Back in March 2018, the government announced it was buying 29 hectares of land from Unitec for a huge housing development, with potentially as many as 2,500-4,000 new homes. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website clarifies that the Crown holds 26.5 hectares and is in negotiations to acquire a further 9.3 hectares. They’ve also renamed the development to to the Carrington Residential Development.

We finally started to see some details of the development in mid-2020:

The site development starts with 26.5 hectares of land which are the core-landholdings, with an additional 9.3 hectares under negotiation.

The base plan is fully compliant with the Auckland Unitary Plan. It delivers:

  • 11.3 hectares (41%) of open space (including road reserves)
  • 12.3 ha of developable land
  • ~ 2,500 – 3,000 dwellings across nine Precincts (individual neighbourhoods)
  • building heights of between 2 stories in the South rising to 8 stories in the centre and North
  • density of between 94 and 113 dwellings per hectare gross or 204 per hectare net
  • a ratio of 0.95 carparks to each dwelling

The overall project is estimated to take 10 – 15 years to complete.

Yet nearly two years on from those details – and four years since it was first announced – little progress appears to have been made on the development, even though in August 2020 the government announced a $75 million investment “to speed up and expand infrastructure upgrades and development“.

It does appear there is some demolition about to start happening. But I also wonder if this seeming lack of progress could also be an opportunity.

Since the development was announced, and even since we last heard about, it a lot has changed. In particular, in mid-2019 the Auckland Council declared a climate emergency and the government did the same in December 2020. Auckland’s Climate Plan was adopted in mid-2020 and calls for half of all trips in the region to be made by non-car modes by 2050 – up from just 12.8% pre-pandemic. The government’s draft Emissions Reduction Plan also calls for big shifts, suggesting a 20% reduction in vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) by light vehicles by 2035. Remember, that’s a national target – so the impact is certain to be a lot larger in our biggest cities, potentially requiring as much as 60% reduction in car travel in urban areas.

The Carrington Residential Development should be an exemplar of Auckland’s low-carbon future, helping to showcase the kind of Auckland these plans call for. But when I think about some of the plans above, and particularly the amount of carparking, it seems far from that.

Of course, even just a decade ago, the 0.95 carparks per dwelling planned for this development would have seemed like some utopian future. But in our current climate, it seems unambitious or even antiquated in its planning. Even more so, as many of the carparks are expected to be front-loaded in the development, with only the latter stages of of the development bringing the carpark-per-dwelling ratio down to 0.95. The government must do better.

After all, if a development 30km from the city centre can do this, why can’t one that’s only 6km away?

We think the Carrington development should be aiming for a car parking rate of perhaps half of what they currently are planning. But simply not adding car parking won’t magically solve all the issues – and could still risk resulting in full gambit of bad/illegal parking issues we see in other parts of Auckland.

So what are some of the things the HUD could do, to bring this development in line with our future by actively encouraging a car-light lifestyle? Here’s a few ideas.


E-bikes for residents

The Unitec site is currently fairly unique in Auckland, in that it has some of the best bike connections in the region. The NW cycleway runs past the northern edge of the site, providing safe and easy access to the city centre; while the Waterview path runs right through the site, linking southward to the path alongside SH20 to Onehunga and beyond, and westward to the soon to be completed New Lynn to Avondale path.

Instead of building expensive carparks, almost certainly costing many tens of thousands of dollars per space to build, why not provide all residents with e-bikes – either directly or as part of a bike-share scheme?


Public Transport Passes

The site likewise sits in the middle of a strong public transport nexus. The government could work with Auckland Transport to come up with special public transport pass for residents, giving discounted or possibly even free travel for residents. This could perhaps even be a prototype of a product that AT could then sell to other developers.

We’ve already started to see some companies do this, such as Genesis Energy who moved to Wynyard Quarter. Their annual report last year said:

The move provided the catalyst to introduce initiatives that would reduce emissions, traffic congestion and enable active and shared travel. As part of the move we no longer provided staff carparks, removed company cars from salary packages and replaced our corporate car fleet with EV carsharing start-up, Zilch. In their place we provided a 25% subsidy for public transport, car-pool hubs in South and West Auckland, a free shuttle service from the eastern suburbs and with top-end changing facilities to encourage staff to ride, run or walk to work.

Our people loved it.

Compared to the travel routines in our previous offices which had 205 carparks, we’ve seen a 50% increase in people taking public transport or using EVs, 102% increase in biking, running, walking or e-scootering to work, 81% of staff have signed up to the public transport subsidy and there are 984 less carbon contributing trips each week (petrol, diesel, motorbike), a reduction of 71%. Staff have collectively reduced carbon emissions by 158t per annum, so far.

I also understand the PT subsidy ended up costing them much less than they thought it would.


Bus Bridge

The site already has some decent public transport options. Most of the buildings are planned to be close to Carrington Road, which has both the Outer Link and 66 frequent bus running along it. Especially once the City Rail Link is finished, a quick trip to Mt Albert town centre and a transfer to a train will be easy – although we do need to improve the connection between buses and trains at Mt Albert. (Baldwin Ave station is another opportunity).

On the other side of the side, Gt North Road sees both the 18 bus route (frequent double-deckers between New Lynn and the city centre), as well as the buses to and from the Northwest. And if we ever get light rail to the Northwest, access to that line that will become an option too.

But we could make this a step easier too. The 18 bus (and 195) have about a 1.3km dead zone with no bus stops as they run through the Waterview motorway interchange. One option could be to build another bridge across the Oakley Creek at about the vicinity of the bike/pedestrian bridge built a few years ago, which would allow for one or two stops directly inside the development.

This is an old image of the development plans, but highlights the bus bridge idea

Car Share

There will be the occasional time when people will need a car, and so an integrated car-share scheme would be crucial to help give people options. We’re already seeing car-share schemes in other developments – including in the proposed Sunfield development mentioned above.


With the exception of the bus bridge idea, these kinds of interventions could be quite useful in other developments – and especially the ones tied to Light Rail. It might also be worth considering these ideas as part of a trade-in scheme for old cars, so that people are actually making meaningful change towards low-carbon transport.

What do you think: what else should the government do to ensure this development helps to support wider government policy?

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47 comments

  1. 4 years since they announced this – nothing has happened.
    2 years since a Climate emergency declared – nothing has changed.
    2 years since it got fast track Covid funding – Covid is nearly over.

    By the time this is scrapped and sold to developers to build more inwardy facing Townhouses we’ll either be living underwater or settling on another planet.

    What is the point of this Government?

    All great ideas though Matt, I’m sure the car sharing will form a big part.

    1. I go through there most days and it looks like there is a pretty major upgrade going on with the stormwater system – they have been working on it for some time. I understand that this needed to be done before any building work can commence. So not quite correct to say that nothing appears to be happening.

  2. I like the idea of the green bridge but it should only be for buses, cyclists and pedestrians. Electric car sharing scheme would be awesome as well and absolutely less carparks. The area is quite well served by various bus services.

    With less carparking, there is potential for either more greenery and/or more apartments.

    The Government with Auckland Council should work together to make this project a template for future developments of similar size.

  3. An excellent model for a car-light housing development near the central city is Senakw in Vancouver, which prioritises active and public transport from the get-go: biking and walking, existing buses, and a new streetcar line, plus car-share (of which Vancouver already has at least three different versions).

    It’s inspiring stuff:

    “Senakw is being designed as a minimal parking development, says Khelsilem, with about one vehicle parking stall provided for every 10 homes. That is equivalent to roughly just 600 vehicle parking stalls. Instead, there will be an emphasis on active transportation — thousands of secured bike parking spaces and ample bike share availability — and greatly enhanced public transit connections directly from the site.”
    https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/senakw-squamish-first-nation-vancouver-rental-housing-development

    Note that Senakw is led by the Squamish First Nation. Given Labour’s Unitec plan was announced at Te Noho Kotahitanga marae  – and famously saved the Sanctuary Mahi Whenua Garden from destruction https://www.sanctuaryunitec.garden – it’d be fascinating to learn more about mana whenua perspectives on making this development as sustainable as possible.

    Likewise, keen to hear more about the plans for working with and around the rare and significant trees that are part of an official arboretum. https://www.unitec.ac.nz/sites/default/files/public/documents/Advance_Nov_2013.pdf Low-car lifestyles (and less need for wide roads and parking structures) will surely help keep the site as green as can be.

    1. A bit more about Senakw here: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2020/jan/03/the-bold-new-plan-for-an-indigenous-led-development-in-vancouver

      “This is our jewel of developable land and we’re only going to get once chance in the next 100 years to develop it.”

      (Bridge fans will spot that the development is adjacent to the Burrard Bridge, which recently celebrated ten years since dedicating a lane for bikes. Famously, not only didn’t the sky fall, the bridge is currently the busiest bike route in North America, and Vancouver has consistently knocked its low-carbon transport targets out of the park.)

  4. The existing road through Unitec is currently the cycle route. The portion indicated is not wide enough for cycles and buses.
    The bus bridge has been suggested a couple of times previously, and considered prior to building the cycle bridge connecting waterview.
    Further to the tweet about fences around several buildings in Unitec, when I cycled through early this morning, one has the cladding removed.

  5. Slightly off topic…Just looking at the bus routes? What’s the actual point of Baldwin Avenue station? Nothing seems to link to it, it’s pretty central but not too much development planned around it either.

      1. Baldwin Ave station is a hidden treasure. Super-bikeable/ walkable, and becoming more and more important with more housing going up in the area.

        There’s the Ockham building on NNR at Asquith, and Albert Square coming where Taco Local used to be, and nearby townhouses – along with significant Kāinga Ora builds on Martin Ave.

        In fact, that whole quarter is shaping up to be a highly desirable walkable/ bikeable neighbourhood. Immense potential to be an exemplary LTN, with a school on the perimeter, and neighbourhood shops at the heart.

        Also crucial to the wider vision, while we’re at it: walking/ biking access to and through Chamberlain Park, and a walk/bike bridge over SH16 halfway between Carrington Rd and St Luke’s Rd, to help reconnect communities to greenspace and intermediate/ high schools, and heal that motorway severance….

    1. When renting in Mt Albert it was great, about a 10 minute walk from my house. Heaps of schoolkids and city workers used it.

      Of course my neighbours would drive to the station and fill up the surrounding streets… car-brain.

      Ideally Baldwin Ave could become a model transit oriented development. Too bad the area is far too expensive to buy in right now

  6. Speaking of mass transit – if the Crosstown Light Rail proposal were to be extended from Avondale to Pt Chev (creating a full orbital line that interchanges with all radial RTN routes south of the central city), it would be well-placed to serve the Unitec Development and Waterview suburb with a station. Possibly a green-tracked line through the public open space too?

  7. Well the race is on between this one and Takapuna town centre.

    If they want to do something you genuinely don’t see anywhere else in Auckland, they can make most of the development actually car free. In other words, don’t try to put a parking spot next to every last townhouse. It makes more sense to consolidate parking in a few multistory parking garages.

    1. Yes, and we should follow Oslo’s lead on that. Make it mandatory that for all new development, there must be a walk between house and carpark. This lowers car ownership rates, driving rates, and vehicle km travelled, while increasing physical activity. And there are plenty of existing homes available for people for whom that doesn’t suit.

      Another option is to make the development actually car free, on the basis that it’s time people had an option of a car free suburb, and this one is both ideally located for public transport, and well-endowed with walkability.

  8. Connected Communities and their New North Road should going asap and get those cycle lanes in Mt Albert connected along the rest of New North Road. Would service the Carrington site quite well.

    1. And let’s not forget that Carrington Road is due for imminent protection of its existing bike lanes. (Those are heritage lanes, being the first “modern” painted on-road lanes in the city! Golly, 1999 must have felt so optimistic – on the cusp of a bold new millennium that would repair the missteps of the 20th C… https://www.bikeauckland.org.nz/blast-from-the-past/).

      Indeed, it’s three months since AT’s announcement re promised rapid rollout of 60km of quick-fix bike lane safety: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2021/11/25/at-making-painted-cycle-lanes-safer/ Anyone know how that programme is going? Any visible action on the ground in this quarter?

  9. The 18 bus going through it would actually be great – especially if it only had a couple of stops. I don’t think it would add much to the journey time, because the improvements on Great North Road will have been done by then. It would mean the 18 bus could travel down Carrington Road and still come out at the Point Chev shops (which are due for an upgrade / better bus priority measures).

    1. Agreed. Probably two pairs of stops would suffice to serve this area.
      I haven’t heard about any improvements to Pt Chev shops but they’re very needed and overdue. Lots of time is being lost there.

  10. I think most households will want a car even if they use alternative modes for the large majority of their journeys. To me Auckland is a long way away from being a city where you don’t really “need” a car, and I doubt it will ever get there considering the amount of sprawl. (obviously you don’t technically need a car, but there are some journeys that are a lot easier with one).

    1. Jimbo, you’re just showing the limits of your imagination. Not having a car is a valid option for many Aucklanders already, and it is getting easier as time progresses.

      34% of Aucklanders don’t have drivers’ licenses anyway, so how about we design some areas to make it better for these people?

      Car-free and car-lite developments aid the process of departure from car dependence. They reduce traffic and increase efficiency of PT through increased ridership. They give people options and demonstrate what’s possible.

      It’s not that we need to keep our current rate of car ownership because of sprawl. It’s that we need to stop sprawl to help lower our current car ownership rate.

      1. All good points Heidi, I just wonder how much total demand there is for places without carparks as there are a lot being built.
        I hardly use my car at all these days, but I still use it enough that I don’t want to get rid of it, particularly for traveling out of Auckland or to visit people that live further out. Compared to when I lived in London and I would not at all want the hassle of a car because I could catch the train anywhere. But I accept that I am not everyone, there are obviously people that don’t want a car at all in Auckland.

        1. It will take many years anyway to complete this development. So we can keep some options open to build more apartments or more parking, depending on what kind of demand shows up.

        2. Car ownership can be looked upon like power tool ownership -everyone thinks they need one but actually either use it a lot less than they imagine or could consider alternatives ( hire when they actually do need one)

      2. We don’t own a car and live very conveniently close to a train station in Avondale, so we also have two frequent bus services we can use. And with new bike lanes it’s becoming easier.
        We do rent a car, though, very occasionally, probably 2-3 times a year. Either for a couple of hours (Cityhop) or for a day or two. And once we have a car, then we run heaps of errands that we normally wouldn’t (like big shopping at Mitre 10 😉 ).
        But I agree that living in Auckland without a car is sometimes a struggle but I honestly believe it’s possible.

  11. Do we really want that number of buses transiting through a residential development? Routing the #18 bus through it would have major pedestrian safety issues IMHO.

    1. Private cars are a far bigger safety risk than buses, so the question is whether we really want them in a residential development.

    2. Buses every 5-10 minutes is arguably much less of a pedestrian safety issue or a noise issue than cars every few seconds.

    3. You should never ever allow buses to come into private property. Private roads work as well as public roads, but once they are in AT will then try and oppose future resource consents if it adds any delay to the bus route. AT are the worst nimbys out there.

  12. Good article and some nice ideas.
    But what a debacle of a project. Why the seeming lack of urgency when we have had a profound housing crisis for years?
    However…On the theme of blue sky thinking, how about the development becomes an exemplar for timber apartment buildings?

  13. It still feels like there is a far too little housing proposed in this development. If there are going to be massive empty green spaces all over it, then it needs to be 12 storey buildings.

    1. Yea this is a relatively central location close to major transport routes and it looks like it has less density than Hobsonville Pt. What gives?

    2. I agree. I would expect much higher buildings with very limited parking provisions but great cycling connections (which shouldn’t be difficult because it’s already close to other cycleways) and serviced by public transport.
      And definitely a bus every 3-6 minutes is way lower risk than cars every couple of seconds.
      The area should be made un-attractive for drivers.

  14. Love the home/ebike combo idea, let’s extend it to every Aucklander. Instead of $15 billion on light rail, let’s spend $10 billion buying a high-end ebike for every Auckland resident. That’s a city transformed overnight. Best thing is ebikes are so addictive, once you have one you’re pretty guaranteed to become a cycling advocate!

  15. It would be great to see some traction here and de-carred exactly as Matt suggests. The pressure should be on as once this is done they can move on to do the same with the Camberlain Golf Park.

  16. I really REALLY hope that the “masterplan” of buildings on the site (very top of the post) is an old version, outdated and surpassed. That’s straight out of the USSR’s playbook of apartment planning from the 1950s. Unbelievably bleak and banal. It would be bad at 4 storeys, even worse at 12 storeys as Sailor Boy suggests. They need to take a step back and hire some decent architects first – that’s just minging!

    There’s a time and a place and a way to design 12 storey slab blocks – this is not it. As currently drawn, its really reminiscent of this:
    https://www.123rf.com/photo_83838172_aerial-view-from-hot-air-balloon-of-old-soviet-time-suburbs-in-vilnius-lithuania.html

    Not something to aspire to

    1. Thank you. I didn’t want to be the one to say it. Yes to more apartments, yes to building up not out, yes to protecting green space. But let’s be honest that blocks on blocks in the rendering elicits a bit of a ‘yikes from me’ gut reaction.

      Probably worth super imposing over a screen shot of current Unitec map, to see what looks like it’s going to go.

      1. Not sure. The most similar area we currently have in Auckland is probably Wynyard Quarter. I never had the impression it is bad. The prices definitely tell you it is not.

        You would get a much better idea from renderings if there are some renderings from eye level on the streets between the buildings.

        1. Roeland, I agree. For me parts of the Wynyard Qtr are attractive. The significant amount of roadside trees and the limited amount of on street parking seems to produce traffic calming. Other parts are not so attractive, but to be fair development is still continuing.

    2. Need top urban designers rather than architects. In my experience, the latter for the most part have no clue when it comes to designing for density and reconciling all the things that need to be reconciled – granted it’s not easy. I have seen some of NZ’S best architects make a dog’s breakfast of medium density comprehensive development. Most seem to have no concept of passive solar design, or designing for privacy etc. Fantastic at designing single houses though.

    3. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I thought low building height was the only problem with the masterplan. I completely agree that the link you showed is the worst architectural style for this scale of building. It’s the worst Soviet style public housing, the worst UK council tenements, the worst of the projects in US cities. It’s ugly.

      What I meant to convey is that, if we have these huge open spaces, then 10-12 storey buildings are not remotely overwhelming. You actually need the height to appropriately frame the space and create a sense of enclosure. Wynyard is a great example of this.
      https://goo.gl/maps/UiLk8bJqM9WyEbcG6

  17. I will always hold a deep well of grief for the development that never was. Prior to crown purchase of the land, we were going to start the development around sustainable transport, placemaking and low carbon living. Because…Obvious.

    Bike Auckland has one of the copies of some of the only collateral we ever made – and guess what team? It started with a connected cycle path through the campus to the wider network, based on a sustainable transport plan. Our first, and only event, was a ‘Star Ride’, which was an indication of the direction set before the purchase.

    https://www.bikeauckland.org.nz/new-community-rises-will-biketopia/

    Probably worth noting that this was the question posed by BA in 2018 “will this transportation plan be carried forward into the new agreement between government and iwi?”

    A good question when posed back in 2018, and it looks like it still is.

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