An independent review of Auckland’s planning framework by Australian consulting firm SGS Economics & Planning Pty Ltd, released today, identifies a lack of city-shaping infrastructure investment as the principal impediment to achieving a quality compact city.
The report recommends that the productivity benefit from investment, demand management & urban intensification needs to establish the case for expanded co-investment & policy reform by central government.
The review was commissioned by the Council for Infrastructure Development and has been released one week before the close of submissions to Auckland Council on its proposed unitary plan – the detailed planning framework intended to implement the overarching policy document, the Auckland Plan.
Chief executive Stephen Selwood said: “We commissioned this study to gain a better understanding of how successfully programmes, policies & investment plans developed over the past 3 years by Auckland Council are delivering on the Auckland Plan vision to make the city the world’s most liveable.
“SGS found that governance reforms have equipped Auckland with the most evolved metropolitan governance structure of any city in Australasia. Auckland has a united voice on regional issues and has the critical mass to make trajectory shifting decisions in its own right. The Auckland Plan sets out a compelling & demonstrably achievable vision for Auckland’s spatial development.
“However, SGS found that the Auckland Plan objective of a quality compact city was unlikely to be achieved without increased investment in city-shaping infrastructure, identification of the means to fund that investment and policy reform to support road-pricing & value-capture mechanisms.
“On current plans, there simply is not sufficient investment in transport infrastructure to support a transition to an efficient & competitive higher density urban form.
“To reverse many decades of low-density, motor-vehicle-oriented growth will take much more than the city rail link & other projects prioritised in the Auckland Plan.
“This finding helps explain why transport modelling of future land use & transport investment completed last year showed Auckland’s congestion worsening significantly over the course of the next 30 years, even with all proposed investment committed.
“But rather than retracting the compact city vision, SGS calls for analysis of the productivity benefit that is expected from urban transformation. Where the Auckland Plan vision can be shown to boost national productivity, GDP & aggregate tax revenues, there is a strong case for co-investment from central government.
“Increased economic performance more generally also substantiates the case for new funding sources, such as road pricing &d value capture, which are key to achieving the Auckland Plan vision.
“Better understanding of these benefits may also help foster community & local board support, which has so far been an impediment to the scale of intensification proposed.
“We hope this report will stimulate a joint Government & council work programme to identify the productivity dividend that can be achieved through optimal investment in city-shaping infrastructure. In the Council for Infrastructure Development’s view, this requires vast improvement in integrating transport investment & land use development, including more targeted densification to support major investment in public transport, and implementation of road-pricing & value-capture mechanisms.
“While the united Auckland Council is making great progress, stronger alignment & unity of purpose between central government & the council is needed if the productive potential of Auckland is to be truly realised.”
The SGS report concludes: “As we have discussed, the aspirations for urban transformation in Auckland do not seem to be in line with the capacity to fund the required infrastructure. This appears to create an intractable dilemma, potentially leading to a conclusion that land use planning ambitions should somehow be ‘scaled back’ to fit the Auckland & New Zealand communities’ funding capabilities.
“However, this line of thinking ignores the crucial fact that a restructured Auckland is likely to boost national productivity, GDP & aggregate tax revenues. In this context, the question becomes ‘Will the tax dividend from implementing the Auckland Plan, including timely delivery of the requisite city-shaping infrastructure, pay for the additional investment involved?’
“Our recommendation is that the Auckland Plan needs to be interrogated from a productivity perspective, with a view to establishing (or not) the case for expanded co-investment by central government. Such co-investment may facilitate a more aggressive intra-Auckland programme of reform in matters like road pricing & value capture.
“Additional analysis along the following lines is required:
- Model medium- to long- term national productivity & GVA outcomes, assuming a (current) trend-based pattern of development in metropolitan Auckland
- Model medium- to long-term national productivity & GVA outcomes assuming timely investment in city-shaping infrastructure & delivery of the Auckland Plan
- Estimate the tax revenue uplift from any productivity gain offered by a restructured Auckland, and the incidence of these tax receipts
- If warranted by the foregoing analysis, make a case to central government to share some of its prospective tax revenue uplift from a restructured Auckland in the form of accelerated co-investment in required city-shaping infrastructure.”
Attribution: NZCID release, SGS report.