A report on residential development capacity of the Auckland region, produced for the independent hearings panel on the unitary plan, raises the same questions as were raised in initial modelling 2 years ago, again without answering the primary question.
That primary question, which is political, is: Should you allow the Auckland urban footprint to expand without constraint, or should you contain it?
That’s before considering the second question, in the form of ‘how long is a piece of string?’: Which population projection for the next 30 years is the real one?
The Government came to Auckland’s rescue over the weekend, when Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse came up some new incentives to chase immigrants out of the region. I filed it under ‘regional growth strategy’, though of course it has nothing to do with any such strategy. Strategies are born of deep thought, not scribblings on a notepad to get past a nuisance issue for the moment.
But if the Government did have such a strategy, it might be to encourage migration – both internally and from overseas – towards some of the regional research centres Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has been promoting.
Numerous rural points north & south of Auckland – Wellsford, Warkworth, Pukekohe – are actually in the Auckland Council area. They are treated as outposts when, under the Steven Joyce scenario, they might be treated as centres with a growth future.
In that scenario, they might encourage new business and, on the back of that, some more intensive housing than is considered appropriate in their present economic climates.
There was plenty of angst when council modellers came up figures for housing capacity 2 years ago which critics said were unrealistic. They included places like schools & churches, business premises listed for potential change but unlikely to have a change of use.
That criticism ignores the real estate cry: Everything is for sale.
Churches use commercial premises when it suits, schools can develop vertically. One point made in the report is that bulk retail outlets aren’t going to quit new premises in the near future. Wrong. Developers develop, retailers change what they consider is optimum.
The report released last Thursday is the outcome of an “expert conference”, part of the process to formulate the unitary plan, which ran over 5 months and was facilitated by David Hill.
He chaired an experts conferencing group of 15, backed up by a property developers expert group of 8 (2 of whom were in both groups). I would call the combined group practitioners & campaigners, some demonstrating expertise.
As an example of what I see as erroneous thinking in the report, there’s this statement on bulk retail staying put: “Many of the recently developed bulk retail areas are on what were business 4 sites and are now often zoned mixed use sites. These sites have a relatively low level of improvements (meaning their development potential will often show up as ‘residential development feasible’), however many of the owners of these relatively new retail stores will not want to change their use to residential. Many of these sites have also been subdivided into strata titles, with many owners in a body corporate system (ie, not easy for a developer to buy).”
What happens when you start building apartments above bulk retail? And schools, and amenities? And you take out parking spaces because many of the customers live on site?
Will Penrose remain the heartland of Auckland industry? Will the poorly used Eden Park remain a stadium? Will South Auckland grow new types of business for a more educated population? Will Aucklanders occupy a whole range of different housing types as they move into quite different futures?
And the question that’s always waiting for planners who think in terms of finite frames: If we get the million extra people projected (on the high side of the scale) in 30 years, what happens in 30 years + 1 day?
The report’s conclusion says: “A property development experts group provided robust development costs & sales price data which have enabled Auckland Council’s RIMU team (research & evaluation unit) to set up the Auckland Council development capacity (ACDC) model, that is able to import CfGS calculated plan enabled capacity, make some adjustments to dwelling capacity in more intensive developments reflecting zoning and typology, followed by more importantly development feasible capacity.
The ACDC15 Model has estimated that the currently enabled development feasible capacity enabled by the PAUP on the sites modelled is 64,420 dwellings.
The results of the ACDC15 development feasible dwellings are generally consistent with the results of earlier pilot development capacity modelling undertaken by SD4/PF, AT and DF, which identified that developable capacity is less than plan-enabled capacity.
As well as the currently feasible capacity, there is the HNZC potential of 19,000 dwellings (lower scenario only) to be developed over the period to 2041.
The panel’s report says the expert group had divergent views on the impacts of some issues affecting the number of dwellings that could be developed within the 30-year timeframe:
Issues that will reduce the achieved reality from the latest model results:
- Development chance
- Capacity utilisation
- Infrastructure constraints
- Development sites costing more than the CV
Issues that will increase the achieved reality from the latest model results:
- Site amalgamation
- The effects of time improving viability on any chosen site
- Very effective developers being able to perform better than the “mid-range”.
The expert group accepted that the anticipated effect of all of these issues depended on a range of assumptions, and the report said confidence in those assumptions might require further expert group assessment.
Attribution: Panel report.