Auckland's plan offers the Beehive no quick fixes
By Richard Harman (author)
Auckland’s Unitary Plan will not solve the Government’s Auckland housing problems before the next election
For a start, the plan has yet to be approved by the Council and will not come into effect at the earliest until after a new Council is elected in October.
The Government has been emphatic about the need to increase housing supply in Auckland.
The plan answers that by opening up 13,000 ha of land currently outside the city boundaries for house construction.
The biggest slices stretch from Orewa to Kumeu and Henderson, from Maraetai to Takanini and from Papakura to Pukekohe.
But the plan does not go as far as Labour's Phil Twyford proposed which was to remove the rural urban boundary altogether.
It stays but it has been shifted out.
However in a briefing on the plan Council officers said that could be changed by the Council itself or it could be appealed by private individuals.
But these new housing areas, which include a large number of single dwellings, are really only part of the story.
The real answer to what the planners have estimated is currently a 40,000 dwelling shortfall before they even provide for population growth of one million people by around the middle of the century is intensification within the existing urban boundaries.
Terrace housing and apartments will spread across the city.
The pain forecasts where houses will be built by price band.
It sees a concentration of dwellings selling for under $800,000 in New Lynn, Green Bay, Kelston, Rosebank, Avondale, New Windsor, Blockhouse Bay and the Upper Harbour area.
Higher priced (between $1.5 and $1 million) but still intensive housing would be concentrated in areas like Parnell, Newmarket, One Tree Hill, Royal Oak, Onehunga, Penrose, Mt Wellington and Panmure.
Overall the plan proposes that Auckland will need 413,468 dwellings over the next 30 years; 173,025 of those would be outside the current urban limits but inside the new prop[osed limits while 240,443 (or nearly 60%) would be inside the current limits.
Thus the shape of the “new” Auckland is clear; an entity sprawling from Warkworth to Pukekohe with large apartment precincts not in the inner city but along transport nodes and in what used to be the city’s suburbs.
Perhaps the most perceptive view of the plan came from the Auckland Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association, who have been vocal participants in the debate about housing in the city and yesterday raised some key questions.
In particular, the EMA noted that there was a mismatch between the proposed intensified residential areas and where the business zones were.
“Primarily, new commercial land is zoned for general business use and most of this in the north and central areas, with a modest increase in Rodney,” said Kim Campbell the CEO of the EMA.
“The highest areas of residential intensification are outlined for west and south Auckland, and there appears to be a disconnect between population growth and commercial development.
“Its vital infrastructure leads development for commercial and residential needs.
“It’s also vital there is alignment between the areas allocated for these respective areas.
“One of EMA’s most significant concerns is around having transport links in place to enable residents to get to and from work. “
There is, however, another report on Auckland yet to be published, and that is the Transport Alignment Project report which will deal with Auckland Transport.
But that is more likely to focus on managing demand rather than offering any bold new high priced transport solutions.
Meanwhile, the Unitary Plan offers some broad principles for transport planning:
- ensuring transport infrastructure is planned, funded and staged to integrate with urban growth;
- locating high trip-generating activities so that they can be efficiently served by public transport.
But there will be questions though about whether the projected dwelling expansion north of the harbour bridge should hurry up the construction of a second harbour crossing.
Seventeen per cent (41,618) of the new dwellings would be north of the harbour bridge.
And for those who complained the original plan was too politically correct, the embargo on demolishing pre-1944 houses has gone as have many of the restrictions related to Maori sites.
Housing and Environment Minister Nick Smith’s virtually non-committal response to the plan possibly indicated the problem it sets the Government.
The plan will take time to implement and the construction it is proposing will take time to eventuate.
It is unlikely to have much of an immediate impact on house prices.
Sio though it addresses the supply issue, arguably two or three years too late, it does nothing about demand.
Thus the Government now must rely on the Reserve Bank if it wants to moderate the Auckland housing market.