An editorial in the NZ Herald last week, titled “Nimbyism goes bananas as housing intensifies“, introduced Herald readers to a couple of acronyms that go along with the now-familiar NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard):
“bananas” (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone)
“cave” dwellers (citizens against virtually everything).
The editorial made the point that NIMBYism is caused by lack of new housing in some places, as much as by the arrival of new housing in others:
The not-in-my-backyard objections have been forced on areas by concessions to other residents’ appeals that intensification doesn’t occur in their backyards. [emphasis added]
It was illustrated with a proposed housing development in Beach Haven on the North Shore that will add 81 new homes – 18 studios, 39 one-bedrooms, and 24 two-bedrooms – to a 7000 sq metre section in the middle of a residential block that’s home to both single-family houses and three-storey apartments.
(The resource consent is open for submissions until Friday 3 February 2023.)
The Beach Haven development hit the headlines again yesterday, and going by a Stuff article about a recent meeting of 180 concerned locals, you’d think the sky was falling:
One of the attendees fought back tears. “Two-thirds of these apartments are singles or studios which means bedroom commuters who are not going to be a part of this community or have any connection,” she said.
“I love this f…ing village with all my heart and I don’t want to see it change.”
Another member of the crowd claimed the waste pipes in Beach Haven were too small deal with the scale of the proposed development.
“It was never set up for this multi-storey bullshit. The pipe is too bloody small and if the developer wants to come and build a monstrosity here, they can pay to replace it.”
A woman in the crowd said she had been used to seeing the same houses on her daily commute and didn’t want the area to change
“Can’t they build on green land that’s 10 minutes up the motorway? I don’t understand why they’re coming to Beach Haven, we’re not an apartment community,” she said.
Crispin Robertson, who organised the meeting, was also concerned that the area wasn’t right for young singles. “There’s no supermarket or café here for them,” he said. [emphasis added]
People on social media had a field day, and in the process made a number of good points:
At first I thought this development should go ahead in order to provide more housing options for younger people during a housing crisis but I admit I hadn't realised it might mean this woman has to look at different houses during her morning drive https://t.co/tOWHBpICXF pic.twitter.com/xr1WNqUfSk
— Hayden Donnell (@HaydenDonnell) January 23, 2023
— Rustie (@rustie5555) January 23, 2023
'Bedroom commuters' is literally just a synonym for 'people with jobs' pic.twitter.com/BzU2rcmSSg
— Joey (@boxcar_joey) January 24, 2023
But wait there’s more:
Beach Haven isn’t a village, it’s a 15 minute drive from the CBD of Auckland, and has a regular commuter ferry stop. It’s literally just across a narrow channel from Hobsonville.
This development is a 20 minute bus ride to town. If you can’t build housing here where on earth can you?
It is time for us young singles to meet and discuss whether we’re comfortable with the residents on the North Shore. And maybe we bring some wine and cheese. And see where things go.
In-the-know locals also pointed out there’s a cafe, a wine bar, and even a chocolate shop cafe (!) within a short walk of the location, as well as other great local dining options where singles and couples alike can meet, greet, and eat if they wish.
At the same time, Auckland is a city of villages, and every “village” grows over time. More housing in our seaside suburbs is hardly surprising: one of the things people love about this city is easy access to the beach. From Onehunga to Point Chevalier to Clarks Beach to Orakei, and now Beach Haven, apartments rise next to single-family homes, large and small. And while consternation inevitably happens everywhere leading up to and during the disruption of construction, complaints are long forgotten by the time families are moving in.
As the Coalition for More Homes spokesperson Oscar Sims noted in the Herald editorial, new housing is ideally put in places that are more central and more accessible, and close to amenities: employment, shops, schools, transport. Beach Haven isn’t “far flung”. There’s a ferry (which, as with Hobsonville, could do with more regular services) and a frequent bus, which will see improved service thanks to the climate-action targeted rate (CATR).
Moreover, we’re talking about three stories here. Not tower blocks. That’s a pretty common suburban typology – you even see plenty of single-family houses that height. Three storeys is not at all out of place, and the Beach Haven development will fit right in with existing neighbours.
Indeed, Hobsonville is now defined by the type of low-rise apartments that locals are raging against, despite having nearly identical accessibility to the various major centres of Auckland.
All the more bizarre as the site in question is next door to an existing three-storey terraced/ apartment housing development which was constructed over 20 years ago. pic.twitter.com/dwQmA0nyNu
— Cam W (@BigSDW) January 23, 2023
Besides nebulous concepts like “neighbourhood character”, one of the concerns that tends to be raised around new housing is “infrastructure”, which seems to boil down to:
- stormwater and waste-water pipes: if they’re already overdue for upgrades after decades of deliberate and chronic underinvestment, how will they be able to cope with even more use?
- roads and berms and transport in general: if everyone who moves in owns a car, where will they park it, and what times of day will they drive it and get in the way of everyone else driving?
On this, the NIMBY instinct is onto something – but the hopeless chicken-and-egg defeatism is readily solved by getting on with building both infrastructure and housing.
Fighting new housing can’t and won’t fix our infrastructure woes. Neighbourhoods are already overrun by cars to the detriment of other options, and snarled with traffic at least twice a day. Ageing or failing infrastructure needs to be upgraded regardless of how many people are using it.
Indeed, forcing development to happen further away (that is, paving over green fields) will deepen car dependancy while requiring the construction of new infrastructure – at the expense of improving existing infrastructure. Without developments like this, locals will ultimately have to tolerate higher rates for a lower quality of public services!
Furthermore, at the local level and the city level, a greater population will attract more investment from government (local and national) for upgrading infrastructure and transport – as well as attracting private investment via more local businesses making the area more vibrant and sustainable.
And if none of that matters, surely it looks like a pleasant addition to the neighbourhood?