz/news/160880-turning-complainers-into-customers.html1
Lake Hawea SHA400YesYesYesYeshttps://crux.org.nz/community/developer-support-for-hawea-subdivision-overshadowed-by-opposers/4
Pohara SHA70Yeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/94801739/golden-bay-residents-concerned-about-special-housing-development-flood-risks1
Alba Takapuna20YesYesYesYesPartialYeshttps://www.stuff.co.nz/business/property/92292984/neighbours-despair-over-21-flats-being-built-on-single-auckland-block5
Remarkables Park Co-Living Apartments227Yeshttps://www.odt.co.nz/regions/queenstown/high-court-eyed-bid-stop-apartments1

The winners from the list above were “Hobsonville Marina apartments” and “Shelly Bay redevelopment” with six “yes” counts each.

Politicians are often quoted in the NIMBY articles, and my bingo grid gave special attention to two hypocrites at opposite ends of the spectrum – David Seymour of the ‘free market’ party and Mike Lee the supposedly ‘left wing’ councillor, who have both opposed new housing on many occasions.

I’m not the only one to use the term “NIMBY Bingo”, it’s been done for many cities overseas. Here’s just one below:


While it’s fun to take the mickey out of NIMBYs, and they can have a really negative impact on the lives of those they’ll never meet, I’m trying for a more constructive approach these days. We all have motivations for behaving the way we do, all of us are a mess of contradictions, and people have genuine concerns about change, safety, privacy, sunlight, parking or whatever. Many later find that their concerns were overblown (‘huh, it’s not as bad as I thought) or that they can still sell their house for the same price to someone who doesn’t mind the new apartments next door – but some will still be bitter about it ten years on.

Usually there is no ‘champion of the downtrodden’, the people who have no voice because they don’t live in the area yet or haven’t been born yet or just feel alienated by the systems we have for giving public feedback.

Plus… even I would agree with some site-specific concerns, and even for older, whiter NIMBYs it can be hard to understand council planning processes, and whether, how and when they should get a chance to provide their view. This stuff is complicated. But the system we have had so far hasn’t worked – we’ve clearly built much less housing than we needed, and it’s hurting people – and it needs to change. That process began with the Unitary Plan/ Special Housing Areas and has continued through National Policy Statements and other important but hard-to-understand-quickly work.

There are better communicators than me to work on those issues, so generally I just try not to be a hypocrite myself (I’m a proud YIMBY, mostly) and do what I can to help get more housing through my economics work/ writing.

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  1. I live four houses away from a new development. We had a quiet street where kids playing on the road was normal. The noise of kids and the birds was great. Now we have become the main entrance for the trucks bringing in the rock pads to lift the building sites above the flood line. The site is a flood plain. The process of developing the site is noisy and dirty.
    We were sold the development by councillors and developers who supposedly listened. The first developers went broke the second was sold to us as a greenie nice guy, he onsold to an unknown Singaporean corporation who clearly have self interest at heart. It was a SHA but that seems to have been lost in the ether, no cheap kiwi build here. No kiwi builders being employed either, the houses are being built in Viet Nam, more NZ dollars going offshore. Forgive me for being cynical but this whole process feels like a way for the rich to get very rich and bugger your kids playing in the street. I get the need for houses but what we were promised and what is happening are two different things. Lastly infrastructure is way behind, traffic , footpaths, cycle ways, access to public transport all non existent. I totally understand why you would be a NIMBY

    1. Thanks for engaging Peter! Construction is disruptive, no doubt about it. I’ve had many hundreds of new apartments built (or underway) near me too, and I was especially frustrated by one that entirely blocked off the footpath on one side of the street and made it much more dangerous for us to walk our child to daycare. There can be noise, dust, access disruption etc and that is all annoying I know.

      Builders could do more to reduce their impacts on neighbours and other people nearby, but there will always be some impact. That is recognised in our legislation (and controlled through consent conditions) because it’s not practical to remove all impacts, and the end result is worth it because we get new buildings, which will be homes for people or businesses or community groups or whatever. I think of it as growing pains; they do end and they give people new opportunities (e.g. the new people who will be able to live there).

      On infrastructure; yes we’re behind on all those things, but that’s not the fault of developers or new residents. I’d also note that developments do pay in a lump sum called ‘development contributions’ for these things (usually $20K-$40K per new dwelling) and the new properties are liable to pay rates once they’re finished, just like every other property.

    2. This is a sadly typical example of a nominally good development with temporary disturbance that has gone wrong in practice. Planning, design and especially financing diverts many builds from the good intentions of Unitary or District Plans. No wonder people are worried or sceptical about what is coming to their street. Compliance monitoring is stretched and notices are sometimes slow to produce results. A planning process that allows Permitted activities without notification to neighbours results in the crossed arms. Surely we can devise a system that can be more neighbourly for those immediately affected? And unfortunately the Development Contributions don’t flow through to fund specific local streetscape improvements which then have to wait for RLTP funding and prioritisation that can be long after the increased occupation creates the need.

      1. The absolute last thing we need is more opportunity for busy body neighbours to stick their noses in. Our permitted activities are already so restrictive.

        1. Under the Town and Country Planning Act every site had to have a predominant use, an activity nobody could stop you doing. Each zone also had conditional uses which were suitable for the zone but not necessarily suitable on every site. Along came the RMA and
          Council were able to limit permitted activities to make them almost meaningless. They could write rules that changed things to discretionary, which you couldn’t do with a rule under the TCPA. Conservative Councils turned every minor thing into an application.
          At the same time the RMA told owners they could do anything so long as effects were mitigated. The result is everybody thinks they are right and we get nothing but conflict with no certainty to anyone. Binning the RMA is a good move. The quickest fix would be to unrepeal the Town and Country Planning Act. Basing town planning on ecological principles was a huge mistake.

        2. I’m pretty sure at least some Australian states have joint town planning / environmental protection legislation, and it might be quite common to have overseas.

          But there is still the question of how to do it well. As far as I could tell from skimming their report, the RMA review panel which recommended the new legislation here did not look at what jurisdictions overseas did let alone try to learn from them. So we are reinventing the wheel again and are probably destined to make a new series of mistakes.

        3. I very much agree with the comment above that our discussions of the RMA lack a comparative analysis. Our regulatory system is comparatively simple, permissive and non-participatory. Planning systems in Australia, let alone Copenhagen and Amsterdam are both far more prescriptive and more participatory than our current approach.

  2. It is an argument for really good planning I think. If there are standards, limits, quality ensured, If noise, shadow, traffic is mitigated and amenities provided change is much easier to accept. Where designs are very short sighted ( ie the windows are tight at the boundary leaving rooms with no light because they are faced up against a wall) this leads to housing stock that is substandard and a waste of resources.

  3. Clearly we can’t build enough houses.
    We also don’t have an achievable plan to reach carbon zero with projected population growth.
    Is it time to consider a halt to population growth, i.e. limit immigration so that only the current population is maintained?
    This would take the pressure off the need to build more houses, more infrastructure, etc., and possibly allow us to catch up with housing and build renewable electricity generation to support a carbon free future.

    1. I see immigration and emissions as being largely separate issues for NZ. Firstly, remember that about half our emissions are from agriculture; those don’t change with the number of people living here. That means that while each new person increases our emissions to some extent, they’d help to decrease our ’emissions per capita’, and give more opportunities to spread the burden of paying for/ offsetting/ reducing emissions. And secondly, people are creating emissions whether they’re in their previous country or in NZ. Would their emissions be higher in NZ because they’re living a more first-world lifestyle and consuming more? Maybe, but I don’t think we can deny people the opportunity to be upwardly mobile.

      I’ve got more sympathy for the ‘catching up with housing’ argument and will hopefully write about that this year. Generally though, I am (like almost every economist) in favour of reasonably open borders and labour mobility.

      1. That means that while each new person increases our emissions to some extent, they’d help to decrease our ’emissions per capita’,

        If it was as simple as reducing per capita emissions then I would agree.
        But we need to reduce our overall emissions to a set point in time. Meaning that for each additional person, we have to make even greater cuts per capita.
        Essentially the opposite of what your statement suggests.

  4. The term NIMBY is a mild form of hate speech, and I am concerned to see Greater Auckland publishing an article with it in the title.

    This is the type of article and language I would associate with Trump supporters.

    Undermining democracy is an insidious process, and people’s right to participate in matters that affect them needs defending. One day it might be you who discovers you have no say.

    1. Hi Roland, this is the 8th post that Greater Auckland has published with ‘NIMBY’ in the title. I’d certainly disagree that it’s a “mild form of hate speech” but I do agree that it’s not a very helpful term for getting constructive conversations.

      I have a low tolerance for hypocrites though; there’s a world of difference between an average Auckland resident who is worried about their neighbourhood and doesn’t have a clear frame of reference for what change looks like and doesn’t have any familiarity with how council/ government processes work, and politicians who are paid to understand this stuff but put the worst possible slant on it for political expediency. So I’m no great fan of David Seymour or (in his later years) Mike Lee. But I digress.

      As for ‘undermining democracy’ – there are tensions between the right of someone to do what they please on their own land and the right of neighbours to have a say (and the people who aren’t part of this discussion at all, e.g. people who don’t live there yet or are in poor, brown or renting demographics and less likely to engage). The tensions are unavoidable, but they are not ignored and people are trying to balance them up and down the chain: in legislation, in council plans, and in council decisions on individual developments. Sometimes neighbours should have and do have a say; sometimes not. This will depend on the zoning, the proposal, the extent to which it complies with the controls for the site (note that a development which doesn’t fully comply is not ‘breaking the law’ or ‘breaking the rules’ – that’s a common but inaccurate way of framing things), etc.

      I hope at least you found the last four paragraphs of the post more constructive; I’m trying to move beyond the NIMBY stuff really and don’t expect to write more about it this year – I want to find solutions not dwell on problems. Cheers, John

      1. Thanks John. I agree there is very much a balance to be struck. I do encourage people to move beyond name calling.

        My observation here is that this type of post can feed into a model that downplays the importance of agency (ie some control over the future) as a feature of community wellbeing. Yet we know, especially from studies of oppressed communities, that it is central to wellbeing.

        A more neutral assessment might say that the balance in the current system is tipped very heavily in favour of applicants as opposed to public input for individual consents. Most are non-notified, and most are granted. Neither democracy nor the environment are served.

        In every conversation I have had in over two decades with people around the RMA, I have yet to find any case where a genuinely good development has been stopped by NIMBY, or submissions generally. Most often I hear people confusing the RMA and the Building Act 🙂 Next most frequent are bruised egos where developers were upset that people didn’t like their beautiful project or were upset that they had to change a design to reflect broader public concerns.

        While some of the people you mention in your post get publicity, I have yet to see any evidence (as opposed to anecdata – eg look at this video of people in Kohimarama) that this publicity leads to poor outcomes. Looked at in aggregate our planning system is comparatively simple, permissive and the public has very limited impact on decisions. I base these comments on the OECD assessments of comparative regulatory systems and MfE’s RMA monitoring reports.

        Compared with the cities we sometimes laud, like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, planning here is both more permissive and less participatory. Certainly the RMA is far simpler and more streamlined than the planning system in Victoria, to choose a closer example.

        Even if your dominance hypothesis were correct, do you not see it as odd to suggest that a lack of public participation by some groups is reason to reduce the already limited opportunities for input for everyone. No-one for example has suggested that the behaviour of Donald Trump’s supporters is a reason to abolish voting 🙂

        1. Have you got any links to the comparative OECD assessments, or anything else which shows that planning here is both more permissive and less participatory?

          I can’t speak for Copenhagen and Amsterdam, but the thing with a lot of overseas jurisdictions is that the state of their housing markets as measured by median multiples and the like is better. It suggests they are doing something right with their planning practices.

        2. Fair question, Sherwood. I’ll see what I can dig out online, as most of this stuff is PDFs and hard copies.

          “the thing with a lot of overseas jurisdictions is that the state of their housing markets as measured by median multiples and the like is better. It suggests they are doing something right with their planning practices.”

          or is it that other factors are at play in New Zealand?

          In the Netherlands for example you can only buy a house if you register with a local authority and have a reason for the purchase. In both the Netherlands and Demark, superannuation funds invest heavily in long term rental accomodation as it offers a low but stable return over a 100 year time horizon.

          Vienna, Copenhagen and many other cities which are relatively affordable to live in have much larger public housing programmes and controls on rent levels, as well as tenancy laws that provide close to lifetime leases.

          In general, cities with good housing affordability also have a combination of very directive planning, which provides certainty around exactly where housing will be provided, and extensive public housing programmes. They also (usually) have very strong provisions around amenity, heritage and green space

          Median multiple is a less than ideal measure as it ignores historical trends in interest rates, and overweights prices in terms of purchase affordability.

          For example a $620,000 house with a 8.5% mortgage in 2008 was less affordable in terms of nominal weekly repayments as a share of median weekly income than a $1,300,000 house with a 2.5% mortgage in 2021. Median multiple compares these two using current interest rates, which is a very misleading picture.

          For purchase affordability, I prefer the weighted average of the (i) the ratio of weekly repayments on a standard 30 year mortgage at the media price to median weekly income; and (ii) the ratio of median deposit on a media price house to median annual income.

          For rental affordability for adults, a useful measure is a vector of the ratio of the median weekly rental for n rooms / divided by n times the median weekly income. For affordability for family groups the same vector is used but the divisor is (n-k) times the median weekly income, where k is the median number of children.

          These are aggregate measures of affordability, but they generally give a better idea of historical patterns than measures like median multiple.

          Aroha mai for the long reply, I hope this is of some interest 🙂

        3. ” genuinely good development” sounds like a very subjective standard. How are you coming to the conclusion something is
          “genuinely good”?

          I hope not just because it fits with your ideas of what development should look like. What objective standard are you using?

        4. “In the Netherlands for example you can only buy a house if you register with a local authority and have a reason for the purchase”.

          Can you please link to some evidence for this statement? I have looked online and can find nothing to back it up.

        5. Roland, I think our prices / deposits / repayments are more expensive relative to incomes compared to most Western countries.

          I think there is a variety of different approaches to getting housing affordability. I am not advocating following their approach but I understand Texas and Germany make a lot of land available.

          But differences in planning regulation do seem to be a common thread to the discussions, and I do wonder whether there are some key elements of approaches used overseas that we could replicate. As part of that I do think permissiveness and participation levels are likely to be key issues.

        6. Kia ora goosoid

          “genuinely good development” in the sense that it aligns with what we know about what creates strong, low emissions, affordable and diverse communities with a quality public realm. These factors are fairly well understood now.

          If you are interested, I would start with the Charter of the New Urbanism from the early 1990s and work forwards. There is also a huge literature on the way in which the physical environment and community wellbeing interact, as well as the ways in marginalisation of communities and their inability to participate in decisions undermines wellbeing.

          Thanks for querying the point about the Netherlands. You are quite right, I can’t find anything on a quick Google either. For context, this was said to me separately by a senior Dutch housing official at an official meeting in Wellington last year, and by a Dutch citizen currently living in Wellington a month or so ago, so I have taken it as a fact. I am now wondering if there is some context missing here.

        7. Kia ora Sherwood

          “differences in planning regulation do seem to be a common thread to the discussions”

          I think that depends on where you are reading. There is a lot of rhetoric about that in New Zealand based articles, but unless one is talking about extreme restrictions there isn’t much discussion in the international literature about planning rules needing to be relaxed. The 2020 OECD review on inclusive housing cites the very frustrating Glaeser papers from the early 2000s which don’t actually point to what type of restrictions are relevant. Most of the focus is on the need for public investment.

          This is not to say planning restrictions are always and everywhere irrelevant but we in NZ sometimes lack a sense of perspective. People on this blog and elsewhere (eg Gen Zero) sometimes cite Minneapolis as an example of liberalisation, but even a cursory review of the changes there suggest that the new regime, touted here as a success, is actually a more restrictive regime than the Unitary Plan or Wellington’s current District Plan.

    2. I totally disagree with you on the moral stance here. Why should someone get to dictate what someone can and cant do someone else’s land? Especially when its for the net gain of society.
      People shouldn’t be consulted where it isn’t their right or business to.
      The builders have every right to use the roads and it will only be a few years while this building is built. So long as they aren’t doing anything illegal then more power to them.

      This isn’t an undermining of democracy, this is an overreach of the government.

      1. You are right. A libertarian property rights based approach is different from the approach I bring to the conversation. I observe that an emphasis on property rights and wealth-based entitlements,rather than land stewardship duties and a sense of looking after each other, has helped bring our civilisation to the brink of collapse, and is leading to a collapse in biodiversity. So it might be time for a different approach?

        1. I jujst dont understand how protecting low density housing and forcing sprawl into green space can be seen as ” land stewardship duties”. Or how denying the building of affordable housing for low/medium income residents is part of “a sense of looking after each other”.

          If we are really interested in these things, we should be advocating for high density cities like in Japan. It has 70% forest cover with a good chunk of it being wilderness. As opposed to NZ which is the most quickly deforested country in the world.

          I agree with your principles, I just don’t think your solution of preventing development of hgh density housing in your neighbourhood will achieve those principles.

        2. Kia ora ano goosoid

          You said

          ” I don;t see how protecting low density housing and forcing sprawl into green space can be seen as ” land stewardship duties”. Or how denying the building of affordable housing for low/medium income residents is part of “a sense of looking after each other”.

          Where have I advocated either of those things? Could you agree that there is more than one way to densify a city?

          The demand side is a whole other topic but what I advocate for supply iincludes:

          1 Initially developing land which is vacant, occupied solely by car parks, derelict, or occupied by low-quality post-1960 1-2 storey commerical buildings. Doing this has three advantages – it is well accepted, it increases housing faster, and it increases density faster.

          2 focussing on converting sprawl areas into 15 minutes communities, ensuring that these are well-connected to other urban villages with high quality public transport, cycling and walking links.

          3 working with communities to develop plans on how to welcome more people in ways that builds on the strengths of those communities.

          4 a strong public housing programme that focuses on creating rental and home ownership with a particular focus on the following:

          (a) Firstly people who purchase an “affordable unit” can have what is traditionally described as an ownership interest, but they resell into a pool at a known price rather than selling on the open market. The pool then sells this unit onto a new purchaser at an affordable price. Again, the specifics are numerous but the pool might purchase back a house at sale price plus 3% per annum for example.

          (b) Second rather than ownership interests, people can have a tenancy arrangement which varies according to need. In such a model there are a spectrum of tenancy types, where the owner get increasing certainty and tenants get increased security and agency with the use of the property. This aligns interests and enables both landlords and tenants to choose the type of arrangement they want. Rents are set on the basis of securing a stable long-term return for the whole development rather than on a short-term market basis.

          5 Kick-starting a long-term rental supply industry which is focussed on stable, low long-term returns.

        3. How do we do 1, Sapsford, when we can’t even stop this council from building new carparks at their facilities, in reasonably inner areas?

          I agree it’s critical. But things have got so out of hand, that suggesting they shouldn’t build new carparks is seen as extreme, let alone converting existing ones.

    3. I’ve heard a few people express recently that once one’s eyes have been opened to how cars are ruining and dominating our cities, it’s something that cannot be unseen.

      Realising that institutional accommodation of NIMBY positions has been an enormous attack on democracy is similarly something that cannot be unseen.

      The widespread local government support of NIMBY positions has unnaturally excluded some people from affordable housing, from a functioning city, and from opportunities now and in the future. The knock-on social effects of this inequity has attacked democracy at a fundamental level. It is of much more concern than adjusting processes to eliminate the bias to accommodating NIMBY concerns would be.

      I invite you to open your eyes too.

      1. Aroha mai, I generally associate “open your eyes” with fake news cults, (anti-vaxxers, Q-Anon etc). You say:

        “The widespread local government support of NIMBY positions has unnaturally excluded some people from affordable housing, from a functioning city, and from opportunities now and in the future. ”

        Do you have evidence to support that? I invite you to consider that what you see an opening of eyes, may in fact have been a dive down a rabbit hole into a parallel world of self-reinforcing fake news.

        There is for example, no shortage of available land for development in Auckland. If you doubt this statement, go for a walk say from Onehunga to Greenlane and count vacant sites, sites used for car-parking only and derelict buildings.

        Far from being dominated by NIMBY’s the planning system is heavily skewed towards applicants. Over 90% of consents are granted, and only around 3% of consent applications are even notified. If you doubt this have a look at MfE’s RMA monitoring reports.

        I return to your closing, I invite you to have a look at the evidence and open your eyes. Someday it may be you who feels silenced.

        1. So are you saying that the statement “cars are ruining and dominating our cities” is not true?

          The evidence is manifest and is supported by the vast majority of urban and transport planners. So I suggest denying that would be more akin to anti-vax or QANON.

        2. Kia ora ano

          Aroha mai if I wasn’t clear – I completely agree with the statement you quote about cars. I have been an advocate for living cities for a very long time.

          What I am referring to here is the idea that widespread support for NIMBYs has driven Auckland’s sprawl. The late Prof Paul Mees wrote extensively on the history of Auckland’s transport and sprawl,

          In essence at the start of the 1960s an incoming National government discarded plans to develop Auckland around a rail network (as occurred with Wellington’s Hutt Valley in the 40s and 50s) and instead consciously opted to sprawl, with the state building motorways to new sprawling subdivisions. Ordinary citizens in the inner city were evicted in droves – around 20,000 people and 8,000 homes (from memory) were destroyed,

          Paul used to describe Auckland as the most extreme example in the world of actively planning for car dependence. It was a city built to run without public transport.

          This has nothing to do with “NIMBYism” and was well before we even had formal planning legislation in New Zealand.

          I have a long long history of challenging car dependence and pointless, outdated and destructive road building. In general in New Zealand it has been road-building driving sprawl, rather than sprawl in response to restrictive planning.

        3. I totally agree with you and I have read a lot of Paul Mees articles. He was bang on the money.

          Absolutely Auckland is a city that has been planned for only cars. But I see that system as perpetuated by a generation of residents who have been brainwashed over the years to believe that the Auckland of today is somewhow a pre-ordained operation of natural laws. An inevitable evolution because of some special characteristics that Auckland possesses.

          Even family of mine who are very jush pro-cycling and pro-PT have ben convinced that PT in particular won’t work because Auckland is physically more suited to cars. Which, as a long narrow city, is exactly the opposite of the truth.

          So I agree it was started by policies and decisions, but it is perperuated by NIMBYs who are stopping thos epolicies being reversed. It is just the winners making sure the rules keep them winning.

    4. NIMBY is no more hate speech than ‘cycling advocate’ or ‘environmental campaigner’. It’s an accurate representation of your political beliefs.

      1. Oh dear, really? There are more options than the status quo or promoting the accumulation of wealth through deregulation and a lack of democracy under the guise of helping others 🙂 I’ve posted elsewhere on this page about ways forward.

        In general, my view is that calling people names doesn’t do anything to build a sense of community or generate creative solutions.

    5. If you want an example of undermining democracy look at the protesters who tried to stop the Ockham development in Avondale because they disagreed with the Council’s approval to remove a scheduled tree.

      The developer acted within the law and consent was granted by a democratically elected council, only to be subverted by a mob who illegally occupied the site. Calling someone a ‘nimby’ is pretty mild in comparison to that sort of behaviour (and its not an isolated example)

      1. The undermining of democracy here was treating removal of a listed tree as a non-notified consent. These issues ought to have been resolved through a hearings process. Lack of due process forces people to take direct action. Shutting down public processes does not stop people from caring.

        And for the record no-one was trying to stop the Ockham development; the “mob” supported densiification.

        This was about a developer who wanted a listed tree out of the way because it didn’t suit his design aesthetics getting a rubber stamp from the Council with no chance for public input..

    6. Roland, I’m now clear from your comments here and your writing at http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=130136 that you know a fair bit about housing (yup, rental-based measures are a much better way to look at affordability) but you’re being disingenuous – Wellington’s answer to Mike Lee perhaps.
      You say ominously “one day it might be you who discovers you have no say”, but you’re talking about a system that excludes people, which is really what my post is about: “Usually there is no ‘champion of the downtrodden’, the people who have no voice because they don’t live in the area yet or haven’t been born yet or just feel alienated by the systems we have for giving public feedback.” You’re arguing for those exclusions to continue, under the guise of giving democratic rights for the people who have the time and wherewithal to actually exercise them.
      More representative forms of democracy (e.g. a residents’ panel for the city or region, with strong Māori representation, that helps decide where housing should go) would give a very different result.
      Wellington has now woken up to its own housing crisis.
      Te Aro’s shift from industrial fringe to residential and mixed-use has been taking place for 25 years, and it’s still not finished. You’re trying to keep Newtown and Mt Cook from following suit, but whose rights are you looking out for here?
      How would you ensure that renters in these suburbs get a say?
      How would you ensure that Wellington builds enough homes overall, and that they’re well-located with good access to jobs and amenities – because I’ve looked, and there are not that many vacant lots in the city centre, although of course there are many underdeveloped ones, still, after 25 years. Are you proposing a huge government-led housing drive in the city centre? What about for people who would like to live close to town, but not right in the city centre? Or would you rather just put everyone in new subdivisions in Porirua or Wainuiomata, and never mind sustainability?

      1. Hi John
        Thanks for your message.

        Disingenuous, hmmm? Like many champions of deregulation you present yourself as a champion of the needy but are actually arguing to entrench inequality and privilege.

        Replace the idea of residents and character protections with unions and well-paying jobs and your rhetoric is straight out of the 1990s. I lived through this, spent years arguing in central government that warm dry houses required government intervention against deregulatory advocates such as yourself.

        As I said in one of my scoop posts

        “Someone said to me the other day, people who oppose these changes are just old rich white people protecting their wealth. “Middle class capture” is a slogan from the 80s and 90s; people talked about how deregulation would stop the greedy middle classes hoarding privilege and create opportunities for those on low incomes. How did that go?”

        The idea that our heritage and character areas are hotbeds of privilege does not stand scrutiny – Wellington’s character areas are not the wealthiest, people who live there don’t have the highest incomes and anyone who thinks Newtown is dominated by old, rich, white people lives in a parallel universe. You may be surprised to know that many people who rent also oppose the current proposals in Wellington.

        You present the choice as this:

        “What about for people who would like to live close to town, but not right in the city centre? Or would you rather just put everyone in new subdivisions in Porirua or Wainuiomata, and never mind sustainability?”

        This is well-known rhetorical trick of driving to the extremes, so as to present your own extremism as reasonable position. The better questions in my view are more like:

        How do we densify well? How do we build on our strengths? How do we support and grow strong, vibrant, diverse communities?

        Wellington’s inner-city suburbs are already at the high end of medium density – Mt Victoria for example comes close to 100 people/ha once you exclude the town belt. Replacing flats (a form of co-housing) with apartments will do little for sustainability, and lead to a minimal increase in net housing ,but will make living in Mt Vic much less affordable. As for Te Aro, are you aware that in the 1980s, southern Te Aro was the most densely populated urban area of New Zealand?

        The model that is currently being proposed is about deregulating height and site coverage over a wide area and allowing developers to choose where to build, with little thought to affordability and little input from the community.

        This model has little to do with emissions reduction or sustainability, and everything to do with the accumulation of wealth. The idea that developers will cherry-pick sites for profit is baked into the proposals.

        The rhetoric behind this is that there is a land shortage and that planning controls are a cause of our housing shortage, The first point is flat out false on the data and the second has no evidence to support it – it is in the nature of a piece of fake news which has become entrenched in some sectors – a local version of “election fraud”.

        This approach leads to “gensification” and has little impact on emissions, undermines the quality of the urban environment, and does little or nothing for affordability, which is only improved if there is an overshoot in construction.

        The alternative model is based on prioritising intensification on land that is vacant, used for car parking or occupied by low quality commercial post-1960 commercial buildings. You say you’ve looked = well so have I.

        Under current planning rules there is more than enough land in these three categories to house 50,000 people in Welllington Much of this exists along transport corridors, and a fair chunk exists in the character areas. Such an approach will increase the net housing stock and density much faster than one relies on demolition of existing buildings. It will also perform much better in terms of emissions. And yes, we need strong involvement from the public sector as this is the only thing that has guaranteed affordability worldwide (feel free to check the research on this if you disagree).

        So my question for you is:

        Do you actually care about creating affordable housing, lowering emissions and improving the quality of life for everyone? Or are you really just an advocate for deregulation, and co-opting whatever seems convenient to support that?

        I am really happy to have a serious conversation about housing; one grounded in evidence. I would love this blog and elsewhere to be developing an evidence-based agenda for housing.

        I have little time for people using other’s suffering to promote an agenda of deregulation, inequality and a move from community voice to wealth as the driving force in our cities.

        1. I used to flat in Mt Vic. Are you sure about those density figures? I would have thought you could fit in a lot more people with mid-rise apartment developments.

          “planning controls are a cause of our housing shortage …. has no evidence to support it – it is in the nature of a piece of fake news which has become entrenched in some sectors – a local version of “election fraud”.”

          You’re making an interesting point and I’ve got an open mind, but I think it is a reasonable hypothesis that planning controls are leading to a shortage in the supply of properties. I’d like to hear a lot more and see some evidence before being swayed by what you are saying.

  5. Well Mr Polkinghorne, if you really are a yimby, perhaps you can indicate which area you actually live in now otherwise some people might think it’s one of those locked up leafy suburbs

        1. Incorrect. “Again, a 15 second search.”

          Google shows his apartment block is just outside of the area considered to be Parnell, and more importantly, is a long way from the leafy part of Parnell.

  6. Following yesterdays analysis that Auckland is short of 75,000 dwellings then the current way of doing things will not actually get us out of this hole. We need radical changes to the planning, design, and building of housing.
    If we are short of 75,000 dwellings then we need to build e.g. 750 blocks of apartments with 100 dwellings each (something along the lines of what Ockham does so well). This is a massive change to what we do and right now there is no way we can do that.
    I think we are past the piece-meal approach with a little bit here and little bit there. I think whole suburbs need to be redeveloped and at the same time. This might make the disruption a bit less as no one would be living there. Of course the most logical place to start with that would be Ponsonby and Grey Lynn – but I am not holding my breath on that one.

    1. So are there any actual proposals out there that do provide 75,000 new dwellings, allowing for population growth during their construction?

      The overcrowding (3.3 people per dwelling in Auckland compared to most developed countries at about 2.6) is perhaps not the worst part of the situation. The poor state and cost of many houses is surely affecting more people much more negatively.

  7. I have been reading this blog enough to know good practice. But the things that really concern me are.
    Distance to public transport
    Provision of one car spot per house unit knowing full well that 4 + adults will eventually live and commute from the house.
    Narrowness of streets and width of vehicles.
    Where do children play and school
    All those vehicles and children.
    Bus routes with big diesel buses on narrow streets.
    On paper it looks gorgeous but the devil is in the implementation in practice.
    And in the end it seems its all about the money.

      1. Often if cars can’t be parked on-site, they’re parked on-street so there is an effect there. Whether that’s an RMA effect that people should have a say on, well that’s another question.

        1. As well as inferring PT should be close and accessible, but every new unit must be forced to pay for a carpark.

        2. Let’s take as our starting point that we must intensify. (The alternative is either not fixing our housing deficit and keeping people in housing deprivation, or continuing to destroy nature on the outskirts in a way that induces enormous levels of traffic that ruins everyone’s street environment.)

          The choice then becomes: housing with offstreet parking, or housing without parking.

          Research shows that housing without offstreet parking leads to far lower car ownership rates and higher sustainable modeshare. And this is causal, not correlational.

          So where we insist that housing must include offstreet parking, we knowingly increase traffic, increase carbon emissions, prevent uptake of sustainable modes and prevent an increase in children’s independence. The safety and health implications are enormous.

          Whether those drivers are allowed to park their cars in a way that interferes with our needs for public realm or for how the transport system works comes down to choices about street allocation, parking management and enforcement.

        3. Yeah well here is the thing:

          You go to the average punter in Auckland and figure out how his life would change if we would give up car ownership.

          The most likely answer is it would be like a handicap bad enough to leave you stuck at home. In other words, not going to happen. If you have 2 working adults at home you’d be lucky if even 1 can make it to any job at all without a car. Be careful about what you wish onto other people.

          So you end up with a de facto parking minimum of about 2 per house. Anything less and you get parking chaos on the street. You probably have seen that in Auckland before.

          So where would we do intensification? The census will tell you where, it is the little blob in the middle where more than a handful of people walk to work. A human scaled city is only a few kilometres across. The public transport network gives another answer — the western half of the isthmus is the only area in Auckland with anything resembling an actual network.

          Now are these areas mostly covered in Single Housing Zone? Heritage Overlay? Well then it is game over.

          We can try it somewhere else, but then we have to go all in and design it as an entire town. Design it as if it were in the middle of nowhere. Because the rest of Auckland will be virtually unreachable for those who choose to live without cars.

        4. Agree with what you’ve said Roeland – sadly as a city, most of the increase in density is happening in the suburbs where car dependency is the norm. But, I am hopeful that we will see a change in travel patterns over the coming years. Bus patronage has increased steadily since the changes recently (yes probably not as much as would be ideal – but an improvement is still an improvement). Fingers crossed that Council / AT can push on with bus lanes around Auckland, and get it’s A into G with safe cycle lanes around the city.

        5. @roleland. Yes those huge swaths of Heritage Overlays are playing a big part in the problems of Auckland providing enough quality dense housing areas.

          So many issues causing Auckland housing problems but this is probably a biggie.

        6. Many of the ‘heritage areas’ also have massive advantages over other areas of Auckland that are currently shouldering infill and greenfield developments when it comes to transport links and gold-plated frequent services. This isn’t even a smart short-term solution, let alone a long-term one, but it does offer some relief when it comes the pressure on housing supply – which we need urgently, and probably a lot faster than planning reform in inner-city areas and all the legal challenges that come with it would allow.

        7. Heidi – I think the problem is the transition. Under our current deregulatory approach to intensification, we are getting pockets of higher density appearing at random across large parts of the isthmus. As Todd Litman’s recent research suggests, this approach can make emissions and car dependence worse, not better.

          A better approach might be to start leading with some “car-free” developments in locations where this is feasible – there are dozen of sites near Onehunga town centre or how about the light industrial land adjacent to Remuera station. These then build momentum and reduce risk for developers (who are notoriously conservative)_

          The sudden introduction of random builds with no parking provided is likely just to promote conflict and backlash. Its a sensible idea but it seems to me little thought has been given to the transition to lower car dependency in a spatial sense.

    1. Peter – “Provision of one car spot per house unit knowing full well that 4 + adults will eventually live and commute from the house.” Seems reasonable to me. No family should need more than one car. Share the car. Use public transport. Take it in turns to use the car. Have more than one person use the car at the same time. Ride a bike. Walk. Take the bus. No more four-car families!

  8. I think there’s a wider issue here too. The areas which are the most vocal about development and how they hate it are also the ones that are the most vocal about maintenance, renewals and upgrades. They want the best of both worlds.

    I’ve heard stories about how quickly minor issues (a crack in a footpath) get fixed in the Eastern Suburbs, because they all complain so much that AT gets on and does it to shut them up. Meanwhile out West we ask for a few repairs to a footpath on an 80km road and get no response, but a week later the road gets milled and resealed and the footpath is left alone.

    The speed limit changes out here are another example. My windy semi-rural road (on which I have seen multiple serious accidents) has remained at 80km/h, while roads either side of it that are less busy and less windy go to 60. I YIMBY’d hard on it to AT as was simply told ‘out of scope’. AT should be more responsive to these sorts of suggestions – if the policy has merit then it should be applied in more places. Especially if people ask for it!

    To the development issue – In my neck of the woods we are all generally positive towards development and intensification – because it lifts our property values, and attracts more services/amenity values.

    1. Yes. We have different rules for different parts of town and the reason is people not caring to see what’s happening.

    2. Yes, absolutely this.

      We (and it seems Anglophone cities in general) seem really good at using (or needing) a lot of money to make a few selected areas reasonably nice. The rest is left behind. It is a system of winners and losers. This is a main reason why the housing market is so stratified, and why so many households are bending over backwards to mortgage as much as they can possibly afford.

      Therefore the possibility of your suburb going down to ‘poor’ status is a phenomenal treat to people, and any change that may cause that to happen will be vigorously opposed.

      This also means that city rates, even though in theory rich people pay more, in practice they are a regressive tax. Rich people pay but get improvements, while for the rest it is basically dead money.

      I moved from Victoria Quarter (which I take it is considered ‘poor’) to Birkdale (middle of the pack), and yes it seems footpath maintenance is a good indicator of whether or not the council deems an area ‘worthy’.

  9. I live in Milford and my next door neighbor sold their house for $1.7m a couple of years ago, which was promptly torn down and turned into 3 sections (each selling for over $900k which was eye-opening). Developer pissed off some neighbours with the concrete trucks doing a fair amount of damage to an existing shared driveway and remediation of the driveway being a very cheap shallow patch work of concrete (and they ended up driving concrete trucks over newly laid concrete doing more damage).

    Been quite a long time, but first section is now being built on, with foundations going in over the last couple of weeks. Guy building on the first section is a builder who intends to live in the house.

    Upset some elderly in the area, but I met with the both the original developer and new builder on section #1, and had friendly chat. The builder/section owner gave his card and asked us to call if any issues (and provided bribery in the form of wine and chocolates to the family which was welcomed).

    Interesting thing was that with so many people being unreasonable, the developer felt like he couldn’t talk to the neighbours.. most of the older people just don’t want any development despite their own houses being the result of earlier subdivision in the 1970s.

    Feel as though a lot of people are being pretty unreasonable about building process; of course there will be noise and dust during construction, but that is over a couple of months of a 50+ year life span of a house. We all live somewhere that was constructed causing the same issues, so we don’t have the right to just stop other people enjoying what we have.

    Conversations with my 60+ neighbour have been interesting; they are worried about their children coming back from overseas won’t be able to afford to buy a house ‘anywhere nice’ but also don’t want any construction in the area. They can’t see the hypocrisy at all.

    Personally looking forward to it; the old house sitting in the middle of ~1400sqm was very run down as owner knew it would be knocked down by a developer, so end result will be 3 nice new houses next to us, and I am quietly thinking that having a builder living next door might be useful as have a few little projects in mind 🙂

    1. “We all live somewhere that was constructed causing the same issues, so we don’t have the right to just stop other people enjoying what we have.“

      This is a great point.

  10. I think you’re all missing the point – that it is not just a question of Nimby vs Non-Nimby. Yes, there are some people who are against absolutely anything anywhere near them (AAAANT), but on the other hand, some people who are quite pro-development are understandably quite alarmed and pissed off that some of the proposed developments are way beyond the scope of what is reasonable. I’d call that Justifiably Alarmed at Proposed Developments (JAPD).

    In my case, I live in an area of the city that has had a proposed 6-9 story limit in place for years – and now a developer has come along that proposes to build a 13 storey building. Being on the north side of the street, this building will cause a permanent shadow on the whole street – both sides – all through winter, all through spring and autumn, and with a very slight chance of a splash of sunshine making it to the street below in mid-summer. It is a very narrow street.

    Now, understandably, I don’t think that is reasonable – yes, it will provide housing for some people in apartments, but it also ruins the rest of the street for the entire rest of time – he is building it from concrete, so it will be there for the next 200 years or so. Am I being a Nimby to complain about this? Absolutely not – I’m just thoroughly JAPD. But what can I do? It is non-notified, despite breaking the District Plan. There needs to be a better way.

    1. Nope, still a NIMBY, NIMBYs still think that they are justified. Being justified is a subjective assessment. For example my subjective assessment is that there are no buildings currently under construction in Auckland that are too tall for their location and in fact most apartment buildings are too short, and most standalone/terrace/duplex dwellings are on at least 50% too much land.

      1. I find it always odd to see these high buildings in what are otherwise very low density suburbs.

        I always thought high rise is expensive and it would be cheaper to replace more houses with 3, 4, maybe 5 storey townhouses and apartments.

        Do these towers pencil out if we didn’t have such shortage of housing? If not, that counts as a self-inflicted wound.

        1. +1 the other thing to consider is that it is so hard and takes so long to get any apartments across the line in terms of planning that you almost have to go 8-15 storeys to make it worth doing. If we made it far easier to build 3-8 storeys we would get far more of them

  11. I’m going to label myself a bimby (Better in my Backyard). I’m sure there are a lot of objections to development based on fear of change, but the low quality of new development is a big issue in Auckland and in my mind justifies some NIMBY voices. In many instances we’re building houses, but they’re not healthy homes for the people who live in them, they create poor streets and they detract from their neighbourhoods. By unleashing unlimited density and highly enabling planning controls we’ve created a race to the bottom. Developers push up the price of land because they can bid more for sites based on the high development yields they can achieve. The result is high land prices, a whole lot of poor quality homes crammed together and a public who have no option other than to buy what they can afford. The past national government is to blame for stripping out the design and affordability rules of the draft unitary plan and Auckland Council seems to be more interested in spinning positive stories than creating a healthy, happy city that even the Nimbys can be proud of!

    1. “In many instances we’re building houses, but they’re not healthy homes for the people who live in them, they create poor streets and they detract from their neighbourhoods. By unleashing unlimited density and highly enabling planning controls we’ve created a race to the bottom. ”

      Exactly – density done well requires careful planning, and partnership, not a retreat from democracy and regulation.

    2. So the alternative to what you oppose seems to be what we have now.

      The result is high land prices, a whole lot of poor quality homes spread out all over the place on green space with no public transport and a public who have no option other than to buy what they can afford.

      How is that option better?

      1. My alternative would be to change the tax system to incentivise redevelopment of under developed land, strong planning controls with a focus on delivering quality homes and substantially increase density in appropriate places (as the NPS-UD will do).

    3. “Developers push up the price of land because they can bid more for sites based on the high development yields they can achieve.”
      Sounds like we need way more sites around the city that are valid to build on, we can spread out the density as you seem to desire. The prices will be lower because otherwise the developer will just go down the road a little bit.

      “In many instances we’re building houses, but they’re not healthy homes for the people who live in them”
      Where are you getting this from. Every new build townhouse I’ve been in, in the last 10 years is vastly healthier than the 80s lockwood with zero wall and roof insulation that I find myself currently residing in, that if planning rules allowed could be turned into 4 or 5 townhouses. Which because we have minimum insulation standards would be guaranteed to be healthier than the current house. This has been blocked because of NIMBYism by others in the neighborhood.

      1. Not necessarily. We have plenty of development capacity already built into the city’s zoning and in many instances substantially improving the quality of a development only marginally decreases the number of homes built. Alternatively you could include greater design quality controls, but offset the impacts by upzoning further (i.e. increase heigh limits).

        New homes are certainly warmer and drier, but I think health should have a broader definition than not being sick. How well do they support peoples mental health, contribute to safe and attractive streets that encourage walking and cycling and support urban tree coverage and biodiversity. I’m sure there are some very “healthy” prison cells in the world.

      2. I agree Jack. I think if we make way more sites developable – probably many times more than capacity assessments say we need – then it will stop land prices getting bid up by competing developers and it will cut the delivery cost of new developments and make the supply of new housing cheaper. It would be good if the NPS-UD could deliver this.

    4. The vast majority of infill developments massively improve the streetscape compared to the dystopian suburban hellscape that we have in most of New Zealand’s current urban areas. Huge houses plonked in the middle of sections with no relationship to the street is an incredibly unhealthy place to live. Damp cold housing, loneliness and inactivity are our biggest health issues atm and both of those are massively improved through most infill.

      1. Yeah if you don’t like streets lined with 1.8m walls on both sides you’re not going to have a good time.

        My street has been gradually filling up with those. Every time someone refurbishes a building, adding those walls is a part of it.

        1. +1 It seems to be the ongoing trend around New Zealand. My whole street seems to be being refurbished and a 1.8m fence is the default landscaping with all useful outdoor space built at the rear. My wife and I are really bucking the trend by building a deck and French doors at the front so that our lounge and deck overlook the street. It seems to be a hangover from 1980-2000s planning for public fronts and private rears on sites combined with the front of sites typically being needed for parking minimums. At least at higher density the outdoor space is more valued so the front of the site almost has to be used.

  12. Another common pattern is to subdivide a section front to back. So you no longer have useful space in the back. Then you build a wall around your front yard to kind of use it as a backyard.

    It is also a matter of perception. It connects you to the street vs. it *exposes* you to the street. Streets are often noisy and dangerous so this isolation becomes a feature not a bug.

    And yes an example of real townhouses. I happened to be there a while ago. Someone was dumb enough to give all those streets a 50km/h speed limit, but we’re getting there.

    1. Completely agree. If the street is noisy and dangerous, we can’t blame owners for wanting to isolate themselves from it.

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