Auckland

Torched for being modern?

Pinko heritage advocates are being fingered for arson attacks.

Police hunting an arsonist who torched a designer home in a swanky Auckland suburb are investigating if the blaze is linked to opposition to its controversial construction.

Fire ripped through the house on Hakanoa St in Grey Lynn nine days ago.

It comes after the property, which divided opinion on the heritage-protected street, was last year targeted by vandals who broke in and flooded it.

Police confirmed they were investigating both incidents but would not be drawn on whether they were linked.

But they said any connection between the break-ins and damage and possible heritage activists would be part of the investigation.

Last week the Malcolm Walker-designed property on Hakanoa St in Grey Lynn ” which is owned by Justine Muxlow and Daniel Birt “was burgled and fires started in a number of rooms.

Fire gutted a room next to a child’s bedroom, and a window exploded.

The pair and their two young children were not home. Read more »

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 ‚Äúdebunk‚ÄĚ the latest Demographia Report on housing affordability, and even the government is embarrassed over the dismal ineffectiveness of its trumpeted ‚ÄúHousing Accords‚ÄĚ.

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 ¬ľ acre sections. That always was a ‚Äúdream‚ÄĚ 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) ‚ÄúPriced Out: How NZ Lost its Housing Affordability‚ÄĚ (2012) show that NZ and Auckland were during the period from the 1960‚Äôs to the 1980‚Äôs, 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‚Äôs 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 »

So not speed then, a better focus on improving roads

The Police have constantly claimed that lower road tolls are as a result of their focus on speed.

That went spectacularly wrong this holiday period just gone when the road toll ballooned and so did the national road toll.

By constantly claiming it was their actions that lowered the toll the Police set themselves up for failure. If, instead, they had talked about improved vehicle construction utilising side intrusion beams, air bags, crumple zones etc plus discussed roading improvements, then their credibility might still be intact.

As a case in point there is news out of Wellington regarding road design that proves my point.

Wellington’s roads were the envy of Australasia last year, with the region recording the lowest level of road deaths per capita on both sides of the Tasman.

Figures compiled by the Ministry of Transport and the Automobile Association show there were 12 road deaths across Wellington, Hutt Valley, Porirua, Kapiti and Wairarapa in 2014 – 2.4 deaths for every 100,000 people living in the region. That was the lowest per capita rate across both New Zealand and Australia.

Auckland was the next best, with 39 deaths, or 2.5 per 100,000 people. ¬† ¬† 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 Рa 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 »

Do you put money in the parking meter? [POLL]

When I lived in Wellington I’d park my car on the street rather than in car park buildings. I almost never put money in the meter and took the risk of getting a ticket.

I averaged about one $10 fine a week which was really cheap parking.

In Auckland I sometimes do this, and get away with it more often than not…though the fines are a bit steeper, and there are some places that it is unwise to even try.

Deborah Hill Cone uses this method too.

I don’t gamble, I don’t take drugs, I pay my GST, but I do have my own secret vice. I never buy pay and display parking vouchers. I just take the punt that I won’t get a parking ticket. And then if I do get a fine – this week $12 for five hours in the hairdresser on Ponsonby Rd – quite reasonable really – I just put it in the pile and later go online and pay them all at once.

This seems to work quite efficiently as a system. It bypasses the time and effort of standing in a line and finding change or trying to work the complicated texting option. It also gives me a wanton buzz of being naughty and, just for a moment, defying the Big Brother machinery of bureaucracy; the cheap thrill of rebellion alone is probably worth the price of any parking tickets I incur.

And every time you return to your car and find there is no fluttering ticket under your windscreen wiper you get a little frisson of victory. Yes! ¬†¬† Read more »

How to red-tape yourself into miserable oblivion: Another Liveable City project by Len Brown

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A flying fox in a children’s adventure playground has been temporarily disabled after noise complaints from residents.

An Auckland Council sign at Playtime Park, next to the Stonefields estate at the base of Mt Wellington, explains that tests carried out showed that noise generated by flying fox users “exceed levels permitted in the residential area”.

According to the sign, the council was looking at options – including relocating the flying fox – and the community would be advised on the next steps soon.

Orakei local board member Kit Parkinson confirmed the flying fox had been disabled, but said he would know more about what had happened after a meeting today.

In November, the Herald reported that residents had complained about noise and kids’ “squealing” coming from the flying fox at the playground, which opened in September, as well as large sand areas used to create a landing zone beneath the equipment.

Resident Alan Gilder said then: “I would like the flying fox removed. It does get very noisy on the weekend and there’s sand everywhere. I certainly didn’t expect to have a beach on my doorstep.”

Bet you Alan Gilder doesn’t have kids. ¬†What a miserable sod. ¬†If you don’t like living in a community, buy a property where you are completely separated from irritable things like other people. ¬† Certainly don’t be so dense as to buy right next to a playground.¬† Read more »

One-trick pony Len Brown makes Auckland least livable while wasting time on his train set

Mayor Len Brown

Mayor Len Brown

Auckland as the Most Livable City is nothing but platitude as it slides backwards as one of the least affordable places to live.

Auckland has once again been named one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the world.

The 11th annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey classified Auckland as the ninth least affordable major city in the world.

Auckland is the 14th least affordable city out of all 378 surveyed.

Auckland has been rated as “severely unaffordable” in all 11 surveys.

Take a bow Len. ¬†Awesome job. ¬†Apart from penny pinching your rate payers and reducing basic council services while pushing rates up to unsustainable levels, you also have made it one of the least affordable places to live in the whole world. ¬†¬† Read more »

Time to buy a lottery ticket

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An experienced truck driver who survived a 15 metre plunge onto the Auckland motorway this morning is “scratching his head” wondering how he’s alive.

The Regal Haulage driver ran off the motorway heading into the city at Auckland’s Spaghetti Junction just before 6am, crashing through a barrier and plunging onto the Port Link section of motorway below.

He was en route to Whangarei from Hamilton when the accident happened.

Police estimated the fall was between 15 and 20 metres and said the truck was carrying more than 26 tonnes of fertiliser. Read more »