Changing the zoning won’t solve the immediate problem

My eyes are rolling in my head and glazing over.

It’s just possible that everyone in the city drinks from the Council Kool Aid and forgets everything that’s happened over the last five years.

Remuera home owners may not like it, says Peter Jeffries, but three-storey apartments in the suburbs offer the last real chance at housing affordability in Auckland.

The chief executive of CORT community housing is a vocal supporter of the compact city model in Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan, a new planning rulebook that will define the shape of Auckland’s future for decades to come.

The plan decides what can be built and where – and it has sparked a generational and politically divisive debate about housing density and height in traditional suburbs.

The council did itself no favours with a proposal to rezone about 30,000 properties in a late change to its submission on the proposed Unitary Plan without informing homeowners.

The proposal – which would have had to come back to the council from an independent hearings panel in July for a final decision – was rejected by a majority of councillors, after a long, often emotional debate in which young supporters of change accused their older opponents of selfishly protecting their own interests.

Jeffries argues that the problem will not go away. Auckland is going to grow by 75 per cent over the next 30 years, he says, and suburbs like Remuera have to share the burden of growth.

Sure look I get it. Some people think there is land to buy and that the city could be compact.

But so far the success rate is abysmal. Besides – Auckland needs critical mass of development supply to cool housing prices and to keep up with demand.

What nobody appears willing to concede is that the horse has already bolted. Once a city is established and houses and commercial premises are built – that’s the most likely form that will exist on the land for a long time.

Change will be piece meal, slow and sporadic.

But that’s assuming developers can get stuff to happen.

Here is the reality:

– as long as there is more money to be made holding residential property there will be no incentive to redevelop it. Risk free, tax free capital gain is overwhelmingly the best way to make money and it easy to do. Just buy property and do nothing.

– where will all the commercial tenants and business owners who occupy existing buildings in redevelopment areas go? Will moving be good for business? Will it cost more to occupy another building? Will it be near their customer base? Do they own or have leases with long tenure? The truth is that most businesses don’t want to move so they won’t. And the land is therefore locked up.

It just blows my mind that people continue to think Auckland will transform. It might but not at a rate that’s meaningful. So the pressure will continue until someone realises that releasing supply in greenfield locations is needed.

Nobody has ever proved that Auckland will change if you zone it for change. Planners think that if you plan it the job is done. Except that the nothing happens and so we have a supply demand issue.

Stop drinking the Kool Aid.


– NZHerald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.