This piece was originally written for Fightback magazine. They challenged me to explain why Greater Auckland’s policy goals – intensification rather than sprawl, and better active and public transport – are relevant for everyone. I was imagining an audience of working-class families in car-dependent suburbs. We at Greater Auckland do try to keep all current, future and potential Aucklanders in mind, so I leapt at the opportunity to focus on a different audience.

New Zealand cities have so many good things going for them, but they’re let down by inadequate housing and transport. Mouldy old homes rent for exorbitant sums. Traffic-clogged roads are unpleasant (or even unsafe) for anyone not in a car.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can rethink where we live and how we get around, and transition to a society that is more affordable, more equitable, healthier, and with much lower greenhouse gas emissions. This will be better for all urban residents, especially low-income and vulnerable people.

What Do Urbanist Cities Look Like?

Urbanist cities should be inclusive and offer a range of housing and transport choices. Affordability is key to becoming inclusive: everyone should be able to afford a lifestyle that satisfies their basic needs (see ‘the human right to housing’) and allows them to participate in society.

Pictured: Waterview Court, Waterview, Auckland. Source: Ashton Mitchell

That doesn’t mean everyone gets everything they want: cities are limited for space and there are tradeoffs involved. New Zealanders expect to be able to drive wherever and whenever they want, and that has to change.

Why Aren’t We There Already?

Since the 1950s, New Zealand governments and councils have spent the vast majority of their transport budgets on roads, with almost nothing for public or active (walking and cycling) transport. That has resulted in the car-dominated society we have today.

Working-class neighbourhoods were starved of public transport – not because the wealthy neighbourhoods have gotten all the investment, but because too much money went on motorways and non-driving modes only got crumbs.

Working-class communities suffer when there aren’t good alternatives to driving. Low-income households are more likely to be carless, and this can cut them off from accessing jobs, educational opportunities and the other places they need to get to. With better alternatives to driving, low-income households can manage without a car more easily, or manage with one less car and save money without making their lives any harder.

Since the 1970s, new homes in New Zealand have been built on the edges of our cities, with little regard for how the residents will get around if they don’t have a car. The rate of housing construction has also slowed since the 1970s, and it fluctuates with economic ups and downs. Auckland was especially hit by the post-GFC down, even as the city’s population kept growing – and that was when the housing shortage really started to escalate into a crisis.

Auckland’s housing crisis shows up in all sorts of data. Most of the Western world has an ageing population and the average number of ‘people per household’ is falling as a result – but Auckland stayed flat at 3.0 people per household over 2001-2013 and has now risen to almost 3.2. The statistic might sound bland but it has real-life consequences, with people struggling to find homes that are right for them. It hits low-income areas hardest and results in overcrowding and substandard living conditions.

Rents in some cities have skyrocketed since 2015, as faster population growth hit a wall of inflexible housing supply. Even in Auckland, rents have steadily crept upwards year after year (now over $560 a week), whereas a stronger supply response would see them flatten out or even decline. Landlords haven’t had to compete for tenants so they haven’t bothered to upgrade their properties – 38% of rented homes in New Zealand are damp, and 20% are mouldy.

Decades of bad decisions have brought us to our current situation. Neither housing nor transport are good enough, and it’s not good enough to say that they’ll take decades more to fix. We need rapid action on all fronts.

Creating Better Choices

At a government level, both left and right-wing parties agree that “we need more housing supply”, but they can’t quite agree on what that means. At the council level, things are even more disjointed as many councillors feel the need to appease NIMBY (not in my back yard) voters.

As for me, I want to see lots of new homes in places that are central, well-connected or highly desirable. This often isn’t allowed under current planning rules. This will deliver real housing choices and bring down rents everywhere, not just the places where those homes are built.

Cycleways and bus lanes can be rolled out very quickly (and cheaply!) with political and community will, and in just a few short years they could cover much larger parts of our cities. Building busways or light rail is more expensive and takes longer, but we will need that too.

Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogotá, said “a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation”. To unpack this: driving is expensive for the poor to afford. If they have good public (and active!) transport options, that’s a start. If public transport is so convenient that even the rich want to take it, that’s job done.

I grew up in a central Auckland suburb, and flatted in Mt Albert and Sandringham while studying. I never considered living in an apartment until I moved to the city centre in 2009. 12 years on, I’ve never wanted to leave. Large parts of the city centre have transformed around me, creating shiny new apartments and hotels but also public spaces and waterfronts a short walk away. I’ve never been more than a 15 minute walk away from university and (subsequently) work, and now that I have a toddler I’m a similar distance from his daycare.

I’ve chosen this lifestyle, which comes with pros and cons, and I’ve been lucky enough to have the choice. Living close to work is a luxury in Auckland, and not having to sit in (and contribute to) traffic is a luxury as well. Many Aucklanders have chosen something different to me – maybe they really enjoy suburban living, or being out in the wops even if it means a lot of driving – but many Aucklanders feel like they don’t have good choices about where and how to live.

The Auckland and Wellington city centres offer a glimpse of the future (albeit with room for improvement), but there’s currently no ‘middle ground’ between them and car-dependent suburbia. Providing middle-ground housing options in more places is a big part of the solution.

The Outcome

What would an urbanist city in New Zealand look like – Auckland or Wellington after ten years of focused change? It would be densest in the central suburbs, and around transit lines and town centres. Land here is valuable so people would mainly live in apartments, but these would range from small to family-sized with floorspace quite affordable. The buildings themselves could be at suburban scale, well designed and integrated with their surroundings. Further out, housing would trend more towards townhouses, terraces, and walk-up apartments. And further out again, homes would predominantly be detached houses as they are today.

Pictured: 26 Aroha, Sandringham, Auckland (Source: The Urban Advisory)

Public transport would be so reliable and practical that we’d take it for granted – and we’d take it all over the city. Bus lanes and signal priority would mean buses arrive when they’re supposed to, with crosstown routes connecting town centres and suburbs. “Rapid transit” lines, including rail, light rail and busways, would help to shift people in and out of the city centre and other high-demand areas.

Active transport would be equally reliable and practical, with people on bikes protected from those in cars so that 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds could cycle without fear. The world is already in the early days of an electric (e-bike) revolution – these incredible machines can cover distance quickly, and ‘smooth out’ hills for much easier riding. They will have a profound impact globally. In New Zealand they will be relevant in every suburb of every city, and even in smaller towns and rural areas. E-bikes might just save us all.

It’s not about forcing people into chicken coops or out of their cars. There should be good choices available for everyone in the city, meaning:

  • Housing everywhere becoming more affordable (i.e. lower rents), with new options that don’t exist currently: high or medium-rise apartments in town centres, and walk-up apartments or terraces close by.
  • Shortening your commute – because you might want to move closer to work, in one of the new homes. Most of us would like to spend less time on the road. Many areas will see improved public transport, and everywhere will be easier to bike around.
  • Bringing people closer together, and giving them better alternatives to driving, brings more opportunities within reach. It’s a powerful thing for economic development to increase the number of jobs that can be accessed within 45 minutes of a suburb.
  • The public benefits are huge. Continuing to sprawl out into the countryside will be very expensive for Auckland, with the infrastructure costs alone almost $150,000 per home.

All of this is completely achievable. We must choose whether to keep doing what we’ve always done or strive for something better. That “something better” will create better choices for the people who live in our cities, or who might someday. It will benefit people throughout those cities: high income or low, central or suburban. Even people who continue driving will be able to enjoy safer, less congested roads.

Urbanist cities are fairer, more affordable cities. That’s good news for everyone. As to how we can get there? I suggest advocating to your council for a vigorous NPS-UD response on intensification (look the acronym up!) and pushing for bus lanes and cycleways, the transport ‘quick wins’.

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62 comments

    1. I liked it. You might want to check out the other articles in our Housing special issue (including of course the book review that was reposted in edited form here). Click my name for the link.

  1. Now imagine 26 Aroha Ave after both neighbouring sites are built to the same level so it doesn’t get any sun other than in the front windows. The large street tree next door would have to go because if you can’t block someone’s only source of natural light. Then after a few of these are built people will notice the sewers weren’t built to cope and so development fees will rise. Then there will be water and finally someone will notice that stormwater just goes into a creek compared to greenfields areas where it needs to be treated. Yes $150,000 per house is about right for infrastructure. There are no free lunches. Just areas where people are allowed to pollute.

    1. ‘the wise man bowed his head solemnly and spoke: “theres actually zero difference between good & bad things. you imbecile. you f-g moron”‘.

      (Some of you will recognize the reference.)

    2. The AUP needs to allow and favour the perimeter block housing form, in which each building is built side boundary to side boundary, has front- and backwards- facing windows only, leaving ample green garden space behind that in some situations would be best converted to a communal park.

      We can make that change. We can even tailor it to each streets’ needs a bit – eg allow the band of 4 storey or higher buildings to sit at the same distance from the street that the existing houses are, thereby retaining all the trees of the current front gardens – if this is something worth doing in a particular street. Sometimes it would be, sometimes it’d be better to place the buildings closer to the street and have bigger parks in the middle of the blocks.

      While it shouldn’t take some developments next to each other with the problems you’ve outlined to force the Council planners to think about this, it probably will. Imagination seems focused on finding exceptions to the NPS-UD upzoning. Plus amongst the Councillors there are too many NIMBYs.

      So I see nothing for it but keeping on pushing for the upzoning we need, while highlighting the better regulations that are possible.

      1. I think that would be much better than most THAB developments. You just have to accept that 1/3 or more of each site will be open space and that open space has value. In this situation someone has had a look and figured the Sandringham/Balmoral intersection could be a centre and upzoned everything around it regardless of what is there.

    3. 26 Aroha is set back from its property boundaries on the sides by several meters. This will not impair the function of ventilation and light windows.

      The central interceptor has an inlet a few hundred meters away. That is an exceptional amount of turd carrying capacity if you got rid of the combined ness of the water. The streets in the area (cant confirm if 26 Aroha is on that or not) are mostly combined sewers. This has to be solved regardless of whether more houses are built there. More people to share the load of that construction.

      I dont think anyone is suggesting that there should be no fee, or that some more infrastructure wont need to be built, just that this will be significantly cheaper and smaller than if we continued the greenfields expansion.

      I have no idea if 150k for greenfields is right, I read somewhere that the council is having to massively subsidise that so perhaps its not. Regardless this is all ignoring the elephant in the room, greenfields development is totally ignoring the enormous transport issues. Which conveniently can actually be reasonably solved, fairly cheaply on the isthmus.

      There are no free lunches. Just areas where people are allowed to ignore medium – long distance transport problems.

      1. The question is where will the future jobs be? There are already people living in Sandringham that travel to Penrose, the airport, East Tamaki, Albany and Henderson. It seems unlikely the CBD is going to increase its share of regional employment. So if we are counting transport costs for greenfields then maybe we need to think about transport costs for intensification as well. To date it has been ignored by all of the advocates.

        1. Has anyone said they’re not in favour of intensifying in all those places as well? (Apart from Greg Presland, lol.) Intensification *only* in working-class areas will lead precisely to US “projects”, UK “estates”, French “banlieues/cités”, i.e. slums. But I can’t see any argument against high-density housing around all Auckland’s “town centres”. Every argument against intensification in “bourgie” suburbs boils down to defending the class privilege of gentrification millionaires.

        2. But it isn’t just those areas. We need growth in Papakura, Drury, Pukekohe, Manukau, Henderson, Kumeu, Silverdale. All of the Town Centres existing and future which includes those in greenfields areas. Without that land prices will rise and with it housing prices. Pushed up by so-called urbanists who have been campaigning against ‘sprawl’ for more than 30 years.
          The latest trick is to count all of the costs of sprawl while counting none of the costs of intensification of older areas.
          WTF I guess I shouldn’t care as I have made more from land prices going up than I have ever saved from working. But check out all of the Urbanist paradises and you will see they all exclude poorer people through land policies that stop them being affordable.

        3. “greenfields areas. Without that land prices will rise and with it housing prices”

          Evidence please, miffy. In posts I’ve presented evidence from a number of sources to debunk this economists’ fantasy, including the OECD study into Auckland, so if you continue to claim this, you need to provide your source.

          Our road maintenance costs are skyrocketing, due to the roading provided to sprawl. This must surely be becoming obvious to anyone in the sector? But it’s more than that. In addition to the road maintenance, the traffic induced by sprawl puts pressure on politicians to build yet more roading, which so far, they are caving to, presenting yet another enormous cost. So sprawl adds costs of roading, road maintenance, other infrastructure, fuel, public transport made inefficient, carbon mitigation costs, and costs for more communal facilities. Whereas intensification improves proximity, reducing trip distances and thus encouraging modeshift, makes use of communal facilities and infrastructure more efficient, and reduces average vkt resulting, ultimately, in a cheaper system overall.

        4. but miffy – I’m not denying that this has been a great source of money in the past, for those of you lucky enough to have enough money to invest in the right point in time – but can you not see how this is not a sustainable system into the future? Sprawl really has to be stopped – it needs to be addressed, and merrily laughing and saying “I’ve made loads of money” off the back of pathetic tax policies in the past, really isn’t a recipe for a happy future. You’re sounding disturbingly like Marie Antoinette….

        5. I skim read that Miffy. So I might be wrong.

          They’re saying that like for like if there is a urban limit vs without an urban limit, the prices of land with the limit will be higher than without the limit. I wouldn’t disagree with that at all, seems like a very sensible conclusion to draw.

          But that’s not the options that are being presented by urbanists, who also include making the existing land more productive by making intensified building legal. Land is not the only factor in the price of an opportunity to build a home, how productive said land is, is also a huge factor. We need opportunities to build housing, not necessarily land.

          Almost every job (not all, sure) is within the urban boundary. So enabling more sprawl outside of the boundary at best, might result in similar travel distances, and at worst make it way worse.

          In the perfect the free market land use world then we wouldn’t need the metro boundary, It is clearly a heavy handed market intervention. But politics exist and the market is already heavily skewed with interventions in transport. People would build a heap of houses out in the middle of nowhere then after the fact they’ll realize their underpriced transport system will be bursting at the seams from overuse, and then demand more spend to fix the problems they created. If congestion and all the other costs of transport were priced correctly, and it was all set in political stone, and land use restrictions elsewhere in the city was removed, then I heavily, heavily, doubt you would see much further development in sprawl areas at all, except where people don’t have to drive very far for their job.

        6. I didn’t make a fortune off pathetic tax policies. I made it of pathetic anti-sprawl policies that forced up the price of land inside the Auckland Urban area. This shit has been going on since the early 1990’s when the Auckland Growth Strategy was published and the ARC pivoted from trying to coordinate growth to trying to limit it. I have not sold my sections yet because these twits are still at it and pushing up land prices much faster than I could earn interest. Even if I paid tax I would still be making unreasonable amounts. So thank you anti-sprawlers. You are making me rich while making Auckland too expensive for younger people.

        7. Part of what makes land productive is the investment that has been made in it. To develop THAB you have to pay for the land and for the houses you are going to demolish. They are a dead weight loss. Some shabby grazing land will always be cheaper. Then there is infrastructure. It is only cheaper in built up areas if you continue to allow stormwater to be untreated, it is cheaper if you don’t include the costs of building the new sewers required. It is only cheaper in terms of transport if you assume everyone wants to work locally. But they don’t.

        8. Miffy, you and I might be the only ones who find this interesting, but that old Grimes paper dramatically overstates the price effects of the urban limits. There were many issues, but most of them stemmed from not controlling for the differing characteristics of land inside vs outside the limits. Especially towards the end of their time period studied (where the ’10 times’ thing came from) the land inside was highly likely to be serviced sections, and they’re comparing the per-square-metre value of those to the per-square-metre value of raw land just outside the boundary. The development costs in getting from one to the other are significant. Other differences, such as the limits often being drawn where they were because the land on the other side was hilly/ boggy/ hard to service etc, also played a part.

          More recent studies have controlled for at least some of this stuff, and find a much smaller cost associated with the urban limit.

        9. “I didn’t make a fortune off pathetic tax policies. I made it of pathetic anti-[urbanist] policies that forced up the price of land inside the Auckland Urban area. This shit has been going on since the early 19[5]0’s”

          I’m impressed. I think this is the fewest characters I have ever needed to fix an egregious lie from you.

        10. Interesting, you insert two mistakes into my text and then accuse me of lying. That seems to demonstrate a flaw in your character rather than in mine.

        11. John it may not be 10 times as he said. But there is no doubt it is much cheaper to buy rural land and rezone it than to try and collect a bunch of house sites in the THAB and then demolish the existing houses. Removing houses is the development version of 1 step back and 2 forward. You do get to avoid some costs like stormwater as the Council almost gives you a free pass in comparison to the outer areas where you will have a one of the Stormwater Management Area controls on your site. Weirdly the Council took the view that where stormwater is ok they will protect it further, where it is stuffed they say feel free to make it worse.

  2. We would all be better off if NZ spent less of our money on importing oil and cars. These two make up our biggest import bill.
    The costs of sprawl are high and I remember about $160 000 just to prepare a section.
    Buying the good farmland at inflated costs from the land bankers.
    Sending in the earth moving machines that dig away for months. Some of them have been dumping the clay illegally in valleys that causes sedimentation along our coasts. Clearing trees and displacing wildlife. Destroying wetlands.
    Installing many km of pipes and extending our costly wastewater pipes to Mangere. Drinking water to Waitakere. Twenty % of the costly drinking water is leaking from the pipes. Storm water with heavy metals sent to the sea. There are many costly high energy pumps just to pump the sludge around.
    Building and extending our 7000 km of roads and probably the same 7000km of little used footpaths
    Power and internet connections for single sites
    Parks, schools, shops to be built.
    Then there are the ongoing costs such as congestion and the cost to families who are spending too much time and money on commuting. The huge costs for council to service low density streets collecting rubbish, cleaning streets. New suburbs don’t do communal food waste collection and our land fill dump sites are full. An army of ride on mowers set out each day to mow 100s of hectares of grass in our very sprawling city.
    People living in modern city apartments close to amenities have many advantages over others.

    1. Strong urban boundaries would really help Auckland contain its sprawl – the current housing push up to the Bombay hills is destroying the very fertile land that feeds Auckland. Once the fertile soil is built on, that’s it – gone forever. Scraped away and replaced with asphalt and one storey high naff housing with cars on the driveway to drive back into town every day. As one of the least dense, most sprawling, pointlessly expanding cities on the globe, Auckland, you really need to get your act together.

      But I get it – its hard. More and more people want to come to Aotearoa, and most of them want to go and work in Auckland, for therein lies the mirage of prosperity – yet none of the new worker arrivals can afford to live there – and so you still continue to grow. Unfettered growth is just like a cancer. The rest of the Great Fish of Maui watches on with horror.

  3. Having spent my working life in Industry and distribution I sometimes wonder what the CDB is actually for. I suppose it originally developed to be next to the port. However everything has moved south and now we see industrial suburbs and housing suburbs and workers driving between the two. One of the bosses in my last job in East Tamaki lived in Army bay. I used to spend a lot of time covering for him when he was stuck in traffic.
    My guess is we will have a move of industry and distribution to the Waikato over the next fifty years. This will be driven by the rise and rise of the Port of Tauranga and Waikato’s connection to the NIMT. The best time to build public transport is before the people come hopefully the existing rail network can play a big part in this as almost all of Waikato’s town are or could be reconnected to the rail network. Auckland is not going to go away but with working from home and the loss of industry hopefully its need to sprawl will lessen.

    1. Forgot to mention international students. If they come back can we build
      accommodation for them so they are not competing in the suburban rental market. We do not need to see Pacific and Maori pushed ever further out.

    2. “Having spent my working life in Industry and distribution I sometimes wonder what the CDB is actually for.”

      The service industry. i.e. the majority of employment.

        1. I think that name change battle would be you against the world. Holding back the tide with your hands.

          The industry you mean has been changed to “Heavy Industry” I think, at least that’s what my friends that work for those kinds of firms call it most of the time.

          And I know for a fact that the software industry calls itself that, an industry. Same with the tourism industry.

        2. Yes, I agree with Jack. The word industry originated from words that mean cleverness, skill, activity, aptitude, experience, diligence, activity, zeal, effort, systematic work etc.

          In the 1560’s, another meaning of the word came into use – alongside the more general meaning – which was “a particular trade or manufacture”, but at the time it wouldn’t have meant big wheels and steam. Later still, a subset of this particular meaning developed which was “economic activity concerned with the processing of raw materials and manufacture of goods in factories”.

          But the wider meaning of the word about effort, work, diligence, etc was never superseded. So what is needed is a term for those parts of industry that use larger-scale engineering processes. Any reason “heavy industry” or “heavy engineering” are insufficient?

        3. So all the people who are in the service industry are just servants and they can live in the Attic underneath the gables just like the olden days. But anyway its only words who cares if you want to call tourism an industry its your funeral industry.

        4. Adam Smith didn’t include services in his thinking because they all worked as staff in big households. But since then practically all economists consider services as one of the industry groups.

    3. Many of NZs Hi Tech businesses are in the CBD. Hi Tech is now our third biggest industry and exporting to the world. Many people from overseas want to work here because they see NZ as being very attractive. Even the National party say they want more support for Hi Tech.

      1. I can’t think of any in the CBD. There are plenty at East Tamaki like F&P healthcare and F&P Appliances. A bunch of the companies on the Matchstiq startup list are in Penrose or South Auckland. I would have thought most would avoid the high rent of the CBD altogether. There really isn’t any benefit to them of locating there.

        1. Most software companies offices I know of are in the CBD. Trade me, Pushpay, youtap, kind of xero (lower parnell), westpac, I’m sure there are plenty, plenty more.
          Its very easy to poach other companies employees when their commute is only changed by a few hundred meters and you pay them a bit more. Which is kind of the point of agglomeration. The company that I worked for had serious issues attracting people to work in Takapuna. Ended up mostly just being north shore residents that never learned to use the busway.

          I have been thinking about that East Tamaki area for a little bit. The full Eastern busway combined with a semi decent cycleway from a busway station near the Ti Rakau bridge for a PT and bike last mile, would be easy to live with and be a good commute for a lot of people. But its also in the middle of a PT desert, already has huge roads and lots of parking. Plus its mostly built out. So I doubt that there is much impetus to change. Although my flatmate that works there assures me almost every day that the traffic is absolutely terrible and was disappointed to hear about the delay of the eastern busway.

        2. Oh and the universities are there too, so new talent is easy to come by. Again the ex students don’t have to change their commute or almost anything about their lives to start working there.

    4. The CBD still has value as a location for lawyers and financial services. But other than that the future of the CBD is as a major residential centre. A kind of inner city suburb with shops to support its walk-up catchment.
      But it is flawed thinking that the centre is where everyone will work that means a huge amount of cash gets spent on transport to the centre. Most people seldom go there. Most work somewhere else.

      1. It also makes a convenient central transfer node for building up a PT system until it can support some healthy orbital lines.

    5. “….almost all of Waikato’s town are or could be reconnected to the rail network”.

      This should have been the initial focus of Te Huia. Getting people from the northern Waikato towns into Hamilton and back.

      I think the service is looking to extend and do just that, running counter-flow (e.g. south from Auckland) in the morning and north again in the evening.

  4. One positive of the global pandemic has been the massive reduction in immigration to NZ. This has been a circuit breaker of sorts for the building industry and for general infrastructure to catch up slightly. It has also resulted in wage increases for most (and at the highest rate in years). Hopefully it can stay this way with only a vastly smaller amount coming in rather than the previous tsunami.

    1. It’s a tricky balancing act though. If you’re trying to attract workers to your business it’s tough. Very low unemployment and no immigration makes it hard to get good candidates at the moment.
      I agree that the act of pumping up GDP figures with high immigration is a mug’s game, especially without the required investment in infrastructure.
      Covid and lockdown is a great opportunity to have a think about what we actually want in our city/country.

      1. Stealing some 23 – 30 year old from overseas, pre educated / trained is a good deal for the country though.
        I cant find the stats now, but its a few hundred grand for the government to fund the education alone. Forgetting all the other costs associated with raising kids to working age.

        1. I hadn’t really though of it from that perspective. It’s an interesting point.
          Certainly working in the tech industry in Auckland, the last several places I’ve worked have been >50% of employees less than 5 years in NZ.

        2. It might be a good deal for the country but it’s a bit of a slap in the face for young Kiwis taking on debt and facing high living costs, trying to establish some sort of respectable living standards.

        3. Good luck convincing a trained 23 – 30 year old to move to Auckland from overseas! how would they afford a house here?

        4. I personally know quite a number of people in that age bracket / criteria that have moved here.
          Usually earning enough that saving a deposit with a partner is no great problem. When you’re both earning over 100k with no kids, and can keep your living costs under control, then its no great hardship save up for a deposit.

        5. Jack you must have lots of rich friends. The median household income in NZ is $75k. A couple both earning $100k is in the top 15% of the country…

        6. Certainly its not good, having purchasing a house out of reach of the median household income is a terrible thing for the country.

          I guess it depends on the industry you work in, is the people you’re exposed to. For high 20s to 30 year olds working in various engineering disciplines, especially software, 100K is reasonable if you have some semi-decent career progression.
          The immigration policy of importing skilled people (which is what the original comment was about) targets those kinds of earners.
          In a few of the teams I was in it was around 2/3rds expats. Which is a bit unusual, but not unheard of.

        7. “The median household income in NZ is $75k. A couple both earning $100k is in the top 15% of the country…”

          Not in Auckland, I would think. Median household income is about 25% higher than the national average. So median Auckland salaries should be higher. $90+k I would guess

          Jack’s comments are similar to my thoughts of late. I think there are a lot more first home buyers in Auckland – especially young couples with few committments like kids – who are far more able to buy than the national press suggests.

        8. “For high 20s to 30 year olds working in various engineering disciplines, especially software, 100K is reasonable if you have some semi-decent career progression.”

          As another example – the top and 2nd tier lawnand accounting/consultancy firms – a graduate progresses to 100k probably by 30, if not a couple of years before).

          $100k is nothing standout in a place like Auckland.

        9. median household income =/= salary. There are many 2 salary households, plus 3 and 4 income households to bring that median up.

          The ratio of median salary to median house price is useful. Could someone with some time dig out how that has changed…? I think it’s true to say that young professionals are attracted to Auckland and it’s also true to say that many get put off by the housing unaffordability.

  5. Just want to tell that there’s place for action. The pedestrian infrastructure is incomparably better than in US, Canada or Russia. The density of nearest suburbs is also not that bad as in US sprawl: look at the most hated by urbanists Grey Lynn – it is actually built up quite densely and there’s places to build apartments and they are being built.

    1. You’re 2 to 3 km from the town hall of a city of 1.5 million in Grey Lynn. To world standards, it has a low density for an area this central — about 5000/km².

      (It probably also has better pedestrian infrastructure than average in Auckland.)

      The problem are the zoning controls that restrict you to single non-attached houses. I think you mentioned Cohaus a while ago, something like that should just be allowed with minimal fuss.

  6. “All of this is completely achievable.”

    Not without:

    a) removal of the many subsidies motorists currently receive (no congestion tolls, underpriced parking, not air pollution tax, underpayment towards crash costs, cross subsidisation by ratepayers)

    b) a nationwide new transport infrastructure standard based on zero carbon and vision zero which also requires retrofits/upgrades to the same standard

    c) a land use system based on effects not zoning. There should be no height and development limits except those determined by national environmental or policy standards which have been through full policy/regulatory impact/business case assessment (i.e. no more adhoc local planning rules written by planners who dont bear their costs)

    d) NZ’s urban development authority using its powers to purchase adjacent land titles so that they can be amalgamated allowing denser development

  7. What you have to make sure you don’t do is to destroy the very things that attract people to the city in the first place, otherwise you will end up with the Detroit of the South Pacific.

  8. Urbanism does not solve the world’s climate crisis. It doesn’t even dent it. In fact the concrete and steel you need to build up requires increased mining of ore, lime and coal. The new Adani coal mine in Australia currently being built is going to extract 60 million tonnes per year to meet global demand. To put that in perspective, NZ currently extracts less than 3 million tonnes per year.

    Becoming more self-sustainable is the way of the future, and for that, you need land. We need to bring back the quarter acre section, but instead of leaving most of it as grass, actually make it productive.

    The second thing we need to do is turn our backs on consumerism. Stop filling your home and life with crap you don’t need.

    Thirdly, we need to stop tying economic growth with “success” and economic downgrade as “failure”. Perpetual growth, driven by consumerism, is what is destroying the environment. But, this blog supports perpetual growth. It wants bigger cities, bigger economies, bigger populations. It’s as if Greater Auckland are oblivious to the climate crisis.

    I no longer believe we need agreement on these points for them to happen. They WILL happen, because climate change is going to force the issue. When widespread crop failures start to kick in, and when the transport costs of moving food around the world reach a high enough price, people are going to re-think how the live. This process is already underway. Self-sufficiency, a big thing in the 70s that then waned in the 80s, 90s and 00s, has taken off over the last decade.

    Those doing it are on the front line of fighting the climate crisis. Those wanting more urbanisation, more growth of everything, and more externalisation of their needs, are either rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, or mistakenly trying to chart a more efficient course to the iceburg.

  9. Can the developers put more trees in! Take away the concrete jungle feel.
    Plus we have such a harsh sun in New Zealand we have more of a need for shade

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