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‘Compact City’ concerns many Aucklanders

20 December 2011

‘Compact City’ concerns many Aucklanders

Rather than centre-left councillors getting all defensive and lashing out at the Productivity Commission and the Government’s genuine concerns about housing affordability, Auckland Council actually now needs to address those concerns.

For two months we’ve been hearing public submissions on the draft 30-year Auckland Plan and the impact of the proposed ‘compact city’ model. Among others, Brisbane-based independent planners Urbis told us land data showed that the supply of vacant industrial land in the Auckland region is projected to run out in just six years.

Not only does Auckland face a big shortage of industrial and commercial land but submitters have told us they don’t want apartments in their neighbourhoods and fear the impact of mass residential intensification on community facilities, schools, and open space already under pressure.

Communities are worried that their neighbourhood heritage and character are at risk given the draft plan proposes that 10 times more Aucklanders should live in high-rise apartments within the next 30 years. Young people say that apartments won’t give them the capital gain required to get ahead, and the Auckland Council’s own Pacific People’s Advisory Panel raised a cultural reluctance for many families to move into higher density housing.

Officials tell us on paper the majority of submissions support the concept of a compact city. However it has become abundantly clear in the past two months that no resident actually wants intensification in their own neighbourhood.

Rental costs and house prices are increasingly out of reach for many Aucklanders and that’s during a recession! Cutting supply and forcing three-quarters of Auckland’s huge projected growth to occur within its existing Metropolitan Urban Limit will only make Auckland less affordable. If we are not careful this could lead to a population exodus to other New Zealand regions.

When the mayor and councillors met with Government ministers in August, the front-benchers rightly asked for Auckland Council to provide assurances that its compact city aspiration wasn’t going to force up land and housing prices. The fact the council hasn’t been able to give the Government any solid assurances yet is worrying indeed.

The proposed 75:25 ratio of developing inside the existing urban boundary versus opening up new ‘greenfields’ is under increasing pressure and is unrealistic. It’s an academic aspiration and not market reality.

I think we will see the ratio even out somewhat in the final statutorily-required spatial plan. Many on the ground just don’t believe the council can make the 75:25 split work given the unrelenting growth pressures Auckland faces as the region tracks to two million people by 2031.



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