By Gareth Vaughan
Auckland Council's draft Unitary Plan, which outlines a long-term future of denser living and more high rise apartments for the City of Sails, is the only option there is, according to property investor Olly Newland.
"It's the only option we've got," Newland, also an Authorised Financial Advisor and author, told interest.co.nz.
"We've got a choice for Auckland. We're either static, which doesn't work (because) we'd have to put a fence and barbed wire around the city. Or we shrink, which doesn't work either, or we grow. Now if we're going to grow then we have to grow sensibly otherwise we're going to end up with a town that stretches from Wellington to Whangarei and you can't keep on gobbling up the land."
"So this (Unitary) plan I think is the basis of a very good idea."
And as Auckland Council and the Government argue over the future of Auckland, with the two having formed a working group this week to continue squabbling over their differences, Newland says this is good news for property investors.
"From a property investor's point of view it's going to be a picnic. Because the longer they delay the plan, the more the property speculators out there, and the land bankers, will be climbing into land that's going to be much more valuable in the future. So I think delay is a big mistake. I think they should be getting into it (the Unitary Plan) and making it a firm proposal as quickly as possible."
'It could be quite an interesting bun fight'
Long-term investors, meanwhile, could do worse than buy up property in areas that will be zoned for apartments under the Unitary Plan.
"If you've got a long view, and we're talking a 30 year plan here, you should be buying up land in those areas which are likely to have the densest zoning," Newland says. "But you have to have a very long view and a very deep pocket. You have to have a 10 or 15 year view on things at least, I would think, at the rate things are going."
"But it could be quite an interesting bun fight when the property speculators and the property land bankers get into it. I'm afraid I'm at an age where it's just too late for me, but there's a lot of young people coming up behind me that may take advantage of it."
In a sea change for the city and the way Aucklanders traditionally live, Auckland Council is proposing buildings of up to 18 storeys in so-called metropolitan centres such as Newmarket, Takapuna and New Lynn, eight storeys in town centres such as Avondale, Northcote, Onehunga and Royal Oak, six storeys in the likes of Glenfield, Orewa and Papatoetoe, and four storeys in areas such as Devonport, Mt Albert and Remuera. It wants the majority of future residential home development to take place within the city's existing urban limits. In contrast the Government wants to "smash" Auckland's urban boundary to free up more land for house building in the interests of housing affordability.
However, Newland suggests the bickering between council and government amounts to little more than a battle for control.
"I think there's politics at play here. I think there's a little bit of competition over who is in charge of what. I think the Government would like to think of itself as in charge of the whole thing because it's a big deal, and the Council would like to think it's in charge. So I think there's a little bit of a power play going on there," Newland says.
"The bottom line is we've got to build up whether we like it or not. And if necessary we've got to build satellite cities, if you like, and create Hamilton as a satellite city with a better motorway and railway to it. Maybe that's the answer or a combination of all those things."
"But growth is the only option forward."
'If you want to live in the city you're going to have to live in an apartment'
Asked whether many New Zealanders actually want to live in high rise apartments Newland acknowledges they probably don't.
"I think all New Zealanders would like to live on a quarter acre section with a nice house. But if you want to live in the city you're going to have to put up with living in apartments. Unfortunately the rubbishy apartments that have been put up in the inner city, the dog boxes, have spoilt the impression."
"If you live in a nice apartment, or you have been in nice apartments, they can be very nice ways of living indeed. So I think these dog boxes have spoilt the taste a little bit, but I think most people will have to make up their mind whether they're going to live in apartments for security reasons if nothing else, and economic reasons, or they're going to have to live in the country, as it were."