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Space and density: Auckland Unitary Plan

Written By: - Date published: 10:15 am, April 22nd, 2013 - 8 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, climate change, housing, infrastructure, national, public transport, sustainability - Tags:

The draft Auckland Unitary Plan is a massive (and impressive) collection of documents, and is hard for an Auckland lay person like me to get my head around.  One of the main elements of it, is that it focuses  perhaps incorrectly, on the presumed continuing growth of the Auckland region.

The AUP has opted for a compromise between intensification within existing urban boundaries and spread outwards into existing greenfields.  This is where there is a major conflict between the government, which wants to over-ride the AUP and enforce less density and more outward spread.  This completely ignores the unacceptable stress it will put on the Auckland infrastructure.  This is particularly the case given that Key, Nick Smith, Joyce et al have no intention of significantly improving the infrastructure. Such improvement requires a major development of public transport.

There is also tension between the government and some councillors who argue that the AUP is set to be implemented too quickly.  The government wants it to take 3 years, while the Auckland Council plans for it to begin this September. Some councillors like the “right leaning” Christine Fletcher are with the government on pressing for the AUP implementation to be delayed.

One of the main drivers of the urgency for implementation is the affordable housing crisis in Auckland.  The AUP on its own cannot fix this without support from the government. The government needs to put more focus on state and other forms of social housing.  However, I also can’t see why the Auckland Council couldn’t also implement some initiatives towards supporting more state housing, and community housing cooperatives.

Matt L on The Auckland Transport blog has a post untangling the complexities around the AUP on the issue of the quality of the “intensification” in the AUP.  It’s still pretty complex, but goes some way to helping the lay person understand the potential impacts of the AUP.  The post concludes,

Perhaps to summarise all this, it seems that the Unitary Plan is something of a “double edged sword” when it comes to intensification. It potentially allows a lot of growth and intensification, but it seems to set a really high bar in terms of requirements for a proposal to be consented while also requiring an unusually high proportion of developments to go through the consenting process. Generally I think this is an excellent approach: to say to developers that there’s a lot of potential here but to unlock that potential you’re going to need to build some great stuff.

Matt also refers to an article on Stuff that claims it’s mainly the older property owners and retirees in North Shore’s Milford area who are opposed to intensification   In contrast, some younger people are more for the intensification.  Generation Zeros, Dr Sudhvir Singh, campaigner on climate change and for  inter-generational justice, says:

I grew up watching our Torbay community unite over opposing sprawl into Long Bay and Okura,” he says.

“Opposing modest intensification in places like Milford and Glenfield will only drive this type of ugly, expensive, environmentally damaging sprawl as we need to accommodate one million additional Aucklanders over the next 30 years.”

“In general, younger people don’t want to be told to live on the urban fringe on a big section and want the choice of having a terraced house/apartment in a well located area that allows us to be close to work and our social life and removes the dependence on having a car.”

I’m for the intensification, glad it is proposed that there will be a high bar to intensification, and that, as indicated by Matt L, things like the Dwelling designs need to adress specifications for

  • Internal layout of dwellings
  • Outdoor living space
  • Communal outdoor living space

The Auckland Council website has lots of stuff on the draft AUP.  It includes guidance on making submissions.  It’s easier to focus on one locality of interest, than trying to make sense of the plan as a whole – at least initially. The Shape Auckland Blog is also useful.  On it I found this useful collection of videos.  It has links to videos of 3-D models that graphically show what the developments will possibly look like in areas across Auckland, over selected time periods in the future.  This is the video for Newmarket

It’s cool and helpful, but while it focuses on shape, it doesn’t help in visualising how social housing, including state housing, could fit in with the AUP.


8 comments on “Space and density: Auckland Unitary Plan”

  1. It is interesting Karol that out west there has been no significant concern with intensification. That is because this has been happening for years out here. The concept of intensification around the transport nodes has occurred for the past decade and you just have to go to the middle of New Lynn and Henderson to see what it looks like.

    The NIMBY attitude displayed in other parts of the city is predictable but unwarranted. And they do not understand.

    It will not be compulsory for there to be 6 or 8 story apartment blocks to spring up instantaneously. It will happen gradually and the areas earmarked for this sort of intensification are actually quite small.

    The RUB will actually try and restrict growth and will not make the significant increase in population easier.

    If we insist on maintaining current densities then Auckland could be twice as big in 30 years time. It will be a sprawling collection of sleeper suburbs and motorways eating into productive land and who knows what will happen when oil starts running out.

    Far better that we grow up in a controlled way than sprawl indiscriminately.

    • karol 1.1

      Yes, the sprawl is to be avoided. Many people I know already see the problem with commuting as the city has grown and sprawled.

      I have heard some concerns in New Lynn, but it is largely from the older home owning residents – similar to the situation in Milford as quoted in my post.

  2. freedom 2

    In any growing city, and let us be honest about it, Auckland is only a large city in geographical greed. Globally, it is still a very small city in terms of population. Regardless of these realities, or even in spite of them, Auckland does have numerous advantages when facing the challenges of development and sustainability.

    Food production and supply is a hugely overlooked and dangerously misrepresented consideration. It constantly gets put in the too hard basket and conventional processes and solutions are allowed to remain unchanged. I wonder if during the planning process there has been any thought at all put to the concept of vertical farming? The Chicago project, for example, faces as many detractors as supporters yet there is a practical reality to the concept that urban planners have largely admitted they will eventually have to accept. So surely it is sensible to adopt and even lead this field sooner rather than later.

    In many ways we already do. One example is Conservation House, the award winning environmental design of the DOC building in Wellington offers solutions we can easily retask to food production. In this project many of the challenging environmental and architectural conditions for successful urban vertical farming are resolved. I would wager creating a successful vertical farm would be as simple as replacing the desks with vege racks. Obviously it is a little more complex but the fundamentals are all there. Some jigsaws only appear complex because of the picture that they represent.

    Aside from a lack of will (and the cartoon horror of Auckland looking to Wellington for an answer) I can think of no reason why NZ can not once again be a leader. Auckland is perfectly situated to develop proof of process for vertical farming in long term urban planning. Food is an increasingly complex factor in the ever critical equation of this malfunctioning unsustainable ever-expanding society we call Planet Earth.

    or put another way

    The list of problems is voluminous, and so are the opportunities. Like rail and alternative energy the options are there and the arguments against them are repetitive and largely based in myth and hypocrisy. Auckland is a perfect candidate for developing a blueprint of how to transition from a glaring example of gross failure in long term planning and urban design to not being a glaring example of gross failure in long term planning and urban design. Do we want it to be is the only real question.


    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      I would wager creating a successful vertical farm would be as simple as replacing the desks with vege racks.

      Nope, have to build in a hell of a lot of extra strength to the building to support all the added mass. An individual can pick up a desk, there’s no way an individual would be able to pick up a desk sized unit that contained all of the necessary stuff to support plants as well as the plants.

      Then there’s the light catchment that needs to be allowed for and other stuff that I haven’t thought of.

      • freedom 2.1.1

        Draco, obviously buildings for vertical farming would be structured to purpose, but the environmental attributes of Conservation House were the points of interest, not so much the construction method of that particular building (which was re-tasked and is not a new building). Light catchment for example is one of the main success stories of Conservation House. You only have to walk into the public foyer to understand that.

    • freedom 2.2

      Doesn’t our PM have all sorts of close relationships with Singapore
      Surely he can get us the inside scoop on this tech?

  3. I think there is a bigger picture here. To my mind the draft plan, which replaces more than 8 existing plans, is outstanding for its simple focus on the 2 key issues Auckland faces in the future. First is population growth, and making sure that the growth is contained mostly in high quality medium density dwellings, well connected to public transport and not sprawling. The second, and related matter, is climate change, which means sorting out coastal development, but also making sure energy sources are localised, resilient and carbon neutral. The plan seems to implicitly accept that physical growth is over. The focus is on retaining and improving the quality of what we have.

    That is not something that the current government accepts at all. That is I think why there is such a wrestling match over the Resource Management Reform Bill 2012 which sets out procedural issues such as the time to produce the section 32 report, when the plan gets to have some weight, how it gets heard and who makes decisions on it initially and the appeals process. They seem like technical issues, but the stakes could not be higher.

  4. Binders full of viper- women 4

    Isn’t the plan 7,000 pages long? What a fustercluck! If it is that long it must be full of gibberish designed to turn anyone off except a planning trainspotter. Can recommend a book- ‘Suburbanation: The Rise of Sprawl and Decline of the American Dream’. All about how unsafe and antisocial sprawl is and how the most popular places for people to live & visit have olde worlde charm= pedestrian friendly, not designed for cars, shared green spaces, thriving small shops. ie not any devp in NZ in the last 20 years.

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