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The Battle of Auckland

Written By: - Date published: 9:47 pm, May 29th, 2013 - 8 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, Gerry Brownlee, infrastructure, labour, phil twyford, politicans, public transport, same old national, Steven Joyce - Tags:

“The Auckland that never was” in my view is the most interesting chapter in Chris Trotter’s “NO LEFT TURN”. It details the Ministry of Works’ post-war plan  outlined in a document The Shape of Things to Come

…in which the government promised to electrify Auckland’s railways and extend the eastern semi-circle into a complete circle accessing western suburbs like Grey Lynn and Mount Roskill, in addition to Orakei and Panmure. The rising industrial area of Penrose and the Auckland CBD would both be served by the circle. The existing southern and Western lines would cross the circle, and a harbour bridge would extend the railway service to the North Shore. The plan said that special legislation had been enacted so that land could be acquired ‘without dander of paying an inflated price’ for great new settlements being built by the State, chiefly around Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.

As Trotter says, counterfactual history is a bitter-sweet exercise. We’ll never know if the if the planner’s dream of the Auckland that might have been might have contributed to a better city now. However,

…just as the frazzled Aucklanders who every day clog the arteries of their dysfunctional city will never know how much less stressful their lives could have been if the first Labour government’s comprehensive plan for a more geographically compact and intensively settled Auckland, bound together by a cheap and efficient public transport network, have not bee deliberately scrapped by the National Party. What we know for certain, however, is that the Holland government’s rejection of Labour’s plan – a decision taken in the interests of expanding its own power base, and hugely enriching its financial backers – made the anarchic, automobile-inspired, socially dislocated sprawl of present-day Auckland inevitable.

Now we see history repeating itself. In what Labour accurately describes as a “War on Auckland” Key, Joyce and Brownlie are following in the footsteps of the much unloved Sid Holland.

As Phil Twyford spelt out in a speech to Auckland’s regional conference, Labour by contrast has an integrated plan that brings together affordable housing and integrated  transport. Twyford says:

You need hands-on government to do good urban development. The revitalisation of New Lynn took a Labour Government to invest in transport infrastructure, and a progressive Council to initiate the land development and urban design to create a new city centre. National’s mix of free market economics and crony capitalism will never deliver the affordable housing and the modern public transport system Aucklanders want.

On the other hand…

We will build 100,000 affordable starter homes.We will set minimum standards for warm dry homes.
We will modernise and rebuild Housing NZ.
We will build the City Rail Link, as the next step in giving Auckland a world class transport system.
We will drive urban renewal projects to revitalise depressed parts of our city, and build modern liveable communities.

Like the First Labour Government the Sixth Labour Government will use the power of the state to build this nation and improve the lives of our people.

Amen to that.



8 comments on “The Battle of Auckland”

  1. AmaKiwi 1

    The destruction of local government was essential to creating an autocratic parliamentary dictatorship.

    It does not have to be so. With veto referendums we veto acts of parliament we don’t like.

    With local government bodies (states, provinces) having constitutionally defined powers, Wellington cannot dictate to them on matters such as city planning.

  2. Ennui 2

    Battle one was predicated around the concept of “development” made possible by urban sprawl and private motoring VERSUS high density and public transport. The developers and cars won.

    Battle two is a result, too many cars and more sprawl versus the public option….except this time the end result is going to be what Kunstler describes as the greatest miss allocation of resources ever……more car dependent suburbia.

    It is very unsurprising that at the very juncture in history when this folly is plain to see the deliberate blindness and self interest is likely to win out. Sadly Labour espouse no future vision here either, which in essence is the real political problem.

  3. Ad 3

    +1 Mike.

    Auckland, with 40% of everything except the land inside two electoral terms (including MPs), will either make or break New Zealand, including the idea of national policy itself. A Labour government that can wrest power from National and deal with Auckland has a chance of saving New Zealand.

    The current course to dealing with Auckland will break us.

    • Ennui 3.1

      Ad, I suspect that your concept of Auckland being the dominant factor (the major sucker city : a well known geographic phenomenon) will come true to the detriment of both Auckland s residents and to the rest of the country. In the medium term (15 years plus) we are likely to be faced with a migration from Auckland to the provinces where the labour will be required to replace “petrol power”. Which begs the question: why invest in Auckland now, would we not be better encouraging regional development?

    • Tom Gould 3.2

      Never mind, the new Labour-led government next year can now sign up enduring contracts to build the multi-modal transport solution the city needs, with massive penalty causes to stop any future Tory government canning it. Thanks, John, great idea.

  4. karol 4

    Yes. The roadings and everyone-have-a-home -on-a-quarter-acre-urban-section lobbies have already created more problems than they’ve solved, in Auckland and beyond.

    And of course, many of the better-off home owners, who’ve contributed to the ever-increasing housing bubble are squealing. They don’t want to face the fact that sooner or later the bottom will drop out of the housing bubble and the worth of their properties will deflate. They’D rather transform their areas into no-change gated communities than face future realities.

    Good luck to them. If they resist change at the expense of the whole community many of us will leave the city, which will become an anachronistic ghetto.

  5. Sosoo 5

    I think this post somewhat skates past the point. It’s not just hands on government or better urban planning, but a return to the basic principles of modernist urban planning. A great deal of effort has been expended by the right into discrediting the idea that knowledge can be used to improve urban life, and on undermining attempts to make it work by underfunding.

    No-one is saying that Auckland ought to be rebuilt as a clone of Brasilia (which has its own problems) or Pruitt Igoe, but thinking big is definitely necessary.

  6. muzza 6

    How many decades have TPTB been failing AKL, and what chance of there being a turn around, anytime soon? The same people still control AKL, the same interests, and the same outcomes will continue!

    Single city or not, AKL will continue its slide , while remaining, *the city that was never finished*

    One could argue, it was never properly started.

    The interesting question, is who wanted it that way, and why!

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