Archive | Planning

Matching infrastructure to population explosion a key Goff plank

Auckland mayor Phil Goff laid out his vision yesterday to build infrastructure at a rate that would match the region’s unprecedented population growth.

Some funding mechanisms are in place, and the council & Government have agreed bigger funding streams for some areas such as transport, but their budgets still show a $5.9 billion shortfall over the next decade.

The mayor said he would seek staff advice on options for broadening the council’s revenue base, which currently relies on rates to generate almost 50% of its funding. Other options include:

  1. the further development of special purpose vehicles funded by growth infrastructure targeted rates
  2. the application of the targeted rate on accommodation to the informal sector (eg, Airbnb)
  3. the sale of non-strategic assets, and
  4. likely proceeds from various road pricing options & practicality of implementation.

The mayor wrote his 8-page report to set the process going for the council’s 10-year budget (otherwise known as its long-term plan) for 2018-28.

The process now is for the council to run political workshops through September-November, finishing with a more concrete mayoral proposal which will go to more workshops in December, then out to public consultation in March and adoption of the plan on 27 June next year.

Mr Goff wrote in his release presenting the report:

“Our vision for Auckland is a world-class city where talent wants to live. It must be the city which can keep the best & brightest of our young people in New Zealand while competing globally with other cities around the world for skills, entrepreneurship & investment.

“My key focus is to build infrastructure at a rate that matches unprecedented population growth to maintain our quality of life and make it easier to do business in our city.

“Auckland grows by 45,000 people/year and is clearly a desirable place to live. This growth creates opportunities, but it also presents challenges in housing shortages & affordability, growing traffic congestion & pressure on our environment.

“The key to tackling these issues is our ability to lift investment in our infrastructure.

“Investment in public transport, including light rail, in active transport modes like cycling & walking, and optimising our road network is critical.

“That’s why, under our latest Auckland transport alignment project, we have set aside $27 billion for capital investment in the next decade. Currently, $5.9 billion of that is unfunded and has to be found.

“I welcome the Government’s commitment to meet the larger share of that, but Auckland will also need to contribute more.

“The 10-year budget needs to consider where we source our share of the funds.

“The interim transport levy is not user-related and does not raise sufficient funds. We can’t simply impose huge general rate increases to pay for infrastructure, so some form of road pricing will be essential.

“We need to build more houses more quickly. The mayoral housing taskforce makes recommendations which we need to move to implement.

“The unitary plan enables land development, but we need to invest in infrastructure to allow houses to be built. This will involve intensification of houses, as well as new developments under the future urban land supply strategy.

“Use of targeted rates as well as special purpose vehicles through Crown Infrastructure Partners will be essential. That also applies to protecting & enhancing our environment.

“Water quality is a top priority. We need to reduce wastewater overflowing into our streams & harbours. Building new water infrastructure will be our focus, including new wastewater interceptors & green infrastructure.

“While the council is looking for new sources of infrastructure funding, we must also get better value for the ratepayers’ dollar.

“It is time to realise the benefits of amalgamation to deliver further efficiencies & economies of scale made possible by the super-city.

“Findings from our group-wide section 17A value-for-money reviews will be critical, and I want the council to develop group-wide shared services.

“APEC [Auckland will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum leaders’ week from 8–14 November 2021] and the America’s Cup defence add impetus to our planning and provide the opportunity to create a lasting legacy for Aucklanders.

“We have the opportunity to make Auckland more prosperous, smart, innovative, inclusive & culturally rich, with a beautiful environment and choice & opportunity for all.

“With this as our vision and the investment we need in infrastructure, we will make Auckland a world-class city.”

Image above: Auckland mayor Phil Goff, on site shortly after his election as mayor last October.

Links:
Mayoral intent for the 10-year budget (long-term plan) 2018–28
10-year budget 2018-28 road map

Attribution: Mayoral release & plan document.

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Council tweaks itself to lift efficiency

All of us who chatter about the council know it’s a spendthrift outfit, too many overpaid people with time on their hands, happily spending our money on work that doesn’t need to be done.

I know that, because every day in the first 5 years of the super-city Auckland Council I’ve heard countless people say it. Therefore it must be true.

What I also know – from changes in personnel, from demeanour, from a growing understanding not just of the complexity of the business of a vastly bigger council but of how to deal more sensibly with it – is that the new council formed out of 8 old ones in 2010 was served up with an ideologically driven model that was never going to work well.

But it’s being tweaked. Silo walls – erected to stop politicians tampering with publicly owned commercial operations – were effective in making the council far less efficient than it might have been, and the walls are starting to be broken down.

One item of council business that floated quietly into the public realm last month was a short release outlining the merging of 2 offices involved in transforming Auckland, the Housing Project Office and the City Centre Transformation Unit.

Mid-September, the council began its search for a general manager of an office to be formed, the Development Programme Office. Council chief operating officer Dean Kimpton (pictured above) anticipates having this new office operating by 1 December.

The merger & the appointment have a great deal to do not just with each other, but with how the council’s finances are used wisely rather than profligately, with how Auckland can move forward positively instead of floundering.

Mr Kimpton – an engineer who became managing director of international consultancy Aecom’s New Zealand operations before moving to the council in 2013 – saw how the silos worked against efficient business, and also how the council left it to others to sort out the details.

“Particularly at complex developments, we leave it to the developer or infrastructure provider to negotiate out the complexities to get approval, and also to get the budget & the public infrastructure component.” His answer: “So we need to provide a programme office, the interface.”

Mr Kimpton had seen individual offices around the council group trying to create an interface, but those small efforts weren’t going to succeed on a wider scale. And it is a wide scale – take the Housing Project Office dealing with the requirements for nearly a hundred special housing areas, for example, and the involvement of various council arms in Stevenson Group Ltd’s 361ha Drury South industrial subdivision, which will also have a 1000-lot special housing area nearby.

Within the council, Mr Kimpton sees a range of new roles being required because the housing & city transformation offices combined don’t deliver all the function needed to map the path for developments.

It will differ from Panuku Development Auckland, the entity resulting from the merger of Waterfront Auckland & Auckland Council Property Ltd, which has roles to develop council-owned land and to facilitate transformative development, but also has to look for development partners.

“The Development Programme Office is a response mechanism. These partners need to engage with the council – who do they talk to? The office won’t own any land and won’t be looking to develop anything in a certain time. It will be responsible for operating plans and the long-term plan, and it will have responsibility for partnership with Auckland Transport & Watercare.”

Mr Kimpton rattled off a few of the silo-inspired questions that council partners might ask, but currently can’t be answered: What is the infrastructure capacity across Auckland? How does growth consume that capacity? How does our infrastructure investment over a 15-year profile impact on the capacity of the infrastructure to support the growth? Am I doing it at the right time? Have I got enough parks?

He said big divisions of the council & the organisations it controls were setting strategies for their own performance without having the ability to see the wider picture – for land release, infrastructure, for the 30-year Auckland Plan on a rolling 3-year budget.

Mr Kimpton sees the programme office clarifying the picture, including how council investment influences the long-term strategy: “It will give us a more granular view of what is happening. It will be spatial. You will be able to see it by infrastructure type. We’ll have a forward land infrastructure programme. I see a small specialist group doing something that can assist us.”

The Development Programme Office will take a lead on development contributions, which he refers to generically as commercial agreements, and draw the legal & financial agreements for the different forms of infrastructure.

It won’t be introduced into a total vacuum: “More & more – and I’m pleased it’s going this way – we’re having council family discussions with developers about how we will support them in development, and this is how I’m trying to shift the whole model away from one-offs. More & more we have to start having an integrated conversation, particularly where there’s a comprehensive development plan.

“You bring big private experience in. You get the concept & the commercial agreements right. You derisk the overall process. What I’m doing is what they do at Aecom. The Housing Project Office does due diligence on infrastructure capacity, we bring the developer & infrastructure providers together, then we do the special housing area creation.”

For many developments, budget constraints need to be unlocked to create the community that is going to be built there: “Auckland’s growing & expanding. We need to adapt, we need to get closer to the customer. We need to shift the focus from policy & strategy creation in the first 5 years to delivery & implementation, to ensure we can do it with pace and fairness to the ratepayer.”

Earlier stories:
11 September 2015: Council proposes integrating housing project office & city transformation unit
11 September 2015: Council confirms brownfields as special housing area priority
28 August 2015: 11 more special housing areas approved
4 July 2015: 2 large special housing areas for Franklin
30 August 2013:  Drury South industrial area plan change & MUL extension approved

Attribution: Interview.

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Defusing kauri conflict takes council further from clear process

A protester climbing a Titirangi kauri tree caused severe palpitations within the depths of Auckland Council’s planning & consenting departments, but after a couple of hours’ debate on a process review yesterday, council customers can be assured that nothing much is about to change for the better.

The review team of chief planning officer Roger Blakeley, plans & places general manager Penny Pirrit & general counsel Katherine Anderson wrote in their report: “In light of the findings of this review, and the particular facts pertinent to the 2 applications under consideration, no particular matters have arisen warranting recommendations associated with the current Resource Management Act reform process.”

Council chief operating officer Dean Kimpton went further than that, saying lessons were learned and further work would be done to improve processes. However, the always-vexed question remained of how practical it would be to publicly notify larger volumes of applications.

The report’s recommendations suggest more training for staff, and for local boards.

Waitakere board chair Sandra Coney commented in a board presentation to the Auckland development committee yesterday: “By focusing on the local boards [improving their performance] the report writer has diverted attention from the consent department’s processes.”

Dr Blakeley said the suggestion of more information for boards came from other board chairs, but that doesn’t overcome a clear point Ms Coney made: “Community preference was clearly not to fell the trees. Clearly the consents department is not in step with community preference.”

Community versus property owner rights is an enduring conflict and is at the heart of whether a consent application should be notified publicly, notified to specific people or not notified at all.

The council delegated the task of making that decision on the application concerning the 2 properties at 40 & 42 Paturoa Rd, Titirangi, to an individual commissioner, and the decision was not to notify.

The local board concluded that the process was wrong, resulting in a wrong decision. Ms Coney: “We don’t understand why our communications weren’t put in front of the principal planner or the person making the decision.”

There is a tension between the council’s governing body, which controls matters such as consent processing, and local boards, which have few powers. Their finances depend on the whim of the governing body, as seen in the wholesale removal of funds in a rewrite of the council 10-year budget. They are the eyes of local communities, but with few resources to give effect to what they see.

When Dr Blakeley told the committee, “In our view the independent commissioner had the necessary information to make the decision” – despite not receiving local board communication, and despite questions from Independent Maori Statutory Board chairman David Taipari on how the process could possibly work properly – the way was opened for a more pertinent examination by committee members.

Dr Blakeley conceded: “The information provided to local boards & iwi could have been clearer… and that could have had an effect on them making their comments. In our view the issues & values around the kauri tree were considered by the commissioner & weighed up.”

Mr Taipari said iwi – 9 of them – were informed of the consent application but not that the vegetation to be removed included mature kauri & rimu. He asked if the consents commissioner knew about what would have been an issue to iwi if they’d known about it.

At that point deputy mayor & committee chair Penny Hulse interceded: “This is not a judicial review of the consent so it’s conjecture on both sides, the point that has been made clearer is that we could have done better and dealt better with iwi.”

Mr Taipari: “My question is, in future, what information is going to be passed on.”

Mrs Pirrit said: “We have a working party with the 19 mana whenua across the region, working with both policy & resource consents on how we will manage, information to iwi needs to be a lot clearer, also that iwi need to get [replies] in in a certain timeframe. There’s a whole improvement process coming out of that. We recognise for applications & iwi the process hasn’t been clear.”

Cllr Chris Darby suggested the application should have gone to the hearings committee to consider because it was contentious.

Mr Kimpton: “We want to be cautious about where we set that bar or the hearings committee would be meeting permanently, I’d suggest.”

Cllr Darby: “I think we need to examine that more.”

Cllr Hulse said a balancing act was needed between pressure from the Government to get more houses built, and faster, council concerns about providing enough infrastructure, fast enough in the right places, and more notification.

The committee agreed that a series of recommendations should be implemented, with Cllrs Cathy Casey & Mike Lee voting against. The recommendations:

For the resource consents team:

  1. Review how resource consent applications are summarised & provided to local boards & iwi – clearer language that better describes the nature of the proposal, include activity status, aerial photograph of site, ensure that all relevant information (such as ecologist & arborist reports) are provided, and establish a process to provide feedback to local boards & iwi on applications that they have made comment on
  2. For the West resource consents team, provide regular training & refreshers on the Waitakere Ranges heritage area, its act of Parliament and how activities in the heritage area are managed, and the iwi statements within the operative district plan
  3. The relevant conditions to Auckland Council Resource Consent Conditions Manual which will apply standard controls on developments relating to PTA (kauri dieback disease), eg, involving earthworks or vegetation/tree clearance
  4. Continue relationship-building and develop a service level agreement with biodiversity operations & biosecurity teams in relation to the management of PTA, including consideration of whether testing for PTA as part of resource consent applications is appropriate.

For local board services:

  1. Offer training to local board members about the resource consents process, legal issues associated with resource consent applications and the local boards’ role and how the delegations to commissioners from the hearings committee operates (possibly at the time of their induction)
  2. Work with local boards after each election to review the triggers that each local board has established to confirm that those triggers identify the matters the local board has an interest in.

For cultural impact assessment project working group:

  1. Refer this report on the process of these resource consents to the cultural impact assessment project working group for their information.

The response from Cllr Lee: “It’s a cover-up.”

And the response from me: A lot of words, written in a hurry to defuse a situation, won’t make getting consent easier but will make it more complicated & more expensive for every applicant. Swamping potentially concerned parties such as iwi & local boards with torrents of extra documentation might improve their chances of responding if they can fight their way through the extra paperwork. What the council requires is a simple process where potential conflicts are highlighted and those needing notification are told – essentially what the process has been, with wrong judgments always possible.

Attribution: Council debate.

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Blakeley determined to stay on the treadmill as exit beckons

This is the first part of a 2-part interview with Roger Blakeley, who finishes as Auckland Council’s first chief planning officer on 29 May.

On 29 May, Roger Blakeley will stop being an Aucklander and will revert to his true identity: a Wellington boy, a Hurricanes fan and a parent with grandchildren back in his home town. On that Friday afternoon, his extraordinary career as a public servant will come to an end, he & his wife will travel south, he’ll hang his shingle out and see what work is offering in the capital.

Well, the public service might continue on for a bit because the jobs he’s most suited to are in that field and, despite being 69, he has no intention of retiring.
Dr Blakeley came to Auckland at the end of 2010 to take on the task of chief planning officer for the super-city, a mammoth role given the immediate job was to produce a series of consistent plans for a region previously covered by 7 territorial councils & one regional council. The new plans were soon being spat out at a rapid rate – the overarching Auckland Plan, waterfront & city centre plans, an economic strategy, followed with less immediacy by a string of local board plans and – the document to trump all district plans – the proposed Auckland unitary plan.

The Auckland Plan was produced in 17 months and the proposed unitary plan inside 3 years. The independent hearings panel considering submissions on the unitary plan is scheduled to finish its hearings by July next year so it can deliver a recommended plan to the council by September, shortly before the council’s third round of elections.

Dr Blakeley is proud of the output, but the fruits of his labours will really start to appear only after he’s headed south.

He’s used to that, after a series of roles as an overseer & designer of grand schemes. Dr Blakeley began his career as a civil engineer, finishing his studies with a PhD paper in earthquake engineering at Canterbury University, “research that was directly relevant to the Canterbury earthquakes because it was about how you make big concrete reinforced buildings stand up under very big earthquakes”.

It was an example of knowledge that would be put to valuable use because, working in the structural design office of the Ministry of Works & Development, Dr Blakeley became a member of the NZ Standards code committee that wrote the building code for reinforced concrete in 1976.

“All those big buildings in Christchurch were built according to our code if they had been built after 1976. There was a philosophy underpinning it called capacity design, developed in New Zealand and taken out of the airline industry. The idea was that you have a failsafe so the critical elements won’t fail [in an emergency]. The critical elements are the vertical columns – it doesn’t matter if the beams get badly damaged, if the columns get damaged the building will fall down, so you design it to make sure all the damage occurs in the beams and then the building will stay up, maybe on an angle, may have to be demolished, but the people inside the building will be able to escape with their lives.

“There were only 2 buildings that collapsed in the Christchurch earthquakes. Pyne Gould was built in the 1960s, had been strengthened but only to about one-third of the code requirement. The other one was the CTV building, which was designed post-1976, but it was a design mistake, there’s no doubt about it and not the fault of the code. It was good to see the code actually worked.”

Dr Blakeley was a young man taking on a leading role then, and was a very young chief executive, at 39, when he became Secretary for the Environment & chief executive of the Ministry for the Environment in 1986: “I set up the ministry and managed it all through the time the Resource Management Act was developed. So the Resource Management Act was conceived & developed & eventually passed under my watch as chief executive.”

It was world-leading legislation which gained international attention: “The act was passed in 1991. In 1992 I went to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the whole world had cottoned on to this idea of sustainable development, and there was one country that had enshrined that principle in all of its resource law, and that was New Zealand. Here you had 10,000 people, all the nations of the world, and New Zealand was seen as a world leader because of our innovation in several areas, but one of them was in the Resource Management Act.”

He, like many others, is concerned that the Government might damage the act’s effect by changing sections 6 & 7, where the fundamental principles are espoused, but relieved because Winston Peters’ win in the Northland by-election appears to have lessened the chances of controversial change.

Again, his knowledge of how the Resource Management Act was devised has been valuable in planning the transformation of Auckland, a role he was hired for on a 2-year contract that extended to 4½ years.

As a man who has rarely stood still for long in a career that made him a merchant of change, he can see there are opportunities to speed up & streamline the way the act works: “We’ve had some experience in Auckland of fast-track, one-stop-shop processes, as has been done through the housing project office & housing accord.”

One of his earliest roles as change merchant was as general manager at State Coal Mines, where he started the process of rationalising what was then the mines division of the Ministry of Energy, and transforming that into a modern commercial enterprise, “and that was the start of the process of forming the state-owned enterprises”.

Dr Blakeley is not averse to taunts, all part of the job for a career public servant, and he’s had plenty of bones pointed at him while he’s wriggled his way out of difficult spots at Auckland Council. One ability he’s had has been, always, to come up with an answer, and many a time in the council chamber he’s produced a response to defuse a taut situation.

“I was around when the television series Yes Minister became popular – and that was a bit of a takeoff of public servants – and there was a famous statement by Richard Prebble, who was then a minister in the Lange government, that Yes Minister was not a comedy, it was a documentary. [The full Prebble comment: ‘The public thinks that Yes Minister is a comedy, the civil service knows that it’s a documentary and the Cabinet ministers know that it’s a tragedy’.]”

During our interview – an interlude between a meeting of senior executives and the start of his cellphone’s buzzing as he began being called to what seemed like a long list of mid-afternoon decisions, all of which followed a presentation to the Planning Institute’s conference, including a panel performance with Building, Environment & Housing Minister Nick Smith – Dr Blakeley managed to chuckle a lot as he weighed up questions, composed immediate answers, was always relaxed despite the weight of responsibility.

One question from me which bugged him, though, was whether the public service was denigrated more in these days of social media, where anybody & everybody can have their instant say and partisan views often blind contributors.

One of his responses which, as usual, took him back to his primary role and forward to outcomes: “It’s good to have a laugh, but generally I think people respect the calibre & the professionalism of the public service in New Zealand. In global terms, we have a non-corrupt public service. It’s one of the reasons for the attractiveness of New Zealand & Auckland for investment, that people see us as having a non-corrupt public service.”

Dr Blakeley can tick off a number of big achievements: “State Coal Mines was around how you take a traditional government bureaucracy and get it to shape like a commercial enterprise.

“My big achievement in the Ministry for the Environment was the establishment of the ministry from nothing, and the Resource Management Act was a huge task. We took 86 pieces of legislation and folded them into one. It was a huge & unbelievably innovative piece of work, again done by some very talented people.”

At Auckland Council, his seniority changed. After 5½ years at the Department of Internal Affairs and 10 years at Porirua City Council, both as chief executive, Dr Blakeley came to Auckland as chief planning officer & a member of the leadership team: “The big challenges for me here, first of all being part of the executive leadership team that managed probably the biggest organisational change [in local government] in the southern hemisphere – 8 separate councils of very different cultures coming together in one council with $40 billion of assets, $3.6 billion/year budget, 8500 staff, something like 3000 computer systems needing to be put together on one platform.

“There have been big mergers in New Zealand like Fonterra and the 2 banks, ANZ & National, but nothing like the scale of Auckland Council. By any standard it was a major change and it was done very smoothly because we thought we’d be on the front page of the Herald every day with some drama or crisis, but it was managed very smoothly.

“The planning challenges were to put in place the planning platform for growth for the next 30 years. The first of those was to develop the Auckland regional spatial plan, which was to be an integrated land use & transport plan, and it would have economic, social, cultural & environmental strategies. There was nothing quite like that before.

“Very early on in the process, Doug McKay [the council’s first chief executive] & I had a conversation about how we were going to do this and we both wanted to change the paradigm about how planning had been done.

“Particularly, we developed our mantra: Simple, fast, bold & innovative. People thought it would take 5 years to write the Auckland Plan and it was all done in 17 months. And again I acknowledge a huge contribution from my team that worked on that, also the wider Auckland.

“Our byline was that it took 15,000 people to write the Auckland Plan because of the significant level of engagement that we had right from the first Auckland unleashed document that we produced. We started with the mayor’s vision that Auckland would be the world’s most liveable city, and that then became Auckland’s vision.”

My next question was the kind that Dr Blakeley will often skirt, all the while responding very fully. “Have all those plans gone the way you thought they should?” I asked. His response: “Just to tick them off, the Auckland Plan is the guiding star, it’s the over-arching plan for Auckland, sitting under it we have an economic development strategy, a key point around that was we saw the need to shift the Auckland economy from a strongly import-driven economy to an export-led economy, also it shifted from a reliance on the old economy into new economy & high-technology industries. We did a lot of economic analysis around that.

“Auckland currently languishes at 69 in the OECD table of economic growth for cities. As part of that economic strategy we established these targets where we would lift export growth to 6%, gdp to 5%, productivity 2%/year. We’re currently at about 3% gdp growth, so Auckland’s doing quite well.

“The city centre masterplan has now been picked up by the city centre integration group. The other really big plan has been the unitary plan. This has been the largest statutory process in New Zealand’s history. Again, it’s been done in record time. [For the old councils, in some cases it took 10 years for a district plan to be put in place.]

“The proposal for the unitary plan was received within 3 years of the start of the council, has to be operative by 30 September 2016.

“The level of engagement through the unitary plan process has been very satisfying. By strengthening the front end of the engagement process, the agreement was we would have only limited appeals at the back end, and only on points of law, or if the council disagrees with the independent hearings panel, in which case it goes to the Environment Court, but the community we believe does much better out of a good front end process rather than costly & litigious processes of appeals. So that’s quite a significant change.

“I reckon it’s worked well. I’m sure it will improve on the notified unitary plan [through the panel & appeals].”

For all that he knows where he’s going, Dr Blakeley has been very happy to venture into unknown territory, though much of it carried out by staff: “We had 21,000 submissions come back on the draft unitary plan, 100,000 individuals visited the website, and we probably had the first really major use of social media at the scale of planning in New Zealand using Facebook, Twitter, online surveys, YouTube.

“We got young people involved by inviting them to do videos of what their vision was for Auckland, we had a competition amongst the videos and they were published, went viral through YouTube. In the past, local governments have always struggled to get young people involved, but we managed high levels of getting young people engaged. GenZero made a great contribution during the public engagement processes on the draft unitary plan.

“We had Ann McAfee, previously director of planning in Vancouver, as our international peer reviewer, and she described our engagement plan as world best practice.”

Links: Blakeley determined to stay on the treadmill as exit beckons
Now our voice is heard in the great cities
A one-pager on Auckland challenges
Auckland case study by Roger Blakeley

Attribution: Interview.

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Now our voice is heard in the great cities

This is the second part of a 2-part interview with Roger Blakeley, who finishes as Auckland Council’s first chief planning officer on 29 May.

Aucklanders have been offered an unusual chance over the last 10 years to hear the views of a stellar array of speakers from around the world on urban transformation. Now the Auckland view is also being heard around the world: our people have a place at the big kids’ table.

Though plenty of gripes remain, many aspects of the Auckland experience are a story to be told.

One person doing that is design champion Ludo Campbell-Reid, whose task is to gather & implement ideas to transform the urban domain. Among the experiences international eyes have been watching are Auckland’s success with shared spaces – turning car-filled side streets into spaces where the motorist has to take turns with pedestrians & cyclists to travel the street, where café tables might spill out to the old roadway, and which in some instances have been closed to traffic altogether for short periods.

Another whose views have been sought internationally, pretty much under our radar, is retiring Auckland Council chief planning officer Roger Blakeley, who’s among 14 members of an international peer review group asked to review the next New York plan. The group met for the first time in New York in April last year and met again in London in March.

Dr Blakeley was keen to tell me about this, not so he could puff out his chest, but for me to read 2 documents he’d presented for the New Yorkers & their review panel explaining what Auckland has done and is trying to do.

The first document required of the panellists was a one-pager for the world cities regional planning workshop on the challenges faced. The second was an elaboration on that, expounding on the Auckland experience.

“In this last peer review group meeting, we were asked to do a mini-case study on our cities, so this is a case study I did on Auckland which covered issues around economic development, transport infrastructure, climate resilience, governance, regional planning, housing. Those are issues which all of these cities of the world are dealing with. It might give you some useful background to what I’ve been thinking about while I’ve been in this job.”

You can link to their content below. I’ll also go through a number of the points Dr Blakeley has made there, picking at some of the threads in a separate story tomorrow.

Dr Blakeley said the New York City Council “didn’t believe they had a monopoly on good ideas about city shaping, so they thought they’d get together a group of people who could be an international peer review group. They issued personal invites to individuals – the others are from London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Singapore & Hong Kong, which were called the Big 6; 4 ‘new world’ economies, Auckland, Sydney, Barcelona & Vienna; and 2 emerging world centres, Sao Paulo & Moscow.

Among the points of discussion important for Auckland – less so for the other cities – was the compact city concept. As it remains a point of contention, I asked Dr Blakeley if he thought that debate would be resolved in a good way. Dr Blakeley: “I think it has to be resolved. You’re right, it was highly contentious during the Auckland Plan phase. These top world cities, I raised this issue of intensification that our people were dealing with, and the reaction I got was, ‘We’ve been there & done that, get on with it. We recognised we have to’. The other cities were all saying that.”

He mentioned a recent article in the Economist, about the phenomenon of the pressure on housing in cities worldwide: “It was talking about Boston & New York & London & so on, but it could have just as easily been talking about Auckland. There’s pressure on available land within cities, that’s driven by more & more people wanting to live there.

“The Y generation & particularly millennials want to live in the city centre, they don’t want to spend an hour travelling into the city then an hour home again. They want to be near cultural vitality in the heart of the city. So that pressure on the inner-city is pushing the price of housing up. Also what’s a driver behind it is there’s limited land space available, which is pushing land prices up and that pushes the price of housing up.

“But what the article was saying was, there are levers which city governments can do about that, and one is about a more flexible regulatory regime in relation to urban design, in particular allowing greater height and allowing more flexible rules about intensification.

“So, for example, this relates exactly to what we were doing, in the medium housing urban zone & suburban zone, was to remove the density controls. Instead of having a minimum lot size, we wanted to remove the size controls but they were subject to urban design controls, giving greater flexibility for developers to be able to build different housing types – apartments & townhouses & terraced houses – and to be able to build more units on a site that would otherwise have only a few units. And in that way you’re getting potentially more units per unit of land area, so that reduces the impact of growth in land prices. That is a tool that councils have for the focus of controversy around the draft unitary plan.”

From his international discussion to unitary plan proposals, Dr Blakeley said a memorable moment for him in the concept city debate occurred during a visit by former Vancouver city planner Brent Toderian: “He gave an Auckland conversation and was challenged by Richard Burton, the head of the Auckland 2040 group, who said to him you cannot have intensification in suburban areas. And Brent’s reply was, ‘Oh yes you can. What we found in Vancouver was, the secret was to get over the Nimby (not in my back yard) phenomenon and they invented a new acronym which was Qimby (quality in my back yard), and once people got used to the idea that, yes, you can have intensification and also have quality urban living, the resistance melted away.’

“That’s a work on for Auckland, to be able to – with exemplars of urban development – give the public reassurance that you can have intensification & quality urban living.”

The Southern Initiative

The final topic I asked Dr Blakeley to discuss, albeit briefly, concerned the Southern Initiative – the focus on lifting education, opportunity & living standards in Auckland’s southern suburbs. After starting with a hiss & a roar as a noble plan, the Southern Initiative seemed to have been largely forgotten in the last 2 years, and therefore Maori had also perhaps been left behind.

But this topic is an example of how Dr Blakeley climbs out of the planning straitjacket and uses his experience to cross a number of professional boundaries: “I think we’ve actually made good progress on the Southern Initiative in recent times,” he said.

“An example: the council pulled together a consortium of infrastructure & tertiary education providers to bid for some funding from MBIE (the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment) for Maori trades training. We got several million dollars over a period to be invested in Maori trades training.

“Another one was a few weeks ago, a jobfest at Manukau Institute of Technology. There were about 1500 young people & 500 employers, and the jobfest was to bring the 2 together. It was a very successful day. It was originated in Auckland. Gael Surgenor, acting general manager of the Southern Initiative (director of community & social innovation since March), was influential in getting it set up.

“We now have a co-design lab in our Manukau office which is a joint initiative involving both government & council. It’s based on what’s called social innovation labs, developed up at MIT (not the Manukau one but the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and a book by Zaid Hussan called The social labs revolution. He was brought out here to set up our lab. It’s been used to crack some of the biggest problems in the world, like world hunger, and security.

“We’ve used it quite a lot already, getting people in the community involved around child poverty. The Government’s concerned about vulnerable children & vulnerable families and we used the social innovation laboratory to bring together knowledgeable people within the community, together with Government & council, to bring initiatives to use an innovative process to bring creative solutions for intractable problems that have been with us for ages, and there never seems to be a solution through conventional policy processes.

“This is a way of getting out-of-the-box thinking, which we know Bill English is looking for as the deputy prime minister, and so are we as council very keen to get out of the box.”

At the end of a quick fly-through of a long career, I asked Dr Blakeley if he was happy with his work for Auckland: “I am. I’ve really found this an exciting opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity to be involved in something as big as the Auckland transformation, and something as big as my division’s responsibility for the big plans created for growth for the next 30 years.

And finally, what has driven him? “I always worked because I wanted to make a contribution, wanted to do something that was of value to my fellow human beings. I’ve had a career in both central government & local government, and what gets me up out of bed in the morning is thinking that what I’m doing is of value & worthwhile and contributes to the well-being of a lot of other people.”

Links: Blakeley determined to stay on the treadmill as exit beckons
Now our voice is heard in the great cities
A one-pager on Auckland challenges
Auckland case study by Roger Blakeley
15 May 2014, Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Social Labs Revolution: A new approach to solving our most complex challenges

Attribution: Interview.

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A one-pager on Auckland challenges

Dr Roger Blakeley.

Dr Roger Blakeley.

After being invited to be a member of an international review panel on New York’s next plan, Auckland Council chief planning officer Roger Blakeley was asked to produce a one-pager for a planning workshop last April:

What is the recent history of growth & change of Auckland?

Auckland is the largest city in NZ, with a population of 1.5 million. It has one-third of the population of a small country. Its global position is far from our key markets. Auckland’s setting is a stunningly beautiful natural environment of coast, harbours & the landscape of a volcanic conefield. Auckland’s population is growing fast and is projected to reach 2.5 million by 2040.

How does Auckland plan for its future?

For decades, Auckland was held back by fragmented & competing governance structures, infrastructure deficits, and catered more to cars than to people. People bemoaned the “Auckland disease” of short-termism & parochial disagreement.

But in 2010, after a royal commission, the Auckland region’s 8 councils were merged into one super-city under a new mayor, Len Brown. Mayor Brown’s leadership has brought Auckland together like never before. His vision of transforming Auckland into “the world’s most liveable city” is captured in a single comprehensive strategy, the Auckland Plan.

What are the roles of different sectors?

The Auckland Plan was developed in partnership with government, business, indigenous Maori tribes, non-government organisations & more than 15,000 Aucklanders. It is an integrated spatial & infrastructure plan for the next 30 years. It integrates economic, social, cultural & environmental goals. Only 17 months after amalgamation (a world record?), it was adopted in May 2012 and is the “guiding star” for transformation, followed by all sectors. It guides the city’s investment & planning rules.

What are today’s challenges?

Auckland now rates in the top 10 in 3 major international liveability indices, and in 2014 was third in Mercer’s Quality of living survey. It was recently voted the world’s third top sporting city, and regularly tops international surveys as a great tourist destination.

Some of Auckland’s challenges it cannot change – its remoteness & scale. The features it can change – inequality & polarisation of communities, economic strength, housing supply & affordability, traffic congestion, working with government – are today’s challenges.

What are the challenges that Auckland will have in 10, 20, 30 years?

Within 10 years, world-class public transport within one integrated transport system.

Within 20 years, Auckland’s economy will be on track to achieve goals of 6%/year growth in exports, 5%/year growth in gdp & 2%/year growth in productivity.

Within 30 years, Auckland will have turned around its housing deficit and met 30-year targets of supply of quality housing, flexibility of choice and affordability.

What are the main solutions proposed for the long-term challenges?

  • Accommodating a rapidly growing population in a “quality compact city”
  • Turning around economic under-performance with a strategy of inbound investment, innovation, internationalisation & export-led growth including tourism
  • Delivering outstanding public transport within one integrated network
  • Transforming the city centre & the waterfront
  • Unleashing economic & human potential of an impoverished South Auckland through early childhood education, skills, jobs, housing & health
  • Accelerating the supply, choice & affordability of housing
  • Putting children & young people first, with a focus on digitally based education
  • Environmental action, green growth and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Radical improvement in urban design & placemaking, while protecting heritage & character
  • Promoting Maori culture & identity as Auckland’s key point of difference in the world
  • Capturing creative vitality of Auckland as one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities.

Auckland’s journey has produced globally innovative change in metropolitan governance in 2010, in order to achieve liveability. Auckland now has one mayor, one council, one bold vision, one Auckland Plan, relentless determination and purposeful partnership between local government & citizens. The city has been reinvented & rejuvenated. Auckland will deliver its vision of being the world’s most liveable city. Its story is relevant for the world.

Note: If your question is, ‘Did he run over?’ the answer is yes, by 3 lines. I would have shrunk the font, but of course that’s not what’s important about this and Dr Blakeley’s second presentation to the New York review.

The final question – not from New York but for you, the reader: If the direction Dr Blakeley has worked so assiduously to create for us doesn’t fit your description of rational, how would you remould it? Click on the comments below – it’s easier to have your say than to sign up for the newsletters at the moment.

Links: Blakeley determined to stay on the treadmill as exit beckons
Now our voice is heard in the great cities
A one-pager on Auckland challenges
Auckland case study by Roger Blakeley

Attribution: Interview Blakeley paper.

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Auckland case study by Roger Blakeley

Dr Roger Blakeley.

Dr Roger Blakeley.

This is the second of 2 papers Auckland Council’s chief planning officer, Dr Roger Blakeley, has presented as a member of an international panel invited to review New York’s next plan.

Issues he covered in this case study concerned economic development, transport infrastructure, climate resilience, governance, regional planning & housing.

3.1 Auckland

Auckland’s regional planning has rapidly moved ahead since the region’s governance was transformed & consolidated into a unified metropolitan Auckland Council in 2010. The region is now able to align transport & land use planning, and dedicate resources & attention to integrated challenges. Auckland is drawing the lion’s share of New Zealand’s population growth and is projected to accommodate up to a million more people by 2040. The major challenge of the Auckland Plan, which sets the policies for the city for the 30-year period, is firstly to secure popular consensus for spatial density by emphasising the opportunities for quality urban spaces. It is becoming a design-led city with high quality urban design & public spaces. It is driven by environmental sustainability & resilience. It also is addressing economic exclusion & skill gaps in South Auckland through the Southern Initiative, and spots opportunities to become a more innovative & export-oriented economy. Auckland’s strategic planning approach engages specifically with young generations, and also seeks to leverage Maori culture as a point of difference in global markets.

i. Economic development

New Zealand’s economy has outperformed most others in the OECD in recent years. The recession was relatively mild, and growth since then has been vigorous. Progress has been made in closing the sizeable income gap with the top half of the OECD.

Auckland has driven New Zealand’s recovery from the 2009 global financial crisis. Auckland’s gdp has been growing at about 3%/year since mid-2010. Auckland accounts for 80% of all new jobs in New Zealand in the past 7 years (since the pre-recession period of 2007). Job growth has been strongest in the public sector (government, health & education) and white-collar jobs.

The key actions for the economic development of Auckland are set in the Auckland Council’s economic development strategy, with a 10-year horizon. The EDS, launched in 2012, is informed by the economic chapter in the Auckland Plan. The EDS describes 5 priorities for the city that are aimed at developing ‘an economy that delivers opportunity & prosperity for all Aucklanders & New Zealand. The priorities are:

  • grow a business-friendly & well functioning city. ‘Business-friendly’ means the collaboration between local government & central government aimed at reducing the barriers, costs & risks, supporting local business growth and attracting new business to the local area
  • develop an innovation hub of the Asia-Pacific rim. Historically, Auckland lacked strong clusters or innovation parks and therefore its in-house innovation capability was weak. Based on that, EDS highlights the importance to access the innovation infrastructure
  • become internationally connected & export-driven. The strategy suggests a focus on ‘improving trade & investment ties…. and improving the capability of all Auckland’s firms to go global’
  • enhance investment in people to grow skills & a local workforce. The EDS highlights the importance of supporting low-skill jobs to keep the city’s economy functioning, and at the same time to raise the skills level in order to improve Auckland’s position in the OECD rankings
  • develop a vibrant, creative international city by creating a clearly articulated brand for the city.

Overall, the EDS sets the 3 key targets: to grow exports by at least 6%/year, grow gdp by 5%/year & productivity by 2%/year.

The council-controlled organisation Ateed (Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development) has a lead role in implementing the economic development strategy. It has identified 6 key pillar areas of economic growth: build a culture of innovation & entrepreneurship; attract new business & investment; enable education & talent to resource growth; grow a more broadly skilled workforce; grow the visitor economy; and build Auckland’s brand & identity.

Areas of action have included:

  • enhancing the goal of making Auckland an innovation hub of the Asia-Pacific region, with the opening of GridAKL innovation precinct, the showcase of Auckland’s high-tech industry which will be a lightning rod to attract multinational companies & investors
  • growing a more talented & skilled Auckland workforce and filling current gaps through collaboration with industry & education & training providers
  • facilitating the expansion of digital learning initiatives, so young people will secure better, highly paid jobs, with our fastest-growing companies, and Auckland can become a world leader in future-focused digital learning
  • attract business events of all sizes which involve Auckland’s growth sectors of global competitive advantage & innovation
  • cross-council initiatives: the Auckland investment office; the mayor’s youth employment traction hubs; the city centre integration group and the 3 economic workstreams of the Southern Initiative, which will provide better pathways for young people, and better jobs & incomes as part of an integrated approach to urban regeneration
  • fuel Auckland as a world-leading indigenous business ecosystem, with a thriving investment, infrastructure & entrepreneurial Maori economy.

ii. Housing supply & affordability

The Auckland Plan, launched in May 2012, identified that Auckland had a housing crisis:

  • There was a shortfall of serviced land supply for the city
  • Median house prices across Auckland are high compared to median household incomes and, for example, Auckland was rated “severely unaffordable” by Demographia international housing survey. The existing supply of houses was of the order of 3-4000 dwellings/year, whereas the supply needed, as identified in the Auckland Plan, is 13,000 dwellings/year for the next 30 years
  • Housing delivery was not diversifying to meet the demands of changing demographics (eg, increase in single-person families; ageing population and changes in household formation such that there will soon be more one- or 2-person households than 3-or-more-person households in Auckland).

Actions taken were:

  • A new rural:urban boundary was established in the proposed Auckland unitary plan to allow for more land supply within greenfields areas over a 30-year period to meet the Auckland Plan targets for housing supply
  • The proposed unitary plan also included new residential zonings that created greater opportunity for residential intensification within existing housing areas.

The Government & Auckland Council agreed to work together on the housing affordability challenge with complementary initiatives:

  • Special legislation for a streamlined notification & hearings process to ensure the proposed unitary plan is made operative within 3 years from notification
  • The Housing Accords & Special Housing Areas Act 2013 to provide for the establishment of special housing areas
  • The Auckland housing accord, an agreement between the Government & Auckland Council to create special housing areas that would fast-track new housing supply against agreed targets
  • The creation of the housing project office within Auckland Council to lead the council’s housing efforts.

The partnership between Auckland Council & the Government has, over the last year, resulted in:

  • recommendations for an approval of 80 special housing areas with a potential yield of over 40,000 dwellings or sites
  • exceeding the housing accord target of 11,000 consented dwellings or sites within year 1 of the Auckland housing accord, and on track for the target of a total of 39,000 consented dwellings & sites over the 3 years of the accord.

Other initiatives have been:

  • Auckland Council & the Government are joint shareholders in the Tamaki Redevelopment Co Ltd, which aims to create 6000 dwellings over a 20-year period, with associated economic & social development initiatives
  • The council is proposing to replace 2 exiting council-controlled organisations with a new CCO known as Development Auckland, which will facilitate largescale development of intensive housing, including apartments & terraced houses, along with commercial development in places with best potential. It would redevelop areas in partnership with the private sector, developers, iwi (Maori tribes) and the Government and would not require increase to rates or debt levels.

iii. Transport development

The Auckland Plan recognises that Auckland’s transport system is overburdened & inefficient. Years of under-investment in public transport and existing settlement patterns in the narrow isthmus, compounded by decisions taken over the past half-century, mean that Aucklanders rely heavily on private cars as their primary transport mode (85% of trips). Roads & motorways are heavily congested and further expansion is severely constrained. The projected population growth of an extra one million people over the next 30 years will exacerbate the problems unless radical transformation occurs.

Addressing the congestion will require a transformational shift towards fare greater use of public transport and a stronger focus in planning, developing & operating the entire transport network as an integrated system.

Achievement of the outcomes & the priorities in the Auckland Plan are linked: meeting targets for increasing public mode share, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved accessibility, lower congestion for public transport & freight, travel time savings and the delivery of transport infrastructure priorities over the next 3 decades estimated at $60 billion.

The integrated transport programme is Auckland’s 30-year phasing of transport investment with a focus on 4 functional areas:

  • Operate, maintain & renew infrastructure optimally
  • Make better use of networks (“sweat” the current assets)
  • Manage demand efficiently & safely, including using tools such as road pricing
  • Invest in new infrastructure services & technology.

The proposed major network improvements include completion of the motorway ring route, upgrade of public transport infrastructure and introduction of electrified rail services, the city rail link, major roading & public transport projects, multi-modal corridor to the airport, an additional Waitemata Harbour crossing and improved cycleway & walkway networks.

The city rail link will revolutionise travel for Aucklanders and is the top transport priority. It includes a 3.5km underground tunnel ($2.4 billion). It will cut travel times, increase rail services and help address congestion on our roads across the region.

The 2015-25 long-term plan (10-year budget) invites feedback on 2 transport scenarios: a basic transport network ($6.9 billion) or investing more to get the Auckland Plan transport network that would address our transport problems ($1.3 billion). It also invites feedback on 2 options to fund the additional investment needed: a motorway network use charge of around $2/trip, or additional annual 1% rates increase & 1.2c/litre fuel tax increase/year.

Significant investment in the public transport system, including electrification of the rail network & new electric trains, has seen passenger patronage soar from just over 60 million trips in 2010 to 76.5 million in the 12 months to January 2015. Passenger numbers have reached 13.8 million in the year to January, an increase of 20% over the previous 12 months.

iv. Infrastructure investment & reinvestment

Auckland is the largest & the most rapidly growing metropolitan region in New Zealand and it is expected to take more than 60% of New Zealand’s growth during the next 30 years. This will be reflected in the infrastructure demand. Auckland’s authorities recognise that there has been under-investment in infrastructure in the past, which may impede the implementation of the Auckland Plan.

The plan describes the development policies for the following key infrastructure elements: water supply, wastewater & stormwater infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, defence facilities, emergency services, social infrastructure and public open space.

The Auckland Plan is based on a sustainable approach to infrastructure planning that focuses on developing a resilient Auckland that can adapt to change by building strong communities and robust ecological systems, and by strengthening its economy. The plan is premised on the development of a quality compact urban form. This approach better makes use of existing networks and manages the demand for new infrastructure efficiently & equitably, ensuring that investment leads to the most effective outcomes for Auckland. Recent disasters in New Zealand & overseas have highlighted the critical importance of water, wastewater & electricity provision for the resilience of a city.

The priority actions in the Auckland Plan are:

  1. Optimise, integrate & align network utility provision & planning
  2. Protect, enable, align, integrate & provide social & community infrastructure for present & future generations.

Auckland Council has recently produced a “draft Auckland 30-year infrastructure strategy”. This is a new requirement in legislation. It is being consulted on with the public as part of the engagement on the long-term plan 2015-25.

The infrastructure strategy is based on the following 7 key mechanisms:

  1. The Auckland Plan development strategy, and spatial priorities to target investment
  2. Demand management tools such as pricing, taxes, statutory planning controls that use regulatory levers & incentives, eg, water demand reduction
  3. Smart/transformative infrastructure investment, such as the city rail link, and recognising that over the next 30 years innovation & new technology will continue to drive societal change and open up new options for how we manage & build our infrastructure
  4. Strategic long-term network/systems planning, to address challenges & issues at a network or system level and link to asset management plans
  5. Efficient & innovative asset management through operating, maintaining & renewing infrastructure optimally; making best use of existing networks (“sweat the assets”), managing demand efficiently & safely; and investing in new infrastructure, services & technology
  6. New funding & delivery mechanisms, including public-private partnerships, private sector funding or provision, new funding mechanisms such as regional fuel taxes, congestion charging, tax increment financing, community sponsorship & partnership approaches
  7. Monitoring programme for growth to inform decision-making and ensure infrastructure is available at the right time and in the right place to support growth.

The total projected expenditure over the 30 years of the strategy is $60 billion capital expenditure & $150 billion operational expenditure.

The activity groups within the structure are wastewater, water supply, transport including public transport, stormwater, community facilities & public open space.

At this stage the strategy is focused on council-funded infrastructure provision. It is proposed to further develop the strategy over the next 3 years to incorporate private sector and social & civil infrastructure, including utilities such as telecommunications & power companies, schools, hospitals & community facilities.

Auckland is developing a “digital Auckland” (“smart city”). The purpose is to provide connected & integrated digital information & decision tools to enable organisations & citizens to make informed decisions – ranging from decisions by big organisations on public policy & investment, to decisions by citizens on where & how they live, learn, work & play. The tools will include datasets, decision tools, visualisation, real-time management of the city, 3-D virtual city and digital commons for infrastructure. The drivers for Digital Auckland include managing the major urban growth over the next 30 years, ensuring supply, choice & affordability of housing, and delivering an integrated transport system through one network and a transformational shift to public transport.

v. Climate resilience

New Zealand is a signatory to the Kyoto protocol and has committed to a long-term aspirational goal of reducing New Zealand’s net emissions to 50% of 1990 levels by 2050. The Auckland Plan has set a shorter-term target of between 10-20% below 1990 levels by 2020 (based on 1990 levels) and 40% reduction compared with 1990 emission levels by 2040.

Auckland has prepared a “low-carbon Auckland” action plan, July 2014. It sets out the actions required to deliver on the target for emission reductions. It was developed in a collaborative manner with engagement of council, business, iwi (tribal groups) & communities. It sets out a long-term (30-year) vision of an energy-resilient & low-carbon Auckland. Transport & electricity account for around two-thirds of Auckland’s emissions. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 5.3 million tonnes, Auckland must transform from a fossil fuel-dependent, high energy-using, high waste society to a mobile, quality compact city.

Low Carbon Auckland envisages a city with a prosperous eco-economy – powered by efficient, affordable, clean energy and using sustainable resources. The low carbon action plan sets out a 30-year pathway and a 10-year plan that will guide the first stage of the city’s transformation towards this low-carbon, energy-resilient future.

Achieving the interim targets in the plan demands a significant shift from business as usual. Key actions include reducing the demand for travel & fuel consumption through encouraging active modes of travel & public transport use, switching to alternative fuels, accelerated uptake of local renewable energy generation, smart grid networks and sustainable homes & buildings.

New initiatives planned include trialling a warrant of fitness for rental properties, a citywide organic waste collections scheme and an enabling regulatory framework in the unitary plan. The actions will also provide benefits for our environment, including reducing emissions to air, land & water, and the economy & our overall well-being. Innovative funding models will also be required to generate finance for these activities.

Adapting to a changing climate

Based on current knowledge, Auckland could experience more extreme variability in its local climate in short, medium & long term. Auckland is likely to see hotter average temperatures, changes in wind & rainfall patterns, more frequent extreme weather events such as droughts & floods, and rising sea levels, with higher storm surge & waves. This will trigger changes and create uncertainties for the natural & built environment, the economy, public health & lifestyles.

Measures that are being taken in the proposed unitary plan to adapt for climate change effects include:

  • provisions for up to 1m sea level rise over the next 100 years (plus 500mm) for new dwellings & new habitable floors on existing dwellings
  • requirements for future development of land for housing business & infrastructure (for roading & drainage) to be located away from coastal & low-lying areas subject to 2m sea level rise.

Fully integrated resilience planning

Auckland’s approach to building climate resilience is not focused on conventional risk management frameworks or just policy responses. Rather, climate change & future growth is considered explicitly in the city’s future risk profile through cross-agency action planning & delivery. Auckland is shifting its thinking toward enhancing the performance of systems in the face of multiple shocks & climate disruption, instead of preventing or mitigating impacts to assets, populations & properties from specific events or individual risks. This approach includes strong community engagement & empowerment projects, such as the “Auckland king tide initiative”, which engaged Aucklanders using social media to alert citizens to areas of inundation. It provides the foundation for building resilience to future climate change in Auckland.

Auckland is developing its integrated climate resilience planning.

vi. Regional planning & governance

For decades, Auckland was held back by fragmented & competing governance structures, infrastructure deficits, and catered more to cars than to people. Everyone bemoaned the “Auckland disease” of short-termism & parochial disagreement which produced:

  • motorways & streets clogged with congestion
  • no coherent land use & transport strategy
  • weak governance & poor community engagement
  • limp urban design that undermined the beauty of the natural environment
  • no leadership on major projects such as the Commonwealth Games & Rugby World Cup.

But in 2010, after a royal commission, the Auckland region’s 8 councils were merged into one “super city” under a new executive mayor. A game-changer from which Auckland has not looked back. The new Auckland Council serves a population of 1.5 million, one-third of New Zealand’s population & economy.

The organisational transformation of 8 separate councils intone new Auckland Council with 8500 staff, assets of $40 billion, annual budget of 43 billion, required major transformational governance & management changes. This was one of the largest organisational changes in the history of New Zealand & Australasia. It was managed very smoothly. The organisational changes were managed from initial operational stability through changes of transition and now transformation.

Mayor Len Brown, the first mayor of the new Auckland Council, created a vision of transforming Auckland into “the world’s most liveable city”. This is the vision of a single comprehensive strategy: “The Auckland Plan”. Developed together with central government, business, indigenous Maori tribes and more than 15,000 Aucklanders: it is an integrated spatial & infrastructure plan for the next 30 years, with economic, social, cultural & environmental goals. It was produced only 17 months after amalgamation. It was adopted in May 2012 and is now the “guiding star” for Auckland’s quest to be the world’s most liveable city. Other strategies that sit under the Auckland Plan are the economic development strategy, city centre masterplan, proposed unitary plan (land use planning regulations) and the long-term plan (council’s 10-year budget).

Auckland has a governance structure that operates in 3 areas:

  • Central government: acts in the interests of New Zealand as a whole
  • Metropolitan/regional government: manages the Auckland metropolitan region and identifies regionwide strategic policies
  • Local level: resolves local matters and aims at “providing local leadership and building strong local communities”.

The council consists of the governing body & 21 local boards, which represent the interests of local communities. The council’s services & activity (transport, waterfront, tourism, property etc) is delivered by the council-controlled organisations – the corporate entities with board members appointed for their business acumen.

The current governance structure in Auckland is efficient with clear leadership acting in the interests of the metropolitan community. Greater clarity of the roles of different bodies, especially local boards, and of the relationship between central government & the council, has developed since amalgamation.

Auckland’s journey has produced globally innovative change in metropolitan governance in 2010, in order to achieve liveability. Auckland now has one mayor, one council, one bold vision, one Auckland Plan, relentless determination and purposeful partnership between local government & citizens. The city has been reinvented & rejuvenated. Auckland will deliver its vision of being the world’s most liveable city. Its story is relevant for the world.

Links: Blakeley determined to stay on the treadmill as exit beckons
Now our voice is heard in the great cities
A one-pager on Auckland challenges
Auckland case study by Roger Blakeley

Attribution: Interview, Blakeley paper.

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Council transformation begins with a must-change moment

At what point does transformation begin? It’s most often a gradual process with occasional reference points where significant change occurs or is agreed.

I saw transformation at Auckland Council last week. It’s by no means complete, though many battles have been waged to get the council to the point it reached by Thursday.

What’s different is that the council must change.

The council held 2 committee meetings last week from which mayor Len Brown was absent – economic development on Tuesday, finance & performance on Thursday. The mayor will return to the fore this Thursday when he delivers his proposal for the council’s long-term plan.

At the Thursday meeting, the chairs of 3 local boards told how they’d been given a list of projects to be deferred, without a chance to consider it. The committee of the governing body supported deferring a decision on that project priority list to allow boards to consider how to act.

The committee also resolved, with little discussion, to cut Auckland Transport capex by $100 million. Auckland Transport had been warned and has worked on a list, which it didn’t divulge.

What’s transformational about these decisions is that making sudden budgetary decisions – even after a large volume of discussion, as has happened with the boards’ budgets – is madness, destructive. The council can’t operate by waving loppers in the air.

The point was reached last week where the board chairs said: “We will work with you, but you must engage with us.” Auckland Transport senior executives walked out of the meeting stunned that decisions could be made in this cavalier fashion. Cavalier, because taking away what has been given or is expected is always messy.

If, on the other hand, the boards and Auckland Transport had had more conservative budgets to establish what they could do, rather than being told at the last minute they must cut projects already being developed, they could set themselves workable programmes.

These debates over how to make the super-city work have been going on for the whole of the first 4 years since the old 8 councils of the region were merged into the one Auckland Council. The first term began with excessive budgetary proposals from some of those old councils, but only now is the new council getting down to saying what it can & will do, instead of suddenly decreeing what it won’t do.

In short, I see change coming:

  • New councillors who are pragmatic, with an understanding of how businesses should be asked to operate, raising their profiles
  • The governing body working hard to establish smoother funding lines to the local boards
  • The governing body putting proposals to its commercial arms on how they should operate and what they should be targeting, not just waiting for the CCOs to put proposal to which the answer is yea or think again
  • More co-operation between council & Government, led by a council push to state its objectives forcefully, ending the era of lurching, politically motivated decision-making and also ending the era of central government dropping unfunded costs & tasks on local government.

Is this mere imagination? No, I think the moment of change has arrived. I’ll write in more detail about this tomorrow.

Attribution: Council committee meetings, agenda, discussions.

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Draft alcohol policy heads to consultation after detour through selective content debate

Auckland Council’s regional strategy & policy committee agreed yesterday to send its draft local alcohol policy out to public consultation – without an amendment sought by Cllr Cameron Brewer exempting supermarkets from alcohol sales from 7-9am.

Cllr Brewer argued that this was a small segment of the market, mainly mothers who’d gone shopping after taking their children to school.

He was supported by Cllr Christine Fletcher, who said: “If we want the community to come along with us, we must not introduce anomalies.” Before 9am, she said, surveys showed the majority of shoppers were working women aged 30-60.”My fear is, unless we support the amendment, this is the sort of issue that will become the focus.”

Cllr Dick Quax added, in support of the amendment: “If you leave shopping until late Sunday afternoon, the shelves might be empty. The real problem is alcopops.”

Cllr Denise Krum, also supporting Cllr Brewer, said: “it’s a no-brainer for us to set the parameters for debate. You should be able to pick up the beef for your crockpot, a bottle of wine for dinner.”

But Cllr Arthur Anae responded: “If we’re going to do this is we should open up all the policy to amendments.”

Mayor Len Brown commented: “If this isn’t the right balance, we’ll find it. It’s not the debate we need to have at this time.”

And deputy mayor Penny Hulse added: “Today’s not about the issues…. If we make it open slather to the supermarkets – this is about a very successful lobby group who’ve managed to get an amendment up here.”

The business before the committee was to recommend consultation be started, whereas Cllr Brewer’s amendment was about content of the policy.

In a later item on the committee’s agenda, about how the council should deal with improvements to fresh water around the region, Cllr Wayne Walker asked for staff to put all the options on the table. That’s not always a practicality, and probably isn’t when staff have the task of presenting a workable policy on which the public – and councillors – will have the opportunity to submit.

Because the policy is about alcohol – and particularly about late-night drinking & behaviour in the cbd – it will arouse strong opinions no matter what draft policy is presented.

The amendment was defeated 14-7 and the substantive motion carried 20-2.

Next steps are to appoint a hearings panel, followed by consultation in June-July, hearings in August, so the hearing panel can report back to the council with a recommended policy in October-November.

Attribution: Council committee meeting.

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Council to vote on alcohol policy – and Brewer drums out his opposition

Auckland Council’s regional strategy & policy committee will vote tomorrow on putting a draft local alcohol policy out for consultation, and Cllr Cameron Brewer flagged his opposition to it yesterday.

The draft policy proposes 2 broad areas & an overlapping policy on priority areas.

Broad area A, covering the city centre, Ponsonby & Newton commercial areas, broad area B covers the rest of the region and the priority areas overlay covers areas experiencing greater levels of alcohol-related harm.

The report by council staff proposes a 24-month freeze on issuing off-licences in areas where there is greater licence density, and maximum trading hours.

For area A, the maximum would be 9am-3am, area B 9am-1am, but there would be trial extensions for best practice operators.

Cllr Brewer said the draft policy would hit responsible drinkers & operators, didn’t reflect the Auckland Plan, would see a freeze on new wine shops in the central city and bars forced to close earlier than Wellington, where the provisional policy is to close bars at 5am.

“This policy if adopted will see cordons go up around the alcohol section of every supermarket early in the morning and late at night. Annoying a lot of people, wine & beer will be roped off like we used to have in the old days when you couldn’t buy alcohol from supermarkets on Sundays. It’s ‘back to the future’ stuff.

“Mum & dad shoppers won’t be able to buy wine or beer with their weekly groceries before 9am & after 10pm. It makes no sense, particularly the morning ban, and such a move will do little to deliver on the intention of the 2012 Sale & Supply of Alcohol Act, which is all about minimising alcohol harm. These grocery shoppers are not the problem!

“This policy will make a joke of council’s latest marketing campaign that promotes Auckland as ‘the show that never stops’.

“I believe the likes of Newmarket & Takapuna should be given a break. They deserve a little more latitude than our villages, but under this policy many of their hospitality businesses will see their existing hours restricted regardless if they have a great record, with the pain of then having to go through the process of applying for an extension. In the meantime this will only mean more local young people getting into cars and heading into the central city.”

Cllr Brewer said champagne breakfasts at local bars to watch the likes of the Commonwealth Games would become a lot harder with standard on-licence hours set at 9am, and doubts whether the council picking on these kind of special events would actually reduce alcohol-related harm in society.

Link: Council committee agenda, 9 Local alcohol policy project – approval of draft policy for special consultative procedure

 

Attribution: Council agenda, Brewer release.

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