Much is made about how our cities manage the growth of the housing stock by engaging in the process of “urban planning”, that this is performed by “urban planners”, and that the colourful maps which are the outcome of this process done by these people are “plans”.

In fact, none of these things are true. 

We engage in the process of zoning, which is done by zoners, who produce zoning maps. This is not planning! A plan is an intention or decision about what one is going to do. While our zoning maps may be intentful and occasionally decisive, they do not define what is done. Rather, they define what can’t be.

Planning of the built environment is the sum of many thousands of plans made by developers and utilities providers who plan to construct buildings as well as the streets, wires, and pipes that underpin it. What land use regulation (of which zoning is one kind) exists to do is constrain the plans of those groups.

That is not to say the plans of these many actors ought to be executed unfettered. It would be a terrible waste of society’s scarce resources to be building roads in one place, pipes in another, and houses somewhere else again. Restricting uncoordinated activities is a reasonable approximation of coordinating them.

There’s also a great deal of value in coordinating production of the built environment. Building polluting industry next to a school is quite obviously undesirable. Indeed, this was the situation that zoning was invented to stop.

More broadly, urban environments are defined by the interactions of many people and things, and inevitably those actions are going to impose costs (whether economic, environmental, or social) upon others — what an economist would call an externality.

But it’s got out of hand. What started as labelling schools as sensitive to noxious activities like burning coal has devolved into labelling residential areas as ‘sensitive’ to ‘noxious’ activities like dairies, cafes, and barber-shops — while frequently labelling new housing within the urban limits as “out of character” with the existing environment, pushing development either to the urban periphery or stopping it completely.

Hold on – what is zoning?

Cohaus, a co-housing development in Grey Lynn
Cohaus, a pleasant development which had to fight against zoning every step of the way to get built

Zoning works by assigning each lot in the city a category called a ‘zone’. This category comes with some set of rules that define what can be built on that site, and what can be done within the building – nominally to ward off some negative effects imposed upon city.

Contrary to what you might expect, a ‘zone’ is not a contiguous set of parcels that roughly correspond to a block, neighbourhood, or suburb, but rather there is a few dozen of these categories that are splattered across the city.

At a high level, these ‘bundles of rules’ regulate use – primarily sorted into three major groups: residential, commercial, and industry. Within these, you have more granular controls on the exact nature of use – for instance, residential has limits on the number of dwellings permitted before you need some degree of council discretion.

Additionally for each use, it regulates the form of buildings that get used that way – through controls like height limits, setbacks, recession planes, and site coverage maxima.

Most of these rules are not hard-and-fast, and instead allow some ‘flexibility’ through different pre-described processes. Roughly, these are (in order of severity):

  • Permitted
  • Council discretion
  • Limited notification (hearing with affected stakeholders)
  • Public notification (hearing with the public)
  • Not Permitted

All of this seems like a mostly reasonable way of regulating land use. And yet, stories like this are not uncommon from people interacting with zoning for the first time:

So, what’s gone wrong with zoning?

Apartments above shops on Karangahapae Road
Mixed-use: apartments above shops, once the default way of doing things, now rare for a new build

The original sin of zoning is that it believes that different land uses are to be kept as separate as possible, and conversely that similar land uses are to be put together. This was a reasonable approach to limiting the damage of polluting industry, but translates to little outside this.

It does this because it’s understanding of externality is hyper-local: it rarely asks more than the question “how would use of this building affect the use adjacent ones?”

In doing so, it has become detached from the actual regulation of externalities, focussing much more on the good- and bad-faith aesthetic complaints of neighbours than activities that would do harm to the community.

As evidence of this, you’ll often find zoners will push back against a resource consent for things like supermarkets on the basis that it will cause congestion in the surrounding area.

In doing so, it locks people into having to travel further to access a supermarket — generating more VKT and congestion. But because zoning places emphasis on the externalities imposed upon local residents over the city at-large, this isn’t considered.

Modern auto-centric centres, keeping commercial land uses bunched together

It followed logically from zoning that separating high-level uses was not enough, and that buildings of the same use but different form ought to be separated as well. In other words, apartments and townhouses aren’t to mix with single family homes.

While we’re overcoming this with time and great effort, the spatial segregation of our cities by use will remain. We could overcome this by allowing mixed use by-right (which would be a great reform), but there’s a sense in which the term “mixed use zoning” is oxymoron – to allow for a mix of uses and a mix of building forms is simply to not do zoning.

So why retain it? Well, there still the benefit of integrating land use decisions with infrastructure. Zoning is not the ideal tool for this, but works okay in theory – having tighter constraints on the total amount of allowable housing capacity further from higher capacity infrastructure.

But ultimately our built environment is political: if the pipes are flooding or the roads are congested, they’ll complain to their local councillor or MP, and it’s their decision whether to use public funds to improve them – and so it follows that zoning is, too.

As the outcome of a largely political rather than technical process, it doesn’t constrain plans where it is desirable to do so, but rather where it would negatively affect those with the largest voices.

This means that zoning rarely coordinates development with infrastructure. Nowhere is that more evident than Auckland: while Te Atatu turns into shitty Paris with barely a bus service, transit-rich places like Kingsland or Mt Eden nearly entirely ban more intensive development.

Okay, it’s not working well. What should replace it?

Zoning tries to be one tool to solve many problems, but ends up doing little well. A more effective approach would be to ask: how do we efficiently solve each problem that we are trying to overcome?

Integrating land use and infrastructure

Within our existing land use regimes, we occasionally use tradable credits — an example close to home is in the Auckland City Centre Zone, which uses them to manage floor space rights.

A simplified model of this is: if you hold 4,000 credits, you are allowed to construct a building with 4,000sqm of floor space. If you don’t want to construct that much floorspace, you are free to sell those credits to someone who can.

In this instance the design of the scheme is completely arbitrarily just trying to constrain development – and is consequently being abolished with the implementation of the NPS-UD, which seeks to maximise development in city cores.

But the concept is sound, and could be applied more successfully to integrate development and infrastructure. Councils could issue credits that constrain an effect down to the capacity of the infrastructure that handles that effect.

To illustrate: if it’s determined that the best way of managing stormwater run-off is with site coverage controls, then for each square meter of site that a developer wants to cover with impermeable surfaces, they would have to have as many credits. Likewise, you may decide to have a similar system controlling a development’s bedroom or bathroom count to manage drinking- and waste-water usage.

The number of credits in circulation would be proportionate to the expected drainage capacity of the area’s stormwater infrastructure. Importantly, this means that when the local authority or utilities provider upgrades the underlying infrastructure, they release extra credits, which can be sold to developers to fully recover the cost of that infrastructure.

This means that as an area becomes more desirable and development rights consequently trade for higher prices, infrastructure providers would be able to easily identify the areas where there is the greatest demand for housing – meaning housing development wouldn’t only integrate with infrastructure provision, but infrastructure provision with housing demand.

Externalities

Noise Camera in Paris
Noise Camera which fines motorists whose vehicles exceed the allowable decibel limit.

Dealing with the output of industrialisation is the not the issue it was. In most parts of the modern city (even within an industrial area), the most toxic place you can find yourself is usually near to a busy road.

Even if your land use regime let them, it would be surprising for new industry to be built in the suburbs. There naturally exist strong incentives for industry to co-locate, mostly as moving trucks through urban environments is difficult, so it’s easiest for the industry which depends on them to be bunched together. And even if you had good truck access, factories and warehouse require massive sites — which are extremely rare in residential areas.

The issues that the modern city must grapple with are different — they are mostly the consequences of the automobile: safety, pollution, noise, and congestion. At best, none of these are solved through zoning. At worst, zoning magnifies them.

The reality is that regulating a building which potentially enables a certain type of activity with a particular externality is hare-brained solution when you really should just be regulating that activity.

That is to say, zoning or not, the future of urban externality management in Aotearoa looks like more regular enforcement of traffic laws, well designed streets, congestion charging, clean air regulations, and a more multi-modal transport system.

Neighbourhood Amenity

Houston is notable as a city which famously does not have zoning.

To the extent that Houston has integrated land use and infrastructure, it’s been with extreme highway projects and suburban sprawl. Until recently, investment in active and public transport had been next to non-existent.

It is also not without non-zoning land use controls – minimum car parking requirements exist everywhere in the city, and large minimum lot sizes which de facto mandate single family homes are persuasive.

That is all to say – it is certainly not an exemplar of good urban development and design. But it does offer a useful case study into how a city can function without zoning. Most notably, in lieu of public regulation favouring the protection of private ‘amenity values’, private restrictive covenants have become the norm.

If a group of neighbours decides that their neighbourhood is of a special character that ought to be protected, they are free to do so by agreeing to sign covenants. But in doing so, they would have to weigh up the benefit of crafting their suburban colonial enclave against a lower resale value if developers can’t do anything with it.

And conversely, if a sufficiently motivated developer is keen to re-develop a neighbourhood covered in a covenant, they can try to purchase every affected property and nullify it.

This has the effect of making it easier to weigh up the benefits of “amenity” against development than when they’re codified as pseudo-human rights in zoning.

However, Houston also shows it does require some thought and trepidation – like zoning elsewhere, many covenants in Houston are motivated by social and/or racial exclusion. Giving courts the power to nullify or modify covenants when it appears that they’re used in exclusionary or frivolous ways would likely be necessary.

Likewise, it would likely be desirable to give urban development agencies like Kāinga Ora the power to nullify or modify where the national significance of urban development is deemed to be more important than covenants, just as they can do with land acquisition and similar powers.

Do Urban Planning

Cities have tens or hundreds of thousands of stakeholders in the kinds of decisions that influence our built form – it would be infeasible for the local government to plan (rather than simply regulate) the entire city.

But there are parts of the city which are nodes of activity with relatively few stakeholders: town centres. Working with local businesses and landowners to create agreed-upon plans backed by urban designers and funds committed to do it would help to build and develop local communities.

Conclusion

With the Randerson Report (which is informing the government’s reform of the resource management system in NZ) having already identified many of the issues and future tools noted here, hopefully we can soon move to a post-zoning world – or at least one where zoning is done more rationally.

Share this

56 comments

  1. At last! Thank-you for summing this all up so clearly. Why we are trying to fix the mess we made of cities last century with the same tools and processes that delivered it, i have never understood. 2-d non-planning (colouring-in maps), is dumb, we need 3-d precinct planning, actual planning, for all town centres, which is to say designing, and the end of the mandated separation of our lives only connected by soul sapping and place-ruining mass forced car driving.

  2. The RMA was intended to address this issue and it did, but only for a while. The Empire of planners struck back and reestablished planning as they knew it. The intent of the RMA was to allow landowners to do anything they wanted provided they dealt with their adverse effects. The planners then set about defining anything they had restricted under the Town and Country Planning Act as an adverse effect.

    Honestly most of the Auckland Council’s reporting planners think they are supposed to recommend against non-complying activities, but that was never the intention of the Act.

  3. Thanks Scott

    The Cohaus example is particularly grating. It’s such a common retort from those opposing zoning changes that you can do xyz, just need to do a little extra hoop jumping for the council. But no developer does because they’re lazy, short termist etc. Then the model development comes along and has to spend half a million on consents, go through way more than could be considered reasonable. Can’t look at the system that does that and think its not broken.

    One other comment is that, it seems the council is hell bent on minimising negative externalities, but has near zero consideration for positive externalities.

    1. Cohaus was particularly unlucky. They went through at a time when they needed a consent to not have parking, which met all of the assessment criteria, but at a time the Council and AT reviewers were at peak stubbornness. Combine that with neighbours who thought everyone should choose what they had chosen and who believed they owned the on-street parking and it became an epic struggle.

  4. The lack of mixed use is why our effort of increasing density will fail — you get all the disadvantages of density but none of the advantages.

    You see this now in so many places. Apartment building after apartment building, but everything is purely residential. It seems no shops are allowed. So you will end up with a ton of apartments with nothing within walking distance. Which will thus generate a ton of car traffic and parking trouble.

    1. The mixed use rules were written by people who thought you could have retail on the ground, a level of offices and some floors of apartments above. But the reality is usually one activity is in the money and the others are not. Simple market reality defines the actual outcome. Why would you provide retail space if residential is the profitable part?

      1. To stop people getting in their cars to go shopping?
        Works well in London, Paris, etc. (i.e. just about all big cities).
        As an aside – your assertion that residential is the “profitable part” is not true. It depends completely on the buildings location.

        1. That is exactly the problem. Urban designers see it somewhere and think if they only write enough rules and are inflexible enough it will work in Grey Lynn or East Tamaki or 10minutes from Avondale.
          Convenience stores locate where they can make sales, not where they can find the cheapest rent.
          Mixed use is a cross subsidy from the apartment owners to the ground floor tenants. Should your home cost more to provide space for an acupuncturist? A vape shop? Dairies locate where there is demand for cigarettes and sugary drinks. Not where some twit thinks they would add character.

        2. The only reason mixed use wouldn’t be the most profitable solution in every case is if we subsidise driving. Which we do.

        3. No, I mean putting in vast amounts of public money to ensure the easiest choice for many is driving, while leaving the choices that would retain money in the coffers as well as promote public health and sustainable outcomes, are unsafe.

        4. How is mixed use use a cross subsidy, nothing as far as I am aware is restricting you building res only in a mixed used zone?

        5. This is not “allowing to choose”, this is forcing car travel. If your next supermarket is 2km away and you have to travel along some busy stroad (poorly designed road) without approriate cycling or walking infrastructure, very very few people will not choose the car for this trip. This is further manifested if we build nothing else than shopping centres in the middle of nowhere (see aerial image of Botany and Albany – who would walk there?)
          If you have mixed use, you
          a) have a bunch of people living close enough to walk
          b) can combine errands easier – visit friends, other shops/ cafes nearby – just like an outdoor mall!
          c) might even work in this area and be able to quickly go some place during lunch break (e.g. to pick up a book from the book store)
          d) possibly reduce VKT for daily commute as it is unlikely that everyone living at A will travel to B for work and vice versa
          e) enable people without a car (e.g. poorer people, older people, children) to do stuff
          f) be able to reduce the parking lot space because fewer cars need to go there. This would allow more shops, houses, parks and all sort of nicer land use than concrete parking lots.
          g) actually allow people to choose whether they take the car because they have to pickup groceries for the next 3 birthday partys or they just ran out of milk and have the possibility to get some of those 10k steps in for the day.

        6. If you were right then there would be demand for smaller shops in developments and that would lead to applications to do it. But there doesn’t happen so there isn’t so you are simply wrong.

        7. miffy it is trivial to observe that cities in every other part of the world (not the US) already work like this, across wildly different cultures and climates.

          If no applications come in, other possible explanation is that it is just not worth it for a small shops. It should just be allowed.

        8. Heidi the only two groups that I can think off being subsidised on our roads are EV owners and cyclists.

        9. Ok, two questions:
          How can you choose if all we build are car-centric places?
          Is your argument that there is no demand for smaller shops in developments where they were outlawed in the first place and are build completely car-centric because nobody goes to smaller shops (that don’t exist)?

        10. miffy, have you concocted a way to pretend:
          – that driving doesn’t impose externalities on other people, or
          – that those externalities aren’t a kind of subsidy?

          Do describe the mental gymnastics you use. I’m sure it’ll be a hoot.

        11. Heidi driving does impose a congestion externality which can be addressed with a congestion charge. But drivers are already paying for the roads they use through a fuel tax, the carbon they emit again in a fuel tax and the cost of crashes through an ACC levy. They also pay for a bunch of PT and cycling projects that haven’t been built through a regional fuel tax.
          Cyclists and EV users avoid almost all of those.

        12. miffy, drivers are not covering their externalities in the slightest.

          “drivers are already paying for the roads they use through a fuel tax” – no, they’re paying for some tiny fraction of it.
          “the carbon they emit again in a fuel tax” – no, they’re paying for some tiny fraction of it.
          “and the cost of crashes through an ACC levy” – no, they’re paying for some tiny fraction of it.

          In short, these externalities remain unrecovered, and drivers are being subsidised heavily.

          The road network we’d require for just cycling and walking is a fraction of what we have built for driving. It would be far smaller in its geographic scope, in the width of the roads, and in the engineering required for each square metre of road. People who use bikes are already paying more towards the road network – via taxes and rates – than they would need to pay to support a cycling and walking network.

          In short, cyclists are not being subsidised.

          As for the killing and injuring of people, and the damage to the natural environment that driving causes. Some psychologists say that converting that cost into dollars and cents works against people truly incorporating the horrific costs involved into their understanding. Your intransigence on this issue suggests that perhaps they’re right.

      2. The ground level is much more valuable for retail than the upper floors because people walk past it. The upper floors provide a bit more privacy because people don’t walk past it. That is why in so many other cities you see apartments over shops on the ground floor.

        Also what mixed use rules? Since when can you open a cafe or restaurant on the ground floor of your random house in a residential neighbourhood? Is that even permitted in the THAB zone?

        1. No we already have a Business -Mixed Use zone which doesn’t work very well. They used to require shops in the bottom of some apartments (such as at Bute Road) and that meant the developer charged more for the apartments.

        2. That is exactly the problem — we shouldn’t limit mixed use to such small areas. Also note the difference between allowing something versus requiring it. It seems obvious but almost nobody seems to understand these are different things.

          What you see in other cities is that outside the major shopping streets, some buildings have shops on the ground floor and most of them don’t. Individual owners make their own choices about what to do in their buildings.

        3. – Restricted Discretionary
          (A14) Dairies up to 100m2 gross floor area per site
          (A15) Restaurants and cafes up to 100m² gross floor area per site
          – Permitted
          (A17) Offices within the Centre Fringe Office Control as identified
          on the planning maps

          Note they had to screw it all up by saying 100m² – The site decides that and not some wally at Council. A classic example of just how bad the THAB Zone rules are!

      3. Miffy, You said: “They used to require shops in the bottom of some apartments (such as at Bute Road) and that meant the developer charged more for the apartments.”

        Are you referring to Bute Road in Browns Bay? If so, you completely wrong. I am quite familiar with that development and that is NOT the case at all. Where are you getting your information from? Surely you not just making it up because it fits your narrative?

        1. I did the hearing on the initial application for the Bacchus in front of North Shore City. The developer didn’t want any shops and we sat through a boring argument about how deep they had to be to be viable. The Council officers insisted on shops at the ground level. They cost more than they were worth and that put up the cost of development.

  5. Planners outlawed the likes of Ponsonby and encouraged the likes of Botany. Its very hard to see that they have added any value to anyone outside the auto industry. Sack the lot I say.

    1. “Sack the lot I say” – except that is too good for them. Yet it is not just the planners fault. Botany and Albany have both featured hundreds, if not thousands of hours of design input from architects and urban designers, all at the beck and call of developers who have pulled the strings, and the willing coercion of the public who are prepared to go and shop there. We’re all to blame for this mess – and so it will take effort from all of us to get us out of this as well.

      1. Yes isn’t it terrible to have convenience or to allow things people actually want? My sister lives in Herne Bay and does her shopping in Albany because it is easier than the alternatives. I will let her know she should be standing in the rain with shopping, waiting for a bus.

        1. It would be interesting to figure out why driving all the way to Albany is more convenient than the alternatives. Because if Auckland would be functioning as an actual city, this would never be the case.

          It also depends on whether or not you would ever consider leaving your home while not in a car. I am curious as to how much percent of our population would consider that unthinkable.

        2. How is driving to Albany from Herne Bay, paying for petrol, finding a park, hopefully relatively near where you need to go and then walking thorugh said car park a convenience? But oooh, some fictional rain!!! Forgot it doesn’t rain over mall carparks. Anyway, you simply just oppose stuff for the sake of it, your posts are getting more and more tedious, shame their is no ignore buttin.

        3. Because all she can get at NW Victoria Park is groceries and Albany is 14 to 22 minutes depending on traffic.

        4. I was a bit surprised by this as well, but I have lived in Auckland long enough to know this is actually plausible. It turns out Herne Bay is pretty close to a motorway off-ramp so driving to Albany would be relatively convenient.

        5. Um no there is no way you’ll get from across the harbour bridge to Albany in 14 minutes, or even 22 minutes. That is BS.

          Google Maps already estimates 14 minutes of driving from SH1 in the middle of the harbour bridge to Albany, even in good traffic. You have to add to that parking your car and walking to the shop, and of course going from your home to the harbour bridge.

        6. I wouldn’t say that’s too convenient, but timewise I used to hang out with a mate very often in grey lynn, driving back around9pm to my home in that area would be sub 20 minutes. It’s impressively close when there’s no traffic.

        7. Miffy, suggest she considers PNS Wairau Rd as it consistently rates as the cheapest PNS and is closer to Herne Bay.

        8. “Um no there is no way you’ll get from across the harbour bridge to Albany in 14 minutes, or even 22 minutes. That is BS.”

          Yes I typed leave now as 12pm today in Google maps and it now says typically 12 minutes to 20 minutes which is 2 minutes faster than yesterday, Thank you for pointing out it was no longer correct.

  6. Not all NZ planners like Euclidean zoning for the very reasons you’ve said. And as a broad generalisation, it’s a political and generational thing. Auckland Council did, briefly, consider scrapping zoning when it set about developing the new Unitary Plan – but quickly dismissed it on the grounds that it took away certainty for people. I dare say the planners also figured it would never get past the politicians – who must sign off every aspect of the plan. Lots of people like zoning for the certainty it brings – but the opportunity cost is no flexibility. Fun fact, any planner that has worked in the UK knows that it doesn’t have, and never has had, zoning. It’s a North American thing.

    1. “Getting past” the councillors, of course, is generally easier if you give them good advice. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

    2. There is no certainly regardless IMO, it’s an illusion. Any certainty brought by tight rules is (at beset) temporary, as the rules continually produce unsatisfactory results, and continually come up for rehashing.

  7. Great article. And so very correct. Case in point ….

    In 2106 Auckland Councils planners introduced a new zone. It is called the Terraced Housing and Apartment Building (THAB) zone. Even the name is bunk! THs are 2-3 storeys. Apartment Buildings are “expected” to be 5-7 storeys. In one zone? Seriously? And is it working?

    Since 2016 the vast majority of new buildings in these zones have been …. have a guess … Terraced Houses! Why? Because Council planners make the AB developer jump through hoop after hoop and so it far easier, cheaper and less risky to build THs.
    (Note there are a quite a few ABs that were actually consented under the pre-2016 SHA rules for 4 storeys that increased to 6 after 2016 so be careful pointing at ABs and concluding the THAB is working – Especially true of Takapuna, btw)

    Council have a standard wording they trot out should you dare present a plan for an Apartment Building …. “The application would be likely limited notified if not publicly notified.” … The translation is, “Go ahead, if you dare. We’ll ensure it costs you a bundle. Build some Terraced Houses instead.”

    I would absolutely LOVE to know how many times that phase has been used when any design for an apartment building has been presented. Just about every apartment building that does actually get built on the North Shore seems to have it! Hat’s off to the brave developers that stand their ground and fight for their (our?) rights.

    And now, in 2022? Council seem to believe one of the most absurd, irrational and wasteful zones in planning history is suitable for meeting the NPS-UD?

    Can it get any more absurd?

  8. What annoys me most is that these so-called planners in Council have spent so much of our rates doing zoning, and have ignored the wellbeing aspects of good urban form.

    On vehicle crossings, for example: Our council plans have been saying “walkable” and “quality compact” for years, and the Unitary Plan even has regulations around the number, width and spacing of vehicle crossings – yet the zoners in council have continued to consent too many vehicle crossings that are too wide and too frequent, ignoring the tools they have in the form of these regulations. There’s been no focus from these “planners” on the topic, and indeed their replies show they don’t have a clue about their responsibilities on the topic.

    It’s no wonder we have so many driveway deaths.

    The lack of comprehensive understanding of their role, and of the interconnection between transport and land use has been very disappointing indeed. Unfortunately, those Councillors who’ve had specific issues brought to their attention have also done nothing about it. We are very poorly served.

      1. The local dairy is an entry level business, planners ideal of local dairy (Bankwood superette) looked nothing like an entry level business first images.
        If they had just let it be a ‘permitted activity’ it is possible there would be a local dairy for about every 1,000 people spaced at about 400m apart throughout Hamilton.

  9. It was very reassuring to read this because I actually said as much as part of it, though much more meanly, in the NPS-UD preliminary consultation. To quote:

    “I understand that the practice of planning in the last seventy years has given people like
    yourselves control over the built form of cities[:] an enormous amount of power. However, it remains that this worldwide planning regime has failed to replicate the quality of urban form produced by the more laissez faire habits of the previous four-ten thousand thousand years. What we consider “best practice” today is, I argue, clearly /not/ best practice.

    “It is entirely appropriate to micromanage dangerous and/or polluting industries and practices (e.g. driving). Time and time again, the “free market” has produced unsafe environments in pursuit of profit and we now have an intellectual framework to explain such outcomes (externalities as a cause of market failure). However, it is not necessary to micromanage everything in order to micromanage these circumstances. A terrace house should not be treated the same as a factory!

    “Now, I further understand you probably have some reluctance about allowing intensification in
    these areas because people can’t be trusted not to own more cars than they can afford to store.
    However, this is the wrong regulatory remedy for such a problem! We live in wonder at the
    mysterious legal opinion that controls parking management in Auckland, but even it says placing
    signs allows management to occur. Thus, place the signs! I suggest Auckland’s public transport
    network is in substantially better shape than people give it credit for (at least, when operating at
    2019 levels).”

    Obviously we’re no-where near 2019 in terms of service provision due to timetable changes, KiwiRail’s incompetence, the replacement of bus services with AT Go and drivers and other PT staff getting Covid all the time but there you are.

  10. Great article . The planning process in NZ is shockingly difficult and creates an environment that rewards being conservative and aiming for compliant consents.

    I’d add that the planning system has no formal accreditation system so anyone can walk in off the street and start signing off consents which seems crazy.

    Personally I don’t blame developers or the planning process. If government wants fundamental change then they need to drive it and start establishing proper transit orientated developments. The framework is there with projects of national significance but there is no one to drive it (or the political mandate).

    In the short term it doesn’t seem like we are ready for change as a country/city….

    1. Central Government has had a guts full of Local Councils with regards housing. They have acted. Quite forcefully. Firstly, the NPS-UD (National Policy Statement – Urban Design) of 2020 mandates areas around city centres, metro zones and transport hubs to be 6 storey. And then both major parties – yes, both – hammered through the Housing Supply bill just last year. You seem to be a tad out of date. And, I’d add, wrong. The problem has ALWAYS been with local governments.

      1. “Quite forcefully” would be nationally set zoning, like Japan, with councils retaining little of the functionality. Some basic minimum urban density standards only across the tier 1 cities is pretty weak by comparison IMO.

      2. I’m not sure that is a fair assessment.

        Who has the money has the power and the government has always dictated the budget of any large scale project for a local authority through Waka Kotahi etc. Local council ambitions are limited to what will be permitted by or funded by the government so their planning processes are orientated to what the private sector can provide because current funding models make council created transit orientated developments impossible. Although Wellington City Council bucks the trend and seems to have achieved density in the city centre and has a impressive portfolio of social housing.

        As you’ve stated there is stronger legislation for the government to take charge and they control the funding. I’ve yet to see anything come out but its the only rational reason why the budget for the light rail project has skyrocketed.

  11. This article is very timely, coming after the weekend Herald’s two opinion pieces on intensification etc.
    The Devonport piece talks about retaining a particular character (singular) of an area but is not so explicit about the kind of characters (plural) who might turn up there.

  12. +1 excellent article.

    Those that wrote the zoning laws do not bear the costs of their actions.

    Also we still don’t have it right with the proposed 3 houses per section & 3 storey buildings which is still proving mono-use land use. People will still have to drive to services.

    Old walkable mixed use cities typically had retail/commercial on the ground floor. If we want vision zero / net zero carbon then that type of development needs to be allowed as of right.

  13. I don’t know who came up with zoning. This is so obviously stupid I’m amazed (though not surprised especially in NZ) that people still use it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.