Some inconvenient facts about Auckland’s alleged urban sprawl and housing affordability

A guest post.

Eric Crampton highlights a disconnect in what we are being told by people like Phil Twyford, and urban planners as well as the useful idiots of the green persuasion about Auckland. At Infrastructure New Zealand’s Building Nations Symposium last week: Quote:

New York University’s Solly Angel explained to the conference attendees that, out of a set of 200 cities he examined, Auckland had had the third smallest expansion in urban area from 1990 through 2015 despite high population growth. Satellite imagery showed that 62 percent of cities had at least doubled in area, and just over a quarter had at least quadrupled in size. Over the same period, Auckland’s urban area only expanded by 18 percent. Auckland’s constraints against urban expansion have increased Auckland’s density, but have killed housing affordability. Competitive land markets on the city’s fringes are necessary. End quote.

That means removing rural-urban boundaries and changing planning rules to stop the push towards a compact city which is causing housing costs to sky-rocket.  

It is time that our Greenie urban-planning activist propagandists and their mainstream media sycophants were exposed. Auckland is NOT an example of “rampant sprawl”. Its density is 2,500 people per square km, possibly as high as 2,800 depending how recently the analysis was done.

For real low density, consider the comparable US cities like:

  • Indianapolis: 900 people
  • Virginia Beach / Norfolk: 1100 people
  • San Antonio: 1300 people
  • Sacramento: 1500 people
  • Portland: 1500 people (after 40 years with an urban growth boundary; its starting density was around half this).

How about Western Europe, then?

  • Lyon: 1300 people
  • Nice: 1300 people
  • Toulouse: 1100 people

OK, Marseille is 3100 people. With centuries head-start on Auckland, and serious problems with a particular class of immigrants festering in severely crowded housing conditions.

  • Cologne-Bonn: 2300
  • Frankfurt: 3000
  • Hamburg: 2700

How about in the Netherlands, which has 14 million people in a country half the size of Canterbury Province? Again with centuries head-start on Auckland:

  • Amsterdam: 3200
  • Rotterdam-Hague: 2700

How about comparing with urban areas with similar heritages? That is, British Commonwealth cities. Auckland is the densest apart from Toronto: 2800. This is with a population of 6.5 million. More populous cities do have higher density on average. Vancouver is 2000. Calgary is 1700. Edmonton is 1200. Adelaide is 1300. Brisbane is 1000. Perth is 1100. Melbourne and Sydney, each with several times Auckland’s population, are 1500 and 2000 respectively, and this is after some years of similar price-inflating Planning to Auckland.

Data is from Demographia, which is accepted by the UN Habitat Program; Stern-NYU Urbanization Project; the LSE Spatial Economics Research Centre, and everyone else who matters. There are a lot of dodgy datasets bandied around, including the ones relied on by Wikipedia, which are based on political boundaries rather than “urban areas”. An urban area is the contiguous space in which people live. For example, Los Angeles is tiresomely reported again and again by anti-sprawl activists, as far less dense than it is, because its political boundary is so far out beyond the actual urban area that it contains about 50% undeveloped land. Its true urban area density is 2400 people, the densest in the USA. New York City is reported as extremely dense, when outside the municipal boundary there are contiguous suburbs stretching halfway across adjacent States, lowering the urban area density to 1800 people per square km.

In any case, it is completely unrealistic for cities that are not one of the world’s global finance sector concentrations, to expect to replicate the skyscrapers-and-subways urban form. This is cargo-cultism, and it plagues the urban planning profession.

Bottom line: Auckland has never been an example of serious urban sprawl even before the planners started cramming the population and boosting the density to old-world levels without the transport infrastructure to match. Using TomTom “length of network” data and using Google Earth to guesstimate the average numbers of lanes in the highways involved, I would claim that Western European cities have around double Auckland’s highway capacity per capita, and the comparable US cities have 3 to 5 times the capacity. So besides the big propaganda lies about Auckland’s “sprawl”, we have concomitant propaganda lies about “automobile centric planning”. We also have propaganda lies about the correlation between “traffic inducing” highway building, and congestion delays – which I dealt with in this guest posting.

Interested readers should revisit that 2015 essay. It is long overdue for Aucklanders to be undeceived.

 

Phil Hayward


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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

Guest Post content does not necessarily reflect the views of the site or its editor. Guest Post content is offered for discussion and for alternative points of view.

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