Auckland Council

Guest Post – Phil Hayward on Auckland and the RMA reforms

by Phil Hayward

The Auckland Unitary Plan Submission process is underway and we should soon know whether it is a charade with outcomes pre-determined and impervious to evidence. The usual suspects are also claiming once again to be able to “debunk” the latest Demographia Report on housing affordability, and even the government is embarrassed over the dismal ineffectiveness of its trumpeted “Housing Accords”.

My previous essays on this forum could usefully be read or re-read now by anyone interested in this subject.

The prevalent mythology is that Auckland already sprawls too much at low density, already has built too many roads (and that is why it is congested), is letting the floodgates re-open too much towards more new sprawl and not enough new intensification (60% of growth to be via intensification is the plan), the ramp-up in building now is major, and intensification will provide for affordability.

In fact, Auckland is around 3 times as dense as Boston, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Nashville and dozens of other US cities; is the second densest city in the Anglo New World after Toronto (pop. 6 million); is one of the densest first world urban areas of only 1 million people; is close to Amsterdam’s density and is denser than Lyon, Marseille, the Ruhr Valley and many urban areas in France and Germany, especially those with around 1 million people or less.

We have never actually had US style low density sprawl; very little of our suburban development was ever even ¼ acre sections. That always was a “dream” for most, and now nearly every such section has already had townhouses built on what was the backyard. In the USA, suburbs are common with minimum lot size mandates of 1 acre to 4 acres.  

Michael Bassett and Luke Malpass (NZ Initiative) “Priced Out: How NZ Lost its Housing Affordability” (2012) show that NZ and Auckland were during the period from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, building as many as twice as many new dwellings as now. Most of that was greenfields suburban development, albeit at considerably higher density than US-style sprawl. We now have congestion problems because there was inadequate planning of road capacity, not because we did the roads we did.

I have estimated from TomTom Traffic index data and Google Earth imagery, that Auckland has 1/3 the highway lane miles and 1/5 the arterial lane miles of Indianapolis, which has a similar population. Indianapolis in the TomTom Traffic Index, scores a congestion delay of 15 minutes per 1 hour of driving at peak (other comparable US cities are similar) versus Auckland’s 45 minutes. Of course its house price median multiple happens to be stable at around 3 as well, in spite of being truly low density, unlike Auckland.   Read more »

Len can’t control rates, has broken his promises, time for him to go

When spending gets out of control its symptomatic of bigger deeper problems and there are surely serious problems with Auckland Council that need to be addressed.

The Council is like a crack addict and is unable to see where it is going wrong. Spending is completely out of control and massive rates increases loom. 5.5% this year will almost certainly blow out to 7 or 8% because the Council has a habit of instigating projects that don’t keep to budgets. Like the ballooning computer IT spend up that’s now $100m over budget.

Household rates could rise by 7.6 per cent this year if the city adopts a motorway toll of $2 or a regional fuel tax to tackle the city’s transport challenges.

The Auckland Council today releases a draft 10-year budget for public consultation, which includes some difficult choices on the costs and services of the Super City.

Among the options are paying less for transport and getting less, or a scheme involving a motorway toll or a fuel tax to raise $300 million a year to fill a $12 billion transport funding gap over 30 years.

The council is considering a targeted rate this year until revenue from tolls, a fuel tax or higher rates is in place by about 2018.

In the meantime, about $1.7 billion of $3.4 billion of additional transport projects over the next 10 years will be funded by debt.

Council finance officer Matthew Walker said the targeted rate would collect $30 million this year, the equivalent of a 2 per cent rise in rates, to fund the revenue shortfall.

This would raise the overall rates increase from 3.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent.

Household rates would increase on average from 5.6 per cent to 7.6 per cent.

New valuations and a lowering of business rates has led to higher rates for households.

The latest figures show inflation is just 0.8 per cent.

An extra 2 per cent rates increase would take the rates on a $750,000 home from $2274 to $2319 and for a $1 million home from $2904 to $2962.

Mr Walker said the $30 million targeted rate could become $60 million in year two and $90 million in year three and so on.

This scenario would see household rates rise by 22 per cent over three years.

Read more »

It’s the Auckland Council that is the problem

Finally the Herald is waking up to the fact that Auckland Council is a useless organisation who are still the reason why housing is an issue.

Yesterday property developers were fingered the blame for supposedly sitting on their hands and land banking. And yesterday I said it wasn’t developers but Auckland Council.

Property developers say the failure to quickly resolve Auckland’s housing crisis is not their fault – lack of infrastructure is one of the biggest impediments to more building.

Connal Townsend, chief executive of the Property Council, said one of the biggest blocks to creating new subdivisions was lack of adequate sewerage, stormwater and fresh water connections.

Those often needed to be upgraded from existing residential areas to vast new tracts of land to enable developers to put up the homes, he said. Until that happened, developers might have consents to build but they could not go ahead.

Lack of Resource Management Act reform, no mezzanine or second-tier finance, a labour shortage and the high cost of building materials were other factors stopping the rush to put up new homes, he said.    Read more »

Some more thoughts on the Special Housing Area debacle

With Auckland Council failing to deliver on the Special Housing Areas in a deliberate attempt to thwart the Government and bolster its own compact city aspirations – a solution is required.

I hear that the Nat’s don’t want to push the issue too hard because they are worried about the political backlash.

But, it’s already happening.

Whilst it is a catch 22, the reality is that there are only two choices:

1. Do nothing, be hammered by Phil Twyford and Andrew Little and eventually lose the next election because the housing woes get worse and New Zealanders get sick of it – voting for change out of desperation;

2. Step in to take control of the process. Sure there will be blood on the floor, but if the problem is solved Kiwi’s will think the Nat’s are decisive, strong and solve problems and that’s a winning formula.

The problem is the stepping in bit.

Nobody is sure what the blood on the floor will be and in the dark of night they fret that its political suicide. Except I don’t believe that it is really is.   Read more »

Special Housing Areas a total failure

The Special Housing Areas are failing and yet nobody is asking why?

The Government’s Auckland Housing Accord aims to relieve the city’s desperate housing shortage with 39,000 new homes, but only 350 residences have so far been built in the plan’s Special Housing Areas, an official has revealed.

Of those, only 20 have been a direct result of the housing accord.

Labour is accusing developers and landbankers of sitting on their hands and watching the value of their land increase instead of working to ease the crisis. Auckland Council has warned it could take action if building does not take place quickly.

I happen to know that the reason is deliberate and the perpetrators aren’t developers and landbankers, it is the Auckland Council.

Council doesn’t want greenfield subdivisions – that’s the polar opposite to their fundamental core beliefs and desires for a compact city.   Read more »

A new low with Herald’s native advertising

The NZ Herald has jumped donkey deep into native advertising as a way to shore up their flagging revenues.

For those who don’t know native advertising is advertising that is disguised as news.

The latest effort from the NZ Herald sets a new low….they are using the war records of dead heroes to sell the ASB Bank and Auckland Council.

They call it “content partnership” but I’ll lay dollars to a knob of goat poo that the partnership works like this. ASB Bank and Auckland Council pay NZ Herald, NZ Herald takes some information and gets a journalist to write it up, and the NZ Herald publishes it as news….the only winners here are the NZ Herald…they score revenue.

native advertising

The disclaimer is tacked onto the bottom of the article.   Read more »

Auckland Council investing in new studio when we already own one

When Auckland Council invests in business it’s telling us all its either:

1. Stupid;
2. Arrogant;
3. Doesn’t give a toss about ratepayer monies.

There are many sure things in this world. For example the sun will come up over the horizon in the morning. Cows will produce milk. And Council employees are the last people on earth we should trust to make business decisions.

Despite that here is Auckland Council pissing more ratepayer money into the wind on a movie venture in West Auckland.

Film and television incentives have lifted the screen production industry out of the doldrums, prompting the Auckland Council to back new studios in West Auckland.

Implemented last April, the generous incentives allow overseas film and TV producers to receive up to 25 per cent of their budgets from taxpayers in return for spending money on production in New Zealand.

The incentives coincided with a fall in the value of the New Zealand dollar against the greenback and both have helped make New Zealand more attractive to overseas filmmakers and programme makers.

Much of the activity is in the Auckland region, and the Auckland Council development agency Ateed is working on a public private partnership (PPP) to build a studio complex.   Read more »

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Welcome back to work, Len’s trains were stuffed as a special present for you

Len Brown’s train set welcomed people back to work by breaking down this morning.

A track fault is signalling woe for Auckland train commuters coming into the city this morning.

Auckland Transport said all lines near Britomart in Central Auckland may be affected by cancellations and delays up to 20 minutes.

The delays have been caused by a points failure outside the Britomart Tunnel.

The fault comes as many people return to work after the New Year break.

Read more »

Think of it was a rare event: Everyone except National and Sky City agree – no deal!

Andrew Little has joined the chorus of people telling Stephen Joyce and Sky City to get knotted.

SkyCity must find the cash to meet the shortfall for its international convention centre, Labour leader Andrew Little says.

“A deal is a deal,” he said today. “SkyCity offered to build the convention centre, if they can’t come up with what they now say is a shortfall in costs, that’s their problem.”

Mr Little says there’s no way taxpayers should meet the extra cost.

SkyCity agreed to pay for the $402 million centre in exchange for gambling concessions. The Government kept its part of the deal, and put legislation through parliament.

Now SkyCity is saying construction costs have blown out by between $70m and $130m, and it wants the Government to pay at least part of that.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says that’s the least preferred option. He wants the plans re-examined to see where money can be saved, and he’s suggested Auckland Council might come to the party. Read more »

Auckland Council writes Herald on Sunday articles

The issue of Auckland land supply has raised a lot of criticism in the property industry. Only this weekend did the Council top thug Roger Blakeley attempt to point the finger at the market and past Councils for the problem.

We constantly read news stories that are actually spin from Councils and Auckland Council is a master of spinning tall tales.

But part of the problem is that the MSM regurgitates whatever it hears from these lying officials.

On Sunday former director of Harrison and Grierson – Jon Maplesden (now a consultant who represents a large swathe of land developers) came out with a solid sledge at the Herald on Sunday – who had previously reported about the progress that Auckland Council were making on the Housing Accord.

As always the MSM are lazy with their reporting  ​and the Herald on Sunday is no better than the rest of them, writing that there were now 45,000 sections ready to go.

Maplesden wrote back and it couldn’t be more accurate:

​Show me the houses

Speaking as an expert in land development, who has spent a lifetime consulting on the subject, l would be interested to know where your information on unbuilt houses came from (New homes to bust land hoarders, November 30). I do not believe “45,000 sections in Auckland are sitting there ready to go, with all the connections to water, power and roads – but no houses”.   Read more »