Archive | Land use

Council to choose Auckland Plan refresh option

Auckland Council’s planning committee will decide tomorrow on which of 5 options to follow to refresh the region’s overarching planning document, the Auckland Plan.

The plan was approved in 2012, in the first term of the super-city council, and was followed by a series of related plans for the central area, the waterfront, local board plans and, the biggest of them all, the unitary plan combining regional policy statements & the district plan.

The council’s strategic advice manager, Denise O’Shaughnessy, said in her report to the committee that, while the Auckland Plan had proven to be an important & useful document, “it has shortcomings which have become evident during implementation. These shortcomings include outdated data, limited integration, a complex structure, too much low-level content, limited prioritisation and a weak monitoring & reporting framework. In addition, the plan is in hard-copy form and therefore cannot be easily updated or accessed.”

Staff have recommended option 4 – “a streamlined spatial approach” – to replace the existing plan “on the basis that it provides appropriate focus on spatial components while ensuring these are strongly connected to the achievement of high-level social, economic, environmental & cultural objectives. The option structures the plan around a small number of interlinked themes that address Auckland’s biggest challenges.”

The other options were a light update, a full update, updating only the development strategy, and a streamlined version that would include detailed non-spatial initiatives & narrative.

The recommended option 4’s update cost is estimated at $2.69-3.53 million, in the mid-range of estimates for the 5 options.

Option 4 would:

  • update & add new general facts & figures
  • use a small number of organising & interlinked themes around Auckland’s key challenges
  • set high level objectives, both spatial & non-spatial, in these theme areas with a brief narrative
  • focus on development strategy to reflect unitary plan decisions; infrastructure strategy; strategic work on urban, rural & future urban development areas; national policy statement on urban development capacity requirements; and create a new growth model
  • exclude any further non-spatial initiatives, narrative or detail and remove more detailed operational directives
  • creates a limited number of high level indicators to track progress and measures to guide the work programme
  • removes all other material in the existing plan, and
  • create a digital plan.

Staff have recommended targeted early public engagement through channels such as online feedback/polling & workshops with community group representatives from May-July. That would be followed next year by a special consultative procedure on the draft refreshed Auckland Plan, at the same time as the council consults on its draft long-term plan.

Link:
Committee agenda item: Options for refreshing the Auckland Plan

Attribution: Committee agenda.

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Third quarter of plus-32% rises in Auckland construction input

The value of building work put in place in Auckland in the December quarter fell just short of $2 billion, and was up $500 million on the input a year earlier.

Image above: Residential work has soared well above the static input to commercial construction in Auckland.

Figures out from Statistics NZ on Friday show for the whole of 2016, $2 billion more was spent nationally on new homes than in 2015 – up from $8.4 billion to $10.5 billion – and across all construction sectors there was a $3.3 billion rise nationally to $19.87 billion spent for the year, all ex-gst.

Statistics NZ said residential work in Auckland rose 4.5% in the December quarter, and non-residential 17%.

Nationally, the 1.1% rise in residential work in the December quarter was the smallest increase in 6 quarters.

Combining the input in all sectors, the growth in construction input in Auckland hasn’t risen steadily since the market bottomed in 2011.

There was a spurt of 9-13% quarterly growth in 2012, and that was followed by quarterly growth of around 30% for the last 3 quarters of 2013, tapering off to a 20.5% increase in the March 2014 quarter and actually declining in the September quarter that year.

Since that dip, Auckland growth has been strong: 13.6% in the December 2015 quarter (compared to the same quarter a year earlier), then rises of 25.6% in the March 2016 quarter, 39% in June, 32.3% in September & 34.2% in December.

Attribution: Statistics NZ tables & release.

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Property Council joins call for new infrastructure funding

Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend said today central & local government “need to develop a range of innovative funding tools beyond rates & individual project funds. To be sustainable those tools should be linked to growth.”

He agreed with mayor Phil Goff, who told a Property Council breakfast last week funding infrastructure with rates wasn’t sustainable: “Rates are a limited & extremely blunt way of raising income. The property industry continues to have issues with rates & the development contributions system. It is not an effective or sustainable way to fund local government.

“Yes, Central Government should & does make significant financial contributions to individual projects. But that is not sustainable either.”

Mr Townsend’s solution – partnership between the 2 levels of government – is at last on the way in 2 forms, though neither is adequate to meet the challenge.

One is the formation of the Auckland transport alignment project last year, when the Government & Auckland Council joined in establishing long-term priorities. However, there would be a long-term deficit and there’s been no resolution of how that should be funded – the project calculation has started with a $24 billion funding need, and a $4 billion shortfall projected.

Mr Goff said: “Auckland Council would need to come up with at least $200 million/year to meet the shortfall. I’m not going to ask ratepayers to shoulder that burden, it’s not viable nor is it equitable.”

Secondly, the Government has announced its proposal for urban development authorities, which would be project-related and combine the forces of both levels of government. Those authorities would focus on regeneration in a specific area and close down on completion, though it would make sense to retain the same governance structure and enable an authority to switch to the next project rather than start afresh.

The mayor has proposed in the council budget that the hotel sector be charged for tourism infrastructure. Mr Townsend commented: “If we are serious about Auckland becoming a global city we need a partnership between central & local government. They need to develop a range of innovative funding tools beyond rates & individual project funds. To be sustainable, those tools should be linked to growth.”

The flipside of that is that, when there’s a downturn, the industry wouldn’t pay for what would be long-term infrastructure provision.

And the other potential source of funds, not mentioned, is the hike in gst which the Government retains in good times, inadequately funding local infrastructure required to support the tourism growth.

My conclusion: It’s scary, really, that we have so many political & business leaders with not one new or innovative idea among them on alternative funding, that the same issue is raised often without any thought of resolution.

The one solution, a variation on a bed tax, is a more expensive way of doing what a slice of gst could do more easily & neatly.

The world has cities which have created infrastructure to meet these kinds of needs, and the world has potential infrastructure funders. They’ve been walking through the mayor’s office in Auckland for a decade.

Attribution: Property Council release, my thoughts.

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Tracking ideas Sun5Mar17 – retail future, government buildings?

Online shopping rings in changes
And – with less regulation – government buildings?

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.

Online shopping rings in changes

First, floorspace use

An article on the US National Housing Institute website Rooflines proposes a change in the US tradition of ground-floor retail, upstairs residential in many city districts because online shopping is reducing physical retail demand.

Crains’ New York business website suggested the retail sector was beyond the stage of bouncing back from the online shopping trend.

Project for Public Spaces, however, argues in a January article less about total retail space, more about how many “third places” are vital for the community.

Other ideas, such as “third spaces”

Sociology professor Ray Oldenburg wrote about people needing 3 places: the home, the workplace or school, and beyond that a third place – a public space on neutral ground where people can gather & interact while experiencing a sense of ease & belonging. In his 1991 book The Great Good Place, he argued that bars, cafés, stores & other “third places” are central to local democracy & community vitality.

In Seattle, property developer Ron Sher took up the message and founded Third Place Books after the author’s central theme.

The Project for Public Spaces website said: “Along with piles of books, the stores also contain cafés, restaurants & taverns that attract users of all ages, interests & backgrounds. The common areas host community programmes such as college jazz concerts, game nights, knitting clubs, farmers’ markets, story hours & tai chi lessons, while meeting rooms in the back offer gathering spaces for more private activities like study & support groups, or foreign language & computer lessons.”

And – with less regulation – government buildings?

The Atlantic – like many US media long on Trump criticism – raised an aspect of the US presidency that may well extend the retail vacancy trend into the bureaucracy sector.

Its article was about how there’s not much to do at the State Department, and a suspicion that some early redundancies will be extended within the department. Take that a logical step further: a president who’s averse to regulation is in the prime position to get rid of it, everywhere. And the US, for all its chanting of the words democracy & freedom, is a highly regulated country.

While Mr Trump seems intent on maintaining police lines and increasing the US military presence, it’s easy to see much other regulation being sidelined. In quick time the country could see scores of government buildings being vacated.

Links:
Rooflines, 16 February 2017: Should online shopping change how we use space?
Crains, 29 January 2017: Some experts say retail will bounce back. Don’t buy it
Project for Public Spaces, 5 January 2016: Can retail space be an extension of the public realm? A look at Seattle’s Third Place Books
The Atlantic, 1 March 2017: The state of Trump’s State Department

Attribution: Rooflines, Crains, Project for Public Spaces, The Atlantic.

Regular leads: Planetizen

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Façades on 38 quake-hit streets to be strengthened within year

Councils from Hurunui (between Christchurch & Kaikoura) to Wellington have identified 38 streets where building owners need to secure unreinforced masonry façades & parapets within a year.

Building & Construction Minister Nick Smith said today: “The Kaikoura earthquake has increased the seismic risks in Wellington, Lower Hutt, Blenheim & Hurunui over the next 3 years. It is therefore prudent to require them to be secured and to help building owners with funding of these high risk, unreinforced masonry parapets & façades to secure them.

“The 38 streets have been selected by the councils on the basis of pedestrian & vehicular traffic and where the risks from unreinforced masonry parapets & façades are greatest. The next step is for councils to formally notify the building owners affected. Some owners may already have taken corrective work.

“The Government has established a $3 million fund to help building owners with the cost of securing the parapets & facades.”

Dr Smith said all 4 mayors had confirmed their councils would make financial contributions to this fund, raising it to about $4.5 million. The fund will be used to provide a 50% subsidy for the work up to a maximum grant of $15,000 for a façade and $10,000 for a parapet.

Link:
Full list of streets

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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Leading banker takes Australian politicians to task on governance, finance, infrastructure, urban prospects

Australian politicians’ ears must have been burning when bank chief Ken Henry addressed the country’s Committee for Economic Development in Canberra on Thursday, because he wasted no words in portraying the destruction – instead of construction – of a sound future they continued to guarantee.

The Unconventional economist on MacroBusiness, Leith van Onselen, wrote: “Dr Henry pulled no punches in admonishing the Government’s negligence in managing Australia’s mass immigration programme.”

Mr van Onselen also raised questions arising from Australian Productivity Commission reports, including An ageing Australia: Preparing for the future.

But migration & age were just 2 of the questions raised by Dr Henry, who chairs the National Australia Bank. He talked about the notion that endless growth was a practical proposition for Sydney & Melbourne, how every proposal for major infrastructure was drowned in political wrangling and – in the sector he knows best – how every tax reform proposal of the last decade had failed.

Below are some excerpts from his speech:

Business at odds with community

“According to our research, Australian businesses see our strong rate of population growth as a positive. …. In the broader community, there is considerably less support for a larger population. People are concerned about the impact of a growing population on traffic congestion, urban amenity, environmental sustainability & housing affordability. And they worry about our ability to sustain Australian norms of social & economic inclusion. These concerns are understandable.

“Australia’s business leaders have to accept responsibility for ensuring that strong population growth, and the investment opportunities that go with it, lift economic & social opportunity for all, without damaging the quality of the environment we pass to future generations. That means that we have to take an interest in traffic congestion, housing affordability, urban amenity & environmental amenity, including climate change mitigation & adaptation….

“If we want better access to skilled domestic workers, then we are going to have to offer those workers the prospect of better lives. If we want modern & efficient infrastructure, then we are going to have to take an interest in the design of our cities; we are going to have to take an interest in regional development; and we are going to have to take an interest in the planning of new urban centres.

“If we want less red tape & less regulation, then we are going to have to demonstrate that regulation is not necessary….

“Meanwhile, our politicians have dug themselves into deep trenches from which they fire insults designed merely to cause political embarrassment. Populism supplies the munitions. And the whole spectacle is broadcast live via multimedia, 24/7. The country that Australians want cannot even be imagined from these trenches….

“Almost every major infrastructure project announced in every Australian jurisdiction in the past 10 years has been the subject of political wrangling. In the most recent federal election campaign, no project anywhere in the nation – not one – had the shared support of the Coalition, Labor & the Greens.

“Every government proposal of the last 10 years to reform the tax system has failed.

“And the long-term fiscal, economic growth & environmental challenges identified in 4 intergenerational reports over the past 15 years?  The opportunities identified in the White paper on Australia in the Asian century? Simply ignored.

“The reform narrative of an earlier period has been buried by the language of fear & anger. It doesn’t seek to explain; rather, it seeks to confuse & frighten.

“Meanwhile, the platform burns.”

Growing Sydney & Melbourne

Dr Henry also spoke about the Australian budget & tax system, a strongly growing but aging population, climate change & energy security, and making the most of the Asian century.

“How will we fund the biggest infrastructure build in our history? And what about infrastructure planning?” he asked, before questioning the sense in adding 7 million people to the populations of Sydney & Melbourne:

“On the basis of official projections of Australia’s population growth, our governments could be calling tenders for the design of a brand new city for 2 million people every 5 years; or a brand new city the size of Sydney or Melbourne every decade; or a brand new city the size of Newcastle or Canberra every year. Every year.

“But that’s not what they are doing. Instead, they have decided that another 3 million people will be tacked onto Sydney and another 4 million onto Melbourne over the next 40 years.

“Already, both cities stand out in global assessments of housing affordability & traffic congestion.

“And even if we do manage to stuff an additional 7 million people into those cities, what are we going to do with the other 9 million who will be added to the Australian population in that same period of time? Have you ever heard a political leader addressing that question? Do you think anybody has a clue?

“At the very least, we are going to have to find radical new approaches for infrastructure planning, funding & construction. And that includes energy infrastructure, critical to our economic performance and our quality of life.

“The biggest challenge confronting the energy sector is that climate change policy in Australia is a shambles. At least 14 years ago, our political leaders were told that there was an urgent need to address the crisis in business confidence, in the energy & energy-intensive manufacturing sectors, due to the absence of credible long-term policies to address carbon abatement. It is quite extraordinary, but nevertheless true, that things are very much worse today.”

  • Dr Henry was Secretary of Australia’s Treasury Department from 2001-11, and was appointed a director of the National Australia Bank in November 2011 and chair in December 2015. From June 2011-November 2012, he was special advisor to the prime minister with responsibility for leading the development of the white paper on Australia in the Asian century. He’s a former member of the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Board of Taxation, the Council of Financial Regulators, the Council of Infrastructure Australia and chaired both the Howard government’s tax taskforce in 1997-98 and the Rudd government’s review of the tax system in 2008-09, and he’s governor of the organisation he was addressing above, CEDA.

Links:
23 February 2017: NAB chair Ken Henry’s full speech at CEDA
Unconventional economist on MacroBusiness, 24 February 2017: Australia can’t build its way out of population ponzi
Unconventional economist, 24 February 2017: Bigger cities are engines for inequality
Australian Productivity Commission, November 2013: An ageing Australia: Preparing for the future
Committee for Economic Development of Australia

Attribution: NAB, CEDA, MacroBusiness.

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Economist sees scope for house price fall – my picture more complicated

Infometrics chief forecaster Gareth Kiernan said yesterday the economic consultancy saw “scope for a 12% drop in property values by the end of 2020”.

That turned into this heading: House prices to fall 12% by 2020.

A 12% price fall in 3 years – or a multitude of trend changes? I interpolate:

Some have fallen that much this year while others have been taken off the market because the windfall window has passed. How & what you measure makes a big difference.

When the America’s Cup was first touted as coming to Auckland in the 1980s, my house’s value – along with every other house in the neighbourhood – rose overnight by a million dollars. But few houses actually went on the market to catch this windfall, a handful of homes sold at escalated prices, the cup event didn’t come and the market shot back to where it had been. Did homes drop in value? They didn’t in reality rise.

Auckland was unusual in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008 – on Quotable Value’s figures, a drop from double-digit price growth in 2007 to a decline of about 7% both nationally & in Auckland in 2008, followed by a 3% turnaround nationally in 2009 – and a rise of 7.3% for the year in Auckland.

By late 2011 – the year housing consents bottomed – Auckland’s house price index was above the level of the previous peak in late 2007, but on low turnover.

Through to late 2016, both prices & turnover rose. Turnover is now down, and you can see vendors facing hard decisions at auction. Yet, at auction this week, some apartments sold at high price levels – above $10,000/m² for secondary stock that’s now “old”. That can be attributed partly to the rising cost of construction for new developments.

The unitary plan has put another factor into the pricing equation, the ability to intensify sections that previously might have been able to take only 2 townhouses. This potential can raise the apparent value of standalone houses throughout suburbia, though it’s actually a change in land values.

Mr Kiernan raises mortgage rates as a factor below, suggesting a rise could keep some buyers out of the market. Higher interest rates or increased supply over the last 15 years, or both, would have suppressed prices. Supply is starting to increase but, while net immigration keeps rising, that supply will still fall short. That could encourage price rises while, at the same time, ordinary local buyers will tot up capital & mortgage costs which will show prices for them must come down.

Over the last 4 years, New Zealand turned – swiftly – from a net outflow of 39,000 migrants/year to Australia to a zero outflow, and a little more slowly to a net inflow of almost that number (33,900 in 2016) just into Auckland.

Those migration tides can reverse again just as quickly but, as I’ve suggested below, other factors come into play and one of those is amenity for new developments.

Kiernan: several risks hanging over economy

Mr Kiernan said the solid outlook for growth – a prediction of 3%-plus gdp growth over the 3 years to June 2019 – masked several risks hanging over the economy: “Mortgage holders in Auckland look particularly vulnerable to even modest interest rate rises that are likely to occur in the next 2-3 years. Debt-servicing costs in the city now take up a greater proportion of income than in 2007, when mortgage rates reached 8.7%. A future rise of 1.5-2 percentage points in mortgage rates would clearly stretch many borrowers in Auckland and squeeze potential buyers out of the market.”

Infometrics predicts that wholesale interest rates will gradually rise further in the next few months and that the Reserve Bank will start increasing the official cashrate by mid-2018.

“Net migration & population growth will be easing at the same time as interest rates start to rise, and this cocktail could be the catalyst for a housing market correction. Apart from the stresses on the market in Auckland, underlying demand conditions in some other regions do not justify current high prices, and we see scope for a 12% drop in property values by the end of 2020.”

Looking at the wider economy, Mr Kiernan turned first to employment: “Despite the unemployment rate edging up to 5.2% in data released this week, the labour market has been tightening across the board. The capacity constraints that have previously been most intense in the construction & tourism sectors are becoming more widespread.

“Infometrics expects to see increased wage pressures as firms battle harder to attract & retain staff, with the unemployment rate dropping back below 5.0% in 2017 and continuing to decline over the next 2 years.”

Next up, international politics: “Heightened political uncertainty also has the potential to derail New Zealand’s growth train. At this stage, the main threat to New Zealand from US President Trump’s policy agenda appears to be potential trade barriers against China.

“Mr Trump has talked about 45% tariffs on Chinese imports, which would reduce American demand for Chinese products, dampening economic growth in our largest export market and undermining New Zealand’s export incomes.

“President Trump’s proposal is a significant threat to Chinese & global economic growth, and New Zealand would not be able to dodge the flow-on effects over the following couple of years if trade barriers between China & the US were implemented.

“Closer to home, a change of government or a shift in the balance of power after New Zealand goes to the polls on 23 September could also affect our medium-term economic outlook.”

Migration factors

Bald assertions can take some filling in to make sense. For migration & population growth, the biggest factor is the Australian economy.

In the June 2015 year, Australia’s net migrant inflow was 168,000, down nearly 10% from the previous year, and 40% went to New South Wales. The country’s population rose by 338,000 (1.4%) to 24.1 million in the year to June 2016. Incredibly, those seem to be the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The New South Wales economy seems to be in better shape than other states’, which may lead to a resumption of higher emigration from New Zealand in the next couple of years. A resumption of growth in Western Australia’s mining sector looks further away than that.

The Auckland construction market looks overheated and, combined with the unusually high level of infrastructure underway, will drain labour from other parts of the country and require imported labour.

One factor in New Zealand’s migration statistics that’s played down is the proportion of migrants from India, many on student visas and therefore seen as not really permanent migrants. I regard that pool of migrants differently, as a revolving supply because many return home, but still showing a net increase of over 10,000/year, at a similar level to the net inflow from China.

Statistics NZ projections

Statistics NZ’s latest regional projections show Auckland’s population growing at just over 1%/year on the low projection through to 2043, and at nearly 2% on the high projection.

One question there is whether the supply of and for housing will increase enough to dampen the increase in its price. The high growth projection for Auckland over the 5 years to 2023 would see the population up by 200,000 to 1.94 million – by an average 40,000/year, which would require an extra 14,800 homes/year to satisfy demand.

Changing trends will complicate values

The trend in new housing is toward less standalone housing and more intensive development, notably lowrise townhouses & suburban units along with retirement village units rather than a high concentration of apartments. Land values based on higher potential may change that lowrise preference.

A combination of the unitary plan allowing more building height, particularly in both suburban & regional centres, and council organisation Panuku Development Auckland’s regeneration programme for as many as 20 centres around the region could see an increase in apartment living as commercial & retail centre amenity improves.

That would shift the pricing focus away from houses in the most expensive suburbs and to different kinds of home. The expensive suburbs are likely to retain their high pricing levels because of limited supply – one reason they’re expensive even on bad days – but housing elsewhere should graduate to new ranges.

To achieve those changes, more amenities will be needed in suburban centres. As a city apartment dweller told me yesterday, Auckland fares poorly in the provision of amenities for apartment occupants compared to many cities in other countries, such as Vancouver & Sydney.

Some developments provide a pool or a gym, many don’t. Rather than an increase in inhouse amenities, and against council budgets which are very unlikely to allow for an expansion of communally owned amenities, the growth of apartment living in suburban centres could be matched by the separate private-sector provision of amenities.

That in itself would produce 2 value changes – one to reduce the value of apartments by eliminating costly inhouse amenities, the other to increase their value for proximity to externally available amenities.

Attribution: Infometrics release, my own economic date, Statistics NZ, Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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Valerie the tunnel borer lines up for a new stretch

Valerie – the 2m-wide tunnel boring machine named in honour of the strength of Olympic shotput champion Valerie Adams – is about to begin the next stage of an underground journey through downtown Auckland for the city rail link.

The machine will simultaneously excavate & install a new stormwater pipe under Albert St.

It’s completed the first 290m of tunnelling & pipe-jacking work between Victoria & Swanson Sts and is being refurbished in the shed at Victoria & Albert Sts in preparation for the next stage of its journey. It will be lowered down the shaft to begin the final 200m stretch towards Wellesley St, and is expected to arrive there in April.

Project director Chris Meale said the stormwater diversion was needed before the cut-&-cover tunnel construction of twin tunnels can be delivered by Connectus, a McConnell Dowell & Hawkins joint venture.

A smaller tunnel boring machine is working under Victoria St, diverting the Orakei sewer main and enabling the existing sewer to be strengthened under the future midtown Aotea Station.

The city rail link will join Britomart & the city centre to the western line near Mt Eden. Construction began in December 2015.

The project, now a joint venture between Auckland Council & the Government, has tender documents out for major components. Expressions of interest were sought at the start of February for the design, procurement, installation & commissioning of all tunnel track work & rail systems between Britomart Station & the western line at Mt Eden.

Link:
City rail link

Attribution: Company release.

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More transport services found for March Madness

Auckland Transport said yesterday it would put on more bus, rail & ferry services to meet passenger demand during March.

AT metro operations group manager Brendon Main said be 56 more citybound bus trips would be provided in the morning peak than last March: “That’s 5% more capacity overall for bus services and an increase of up to 34% on some corridors.

“We know the number of public transport passengers peaks in March as students head back to their studies, schools are in term and lower numbers of people are on leave. It’s known as ‘March Madness’, and since March last year we’ve worked hard to get more services on some of our busiest routes.”

Double-decker buses will start on the Birkenhead route next Monday to help meet demand.

The rail timetable change due on 12 March will add 1194 spaces inbound during the morning peak – 796 spaces on the eastern line and 398 on the southern line.

Mr Main said most ferry routes had sufficient capacity to cope with anticipated patronage demand, even given the significant growth experienced over the last year.

A new timetable started for Gulf Harbour in October, which added about 150 inbound spaces in the morning. More backup vessels for the West Harbour services will potentially add over 40 seats in the morning. Reallocating vessels on the Hobsonville run will add 52 seats inbound and vessel reallocation options for the Half Moon Bay service are also available to increase capacity.

Link:
Auckland Transport, public transport services

Attribution: Auckland Transport release.

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Bennett progresses climate change talks with China

Deputy Prime Minister & Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said on Friday China & New Zealand had experience & expertise to share about responding to climate change.

“China is a key player in the global response to climate change, and the implementation of China’s commitments under the Paris agreement will be critical for its success,” she said.

Chinese official Zhang Yong & NZ Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett.

Mrs Bennett was speaking after meeting China’s top official for climate change, Zhang Yong, vice-chair of the National Development & Reform Commission, in Wellington for the first ministerial dialogue under the NZ-China climate change co-operation arrangement memorandum, signed by the 2 countries’ leaders in 2014.

Mrs Bennett said: “Mr Zhang’s extended visit to New Zealand so soon after the Paris agreement entering into force underscores New Zealand’s standing within the international climate change community and the prospects for greater bilateral co-operation.”

She said the dialogue built on positive discussions she had last November with senior Chinese representatives at the COP 22 climate change negotiations in Marrakech.

During his stay, Mr Zhang is meeting Auckland Council, visiting the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre in Palmerston North, the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua and Te Mihi geothermal power station north of Taupo.

Attribution: Ministerial release.

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