This morning, Politik reported on their email feed (I can’t see it on their site) that :-
GREEN LIGHT FOR HOUSING IN AUCKLAND
A series of court challenges to the Auckland Council’s Independent Hearings’ Panel Review of the Auckland Unitary Plan were denied yesterday by High Court Judge Christian Whata. The decision opens up more of the city for intensive housing development. That will include inner city so-called “character” suburbs where older villas may be removed from new more intensive housing.
Now that is encouraging. Other reporting from Simon Collins at the NZ Herald reports on the decision and the response from those disappointed. As the judgement makes quite clear, the protagonists who did the challenges had the information and the hearing that they were seeking already (apart from two minor glitches). There is no reason to hold up the intensification of the inner city suburbs.
As one of the rarity of a native Aucklander 1 still living in Auckland I think that this is a eminently sensible decision at several levels.
Firstly while the idea of expanding the boundaries of Auckland to accommodate new suburbs clearly have been this government’s first and still frequently its only response, it is simply not feasible because of the massive infrastructure costs. New suburbs mean that new roads, sewerage, water, power, communications and public transport systems have to be paid for before residents move in.
Just as clearly, the government who are responsible for the massive net migration that has been flooding the city in recent years, were not willing to pay for it. Nor are existing ratepayers either directly or by incurring upfront debt to do so. The Auckland City Council is already sitting close to their boundaries to borrow.
In most cases, intensification of inner suburbs is a whole lot better solution. Most of the infrastructure is already there 3 and it is usually easier to enhance than to put in kilometres of connecting pipes and pumps. Putting money into public transport is easier when the areas are local and already have users.
Secondly even as a long time 2 preservationist of Auckland’s heritage – I have to say WTF? Preserving vast swathes and whole suburbs, which appears to be the intention of groups like the Character Coalition, simply makes no sense. The point of having a city is far more prosaic than trying to live in some kind of museum. The most sensible place to do that is where people would like to live. And if the price of land wasn’t so high in central Auckland, then that is where many would want to live.
If we as a city wish to retain representative samples of our past, then we should concentrate on how to preserve those rather than trying to deny the changes to our ever changing city as internal and external migration increases its population by something like 50 thousand people per year.
Thirdly, increasingly what they want to live in is apartments and townhouses. Sure if you are raising kids then a lawn is great way to get the little horrors 4 from squealing in the house. However for the increasing numbers of the childless, either by choice or by divorce or empty nest syndrome, lawns and houses are simply a pain. We’re working a lot, and don’t have time to maintain them. That is especially the case with old villas.
Besides you can put a hell of lot of low-rise apartments on quite small bits of land. And if we could move the people who would like to rent or owned smaller accommodation with fewer bedrooms, and stop them from blocking up 3 and 4 bedroom housing, then we have a massive over-supply of that type of housing stock for the horrors.
The 51 square metre inner city apartment with its 3m stud that I have had for nearly two decades now has 60 one bedroom dwellings in a three story building. It is in the ground area that used to be a demolition building parts lot. Even though it is in the near central city, the rates are minimal because it doesn’t have a lot of land area per apartment.
When I was on my own, I used to rattle around in it. When my partner moved in, it got and has remained slightly cramped. We’d move to get a bit more room, but there really isn’t anywhere to move to because there is a shortage of good apartments in Auckland. Most appear to have been built for the vertically challenged who like living paying for lists or living next to rail lines or motorways.
We need to build more that aren’t in old light industrial areas.