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.
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.
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?