Archive | Sustainable growth

Adding houses to a peninsula ought to take more thought, as Penlink hopefuls learn

When my wife & I moved to the Whangaparaoa Peninsula at the end of 1982 the district council had plans drawn up for 6 lanes along the early part of the peninsula, narrowing as you went on. There was even the possibility of 8 lanes.

This year, there are 3 lanes for the first couple of hundred metres, with a spectacular light show for the direction-switching centre lane.

Through most of the period following World II until the early 1980s, the peninsula was dotted with baches, had a few camping grounds, and not much was new.

We bought a sturdy bach, added to it, and caught the bus to the city to work. My wife still uses the bus from the Silverdale park-&-ride. I swim in the sea while the morning commuter peak is at its worst, travel more often outside peak hours and, unfortunately, drive.

Penlink notion 30 years ago

As Wilkins & Davies began its plummet toward liquidation post-1987 crash, it began more urgent promotion of the Hobbs Bay land which it owned (now Gulf Harbour), including promoting the Penlink crossing of the Weiti River.

From one phone survey at that time, it appeared the bridge & road past Stillwater would cover zero distance and would also take no time to traverse. As the years went by, residential development continued and congestion naturally worsened, so the potential time saving steadily grew – the population now exceeds 30,000. One later development proposal at the marina was sought on the basis that Penlink would be built: the magnet was the much faster journey commuters would experience.

When engineering & design consultancy Holmes Group Ltd sought consent to develop the Peninsula golfcourse at the start of the peninsula (the role later taken over by Fletcher Residential Ltd), commissioners said it shouldn’t happen until alternative exits from the peninsula were created, specifically a southward motorway ramp at Millwater. That ramp opened 3 years ago. The Fletcher subdivision offers exits that don’t take traffic directly to the peninsula road, but for travellers to the city the natural path is through the same Hibiscus Coast Highway intersection all the peninsula traffic uses.

The journey between that peninsula-coast highway intersection and the motorway ramps at Silverdale is now littered with traffic light-controlled intersections, slowing all journeys – a natural consequence of building multiple retail centres along the route, especially a large supermarket near the motorway ramps.

You can argue that it makes no sense to continue piling more houses on to a peninsula which has only one entry point for travel beyond Red Beach, the suburb still on the mainland at the start of the peninsula. But that is to argue that people (like me) shouldn’t enjoy the coastal lifestyle the peninsula offers.

The questions then become: What kinds of housing are appropriate for an area that has one of the fastest growth rates in the country, and what sorts of access are appropriate?

Do we all need to live in separate houses? Probably not. That intensification has picked up recently along the Orewa beachfront, one beach beyond Red Beach up the coast from Whangaparaoa, there are apartments at the Gulf Harbour marina and new terraced housing is being built (in a dip without sea views) in a large subdivision at Stanmore Bay.

One of the first stories on this website, in early 2000, was about the by-then-former owner of the Whangaparaoa Plaza shopping centre, Philip Fava, being locked out of it by an investment partner. Mr Fava, always full of bright ideas, had intended to build a 10-storey apartment or office block on the former pub site adjoining the shopping plaza, looking down the coast to the North Shore & cbd from a peninsula ridgeline, at a time when America’s Cup fever was rising.

Instead, his lenders opted for a single-storey Warehouse store. Next door, the shopping centre is about to get a refurbish following the departure of a number of tenants to new space at Silverdale.

Single-storey retail developments waste spectacular views where more intensive development – which might include retail – would have long made sense.

A better view forward

The planning for such development would necessarily encompass a number of factors which tend to be parked in separate baskets – retail catchments, residential potential, work access, the ability to reduce commuter traffic by localising work, the provision of public transport (and improvement of it to meet a larger customer base).

Now, the imperative is to build access – within 10 years – to cope with current road congestion which can extend a 10-minute journey to 30 minutes and be part of extending a 30-minute journey to the cbd to 90 minutes.

The answer needs to be a range of near-future solutions, particularly the localising of work but, for commuters, transport options which don’t start by cluttering the peninsula exit with more one-occupant cars.

It can’t just be about a road & a bridge, which is what I see in the past & latest versions of ATAP (the Auckland transport alignment project between Auckland Council & the Government).

Read the ATAP report 2018 [PDF, 2 MB]
30 June 2014, Penlink traffic & economic analysis by Beca

Earlier stories:
30 August 2013: Pertinent observations a highlight of Red Beach golfcourse conversion decision
3 January 2012: Council opts to notify golfcourse subdivision while local board wants it bought for reserve
2000: Fava escorted out of his old shopping centre

Attribution: This website’s files.

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4 intensive residential & development properties sell

A mix of 4 properties in the intensive living & residential development sectors were sold at Bayleys auctions this week – an apartment in the 1930s Brooklyn building in the cbd, one of 2 properties in the future urban zone 28km north of the cbd at Dairy Flat, a St Heliers townhouse and a Manurewa section with development consents in place.


Learning Quarter

Brooklyn, 66 Emily Place, unit 14:
Features: one-bedroom apartment in 1930s building
Outgoings: rates $1532/year including gst; body corp levy $4208/year
Outcome: sold for $461,000
Agents: Diane Jackson & Julie Prince

Isthmus east

St Heliers

41C Vale Rd:
Features: 3-bedroom townhouse, 3 bathrooms, courtyard, parking space
Outcome: sold for $1.125 million
Agents: John Howard & Josie Moon


The 2 rural properties marked future urban, one sold and the other passed in.

Dairy Flat

18 Green Rd:
Features: flat 3.38ha in 18 paddocks, 3-bedroom house, 2 bathrooms, double garage
Outcome: passed in
Agents: Graeme Mann & Karen Asquith

20 Green Rd:
Features: 9620m² site, 2 tenanted houses, one of 2 bedrooms, the other of 3 bedrooms & 2 bathrooms, each with a single garage
Outcome: sold for $1.3 million
Agents: Graeme Mann & Karen Asquith



40 Sturdee Rd:
Features: 809m² section, 3-bedroom house near motorways, health facilities & shopping centres, resource & building consents for development approved
Outcome: sold for $725,000
Agents: Shan Collings & Marlene Dragicevich


220 Great South Rd, unit 1:
Features: 161m² refurbished standalone mainstreet bungalow containing 7 single-level offices
Outcome: passed in
Agents: Piyush Kumar & Peter Migounoff

Attribution: Agency release.

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Council proposes integrating housing project office & city transformation unit

Auckland Council proposed today combining its housing project office and the city transformation unit.

Council chief operating officer Dean Kimpton said this would ensure a continued & effective response to Auckland’s growth. He said the proposed development programme office would bring together essential council functions to reduce complexity of services, enhance planning & improve programme management of significant developments.

“By 2023 Auckland’s population is expected to grow by roughly the population of Hamilton, so we need to refocus how we respond to that growth.

“The proposed development programme office will be responsible for co-ordinating a joined-up council response to major development & infrastructure programmes, including major housing developments. It will also maintain a land & infrastructure programme model that links infrastructure investment with population change & growth, better informing investors, developers & council alike.”

The council set up the housing project office when it signed its 3-year housing accord with the Government at the end of 2013. The office is scheduled to conclude activities in September 2016, when the housing accord ends and the region’s first unitary plan is due to come into force.

Mr Kimpton said considerable thought had gone into the office’s transition into the council’s core business and further increasing customer service in the support of housing supply, regulatory approvals and delivery of development & infrastructure outcomes for Auckland.

“As well as considering the expected growth in population & development, we’ve also considered growth in the expectation of Aucklanders. The result is the model we’ve proposed today, which is more than a combining of units. This is a proposal to help drive different outcomes that will ensure the longevity of the council’s response to the growth of our region.”

Staff consultation began today and will continue through September.

Attribution: Council release.

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One Plan priorities sorted – minus any land use reference

Published 31 March 2008

The Auckland region’s councils have sorted out priorities for the regional One Plan, dividing them into 3 groups.


The Regional Sustainable Development Forum – which until last year was the Regional Growth Forum – met for a 2-hour workshop at Mt Smart on Friday 28 March, followed by a quick formal meeting to endorse the future programme.


The forum will hold another workshop on Friday 2 May.


The 3 prongs of its approach are:


an infrastructure plandevelopment of a series of 5 policy directions of high strategic priority, andcompletion of further work on 7 programmes of action. 

At the formal meeting, Auckland Regional Council & forum chairman Mike Lee added a fourth point – something that has often been forgotten or sidelined in the thoughts of many politicians involved in this process: that officers report back to the forum on issues & options in relation to public consultation on the one-plan.


The high-priority policy directions are:


3 waterssocial developmentenergy & climate changegrowing smarter, andMaori aspirations. 

The programmes where work has already been done and which can be completed (as strategies, not implementation) are:


improving public transportdigital Auckland regiondestination Auckland regioncentral business district & waterfrontbuilding communitiesregional skills, andcompleting the (road) network. 

Land use not mentioned


What has clearly been sidelined in this process – in fact, in the shift from a growth forum to a sustainable development forum – is the occasional focus on land use. The regional council & forum have had work done for several years on provision of land for residential & business uses, while the regional growth strategy as agreed in 1999 imposes a policy of intensification within the metropolitan urban limit and advocates against urban sprawl.


Those land issues are to do with expansion. The new-style forum’s priorities are to do with improving within the existing framework.


The transport points necessarily take account of land use, but after a period when politicians looked at both land use & transport simultaneously, this forum package shows they’ve once more been disengaged.


Want to comment? Email [email protected].


Attribution: Forum meeting, own comments, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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ARC on sustainability: Driving back & forth simultaneously

Published 20 February 2007

The Auckland Regional Council, an organisation committed to deep thinking on matters of transport, is in both forward & reverse gears at once. But it’s not too harmful: the forward gear is only first, not full throttle.

Last year the council drafted a long-term sustainability framework to add to the regional growth strategy, regional economic development strategy, work on a business land strategy and various other strategies & economic programmes such as oversight of rail, bus & ferry operations.

Last Friday councillors had a workshop about the framework and yesterday the council’s regional strategy & planning committee considered a list of points arising from the workshop which will be passed on to the Regional Growth Forum on Wednesday 7 March, when it will also consider the framework.

As a ratepayer, you might wonder how sustainable this form of governance is, but that’s another question to be debated separately in the lead-up to the October local body elections.

Through its role of managing the growth forum, as well as having several politicians on the forum, the council has a significant influence on timetables for rezoning land to urban use (basic starting point is: Don’t).

The difference between sustained & sustainable

Regional council chairman Mike Lee, for one, differentiates between sustained growth, which he believes is the forum’s intention, and sustainable growth, which he believes it should be aiming for. In the first version, you strive to become an economic powerhouse. In the second, you take the foot off the pedal and even try to spread growth around other regions.

In keeping with his view that growth should be sustainable, Cllr Lee sees no reason to differentiate between ensuring a supply of business land and efficiently using all productive land in the region. Specific mention of protecting business land under the sustainability framework, he told the committee, meant the council was “diving down into one aspect of our work, almost in deference to vested interests.”

The regional council has some business interests represented among its councillors but, as a minority in this term of office, they haven’t partaken much in debate and don’t always turn up. One of those with business interests, Chamber of Commerce executive director Michael Barnett, took charge of the regional economic development strategy when it fell into the regional council’s hands in 2005 but wasn’t in the chamber for yesterday’s discussion.

Just as the council leapt enthusiastically into supporting economic advancement 2 years ago – something of a breakout from the dominant environmentally protective role the council has stamped as its own – along came sustainability, the religion, which has been growing faster here than the fundamentalist right has in the US & Middle East. A region, as in Auckland rather than those larger patches of the globe, cannot be sustainable, it seems, if it isn’t self-sufficient in meeting all its needs.

The difference used to be made up through trade, but that’s getting a bad name too. Trade requires goods to travel from point A to somewhere else, and the energy required for the journey reduces your sustainability.

The sustainability message, here, is basically negative, crossed with a strong moral message: Acquiring wealth requires more than your fair share of input so is inherently unsustainable.

Thinking big & fast versus ticking off the small points

I spotted a news item from Singapore last Thursday: There, they still believe in growing the economy to sustain communal services. Singapore will cut company tax – for the first time in 3 years – from 20% to 18% from the 2008 assessment, taking it down to ½% above the Hong Kong rate. GST will be raised from 5% to 7% to make up the shortfall and employers’ contributions to the state pension fund will be bumped up from 13% to 14.5%.

Singapore has a financial services industry and wants to keep it competitive. It also wants to attract capital, particularly from the Middle East, for investment through Asia & in property.  Singapore wants to diversify from its manufacturing base into wealth management, biomedical services & tourism, and improve its logistics to service its oil-refining industry and enhance its reputation as a trade centre.

But in Auckland, the regional councillors were concerned less yesterday about the grand picture of economic growth as in Singapore, or about making the environment more attractive – which would encourage more immigration. The first point on a summary from last Friday’s workshop concerned the level the proposed long-term sustainability framework should be aimed at.

The councillors agreed it should be aimed high, linking to but not replicating the Metro project (Auckland City Council, economic) or regional growth strategy (growth forum, monitored by the regional council) levels of forward planning.

The second point of relative agreement was that the implications of the work on the 6 forces of change (seen as setting the region’s direction) don’t flow through to the framework’s goals & responses: “This is particularly evident in the (paper) Innovating for a prosperous future, which makes little acknowledgement of issues such as resource depletion.”

As a nation of worriers, it’s right that we should fret first, do later. The Singapore mantra is not for us.

So yesterday the councillors set about endorsing the 1½-page feedback document, which entailed rewriting a fair proportion of it. It became a mix of views from the workshop and reconsidered views from the committee meeting. It was partly bogged in detail. If the public is to be given an honest chance at input into this exercise, it shouldn’t matter that a word is misplaced here & there in the councillors’ umpteenth shot at how the region’s population should behave, economically & socially.

What the council should be delivering is simple guidance – yes, a framework. What the councillors insist on doing is building the whole house – yes, while they’re driving simultaneously in 2 directions.

Fortunately the most important moment at regional council committee meetings is the half-time cup of tea, which gives the world a break from posturing which will be seen, in the fullness of time, as largely being devoid of value. Nevertheless, this exercise is important: The regional council sets rules in place, produces policies to regulate our behaviour.

So among the framework feedback points which will be fed into the rules & guidance mix are these (including rewrites):

The framework should be focused on the higher level and link to but not replicate a Metro project/regional growth strategy level
The implications of the forces work don’t flow through to the goals & responses. This is particularly evident in the innovating for a prosperous future, which makes little acknowledgement of issues such as resource depletion
The framework focuses on global & regional issues but also needs to consider these issues within a national context
The framework is too complex & multi-faceted but needs to be presented as clearly as possible [I have to comment, I have to tell you this change from “… and covers too much” was made with straight face]. It needs to prioritise what needs to be done. It also needs to show who is responsible for specific responses
There is general agreement for having high-level shifts from business as usual (raising high-level responses) and looking at incorporating targets into these shifts. The framework needs to include scenario plans for the major forces (of change), including triggers for policy change and aligbing policies with the risks posed by scenario outcomes
The framework should identify meaningful targets, eg, environmental footprint & economic efficiency
The framework should include the need to protect business land use, both current & future, recognising that business land needs change as the economy changes
More evidence is required on the possible extent of migration due to climate change, including evidence on why people may choose to come to New Zealand and which countries they’re likely to come from
There is a need to promote energy-efficiency in the broader sense, eg, investigate, where appropriate, value-added exports in response to rising transport energy costs
Advocacy for a national population strategy needs to remain in the framework as a strategic response. The strategy should cover how a sustainable future can be achieved in all aspects of population policy, including immigration & the skill base of the region
The port and the place of water-based transport in promoting energy-efficiency should be considered in the framework
The framework needs to reflect the importance of developing human capital.

Points generating different views included:

The economic stream should consider environmental economics and build the ability of New Zealand to be self-sufficient in areas where this is possible, in goods & services to support local production, local employment and to be efficient in energy costs
The need to address what we are failing to do to attract/retain business migrants, opposed to needing to move beyond relying on immigration for economic growth or concern that migration is resulting in high infrastructural costs from the disproportionate growth of the region.

On the role of government in shaping societies, the workshop feedback was:

The framework doesn’t address to what degree government should intervene and how much should be left to “the market”. One view point expressed was that current social disparity is partly the result of government having taken a lesser role in issues such as housing than in the past. An alternative view was that the Government is taking a different, not lesser, role but spending too much time meddling around the edges. The framework needs to address sociaql & economic disparities in achieving a sustainable future.

On the framework’s scope:

Some councillors felt it should narrow its focus to ARC core business, eg, energy, water & land, and link that through to the regional growth strategy, but in the rewrite that was excluded, leaving the feedback as:

The framework needs to remain broad but each agency would have a specific role within the framework. This would include the Local Government Act requirement to consider the 4 wellbeings within their core business. For the ARC there is the opportunity to be more overt in how our core business contributes to (for example) social wellbeing.

Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


Attribution: ARC committee meeting & agenda, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Start technology paper raises fundamental property issues

This article is one in a series on the Start project (Sustaining the Auckland region together – see links at the foot of the page). To comment, click on The new BD Central Forum. If you want to contribute a more detailed article, either in response or advancing a topic, email [email protected].


Published 6 February 2007

The technology paper in the regional Start project argues against the globalisation section on the subject of size. It also raises some fundamental issues:

of commercial building
of home requirements
of how to adapt our present urban design to quite different future needs
of how to ensure the lifestyle advantages in the region’s promotion continue to exist, and
through these other questions, how Auckland deals with the sprawl versus compact city issue.

The draft sustainability framework for Start (Sustaining the Auckland region together) was presented to the Auckland Regional Growth Forum in December and will go out for public submissions in March-April, with an intended July completion for the final document.

One point in the Start workshop paper on globalisation was that, “…..while it (Auckland) may be able to compete in some areas, its small population size & geographical isolation will ensure it never becomes a mega city or a particularly significant player within the global economy.”

However a key message on technology was: “A mega-trend transforming cities is the shift in emphasis from historic economies of scale (where costs fall because the scale of output is increased) to economies of scope (where costs fall because of synergies between complementary activities or because the overhead is spread across a number of activities).

“The implication of this is that cities no longer need to be big to be competitive. Increasingly the key to success appears to lie in developing clusters & complexes of productive activity, and human organisation: creativity & advanced technical systems are also essential elements to this…..

“In Auckland, the changes wrought by the adoption of a variety of technological innovations & social changes have meant that the traditional centre (or cbd) is no longer the dominant centre for retailing, warehousing, transport, commerce, health, education or cultural activities.

“While the cbd remains the focus of financial & business services activity, the Auckland region has been emphasising development in nodes across the city that has the potential to greatly improve the resilience of the city’s economy. Development is now polycentric.

The technology section then posed a number of questions, including:

If an ecologically more benign future is an important objective for Auckland, how do we incorporate technological innovation to achieve this, recognising, too, the need to remain flexible in the face of unpredictable change?
How do we focus on localised solutions for communities & business? What technologies are likely to become available to enable us to overcome problems and how can we best take advantage of them?
How does city management enhance technological innovation?
How can economic clusters, value chains & complexes be developed & encouraged through city planning?
Concepts of multiple communities & multiple citizenship arise as ITC connects & divides individuals. How should Auckland maximise benefits and overcome divisions?
What are the technology sets that will drive Auckland’s economic performance in the next century and what are its key competitive advantages?
New technologies change the way society develops….. What is the likelihood of greater social exclusion & division as a result of the digitalisation of society as technological haves & have-nots emerge?

Transport & land-use challenges

Among challenges, this paper looked at the intimate connection between transport & land use and the role declining fossil-fuel use will play: “Is there a danger that the Auckland city-region holds a false belief in ‘natural survivability’ & ‘innovative capacity’ to deal with a threatening situation?

“Is the current strategy for increasing urban density going to solve Auckland’s urban problems, including transportation, if the structure of our city has largely been determined by the use of automobiles and these may possibly be less ubiquitous in the future?

“If changing the level of mobility affects accessibility, how will this reshape the city? How do we focus on localised solutions to transport needs for communities & business? What technologies are likely to become available, if any, to enable us to overcome these problems and how flexible must we be to take advantage of them?”

The technology paper also looked at infrastructure services: “Urban development is also dependent on the availability of water/sewerage/drainage services. However Auckland has been largely unresponsive to technological change in that industry.

“While a localised ‘water-friendly’ environment can easily be imagined with current technologies (eg, natural hydrological features, local drainage & water supply systems, urban artificial wetlands) and has been adopted in ‘trial’  & city-fringe projects, will path dependency, sunk costs & an abundant water supply (piped from the Waikato River) prevent widespread introduction of these technologies?

“Because the form of development has been affected by the existing technology employed in providing water, sewerage & drainage services, will any new approaches need to involve the right ‘pricing’ of these services so we are led to seek technological innovation more quickly & broadly?

“How does our strategy for a more compact city (with presumably more hard surfaces) sit alongside options for local water-friendly environments?”

The technology paper also examined 3 areas of significance for the property industry:

one relating to manufacturing & retailing, and moving on to issues of urban & building design
social change, the home-commute position for households where all adults work
ecological challenges, including a sideways look at sprawl versus compact.

Manufacturing & retail

“The sector approach to industrial development adopted by the growth & innovation framework (of Trade NZ) suggests that the future of local manufacturing and manufacturing location (eg, in Auckland) needs to take into account not only comparative productivity & efficiency between local firms & overseas competitors, but also the relationship between local retailers & manufacturers).

“Will a weak link between these industries result in a ‘tourist-led’ form of retailing and urban restructuring with more limited local employment opportunities? Can a stronger local link be formed between retailing & local manufacturing to promote a more dynamic form of urban development, when the retailing oligopolies are based in Australia?

“How will future technological changes in retailing impact on Auckland’s urban space, social & economic relations? What is Auckland’s understanding of the role of retail in our economy and its spatial demands? What strategies are in place to address the role of retailing in Auckland’s future – including its future in manufacturing?”

Finally, on another aspect of commercial property (and also probably residential), the technology paper said: “In the past the form of urban development was significantly affected by our understanding of how materials behaved and by the stage of development of construction materials. However, technological constraints on the size of buildings are now insignificant. Advances in our capacity to analyse & design buildings and in the 3 major construction materials (steel, concrete & glass) mean we can now build virtually any kind of building of any scale anywhere we want – the constraints are more likely to be social, economic, environmental & aesthetic.

“The role of design of our urban space has only recently become an issue of significance. If there are virtually no constraints on how we construct the built environment, how do we maximise social, economic, environmental & aesthetic outcomes in terms of design?”

Social change section highlights fundamental issues

On this aspect, the paper says one of the main choices people have made as living standards have risen “has been to consume more urban space and to make themselves more comfortable”. The paper then raises discussion points on homes, leisure & demographic change, highlighting some fundamental issues:

“This (people making themselves more comfortable) has traditionally been in the form of larger, better equipped dwellings and control over private space – that is, gardens. Another choice has been to spend more time on leisure & other non-work activities. A very high proportion of this increased private time has been spent in home-based activities.

“As increased proportions of people take early retirement and live longer (through improved medical technology), can we expect them to spend more time in & around their homes and to want private urban space in which to spend that time? Or will we see a trend toward apartment living and less private space in cities and consequently the demand for more public space?

“That is, will people want more public space for their passive & active recreation as well as their cultural & social activities, such as increasing demand for golfcourses & a wide variety of sports grounds as well as demand for promenade space & centres such as the Viaduct Harbour?”

The paper also put a different spin on demographic issues, which tend to relate to age, perhaps ethnicity, household size & location: “Demographically, family size is shrinking, people are marrying later (if at all) and having fewer children, while more women remain in the workforce. The social changes have occurred through family-planning technology and tend to change the demand for transport services. For example, now that 2 members of many households work, minimisation of the journey to work in length or time will frequently produce a different result from the period when only one person worked – typically in a central city location…..

“The net effect of these forces, resulting from technological change and changing social behaviours, is that we have seen – and are continuing to experience – major stress in the nature of relationships between transport & and use. How might technology be utilised to reduce this stress, particularly in reshaping our social & economic activities?”

Ecological challenges

From Vancouver’s CitiesPLUS the Start paper says technological innovation is a key component to a strategy of sustainability and that, while past technology waves enabled cities to grow their footprints, the new technologies of 1980-2000 & 2030-50 would need to do the opposite. It raises some technological goals then relates back to the shift from scale to scope:

“One of the major obstacles in achieving any transformational change is what historians call path dependency. That is, the decisions, practices, activities & investments that were made yesterday and how they affect today’s choices, which in turn affect those open to us in the future.

“The very site chosen when Auckland was first established, the location of the centre and the subdivision pattern, including access space or roads, have had a profound influence on the way the city has developed. The inherited buildings, houses & formal spaces or the infrastructure, which constitutes the skeleton of the city, also influence its development & shape options open to it, even when the activities carried out in the buildings differ from those for which they were originally built (eg, international education).

“While some current technologies are not sufficiently advanced to allow society to progress to a sustainable level, others are but are not being implemented. Key technology goals for a sustainable city include:

maximising the substitution of information flows for energy flows
maximising the use of local materials & sustainable energy sources through the application of nano- & bio-technologies
using waste flows for free energy
adopting technologies which use energy far more efficiently (such as fuel cells)
adopting technologies which enable distributed systems, such as ICT
adopting new economic development paradigms & the new social paradigms (self-organising & participatory, rather than hierarchical), and
moving towards more localised solutions.”

For Auckland particularly, the paper poses the question: “If, looking to the future, one of the city’s key competitive advantages is indeed its natural attributes & its ability to offer a high quality work/play balance, then it needs to demonstrate clearly the high value it places on its inherited taonga.

“It needs to ask: What are the features of a clean/green built environment and how should these be incorporated further in Auckland?”

The role of systems

On systems, the paper says: “Harnessing economies of scope (synergies among large numbers of people) will be the main challenge for organising the city of the future. Distributed, networked systems will become much more important for manufacturing, utilities & governance. In terms of governance, how do Auckland’s current governance arrangements sit alongside the trend to distributed, networked systems?

“With increasing economies of scope & ICT, cities of the future will likely carry out more functions in a distributed rather than centralised fashion. Replacing current economies of scale with economies of scope will likely lead, over time, to the replacement of centralised & largescale systems, and utility corridors will be smaller and perhaps even non-existent.

“Increasing economies of scope & ICT also lead to more complex & redundant systems to create more secure & flexible cities. This implies that cities will not need to be big to be competitive & attractive, but human organisation & creativity and advanced technical systems will be critical to success.

“It will be possible for manufacturing & utilities to be very smallscale activities with minimal impacts on neighbouring activities. Mixed use will become more commonplace & attractive.

“And quite possibly towering over all these questions are issues relating to Auckland’s & indeed New Zealand’s future integration with & into the Australian economy.

“Recognition of the dynamic nature of land uses and their relationship with one another, and the demand for infrastructure services, should lead us to question reliance on physical determinist notions of static relationships. We should try to use the inherent dynamism in Auckland for planning for, and providing, these infrastructure services – for dealing with the unpredictable.”

Websites: Start

Auckland regional freight strategy



Related stories:

5 February 2007: Global ambitions of Start project under siege

24 January 2007: Start project throws up migrant scare based on scarcity of water elsewhere

24 January 2007: Regional freight strategy launched despite admission of lack of reliable data

21 January 2007: Start project: What it’s about

Mumbo jumbo has had too big a place in Start project, but there are sections with merit


Attribution: Start workshops papers, story written by Bob Dey for this website.


This article is one in a series on the Start project. To comment, click on The new BD Central Forum. If you want to contribute a more detailed article, either in response or advancing a topic, email [email protected].

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Global ambitions of Start project under siege

This article is one in a series on the Start project (Sustaining the Auckland region together – see links at the foot of the page). To comment, click on The new BD Central Forum. If you want to contribute a more detailed article, either in response or advancing a topic, email [email protected].


Published 5 February 2007

The city-region is an entity whose importance in global trade is growing, the Start project says repeatedly. But the new Auckland governance structure favoured by Auckland’s politicians won’t be cohesive, so a key plank of the project starts out under siege.

The draft sustainability framework for Start (Sustaining the Auckland region together) was presented to the Auckland Regional Growth Forum in December and will go out for public submissions in March-April, with an intended July completion for the final document.

Also in December, councils of the region sent their views on a proposed governance structure to the Government. It would have a Greater Auckland Council, election system uncertain. But the fundamental restraint will be that existing councils will retain their existing territories and, pretty much, the same powers.

While there will be advocates for the role of the city-region, the internal power struggles will ensure it operates with difficulty. There will be plenty of people who fight to prevent it from dominating, and there will be plenty who fear its potential domination will be used unwisely.

Many would regard that as true Auckland: Unable to make up its mind. How, then, does this city-region make its way in the highly competitive tussle between these economic zones of the world?

The workshop paper for the Start project had this to say on globalisation: “Globalisation may be seen as increasingly focused on cities, where the majority of the world’s population now lives. Cities are now regarded by many as the driving sites of the world’s economy. Whilst this may be something of a simplistic statement, it is clear that cities are places of substantial activity, innovation & accumulation. It is cities and not countries which are competing globally & regionally.”

This view, applied to Auckland, ignores a lot, such as:

Produce through Auckland’s port is not just city-created or city-targeted
Tourism, a large & growing force in the New Zealand economy, draws on the rest of the country, particularly the thermal area & southern lakes
Tourism-related products such as Central Otago’s pinot noir and businesses such as para-skiing aren’t city businesses, though plenty of integration through cities is needed
Auckland, even if it creates many new avenues for economic gain, should still support growth elsewhere in the country, including in other cities
Jumping on somebody else’s current model of economic best practice doesn’t make it right for us
The New Zealand way is, if anything, to adapt practices regarded elsewhere as they way to do things rather than to adopt them
International businesses based elsewhere may support economic growth here but – especially if they’re American – can pull out suddenly if it suits a higher purpose.

While the points above should be noted, there are ways the region can advance economically, and basing some economic growth on attracting immigrants & businesses because of the quality of life & lifestyle if we can raise our standards & earnings while holding down local prices.

The workshop report says: “In Auckland, global companies & economies work in local competition within global structures (eg, Vodafone). Cities are often talked about in terms of fostering entrepreneurial & creative activities, but in a global context they are also sites of uneven development & class distinction, bringing with them unique sets of social problems.

“Globalisation favours cities which are well positioned geographically to targeted markets and which have well developed infrastructure, particularly transportation & communications, and are physically attractive with a unique cultural identity. Maximising the use of assets & capital (social, political, democratic, cultural, financial, technical & environmental capital) is required along with a strong long-term commitment to addressing weaknesses.

“In the Auckland context it is important also to emphasise the development of the whole city-region, especially as one of Auckland’s key attractions is the lifestyle opportunities & unique natural beauty offered by the city centre’s immediately surrounding areas…..

“To become a global city, Auckland will need to embrace & grow its knowledge economy, identify & express its uniqueness (cultural, environmental & social) and offer world-class transportation & communications facilities.

“Even then, while it may be able to compete in some areas, its small population size & geographical isolation will ensure it never becomes a mega city or a particularly significant player within the global economy. Auckland will always have to find & play to other strengths…..

“The challenge will be to develop highly participatory processes focused on integrated problem-solving. This requires creating new organisational frameworks that capture the collective wisdom, creativity & technical skill of the people of the region and assisting in the development of an intelligent city that anticipates change and responds appropriately.”

2 of the benefits of having media sit in on political workshops like this are that the strength & spread of opinions can be gauged and a view from the outside can be delivered, often contrary to the view delivered from the top table. Media were excluded from some of the key economic & political workshops of 2006, and this was one of them.

I’ve told many councillors over the past year that holding counsel privately, then delivering a fait accompli, is no way to act. It almost assuredly delivers a solution which is unaccepted by outsiders purely because of the manner in which it’s done. Exclusion usually means at least a failure to understand, if not an unwillingness to understand what you’ve been working on.

So I haven’t asked the workshop organisers about the inevitability of “never becoming a mega city or a particularly significant player” and I don’t know if this “never” view found acceptance. But if Auckland’s politicians & bureaucrats stick to the view that “world-class” means you’ve attained the top level, as they seem to be doing, then they’re aiming for second-rate. “World-class” means you’re patting yourself on the back for being up with the big kids. Meanwhile, somebody else is striving to get ahead.

And the next paragraph, the challenge….. This one looks like it’s from talkfest territory, where the solution lies in creating bureaucratic structures. We have enough structures. In fact, we have too many. But perhaps it was inserted to tell the politicians attending the workshop they’ve got it all wrong:

The current structures don’t encourage participation
Solutions aren’t integrated
People’s ideas aren’t gathered for collective advancement
The city-region doesn’t anticipate change and doesn’t know how to respond.

Outsiders – members of the public & interest groups – only attend council meetings to complain. Constructive communication between the 2 sides is rare. And if the message was to encourage politicians to bring about positive structural change, it doesn’t seem to have hit home yet.

In some areas some councils have become proactive – Auckland City Council’s work on strategic development areas is an example where the combination of bureaucratic & public input will have benefits.

But the vision of taking that sort of work further towards the creation of a vibrant city-region seems a long way from the mostly locally focused thinking that abounds.

Glimpses of what to aspire to, and of globalisation opponents

However, away from their focus on local scrapping, workshop participants were given inklings of what Auckland could aspire to. In the detail on globalisation, the paper says leading-edge innovation is happening around the world: “The core cities of tomorrow will be found among those cities that excel at the new technologies: alternative energies and the integration of ICT, biotechnology & nanotechnology. Speculating which cities they will be is difficult at this time: while leading cities do currently exist, they may be overtaken.”

Among a range of world scenarios, the paper suggests: “What emerges as the centre of a new world economy may not be a single city as in the past. Rather, it may be a complex series of linked cities, or a federation of cities…..

“At the same time, a substantial number of citizens in the West oppose the institutions that are being set up to facilitate the new world economy, such as the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments) & the WTO (World Trade Organisation).

“This movement objects to the loss of democratic control of the institutions that rule their lives. Whereas they had the potential to influence national institutions through elected legislature, there are no such elected legislatures controlling the MAI & the WTO. These individuals also fear the powers that these new institutions confer on transnational corporations. They are also concerned about the erosion of national health, safety, workplace, social security & environmental standards as competition in world economy markets drives a harmonisation on the minimum, not on the best.

“This movement is innovating a new social institution called civil society to act as a counterweight to the new transnational forces. Their efforts are facilitated by ICT, which makes it possible for small & widely dispersed groups to organise more effectively than in the past.”

Websites: Start

Auckland regional freight strategy


Related stories:

24 January 2007: Start project throws up migrant scare based on scarcity of water elsewhere

24 January 2007: Regional freight strategy launched despite admission of lack of reliable data

21 January 2007: Start project: What it’s about

Mumbo jumbo has had too big a place in Start project, but there are sections with merit


Attribution: Start workshops papers, story written by Bob Dey for this website.


This article is one in a series on the Start project. To comment, click on The new BD Central Forum. If you want to contribute a more detailed article, either in response or advancing a topic, email [email protected].

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Start project throws up migrant scare based on scarcity of water elsewhere

Published 24 January 2007

The Start project (Sustaining the Auckland region together) threw up a number of hypotheses for the 140 workshop participants last year, added in some ideas from expert groups then turned that into a draft sustainability framework.

The draft framework was presented to the Regional Growth Forum in December and will go out for public submissions in March-April, with an intended July completion for the final document.

In this item, I cover discussion material from the overview & on climate change presented to the workshop. In the next group of items I’ll look further into the workshop papers before moving on to the theme papers of the expert groups.

The availability of resources was seen as a key point in the workshop overview: “A growing number of people are going to want access to a reducing number of resources. Access to good food, clean water & clean energy is going to be of critical importance. The stability of food supply and availability could be significantly impacted on by climate change while the salinisation of agricultural areas through reducing water table levels could render large areas of productive land sterile.

“Access to resources is often at the centre of conflicts – ‘water wars’ have been predicted by the United Nations for this century.”

Other points from the overview:

A transformation of values, away from short-term reward to longer-term legacies, may be critical to the future of Auckland
The growth of a distinct Auckland identity may be critical to securing the region’s place in a competitive global market
Some argue that cities are the driving force behind the world economy and that cities will need to compete to attract capital investment from large international corporations to survive. If this is so, what does Auckland have to offer that is going to attract a substantial level of investment in our city & its economy?
How would a shift in power from the US to China, India & other Asian states affect trade & security for New Zealand?
How will the massive rise in consumerism across the globe affect the world’s ecological systems as more & more resources are required to drive a rapidly expanding global economy?
And what will be the drain on the resource base as people in developing countries such as China & India aspire to lead a lifestyle similar to people in the West?
Regardless of what the future looks like, building greater resilience into the region’s infrastructure will ensure that the people of Auckland will be well placed to cope with both the unknown future &/or any natural disasters
Examples of resilience might entail pursuing a less centralised infrastructural network over the next few decades so shocks to one part of the system are not experienced across the whole system. Otherwise it could mean giving greater consideration to the value of having viable & productive rural land the city’s edge so more food can be grown locally. Other examples include reconsidering how we value & use increasingly scarce resources such as oil and to what ends, or how our city’s infrastructure would cope in the aftermath of a major volcanic eruption
Finally, the future for the Auckland city-region becomes more about what we choose to make it and less about responding to the unexpected in a reactive manner. Resilience needs to be incorporated into our systems over time & pre-emptively; it is too late to consider resilience once a system condition has become terminal.

A conclusion, and immigration scare

While the last of these points is about “what we choose to make it,” the preceding points are all about preparing for the worst a long time off, and for the worst around the world – and so, Auckland wouldn’t compete with other cities for dwindling resources but would stand back.

The view that longer-term legacies should dominate is easily enough held among public-sector professionals, but is it practical? In the commercial world, if you stand back for altruistic reasons or plan long-term for theoretically greater advantage later, there are plenty of others who will dive in to take the profits or resources while you watch.

And, in the first of the 6 forces of change papers, on climate change & natural hazards, this possibility is set out: Auckland itself could be the resource that is targeted by outsiders.

Notwithstanding a set of disaster scenarios, the paper went, “compared to our Asian-Pacific neighbours, Auckland may be seen as a desirable destination for migrants, given that our climate will remain quite liveable and our standard of living quite high. We may find ourselves subject to some aggressive migration from those leaving their countries voluntarily or through necessity…..

“….. We are a neighbour to some of the most deprived people in the world. There are an estimated 678 million people living in the Asia-Pacific region who have no access to improved drinking water and over 1.9 billion people without access to improved sanitation. Not only that, but it is estimated that as many as 48% of the world’s projected population will live in water-stressed river basins in 2025.

“If these trends continue there is a real possibility that New Zealand will not be left to itself if it has a perceived excess of essential water resources.”

Website: Start


Related stories:

21 January: Start project: What it’s about

Mumbo jumbo has had too big a place in Start project, but there are sections with merit


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


Attribution: Start workshops papers, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Start project: What it’s about

Published 21 January 2007

Politicians of the Auckland region have been working for months on a project called Start (Sustaining the Auckland regional together) and will take it out to public consultation early this year, with plans for a final version to be completed in July.

Whether you’re for, against or don’t care, it’s an important project, intended to come up with a long-term sustainability framework for the region.

Working papers on 6 forces shaping the 21st century were prepared in 2006 for debate at a 3-day workshop attended by 140 people in August. Also prepared by groups of experts were 7 sustainability theme papers.

This article is part of a series on Start which will appear on the BD Central websites over the next 2 weeks, laying out:

the foundation of what it’s about
detail on the way the 6 forces were presented
insights from the expert groups
key points which I’ve selected as important – good, bad, contentious, and
a summary of where to next.

The central idea of the political exercise has been to prepare a long-term (century-plus) vision and identify key directions to focus regional effort. The framework draft presented to the Auckland Regional Growth Forum on 6 December makes a point about global challenges which could be made about many circumstances: “Population growth, climate change and the increasing demand on the planet’s resources are among the forces of change putting pressure on the region’s decisionmakers. How we respond to those pressures can be well planned & thought out, or they can be short-term responses based on the needs of the moment.”

The framework contains:

a vision: Auckland, the world-class sustainable city-region
9 principles
5 “landscapes”: a way of seeing the world, and
key directions, goals & measures.

Regional council strategic policy advisor Alan Johnson outlined the basics of the project for the regional growth forum in December with a number of points, saying the 6 forces of change are what “we think are going to guide how we develop as a region. Ideally, what we’re talking about is not planning for the future but planning for uncertainty.”

In the original June discussion document, the aim was for the project to deliver these outcomes:

a shared long-term view of the key transformational actions that will make the regional more sustainable, acting as a touchstone for decisionmaking & activities
a sustainability frame & tools to assist central & local government & key corporates to make decisions that are more integrated, prioritised & resilient
alignment & co-ordination of efforts to achieve sustainable outcomes, working from the basis of the respective strengths of councils, central Government & other stakeholders, and
future-proofing the region’s development, in particular in built form.

The working papers, the first contribution to the debate, covered the 6 forces of change:

climate change
resource availability
demographics, and
world views.

The template was borrowed from Vancouver’s Cities Plus.

Mr Johnson highlighted some of the points from the project for the December forum meeting:

“Transport: Thinking differently – instead of mobility, think accessibility. Much of our roading investment is predicated on volume growth. If that falls away we will probably invest less. We think there is going to be increasing emphasis on public transport.

“Climate: It will mean unpredictability. Most likely we will have some erosion. We will presumably start to think about where not to develop and where to develop less. And we need to start thinking about our long-term investment patterns.

“It’s been suggested we will see largescale migration globally. We’re likely to be under pressure for both wealthy & poor migrants. And our growth forecasts might not be sufficient for the growth we’re going to see.

“The draft framework: Is this a strategy that is going to be driven by a vision or be a useful tool?

“Building strong communities: One thought was, we need to do things on a neighbourhood level.

“Economy: One thing we need to do is not see things ahead more as problems but as opportunities.

“We need to think how we can localise some of our infrastructure: tanks on roofs, solar heating.

“Shaping a fairer society: There’s concern that we would split into haves & have-nots.”

The 6 Forces papers go beyond (in some cases) what can be safely predicted to pose challenges and ask: “What if?” Some of the big questions highlighted in the workshops document are:

How well equipped is Auckland to sustain or, if possible, improve its present way of life? What resources will it need to attain the future it seeks?
Will the city-region be able to source the resources it needs in a consistent way at a price it can afford? If not, what are our alternatives?
Is the city-region capable of responding to the unexpected – eg, climate change, natural disaster – and if not, what does it need to do to be able to respond better?
What are the region’s relative strengths as a small player in a globalised economy, and what re its unique competitive advantages?
What future events can we be fairly certain of, and how can we best plan for these?
How far into the future can we realistically predict with some degree of accuracy, and so how far should we try to predict?
Who & what institutions hold the knowledge that will enable the city-region to unlock its highest potential?
Where are our knowledge gaps?
Are there obstacles within our institutions, knowledges, behaviours or world views that are preventing us from responding to the challenges of our time in a timely & appropriate manner?
How can we best overcome these obstacles together and create a world-class city-region with a sustainable way of life?

If you’ve made it through all of that or looked at some of the documents, you may have worked out that a very large part of this exercise seems to be repetitious, much of it involves bureaucratic covering of bases and doesn’t necessarily take you too far (if anywhere). I cover that point in the next page of my Start coverage.

Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


Attribution: Regional growth forum meeting, Start papers, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Mumbo jumbo has had too big a place in Start project, but there are sections with merit

Published 21 January 2007

One of the reasons I steered clear of writing until December about the regional forward planning process called Start is the clutter of mumbo jumbo.

Some people closely involved with the process told me it was vitally important. But there I was, stuck at the door, listening but unable to hear anything remotely making sense…..

Like religion or faith in the All Blacks, Start (Sustaining the Auckland regional together) is important because a lot of notable people believe in it. Mostly these people are politicians, or have close association with politics, so what they view as important influences your life – where you live, how you move about, where & how you can run a business, costs…..

I’ve listened to presentations on Start & updates in the Auckland Regional Council chamber over several months, and on every occasion the mumbo jumbo, the gobbledegook, has won.

Take a sentence like this: “With Auckland’s fortunes now inextricably linked to the global economy, any major shifts in the activity of productive organisations globally and associated technological transformations which facilitate the way big companies are run, will have particular salience.”

What does it mean? Where does it take you? Why did somebody not just dream it up but write it? Why did they write a whole book full of this stuff? Why did somebody pay them to do it? How are all the people who believe in the message going to inflict their version of it on the rest of us?

Thankfully, it’s not all like that. Take this sentence from one of the expert group papers, for example: “We need an urban form that promotes the exchange of ideas, concepts, skills & resources, just as much as one that promotes the exchange of goods & services.”

That, to me, promotes aspiration towards an exciting, better Auckland.

For people in the property industry, some sections of the project papers are worth a far closer look than others.

The section on climate change deals with more than theories on rising sea levels, moving on to some of the outcomes such as migration – some of it possibly aggressive.

The globalisation section runs to 3 pages on competitive cities & predictions on the global economy. The foot of that section acknowledges the civil society movement – people who oppose the institutions being set up to facilitate the new world economy.

The demographics section covers the basics but doesn’t postulate some of the outcomes or directions it might have investigated. One glaring omission is the absence of discussion on the likelihood that the Auckland population derived from Asian countries could jump from 14% in 2001 to 25% in 2016, an increase of 225,000 residents.

That increase may have greater influence than the fall in the percentage of population that’s of European descent – from 67% to 55% (though an increase in actual numbers of 40,000 is forecast).

These 2 changes, on their own, could change the region’s whole outlook.

Among the expert groups’ papers, that on the built environment has the most significance, although it contains more exhortation for the present & immediate future than foresight.

The paper on economic transformation has limited value, though a few of the points it does make are strong.

The key points in the energy paper could be implemented in the first 6 months, leaving an awful lot of the century to twiddle.

One of the best lines demonstrating the potential of the exercise to be useless is this one in the paper on environmental quality: “Demonstrate leadership by government agencies walking the talk.”

But there are more meaningful sections of this paper, including passages on the roles of land use & urban form in protecting & enhancing environmental quality, governance frameworks to provide effective stewardship and actions that could be catalysts.

The paper on integrating urban form & infrastructure is the widest-ranging and has most points of significance.

Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


Attribution: Regional growth forum meeting, Start papers, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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