At the Auckland Transport board meeting today a series of papers really highlight the cost of sprawl.

For the last few years, the Supporting Growth work has been looking at designing the strategic transport networks for future greenfield areas in the South, Northwest, North (around Dairy flat) and in Warkworth. There have been multiple consultations for each of these areas as they’ve worked through the various business case processes.

The papers relate to the plans for Warkworth, which was consulted on last year and where they’ve now completed the Detailed Business Case and come up with a recommended network. They’re now seeking endorsement of the business case and approval of funding to start the route protection process. AT want to protect all of the future routes now before land get subdivided, which would see the cost per m² increase significantly.

The preferred strategic network for Warkworth is below and is expected to cost over $1 billion all up and on top of existing planned projects, such as the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway and Matakana Link Rd, both of which are due to open soon. The projects include:

AT projects – $1 Billion

  • Four new arterial corridors
  • Northern and Southern Public Transport interchanges
  • Northern Park and Ride facility
  • Active mode facilities on all corridors
  • Active mode and urbanisation upgrades of five existing corridors

Waka Kotahi – $83 Million

  • New southern interchange on Ara Tūhono (Puhoi to Warkworth) to provide direct access to heavy industrial land

A breakdown of the costs for each component confirms that most of the costs are in the development of the new arterial roads.

The images below show how the strategic network has, unsurprisingly, not really changed all that much over the various stages of the process and also just how long this has been going on for. In many ways, this highlights some of the problem with the business case industrial complex we’ve developed.

The 11 AT projects include $122 million for property purchases, but as not all will need to be brought straight away, with inflation that cost is expected to eventually increase to $200 million. Of that, AT expect they will need to spend $38 million between now and 2031 which “is based on property acquisitions needed for early delivery and estimated hardship requests“. If they don’t do route protection now, they say it will potentially cost an additional $500 million to do it later and require impacting on 1,000 land owners instead of 160 if they do it now.

Given these costs, it will be interesting to see how the board responds given how eager they were to not make a decision about Great North Rd, which will support thousands of existing and future residents along the corridor.

All of this work in Warkworth is for an expected 17,100 additional people, a four-fold increase on the current population, living in 8,200 new houses. There are also expected to be about 4,600 new jobs in the area.

Route protecting before costs dramatically escalate sounds sensible but what really stands out though is when you consider the cost off all this infrastructure compared to just how many extra houses we might get. On average this will cost tax and ratepayers about $130,000 per household added – assuming all happen. And this is before the cost of adding local roads, three waters and other physical and social infrastructure to support these new residents. This is important because there are often claims that low rural land prices are proof of why we should focus much more on greenfield development.

That high cost results in a benefit to cost ratio of just 0.6 – though they try to claim there are a heap of un-monetised benefits from turning farmland into suburbs.

The costs can be further split out by those new households in the South West, where the bulk of the new housing will be, and in the North East. While they don’t recommend it, they do give the option of dropping the two North East corridors to save money.

Assuming it’s not a typo, some serious questions surely need to be asked about the Riverhead and Kumeu/Huapai networks if they’re going to cost $340,000 per household.

I also wonder what kind of networks we could get within our existing urban area if we were spending those kinds of cost per household figure.

Finally, they claim that with this network it will result in a 9 per cent reduction in Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKTs) in 2048 and an emissions reduction of 1,296 tonnes per year over 60 years compared to a baseline network. But in reality, total VKT and emissions will increase because of all the new people and businesses in the area. What would be a more useful comparison is what the VKT and emissions reduction outcome would be if that growth happened within the existing urban area instead.

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  1. With all that planning and money
    I see no trains, Westgate,huapai,helensville,across to warkworth down to Harbour bridge with connections along the way, secure that route first, then build, heavy rail, same tracks trains,drivers,maintenance, storage, double tracks, tunnel machine etc Do this first!
    Lay this first

    1. The Opposing Growth Alliance who do all this work have missed a trick there. They usually like to include every gold-plated idea in their schemes to push the costs up as high as is humanly possible. If you let them know then I am sure they will add it to their list of demands they will put to the developers.

      1. Sorry if you don’t have trains, how do you expect people to get around?

        Also, developers paying for public transport? Lol when does that ever happen?

        1. Perhaps you don’t understand. The Opposing Growth Alliance loads every possible gold-plated project into their model and includes every other land use development in the demand, regardless of how unlikely and run the model and conclude that all the projects are required. AT then goes to the hearing and says they have no money so the developer should buy them all of these projects.
          There are two goals : 1/ to make the development as expensive as possible so maybe it goes away; 2/ to clip the ticket well and truly for any development that proceeds. Of course none of this applies to developments in the City Centre. The Council and AT are happy to kill off the arts and social services to pay for infrastructure there regardless of cost.

        2. Ok. I just think doubling the population of the greater Shore, without a massive ramp up in PT is going to be a disaster. The motorway and busway are pretty full right now, that is going to get worse.

      2. No gold plate, the projects just cost a lot at bare minimum. If you’re worried, the protected Designations don’t have to be built, but SGA do need to protect enough land to be able to build something there.

        1. For Drury the AT witnesses turned up asking for 51 projects to be provided for them. “Gimme or we will cause you trouble”.

        2. I’m sure you’re right the costs aren’t for gold plating. However, the process of designing the programme of work for Auckland is at fault here; it doesn’t look like any of the organisations (WK, AT, AC, MoT have listened to the criticism of plan development given by experts in the JR.

          Using fit-for-purpose sustainable planning would direct SGA away from spending any money on corridor protection and designations. Sprawl shouldn’t be happening; the legal and planning work for it, let alone the property purchase for it, mounts up to a lot of money that is far better spent on infrastructure to support intensification.

        3. Heidi nobody has ever banned sprawl in Auckland. Practically everything required for growth costs less on the edge than it does in the centre, with transport probably the only exception. Do we limit people’s lives and opportunities just because transport might be cheaper? Even then with the costs mounting for CRL and Light Rail maybe those benefits have been overstated. Roads including bike lanes and bus lanes are cheaper where land is available and where land is cheaper. The part that is missing is road pricing. Introduce that and we will have an efficient transport system.

        4. “Practically everything required for growth costs less on the edge than it does in the centre”
          I can’t believe this is true overall. I guess there must be some exceptions but things like a library in a denser more central area could be fully utilised with longer hours & made double story for example.

        5. Grant that is a correlation with density, which sprawl could equally be.

          Miffy, we should make land cheaper. Taxing away privatised land rents is the missing part of the equation in urban areas. We’ve tried to avoid the reality for years by sprawling, but land value increases have caught us up. Switching to land value rating is the most straightforward step. Shifting some tax burden off income and consumption taxes at a national level would be the next. Land expense is a common theme in all our infra woes, rural expressways or urban busways. Land is New Zealand’s real “reverse robinhood scheme”, to use an overused phrase. Taxing workers to enrich people who made zero improvements to their land but gain millions off selling it.

        6. “Practically everything required for growth costs less on the edge than it does in the centre, with transport probably the only exception.”

          Sorry, but I think you are forgetting freshwater, stormwater, sewerage, power lines and telecom.

          Not to talk about the ongoing cost of maintaining all that extra length of utilities at lower-density use.

          Auckland Council themselves have identified that while Capex may sometimes be comparable, Opex is quite a lot higher for greenfields. So it’s really a societal mortgage at high rates.

        7. Countries such as Germany and Switzerland (and I am sure, others in Europe) have managed to keep their urban sprawl down and their major cities mid-sized. Rural development has typically occurred in numerous medium-density small-towns and villages which are also constrained from sprawling and are linked by good passenger train and bus services. I do not know the historical background to this, but the result is a number of mid-sized cities with excellent internal public transport and many small communities which remain distinct, generally self-contained and often walkable, with good PT between them. Between these settlements lies farmland, forest or mountain which is heavily-controlled when it comes to building. Average population-densities with this arrangement seem to be as-great or greater than comparable countries which allow development by sprawl. NZ still has a lot to learn in this regard.

        8. “freshwater, stormwater, sewerage, power lines and telecom. ”
          That is funny Gurf. Drury is closer to the Hunua dams than central Auckland. Sewerage treatment isn’t available in central Auckjland but it is at Rosedale, Mangere and anywhere else someone wants to build a plant. Power comes from the south other than a really expensive plant at Otahuhu. Reticulation costs in central Auckland are enormous then add in the cost of running it vertically in tall buildings. Telecom? I had no idea that was a significant cost any more. We have broadband in every street and 4.5G anywhere.
          The only cost saving is stormwater because it gets treated outside the CBD but dumped into the harbour untreated in the CBD. A false saving really.

          The only things cheaper in the CBD are those that are done poorly.

    2. One possible reason for higher fertility in suburban areas is that they may encourage couples to have higher fertility preferences or intentions than those who live in urban centres.

      Suburban areas may offer more affordable and spacious housing, better environmental quality, feeling of child safety, protected play areas, and more family-friendly amenities than urban centres.

      They may also provide more parking and storage options, which can facilitate the use of cars and the acquisition of household goods.

      These factors may appeal to women who decide to have more children or expand their family, as they can reduce the costs and constraints of childbearing and childrearing.

  2. Wow, so Auckland should just grow up and accept that it is a real city? Apartments in centralised areas, communities around people, not lifestyle blocks and being able to drive home to “paradise”? Why the “supercity” ever entertained the idea that we should be as big as Los Angeles I will never understand. Neither did mother nature apparently. INTENSIFY NOW or we will be stuck in traffic when the asteroids knocks us into the orbit of the sun and we are fried in our own blissful ignorance!

    1. Families don’t want to have children in dense areas.

      But in suburbs and rural communities usually there is no issue with natural depopulations

      1. > Families don’t want to have children in dense areas.

        Speak for yourself, there are plenty of us.

        Aucklands dense areas not being ideal for children is a different story and could be fixed.

        1. In New Zealand, suburban areas tend to have higher proportions of married couples with children than urban centres, which may indicate a different family orientation among suburban residents.

          This factor may appeal to women who decide to have more children or expand their family, as they can reduce the challenges of childbearing and childrearing.

          Another reason for higher fertility in suburban areas is that they may encourage couples to have higher fertility preferences or intentions than those who live in urban centres.

          Suburban areas may offer more affordable and spacious housing, better environmental quality, less pollution and crime, a feeling of child safety, protected play areas, wider streets and green areas, safer sidewalks and parks, and more family-friendly amenities than urban centres.

          Another possible reason for higher fertility in suburban areas is that they may have encourage men to have higher education, look for more stable work opportunities, and form better social networks.

          These characteristics may be associated with higher income levels, as they can enable women to afford and access quality housing, household items and other services that can support their reproductive choices and outcomes.

          They may also affect values and norms regarding family size and structure, such as a preference for bigger families or a stronger attachment to traditional gender roles.

  3. What’s cost savings Waynes view on this? Would be good if we had a media that actualyl noticed or cared about this sort of thing and held local and natinal politicians to account.

    What a crazy place we live in.

    1. Amazing how cost cutting works

      Slash arts, CAB, libraries to save $20 – $30m? Of course

      Spend $1 Billion dollars to allow developers to make money turning farmland into spread out expensive housing? Of course

      I used to like Warkworth; it is a lovely little town, and it would be pretty cool to be able to take a bus to the town for a visit. But the park and rides being located away from the old town centre, it is clear that they are setting this up as a town to commute from.

      And within a few years, people will be complaining about congestion and wanting more lanes and wanting more public money to fix it.

      If they really wanted to save money, they could just chop most of one golf course, or run light rail out north west and easily allow ~8 houses within 30 minutes commute of existing industrial/commercial areas.

  4. I don’t understand why ratepayers and taxpayers need to pay big dollars to buy land off landowners who will become extremely rich due to the existence of this new road that allows their land to urbanise.

    This seems like a gigantic scam.

    1. Trev, the correct way to do it that is followed in Europe, is for govt to buy up all the land around PT stations (before it has extra value), develop it themselves, and then either sell or rent in order to recoup the development costs. That way the public doesn’t pay the costs while private entities reap most of the financial rewards. Don’t hold your breath for NZ govts/councils to be that forward thinking though, they seem to be stuck in first-order thinking.

  5. I believe that the total costs for smaller plots of a house in Auckland are not less than these values.

    They just not taking into account the need to replace 70 years old utilities (water, sewerage, rainwater, local and main roads, bridges, schools, overcrowded roads, etc.)

    1. I tried the AC Development Contribution estimator for a new unit of 20 160m^2 apartments on a single lot. The total fee is $200K or $10K per apartment.

      1. $10k per apartment sounds a lot better to me than $340k per site in Kumeu….

        Someone should just ban new buildings in Riverhead / Kumeu, or make them pay development fees of $340k per plot and leave it at that.

        1. In these times of restricted public spending, just think how much arts funding, tree planting, etc that $340,000-per-house subsidy would buy.

          Now multiply this by the numbers of sprawl houses that Auckland plans to build…

          Cities generate value when they allow people to connect easily. We know this, yet we instead are spending $billions of public money to spread the city out in a disconnected, car-centric fashion.

          This is an extraordinarily poor investment.

  6. What a joke, nothing will happen just more sprawl and motorways yet within a few kms of CBD will still have all these single level houses..
    But no worries lets build apartments further out, worst of both worlds as people still want cars so just congests the suburbs.
    How can anyone say they care about climate change when we just concrete over all of this green area

  7. So that proposed zoning map for Warkworth. Its a master plan, they have a lot of flexibility, few NIMBYs.
    And yet they plan to a tiny area of THAB, and funnel half the town’s traffic through that THAB area to access the motorway? Presumably it only exists to drag down the cost per household marginally.

    The land costs are the ultimate scam though. The council will buy land at market prices, to build infrastructure. The promise of that infrastructure being built will rise the market prices. Council plan to drag out the purchase as long as possible after as much of the infrastructure is built.

    There has to be a way for councils / govt to claw back the value that is effectively dumped into land by their (rate / taxpayer sourced) spend.

    1. Yes surely they could at least build some area with a lot more dense housing in it. Make a special car free area would be even better. All cycle and walkable. Hire cars and good public transit nearby.

      1. Hi do I understand correctly that there is to be a new park and ride Hub to be built between the link road to Matakana and the off and on ramp to the Warkworth Puhoi motorway, and a new Southern Hub.
        Will these replace the existing hub by the show grounds?

    2. The way to claw back the value is for govt to buy up the land around PT stations (within 500m in any direction) by force at pre-announcement rates (before the market adjusts), then develop the land and sell or rent it, as a way to recoup development costs in a way that doesn’t privatise the profits while taxpayers bear the cost.
      This is a concept known as Transit Oriented Development (TOD) although DOT – Development Oriented Transit – is probably just as important for the anaemic PT network we currently have in NZ.

    1. It is INSANE that none of these come with provision for rapid, frequent public transport as standard.

      $3.64 billion would pay for a sweet surface light rail line down Manukau Road. Upzone the surrounding streets and see the density develop in the Auckland Isthmus.

      Density saves money. Sprawl costs us a fortune.

      1. Ha ha. Buses use roads. Who needs rail? Everything will be fine!
        Auckland’s history since 1950 proves how successful this formula is. 🙂

      2. Just the upgrade of sewage pipes in Papatoetoe and Manukau would cost more than $1.5 billion.

        You can’t even build a second floor with bathrooms in your house without sewage consent

  8. So would we be able to, say, provide for 100,000 extra residents in Central Auckland by investing 10 billion in new infrastructure? How would that look like?

      1. +100 – and have some money to spare for arts and community and libraries and parks and economic develpment etc so it is an awesome living experience . . .

  9. The comparisons to “do minimum” are such a scam. 9% reduction in VKT compared to “do minimum” by 2048, whereas Auckland as a whole has to reduce VKT by well over 20% by 2035, and growth in Warkworth will increase driving enormously.

    Idea: car-free Warkworth

  10. Do buses to Walkworth travel through Orewa. There is also the electric coach running. I often see it parked up on Quay Street in the middle of the day. Once or twice it’s being out at the Manukau bus station charging up around lunctime. An express bus off the end of the busway to Walkworth and Wellsford on state highway one would speed things up.

    1. Yes, but because it is a private, not Subsidized by Government route, it has a limited capacity. AT can afford empty busses. Private transportation can’t

  11. The costs include Rapid Transit from Westgate to Huapai, since there’s no room for another car on the NW motorway. That’s for the mayor’s cheap an easy new build area (the parts that don’t submerge any time it rains, as the run-off from new build floods the valley).
    Fast bus on Te Ara Tuhonu links from Warkworth Town Centre via P’n’R on Te Ara Tuhonu, which will be pretty empty until it gets to Silverdale.

  12. Why does this sprawl keep being planned and enabled? If it’s all just a scam to enrich landowners, why not enrich the landowners in the existing built-up areas (by planning and enabling these areas to be built-up more) rather than enrich the landowners in existing rural areas? At least that way we get a more economically viable city, as existing built-up areas already have existing libraries, doctors, dentists, pharmacies, etc., these will get a bigger customer base, rather than having to build and staff more libraries, doctors, dentists, pharmacies, etc. with the same or smaller customer bases. Surely it makes more economic sense to build on what we already have, rather than try to duplicate it. Surely that’s a waste.

    I don’t know what our planners have been taught, but it doesn’t seem to make economic sense.

    1. 100% agree. By allowing landowners to benefit in the city we lower the NIMBY’s power. People will want to have intensification in their neighborhood. We should target areas, for example, a Light Metro underground/separated grade track down Manakau Rd to the Airport would give us Newmarket, Epsom, Royal Oak, Onehunga as areas for Intensification. Draw a 400m diameter around each train stop, and build Up. 10 stories? Why not some at 20? 600M out could be 6 stories. Sure, the landowners benefit but we condense our city around a strong PT line. , and hopefully other lines become more feasible. Birkenhead would be a great extension onto the shore, but only if it is redeveloped

  13. The rapid development of Warkworth highlights the transformation Auckland embraces to become a true supercity in size and scale. It’s great to see AT planning road networks to support growth and development. Shovel ready projects like the Warkworth to Wellsford motorway will offer seamless integration to connect Wellsford with the rest of our supercity’s superhighways. AT lobbies for central government and Waka Kotahi initiatives; we must support AT’s drive to provide the resilient motorways our affluent communities deserve and stimulate economic flow.

    1. I agree that it’s great AT is planning for this. I just want to make sure that the developers pay for these costs rather than the average ratepayer, either directly or through a targeted rate on the people that buy the homes/businesses that set up shop there.

    2. Please ban the phrase shovel ready. It is a misnomer, used you politicians to give the impression that a project is ready to go. I worked on Hobson, Vic Park and Waterview so I know when I’m being sold a bottle of fat and gluten free, organic low carb water.

  14. I feel pretty sure we could house an extra 17,400 people in the inner west for a fraction of the price . . . Damn, it’s annoying.

  15. Paul, unless Warkworth can exist as a thriving centre in its own right with a full range of amenities and a functioning local economy, then it will develop largely as yet another dormitory town for Auckland and dependent on commuting. This might be ok, were it to be connected by proper rail-based public transport for commuters (it has only 1-2 buses an hour), but relying on motorways runs into the perenniel problem that traffic simply feeds into the congestion which is already endemic in Auckland and which further motorway-building is not an answer.

  16. North West auckland black water system is interconnected pumps I presume that is a reason for increased infrastructure. However there is a track in place and lowering the track to go under the bridge that stops electric to helensville opens transport corridor to marginally productive rural areas. Absolutely need to create rail rings in the city. Onehunga to Avondale makes more sense than a tunnel for lite rail. Cheaper too. BUT AND YES I AM YELLING. STOP DEVELOPING THE BEST HORTICULTURAL LAND IN THE COUNTRY. REZONE THAT LAND. IF GOOD SENSE ISNT ENOUGH.THINK CARBON MILES AND LOCALLY SOURCED BLAH BLAH. SERIOUSLY FRANKLIN AND NORTH WAIKATO ARE A GIFT TO BE CHERISHED. OR HAVE FUN EATING PALM OIL INSTANT RAMEN IN YOUR 3 BED FREESTSNDING 100M2 BOX 20 YEARS FROM NOW.

    1. Calm yourself. We have no shortage of productive land in this country. The best bits are in the Waikato and are used mainly to produce export milk power used to make crappy processed foods like confectionery. A few houses on the outskirts of Auckland simply means some cabbages get trucked in a bit further. It is called using land for its highest value land use and that is the most efficient outcome. Forcing people to pay more for a home so land can be used instead for very low value horticulture makes no sense whatsoever.

        1. Actually it was two level one papers, some level 2 papers, a swag of level 3 papers then some post grad papers. None of them suggested we should make housing more expensive so land could be reserved for low profit production. It really is quite stupid.

        2. Lame, it’s well known that the models in economics courses assume too much, e.g., food. Read the book Debunking Economics by Prof. Steve Keen, he shows how all the models in economics courses are wrong (and that the inventors of those models even admitted they were wrong) … and yet they keep being taught, and the most-wrong economists keep getting the (fake Riksbank) “Nobel” Prize for economics (in 2022 it was Diamond, Dybvig and Bernanke, the most-wrong monetary economists ever). Do yourself a favour and forget everything you were taught in economics courses asap.

  17. How can you provide sewage, water and roads for 20 apartments without digging out and replacing the utilities? Double-deck roads. Safe walking for kids to school in the city?

    1. Because additional capacity is brought with overlaying infrastructure, not replacing every meter of the existing infrastructure. Interceptor sewers for example. You still use the same local sewer network, but there is a new pipe dug that intercepts the sewerage earlier, meaning the local network does less transmission, more collection.

      But when it does come time to renew that local collection infrastructure (all infrastructure is on a ticking renewal clock regardless of use), more people are sharing fewer kms of pipe making it cheaper.

      We don’t transmit electricity from Benmore to Wellington by making all the 240v local lines on the way supersized. We have a specialised line that is good at that one thing. Transmission. In the Auckland power example, we have the Vector Tunnel to carry high voltage electricity direct to the high density downtown.

      Increased density brings about increased demand for local shops / services / schools in the local area, meaning travel distances per person are lower, and density increases the viability of public transport meaning there is less need for personal vehicle trips.

  18. Thanks for your comment, Dave B (Wellington). I agree suppression of single occupancy cars must be enacted with motorway connections to affluent communities like Warkworth. Special purpose vehicles can fund Auckland Council for new urban developments. This could be facilitated by an automated toll booth at the Warkworth motorway roundabout, such that congestion charging can occur. Relatively large revenues would be extracted due to price inelastic habits of those with higher disposable income / wealth. Eventually, such costs will be forcing more onto public transport.

    Extending NX1/2 services from Hibiscus Coast Station to Warkworth will be a dream come true. Incidentally, the revenue generated can finance for new motorways and expressways that offer true multi-modal transport options – freight trucks, commercial vans and electric rapid bus transit.

  19. Wow, truck cabbages in a few more miles. More trucks travelling further. Topsoil isn’t just made. Tunnel vision dude. Expand in the other direction. That lands value is in what is can provide not just per Sq m profit. Up until that land was rexzoned it was used at max return. If that is your position. Then townhouses and apartments in ponsonby,parnell,remuera, devonport on a best return use of land is getting your vote.

  20. What I don’t see in the figures for any mass development at Warkworth is the cost of upgrading the power transmission lines. Currently there is just one line servicing the whole of Northland, and it doesn’t go anywhere near Warkworth, following the railway line north to Wellsford.

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