Archive | Land use

Committee progresses unitary plan changes, city centre masterplan, waterfront, Panuku programme, Onehunga project, land transport, northern corridor, Whenuapai, sites of significance

Auckland Council’s planning committee began its 6-hour meeting yesterday with input from advocates of no port extension into the Waitemata Harbour, and of relocating the freight operation.

Shortly after, the committee gave its support in principle to an inner dolphin off Queens Wharf as the preferred option for berthing large cruise ships.

The public input came from Shane Vuletich for Urban Auckland, Committee for Auckland & Stop Stealing our Harbour, with Richard Didsbury, Sir Stephen Tindall & Julie Stout.

But the bulk of the day’s meeting was about the “refresh” of the council’s overarching Auckland Plan, completed in 2012 and up for its first review.

The committee has held 4 workshops and had numerous presentations on the Auckland Plan, but also on various other planning documents since last October’s election.

The committee approved a streamlined approach rather than fullscale review with the intention of making the plan more strategic, integrated, focused on spatial issues, a smaller document and one that will be digitally accessible.

It approved a process of early targeted engagement with communities from May-June  on Auckland’s big issues and on the high level strategic direction of the refreshed Auckland Plan.

This article is a brief summary of matters the committee considered. I’ll write in more detail in a few days.

Other items considered:

Item 10, city centre masterplan delivery & implementation, 3 projects to be updated:

  • Victoria linear park & midtown east-west public transport
  • Quay St harbour edge boulevard & Hobson St flyover
  • Queen St, issue identification & project implications.

Item 11, Waterfront planning & implementation:

A targeted refresh of the waterfront plan is underway, focusing on development of Wynyard Pt and optimising the use of the central wharves. 

Item 12, Update on Panuku work programme:

The committee endorsed Avondale as an “unlock” location, where Panuku facilitates development opportunities for private sector investment in town centres.

A high level project plan will go to the committee later this year for approval.

Item 13, Onehunga high level project plan:

The committee adopted Panuku Development Auckland’s high level project plan for the transformation of the Onehunga town centre & surrounding area.

Item 14, Submission on draft national policy statement on land transport:

The committee approved the council’s submission.

Item 15, Northern corridor improvements project, political reference group & delegations:

The committee approved extending delegations so the reference group can provide direction & decisions on the council’s position during the board of inquiry hearing on east-west link project.

Item 19, Unitary plan (operative in part) – future plan changes and processing of private plan changes:

A report was presented on future council-initiated changes to the new unitary plan and the committee approved the criteria for dealing with private plan changes over the next 2 years.

Item 16, Draft Whenuapai plan change – approval & public engagement:

The committee approved a consultation process that will allow for the implementation of the Whenuapai structure plan, which the council approved last September. Public consultation will run from 10 April-14 May.

Item 17, Development of plan change to the unitary plan & Hauraki Gulf islands section of the district plan on sites of significance to mana whenua:

The committee gave approval for the council to engage with mana whenua & landowners on 270 nominated sites of significance to mana whenua as the next step to preparing a plan change. 

Item 18, Unitary plan, assessment of errors to produce the first 2 administrative plan changes:

The committee agreed to develop 2 administrative plan changes, one to correct errors, anomalies & technical details to the text & maps and the other to correct errors in the notable tree schedule.

Links – from committee agenda:
9, Auckland Plan refresh, engagement approach & proposed options

<ahref=”http://infocouncil.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/Open/2017/03/PLA_20170328_AGN_6720_AT.htm#PDF2_ReportName_52321″ target=”_blank”>10, Auckland city centre masterplan (2012): Delivery & implementation, progress update
Addendum (item 11)
11, Waterfront planning & implementation
Mooring options
Inner dolphin section & plan views
12, Panuku work programme, update
13, Onehunga, high level project
14, Draft government policy statement on land transport, submission
15, Northern corridor improvements project, political reference group & delegations
16, Draft Whenuapai plan change, approval & public engagement
17, Development of plan change to unitary plan (operative in part) and the district plan (Hauraki Gulf islands section), sites of significance to mana whenua
18, Unitary plan (operative in part), assessment of errors to produce the first 2 administrative plan changes
19, Unitary plan (operative in part), future plan changes and processing of private plan changes
20, Summary of planning committee information memos & briefings
Attachment A, 2 March, Staff submission on the Telecommunication Act Review: post-2020 regulatory framework for fixed line services
Attachment B, 22 March, East-West Link, submission
Attachment C, 22 March, northern corridor improvements project, submission
Attachment D, 20 March, structure plans, memo to planning committee members
Attachment E, 15 February, future urban land supply strategy, refresh workshop documents
Attachment F, 1 March, city rail link, briefing documents
Attachment G, 1 March, Auckland Plan refresh, workshop 3 documents
Attachment H, 7 March, city-airport briefing documents (not included)
Attachment I, 10 March, central city waterfront, planning workshop documents
Attachment J, 15 March, Auckland Plan refresh, workshop 4 documents

Related story today:
Start with a figure you don’t know, then plan accordingly….

Attribution: Committee meeting, council staff report.

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Productivity Commission goes back to first principles on urban planning

The Productivity Commission said today it had taken a “first principles” approach to planning in its investigation of urban planning and what it might be. The commission issued its final report, Better urban planning, this morning.

The commission said: “This inquiry should not constitute a critique of previous or ongoing reforms to the systems or legislation which make up the urban planning system. Rather, it is intended to take a ‘first principles’ approach to the urban planning system.”

Its final report stretches to 498 pages and I haven’t read the whole document yet. Below are some of its key points and none of the recommendations. I’ll get into further detail over the next week.

The current planning system – the commission’s diagnosis:

  • Planning legislation lacks clarity & focus, and is prone to overreach
  • Too little direction & guidance from central government
  • Prioritisation is difficult
  • The system lacks responsiveness
  • Protection of Maori interests is inconsistent

What changes are needed?

  • New mechanisms & models to overcome supply failure
  • More responsive infrastructure provision
  • Better planning & better quality plans through spatial planning & reviews by independent hearings panels
  • More representative, less rigid consultation
  • Wider recognition and protection of Maori interests
  • Stronger & different capabilities & culture within councils & central government

At the end of that list of changes, the commission report says: “Central government will also need to substantially improve its understanding of urban planning and knowledge of, and engagement with, the local government sector. It will be under a strong obligation to exercise effective regulatory stewardship of the planning system.”

Central government role

Under the first heading on necessary changes, New mechanisms & models to overcome supply failure, the report says: “A clearer statute and clearer direction & expectations from central government will push councils in high growth cities to do more to meet the demand for development capacity.

“The recently published national policy statement on urban development capacity is a step in the right direction. But these councils will need more help to meet the challenge of their rapidly growing populations. That help should start with:

  • clear legislative purposes & objectives for the natural & built environments
  • principles to guide plan-making, planning processes & decision-making, and
  • systematic, independent & timely reviews of plans.

“In line with these objectives, principles & the reviews, plans should:

  • have clearer & broader “development envelopes” within which low-risk & mixed development is either permitted or is only subject to minimal controls
  • only apply rules that offer a clear net benefit, where the link to externalities is clear and where alternative approaches are not feasible
  • put greater reliance on pricing & market-based tools rather than rules
  • constrain attempts to force the creation of economic, social or environmental benefits through restrictive rules (eg, planning policies that attempt to promote density in the expectation that this will necessarily lead to higher productivity)
  • recognise inherent limits exist to what land-use planning can achieve, and give greater room & respect to the decisions of individuals & firms
  • have broader zones that allow more uses
  • make less use of subjective & vague aesthetic rules & policies, and
  • depend more on local evidence to support land use rules, instead of relying on heuristics generated from overseas studies (eg, assumptions that higher density urban areas necessarily result in their residents behaving more sustainably).”

To complement these improvements, the report says a future planning system should:

  • employ price-trigger mechanisms that credibly guarantee that councils will permit enough development capacity to meet demand at reasonable prices
  • deploy, where appropriate, urban development authorities to assemble & develop inner-city land at a scale sufficient to meet business, residential & mobility needs
  • enable councils to auction development rights as a way to achieve increased, but not excessive, inner-city density, and
  • create competitive urban land markets that open opportunities for the private sector to invest in out-of-sequence community developments. These can sidestep land bankers’ stranglehold on land supply and avoid additional burdens on councils for infrastructure.

5 critical goals

Productivity Commission chair Murray Sherwin wrote in his foreword to the final report: “As the inquiry progressed, it became clear that to make the greatest contribution to wellbeing, the planning system needs to deliver on 5 critical goals:

“First, it has to be flexible & responsive to changing needs, preferences, technology & information.

“Second, it has to provide sufficient development capacity to meet demand. The harmful effect of spiralling house prices is indicative of a serious imbalance between supply & demand.

“Third, planning systems need to allow mobility of residents & goods to & through our cities in order to get to jobs & other activities.

“Fourth, the system has to be able to fit land-use activities within well defined environmental limits.

“And lastly, the planning system needs to recognise & actively protect Maori interests in the built & natural environments arising from the Treaty of Waitangi.”

Mr Sherwin said the current system was failing to deliver on these goals:

“We can see that the system is under stress in failing not only to cope with the challenges of high growth cities, but also to protect important parts of New Zealand’s natural environment. These failures point to weaknesses in the design & operation of New Zealand’s planning system. Few of the many participants in the inquiry were happy with the current system, and many were strongly critical, believing the Resource Management Act had not worked out as intended, or needed a substantial overhaul.

“We set out what a future planning framework should look like. While some aspects of the proposed new planning architecture will be recognisable, much of it will not. We have taken the ‘blue skies’ mandate from Government seriously and offer fundamental & far-reaching recommendations for a future land-use planning & resource management system.

“We believe that following these recommendations will provide substantial benefits. Getting a planning & resource management system that is fit for purpose has the potential to deliver access to affordable housing & well paying jobs, in vibrant, dynamic & liveable cities and in a country where the natural environment is cherished & protected.”

Mr Sherwin said he and commission members Professor Sally Davenport & Dr Graham Scott oversaw the preparation of this report.

Professor Davenport is professor of management at Victoria University of Wellington’s school of management. Dr Scott is executive chair of Southern Cross Advisers Ltd, which specialises in advising on public sector reform globally. He is also a consulting director in the Sapere Research Group.

Links:
Productivity Commission, 29 March 2017: Better urban planning, final report
Productivity Commission, 19 August 2016:
What would a high-performing planning system look like?
Urban planning: What’s broken and how to fix it
Better urban planning, draft report

Related stories today:
Start with a figure you don’t know, then plan accordingly….
Productivity Commission goes back to first principles on urban planning

Earlier stories, 22 August 2016, on draft report:
Productivity Commission urban planning report blunt, measured & perceptive
Commission sees government change as essential for urban planning
Commission says everything English wanted on planning

Earlier story:
11 December 2015: Planning system is next Productivity Commission target

Attribution: Productivity Commission.

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Start with a figure you don’t know, then plan accordingly….

How many people will migrate to New Zealand this year, and over the next 5 years? Nobody knows. The Government might – ought to – have a very good idea but hasn’t been telling anybody. Immigration is a very good tool for economic uplift and therefore supports central government political incumbents – albeit this can get out of hand, as it did in 2003-04 under Labour and again in the last 4 years under the National-led government, and it has an array of mostly bad side effects that our politicians and also bureaucrats have proved they are not skilled at grappling with.

The influx – a spike in population growth – is at the heart of land planning complications.

The Government sought an answer from the Productivity Commission in 2015 and the commission responded last August with a draft report which I thought was perceptive.

The commission has released its final report today. It runs to 498 pages and I haven’t read the whole document. After I have read it all, I’ll write more about it.

But a quick read through the main points, the summary of what the commission believed it should be looking for and some of the recommendations leaves me uneasy.

The central issue

Our central issue – a migrant spike 12-13 years ago and a second spike this decade, which was stretched out as Kiwis came home from the first seriously prolonged downturn in the Australian economy in nearly 50 years – is one that can be handled better in future but is causing ongoing problems of land supply, affordability & infrastructure demand in Auckland.

It’s been exacerbated by the low cost of debt and very ready supply of credit, both locally & internationally. Without being brought under some restraint, virtually free credit will continue to thwart financial & economic planning by concentrating investment in certain assets, such as housing.

The first planning question

In planning, the first question to be resolved is the accuracy of population growth projections. That’s mostly a question for the Government, but Australia’s economy is also relevant. Australia will start to grow again in a couple of years, and the reversal of migrant flow could be very quick.

Second is the immediate supply issue. Auckland Council’s unitary plan, post-independent hearings panel input, mostly provides for improved supply of residential land and partly provides for more business land, special housing areas are a further response to the residential issue and supply ought to improve over the next couple of years.

But availability doesn’t automatically lead to development. Developers get defeated by cyclical downturns which always start the day before they’ve cemented their financial position in place, without needing politicians to stare them down, demanding development on slimmer margins going into a period of great international uncertainty.

The public sector ought to have been involved for the whole of this decade in assisting the supply of truly affordable housing – not the piecemeal supply of “affordable” houses in a range of $6-700,000 on small sections (allowing for no extension).

The third issue is longer-term

And the third issue is the longer-term handling of community creation – not rushed suburbs, not long commutes by car, not “town centres” which are only shops.

The original Auckland Plan completed by the new super-city Auckland Council in 2012 went some way towards envisaging more & better communities, and the new one which has been in front of the council’s planning committee since shortly after last October’s elections will improve the focus.

Even so, too little work has been done on stopping Auckland from being the city of the long commute.

Today’s stories – and for the next week

Today’s story on the Productivity Commission’s final report highlights points the commission believed it should work on, from a ‘first principles’ basis, and changes it’s suggested.

While I was at the Town Hall for Auckland Council’s planning committee meeting yesterday, I spent a large amount of my time trying to digest a huge volume of documentation on a range of topics relating to both the unitary plan and the “refresh”, as it’s been called, of the council’s umbrella planning document, the Auckland Plan.

Today’s story on that will be extremely brief, pointing you to content and ignoring the questions & points made at yesterday’s meeting.

The full version will take several articles over the next few days.

Links:
Productivity Commission, 29 March 2017: Better urban planning, final report
Productivity Commission, 19 August 2016:
What would a high-performing planning system look like?
Urban planning: What’s broken and how to fix it
Better urban planning, draft report

Related stories today:
Start with a figure you don’t know, then plan accordingly….
Productivity Commission goes back to first principles on urban planning

Earlier stories, 22 August 2016, on draft report:
Productivity Commission urban planning report blunt, measured & perceptive
Commission sees government change as essential for urban planning
Commission says everything English wanted on planning

Earlier story:
11 December 2015: Planning system is next Productivity Commission target

Attribution: Productivity Commission report, Auckland Council committee meeting & agenda.

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Clochemerle lives again – in Tekapo

It was a grand event on the scale and with the gravity, pomp & national importance of Clochemerle, the opening of a public urinal in a French village made famous by a 1972 BBC television series, and it came with a grand Government media release headed, New Tekapo toilets open for business.

The narrator in that television series, the multi-talented Peter Ustinov, would have done the opening of the new Government-sponsored public toilets in Tekapo proud, but he wasn’t available, having died in 2004. So the job of officiating fell to Associate Tourism Minister Nicky Wagner, there to espouse the benefits to humanity of the Government’s Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund, which co-funded Tekapo’s 2 new toilet blocks, one near the Church of the Good Shepherd and the other in the Mackenzie country township.

She may have proudly muttered “Every second longdrop is ours” on her way to this splendid event, but I can’t confirm that as I was safely ensconced in the Auckland Town Hall listening to the debate & presentations on council long-term plans for even more magnificent infrastructure.

The Mackenzie District Council received $405,000 from the fund last year for the construction of the Tekapo toilet blocks – manna from an outfit which, to me, seems to have been ever so slightly tightfisted in parting with any largesse arising from the growing gst windfall it’s received from New Zealand’s rising tourist numbers.

Ms Wagner told her audience: “Tekapo is an iconic Kiwi location, but this little town of around 400 people receives in excess of 100,000 visitors/month in the summer season, and we were seeing high demand for new facilities.

“It’s great to see this fund in action, helping smaller communities like Tekapo respond to growth in visitor numbers by developing new & enhanced infrastructure.

“There is no doubt tourism benefits the area — international & domestic visitors spent around $723 million in South Canterbury in the year to January, an 8% jump on 2016. Tourism drives growth & job creation in this region, as in so many others around the country.”

The Government developed the Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund as part of its tourism strategy “to help regions benefit from growth while managing the pressures it places on communities & infrastructure”.

The Government allocated $12 million – over 4 years – for the fund in its 2016 Budget and announced an additional $5.5 million this month. The Tekapo toilets are one of 14 approved projects from the first funding round, held last year. A second funding round is open until 12 April.

Deputy Prime Minister & Tourism Minister Paula Bennett flushed most of a $1.4 billion council wish list for tourism-related projects down the toilet 2 weeks ago, saying most of the listed projects were “either already funded by other areas of Government, are not considered a priority or should be funded by local councils”.

She recognised that tourism had become a $14.5 billion/year export earner and that these visitors “are incredibly important to our economy, particularly in the regions.”

But the return to those regions trying to cope with record tourist numbers is a drop in the bucket, on Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule’s count. He said the gst contribution to the Government from international visitors rose from $950 million in the March 2015 year to $1.5 billion in the March 2016 year.

Local Government NZ & major tourism organisations want a national tourism infrastructure levy which, between the industry and matching Government contributions, would generate $130 million/year to fund local tourism infrastructure needs.

Clochemerle was a 1934 satirical novel by French author Gabriel Chevallier on the conflicts between Catholics & Republicans during the French Third Republic, which ran from 1870 until it collapsed at the start of the Second World War.

Link:
Grant fund

Earlier story:
16 Mach 2017: Bennett rejects councils’ tourism infrastructure funding list

Attribution: Ministerial release, Wikipedia.

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Goff raises funding question as airport mass transit corridor agreed

Auckland Council & the Government have agreed to start route protection for a mass transit corridor between Auckland Airport & the city centre. The route will be along Dominion Rd.

The NZ Transport Agency & Auckland Transport worked together to develop a joint solution that will progress from bus services to a light rail transit solution.

The study found an advanced bus option could provide a credible solution over the next 30 years that could progress from the current bus-based system to a long-term solution.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said on Friday: “By drawing on international expertise, they have identified a range of opportunities for bus travel through a separated corridor, using innovative technology & customer-focused solutions.

“In the medium to long term, this will make it possible for a staged, integrated transition to light rail along the preferred ‘airport-city’ route based on future demand & capacity.

“This work follows the Auckland transport alignment project that identified the future pressure on mass transit corridors and the need for route protection to ensure future economic growth & productivity.”

Mayor Phil Goff welcomed the agreement: “With nearly 18 million passenger arrivals/year at Auckland Airport, a mass transit alternative to growing gridlock is critical. And the growth in employment in the airport precinct, adding further pressure on the roads, also makes a public transport option important.

Goff: many issues to resolve

“This report recognises the problem of ever-increasing congestion on the route between the airport & the city, the 2 fastest-growing employment areas in Auckland. We need immediately to protect routes for the bus rapid transit/light rail option, including from the airport to Manukau & Botany. Future-proofing our city is vital.”

But Mr Goff said many issues still had to be resolved: “Work should begin on identifying triggers for making the transition. Bus lanes are consistent with later conversion to a light rail service. However, if light rail is needed within just a few years, there is a question as to why we shouldn’t just move immediately to that solution. Secondly, bringing forward a mass transit route to the airport adds urgency to the need to find new revenue streams to fund it.”

NZTA director outlines workstreams

Transport Agency Auckland regional director Ernst Zöllner said: “Further work will be done to assess key operational elements, required trade-offs, flow-on effects, transition impacts & network resilience issues.

“The agency & Auckland Transport will work together with Auckland Council to determine an integrated approach that enables a progression from the current bus services & bus lanes to improved bus services in the short-term. This will potentially be followed by higher capacity buses and a dedicated bus mass transit right of way, before a transition to light rail transit could occur.

“The timing for this transition will be based on demand, capacity & funding.

“The most recent advanced bus solution study commissioned by the NZ Transport Agency is a useful input into existing data and builds on previous studies such as the central access plan, the south-western multi-modal airport rapid transit study and the Auckland transport alignment project with Auckland Council.”

Mr Zöllner said the transport agency had also taken immediate measures in the 2015-18 national land transport programme to deliver improved public transport solutions around the greater airport area, which supported a package of short-term improvements being developed to address urgent access issues.

Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton said: “The agencies have agreed and confirmed through various studies that Dominion Rd is the preferred route, and we all acknowledge not only the importance of the airport precinct & the city centre, but the public transport access & connectivity that is needed along the route.

“Any transition plan needs to consider the lead time required for transition steps such as construction timeframes, and the continued operation of the network in delivering the best value-for-money option.

In parallel, work will be undertaken to progress route protection of the south-eastern connection from the airport to Manukau City Centre and east to Botany to ensure good connections to the airport & its surrounding employment zones.

“The NZ Transport Agency & Auckland Transport will also continue to work with Auckland Council & Auckland International Airport Ltd to jointly develop & implement a package of short-term access improvements to the airport.”

Attribution: NZTA, mayoral, Auckland Transport releases.

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Tracking ideas Sun26Mar17 – Melbourne plan review, value of transit, world-changing ideas

Backyards protected in Melbourne plan review
Agency measures the value of a bus stop or station to house prices
Fast Company rates Homes for hope

Tracking ideas is a Bob Dey Property Report section devoted to ideas on property questions such as urban strategies & design, many from overseas but with relevance to Auckland.

Backyards protected in Melbourne plan review

In a defensive change this month the Melbourne plan through to 2050, Victoria’s Labor Government instituted a requirement for suburban development to provide space for a traditional backyard.

“There will no longer be a cap on how many dwellings can be built on a block (section), but new requirements mean developments must have a mandatory percentage of garden space…. Under new rules, blocks between 400-500m² require a 25% minimum garden area, blocks between 501-600m² need 30%, and blocks larger than 650m² must have a 35% garden area: It’s all about giving more Victorians access to the outdoor space that is the cornerstone of great homes, and giving kids more opportunities to form their childhood memories in backyards every day all over the state.”

The state government said the plan was aimed at integrating long-term land use, infrastructure & transport planning: “It sets out the strategy for supporting jobs & growth, while building on Melbourne’s legacy of distinctiveness, liveability & sustainability.”

The plan includes:

  • 9 principles to guide policies & actions
  • 7 outcomes to strive for in creating a competitive, liveable & sustainable city
  • 32 directions outlining how these outcomes will be achieved, and
  • 90 policies detailing how these directions will be turned into action.

Links:
Plan Melbourne 2017-50
11 March 2017: Plan Melbourne 2017-50 change
11 March 2017: Australian Policy Online, Plan Melbourne 2017-50

Agency measures the value of a bus stop or station to house prices

A Seattle-based online real estate agency which has measured the value of transit to a house’s price said its analysis showed one transit score point could increase the value by an average 0.6%, or $US2040.

Those transit scores could be substantial – in San Francisco, transit could be worth 80 points, at $US4845/point, adding $US387,600 to the $US950,000 median house value, according to the analysis.

At the other end of the scale, in Orange County, California, proximity to public transport actually made a home less valuable, by $US201/point for an average home. The median price in the county was $US580,000 and the agency, Redfin, ascribed a 27-point value to transit there, so the cut for being near an Orange bus stop or station was only $US5427.

Redfin agent Keith Thomas said: “Most people in Orange County prefer to drive their own cars – few would consider any other way to get around. Parking is easy to come by and traffic isn’t bad, so it makes sense that public transit doesn’t impact the price of a home the way it would in a more urban area like LA.”

Redfin did its analysis of a million homes sold in 14 major metropolitan areas between January 2014-April 2016. The transit score measured the usefulness & convenience of public transport (bus, subway, light rail, ferry, etc) routes near a given location.

Links:
20 March 2017, Builder: Redfin values proximity to transit
20 March 2017: Redfin study

Fast Company rates Homes for hope

The Fast Company website called up 25 judges to assess over a thousand entries from around the world for its first world-changing ideas awards, and reduced the thousand to 12 winners, including one relating to property. 19 of the 192 finalists were concerned with urban design and one finalist was from New Zealand.

The University of Southern California’s School of Architecture combined forces with Madworkshop Homeless Studio to produce Homes for hope: “Students designed modular houses that can be stacked and provide fast & simple housing to get people off the streets. Each 92ft² (8.6m²) unit comes with a bed, dresser and even a desk. In groups of 30, with a base unit that contains bathrooms, shared living & dining spaces, and courtyards, the houses are designed to utilise the city’s large swathes of vacant land by creating easily assembled communities that work within the city’s zoning laws and serve as a bridge home to keep people sheltered before they move to more permanent housing.”

The global impact visa

The New Zealand entry was the Edmund Hillary Fellowship’s global impact visa, launched last year.

The fellowship’s mission: To incubate solutions to global problems from New Zealand and make a lasting positive impact on the world… to serve as a platform to best leverage humankind’s creative potential & entrepreneurial spirit to build new paradigms, and create scalable solutions for the rest of the world.”

Links:
20 March 2017, inaugural Fast Company world-changing ideas awards
Edmund Hillary Fellowship

Attribution: Victorian Government, Redfin, Fast Company.

Regular leads: Planetizen

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Smith skips the “however” in OECD environmental review

Environment Minister Nick Smith’s take on an OECD report on New Zealand’s environmental performance is that it says we are doing well. He skipped the word “however”, which makes frequent appearances in the OECD’s press release and the report.

All up, it’s a constructive report, as you would expect from an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development) unit headed by Dr Smith’s predecessor from the 1990s, Simon Upton.

Simon Upton.

Mr Upton was elected to Parliament as a National MP in 1981, when he was 23, and was appointed to the Cabinet in 1990, holding the portfolios of health, the environment, and research, science & technology. As environment minister he shepherded the Resource Management Act into law in 1991, and he was responsible for establishing the Crown research institutes.

When he resigned from Parliament in 2001, he went to Paris to chair the OECD’s Round Table on Sustainable Development, and in 2010 he was appointed head of the OECD’s environment directorate, based in Paris.

For yesterday’s release of the organisation’s environmental performance review of New Zealand, he was back in Wellington. That much was acknowledged by Dr Smith but, for the rest, his response to the constructive review was a glib use of the kind references in the report.

Nick Smith.

Dr Smith said the review “highlights New Zealand’s green credentials and the strong progress we have made over the past decade, as well as the challenges we need to address. This report highlights that New Zealand fares well in terms on environmental quality of life. We have good air quality, an exceptionally high proportion of renewable electricity, easy access to pristine wilderness and an advanced & comprehensive natural resource management system.

“This report shows how far we have come over the past decade. We introduced environmental pricing on waste in 2009 and on greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. We have introduced new national policy statements in areas of freshwater management, urban development & coastal management, as well as national environment standards on air quality. We have also made important institutional changes with the creation of the Environmental Protection Authority, new laws regulating activities in New Zealand’s huge EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and the new Environment Reporting Act 2015.

“We also concur with the OECD assessment of New Zealand’s future environmental challenges of climate change, freshwater management, biodiversity, reducing the complexity of urban planning & transport funding reform. This report reinforces the importance of the significant work programmes the Government has under way in each of these areas.

“This environmental report card will help us sharpen our future direction & environmental aspirations, as well as learn from the experiences of other countries. I thank the OECD reviewers & the examining countries of Australia & the UK for their contribution to this thoughtful report.”

Report reflects Upton’s constructive criticism

Many New Zealanders opposed to giving greater sway to environmental care in the 1990s regarded Mr Upton as a jumped-up little squirt. What he did was back his views with a formidable breadth & depth of information, and he looked for the positive & constructive.

That’s reflected in yesterday’s OECD review, which was worked on by over 30 OECD people.

Heading the project was a Canadian, Nathalie Girouard, who worked on economic policy & country studies when she joined the OECD in 1993 and co-ordinated its green growth strategy for 5 years, and research was led by a Russian who gained his master’s degree in environmental management in Amsterdam and is now a US citizen, Eugene Mazur, a policy analyst involved in various environmental performance reviews since 2003 (his next one is on Estonia) and spent 14 years on environmental policy reform in countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus & Central Asia.

If Dr Smith can get his RMA reform, the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, through Parliament in the final session of Parliament before the election – on the slimmest of majorities as his only support at the moment is the Maori Party – economic factors will carry as much weight as environmental.

That makes plenty of sense in many circumstances, but it would be very easy for the economic to quickly dominate the environmental assessments: concrete over the more hypothetical. The debate that has followed the 23 February announcement of the Government aim for 90% of rivers & lakes to be swimmable by 2040 is evidence that this government doesn’t rate the damage from high levels of nutrients entering waterways as highly as the public response suggests it should.

The OECD press release out yesterday began: “New Zealanders enjoy a high environmental quality of life & access to pristine wilderness. However, New Zealand’s growth model, based largely on exploiting natural resources, is starting to show its environmental limits with increasing greenhouse gas emissions & water pollution.”

Cleaning up lakes has been on Dr Smith’s agenda since National returned to power in 2008. The national policy statement for freshwater management was published in 2014 and the “swimmable” declaration was made a month ago.

OECD criticisms

Mr Upton said when he presented the report in Wellington: “While the country only accounts for a tiny share of global emissions, the review finds that intensive dairy farming, road transport & industry have pushed up gross greenhouse gas emissions by 23% since 1990. Despite generating 80% of its electricity from renewable sources, among the highest in OECD countries, New Zealand has the second highest level of emissions per gdp unit in the OECD and the fifth highest emissions/capita.

“Having largely decarbonised its power generation, New Zealand needs to ensure its climate policies are effective in curbing emissions in all sectors, notably transport & agriculture. This means strengthening the emissions trading scheme and ensuring sectoral policies are aligned with the need for a low emissions transition.”

Agriculture accounts for 49% of emissions – the highest share in the OECD – and the report suggests they should be incorporated into the emissions trading scheme or alternative measures developed to counter the pressures of farming: “The use of environmentally related taxes, charges & prices should be expanded.”

“Growth in intensive dairy production has increased the level of nitrogen in soil, surface water & groundwater. The nitrogen balance (the difference between nutrients entering & leaving the system) increased more than in any other OECD country from 2000-10.

“Aware of the need to safeguard water quality, New Zealand has begun a process of freshwater policy reforms with a clean water package of proposals in February that address some of the OECD recommendations. Further government support is needed to assist local authorities with setting rigorous goals and to speed up implementation.”

Urban planning

The review also looks at New Zealand’s fast-growing cities and suggests that a simpler urban planning system, less restrictive land use regulations and better co-ordination between land, transport & infrastructure planning could help ease the pressure. It adds: “Car ownership in cities is high and many vehicles are old & emission-intensive. Current vehicle standards & taxes do not sufficiently encourage a shift towards cleaner, more efficient technologies.”

The report says New Zealand should consider more systematic use of pricing instruments to achieve urban policy objectives. It said water charges had helped cut consumption, but legislation prevented use of volumetric charges for wastewater services, road tolls & congestion charges.

The report said there was wide scope to make better use of pricing instruments to encourage efficient land use: “Development contributions (levied to finance infrastructure) do not reflect the true cost of providing infrastructure to a specific area. This makes inefficient and use artificially cheap and potentially accelerates urban sprawl.

“Limited distinctions between development contributions across building types & characteristics – eg, size or energy efficiency – translate into weak incentives for developers to build high performance buildings or low impact infrastructure.

“Financial contributions (levied to reflect costs of development on the environment) are often charged at a fixed rate, rather than being based on the marginal environmental damage of development, and the Resource Management Legislation Bill proposed to remove them entirely.

“Property taxes (rates) are mostly levied on the basis of capital value rather than land value, which may favour greenfield over infill developments insofar as they are permitted.”

The report also advised changes to infrastructure funding policies: “Expansion of pricing instruments would also diversify funding options available to city councils. Many councils need significant investment to accommodate population growth, including in water & wastewater, roads & public transport infrastructure.

“The central government finances about half of local roads or public transport, but entirely finances state highways. This creates incentives for local government to opt for state highway over local road & public transport solutions.

“Funding heavily relies on property taxation (general rates), which implies large cross-subsidies from the general public and weakened incentives for councils to accommodate growth, as infrastructure investment may lead to a higher tax (rates) burden on the community.

“User- & beneficiary-based funding, eg through road & water pricing and better targeted development contributions, would reduce the burden on the public budget. At the same time it would contribute to better demand management and more efficient use of land & resources.

“There may be room for the tax system to capture windfall gains accruing to landowners from infrastructure improvement (eg, betterment levies) and rezoning land for urban use (land value capture) to pay for required infrastructure.”

The OECD’s recommendations on this segment include:

  • giving more attention to spatial planning, while simplifying infrastructure & transport planning requirements
  • broadening the scope of the national policy statement on urban development capacity to encourage good urban design outcomes & principles for sustainable urban development, and
  • facilitating a change to land use plans to reduce the scope for vested interests to thwart development of wider public interests.

One recommendation less likely to go down well is to repeat the Auckland super-city experiment, with adjustments, in other urban areas. For that to succeed, Aucklanders will need to be convinced that the value of amalgamation has exceeded its downside.

Links:
OECD NZ environmental performance review 2017
2014 OECD report: Do environmental policies matter for productivity growth? Insights from new cross-country measures of environmental policies
4 March 2017, Government release: River & lake targets need to be practical
25 February 2017: Conservation & environment science roadmap announced
23 February 2017: Claims of lowered water standards wrong
23 February 2017: 90% of rivers & lakes swimmable by 2040

Attribution: OECD report & release, ministerial release.

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Unlock Henderson project moves toward firm transformation proposal

Council property & development arm Panuku Development Auckland will present proposals to the Henderson-Massey Local Board tomorrow for the transformation of Henderson town centre, based on residential intensification at 3 clusters of sites.

The proposals fall under Panuku’s unlock category of centre transformation developed in 2015 – the main category for big projects, transform, is being led by plans for Onehunga & Manukau Central and work already underway in the Wynyard Quarter and under the Tamaki regeneration partnership; the unlock category covers 7 centres plus housing for the elderly; and the third category, support, covers another 8 centres.

Senior project planning leader Richard Davison, who wrote an extensive paper on how to unlock value in Henderson and transform the town centre, said the vision built on the strong foundations of Waitakere City’s eco-city & inclusive approach.

To get to this stage, Panuku has worked with both the local board & mana whenua, but the assessment which led to Henderson being listed as a transformation target in the first place wasn’t flattering. Mr Davison wrote:

“The Henderson centre is fragmented by the 2 streams & the rail corridor, impacting the connectivity from east to west and from the surrounding suburbs into the central area.

“A combination of reduced public reinvestment & maintenance, along with the poor market perception, exacerbated by local crime rates, the area’s lower socio-economic profile and a main street dominated by shopfront vacancies has acted as a deterrent for private investors & businesses to take risks in delivering new projects to the market.

“While there is a broad & general demand for residential growth, the current housing stock lacks diversity, with apartments & terraced housing difficult to justify or get off the ground in a market that has a limited appetite and a clear limit to price point.

“Thus, combined with an eroded strategic mandate, Henderson has been rendered a financially challenging development location. Therefore, Henderson was chosen as a Panuku ‘unlock’ location as a result of a council-led assessment across the region’s urban centres that had potential for urban regeneration.”

Panuku’s high level project plan is aimed at catalysing & reinvigorating “wider private development potential in central Henderson through 3 broad stages of proposed development on specific council landholdings within the project area. The plan takes a cross-council, town centre-wide view of property opportunities to potentially facilitate & enable high quality, residential-led development.”

Panuku sees opportunities for the short, medium & long term in 3 land clusters. 2 along Henderson Valley Rd are the council site (the old Waitakere City Council headquarters) and the film studios area. The third cluster is a group of surface carparks in key central & gateway locations, which Mr Davison said would create the most urban impact if developed.

Panuku seeks the local board’s endorsement of the proposed vision, the 5 principles that would guide development and the 4 goals guiding development.

Assuming effective transformation, Henderson would have high quality medium-density residential & commercial development, walking & cycling links supporting the Twin Streams pathway, public art and Henderson Valley Rd turned into a high quality, mixed-use residential corridor.

Attribution: Local board agenda.

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Bennett rejects councils’ tourism infrastructure funding list

Deputy Prime Minister & Tourism Minister Paula Bennett thanked Local Government NZ yesterday for its $1.4 billion tourism wish list, but said she “rejects that most of these should be funded by Government”.

Local Government revealed details on Tuesday of a survey commissioned by Tourism Industry Aotearoa, which identified $1.4 billion of local infrastructure projects that might be useful in responding to ongoing tourism growth.

Mrs Bennett said: “I absolutely agree that there are some areas of tourism infrastructure that need to be addressed and that some of these will need help from central government. However, the list Local Government NZ has referenced includes things like town halls, council facilities, airport runway extensions, airport upgrades & expressways.

“These are either already funded by other areas of Government, are not considered a priority or should be funded by local councils. My priority is to support smaller councils with low rate bases with essential facilities. I am currently working with officials to establish how best to do this.

“Government is working with local councils to help with tourism infrastructure. Today we opened another round of the regional mid-sized tourism facilities grant fund of $5.5 million to help cofund things traditionally funded by local councils like public toilets, carparking facilities & freedom camping facilities. This comes on top of the $12 million announced in last year’s budget.

“I think most taxpayers would agree that restoring old council chambers is not a priority in terms of tourism infrastructure.”

Mrs Bennett said the Government “recognised the challenges that have come with growth in tourist numbers and are assisting where appropriate. With tourism now a $14.5 billion export earner, and 188,000 people working in the industry, these visitors are incredibly important to our economy, particularly in the regions.”

Local Government NZ says tourism needs well beyond communities’ resources

Local Government NZ said on Tuesday the survey of 47 councils revealed over 680 mixed-use infrastructure projects valued at $1.38 billion that were being developed.

Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule said it was well beyond the resources of local communities to fund these projects, which included the development & ongoing operation of toilets, wastewater systems, carparks, access roads & wifi, and that a new funding mechanism was needed.

“The arguments for a new, sustainable way of funding infrastructure for tourism are undeniable. We just need to get on with it now, and these figures provided by just over half of our councils further illustrate the scale at which we need to act.

“There is much that could be done to protect & enhance the visitor experience, and provide some relief for our communities, many of which have a small ratepayer base. If we don’t act and with the right level of investment, we will be in no position to cope with the forecast growth of tourism – 4.5 million annual visitors by 2025. ‘Just in time’ infrastructure can mean ‘just too late’.”

For tourism, Mr Yule said: “Cofunding, with contributions from central government, councils & the industry in a way that allows for maintenance & operational costs, is required.”

He said the gst contribution from international visitors rose from $950 million in the March 2015 year to $1.5 billion in the March 2016 year.

Local Government NZ issued a discussion paper on funding in February 2015 and, last December, welcomed a report commissioned by the chief executives of Air NZ, Auckland International Airport Ltd, Christchurch Airport & Tourism Holdings Ltd on the tourism infrastructure gap.

That report called for the creation of a national tourism infrastructure levy which, between the industry and matching Government contributions, would generate $130 million/year to fund local tourism infrastructure needs.

Mr Yule said then: “The major issue for local government is ensuring that any new funding goes where it is really needed, which is not only on toilets, freedom camping facilities & carparks but also on major infrastructure like wastewater, which are some of the most costly pieces of work small communities are faced with.”

Link:
Local Government NZ funding review discussion paper, February 2015

Attribution: Ministerial releases, Local Government NZ.

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Bill opponents talk “shambles”, not ideology

Opposition to the latest Resource Management Act reforms is less about ideology, more about competence, practicality & effects on process.

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill scraped through its second reading in Parliament yesterday by a 2-vote majority, 61-59, courtesy of Maori Party support.

Building, Construction & Environment Minister Nick Smith has promoted the bill’s value, particularly in addressing Auckland’s housing shortage.

The rest of Parliament’s parties, however, reject that basis for the bill and criticise the bill’s structure.

Act MP David Seymour commented: “And you thought RMA reform couldn’t get any worse. The latest Resource Management Act reform won’t be any more effective than the previous 18 reforms to the act.

“Nick Smith is dreaming if he thinks the worst of RMA negotiations are behind him. The consensus from across the political spectrum and from submitters is that the proposed reform is a shambles, adding complexity instead of cutting bureaucracy.

“Our housing shortage is bad enough as it is. Adding more iwi consultation, cost & complexity to the development process would be disastrous for prospective homeowners. Therefore Act cannot support this bill.”

Mr Seymour said that, post-election, “a stronger Act Party will make National commit to fundamental RMA reform that simplifies processes, values property rights and gets houses built.”

Labour says housing crisis assertion wrong

The Labour Party said, in its select committee minority view: “The assertion that the bill is needed because the RMA is the cause of the Auckland housing crisis is wrong, and is no justification for this flawed bill. The following table shows that more new houses were consented in Auckland & New Zealand in 2004 than in 2016. The RMA was in force throughout.”

Labour continued: “The very broad range of submitters opposed to the bill included Local Government NZ and a great many regional & district councils, major land developers including Fulton Hogan, major corporates including Fonterra, infrastructure owners including airport & quarry owners, all environmental non-governmental organisations, the NZ Law Society and numerous others.

“Even amongst the minority of submitters who supported parts of the bill, many used guarded words like ‘we support the intent of the bill’ before criticising much of its detail.

“The bill, if passed, would add complexity to the Resource Management Act 1991 and make it less effective and more expensive to use, rather than better. Legitimate complaints by submitters include:

  • The draconian ministerial regulatory powers to override plans and control consents, and to limit rights of participation. These are tantamount to a return to the National Development Act 1979, and are on the spectrum of the patently excessive regulation-making powers abused under the former Economic Stabilisation Act 1987
  • The power to standardise plan formats & definitions inappropriately extends to the content & substantive provisions of plans
  • The rule-making powers of the minister are also far too broad
  • These 3 forms of ministerial powers are so poorly constrained and patently excessive as to be constitutionally outrageous
  • The bill also overrides – and allows the minister to further override – local & district council functions in such a broad & fundamental way that it overturns the traditional division of power & roles between central & local government
  • The limits to public notification & participation, including on the subdivision of land, are wrong. Those concerned include land developers, and the owners of existing infrastructure concerned about reverse sensitivity effects on their operations. Many submitters said that earlier changes to notification have worked in recent years, and that further change is unnecessary
  • The department said the regulatory powers that can limit rights of participation are intended to apply in urban areas, but the sections as drafted also apply to regional councils and could be used to stop people advocating against pollution of rivers
  • Water conservation orders are undermined
  • New provisions introducing unreasonably short time limits for some council processes will have the unintended consequence of councils making more activities discretionary rather than controlled. Overall this will complicate & delay consent applications rather than speed them up
  • The codification of collaborative processes is unnecessary, wrong in its detail and adds further complexity to the RMA
  • Plan-making processes are curtailed, with insufficient safeguards to ensure that single-step processes are fair & robust when appeal rights are abrogated
  • Appeal rights are curtailed, to the detriment of adversely affected private parties, councils, communities & the environment
  • The important experience & wisdom of the Environment Court is lost from many decisions
  • Many changes introduce more complexity to the RMA, through convoluted decision-making criteria & extra process alternatives. The multiple flow diagrams helpfully produced by the department to assist us illustrated how this bill makes the RMA processes more complex
  • There are a myriad other changes to the RMA & other acts being amended by the bill, many of which are wrong.

The Labour Party concluded: “Some of the changes proposed to national guidance through policy statements & environment standards are appropriate, but others are unnecessarily complex and will give rise to less consistency, not more.”

Greens’ analysis an indictment of ministerial & National performance

The Green Party – regarded by many in mainstream business as a fringe outfit to be disparaged – presented an analysis in its minority view which was an indictment of ministerial & National Party performance.

The Greens said: “The Resource Management Act is a crucial foundation of New Zealand’s environmental law & planning system. Changes to it should be based on sound analysis & evidence and have broad cross-party support so they are enduring. The bill has neither. Many of the changes appear driven by ideology & anecdote, rather than robust analysis & evidence.

“The bill attracted 647 unique submissions & 94 form-style submissions, many of them critical of its fundamental aspects. Many included detailed technical analysis of the bill’s clauses & their implications, and represented a significant investment of time & expertise by submitters.

“Resource users such as Fonterra, quarry operators, and infrastructure operators such as airports made similar points in opposition as environmental interests such as Fish & Game NZ, the Environmental Defence Society, and Forest & Bird.

“Federated Farmers, for example, described the proposed ministerial regulation-making powers as ‘excessive’ and the provisions which allow central government to intervene directly in local council plans as ‘heavy-handed’.

“Sir Geoffrey Palmer, presenting evidence for Fish & Game, described the regulation-making powers which would override the provisions of regional & district plans as a ‘constitutional outrage’. ‘Due process is replaced by executive fiat.’”

The Green Party said the bill’s changes put executive power & individual property rights ahead of community & environmental wellbeing: “They insert new processes for national direction, plan-making, consideration of land-use & other activities and public notification ,while previous changes in 2013 are still bedding in. The changes emphasise fast decision-making ahead of good outcomes. “The bill is likely to make the RMA & its implementation more complex & litigious, and increase costs for councils & users of the act.

“Limits on rights to appeal council decisions to the Environment Court restrict access to justice and the court’s ability to be a guardian of the RMA’s purpose of sustainable management and a check on poor decision-making.”

The Greens’ submission continued with extensive detail on the committee process, ministerial powers, national direction & plan-making before traversing more ideological issues such as public participation, the permissive approach to subdivision & residential activities, fast-track consenting, and the other acts of Parliament affected by the proposed amendment.

The party’s minority view concluded: “The bill is not fit for purpose. It significantly increases ministerial powers while removing or restricting basic rights of public participation. It will expedite development activities with few environmental safeguards and scant consideration of sustainable management. The bill puts private rights & development ahead of the public interest and environmental & community wellbeing. It should not proceed.”

Links:
Select committee’s commentary and the revised bill
Nick Smith booklet, 26 November 2015: The second phase of Resource Management Act reform

Related story today:
RMA reform bill scrapes through second reading

Earlier stories:
6 March 2017: RMA amendment back for second reading
10 November 2016: National gets Maori agreement to advance RMA reforms
14 March 2016: Council says Government approach wrong on resource management reform
27 November 2015: RMA reform introduced

Attribution: Ministerial & opposition releases, select committee report.

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