Welcome to the second half of the year! And another roundup of stories that caught our eye over the week. As always, feel free to add anything we’ve missed, in the comments.

The fortnight on Greater Auckland

Last week was a short week, but nonetheless action-packed:

And after the long weekend we were straight back into it:

A small bit of housekeeping, but you may have noticed that we’ve adjusted a couple of settings so that people need to get their first comment approved, to help support a kinder and more positive comments area. We remind people to check our the user guidelines. The short version is simply be positive and respectful, and that if you don’t like what we’re doing here you’re free to go do something else!

✨ A huge thank you to our mighty supporters! ✨

Since our heartfelt appeal for your help to make Greater Auckland more sustainable, we’ve been blown away by the generosity of our readers. You really get it: you are part of a great and important conversation, and now more than ever we want to keep it going.

Our plan is to focus on ensuring a steady stream of well-researched stories, quality submissions, and great presentations over the coming months, to bring the right information to the right people at the right time. The support we’ve received so far will enable us to do this for the next couple of months – which gives us some real breathing room and more capacity to plan ahead.

If you’d like to join our supporters and help us get through to Christmas, you can donate here. And stay tuned, we have some more ambitious fundraising goals to allow us to do bigger stuff. Watch this space!

Reminder – speak up for safe speeds

Yesterday, Auckland Council voted near-unanimously to oppose Simeon Brown’s draft speed-setting rule. which would return blanket unsafe speeds in cities and neighbourhoods, among other things.

The rule is open for public feedback until Thursday 11 July. If you’re keen to make a submission, this post offers context and data.

And here’s a pictorial roundup of some of the nationwide evidence for safer speeds, via Brian Dixon on Twitter.  Each of these local reductions in injuries and DSIs represents:

  • more people making it home safely, whether travelling locally or long distance
  • more welcoming streets that are easier to cross, and safer for everyone who travels
  • a whole lot of saved time, money, and resources, including
  • more breathing room for our fragile health system and busy emergency responders
  • and less time spent by people and goods sitting in traffic while waiting for the road to be cleared of avoidable unhappiness.

Breaking news on housing policy

Our housing experts will be covering this in-depth on Monday, but: yesterday the Minister of Housing Chris Bishop announced a plan to “flood the market” with more housing, including and especially along transport corridors. As reported by The Post, the intention is to:

set house-zoning targets for councils, scrap rural-urban limits, encourage mixed-use zoning, and get rid of minimum floor sizes and balcony requirements for apartments [and also] much more tightly define high density transport corridors.

On the one hand, more homes are good, especially when they’re close to existing amenities and maximise the transport networks we already have. We also love to see more retail on the ground floor of new apartment blocks. On the other hand, questions hover over the quality of the housing that’s promised, and the spectre of unsustainable and increasingly costly urban sprawl.

Also – and this is a question for the Minister to take directly to his Cabinet colleagues – if this is the scale of ambition for housing, why is transport policy and planning so out of whack? More people in more homes in cities are going to need more walkable and bikeable streets, more frequent and reliable public transport, and more safe speeds and safe crossings around shops, transport hubs, and schools. It’s not rocket science, guys.

Related: Auckland has more homes!

In a shock twist, rule changes to enable more housing in Auckland have – you’re not gonna believe this – enabled more housing in Auckland. As the council’s chief economist Gary Blick says:

“The census results show how the council’s changes to land use rules, to allow for more housing per site, have sparked a surge in new housing, with 64,800 new homes built between 2018 and 2023. That’s a remarkable 11.9 per cent increase in new homes compared to a 5.4 per cent increase in population, meaning we have more new homes relative to our population than before,” says Blick.

The story comes with compelling graphs, if you prefer your “Boo-yah!” in pictorial form.

Good energy

If you search for news about “New Zealand’s largest solar farm”, you’ll find a lot of recent stories from Canterbury, Kaitaia, Te Aroha, and Twizel, which suggests there’s a major step-change under way.

The latest candidate for the hotly contested title of New Zealand’s largest solar farm will transform what’s currently a 1022ha dairy farm near Taupō into a solar array, plus some sheep to keep the grass down, and a wetlands restoration. Sounds like a triple win for the environment?

Meanwhile, closer to home in Glenbrook, Contact Energy is teaming up with Tesla to construct a 100-megawatt battery, at a reported cost of up to $163m. It’s expected to be up and running in early 2026:

The company said the battery would enhance Contact’s renewable-energy flexibility and provide enough electricity to meet peak winter demand for 44,000 homes for more than two hours.

Going by the reported cost, for the equivalent of one Lake Onslow, you could build almost 100 of these –enough to cover the whole country!

Perhaps the government could start by putting a few in the places that are most vulnerable to outages caused by extreme weather and/or natural disasters, e.g. Northland, Gisborne, Coromandel Peninsula, Hawkes Bay, the West Cost, the top of the South Island, Canterbury, the deep South… like we said, the whole country.

Cities aren’t loud; cars are loud

A big read from the BBC on the growing body of evidence about the insidious harmful impacts of traffic on children – this time, not crashes, not pollution, but noise:

Environmental noise, particularly road traffic noise but also aircraft noise, is among the most damaging environmental factors to health, after air pollution. Such noise has been found to increase chronic stress and cause disturbed sleep and higher blood pressure. Noise and noise annoyance have been associated with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and noise exposure has also been associated with a greater diabetes risk. Loud noise from sources such as music through headphones, motorcycles and even leafblowers, can over time lead to hearing loss and tinnitus.

Defined as unwanted or disturbing sounds, noise pollution from increasing traffic and crowded schools, can also have a detrimental impact on babies’ and children’s health and development. This is particularly true for children from low socio-economic backgrounds, who are exposed to higher levels of environmental noise.

A healthy resource

Streets for Health is a handy new local website run by Dr Kirsty Wild, hosting information on the links between streets and health. If you’re looking for proof points and persuasive case studies on the benefits of walkable, bikeable streets, this is well worth bookmarking.

Our streets play a critical role in our health: they help us move in order to meet our basic needs for food, income, education, health care, and social connection.  They are the place where many of us exercise; and they are also our local ecologies: the air we breathe, and the trees, plants and birds that we get to interact with every day.

Idle thoughts

Is “Workspace Drive” the most depressing street name in Auckland? Got any other candidates?

A screenshot of Google maps showing Workspace Drive in Auckland.

Photo of the week

A speed sign being battered by heavy seas at Te Awanga Beach in Hawke’s Bay, in last week’s heavy rain event. (Photo by Paul Taylor, NZ Herald). The current government’s policy in a nutshell?

Travel corner

Bicycles can do amazing things, like take you around the world. Sustainable transport advocate and sometime Greater Auckland contributor Tim Adriaansen is currently riding the Pan-American highway, from Alaska to the bottom of South America. You can follow his epic adventures on YouTube. Episode one may contain bears!

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  1. The 100 MW battery is good (and there is a second one in the works) but batteries are for very short-term storage. They can smooth the peaks and shift solar power a few hours later. The Glenbrook battery will store about 200 MWh, Lake Onslow 5000000 MWh, 25000 times as much. The dry year problem is still unsolved. At the moment it looks like the government is leaning towards “demand response” (ie power companies industrial users to shut down, potentially for months at a time) and gas peakers.

    1. Exactly, a battery and Onslow are for two very different purposes.

      Yes for network resilience put batteries all over the country, but Onslow is for generation resilience.

    2. One energy storage system that is slowly sneaking its way into our realm is… the EV fleet. When our EV fleet exceeds 1.5 million, the combined storage capacity will be in the order of 100,000MWh. Every car plugged into the grid becomes a means of storage (depending on how much storage you’re willing to lend to the grid at any given time). Lots of embedded infrastructure is needed to enable it, but it’s coming. Weird that part of the solution to decarbonising the grid will be the EV’s themselves…

      1. 100,000 MWh is a generous estimate for 1.5 million cars (it assumes 67kWh per car available for the grid.. and therefore not for driving) and more to the point it is still 50x short of the 5,000,000 MWh needed to get through a dry year.

    3. Lake Onslow is a white elephant – you just use grid scale Vanadium Redux Flow Batteries wherever you need them, for orders of magnitude cheaper.

      In the time it would be taken to be built, Onslow would be well and truly superseded by other technology.

    4. +1! Onslow was going to be orders of magnitude bigger than any actual batteries could provide.
      That we seem to be incapable of building infrastructure in NZ for anywhere near what it should cost is the bigger problem, that and working out where the money is actually going!
      There is ZERO reason why Onslow should have costed more than $5B let alone $10-20B!
      As far as hydro dams go it’s about as simple as they come with the only complication being the longer penstocks and reverse turbines/pumps (which are both only a small component of cost).

    5. Exactly. Onslow’s storage is 8 TWh v 200MWh for the battery. To replicate Onslow’s potential storage capacity, 40,000 tesla farms of equivalent size would need to be built. And based on the costs, Onslow works out significantly cheaper, even if the cost doubles as to build that much storage with batteries alone would cost 6.52 trillion dollars… makes $15.7bn look more like a bargin

  2. As I post this I can see the country is using a 1000 megawatt of fossil fuel generation and it has being like this for weeks and weeks despite the extra 200 mw of new geothermal generation which has recently come on line. So in my lay opinion we are going to need a bit more than gas peaker plants. Genisis is investigating wood pellets to replace coal at Huntly. I would suggest the country should get behind this along with a rapid rollout of wind and solar.

    1. I didn’t really phrase that right this will be a better analysis of the situation. At the moment and as I say for weeks and weeks fossil fuel gas and coal has being providing base load with hydro providing peak capacity. So the need is for base load so geothermal and bio fuel.

      1. Tauhara II geothermal is due to start in September, this will solve the short-term coal issue. Another one, Te Huka III, is also under construction. So yes, this is happening already.

    2. Rakine units can run on basically anything that burns.

      Testing that it will run on wood pellets is one thing (it will not a problem). The big problem is getting enough of them to run for any real length of time. While we have great tracts of fast growing pine plantations, the wood pellets are made from waste in the milling process and we export so many raw logs that there isn’t enough waste.

      Also this isn’t a long term solution, the Rakine units are 40 years old, reliability and parts will become a problem soon.

      1. I wonder how feasible it would be to use forestry slash for this. Judging from the pictures of Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, there is heaps of it and getting rid of it would also help relieve some stress during flooding events. However, it might be one of those “obvious solutions” that cost heaps and could provide only a small percentage of what is actually needed.

        1. Unfortunately, how much energy would need to used for the gathering and transport of the slash in the first place. While its a readily available fuel, the ability to easily consolidate and transport it is not as simple. Either need more plants or more energy efficient transport which the Government seems not very keen on.

      2. We used to have a woodpellet fire until moved house. It was very good but one frustration was hearing that the pellet price was rising as we exported most pellets to Europe ( not sure if we still do)

        1. It’s probably true Drax power plant in the UK is sucking up trees all over the world and calling it green energy.

    1. In contrast, Minister Brown is making all the right noises here and seems to “get” the issue (future population growth) and the necessary solution (true rapid transport).

      It would be nice that once spades are in the ground on this, the mode down SH20 to Onehunga-Penrose be discussed and planned for.

  3. The most depressing thing about Workspace Drive is that the few painted cycle lanes that exist in the area are full of illegally parked cars. I contacted Auckland Transport about this on several occasions, but nothing was ever done about it.

  4. I find it funny how people think Auckland is noisy and dangerous. As you say, it is only the cars that make it that way. Build apartments, ban private motor vehicles, important a few million more people….and our city will be actually be greater, and actually be a city, rather than some collection of small towns. Visit Sao Paulo, Mexico DF, Seoul to see what real cities have to deal with…here is positively rural in comparison. Not that that that is necessarily a bad thing. But apartments, apartments and apartments. Houses are stupid. No wonder we have so many people living in poverty, cold. Apartments, well built, would save us all, from this bitterest of winter nights.
    Excuse my sensitivity to the cold but I am useless under twenty degrees and will not be venturing into this good night.

    bah humbug

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