Spatial Plan To Be Re-Written?


How much urban sprawl is good for Auckland? It has major transport planning implications.

That debate is back on the table after the recently established Productivity Commission released its report on the NZ housing situation - and challenges the Auckland Plan which tries to halt the march towards rural land on the outskirts of Auckland.

In fact it demands the draft Auckland (Spatial) Plan be reconsidered.

The Auckland Plan calls for an ambitious 75 per cent of growth over the next 30 years to be contained within urban boundaries.

The commission argues that home ownership will continue to elude many Kiwis unless bold changes are made.

Commission Chair Murray Sherwin argues that the 2001-2007 housing boom was unprecedented with house prices almost doubling over that period and young people and those on lower incomes especially in Auckland are missing out on getting their first home.

The Commission believes that the doubling of property prices over the last decade could be alleviated by an increase in land supply, improvement in consenting processes, streamlining of regulation, and reform of conventional building practices. These changes would lessen the proportion of incomes committed to housing, bringing a much improved standard of living to residents.

How far should Auckland spread?

The Commission  is likely to be taken seriously by the Government. The Commission  which is also called Te Komihana Whai Hua o Aotearoa (the Commission that pursues abundance for New Zealand) - is an independent Crown Entity that began operating  in April.

It describes its work on productivity as being “largely at the ‘framework’ level – that is, helping the Government to improve the laws, regulations, institutions and policy choices that guide and incentivise how individuals, businesses and other organisations make their decisions.”

The Commission’s key recommendations include:.

  • Reconsideration of Auckland’s draft spatial plan. Auckland faces significant housing affordability challenges and the Commission found its current plan, with a target of accommodating 75% of new homes within existing urban boundaries, will be difficult to reconcile with affordable housing.
  • The urgent need for more land to be opened up for housing, especially in urban areas, because sections now average about 40% to 60% of the cost of a house
  • Improved processes for consenting, to speed up the service and lower costs.
  • Improving how local council development charges for infrastructure are calculated and applied,including making them reviewable. The Commission found the current model has too much regionalvariation and is not transparent.
  • The Commission considers that there is scope to improve productivity in the home construction sector and endorses the work of the Building and Construction Sector Productivity Partnership,established in 2010 as a joint industry-government initiative.

This issue has important implications for Auckland’s future public transport needs - as pointed out today by Stephen Selwood, CEO of NZ Council for infrastructure Development in the wake of the Commission’s report.

He says the report provides a timely warning that urban containment can have a negative influence on housing affordability in New Zealand’s faster growing cities.

“Past experience with urban intensification undertaken in isolation of public transport development in some areas of Auckland has also resulted in increased dependence on private motor vehicles and greater risk of urban congestion than traditional urban sprawl.”

Ranui is getting electric trains but some developing areas have limited PT

The Auckland Plan calls for an ambitious 75 per cent of growth over the next 30 years to be contained within urban boundaries. Urban intensification through smaller section sizes, developed with multilevel attached housing is intended to result in more affordable housing and enable greater density to support investment in public transport.

Stephen Selwood says that he believes past experience has produced completely opposite outcomes.

“Constraints on land availability leads to an increase in land values. This, combined with the higher construction costs of multi-level development, forces prices to rise - worsening housing affordability and reducing home ownership.

“In addition, failure to provide public transport that meets people’s mobility needs forces car dependence. Greater density means more cars per square kilometre of urban development, leading to increased congestion on adjacent road networks.

“An example of a Council attempting to achieve land use goals without satisfying the mobility needs of residents can be seen in Flat Bush in south east Auckland. Planned under the old governance regime, parts of Flat Bush represent relatively high density living without high density transport solutions, such as rapid transit, or proximity to employment and recreational opportunities.

“Property sizes tend to be in the order of 300m2, or less than half the size of more traditional stand-alone unit properties. Interestingly, unit floor space has remained relatively large often acomodating multiple families or shared living situations to spread cost. The need for mobility across Auckland for access to jobs has meant a doubling of private motor vehicles per square kilometre of development. The result is a much more intense living environment, and streets and sections crammed with cars.

“Compare that to a more traditional urban design. The cost difference, at around 25% per cent higher per square metre of floor space ($4,000/m2 in Flat Bush apartment living versus $3,000/m2 in Botany Downs and Flat Bush de-tached living).

“If Auckland Council is to gain greatest advantage from a more compact urban form, it is going to have to maximise the level of intensification in sought after urban areas which are well serviced by existing and proposed public transport investment. These areas include the CBD, Newmarket, New Lynn and Onehunga.

“Blanket intensification over the region will not only incentivise the delivery of lowest cost units by a market under pressure to meet land use objectives, but will likely result in a doubling of cars per hectare, increased congestion and a loss of liveability.”

Large blocks of land are being subdivided for housing or even motorway extensions

Will the Commission’s report, backed by business interests like Business NZ, force through a change?

The Council’s chief planner is reported today as pointing out the Spatial Plan is just a draft so “We are amenable to changes.”

Expect fireworks.




  1. Anthony says:

    I do believe that, for its population, Auckland is far too spread out. I believe that it would be great if we encouraged (or even force) people to live in smaller sections or blocks of flats close to the train station and/or major bus stop.

    I always liked the 3 or 4 storey high blocks of flats that you see in many European countries.

  2. cam says:

    Ideological, counter productive, depressing.

  3. Geoff says:

    Anthony, forcing people to live in cramped conditions at high cost? Why?

    I want a traditional kiwi quarter acre section, with lawns front and rear, trees and a garden. That’s the kiwi dream.

    If someone wants to pretend they live in New York or wherever, then there’s nothing to stop them buying an apartment in central Auckland. But it shouldn’t be forced on everyone else.

  4. Patrick R says:

    Geoff, listen to your own argument, if you want to spend your life mowing lawns, well that too is your business, no-one is proposing ripping up the existing large stock of single dwellings on big sites, and you can always buy one. The question is; how to make affordable housing from here, and your backward looking self interview is, frankly, irrelevant. Much like this stupid one-eyed twisting of the facts above.

    Forcing people into transport poverty and forcing all of us to fund the most costly expansion of the city is what your comment supports.

  5. Matt says:

    Perfect example of how ridiculous things are was a friend’s house-warming today in Beach Haven. House is about 100m2, on a section that’s about 800m2. That’s the owner’s figures. Crazy. Even if they halved the section, that’s a good-sized backyard for each dwelling and would easily cope with two families of three or four.

    Obviously it’s an historic construction, but there’s nothing to stop it continuing.

  6. Cam says:

    “But it shouldn’t be forced on everyone else” - You mean like you want to force your “kiw dream’ on everyone else?

    As for your hysteriacal rant about “cramped conditions” that’s the usual nonsense you get from the sprawl birgade. Nobody is talking about turing Auckland into Beijing, just being smarter about how we use land and how we build housing.

    “If someone wants to pretend they live in New York or wherever, then there’s nothing to stop them buying an apartment in central Auckland” -Equally if someone wants to pretend they live in a small rural town there is nothing to stop them moving to somewhere like Cambridge to have all the space and land they want.

  7. richard says:

    The existing size of Auckland is far too big for its population and could accommodate a population of over four million without being cramped.

    Whilst it might be cheaper to build a house in green fields the increase in cost for services is huge and requires not only new pipes, wires etc. in the subdividing area but upgrades in existing areas. These costs are not born by the subdivider or purchaser but existing ratepayers. Increasing the density is less costly and then there is the cost to the economy and environment of losing the rural land.

    WE are a country with our primary income from the land and here we are covering it in concrete. If we all had 1930′s quarter acre lots Auckland would stretch from Whangarei to Hamilton and how functional would that be.

    There is a group in society who are seldom mentioned. There are large areas within the Auckland urban area owned by what they call land bankers holding up development waiting for larger gain. There is a large area near me in Glenfield where this has occurred since the 1970′s and is just being developed now. This practice stuffs up planned and organised development and should be stopped. While this is going on the rural land in an urban zone is not producing and is encouraging unnecessary urban spread. If urban zoned land is not used for such after a period of say five years the owners should be charged huge penalty rates and of course the Government should introduce capital gains tax at the time of sale.

    The sort of problem caused by the above can be quite dramatic as far as transport is concerned. In the 1970′s a huge new subdivision was developed down my street and traffic was planned to exit by connecting two halves of a road split by a narrow stream. The northern side of the stream was never developed and the Councils, Waitemata, then Takapuna, then north Shore would not pipe the stream and upgrade the north half of the road waiting for the owners to develop and pay for the work. Numerous approaches to Council but the road is still not connected and traffic from the subdivision has to travel an extra two kilometres. and place unplanned extra traffic on the road i used to live in.

    These people are greedy, inconsiderate and must be stopped they are costing society heaps

  8. Geoff says:

    Cam, why do you think anything needs to be forced on anyone? Let Aucklanders, like all New Zealanders, have the choice of living in high density or low density. But you have to provide that choice.

    Yes Patrick, I don’t mind mowing lawns. The vast majority of people prefer to have such space. Heck, in most New Zealand towns and cities, high density living doesn’t even exist.

    Aucklanders shouldn’t be forced out of living the traditional New Zealand dream, or forced to relocate.

    Let the people decide how they want to live.

  9. penfold says:

    Geoff, if the true costs of sprawl are included in the cost of development (as mentioned by Richard) are borne by the developer and therefore the new homeowners you will find the properties on the outskirts of the city to be very expensive. Thus they do not help alleviate high price of property.
    I have left Auckland for Calgary, Canada because home ownership in a location that I would like to live. I earn six figures in my early 30s and yet it is unobtainable for the foreseeable future (20+ years). Until it is so hugely tax beneficial to own rental property, capital gains and even possibly death duty introduced Auckland’s property prices will never be reasonable. Unfortunately whatever happens people hate selling for a loss, so I see any correction in pricing to take in the order of 20 to 30 years to come about.

  10. Matt says:

    The productivity commission is espousing inefficient land use, locking in oil dependency just before a time of oil shortage. How is that going to lead to any productivity gains? The productivity commission doesn’t know what it is doing.

    2 car families 35km from their jobs, stuck on motorways for two hours a day, paying 20% of their wages on fuel, and the token bus service takes an hour 30 minutes.

    Hey productivity commission, the 1950s called (presumably using the 1950s - National Party hotline) and they want their dumb planning policies back.

    Backwards thinking from those unaware of any of the literature on the subject. How the hell is NZ going to compete with the rest of the world when we’re cut-off from any of that fancy book-learning? “Conservatives”, really regressives, costing us our opportunities, yet again.

  11. Bryce says:

    I happen to like my large section and it’s old (1920′s) house. We paid a premium to own this, but not a large premium, and I’m happy that we did. The only way it was affordable was to keep the old house and spend a lot of time and hard work fixing it up. There is lots of room for my son and his mates to run around. It is our 2nd house. I was taking to my parents the other day and they started out in a 2 bedroom unit in Mt Roskill in the late 60′s. It seems that everyone now wants a 4 bedroom Mcmansion as their first house and it is everyone elses fault that they cannot afford it.
    The big problem that I see with a lot of the ‘quality’ developments out there is that they are designed to maximise profit, not liveability. When I look and see what is overseas I cringe. Good sized, attached housing units that back onto parks and have lots of walkways that give quick access to local shops and PT. Bliss. Can anyone same a single development in NZ that meets that standard?

  12. JC says:

    There is no way that I will ever be told or accept by anyone how to live or what sort of house I should be allowed to live in. We pay our fair share of rates and cost to choose how we want to live. Auckland now has little cities inside our city, and we dont need to travel to the middle of the city to go shopping or have a drink some where. The fact that Auckland is spread out is great, and the fact that we don’t live on top of each other is the reason we love New Zealand. If people choose or want to live on top each other, then buy an appartment or move to Europe, but trying to convince us that we should live like the europeans will never work. But good luck with that.

  13. Mark says:

    glad to see people standing up for the kiwi lifestyle.

    Re “forcing” people - yes that what the current draft plan does - I’m in an old villa in Mt Eden, and we’re going to be rezoned - will start with next years new unitary plan.

    When people look at those “nice” european cities, they forget we have a different economy - and one we need to keep. We need manufacturing, and we have a large number of small firms that are the back bone of our city. People often forget the european city model, often has whole cities for fiance, and other cities for manufacturing. We have to fit it all into one city.

    “Sprawl” is only bad when you tarvel from a dormitory suburb into the cbd. 90% of us don’t. That is where the future growth will be - people staying in their “village” whether south Auckland or north. their schools/jobs just a few km from home. I saw the census figures on trips and 62% of home to work trips on the north shore were within the shore area.

  14. Matt L says:

    Geoff, JC and Mark - Can you please point me to the part of the Auckland Plan that says you will be forced out of the home you have and into an apartment.

    Can you also please explain how you think that developing new housing on the fringes is going to do anything at all to improve housing affordability in in places like Mt Eden.

  15. Geoff says:

    @JC, I too agree that spreading out isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you look at how it spreads the kiwi way, it’s actually a very attractive environment, with lots of green spaces and trees. Neighbourhoods are generally quiet places, and people live in communities, because they use the nearest shops and schools. Whether sprawl is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder, and most Aucklanders (and most New Zealanders) prefer more of the same. We value our space.

    @Matt, how is living on a quarter acre section “locking into oil dependency”? Most people have everything they need close to where they live, regardless of their section size.

  16. Mark says:

    Matt L - I’m within 400m of Dominion Rd - ie part of one of the intensification corridors. Planners have said that will lead to re-zoning of existing res 1 properties (unless we win the heritage arguement).

    So length of Dom rd - 400m either side will be rezoned - could be current res 8 4 storey apartment etc. So people will be forced out a number of ways. The most likely will be when some sites are redeveloped, and shading etc impact on remaining properties. So many will be forced out before they lose value/amenity.

    previous Auck City staff, have actually put forward the idea of a public works act approach to intensification. - so indeed being forced out could happen.

    And affordability would improve in Mt Eden if people had other choices, and didn’t compete for restrained land.

  17. James B says:

    If you were to read the spatial plan, you would actually see that pretty much little will change for families, large sections on the periphery would still be available. However the proportion of households with children is decreasing. This means that we need to focus more on childless couples, retirees, singles etc. Some of these groups are people more likely to live on smaller lot sizes and smaller houses closer to the centre of town for lifestyle reasons.

    The spatial plan proposes converting brown field locations in the inner suburbs to medium density apartments or terraced townhouses. That is all. In fact the spatial plan opens up large amounts of greenfield land for redevelopment in Orewa, Warkworth, West Harbour and Kumeu. In fact the percentage of apartments will only be 10% by 2041 under the plan, 30% semi detached or townhouse style and 60% of houses will be detached. Many as much as 90% of people will still live in places with at least a little outdoor area and most will still live in the houses that we are familiar with.


  18. Matt L says:

    Mark - Right so some previous staff have mentioned the idea about using the public works act to force people out for intensification. If this is to be one of the strategies to help achieve the goals of the Auckland Plan then it would be in the document but it isn’t so really your just clutching at straws with that one.

    As for affordability in suburbs like Mt Eden, fringe housing would do nothing to impact that and you and the productivity commission are dreaming if you think it will. Those suburbs are desirable because of their location and people who are looking to buy a house their aren’t suddenly going to go buy one 20km away just because we opened up some new land.

    There are also other aspects at play, all of the news coverage in the past about housing affordability tends to have late 20′s/early 30′s couples complaining that they can’t afford their first house but the reason almost inevitably tends to be that they are trying to buy in the most desirable suburbs. They could easily move out to the fringes where houses are cheaper but they simply don’t want to live out there. The commission talks about people being able to buy a cheap home and work their way up the property ladder but they simply aren’t doing it because they want to go straight to the top rung and buy their dream house as a first home.

    Put simply there is a change in culture happening about where people want to and are prepared to live but this report doesn’t do anything to investigate that aspect. There also still tons of undeveloped land on the fringes within the MUL that simply isn’t being developed.

  19. Matt says:

    @Geoff - locked into oil dependency because you have to drive everywhere because it’s too costly to provision with quality frequent public transport as the city spreads out to 2000 km2 then 3000 km2. And then your soulless little service town in the middle of the suburbs is like Albany or Botany and it is built around parking and driving your car. I thought that is why people read blogs like this - to make things better, rather than to just accept what it is like now, and think that is the best it’s ever going to be. Come on keep up.

  20. Geoff says:

    [Matt L]“Put simply there is a change in culture happening about where people want to and are prepared to live”

    That culture change may be in some people (and largely only in Auckland), but it isn’t the view of most Aucklanders, and certainly not your average New Zealander. But you miss the point - anyone who wants apartment or higher density living has that option right now. The argument is about whether or not to keep giving Aucklanders the right to choose between high density or the traditional New Zealand dream.

    [Matt]“locked into oil dependency because you have to drive everywhere”

    Most people have local shops and schools, so if they choose to drive instead of walk, then presumably they don’t have any objection to driving. If someone wants to only use PT, then there’s nothing stopping them from living on a bus or train route. Again, let the people decide how they want to live, and provide choice.

    You mention making things better. Living on a quarter acre section, with trees and a garden, in a quiet neighbourhood, is far more preferred by most people, over living in high density neighbourhoods in a city type environment. As I wrote earlier, what’s better is in the eye of the beholder. Most Aucklanders do not see sprawl as a bad thing.

  21. Matt says:

    Geoff, the popularity of apartment living, despite the shit quality of much of the stock, says volumes about what people want. Likewise townhouses.
    If we hadn’t had a long period of poor market regulation, culminating in the leaky buildings disaster, we’d probably be seeing even more demand. As things stand, however, much of the intensified housing is either unliveable or requires hugely expensive repairs to be brought up to scratch. It’s little wonder the market is not screaming loudly for intensified housing when it’s been given such a poor reputation.

    Were it not so implausible, one could almost conjure up a conspiracy theory involving the pro-sprawl crowd and the building industry to irretrievably tarnish the image of intensified housing by way of the leaky building horror.

  22. Geoff Houtman says:

    At the Auck Plan hearings we presented on other options for increasing density.

    “No-one wants to see rich, productive countryside gobbled up by a growing Auckland- but then again no-one wants their neighbourhood ruined by over-
    intensive development. Here are two options that may not have been explored;

    Paragraph 486 mentions the high density of Ponsonby and Freemans Bay. The majority of dwellings in both these suburbs are over a century old yet their desirability has never been higher.
    Is the answer to increasing density to provide small sections like the above neighbourhoods? 200-300m2 sections seem large enough for a house, lawn, gardens and trees while cutting down the spread of McMansions.

    The current apartment-focussed plan is more apartment-focussed than Auckland residents currently are.
    We all know the best way to make people do what you want is by making it “cool” then telling them they can’t have it, then letting them have it and they consider themselves lucky.
    Apartments could be made “cool” by building “cool” apartments. Something with character, something that says” Auckland”. Something that’s a few levels up from steel and glass boxes. ”

    Talking with folks, especially the young, everyone wants to live in a NY style loft apartment. Trouble is - no-one’s building them.

    The Auckland Plan is the same as everything else- you have to sell it the right way…

  23. JC says:

    In reply to Geoff Houtman,

    No one is building Loft appartments because they are cold and expensive to mantain. To heat a loft appartment is expensive as I am sure you have notice how expensive electicality is these day. to heat a loft apartment with gas energy is wrong because of the liquid content of gas.

    As a young home owner with a 1/4 a section and house, it is people in council like yourself that are trying to force people to give up this sort of dream that we deserve as we are New Zealanders and once again choose to live this way. Who is the council to say or even try to say how we should live, that is not your job or your right.!

    If you think it is such a good thing, why don’t you pack your things up and move to Asia or Europe and live there. Enjoy your small apartment or small section compacted with a high population
    Not so keen now……bet you arent.

    If you have all the answers Geoff and the council knows best, tell me why the council is charging $3,400 for a building consent to build an extra 3×3 meter ensuit bathroom onto our home. A $12,000 project with a consent cost of $3400, and even then it is a third party group doing or the work (Compas)
    Your own people can’t do the paper work and yet you clip the ticket never the less.

    The council set up is a disgrace and most of the people involved should not be there. You people pulled the wool over most of the Auckland local voters, but now the true colours have been shown. 18 more months and we get the chace to get rid of you… Mark my word. The council is so out of touch with the people of this city, and we the voters are opening our eyes.

    Good luck Geoff

  24. Geoff Houtman says:

    JC- You need to chill, real quick.

    I am surprised to discover that I work for the Council. Most surprised.

    “If you think it is such a good thing, why don’t you pack your things up and move to Asia or Europe and live there. Enjoy your small apartment or small section compacted with a high population
    Not so keen now……bet you arent.”

    No, if I thought the ideas above were a good thing I’d stay not leave.
    Of course I am keen on this idea, why else would I propose it?

    Good luck voting me out of Council…

  25. Matt L says:

    Geoff - There isn’t a lot of high quality, high density housing that has been developed because most of it was done as cheaply as possibly with little thought to how people want to live. There are some places out there that show it can be done right but they are few and far between. If there was an effort to improve these standards and lower costs then it could have a big impact on peoples perceptions of higher density housing.

    I personally believe that the government should give the council 3-5 years chance to prove that their suggestions can work. If it doesn’t then start looking at changes but I don’t think it is right to arbitrarily force the council to change their plans when they haven’t been given time to try and implement them. For the councils part I think they should get the Investments CCO to come up with a handful of designs that can be made cheaply but to a decent quality and get them to start buying and developing brownfield sites with a set level of commercial return. That could eventually provide a lot of new dwellings at a decent quality and eventually provide a good return to the council, they could even sell the plans to developers who agree provide a set amount of affordable housing.

    JC - I haven’t seen anyone who doesn’t think the councils consenting processes need improving.

  26. Geoff says:

    [Matt wrote "Geoff, the popularity of apartment living, despite the shit quality of much of the stock, says volumes about what people want. Likewise townhouses]

    There’s nothing stopping those people from living like that. So don’t stop the rest of us (the majority) from living as we want, which to own a proper section with space and a quieter neighbourhood.

    You don’t need to limit the MUL to give the people you refer to what they want. All you do is force the concept on more people as land for proper kiwi living becomes scarce, and more expensive.

  27. Luke says:

    please tell me where in Auckland that you can get a new quarter acre section?
    nowhere I would say is the answer, new homes are being built on 400-500m sections. Usually with no backyard to speak of, just a useless 2m strip around the house. Go look on Google at Flat Bush.
    Even in small town NZ like Feilding where I work sections are usually about 500m, half the size of the famed quarter acre.
    Also most quarter acres have now been subdivided, and it is the market not govt pushing this. These sections are much bigger than most people actually want.
    Most of Auckland at the moment consists of suburbia and no-one is proposing this is being demolished.

  28. Cam says:

    {“You don’t need to limit the MUL to give the people you refer to what they want. All you do is force the concept on more people as land for proper kiwi living becomes scarce, and more expensive.”}

    As long as you don’t expect my rates to subsidise all the new infrastruture these sprawling new developments require. Then again if i don’t your affordability argument kind of goes out the window eh?

  29. Matt says:

    Luke, a 400m2 section is enormous. The problem is not the size of the section, it’s the size of the (likely single-storey) house that’s put on top of it.
    Take one 400m2 section, build one 350m2 single-storey house on top of it, and then complain that there’s no backyard.

    People are building massive houses on equally-massive sections, then complaining that they have no garden space. Well, no d’uh you don’t have a garden. It’s occupied by a house. That’s not a function of sprawl, it’s a function of thicker-than-two-short-planks developers and purchasers. You don’t need a quarter-acre to have a garden, and if you want a quarter-acre you shouldn’t expect to get it near an established town centre at an entry-level price.

  30. bryce says:

    There are plenty of 1/4 acre sections around. Most, of course, already have a house on them but with some hard work you can either turn said house into something nice or bowl it and build a new one. It is the part time developers who are buying up most of these and cross leasing them therefore removing them from the market. In our suburb you can still buy a house on 1,000 or so sq/m of land for $400 - $500k. That’s pretty good value there if you want it, not too far from the CBD.
    A quick check on Trademe shows over 3,000 listings for sections. Not all will be large and there will be a few duplicate listings but still, not bad.

  31. bryce says:

    Good point about house sizes Matt. Aparently NZ is only 2nd to Australia for average house sizes now (this includes USA - go figure, bigger than the average US house!)

  32. JC says:

    To Geoff Houtman,

    Geoff, no need to chill , I am just expressing how I feel about your comments. If you are not with the council, then I take back those comments without a problem.

    I do not like the fact that certain people want to try and restrict or replan how us Aucklanders should live.
    The opportunity to have a 1/4 a section, it is our birth right to own this if we want. No one has the right to tell us Kiwi’s how and what we should own.

    The fact that my wife and I own a 1/4 a section with a weather board house with plenty of fruit trees lush green grass and plenty of heages, this must give our house plenty of carbon credits, surly that must be worth something - maybe a reduction in our rates. Now -That would be a winning plan.

  33. Bryce says:

    I don’t think anyone is saying that you shouldn’t have a 1/4 acre section. What they are railing against is the idea of opening up swathes of outer Auckland to developers when the current land is not being used efficiently. And before anyone gets started, no, the sections that Fletchers are talking about won’t be 1/4 acre either. They will be 400 - 600 sq/m with a 260 + sq/m house built on them. In Hobsonville I heard they are allowed to build a house on 300 sq/m section. Do you think people will buy them? Heck yes.

  34. Matt says:

    Hey JC “The opportunity to have a 1/4 a section, it is our birth right to own this if we want.”

    I’m not sure your sense of privilege matches the real world what with a $13.50 minimum wage and the fact there are over a million people in Auckland. Quarter acre blocks for all would mean miles and miles of poorly serviced, hugely inefficient suburbia. Market realities and simple economics means that those days are simply over. Any social contract where you get “a birth right” died with Rogernomics and is being further buried by the conservative government now. Market forces says soon if you clean a few toilets we may let you have enough to eat.

    And wait for petrol to hit $3 a litre in a couple years time. What ever crazy idea about fruit trees giving you “carbon credits” disappears as soon as you drive the however far it is to the local shops.

    And by the way I find your comments rude. Telling someone to piss off to another country because they have thought about things a little differently to you is juvenile and just a tad despicable. You do need to chillax.

  35. Nick R says:

    @JC “I do not like the fact that certain people want to try and restrict or replan how us Aucklanders should live.”

    Hang on a second, aren’t you the guy that just told someone to pack up and go live in Asia because he dared to want to live in a loft apartment?!

  36. Matt says:

    @Nick R - let’s get this straight - you’ve called JC a hypocrite. Yes it does appear to be the case. JC we think you may be a hypocrite.

  37. Ben says:

    Good Lord, talk about going round and round and round and round and ROUND in circles here.

    I am going to provide a link

    That is the link

    Now go through EVERY SINGLE ARTICLE in that link I have provided and read EVERY SINGLE ESSAY from external sources in there.

    They provide some very interesting academic counter balances to what is being commented on here.
    And before you comment on the owner of the site I have linked, read each essay he has linked carefully. Comment on the academic material, not the person please.

  38. Jon C says:

    Nice to see the friendly Christmas spirit out there at this time of year! LOL

  39. Geoff says:

    “Quarter acre blocks for all would mean miles and miles of poorly serviced, hugely inefficient suburbia”

    @Matt, who has called for quarter acre blocks for all? It isn’t one or the other, it’s about letting people choose how they want to live, and providing each option in the spatial plan. Auckland must expand in order to continue giving choice.

    “As long as you don’t expect my rates to subsidise all the new infrastruture these sprawling new developments require”

    @Cam, Whether people buy a large section in Auckland, or get forced out to somewhere like Helensville, the same infrastructure will need to be provided regardless. Besides, didn’t you support sprawl by wanting to pour rates into a train from Hamilton so that people could live miles away from where they work, instead of encouraging them to live and work in one place?

    @Jon C, Merry Christmas, and thank you for your huge effort at bringing us informative and interesting articles all year round. It’s much appreciated!

  40. Ben says:

    Quite Jon Quite

    Will the OTHER THREE OF YOU ( I wont name names yet) go read those essays I have linked via the Library Link above. Should keep ALL THREE OF YOU busy until at least February next year - and hopefully given you some enlightenment compared to this merry-go-round I am seeing which ADDS NOTHING to the debate nor cause that is Auckland’s Crap Housing and Business Affordability Problem…

  41. Geoff Houtman says:

    Ben- I clicked on 4 links at random, got two 404′s.

    Gonna be tricky to read every article…

    Who is this Owen guy anyway? Did he sell all his sections on the Kaipara?

  42. Matt says:

    So your argument Ben is that we have to all read some verbose, poorly editted, esoteric gobshite, ad infinitum to keep up with the argument, not that I know what anyone is arguing anymore.

    Well I’d rather read a Calvin and Hobbes strip thanks.

    Urban sprawl is good or something, was that it?

    Bah humbug. They’re you go Jon C, some Xmas spirit from me. I think you’ll find “Bah humbug” in the Dickens Xmas fable. Me I prefer Bad Santa, and anytime of the year that isn’t Xmas.

    Xmas is the only time of the year I have the time to ride the Overlander and the bugger ain’t running.
    Bah humbug.

    Xmas carols make me envy the deaf. And on the 25th I’m going tramping. Happy tramping to everyone.

  43. frankie_crisp says:

    Great discussion thread, if a little heated. As a town planner by profession (although I do not work for Auckland Council) I do get frustrated by those who ‘shoe horn’ overseas approaches into New Zealand with no appreciation of context (landscape, economy, legislative frameworks).

    High density living works in Europe, but the context, both in terms of demographics, land values, legal mechanisms is very different. We can’t just introduce such approaches here and expect them to work. We need to be much smarter than the current ‘Centres and Corridors’ approach. Equally I do not believe the idea of releasing more land will solve all our problems.

    People should of course have choice as to how and where they live, but this choice should not be to expense of the wider population. Suburban sprawl is a contributor to many problems we see in Auckland, in New Zealand and the world as a whole.

    1. Everyone drives everywhere. Even if you have the best public transport system in the world it is very difficult to service a viable catchment of users, when population is disperse so thinly (relative to higher density areas where one bus stop might serve 100s – 1000’s of people within a five minute walk). So private vehicles continue to be used heavily, the consequences of which are well known.

    2. Los of community. Sprawling residential areas, lack a centre or focal point around which communities can grow and develop. Compact neighborhoods can foster casual social interactions among neighbors, while sprawl creates barriers. Sprawl tends to replace public spaces with private spaces such as fenced-in backyards. This leads to crime, social problems, which as residents and tax payers we all have to deal with.

    3. The environment suffers. As vegetation is cleared and covered with impervious surfaces rainfall is less effectively managed. This threatens both the quality and quantity of water supplies. Just look at the quality of the water in Auckland Harbour.

    4. Much of the areas marked for development in the southern parts of the region have highly productive agricultural soils. This should be seen as a valuable economic assesst not a blank slate to be built on. As demand for food grows internationally, we would be foolish to lose such a resource.

    5. Unconstrained and un planned sprawl would be a disaster. If we sprawl then it can’t just be housing it must be infrastructure, employment land and transport. This is incredibly expensive. The provision and maintenance of infrastructure will be paid for partly by the ratepayers and partly by the developer who in turn passes this cost to the house buyer. One of the reason why housing in places like Flat Bush and Addison is so expensive. From this perspective it far cheaper to develop where the infrastructure already exists (although it may need up grading).

    6. How much land would we need to release to make houses more affordable to the average wage earner. An impossible question to answer. A developer is not going build on and then sell housing on all of their land all at once. Such an approach would flood the market, reduce house prices, but crucially reduce profits for the developer. So instead they will stage development, only releasing land once the previous stage has ‘sold out’, thus maintaining their profit levels. Councils like this approach because it is easier to manage infrastructure provision and the consent process, but it perpetuates the problem.

    The point I wanting to make is to base your arguments for or against sprawl on affordability alone is wrong. House pricing is effected by a great many factors, not just land availability. For example, why doesn’t the commission take a more serious look at the financial mechanism we use to buy houses. Why don’t we look at smart financial initiatives such as ‘rent to buy’ schemes or wider assistance in raising a deposit.

    So Auckland needs to weigh up all the cost and benefits of sprawl and assess all the other different methods out there at the city and national scale which can effect house prices. My feeling is that the link between housing costs and land availability is not strong enough for us as a city or country to jeopardise our economy, health or environment. The Auckland Plan needs to clearly articulate this argument – something the draft document has failed to do.

  44. joust says:

    both extremes are shaping the market in different ways. Thus changing the supply mix of available purchases.

    Sentiments like:

    “Aucklanders shouldn’t be forced out of living the traditional New Zealand dream”

    or equally

    “it would be great if we encouraged (or even force) people to live in smaller sections or blocks of flats close to the train station and/or major bus stop”

    Are both political statements used by politicians designed to attract votes. Its called urban planning, someone is going to have to pay more for the place they want. The commission is right that the housing boom has made housing in Auckland less affordable than ever.

    Holding the MUL doesn’t have to be contrary to combating that. We need urban solutions to urban problems of strained services. The costs of benefiting from those services should be borne by those that place the biggest burden on them. The way property development often works in NZ means that doesn’t always happen.

  45. Anthony says:


    Sigh…! There really are times that I hate the internet, I should be outside doing my vege garden, but here I am stuck on this freaking laptop. Facebook, AKT, Trademe, Nationstates, Gmail, Youtube, Zerochan, DeviantArt, Livewire Forum, Grabaseat, Hetalia, and Funimation are the sites that I check twice everyday.

    It doesn’t help when you have no friends and no drivers license because your so scared of driving.

    On the upside, I really do enjoy this site Jon, It opened my eyes seeing how great PT really is, I used to be all for motorways and roads!

  46. Giel says:

    I was waiting for some one to bring Owen McShane into this debate and his anti “Smart Growth” Mantra born out of being a Mel Webber disciple.

    It truely brought a smile to my face. Talk about Jurassic Park! Maybe they would like to buy a section there.

    Hold on - may be thats too harsh…after all people do like having a choice and that is what Mel was advocating - but sometime the choices we make have unintended or unexpected consequences. Anyway have enjoyed the debate.

  47. Cam says:

    @Ben, really? You are introducing articles by Owen Mcshane? I’ve read what he’s written before I’ll give you the hot tip the centre for independent studies is, i’m pretty sure, run out of his house in Kaiwaka. Just how much credibility to you think this guy has? This is the same guy who with his mate Bryan Leyland thinks that Global Warming is a leftist consipracy. Try reading something a little more balanced, this stuff will rot your brain.

  48. kel says:

    Here’s an idea to consider. How about the government building simple and cheap apartment blocks (of decent quality and looks) around train stations, local centres eg, Newmarket, Manukau, Albany, Takapuna etc and selling them on at a low profit ratio to people who are buying their first house. This benefits the government, first home buyers, the house market, and public transport.

  49. damage says:

    @ Kel

    because they will be getto’s, just look at council estates and the like in the UK and Europe.
    Plus, no developer would build low grade quality housing as the profit is in the higher quality stuff.
    Then if they do buy the apartment, they will just go an sell it on for a profit.

    Plus - would you like live next to a cheap apartment block?

  50. Matt says:

    damage, the estates end up as ghettos because the entire area is full of low-cost housing with, frequently, low-quality tenants. Best-practice is to have affordable housing mixed in with higher-quality housing so that the socio-economic classes are forced to mingle and there’s no concentration of any particular class.

    If the developer is the council, they’ll build whatever suits their needs. And any developer will build something if there’s a guaranteed market.

    As for selling on at a profit, you resolve that issue with covenants about how long it must be occupied by the owner before being sold, what the maximum increase in sale price over purchase price may be, etc etc.

    You haven’t presented a single “problem” which isn’t easily solved through design practice or contract.

  51. damage says:

    Matt - a nice idea but it does not work like that.

    You can not put a covenants on how long you can keep the property occupied by owner as peoples circumstances change and at that point why should they have to hold on to a property.
    Also, it is a free market, you cant dictate what a property should sell for in an open market.

    Plus you also have the issue of using rate payers money to subsidize low cost housing for those that need it, only for them to sell it on, or rent it out on the open market.

    Like i say, nice idea and would be great if it could work.

  52. Bryce says:

    Rather than looking at ‘intensification’ as mass 30sq/m apartments maybe this could be more of an option:
    Note that it includes ‘rent to buy’ options.

  53. Matt says:

    damage, you have no idea about what can be done with property covenants. Both of the things I suggested are entirely possible. It’s like covenants that forbid cutting down certain trees on a property, or require you to build a house of a certain size.

    Pretty much anything can be put into a property covenant, provided it’s not illegal or unconscionable, and none of the things I suggest are either.

  54. James B says:

    @Bryce. If you look at the plan some 30% of the intensification would take place in low-mid rise (<4 storey) buildings like the example you provided. Only 10% would be in high rise buildings. The plan is not trying to change us into Hong Kong, just continuing the general trend towards intensification that has occured over the last couple of decades.

  55. Ben says:

    The question is also infrastructure for Auckland’s Urban Development and how we are going to pay for it.

    Take a look at this link
    This could be a possibility in funding new or upgrading infrastructure in new or existing developments. What do you think of the Municipal Utility Districts as an idea?

  56. Bryce says:

    Hi James. Yes, of course :-) . I was just trying to get a point across to those who would lead us to believe that ‘intensification’ is just apartments.
    As for that particular development, even though I currently live on a ‘full site’ I would be happy to live in a community such as that I linked to. In fact, before we bought, I was looking at the, now defunct, proposed development out at Waimauku. It looked promising, if maybe in the wrong place.

  57. Patrick R says:

    Ben, really?, can you really be that naive? Have you ever heard the expression ‘talking your book’? This site has a very limited libeterian view, the data is from the Cato Institute, like that is objective. Do you really think Texas and Florida are either good role models for development, or even relevant to Auckland? You may need to work a little harder than just linking to a booster site of ‘wealth maximisers’ in Aus.

  58. damage says:


    Anything is possible, but your suggestions are not practical nor are they fair. And for that reason, your idea will not get any traction whats so ever because it will end up being a lose lose for all parties.

  59. Matt says:

    They’re entirely practical, and they’re only unfair to people who seek to speculate. If you wish to buy a property in which you and your family will reside, why would you be inconvenienced by a restriction on how long you must hold the property before you can sell it? There’s always force majeure if you legitimately need to sell.

    They’re also not my ideas in the sense of being barrow I push, they’re a response to you saying that this could never work because property developers and speculators would bugger it all up. I simply responded with a solution that is consistent with existing property law controls on what future owners do with a property.

  60. damage says:

    Sorry Matt, they are not practical - people should be free and able to sell their home whatever price the market will pay for them. There is also the issue of if people circumstance change. ie if they need a bigger house for new family members. In the situation you are describing, having a maximum sale price might restrict them from selling, simply because the next house they might buy has gone up in value along with the rest of the market.

  61. Ben says:

    @Patrick R: Well least I bothered and attempted giving an alternative view or links to other thoughts of thinking even if they are libertarian and maybe opposing your ideology instead of watching a great post from Jon end up going in circles..

    What do you believe in then Patrick and if Texas, the top Northern States of the USA and the Mid West are not so called good role models then who are. Who are those role models we should be following.

    Debate the material I linked not the person who linked it.

    Also I read today Aussie Migration had hit an all time high, must mean something is broken in New Zealand and has been since Muldoon.

    Over time here (and through my own blog) I will be expanding through my own interpretation on the material I read and link.

    I challenge you to do the same.

    As for Florida and Texas, hell you deride them, well this link shows they must be doing something right if they are attracting migrants (while California and NYC lose migrants) - migrants from within their own country who are looking at trying to better themselves or make something of themselves.

    Something our spatial plan must weigh up very carefully if Auckland wants to do its bit to hold on to our citizens and develop a wealthier and more prosperous city and nation

  62. Matt says:

    @Ben, a quick look in googlemaps will show you exactly why we shouldn’t be following Florida or Texas as examples of how to build anything.

  63. Ben says:

    @Matt, I hear you there and agree to a point on not letting Auckland run wild like Texas.

    I did propose something more moderate in my submission to The Draft Auckland Plan which was looking at a 60:40 split to intensification/greenfield development.

    But the question is how do we achieve this affordability and prosperity thing Auckland is trying to Achieve, Europe is Buggered and Australia might end up buggered if its housing bubble and mining economy take a hit.

    Although I am going to throw a bomb into the pigeons. I think the spatial plan should be put on hold. Why, we need an enquiry to the Ports of Auckland. Any decision on the port (status quo, close and relocate to Tauranga or Marsden Point) or rebuild in South East Auckland would have massive implications on the layout of Auckland.

  64. Matt says:

    The problem you’re having, damage, is that you’re applying ordinary market principles to social-market housing. One of these things is not like the other.

  65. Patrick R says:

    Just to take one of your questions Ben, I would look a little closer to home to start with. Melbourne has done a lot in the last couple of decades around planning regs that has led to a boom in largely very good medium density developments. Much of this has been around site coverage, setbacks and minimum parking. If we could simply start with removing the disincentives on AK’s books there is a vast amount of brown fields land much of it already well served by transit and other physical and social services that will become viable business opportunities for developers and affordable first homes for many.

    Of course they do also have the Housing Commission [ie public housing] But that does partner with private developers too which is an interesting model.

  66. Ben says:

    Patrick you just did not mention Melbourne which is about to “correct” itself with its over supply of commercial buildings and its residential bubble about burst. Please go and check these guys out as they have extensively published pieces on Melbourne.

    Josh Arbury which I know you also read Patrick also commented about our Urban Planning Regulations here It has some merit to it and worthwhile for Auckland Council to consider.

    But in the mean time (and Jon pay attention I know Xmas is nearly here ;) ) I say the Spatial Plan should be put on hold. Why? Read here: It is in my opinion a valid question

  67. dan carter says:

    we are New Zealanders and once again choose to live this way

    Wow you learn something new every day. I never knew it was written into the bill of rights, right next to the right to live without persecution because of the colour of our skin, we were also born with the right to a quarter acre section, even when living in a city of 2 million people.
    We should arrange for the government to divide up all the land and hand it out with each birth certificate. Will solve the problem of those pesky developers wanting to subdivide into smaller plots to make more profit. As we deserve it already, no need to pay for it either, that should help with the affordability issue.

    why don’t you pack your things up and move to Asia or Europe and live there.

    so anyone who thinks differently to you should be forced out of the country? For someone who complains about council coercion you seem to be doing a fair bit of it yourself.

  68. JC says:

    Really Dan,

    So you are happy to be told what sort of house and land package you are allowed to have. You dont want to pick or chose your own. I have been lucky enough to live and work in Asia, Europe and gladly live back here in Auckland because I have the option of saving money and purchasing a house and land package as chosen by my wife and I. If you can only afford to purchase a 400 sq meter land package then thats up to you. As working professions we can afford to purchase something a bit better.

    Happy to see people given the option of purchasing small sections , but dont force that way of thinking on those who dont want it.

  69. Ben says:

    Was waiting for this thread to come up.

    I have some compulsory reading via my blog for all of you Have a read especially the embedded paper at the bottom from the UK. A nice simple counter analysis of Britains Planning and Economic links and the resemblance it has both in Australia and here :-)

  70. dan carter says:

    @JC No one is forcing anyone, except people like yourself who say if you want to live in a city piss off out of the country.

    The spatial plan has greenfield land set aside for new suburbs equivalent to the total of adding together Manukau City, Papakura District and Franklin District.

    So it’s catering to both those who are happy to forgo a bit of a lawn in order to be in the heart of the city, and those that are happy to pay for a brand new quarter acre slice of pavlova paradise.

  71. dan carter says:

    @Ben, Do you really think SERC is without it’s own ideology?

  72. Ben says:

    The only thing ideological dan is you bringing up the word ideological. SERC will have a bias just as I have a bias, Jon C has a bias, Josh Arbury has a bias and academics at universities have a bias. The point I am raising and linking here with SERC is that the article from them provided a counter balance view point to the debate of Brownfield and Greenfield developments, planning and its links to economic performance and progress. Yes the two SERC authors will have a bias but as academics they are trying to be objective in critical analysis, research and debate which is a university’s job. And before someone mentions it, their SERC paper will be peer reviewed as academic papers are to maintain balance and high standards expected from the academic world.

    I linked my blog commentary and the original SERC article to provide a counter argument. To think I do not know of bias is treating me like an idiot…
    Discuss the argument at hand not the person or authors…

  73. JC says:

    Dan , Pavlova Paradise is a good word for it, and most of us love pavlova. I am not sure I told people to piss off out of the country if you want to live in the city, I believe I told some one to go live in Asia or Europe if he believed apartment living was the way of the future for those who want to live in the city.The point being that us Kiwis do not like living without grass or out door living, and we do not do hotel living very well.

    I think the arguement was all around affordabity of houses and sections. And why people cannot afford to own their own house and land package. I am 38 years old and my wife is 33. Our 1500 sq metre section along with our house in an area of south auckland we purchased 9 years ago cost less than a 450 sq metre house and land package in some where like Botney Downs, Manukau heights etc etc.Sure we own a Villa not a modern home, but look at the options, a 1500 sq m section with a older home 160K less than a 450 sq m section with a 4 yr old home. Which would your choose ?? Sure we have made a fair bit of improvements to the Villa over the 9 years we have been here but it has only made the land and house worth more if we were to resell.

    Dan there is a lot of focus on what the people can afford, Why cant people afford their own home?, and why do people think that a smaller houses and land packages would offer better opportunites to own a home??
    In my opinion I do not believe affordabity is the issue, we all earn fairly good money, people earn more today than 15 years ago, our neighbours who are about the same age, also own their own homes.We live in a very strong Blue Collar working area, in a mixed nation suburb. (Mangere Bridge)

    My own personal view is that some people have lost the art of saving money, they purchase everything on credit and have no savings. If this is the way of the future then they will never own a home. The fact that some people cannot save to purchase a house is not our fault.
    Housing people in 450/400 or even 350 sq meter house and land packages is not a way forward for Auckland home buyers. The building of houses today has never been cheaper, It is the red tape and the middle men that is controlling the market cost.

    Get rid or control that sector and we will have homes that we can all afford.


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