OPINION: Hugh Pavletich accuses Christchurch City Council of blindness, blunders and chain dragging; calls for effective leadership, 'open land' policy and bendy zoning. Your view?

By Hugh Pavletich*

Unlike floods, tornados and hurricanes, that are “oncers” and can be predicted with some accuracy, earthquakes and particularly secondary fault ones, are currently poorly understood by seismologists. These events persist over a long time frame as illustrated on Canterbury Quake Live - the most constantly viewed website in Christchurch.

We Christchurch residents (all amateur seismologists), waste much of our spare time, (wrongly) predicting where the next aftershocks are likely to come from and where the other fault lines are, we (including the seismologists) are completely clueless about!

More in depth technical information is available at Environment Canterbury -2010 Canterbury Earthquake technical information and the GeoNet websites.

It is now near 10 months since the first event - a 7.1 magnitude earthquake 4 September 2010, followed by a 6.3 Magnitude event 22 February 2011 and another 6.3 Magnitude event 13 June 2011. There have been approximately 7,000 aftershocks surrounding these events.

The magnitude of these major earthquake events has not been the most significant aspect of them. It has been that they are so shallow and in such close proximity of an urban area.

No doubt other urban areas on the Pacific Ring of Fire are carefully pondering the consequences of these unknown shallow and close secondary faults at the moment. Seattle, San Francesco and many others.

Ground conditions have played an important role – where in general terms, the east of the city (and particularly the north east) has experienced the most significant pockets of liquafaction, while the higher income west, with better ground conditions has stood up remarkably well.

The West and many other areas of the city, have in large measure continued to function throughout.

The built environment (mainly housing) in parts of the Port Hills area of Banks Peninsula, where the epicentres of the second and third events were, experienced significant damage, due to the massive peak ground accelerations (pga) involved.

The first event (1.26g recorded near the epicentre at Darfield) was further out to the South West, but it was thesecond event 22 February with the closer epicentre on the Port Hill's, that inflicted the most damage, as the peak ground acceleration at the epicentre was 2.2g, with the city experiencing 1.88g – well above what buildings are designed to withstand. The  peak ground accelerations for the third 13 June 2011 event appear to be similar or slightly less.

Christchurch Central Business District experienced peak ground acceleration with the second event (with the third likely similar or less) of 0.574 to 0.602g. In contrast, the 7.0 magnitude 2010 Haiti earthquake had a peak ground acceleration of 0.5g.

Is density deadly?

By far most of the deaths and the destruction costs occurred in the dense Central Business District, which has subsequently been vacated (referred to as the “Red Zone”) since the second 22 February event. It is likely to be vacated for months and possibly years, as in excess of 1,000 (mainly commercial) building’s are demolished. In contrast, some 300 commercial buildings are likely to be demolished within the suburban areas.

Put bluntly – density is deadly, costly and excessively risky.

It would appear 12,000 homes may be written off throughout the three Local Government areas of Waimakariri , Selwyn and Christchurch – some 5.4% of the total housing stock of the 3 areas of approximately 220,000. By far most of these are likely to be in the Christchurch area where there are approximately 145,000 residential units (estimated 135,000 usually occupied owned and rented and 10,000 other / secondary).

Depopulation and capital flight

There is currently no great pressure on the residential rental stock, due to the outwards migration following the three major earthquake events.

During May (prior to the 13 June event), Stephen Sacker of the BBC Hardtalk programme interviewed Prime Minister John Key. Within this interview Prime Minister Key stated he estimated the population loss from Christchurch would be “in the order of 20 – 30,000”. The writers estimate is that it could be slightly higher at 40,000+ (particularly following the 13 June event), some 11% of the population of approximately 376,000.

This reduces the immediate housing need by about 16,000 – based on 2.5 people per household. The above estimates are nowhere  near the unscientific, but nevertheless interesting, recent The Press “readers poll”, a few days after the 13 June 2011 event, suggesting 18% intended to leave (no doubt not counting those who had already left).

The population however will recover rather quickly, provided that sound political leadership “happens” and Christchurch is clearly seen as as an affordable and opportunity city going forward.

If this doesn’t start soon, the downwards spiral will continue.

Reality bites

Unlike the Japanese, who are well prepared and educated about earthquakes and have remarkable risk management procedures in place to deal with them, New Zealand on the urban governance and planning fronts, is nowhere near where it should be.

Indeed – if this becomes a $30 billion event, it would likely have been much less at something below $15 billion, if there had been sound urban governance and planning preceding it. If it works out to be a $20 billion event, it would likely have been below a $10 billion one.

This is without considering the massive and often unnecessary “disruption costs” and the realities of the poorly understood Broken Windows Fallacy (YouTube video). The destruction of the capital stock “costs”. People and businesses rarely come out of an insurance event “making money”.

These major unnecessary poor quality urban governance and planning costs can in large measure be attributed to:

(a)    Strangling land supply at the fringes, driving fringe serviced residential  section / lots costs up from approximately $30 - $60,000 to $200 - $300,000 and beyond, which in turn ripples through land values within the rest of the urban area.

(b)   Inappropriately financing infrastructure required for new development, loading the capital costs (with subdivision and builders margins) in to the house purchaser,  then forcing them to “gift” this infrastructure to the utility providers.

(c)    Poor planning degrading the performance of the residential construction sector, so that construction costs on a per metre basis are currently double what they should be. This “degradation” and the downstream degradation ( e.g. leaky homes, finance companies going to the wall, cowboy construction culture etc) were covered within an earlier article by the writer - Houston, we have a (housing affordability) problem | interest.co.nz.

(d)   Because of these factors above, the age and quality of the Christchurch housing stock is considerably poorer and less seismically resistant than it should be. Including too the new stock (referred to as “bubble stock”), which has been built well outside conventional Development Ratios (refer the Definition of an Affordable Housing Market atPerformance Urban Planning). New residential stock, such as that at Rolleston on the good ground coped remarkably well (as did most housing west of Hagley Park and in other areas) – even though it was located at the end of the first event of magnitude 7.1 on 4 September 2010.

(e)   Council planning and the idiotic Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy (of which current Mayor Bob Parker was the major cheerleader) had effectively “banned” the provision of affordable land on the good ground at the southern, western and northern fringes of Christchurch, severely inflating the price of fringe lots / sections (a – above) and forcing development to the poorer quality swampy ground to the less favoured east. Sound geotechnical and engineering advice was persistently ignored by local politicians and urban planners, who’s only interests were in"birds and bees" issues.

(f)     Christchurch urban planning and the regional Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy, through inflating land prices and artificially making housing considerably more expensive, forced greater intensification and CBD living. The earthquakes have proven that “density is deadly”. Natural hazards risk management was never considered. Earthquake and liquefaction risks were well understood within the development and engineering communities in particular.

(g)    The Christchurch City Council had a long and sorry history of standing in the road of the demolition of much of the old (gerry built) commercial stock, it considered “historic” -  that clearly was not. This gross over listing of historic buildings meant that there were not sufficient resources available for the necessary and adequate seismic upgrades of “truly” historic buildings, such as Christchurch Cathedral, the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and the Arts Centre.

It degenerated pretty much in to a “power game”, with the drummed up active support of some of the “beautiful people” of Fendalton and Merivale, keen for commercial reasons to be seen as politically correct by the Council bureaucrats. This assisted in “smoothing the waters” for other developments requiring consent.

Limp wrist syndrome

The writer precipitated changes to National heritage management (New Zealand Historic Places Trust got cleaned out at the time) in the mid 1990’s, after, as a commercial property developer, I demolished 3 Category One heritage structures on the West Coast of the South Island. They got in my road and misbehaved themselves. The “message” obviously didn’t filter down to the local level in Christchurch. Likely because of the limp wristed advocacy efforts of the local Property Council and Chamber of Commerce (which in any event, had degenerated in to the PR organisation for the Council).

(h)   The writer was the only person in Christchurch (while having no development or investment interests in the city at the time – as it was clear the Council bureaucracy was becoming increasingly bloated and destructive) to formally object to the Auditor General’s Office with respect to the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy  (many others quietly agreed – but were not prepared to take the political and commercial risks in supporting the writer publicly), that the processes followed and the underlying research were seriously deficient (the research can only be described as “drivel” and more specifically “indoctrinated lightwieght academic drivel”- common with policy papers generated in New Zealand – Nick Smiths RMA Reform discussion papers being a glaring example). The Auditor Generals Office rejected the complaint.

There had been a “rentals issue” complaint forwarded to the Auditor General’s Office at around the same time, which was also rejected. On subsequent appeal to the High Court, the Court found in the complainants favour.

Environment Minister Hon Dr Nick Smith (as are many of his Cabinet colleagues) is well aware of the reality the Auditor General’s Office should not be involved with Local Government and planning issues – but has failed to deal with this problem to date.

(i)      During the early 1990’s, while the writer was President of the South Island Division of the Property Council, I led advocacy issues with respect to Local Government financial management, which culminated eventually with the enactment of the Local Government Amendment Act No 3 1996, forcing Councils to move from “jam jar” to accrual accounting, with provisioning for the depreciation of community assets.

While it seems about a third of residential and commercial rates bills are earmarked for depreciation, substantially less (with long term debt financing arrangements where appropriate) appears to have been used for the repair and replacement of infrastructure. The Christchurch Councils in ground infrastructure appears to be of a much poorer standard than it should be.

This issue requires urgent investigation by Central Government.

(j)     The forced Local Government amalgamation of some 20 years is the “root of the problem” and this needs to be urgently reformed to the “One City – Many Communities” model.

In essence – the growing Council bureaucracy corrupted the whole commercial culture of the city, seriously retarding its growth and the standards of living of its citizens. Commercial interests in particular “learnt” not to take them on. Rule by fear.

If this had not happened – Christchurch would have been a growing and dynamic city, with a population in excess of 500,000 and household incomes well above the current $NZ55,000. So the above “costs” (which are huge) pale in to insignificant, when these “lost opportunity costs” are factored in. Importantly too, a wealthier city would have been considerably more “earthquake resistant”.

Public sector performance has generally been poor – particularly the Christchurch City Council, Civil Defence and the Earthquake Commission (EQC). Let’s hope we see a vastly improved performance from CERA, since the new CEO Roger Sutton started in this role 13 June 2011.

The extremely poorly treated people in the east of Christchurch had plenty to say with respect to EQC on the highly regarded TV3 Campbell Live programme Friday 17 June 2011 (refer herehere and  here.)

Insurance disaster was forewarned

EQC should never have been allowed to “frontline” insurance, as it had no expertise and resources (just 22 staff) at the time of the first event. The 2009 Independent Performance Report on EQC was hardly laudatory. Prime Minister John Key and his Cabinet should have been acutely aware of this and taken the appropriate decisions at the time of the first event on 4 September 2010, allowing insurance companies and their assessors and brokers to “frontline” insurance issues.

The earthquake damaged area population only represents about 1.5% of the total population of Australia and New Zealand. There are abundant insurance resources, and most importantly, expertise available throughout the two countries.

Incompetence would not adequately describe the performance of Civil Defence – which has moved in to the twilight zone of idiocy. The way it treated CBD property and business owners following the 22 February event, can only be described as appalling. It was a great day when they rode out of town in May.

The “star performers” has been the engineering profession and the way most buildings have withstood peak ground accelerations well in excess of the loads expected of them. This has been the major reason for (in relative terms) the small number of deaths at 182, although this figure will likely increase slightly, as forensic investigations continue.

Canterbury University has one of the finest Engineering Schools in the world.

The contractors across the board have and still are, generally performing to a very high standard. And importantly – acting ethically and with great care.

Determined businesses bounce back 

The CBD business community too was remarkable, in how it generally (where possible) quickly relocated to the suburbs following the 22 February event, and if required, set up businesses at home. Most of the suburban relocations were “sub tenancies” to other businesses, that worked in to assist their colleagues and business associates. Most were “up and running” within 7 to 14 days. This was spontaneous, requiring no bureaucratic grand plan.

Indeed – this is why this major “abrupt relocation” worked so well.

The “good news stories’ are very much about people and their communities “pitching in” to help one another, as Rebecca Mafie, columnist with the Listener and John McCrone and Martin van Beynon of The Press have explained within many articles, since the time of the first event. Special mention too must be made of John Campbell and his team at Television 3.

Stymied recovery

Imagine that on 3 September 2010, Christchurch, New Zealand, with just 376,000 people, was a responsive and an affordable city, with housing at or below three times household incomes.

Let’s consider Houston, United States, with its population of 5.9 million, where housing is about 2.9 times household income, as illustrated by this years 7th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Suvey and the latest Monthly Report of the Houston Association of Realtors.

The latest Demographia Housing Survey (data 3rd Qtr 2010) rates Houston housing is 2.9 times annual household incomes (median house price $US160,600 – median household income $US54,500), while Christchurch, with its unresponsive governance, straightjacket planning and starved fringe land supply is 6.0 times ($NZ55,600 / $NZ333,800).

As the Christchurch City Council Quick Facts Housing Graph illustrates, housing prices were around $NZ150,000 through the 1990’s to 2002, when due to land supply being strangled, because the Council bureaucracy expanded and became increasingly unresponsive, prices have exploded through to around $NZ330,000. As the graph illustrates, when the bubble peaked, transaction volumes began a relentless decline.

By the time of the first earthquake 4 September 2010, Christchurch in development and construction terms, was already on its knees.

If Christchurch had been responsibly governed as the open land market of Houston on 4 September (when the first of three major earthquakes struck), with abundant supplies of “construction ready” affordable lots / sections where good quality ground is on the fringes to the south, west and north, there would have been an immediate spontaneous response with new housing stock being built quickly.

It is remarkable how the residential construction sector can ramp up production when allowed to. Dallas Fort Worth during the oil boom some decades ago, at its peak, put through 37 consents per 1,000 population in one year. Translated to the Christchurch situation with its population of 376,000, that would mean 14,000 consents in a year - well above current national production.

If the Council had allowed new fringe construction, importantly, morale would have been maintained. It wasn’t.

Whither good governance in time of need?

Christchurch City Council governance and planning did not however allow this to happen.

Even with the further major earthquakes of 22 February 2011 and 13 June 2011, the Christchurch Council, due to its inability and unwillingness, failed to respond by releasing affordable fringe land quickly. The need for this of course was “blindingly obvious” to the writer following the September event – as explained within the New Zealand Herald soon after – and indeed had been since getting the Annual Demographia Surveys underway with Wendell Cox back in late 2004....... and much earlier.

Once upon a time

I had led the push in Christchurch in 1993, to open up more fringe land and it is thanks to the socially responsible Christchurch City Councils Environment Chairman Councillor Charles Manning at the time, that this did indeed happen.

Christchurch can thank Charles Manning for keeping house prices near affordable and stable through the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

These efforts on the land supply front led to my “excommunication” as President of the South Island Division of the Property Council by the industry protectionists  – but that’s neither here nor there, compared with the personal satisfaction one gets, when looking at the $150,000 median house price straight line through the 1990’s on the Councils Quick Facts Housing Graph linked above.

In any event, the kind Australians within the Urban Development Institute of Australia (Queensland Division) (in particular its outstanding CEO Brian Stewart)  have taken me in as an “industry refugee”, making me a Fellow for all the political trouble I have caused over the years. I have been asked back by the New Zealand Property Council, but will persist in playing “hard to get”!

Bureaucracy at all costs

Mayor Bob Parker and the Councils Chief Executive Tony Marryatt have instead chosen for their own reasons, to remain “blind” to these critically important issues. They appear more interested to increase rates by 7.1% and preserve at all costs the Council's bureaucracy, as I explained within a September 2010 article Christchurch: A Bureaucratically Buggered City.

Indeed, the management of the Council is so bad, that its City Care workers were deployed to tend flower beds in the vacated Red Zoned Central Business District, instead of being deployed to essential works in the east (refer Not PC: GUEST POST: “Sorry about the sewage, we are too busy gardening in the Red Zone!”).

Statistics New Zealand recently reported New Zealand building consents recorded a record low in the month of April with 927 consents nationally and 7 new consents related to the earthquakes – just some 21 consents related to earthquake events for the 8 months in Christchurch, since the first earthquake in September 2010!

On a national basis, the 927 consents for the month of April extrapolated out to a year is 11,124 consents. With New Zealand’s population of 4.4 million, this represents a consenting rate per 1,000 population per annum of just 2.5 – below where replacement should be.

This poor performance is due to the incompetent performance of New Zealand's Environment Minister Hon Dr Nick Smith, who should have ensured affordable fringe land was released throughout New Zealand’s urban areas well before now.

No doubt the Earthquake Commission and their reinsurers now being unnecessarily lumbered with these inflated costs are re rating and re pricing their risks with respect to poorly governed markets, that allow their housing to inflate.. And taxpayers too, as they will wear these bubble land costs through increased insurance premiums and taxation going forward.

New Zealand’s leading business website comprehensively discussed the latest Statistics New Zealand April consent issues 3 June 2011, within a report by Alex Tarrant - Trend for new home consents hits new low in April, but decline eases; Only 21 quake consents in 8 mths, Stats NZ says | interest.co.nz.

In short – the Christchurch City Council has been and continues to be a disaster.

Little wonder Christchurch resident’s feel helpless and not in control of their lives.

The Authorities at both the Central and Local levels, failed from the time of the first earthquake 4 September 2010, to recognise the critical importance of citizens maintaining control.

The Authorities primary role should have been to enable and support people in getting their lives back together, as quickly as possible.

New housing a solution?

To rate as “affordable”, a metro area / city’s housing median price must not exceed 3 times gross annual median household income. And to ensure this is maintained, new starter stock must be allowed to be provided on the urban fringes at 2.5 times a specific metro area’s median household income.

The Development Ratio’s of 20% serviced lot – the balance 80% the actual house construction, are critically important too – the more distorted they become, the more degraded the quality of the housing.

Therefore Christchurch, with its median household income of $NZ55,600, median house prices should not exceed $NZ166,800 (not the current bubble value $333,800), with new starter house and land packages on the fringes for $NZ139,000.

There will of course be the usual property and construction industry ignoramuses who will say this is impossible. They are obviously “slow learners”, as  Bill Levitt, the “father of the modern production construction industry” we know today, had it all figured out soon after the Second World War. This amazing story unfolds within this Time Magazine article of 1950 -  HOUSING: Up from the Potato Fields.

One should not need to do a 60 year course, to learn the basics.

Bill supplied new starter housing for $US8,000 to single earner young families on $3,800 annual household incomes – 2.1 times annual household earnings. It was largely thanks to the entrepreneurial skills of this great man, that the “democratization of prosperity” occurred following World War Two. The Authorities, out of fear, did not have the will to stand in the road of returning service people, in a hurry to restore their lives.

The New Zealand production residential construction sector has been seriously degraded (currently costs about twice as much per square metre as it should) by the past few decades of intrusive and damaging planning. It is therefore unrealistic to expect international standards of performance in the short term – but a start to restore performance must be made now.

Realistically, it should be possible to start in to providing new fringe starter housing packages for $200,000 all up - $50,000 for the serviced lot, the balance $150,000 for the actual house construction. Open and competitive fringe land markets will ensure that productivity will constantly improve, so that increasingly more affordable fringe housing is provided.

Nothing beats completion to lift performance.

Free up land

There must be “open land policies” on the urban fringes, where “no go” development areas are clearly identified and most importantly, solidly justified (spare us any more of the indoctrinated lightweight academic drivel please). It is naive in the extreme to allow Councils to manage land supply, as they have clearly proven themselves to be disastrous at this - both in New Zealand and internationally these past decades.

Then zone it after development. Call this “post development zoning”.

Councils simply cannot be expected to be sufficiently responsive to changing market conditions. They only act as “housing bubble creators” if allowed to meddle with land supply.

This is too important to be treated as a “power game” and a “cash cow”, to be milked by incompetent Governments at all levels

"Oodles" of space

New Zealand has abundant supplies of land available for urban development – with well less than 1% (about 0.70%) of our land area as urban areas, towns and settlements (refer Land use environmental snapshot Environmental Snapshot | New Zealand Ministry for the Environment). I had discussed this years ago as well - Lifestyle Block Mythology.

We couldn’t urbanize a further half a percent of our total land area over the next fifty years if we tried.

This “land supply” issue is a bureaucratic beat up, because they are more interested in power, bureaucratic expansion and are prepared (thanks to poor quality governance) to sacrifice higher standards of living for the people who pay their wages.

Bendy zoning

Importantly too, within our urban areas, “flexible zoning” must be allowed, so that current zones can expand and contract as required by ever changing market conditions. In other words, if neighbours consent can be obtained say 50 metres out (roads excluded) from a development proposed just outside an existing zone boundary and provided this proposed new development meets reasoned and reasonable environmental and building standards, it should be allowed to proceed.

The Christchurch earthquakes have highlighted the urgent need for open fringe post development zoning and internal flexible zoning, as the city is now likely to shift abruptly to the west.


The city will become very much a “collection of villages / communities” with no Central Business District as we have known in the past. CBD’s, already dying, like grossly expensive covered Malls (only still around due to political and planning protection – which is a major on going cost to Mall owners), are obsolete.

The current central area will become the major service centre for the lower income (median household income about $NZ45,000) and shrunken east, where many of the remaining structurally sound central buildings, will be redeveloped to visitor accommodation, surrounded by supporting services and businesses.

Quite why tourism is “glorified” is a mystery, as it is a low paid sector, better suited to transitioning emerging developing countries.

The Riccarton area will become the major service centre for the more affluent west (median household incomes about $65,000) and the commercial activities must be allowed to expand in to the adjoining residential areas as quickly as possible.

CERA's role

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) was created in large measure, because the Christchurch City Council is so seriously dysfunctional. It is in urgent need of reform from a failed centralized to a “One City – Many Communities” model, as I explained late February within Christchurch earthquake: Sound political leadership required.

Within the above article, I had suggested Roger Sutton (then) CEO of the local monopoly electricity network provider Orion, should be considered as a replacement for the current Council CEO Tony Marryatt. It is however pleasing to see Central Government appointing Mr Sutton as CEO of the newly formed CERA, responsible to the Recovery Minister Hon Gerry Brownlee.

I hold Mr Sutton in high regard, while recognising that he has no experience leading an open market competitive corporation and that he has no property development experience. He will be as good as the people he surrounds himself with – those with different skill sets to his own. He must however keep the leading positions clear of bureaucrats. It should be a very small and focused operation, with a short term (five- year) life.

CERA needs to see itself as the small lead organisation, ensuring much improved regulatory and recovery performance, so that the earthquake recovery can happen as quickly as possible. It needs to be careful to ensure the Local Authorities do not abrogate their own responsibilities, in attempting to expect CERA to do, what a Local Authority should properly be doing.

CERA becoming “principal” of the Grand Chancellor demolition was a mistake – something that doesn’t not appear to have been considered by CERA’s Review Panel.

One particular area we do not want to see CERA and the Christchurch City Council get involved with, are redevelopment issues or grand development fantasies (nightmares to the rest of us).

If they are tempted – Christchurch Mayor Parker with his architect colleague Ian Athfield, need to explain the Magazine Bay Marina fiasco (still in ruins 10 years later) they were both involved in. And the “not fit for purpose” and likely severely damaged new Civic Building for good measure.

We do not want Christchurch City to look like the still destroyed Magazine Bay Marina ten years down the track Mr Parker.

It is to be hoped Christchurch Councillor Tim Carter’s suggestion for an investigation in to the Civic Building redevelopment fiasco is followed up on.

The Authorities at all levels should see themselves as competent, fair and enabling regulators, allowing people, developers and property owners to get on rebuilding Christchurch, so that it can become as quickly as possible, an affordable and opportunity city.

Lessons from New Orleans

In this regard, we can learn from the successes and failures of New Orleans, that prior to Hurricane Katrina, had become a political failure - like Christchurch prior to the earthquakes.

New Orleans (city and parish population 343,820 MSA 1,235,660)  has surprised most commentators, in how it has now become an “opportunity city”, where housing is 3.5 times household incomes.

Joel Kotkin, prolific and highly respected international writer on urban issues and Executive Editor of the pragmatic website Newgeography.com, explained recently the progress in New Orleans with  The Katrina Effect: Renaissance On The Mississippi.

Mr Kotkin spoke with the founder of a 45 employee firm Turbosquid Matt Wisdom who said: “Now instead of people being amazed we are here, they want to get here to ride the wave."

“We used to have this brain drain to the Northeast, the West Coast and Texas, but this has changed........After Katrina everyone was forced to become an entrepreneur, the dominant concept for the rebuilding has become one of resiliency and self employment – it’s been bottom up”.

I had the honour of discussing these matters recently with Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc - Regional Economic Alliance. Michael (who travelled through the South Island when younger and is following Christchurch events with much interest) very much mirrored Matt Wisdoms perspective.


*Hugh Pavletich runs Performance Urban Planning

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It seems to me that Christchurch is suffering from over planning. There is so much to do and everyone is so paranoid to do it right that it has paralyzed the re construction process. If leadership do not act quickly Christchurch is precariously close to becoming a ghost town.

I suggest Christchurch leadership get their priorities in order. So in order to avoid a repeat of the dead zones that still exist in New Orleans, it is imperative that everything gets written off, allow the residents to grab what they can, write the insurance checks, bulldoze and remove the rubble, and just build it!

They need to start with a clean slate both literally and figuratively. Instead of “flexible zoning” I would suggest doing what cities like Houston, TX have done and do away with zoning full stop. That may sound ridicules but I can assure you zoning laws are not necessary right now. Just build it! There are major metropolitan areas that have done without zoning laws and have survived to tell the tale.  Zoning laws are draconian and authoritarian view of maintaining property values the really don’t work. All zoning laws do effective are promote corruption and assure that the cookie cutter communities will effetely repeat themselves every 100 kilometer down the motorway.

While we are de-zoning Christchurch it may behoove the leadership to remove the restriction on any rebuilding and allow anyone to build whatever they want where they want as long as it meets code. Just build it! Also, they may want to pour over the existing building code and allow grandfathered compliance on those areas of the code that does not affect structure. Is it necessary if every floor has 18 fire doors and 25 fire extinguishers? I’ve lived in NZ for over 6 years and I can assure you fire is the last problem that comes to mind. Sure installing nifty super fancy alarms and fire doors might save a couple lives per year but that isn’t really important right now when there are over 12,000 displaced families. Just build it!

It is interesting that when you relax the bureaucracy people tend to cooperate more. Bureaucracy is prone to capture, fiefdoms develop, and the law of unintended consequences start to takes over. I think people who gravitate towards leadership and government often tend to feel that the world would be a better place with more rules. I often cite the road code here as an example. I have never seen so many rules of the road and yet they don’t seem to work. They only tend to add to the confusion making driving in NZ a frustrating experience. Relaxing regulation will invite likeminded self-sufficient individuals Christchurch desperately needs right now.

BTW I’m only for relaxing regulation much as possible, like your idea of flexible zoning. I’m not a fan of deregulation. It was a horrible failure in the US. I have been a victim of deregulation many times. Ironically the worst offender was Enron. So I’m all for basic rules, but I only want the minimum amount. I often cite US football (i.e. Gridiron) as an example of simple rules that still foster completion. As long as you’re building a safe building that isn’t going to hurt anyone, I’m fine with that. We can worry about fire doors later.

Another important point. Every few years, Houston has a referendum on whether to adopt zoning or not. Overwhelmingly, LOWER INCOME earners vote AGAINST zoning. They perceive zoning as an exclusionary tool that will be used AGAINST them, NOT a benign tool that will be used to "protect" them - which is how zoning enthusiasts like to spin the issue.

Great article Hugh. Once again the summary is: central planning doesn't work. One person at the top, hi Bob Parker!, cannot possibly know all. All the intelligence and intuition at ground level is ignored.

All for the greater good no doubt.

On specifics, I'm a great proponent if dezoning, but you need to outline some basic rules Hugh so that the powerful cannot abuse their power. I.e. you can built everywhere, but you gotta have insurance, you gotta have sanitation, i.e. a minimum set of easily verifiable rules that gives people trust in the new process.

But you don't need building codes: that can be captured by having insurance. If no one wants to insure your building, you probably don't follow the rules.

I love how the free-market solutions always require opening up fringe land. What about density? When the true cost of far-flung suburban development is exposed there's no way the government will continue subsidising it. You can hide infrastrcture malinvestment by spreading it out over 50 years, but when you have to replace it all at once it's game over. 


It's certainly game over when the infrastructure is under high density high-volume-activity areas.

There is no correlation at all between urban expansion and local tax over-runs. If anything, it is the lowest density cities that have the lowest taxes. This makes sense because greenfields are always cheaper than trying to retrofit high density.

Get up them hugh! I much appreciate being able to read this stuff. Thanks.


There's a lot to take in there but agree our governance is average at best. After Feb 22 there should have been clear and immediate action to open up land for new housing in those areas south-west of the City. The CBD as we know it is going to take a long time to sort out. The eastern suburbs are not worth persevering with and those communities need to be moved asap.

The opportunities for new villages (As Jimmy Lunday would describe them) or pocket neighbourhoods (As Paul Downton would call them) is fantastic. No more US style suburbia + mall. 

Agree we should not worry too much about the zoning now...just open up the city boundaries and create sustainable communities that people want to live in. 

I think the CBD should be re-developed in whole form via a buy out of all the property there. Patchwork development is just going to give more of the same old average stuff. I don't agree that density is bad...depends what you mean by density....properly designed spaces for living, breathing communities can be dense but spacious at the same time. They key is to design for people and their needs, now and in the future. 

Certainly the time has come for some serious and radical action. 

Some of the blurb is correct. And Hugh is at least thinking. The bit about a collection of sattelites is on the money, but it raises the question of what kind of housing/infrastructure.

There, is where I differ with the writer. Chch already has a wave of built-over-the-last-ten-years housing which is sub-optimal in terms of addressing the future. Drive by any of the clusters of ticky-tacky, and if a house faces North, it's because they are on the right part of the curve of whatever 'close'. Totally random. They're also too big - in terms of energy consumption, demographics, and maintenance.

Council inept?  No, I suggect that Council staff and developers share the same insecurity - the same need to feel 'bigger', and are natural bedmates. From one of the references above:

Councillor Chrissie Williams said at the time of the zoning change, the thinking was "market-driven" and what developers wanted often overrode other considerations. "A lot of our development was pushed by landowners at the time. It's still happening."

Having been on a Council, and experienced first-hand the arrogance, intimidation and hired legal fire-power brought to Planning meetings by developers, and having debated the costs of challenging same, I'd say that comment about sums it up.. Something to keep in mind, watching both crowds in the future.

Blameshifting aside, any new housing must address the future - this is a one-shot chance now. Any structure built now, goes beyond the age of oil. It's that simple.

There also has to be a discussion about limits - where urbal sprawl stops permanently - meaning forever. That discussion will be shouldered by Mother Nature, should folk like Hugh (and both major political parties, and all economists, most business folk, and every insecure apologist this side of the plaque where the black stump once stood) contine their trajectory. This will happen well before the next 'doubling' is up, so pick your % rate, and plot your curfew.

My pick, is that a wave is breaking over this process. Energy depletion will render much legislation unachieveable - folk will simply build shelter because they have to, and in such numbers they can't all be 'stickered'. Councils - and Governments - will be staring down the barrel of increasing debt concurrent with diminishing revenue-base, and at some point we end up like Greece - where folk are refusing to pay the private utilities that were sold off to stave off the public debt,

Hugh and I have clashed on the 'expansion' thing, but we have to remember that this is just displacement, a 1/4 acre for a 1/4 acre. Presumably you can graze liquefact-able land, so it's a zero-sum game in displacement terms.

The key goal for rebuilding might be 'resiliency'. Better stop, getting like one of Ian's posts.....                                       :)


Appreciate your thoughts, PDK. Agree future thinking is important, we could be (when Brownlee pronounces) leaving our plot by the river for a similar sized plot out west (on the good ground as Hugh puts it). Said plot has good northerly aspect, and biking distance to where we work, schools handy etc.We will try to make this a low carbon footprint venture!

FYI liquefaction is great for the vege garden as long as it doesn't cover too much of the plants. Can grow more than grass on this stuff!

 Hugh - good professional ideas.

 Scenario - considering more - even stronger earthquakes  ??

As long as seismic activities are strong in Christchurch, it seems to me, that the Canterbury region offers enough commercial/ residential stock for businesses and residents to temporarily/ permanently retrieve in other safer areas then the once, which are considered risky or are already destroyed. I’m sure local councils can assist with interesting living/ working solutions for many.



One of your better pieces Hugh. Most of what I would contribute has been coverend by some good posts but I will add my 2c.

For good information on how to build habitation on all levels is the work "A Timeless Way of Building" by Christopher Alexander. You could even go back to Vitruvius for good information on how to site a town.

Any planning that requires the day to day use of motor vecicles is a failure, peak oil or not.

Any building that requires outside sources of energy for space heating is a failure. Solar energy is adequate for most of NZ. Building/planning for the local environment is paramount to good living conditions.

Getting rid of zoning would be a fantastic advancement(return?), but has to be tempered by the timeless knowlege Alexander puts forth(it is not all his, he just collated it). Sprawl like Houston is not the answer, but it would be the answer if the timeless patterns were being used.

Alexander notes that when any information is locked away withing a profession, that information, and it application, degrages over time. This is where we are going with central planning, and it will get worse. Again the information lost needs to be recovered before everyone is let loose to do their own thing, I mean these things take 500 years to work through naturally:)

Interestingly Alexander states that things go downhill when political representation exceeds a ratio of 1:10,000. They are no longer personally accountable to each constituent after that.


Scarfie, you and I are ALMOST on the same page.

Tom Rand’s "Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit", points to numerous alternatives, and suggests that oil is almost fully replaceable over the next few decades and that if we focus as hard on this as we did moon landings and Manhattan projects, we can beat "peak oil". While oil scarcity drives investment in lower and lower yielding oil fields, oil prices also drive investment in oil-replacement technologies. The entire goal of investment in innovation is wealth, and "Green solutions" will make investors wealthy. So stand back and watch.

The ‘rebound effect’ is an economics term that refers to a behavioral response to the introduction of a technology or a measure intended to reduce resource use that instead results in much greater utilisation of the new technology than what was the practical maximum utilisation of the old. When applied to incremental technologies such as a new generation of lightbulbs or a slightly more efficient engine, the effect causes incremental consumption as a result of the cheaper resource.  

Most engine efficiencies designed for our automotive fleet during the past few decades have been lost to supplying heavier and faster vehicles, yielding very little in terms of net fuel savings for the average vehicle mile. But even this long-term rebound effect is a simple accumulation of many incremental steps for one technology, the internal combustion engine. What about a bigger shift such as the shift from whale oil lamps to the electric light bulb? What would a major rebound like that look like, in automobility? Approximately ten times as high a proportion of the population today own a car, as what owned a horse 150 years ago.       

Because fossil fuels extracted from the earth are in limited supply and becoming increasingly inaccessible, their price can only trend up. Because we are just beginning to innovate alternate sources of power, their prices can only go down. Alternative vehicles will compete among themselves to become far better than the best current oil-powered vehicle. The rapid and massive dedication of capital by some of the world’s most successful investors in the design and power of alternative vehicles cannot be ignored.  

The kind of thinking that constrains peak oil projections to reductions in vehicle miles traveled, a loss of infrastructure funding and a threat to automobility; is called hyper-linear thinking. Systems (and automobility is an example of a complex system) may be predicted for only short periods of time or over constrained geographies using linear thinking.

And Scarfie - great reference about the political representation.

I recommend you read everything you can by Fred Foldvary. Start with THIS:


Then look at everything else on his publications page:


Too much to read arghhh! But I will get there, first impression is it looks interesting.

This Fred E. Foldvary:

The Ultimate Tax Reform:
Public Revenue from Land Rent
by Fred E. Foldvary**


The tax reform presented here is not new. It has been working to some degree in many cities and
countries around the world. The idea probably obtained its greatest popularity in the U.S. in the
late 1800s, when the economist Henry George analyzed taxing land value and untaxing labor and
capital in his book, Progress and Poverty.


Yep. I find many of his arguments convincing. I agree very much with shifting the tax burden off labour and capital, and onto land. It is much more efficient and less of a hindrance to economic growth.

"their prices can only go down"

Same mistake over and over again, alternative energy needs an energy return on energy invested of no worse than 10 to 1 to maintain our complex society and give us access to the alternatives...there is no "price" in this equation.

"What about a bigger shift such as the shift from whale oil lamps to the electric light bulb? What would a major rebound like that look like, in automobility?

Actually it was whale oil to kerosene lamps....whale oil and peak fossil fuel are different in that we had a reservior of alternative energy, fossil fuel that we could shift to....just as well as whales were all but extinct......just where is the energy source we can move to? and one that gives us in excess of 10:1?   there isnt one.....therefore "automobility" is a dead man walking.....as you say back 100 years ago few had cars, 100 years from now its going to be similar....few cars....very few....

"The rapid and massive dedication of capital by investors" this isnt on the scale needed...this is ramp up for WW2 scale....a whole factor different, this is where 30% oor more of GDP is dedicated to the  energy problem.....consumerism is toast...

"is called hyper-linear thinking. Systems (and automobility is an example of a complex system) may be predicted for only short periods of time or over constrained geographies using linear thinking."

To re-use your term, this is exactly your problem....you assume cars stay, therefore things will magically appear to make it so....reality will at some point invade many dreams, especially this one of yours.


Not so much "cars stay": "automobility stays".

And it has been common knowledge for decades that "alternatives to oil" are viable as long as oil is $70 per barrell or higher. The price of oil has never been consistently higher than that for long enough, for the necessary investment to be sunk into the alternatives.

South Africa has been running on coal-to-gasoline for decades already. The Nazi War machine ran on it.

What drives all this anti-automobility (it IS all about freedom, at root) mania, is an elaborate web of politically motivated lies. The owners of this blog should be holding the line against it. If I want to waste my time on the blogosphere debating the true believers in the lies, I will go to Frogblog or the Standard. 

Mostly I do not waste my time here, I just "make an example" of a thread now and again when I think there is a chance, just a chance, to advance the debate.

"Put bluntly – density is deadly, costly and excessively risky."

What rubbish.  Buildings didn't fail in the CBD because of a higher density of development but because they were old and/or built on suspect ground.

Look at the Japanese as you suggest.  Central Tokyo is way denser than anywhere in NZ (in spite of what Demographica.com trys to tell you) but they didn't suffer damage like Christchurch.  Not because it's 'not dense' but because the buildings are newer, base isolated and founded. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHgIzIE2HrQ - that's density and it's safer than a 2 storey brick suburban shop.

To use this as an arguement for unregulated car dependant suburban sprawl is pathetic.


The old "Titanic" mentality. "Even God couldn't sink this ship". No earthquake/disaster could destroy Tokyo. Of course.

Sprawl is sensible disaster mitigation. It does not even have to be economically inefficient either. Sprawl is a major economic advantage to the USA. The reason that other nations develop rapidly and then hit a glass ceiling and never catch the USA, is that they DON'T have "sprawl". No nation will match the USA's economic performance without it. See my other posting about the simple reason that "sprawl" of business and homes and low price urban land, is automatically more efficient than "planned" land-racket cities.

China and India and most of the rest of them are hitting this glass ceiling again right now. The land racketeering is just wicked. Well connected Chinese are participating in a speculative mania, building and "flipping"apartments flat out, that the poorer 50% of Chinese can't afford to live in. "Free enterprise" this ain't. This is just the same land racket as our cities planners run, on a larger scale and more obvious in its effects.

I am fully aware of how wonderful Texan sprawl cities are and how they are full of tourists admiring their awesomeness (unlike Paris, NY, London) as well as being the fastest growing cities because they are so cheap (which equates to excellent).

But why do you always stop at Texas?  There are other sprawl cities which are unregulated and growing even faster (therefore must be even more desirable) like Lagos and Mogadishu?


"Sprawl is a major economic advantage to the USA".  LOL 


Lagos and Mogadishu are nowhere NEAR as low density as a typical US city and its suburbs.

As for your LOL, you are an economic ignoramus and there is no point my wasting any further time on you. I know the majority is probably just as stupid as you are, but that just makes NZ an example of economic Darwinism, it doesn't make you right.

"Sprawl is sensible disaster mitigation".


Only if you stick to the same population.

If there are 1 billion people on the planet, the chances are very good that an earthquake impacts nobody. If you expand that population, your chances go up. Cover the planet shoulder-to-shoulder (as per the idiot ravings of Simon) and one couldn't possibly  miss.

Identifying the areas that shouldn't be built on, and zoning them out-of-bounds, is valid. Identifying the inevitable hazards - and an Alpine-fault quake is one, more extreme weather events another - and setting standards above them is another. One of those inevitable hazards, is a declining energy-per-head availability. Clearly, the hucksters arent going to go there if left alone - so it has to be legislated for.

Who's the idiot raving? Julian Simon said all 6 billion humans could fit shoulder to shoulder on Tasmania - not "the planet".

The planet is about 1% urbanised. Overcrowding, everywhere it occurs, is due to excessive density, not overpopulation. Check the Lincoln Institute's "Global Atlas of Urban Land Consumption". China; India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia; all are about as NON-sprawled as Victorian era first world countries, and have similar urban-to-total land ratios i.e. 1% to 4%. All these countries could raise public health and living standards immensely by "sprawling" to at least Europe's level.

"Ecofascism" is a perfectly appropriate term for ideologies that wish to keep humans trapped in nasty, brutal conditions.

".......One of those inevitable hazards, is a declining energy-per-head availability......"

Still not as significant as "the price of land" in urban economies, PDK. When it IS, free urban economies will adjust accordingly.

".......Clearly, the hucksters arent going to go there if left alone - so it has to be legislated for......"

Did you have to be "legislated" to build your "Green" home in the wops? Why do you constantly shill for planners who are legislating for people to live more and more centrally at higher and higher densities, and for employment to locate more and more centrally, when "dispersion" is the ideal from EVERY point of view? What is your agenda? You are utterly incoherent.

Then Julian Simon is an idiot, like to start with practically, how do they eat? drink? go to the loo?.  Right now we are collapsing the eco-system with 7 billion spread over the planet, we are doing this by taking out materials but not paying for them, ie not sustainable, these are then 1 time use....so at some point that reserve will be gone.....let alone trying to keep that number growing...so the possibility of getting 12billion is frankly loony....

The price of land is inconsquential to the price of energy.  We need a certain amount of energy to have a society as complex as we enjoy today just for the off Billion of us who are "developed"....the other 6 billion can never get to our level.  Going forward we will be declining to their level.....as their numbers decline.... Then there is water.....

Your agenda is clearly libertarian...and so blinkered that you cant see that it doesnt work and more importantly ppl dont want it. Dispersion in terms of what you want isnt the answer....The what from your point of view will be a greater need for energy per person....aka the USA.....which is toast.  Our lifestyles will indeed be simpler and more dispersed, this will be based on what the organic capability of the surrounding land to support it.

Incoherent, only to those who dont wish to or are incapable of listening....besides which all PDK is repeating is maths, physics, environment and geology etc all absolute limitations....Im afriad you may wish this wasnt the case but that doesnt make it so.





"........The price of land is inconsquential to the price of energy......."

Simple economic fact: it ALWAYS costs MORE to buy land closer to the city centre, than it costs to buy petrol to commute from further away.

The higher the price of land due to "planning", the WORSE this effect gets. The LOWER the price of land gets due to lassez-faire, the WEAKER that effect gets.

The reason for "inland suburbs" 100 miles from anywhere in California, was that the price of land was SO HIGH, it was cheaper to COMMUTE 100 MILES.

Failure to grasp this is SOOOO THICK, THICK, THICK. Yes, urban planners, and green politicians, I am talking about YOU.


Yes it was...until gas went up and then all these market driven developments looked decidedly sick. THICK, THICK you cry, Methinks that if you think the 'invisible hand' of the free market plans beyond the end of its nose then the cry should be accompanied by you slapping your forehead


Sure, see what I say later.

The planners drove the "total cost of housing plus transport" up from around 40% of median income BOTH at the fringe and nearer employment centres; TO around 80% at 100-km-inland suburbs and around 250% nearer employment centres. When gas prices went up, the people who had committed to 80% of their incomes went broke. Actually, they just sent their bank "jingle mail" and moved to Texas.

None of this means that they "SHOULD HAVE" been living closer to the employment centres, or that that was an option at all at any stage.

Sprawl is a total waste, as the US is in the process of proving....the reason the US could do this was cheap energy....this time is now over. The US's major economic advantage was its oil and minerals which is was able to expolit almost without restriction....this is now running out, sprawl is how they wasted it....

Economic performance? 14trillion debt? this isnt performance its living in never never land.....further, what has it brought many Americans? not a huge amount....poorer health, no jobs....etc etc....this isnt success....



Even "mother nature" seems to smile on the "anti planners".

I am certain that there will be a mass awakening about the folly of planned high density one day.

The most efficient urban economies in the world; those of the USA; happen to correlate with HIGHER "sprawl", not less. Super high density like in Manhattan, is supported by the fact that it is an international financial and legal centre. It is impossible to build urban economies with a BALANCE of economic activity, with high densities and high urban land prices (because of urban containment). Manhattan is surrounded by hundreds of square miles of some of the lowest density sprawl in the world anyway.

Different industries have a different requirement for land, labour, and capital. We don't expect "farming and agriculture" to pay land prices within an urban growth boundary - it is stupidity only on a smaller scale, to require production line manufacturers, for example, to pay these prices. Do we care about "losing industry and jobs offshore" or not?

Also, think of "Housing" as primarily a labour cost input, and everything changes. Ultimately, this WILL be "all about the economy, stupid".

The reason so many US cities are several times the size of ours (and several times as economically productive), yet have comparable or even shorter average commute times, is that they are highly multi-nodal and land prices are cheap. It is easy for people to afford homes closer to whatever job they might get, because the "range" of prices range from "very low" at the fringe, to "still affordable" at every one of literally hundreds of locations near "nodes" of employment. Planners, however, seem to love the idea of "barely affordable" prices at the (restricted) fringe, rising steadily from there inwards to a single centre containing most jobs in the region. Under this scenario, almost NO-ONE can afford to move closer to work, and the best locations will only ever be occupied by long-term incumbents or the wealthiest "buyers-in".

But in heartland USA? - you find the ideal job across the other side of the city? Sell your affordable house and buy another affordable one near the new job. Simple.


The author of that "paper", Tory Gattis, is not an "academic" and has largely "worked it out himself" through common sense and intuition. I know a lot of academic authors, respect a few of them highly; and have read voluminously - but this guy beats them all hands down on identifying the REAL source of urban efficiency. And the REAL source of "wealth" - it is "discretionary income". Take a look at the table on Page 5. Guess which cities "OWN" the economic future of the USA?

Note that the ones with the highest land prices (and "urban growth containment") are on aggregate GOING BACKWARDS - their "discretionary income" is NEGATIVE - i.e. they are borrowing money just to "exist".

"Capital gains" are always someone else's COST; and "producers" are over-represented among those to whom this cost applies.

not sure what you're on about, PB.

I take it you still think all things can simultaneously expand forever exponentially in all directions, compound. Which will make all things cheaper, easier and better, for an infinite number of people.

Back in the real world, there's an issue I haven't see mentioned anywhere -


There are presumably the same number of houses to be demolished, as there are required. I can't see why a retrieval rate exceeding 75% couldn't be achieved - it'd save dumping the stuff, and a 2.4 stud is a 2.4 stud is a.....

It's been getting steadily more difficult, to use recycled material - there are more and more asses wanting covered. But - it's gotta be better than dumping it. The embedded energy in there must be colossal.

I think the crux of your failure to understand, PDK, is THIS.

"The price of land", is and always has been a BIGGER factor than "the cost of resources", in "the economics of urban location". I fully accept that this COULD change. However, it WILL change WITHOUT ANY encouragement from "planners", when it needs to.

Meanwhile, the consequences of arbitrarily inflated urban land prices are ALL NEGATIVE, decreasing our resilience to a nasty future, not increasing it. IF your doom scenario comes to pass, it will be desperate people from high density cities flooding out into the countryside looking for food and ways to warm and cool and wash themselves. US cities with "1 acre minimum lot sizes" will be laughing. But they will be still standing, economically, long after the "planned" cities of NZ have collapsed economically. Free land markets have provided them with resilience, not a lack of it.

Consider this, too. The way you constantly jump on my suggestions about "freedom to build" and low urban land prices and a fair go for all, makes you LOOK like you are a property investor trying to protect his capital gains with a whole lot of excuses that divert attention from your real motive. I don't care if you are not - just consider whose side you are on and whether you should be. I thought you were an advocate of "green" homes, not inner city apartments. I have told you before; if you really are serious about people taking your example, you should be PROMOTING "sprawl", not opposing it. Do you live in the inner city? No? If everyone lived like you, would that be "containment" or "sprawl"? Why are you constantly opposing my arguments against "containment"?

Ahh hang on - an innercity apartment is the "greenest" home possible.  An "eco-house" in the country accessible only by car is not an "eco-house" (unless the inhabitants don't go anywhere).


".....an innercity apartment is the "greenest" home possible....."

And your PROOF is.......?


".........despite the lower environmental impacts associated with less car use, inner city households outstrip the rest of Australia in every other category of consumption. Even in the area of housing, the opportunities for relatively efficient, compact living appear to be overwhelmed by the energy and water demands of modern urban living, such as air conditioning, spa baths, down lighting and luxury electronics and appliances, as well as by a higher proportion of individuals living alone or in small households......"

This study also does not enter into the topic of the beneficial consequences of the decentralisation of employment. Notice that the German and Swiss countrysides are dotted with villages that also contain a factory or 2, to which many villagers walk or cycle to work. Note what I said about the opposite alternative, centralisation (as favoured by the economically illiterate  Bob Brown super council) and its effect on the affordability of living ANYWHERE let alone in the "right" place.


In each state and territory, the centre of the capital city is the area with

the highest environmental impacts, followed by the inner suburban

areas. Rural and regional areas tend to have noticeably lower levels of



In your link:

It says higher density housing is greener.  But as it is restricted to inner city areas with richer and smaller households overall consumption is greater as...

"These trends in are closely correlated with wealth. Higher incomes in the inner cities are associated with higher levels of consumption across the board"


It also concludes with recommendations for:

"Investing in public transport,..." which requires high density housing to function and

"Ensuring the proper pricing of environmental externalities.." which would price suburbia out of reach (why is subsidizing roading and cars called "investment" whereas investing in public transport is called "subsidising"?)

Yes, and they fail to "get" the correlation between "wealth" and "high density inner city living". You have to be RICH to afford the prices of the property, when planners have forced the price of all property up. Most people are not rich. Therefore, most people cannot live where the planners want them, unless the planners come up with ways to change the immutable laws of real estate markets.

Read my comments carefully.

I said this is a displacement  issue - 1/4 acre for a 1/4 acre. I have no problem with that.

I've also stated that all folk can't live as I do - there isn't the land on the planet.

And a 'fair go for all' can't be had if you keep increasing numbers - there has to be less-options-per-head as you do that. Like I said - Simon was in lala land.


I agree that more growing-space per dwelling would be good, and that clusters (probably around a 'commons') are the best way forward.


How about smaller skinny Humans PDK......

Dunno, Wally - ones who understood maths, and who could correctly identify 'drivers', would probably be better. If the whole population was half as fat, it'd only delay the time it took for us all to get to a shoulder-to-shoulder density (or any other 'per square metre' ratio) by one doubling.

Hardly counts (where Christov?)

".......all folk can't live as I do - there isn't the land on the planet......"

OK, this is where I will flatly disagree with you. Discuss your calculations, please. You will find useful statistics on land area in the "Global Atlas of Urban Land Consumption" that I referred to.

By the way, I don't say that population will increase indefinitely - it will always find an equilibrium. It increases when the equilibrium rises, as it has in the last century. We should be celebrating our achievement.

Colin Clark, in "Population Growth and Land Use" provides CONVINCING calculations that the earth's arable land COULD be populated by 45 billion people. I want to see if you can also provide convincing calculations. If you want to audit Colin Clark's calculations, you will have to get the book. The whole book would do you good to read. He calculates the space per person needed under each stage of human development. Hunter gatherers needed something like 30 square kms per person (I forget exactly). A hugely interesting book.

He was one of the 20th century's most seriously regarded economists. I have not seen anything remotely as credible from the Eco-doom movement - Lester Brown - what a joke. Pack of idiots, the lot of them.

There we differ.

I prefer people who address the real - chemistry, physics, biology.

Economics?  What's that? 

You believe in the other faith, too, don't you? Ever occurred to you that there might just be 'believing' types?

Nonetheless, I notice we (now) are just down to arguing about what the 'equillibruim' number is.

You have just accepted that there are limits to growth. Congratulations. You may get there yet. I tell you what, though - I'd rather not reach that point. Seems to me an intelligent species would identify it, and put the brakes on beforehand. no?

At the point of equillibrium, you DO realise it would be a subsistence existence, no?

Sorry to the others, we're a bit off thread, but hey, if you're going to decide where the new deck-chairs should go......

".......Seems to me an intelligent species would identify it, and put the brakes on beforehand. no?....."

Like Adolf Hitler would have advocated, no?

An intelligent species are what Julian Simon and Colin Clark impress me as members of. Calculating land areas, yield, calories, years of hard academic work. But hey, why bother when rhetoric, placards, and mass rallies will do?

There is a saying, theory is great until it meets practice.......this would seem well borne out in this case at least.

Maybe you should consider where population stayed in terms of numbers for many centuries only to blip up in the very short fossil fuel era....and where it will go after the fossil fueal era, which is certain to have past in at most 50 years......

Their calculations are nothing more than that...a calculation, one which anyone should be able to stand back and say bears no resemblence to how the real world functions.


PhilB lets look at the ppl you quote so lovingly...

For the first Im afraid its hardly surprising you value his work....

Julian Lincoln Simon (February 12, 1932 – February 8, 1998)[1] was a professor of business administration at the University of Maryland and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute

So we have someone from cato, not exactly reknowned for thier non-partisan views.

The second is a more interesting....

Colin Grant Clark (2 November 1905 - 4 September 1989) was a British and Australian economist and statistician

but a statistician

NB To be continued



And people who've been dead for years are notorious for not keeping up-to-date with the scientific research.

"The Development Ratio’s of 20% serviced lot – the balance 80% the actual house construction, are critically important too – the more distorted they become, the more degraded the quality of the housing.

Therefore Christchurch, with its median household income of $NZ55,600, median house prices should not exceed $NZ166,800."

An ignoranmous question - $33,360 for a serviced site.  There's about 30m of road, sewage and stormwater systems, electrical, gas, stormwater reticulation, berms and footpaths required for a suburban house - who pays for that? who pays to maintain it?  What about Council development levies (starting at $20k a site in Auckland)?

Take off GST leaves $145k - $29,000 for a site including all of the above?

that leaves $116,000 for the house and siteworks.  if you want a drivee and services to the house that leaves about $100,000 - at $1200 a sqm gives an 83sqm 3 bedroom house which is illegal in Auckland.

To get low income people out of THIS:


Honestly, your type have NIL knowledge of historical context to anything.

Are you aware of the health impacts of horse transport in cities? Are you aware that it was far worse than anything cars have ever been responsible for? Are you aware that the amount of land required to feed horses was greater than the amount of land required for urban sprawl? (Source: Robin Best, "Land Use and Living Space").

Low income ppl have never really gotten out into "suburbia"  and now they never will, its a dead duck.  Density issues v travelling distance is going to be interesting when we dont have the petrol.  Neither design looks terribly survivable with less and less energy.  The problem simply comes back to too many ppl again and again.


Rubbish, the income demographic that has "got out into suburbia" has steadily dropped, especially in free-er markets, and/or as rising inner city land prices and "renewal" have forced them out. The latter is especially the case in the heavy-handed "planning" cities.

It is the "Levittown" that gave the lowest income groups the best shot, and urban growth constraint that has hit them the hardest. What are you trying to say? The poor should be prevented from breeding, by being priced out of housing? (Actually, the taxpayer picks up the tab mostly - a good reason to keep the cost of housing low so the burden on the taxpayer does not break the camel's back).

Gordon, Kumar and Richardson said the following in 1989, in "Congestion, Changing Metropolitan Structure, and City Size in the United States":

"........The most convincing explanation of why congestion did not become more severe is the continued spatial decentralization of both firms and households, which permitted travel economies, especially for suburban residents in larger cities. The continued competitiveness of the large metropolitan areas is mainly attributable to this adjustment process......"

Sarzynski, Galster, Wolman and Hanson said in 2006, in "Testing the Conventional Wisdom about Land Use and Traffic Congestion":

".......Controlling for prior levels of congestion and changes in an urban area's transport network and relevant demographics, it is found that: density/ continuity is positively related to subsequent roadway ADT/lane and delay per capita; housing centrality is positively related to subsequent delay per capita; and housing-job proximity is inversely related to subsequent commute time......"

Alex Anas says, in 2010, in "Discovering the Efficiency of Urban Sprawl":

"........The data on the largest U.S. MSAs shows that commute times increase only slightly with city size: the elasticity of the average commute time with respect to the number of workers was about 0.1 in 1990 and 2000. The CGE simulations of Chicago explain this by showing that with jobs and population sprawling to the suburbs, the average road distance between home and job and home and shop can become SHORTENED as congestion increases on the average mile, so that travel time per consumer remains stable. These results suggest that urban sprawl itself has not been the cause of significant travel cost increases. Meanwhile, theoretical models of urban areas with polycentric and dispersed employment show that more sprawl not less is often needed to offset the negative externality of un-priced congestion and improve efficiency. Planners, like urban economists devoted to the monocentric model, have long viewed sprawl as something that should be reduced. Such a bias leads to potentially drastic planning and policy remedies of which the restrictive urban growth boundary is the prime and most costly example. A higher level of sprawl and polycentric land use may indeed be optimal......."

You miss the point, there wont be the energy to commute on the scale we have now.....so there will be changes....

I didnt mention conjestion at all....I mentioned lack of gas.


WHO is missing the point?

This thread is about urban growth boundaries: good or bad?

I am saying that spreading, decentralising homes and jobs, is "neutral" at LEAST, regarding travel requirements.

If you advocate urban growth boundaries and centralisation, you are an economic ignoramus imposing grief on humanity differing from Bolshevism only in scale, but not in idiocy.

Who said anything about horses?  Who said higher density houing must have victorian sanitary systems and victorian health care?

Who said economic growth and social mobility can occur at all with monopoly rent being extracted by the owners of an arbitrarily restricted total amount of urban land? Karl Marx was actually right under those conditions.

In essence – the growing Council bureaucracy corrupted the whole commercial culture of the city, seriously retarding its growth and the standards of living of its citizens. Commercial interests in particular “learnt” not to take them on. Rule by fear.

If this had not happened – Christchurch would have been a growing and dynamic city, with a population in excess of 500,000


I voted for the compact Christchurch option in the Urban Growth Strategy and that was the one the won. I think people were saying they like Christchurch the way it is. If Christchurch people want to live in a megacitie they could move to Tokyo where it takes an hour to get to the countryside.

Exactly......what Hugh seems to want is to turn NZ into a cesspit.....uh no thanks....


Typical eco-loony hysteria. "Cess pit". Increasing our urban coverage from 1% to 1.2%?

Replacing a tiny portion of land that is currently being shitted on by millions of sheep and cows?

What countries and cities in the world are cess pits? The cess pits are the third world cities that have not spread everyone out healthily yet. And there happens to be room for almost all of them to do so.

So urban sprawl, home buyers voting with their feet, is not "democracy", but a minority of busybodies who go to the trouble of voting on council annual plans, is?

People who want to live close to the countryside should go and live in Ashburton or Levin.

What about the busybodies who lobbied the government for more migration and for what  part of the economy was that  for? What grew (apart from buliding)?

P.S Ashburton doesn't have the Port Hills or Sumner Beach.

I don't care about migration as long as it is high quality. NZ could easily have five times the population it's got. If it was ever conquered by China or Indonesia, it would get a lot more than that.

There's nothing like a totalitarian regime to show up how much "resources" a land really does have. One of the great incoherences about politics in NZ is that we love leaving resources in the ground, then cry poor; but we don't give a toss for having a decent defence force.

We're in a benign strategic environment, we can trust all the people in our region, oh, but when one of them wants to emigrate legally, suddenly we think we can't trust them after all, we don;t want their type coming in here.

This is so full of contradictions, it is like a game of "twister".

Oh, you want access to beaches as well as country? Just change "Ashburton" and "Levin" to something appropriate. NZ doesn't lack for options when it comes to coastline and countryside.

We're in a benign strategic environment, we can trust all the people in our region, oh, but when one of them wants to emigrate legally, suddenly we think we can't trust them after all, we don;t want their type coming in here.


Imigrants include the best citizens and some of the worst.

The benefits are spread unevenly and while some economists appear to be pro immigration some are nay saying it (the major parties are pro).

Immigration and tax breaks for investment in residential property are being cited as the underlying causes of steep increases in the cost of housing over the past decade.

The report added that there was little evidence that immigration boosted local incomes. In fact, the need to build roads and schools meant that net migration contributed to the national deficit.


With respect, jh, but it takes the people of Toyko one hour to get to the country side becuase there are 42 million people living on the Kanto plain and adjacent hills and valleys. It has little to do with any kind of urban growth strategy but everything to do with that is just how much living space 42 million Japanese take up. Christchurch by comparison has no need to be a city of high density when there are only 300,000 people living there. Given how tiny its population is at this time I think it is odd to suggest that it should be kept physically small.

Tiny is relative (since about 1800 we began shooting up in a "J" shaped curve). Christchurch is described as "a distribution center for the farmland on the Canterbury Plain". Japan has an enourmous manufacturing base but is loosing its job to China (somewhat). Take out the building stimulous of mass migration and what justifies a larger population?


Abolishing urban growth boundaries is LESS about allowing indefinite expansion for population increase, than it is about providing a "vent" for urban land prices to stop them from bubbling.

Even if population was NOT rising and NO-ONE was building beyond the existing fringe, the mere fact that anyone would be ALLOWED to if they wanted to, would keep the price of existing urban land LOW.

Stagnant population levels are actually a serious economic problem anyway; ADDING expensive urban land and property price bubbles to the economic mix, through removing the "vent", is lunacy.

"Environment Canterbury was unsuccessful in preventing the development of the suburb that is about 20km north of Christchurch.

But it was successful in requiring that the developer, Infinity, use vibrating technology to settle the land as well as extensively building up the soil. Pegasus was unscathed in the earthquake of September 4 and is likely to become a favoured location by the many residents of nearby Kaiapoi where about 300 houses are severely damaged."


So the lovely developers had to be made to do the work that saved the lots for the present owners (money being the root of all evil?).

The directors of one of the Bexley development companies include high profile South Island names such as Phil Burmester, David Lyall, Phil Cooper and James Wall. At various times they sold on their interests.

Foundation rules unset
At issue in any court case will be the foundation requirements of the council at the time. Early reports suggest that only minimal reinforcing of concrete foundation slabs was required (by contrast, new building in other peat-profile suburbs has required extensive pole foundations underneath concrete slabs and it is unclear why these were not mandatory at Bexley).


have to agree with Bob I just finished an extension on my house in CHC, and since the earthquake in September the cost of materials has actually gone up, by quite a bit, to build for the above price would be very hard, especially since council has just upped the requirements on the building code in Canterbury, which is going to make it even more expensive.

I had a Japanese family stay in my house in Chch. They had an infant who was able to play on the lawn. They informed me that when "Mikuchan" got back to their apartment she cried as she entered it.

The childs grandparents also said how heartbreaking it was to live in an apartment by the countryside and then see it swallowed by development. That is what the realestate industry does except the top players float with the capital gains; a villa with horse paddocks for them.

So who matters - lower income people who need housing, or lifestyle block owners getting to stay where they are instead of moving out to the other 99% of the country that is not yet urban?

I'm not sure I'm arguing Hughes model so much as the idea that developers are the good guys who come up with the best solution (proven by the fact that their product sells) and the idea that growth is good and necessary for Christchurch citizens.

It's not necessarily "growth", it is low and stable urban land prices; which are better for the economy than high and volatile urban land prices.

MOST of the growth in urban land areas has already HAPPENED. The amount of "extra growth" that will ever happen now is piddling compared to what has already happened. This piddling amount of extra growth, whatever it COSTS us, is MORE than offset by the benefit of low, stable, urban land prices in the entire area that is already there.

The simple fact is that all the growth, even at the extremely rapid rates that occurred decades ago, provided far more benefit than cost. Our ancestors were not fools. The same most certainly cannot be said for us.

From an article in Quadrant June 2007, which cries out to be placed online: "The Decline and Fall of the West" by Mike Alder.


"......Providing arguments is what mathematics is all about: it has been since Euclid. It is the core of how science is practised; we seek structure and pattern in the universe generally and we seek to construct general rules to describe it, and to communicate them to each other........


"......Bishop Alcuin of York is credited with determining, in the eighth century at the court of Charlemagne, the foundations of the education system in Europe........This system endured, in essentials, for over a thousand years. It led, indisputably, to the rise of mathematical, scientific, and engineering triumphs beyond parallel, and to the dominance of the West.......A major element in this choice was the Christian tradition of applying reasoning to theological concerns........


"......We are now at the end of the dominance of the West for two reasons. First, the success of our culture, evidenced mainly by our technology, is so overwhelming that almost all other cultures are copying it. They are not always copying the infrastructure which produced the mathematics and science upon which the technology depends, but they certainly want the technology. The second reason is that we in the West are busy dismantling the infrastructure ourselves. Logic has not been taught in the schools for over a hundred years and Euclid was phased out in the second half of the twentieth century. Euclidean geometry........has been at the centre of the Western intellectual tradition for two and a half thousand years, but it could not survive the amateurish educationalists of the last century.


Being able to reason and argue with clarity and force is not considered particularly desirable by contemporary Alcuins. The kind of thinking which produced the world we now inhabit in the West is not being maintained in our schools. Our traditions are being lost. The technology which depends on science which was new and fresh a century ago will keep on going for a while, but the whole machine is slowly grinding down. We are still the beneficiaries of technological advances at a great rate, but the underlying process which led to the technology is being destroyed.


One can easily discern the mechanics of the process. An emphasis on logic and reason is most distressing to the stupid. Given a modest kindness, it is not hard to see why the wind should be tempered for the shorn lamb, and a teacher who wishes to see happy, cheerful children will be disinclined to favour an environment in which the crass inegalitarianism of God is demonstrated repeatedly and vividly every day. So drop the logic and replace it with finger painting. Or train them all to press the right buttons on the calculator. Something which conceals rather than exhibits the embarrassing fact that some people are very much cleverer than others is much to be preferred. And above all abandon logic. For logic reveals  muddled and confused thought, which is painful for those who cannot produce any other.


One of the serious problems we face as a result of the abandonment of Logic in the educational system, is the proliferation of hysteria in just about every area of politics. At one time, some of the political figures of the present day would have been unable to survive the scrutiny of a relatively intellectual press such as the "Times" in nineteenth-century London; the crudest analysis of the arguments presented would have been enough to dispose of some people who today have an enthusiastic following. While the unwashed mob have always been vulnerable to demagoguery, the vulnerability now extends to university graduates, who by traditional standards have a right to expect to have trained and acute minds, but have nothing of the kind........


".........I see the inane simplicities of the pious in the Muslim world and compare them with the pieties of contemporary Australia. There is little to choose between them, they differ only in the detail, and it will surely not be long before the horde of chanting fools with their certainties will outnumber the sceptics with their doubts in Australia as in the Middle East. When you see street theatre and placards waving bravely and crowds chanting, you are seeing people who choose these methods to try to form your opinions. That, presumably, is how they formed theirs. It is how the ignorant have always found their ideas, but this has not usually included any university graduates.......


".......Is there anything that can be done to halt or reverse the process? Not in this world. The younger teachers have undergone just such a miseducation themselves and are in no position to implement changes; nor will there be any attempt to require it of them. The amount of central direction by the state is hugely greater than at any time in the history of the West; look at the fraction of GDP attached by the government. And there is little benefit to the government in having an educated population, and never was.........

The problem I have with you sprawl advocates is that you want everyone to live in sprawl.  You seem to think that no development can possibly happen by intensification within existing city limits.  We currently have suburbia starting at the very edge of the CBD and continuing ad nauseum.  Where do those of us that want a big terrace house, say 3 floors 100sqm back garden, no front yard, frequent public transport by the front door, shops, schools and everything within walking distance go?  It's all very well for those who want a freestanding suburban house where every trip invloves getting the car out - you're well catered for.  Why shouldn't I be allowed to subdivide my inner city section into two better houses and have no mortgage? - Oh yeah the sprawl advocates who insist everyones house is surrounded by a 1.8m high fence, unusable lawns and a big mortgage.

Bob, when land prices are cheap, people who want to live at high density can do so far cheaper than when land prices are expensive.

The biggest failure of urban growth boundaries, is in "encouraging" high density living in the RIGHT places, because land prices always slope up from the fringe to the centre (or towards other nodes of amenities and even around train stations). When houses at the FRINGE are barely affordable, the ones at the RIGHT location are even more so.

Check out Alain Bertaud's graphs of the "density profiles" of 30 odd cities; Portland and Seoul have HIGHER densities in OUTER suburbs than inner ones, after 30 years of growth boundaries and inflated land prices. Take a look around Wellington or Auckland, and notice the rate of "infill" development taking place FURTHEST AWAY from the CBD. Ask the builders why they are doing it THERE, not closer to the CBD; they will tell you it's because it's the only place where anyone can afford to buy in to the resulting development.

Land price is a function of density.  The more dwellilngs you can get on a bit of land the cheaper it is per dwellling.  

To say low density leads to cheaper land cost per unit than higher density is absurd.

Sprawl development is completely unsustainable.  We can't actually afford to keep building and maintaining endless roads and infrastructure to service minimal houses.  Cheap petrol may not actually be an endless resource.  Setting up a city so that only those with a drivers license can move around in it is cruel.  Even the US Federal Government has realised they can no longer afford to subsidise sprawl -http://www.epa.gov/dced/partnership/index.html#background

Anyway Auckland's finally getting a new Plan this year which should dump all of the residual '60's thinking which assumes everyone wants to live in a freestanding suburban house with 2.5 kids and 2 cars.  Hopefully Christchurch will end up better than a Texas sprawl town - "the most Fort Worth like city in NZ" would tend to repel rather than attract the tourists.


You are still arguing past me. You cannot deny that "the slope of the graph of urban land prices rises from the fringe to the centre". This is BASIC urban economics - you won't find ONE text or academic work that contradicts this.

Building bigger buildings might "raise the value of the land" somewhat, BUT in built areas, even the "LAND" that still has old, small, buildings on it, will be "valued" at the value of the surrounding land that has tall new buildings on it. Why do I have to spell out these perfectly normal realities on a site like this one? I would expect to find ignorance about these things on "Frogblog" and "The Standard". I thought Mr Hickey a few months ago was tightening up on who had access here, to keep it meaningful.

Everything you are saying is economic nonsense, dangerous economic nonsense. Len Brown's ideas for Auckland will kill the NZ economy. The "costs of sprawl" have always been far lower than the costs of inflated urban land prices that are the alternative. "Sprawl" actually gets you houses and roads and infrastructure. Inflated land values get you "NOTHING". Every first home buyer since about 2003 has paid SIX FIGURES TOO MUCH for their house; for NOTHING. The cost of infrastructure for a fringe home is a FRACTION of this cost and we actually get something for it.

The cost of petrol will ALWAYS be a lower cost than the cost of buying a home "closer to the centre". This is because the cost of travel always capitalises into the "location" premium of the price of land. This is one of the reasons why urban land prices get higher closer to the centre. In highly DECENTRALISED cities like in Texas, however, land values are much more evenly spread, there is nowhere near as high a "premium" for location nearer the priveleged "centre" or any particular "node" of amenities. Hence, it is possible to locate nearer any job you might get, at little or no extra cost.

This is why "sprawl" is the USA's big economic advantage, not disadvantage. Low land prices and highly dispersed employment and maximum flexibility of travel, are FAR more efficient than any alternative. The former USSR made everybody live in apartments and catch trains. YOUR intuition would tell you that this was an advantage to them economically, that somehow must have been cancelled out by other failings in communism. The insight I have is that this was one of the REASONS their economy was so blooming inefficient.

As for tourism, you are spouting more nonsense. The fact that Paris and Rome are surrounded by miles and miles of sprawl doesn't stop the tourists from coming to see the bits they want to see.

I have never denied that urban land prices get more expensive towards the centre.

What I have said is that it is more rational to make land cheaper nearer the centre than to just keep on expanding fringes because it's cheaper, easier, subsidised and we still have cheap fuel.

Can you simply answer this?  My section close to a centre is zoned for 1 dwelling so the land cost for that dwelling is $600,000.  If it was zoned for 2 dwellings land cost per unit would be $300,000.  How is that not reducing land price? - without the need for paying for more roading, infrastructure and putting more cars on the road.


I dunno why I come here being a CHCH 30 something. Infrequently it seems anyway.

You guys are mostly way too serious and the "pissing contests" that happen here are rediculous, boring and tiring.

Looks to me that the author wants things a very particular way. Great good for you and good luck.

It does however look like a big lecture in I told you so CCC. So why dont you run for mayor?

Not trying to be rude just dont understand what good being King of the blog actually achieve?

For my 2 cents.

Re mixed use dwellings in CDB area:

Im a property owner and would happily step out of what I have and into a res unit above a comm property if the location and atmosphere was worth it.

Sustainability is an ethos and way of life not a competition which is what some of the earlier comments seem to have reduced it too.

Im currently contemplating doing away with my car in such a flat place. Okay true its bumpy right now.

Goodbye for a while from unaffected Sydenham CHCH

That's a great plan Alby...the new CBD needs residents...nice to drop down to the cafe or feed the ducks...take in a movie or have a feed and not have to worry about a bloody car or the drive home. Good luck with the plan. Float the idea to see how many others would join you...then present the thing to a 'quality developer'...that way you get the facilities you want and the layout with central atrium..pool and gym...lifts and visitor parking.

The GCUDS was only published in 2007, and therefore will not have had much of an effect on growth/development only 4 years on.  And even though the majority of submitters preferred Option A (60% of growth from intensification) - the strategy recognised the difficulty in moving market perception/demand too swiftly and instead included a greater percentage of greenfield fringe development than Option A proposed - including 2500 greenfield lots on the city fringe.  The targeted area for this further greenfield development is in the south (Hornsby/Hallswell) and the north (Belfast).  See figure 13, page 39.

The other interesting statement from that document is this (p. 37);

The remaining 4500 [lots] are small area or individual vacant, zoned and undeveloped residential lots elsewhere in the city.

Obviously, a great deal of land in the existing city confines is being land banked.  A land tax on vacant residential/commercially zoned land would take care of this problem reasonably efficiently.

The Bexley zone change was in the early 1990s and from the news article link, building seemed to pick up the pace from 1996 onwards.  So one can't blame the present council for that bad decision.



But Hugh, if you agree that land banking is a reality - the artificial scarcity values are created not necessarily by the unavailability of fringe land but more directly by the inefficent use of land as capital in the existing urban confines.  That land does not need new/additional infrastructure (i.e. capital) spend either in order to generate new development.

I think your argument is if land on the fringes is readily available, the undeveloped land in the centre will free up and move down in price accordingly.  However, I'm not so sure - as the present realestate market in Auckland suggests.  I think perhaps the best way to combat land banking (and hence higher prices close to the centre) is through coercive mechanisms.

I'm neither pro or anti sprawl - I think the issue is more one of private property rights and social equity.  There is no social equity in targeting affordable housing at city/employment fringes in an energy constrained world - quite the opposite, that sort of ideal is highly inequitable.  I think this is where the objective of affordable inner city redevelopment comes into play.


I just think its funny that we have these extreme views barking at each other , when some very sensible middle ground exists.

A city like Auckland will need to intensify AND expand to meet its future housing demand.

For a whole host of reasons (political, economic, cultural etc) Auckland will not accommodate all its future population within its current urban limits. Even based on optimistic delivery of intensification we will be lucky to deliver 65% of required housing within the MUL 

To me the critical question is how we do urban expansion in a manner that is superior to much of the horrible urban sprawl that we see in much of  the western world. The Dutch and the Germans have both shown that you can do new towns in the countryside just outside big cities in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible    

MiA - from my quick read of the GCUDS, that was its exact intention: a mixture of encouraging new satellite (peri-urban) communities, additional city fringe development and urban intensification.



"......A land tax on vacant residential/commercially zoned land would take care of this problem reasonably efficiently......"

Have you any examples from anywhere in the world where this approach "proofed" the city concerned against land price bubbles? I am highly skeptical about anything other than fringe land supply. Academics have been increasingly agreeing that around 30 years supply is necessary to avoid price bubbles.

Also, have you considered Hugh's point, that developers HAVE to "land bank" just to stay in business, when government rations the available land supply? If you tax the empty land, you are just adding ANOTHER layer of risk to an already unecessarily high-risk industry. The cost of this risk will be reflected in bankruptcies of more participants and yet higher gains by the survivors.

My number one book recommendation for you is Alan W Evans' "Economics, Real Estate, and the Supply of Land", and "Economics and Land Use Planning", 2 slim books published in 2004. (I think they should have been 1 fat book).

By the way, I agree with land taxes; but in conjunction with "no urban growth boundaries". Are you aware of the academic studies that show an urban growth boundary to be 20 to 60 times as costly socio-economically, as road pricing that would achieve the "same" result? Actually, the latest papers agree that the urban growth boundary achieves NIL aggregate gain, and is "not a second best option to road pricing".

Also by the way, the amount of "sprawl" required to keep land prices low, is minimal compared to the existing size of cities. What is especially interesting about those lassez-faire Texas cities, is how LITTLE extra land they have added. Because land is affordable and incentive for "banking" it is low, "infill" development happens FASTER in those cities than in Portland. And "supply" ramps up fast in response to demand shocks AND ramps down again when demand falls. Whereas in strictly "planned" cities, "supply" starts up 2 years too late; prices bubble; developers chasing bubbles share fat "planning gains" with now-co-operative councils, and when demand is peaking, massive inertia is in place and huge sunk capital vested in "high" land prices continuing.

Read Evans, if you're serious.

Its an interesting point Philbest -  the "conventional wisdom" is that you abolish the MUL and the market will only respond by sprawling and sprawling

you are suggesting that actually more infill will happen. Without the supply side constraint  of the MUL, land within the existing urban area will lower in value, or at least not inflate so much. Developers won't sit on land so much as it will be harder to realise capital gains through land banking, as there is more "competition" (in terms of supply of land). The incentive then is to develop their land

Do you have any references for Houston that show the degree to which intensification has occured relative to "urban sprawl", without an MUL?      


The conventional wisdom is right.  No MUL would equal endless sprawl and no infill because developing at fringes is so much easier under the RMA.  Ease of development is inverseley proportional to the density of NIMBYS.  On the fringes there are less people so less NIMBYS and (as Philbest pointed out above) can be less wealthy which also equals less NIMBYS.  What developer in their right mind would go for infill and a major fight when there is so little resistance on the fringes?

"......so little resistance on the fringes......" yeah, right.

You might have a point about NIMBYism but this is a problem that I definitely think should be addressed in its own right. My point about land prices still holds good, though - you don't NEED much of a "save our suburbs" movement when the land is $4 million per acre when it should have been more like $500,000 per acre.

There are actually several obstacles to "infill" development. One is inflated land prices. NIMBYism is another. The cost of retrofitting infrastructure to already built areas is another. (Greenfields is cheaper). Another obstacle is simply "congestion". Increased population densities in a given area NEVER translate into linear reductions in car use; they translate into incremental reductions in "proportion of the population using cars". Unless road capacity is expanded, expect serious congestion to result. This congestion is usually worse for resources and emissions, than the "gains" from higher density (eg in another 2% of people catching public transport).

"Satellite cities" on greenfields are usually the quickest way to provide jobs-housing balance that people and businesses can actually afford. The most advanced academics in the world are onto this. The less advanced ones are trapped in the mass illusions emanating from popular "green" politics. Hence "study" after "study" containing the same flaw, which is the first thing I look for in any of them: do they mention land prices and real estate markets? Study after study looks at "household A at location X" versus "household B at location Y", and draw conclusions without giving a thought to "can household B AFFORD location X"? And will our policy proposals make it EASIER for household B to afford to locate more efficiently, or HARDER?

I repeat what i said earlier; Winston Churchill said of Vladimir Lenin in 1920, that he was "undergoing the world's most expensive economics lesson". What is happening with Len Brown and Celia Wade-Brown and Bob Parker and urban planning here today, is just as stupid if (fortunately) not quite so murderous.

Matt in Auckland, your appearance here is always like a breath of fresh air. At last some common sense.

Yes, I do have a reference. Shlomo Angel et al, in "Making Room for a Planet Full of Cities", show that Houston's rate of infill development has been much faster than Portland's.  You would love that whole study.

And you would LOVE the books by Alan W. Evans that I recommended to Kate above. Yes, the anticipation of capital gains is one of the main reasons for "holdouts" among property owners. As long as these gains are purely due to "location" there is little efficiency loss. But if the gains are due to inflation in the price of ALL land from the fringe inwards, the whole thing becomes an economically destructive game.

"..........harder to realise capital gains through land banking, as there is more "competition" (in terms of supply of land). The incentive then is to develop their land....."

EXACTLY. Property development will resort to what it has always been MEANT to be about - building freakin' buildings and infrasructure more efficiently than the next man. Not hiring the cleverest lawyers and consultants, greasing up the local politicians and bureaucrats, and forcing honest and small competitors out of the industry. Evans describes what has happened in Britain, and it is sickening to read. Britain's economy has been strangled by high urban land prices and obstructionist development processes. They are on a long term decline. With our piddly 4 million population, expect our economic death to come much quicker. No economies of scale, but urban land prices just as high as if we WERE Tokyo or New York or Hamburg. DUH.

Exactly, Hugh. I was blown away by this comparison of discretionary income, on page 5 of the PDF.


What you are talking about, and me too, is a LOWER COST CHOICE for EVERYBODY. Fringe homes at affordable prices cause, via normal real estate markets, affordable inner city condos too. I find it astonishing that so few people on this site have ever "got it". Waymad, Matt in Auckland, Cristov, Scarfie. Take a bow.

Cheech and Chong :


Incomes are reliant on an energy-supply.

Oil has flat-lined, and even with every backwood still going flat-chat, won't make 90mbpd. Coal is ramping (as you'd expect, it's a displacement thing, and its 40% of electricity globally) and last I saw, was about 3500 Mtoe (million tons of oil equivalent). Gas will last longer, as we've always known

http://www.peakoil.net/uhdsg/      (top layer)

Then there's the internal consumption by producing countries - Saudi Arabia (8.4mpbd claimed 2010) will be using all she produces by 2030. Same goes for Australian coal reserves vs Chinese demand escalation.

Will we get cheaper energy?    No.

Will we get more per head?     No.

Are we getting more efficient?


So - No.

Sure, resources (think dairy) will be indemand, but the demanders are in the same game - so have a limit as to what they too can earn, and pay.

So the question is: 2.5 times what, relative to what income based on which energy source? and while we're at it - define 'normal', and indicate how long this 'normal' has existed. Less than the time since we hooked in to the oil, unless I miss my guess.


Indeed some would say Houston's land/regulatory policies intentionally promote sprawl;


They need our Mega man down there - I can just see the byline:  "Gas guzzlers are good".

Kate, "gas guzzlers" are evidence that there is plenty of "discretionary income" still in the system.

You haven't commented on my arguments further up the thread, what you are saying here shows that you are ignorant of the things I am drawing attention to. I can't be bothered repeating them, take a look, I think you are capable of understanding them, unlike PDK and Steven, who are the real "Cheech and Chong" of this site.

The "resilience" of Houston to the big shock that PDK is talking about, is probably the highest of any city in the world. Look at the disposable income. They will be able to afford higher and higher petrol prices long after we've gone back to the bush and the caves. They haven't even STARTED to "economise" yet - they hardly need to, because the advantage of sensible urban land prices is so great.

PDK, the argument we have had again and again come down to this.

"Growth is exponential". "Resources are linear".

You are a scientist (or claim to be) and you don't think technological advance is exponential? You think that the world should have done without heating once we cut all the firewood down? We should have just done without lighting once the whales were all gone? We should have just done without rubber once all the rubber trees were cut down? We should have just done without mobility once all the horses had drowned us in their excrement?

You know WHY global energy efficiency declined?



Political interference and "unintended consequences", that's why. Just like urban growth boundaries cause more congestion, more fuel consumption, and more emissions.

Your type have always been around, and have always been wrong. Your type have always said "this time we're right". But even if you are right, your type has never been content to just "predict". It is all about ordering humanity around, donning jackboots and weilding batons, and "social engineering" and "planned reductions in the numbers of humans". Then the "unintended consequences" are always worse than the "solution". I don't know why Mr Hickey countenances your type on his site.

Even if you are right, why is it moral or ethical to "do harm" to "prevent harm" that is possibly going to happen? Here is an ethical case study for you. 20 people are adrift in a lifeboat with oars somewhere in the ocean. Someone starts arguing that "if we throw the weakest guys overboard now, it will increase the chances of the rest of us reaching land. If we don't, there is an increased chance that we will all die". Someone else says "no, there is still a chance that we will all survive. We might all get rescued soon anyway". The first guy will claim to "KNOW" what he is talking about. But an ethical society will not be persuaded. A society adrift from ethical moorings might - which is when you get things like Naziism.

The biggest fear that rational people like Matt Ridley ("The Rational Optmist") and myself have, is that the "unintended consequences" of "Green" politics will collapse western civilisation, and prevent the technological advances that WOULD have saved us, from ever happening. As if we'd never worked out how to use that black stuff under the ground, and had all died off when we ran out of trees and whales, and from typhoid from horse shit.


My my - I should have done psychology.

Physics is so boringly logical.

For the record, I have NEVER said resources are linear. I've said that any non-renewable resource is finite.

Linear is how I describe the thinking of folk who don't understand the exponential function.


In that case, I leave it to George Reisman to explain:


Matt Ridley puts it like this. Worrying about "finite" resources that are VAST, is like worrying about sailing off the coast of Ireland for a Saturday afternoon, and worrying about running aground on Newfoundland.

"Renewable" resources, on the other hand, might "never run out", but they are NOT "vast" and cannot currently provide more than a small fraction of our energy requirements - but we can expect that to change steadily in our favour too - I am picking, long before VAST, "finite" resources run out, the human race will have gone "100% renewable". That might be in another 1000 years - we certainly have enough coal and gas to last that long, let alone the fossil fuel reserves we have not found yet.

But I also pick that long before we actually DO run out of fossil fuels, the cost of alternatives will have made fossil fuels uncompetitive to extract. Sheikh Yamani was a wise man - the stone age cam to an end not for lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not for lack of oil.

That, Phil Best, is nonsense.

The energy you use now, was solar. All fossil fuels are. You are using milions of years worth up, in a couple of hundred. But of course, I suppose you don't believe we've been here those millions of years......

Solar, square-on bright sunlight (wind and hydro are just secondary solar, wouldn't happen witjhout it) gives about 1 kilowatt per square metre - not vast?

How many people were there at the end of the stone-age, PB? Thats not only nonsense, it's parroted nonsense. The wise men of Saudi Arabia are currently ordering 10 nuclear reactors, you don't do that if you're not worried about running out.


Apologies if I gave you the impression I was here to prove a point about how much more right I am than you or everyone else or to give an impression of deception.

Im actually really against that whole tone hence the pissing contest comment I made. I find that attitude isnt really that constructive.

Here are some answers though seeing as you took the time to reply:

The mortgage load I carry now is not ideal. I mean you really only take one if you have to and really want a property. However it was necessary for me in my circumstances to achieve what I was looking for in this stage of my life. Thats the way I see it anyway.

I would be more than happy to look at a lower mortgaged amount (affordable property - would prefer city) or none at all if it all gets too hard (sell it off and happy to rent / more lifestyle)

Sorry if you were expecting an answer much more intricate than I have given.

All the best

I am reminded of a comment Christopher Hitchens made about Mother Theresa.

"She doesn't love the poor, she loves poverty". It is good for the soul or something.

You are also reminded that you've had the difference between those who warn, and those who advocate, explained to you.



Well put.


So why do you refuse to accept the validity of my arguments against urban growth boundaries, which are relevant regardless of the cost of energy? Every time I say anything relating to the EFFICIENT use of resources and "unintended consequences" of regulatory interferences in the free market, you change the subject to "resources are running out anyway, so we might as well accept the urban growth boundaries regardless of how contradictory they are to my OWN stated principles".

Who says they deserve it?  Nobody 'deserves' anything.

And you still have the twin problems - first of 'getting wealthy', and then defining it.

Being wealthy is being able to buy/get goods/services. Made of resources, by energy. Amen.

Run out of energy, and/or resources, what's your wealth worth?

Ask the Greenland Norse.

Oh, that's right, you cant.............


Sure, the Greenland Norse were frozen out by the naturally occurring climate cycles of the earth, between "warm" and "cold". It never was anything to do with anthropogenic CO2, is all that proves.

Coping with these natural cycles is all about economic resilience. People can survive on Greenland today because of modern houses, modern energy, and modern transport. The Norse didn't have those things, hence they died off.

The coming crisis you talk about, if true, will solve itself because humanity's numbers at each location will vary according to their capacity to pay for the best technology. We will cark it long before they do in Texas. Precisely because ALL our spare cash went on paying through the nose for land.

LOL......You dont get it at all do you.....

pay and technology......pay/money is a proxy for energy, technology uses energy....

We use less energy than texans, have water, and have excess food production. Our food producton while it  will drop substantially once we become non-fossil fueled can probably support our small population.  Texans on the other hand are a long way from anywhere, have an agricultural system that has to have huge fossil energy inputs, so wont do to well getting produce to market and in turn texans need large quanities of gas to get to the markets...and did I mention hot?  air con? uh no....

The cost of buying a property is more than the land cost....so no its not ALL.....

The price of land is nothing comapred to the cost of everything else when expensive energy is factored in....


".......The price of land is nothing compared to the cost of everything else when expensive energy is factored in...."

The cost of energy will have to go a LOT higher yet, Steven, before that will be true. And the higher you urban planners force the price of urban land, the more likely it will be that the "cost of land" factor will swamp the others you are talking about. We will go broke and starve. The Texans will start driving smaller cars. It is all about "resilience".

You are talking about "resources" like a scientist, ignoring price tags. I am looking at the price tag on urban land, and saying, whoa; this is far too high; we badly need to be adjusting to the price of resources MORE than to the price of land; but we are not, BECAUSE the price of land is swamping all the other factors.

When you resort to denigrating the whole of NZ society simply because you clearly haven't been listened to by TPTB (who are a very small part of wider society) you lose a great deal of credibility, Hugh.

Why do you live here as opposed to Houston?  I'd be very interested to know.

Well, that's good to know we're doing something better - I think what you're saying is that you prefer central government funding of police and education, as opposed to the US local (property tax) funding of these services?  Did I get that right?

Be like the Japanese and Chinese who in reality are not really innovative and are only really good on continuing with a concept?

Be like the Japanese and Chinese who now produce cheap electronic crap that does not last now more than 2 years at best?

NZ, if it had the balls, now has an opening to take on that now prehistoric concept of producing electronics that actually do the job for 10 years at least or at worse could be fixed by a number or repair shops dotted around the country (remember how it use to be not so long ago?).

Hugh, I agree with what alot you say about ChCh especially that fixation on red taping 'expansion' and making anything 'old' as something that must be preserved (at what has become great costs in the end).

The main thing to learn from the Japanese especially is to get on immediately with restoring services etc, something that the CCC needs to take note of even it does mean moving away from the swampy east.

Planting nice flower beds is of no use to anyone...

Quite correct. The East are not a self concious culture and as such do innovate or design, they copy. But the culture of copying means that a craftsmans will try to make his copy better than the original. 

Unitec Architecture School has sister Schools within China, and they find it difficult to design. They question is always, show me what to do and I will do it. Not original thinkers at all.

Gee if Phils post above is right, then not only is the West on a downhill slide, the East will follow.

Thanks Scarfie, you are one of the few people on here capable of "getting" a concept that no-one has thought of. I included you in my short list up above.

Yes, watch that space. China's property bubble (and India's) is just Japan/Korea circa 1988 all over again, with a bit of California and Ireland thrown in, only on a much larger scale. It is crazy how few economics experts look at the role of property rent-seeking and capture in these crises.

The thing you have to worry about is that people that think are usually the ones they get rid of first in a revolution:)

Actually, that is not entirely a jest, either. I know I would be one of the first people the "Al Gore Youth" would "come for". I have more respect than ever for your realism.

I might differ from Hugh on this - I like land taxes to fund anything from which "benefit" is obtained locally. Fred Foldvary "converted" me on this. But it doesn't have to involve "local" taxation, this can still be "national". The beauty is that it is self-balancing; wherever "benefit" is obtained, tax revenue will be gained.

But income taxes and sales taxes being spent on things for which the benefit is "local", involves "wealth transfer" and rent seeking.

Pro bono: "for the public good".

Lobbyist :    "A lobbyist is a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest or a member of a lobby".

Hugh speaks for the first home buyers. He deserves canonisation for that. Almost no-one else is. The cross-generational impact of all this is one of the ugliest aspects of it. The land of the "fair go"....??? Yeah, RIGHT.

Here Here!

I don't go along with everything Hugh says, but you are right Philbest - how many other people are out there advocating for first home buyers, and the avoidance of destructive housing bubbles?

Labour were abysmal and the Nats are not necessarily any better - Phil Heatley is the Invisible Minister

Bernard - I think a really good story would be for one of you guys to do a hardline interview with Heatley about what he's doing about housing    

If you want to see what the National Party and Phil Heatley are doing about housing (at least in Auckland) check out Hosonville Point.  http://www.hobsonvillepointliving.co.nz/.  There is meant to be an element of affordable housing included but all I see are inflated land prices.  Would be interested to hear other peoples opinion as I think the govt. had/has the perfect chance to really address the housing bubble/affordability issue. 

Council rules and restrictions, development costs etc, have certainly not helped with the freeing up of land between Hobsonville and Westgate.  The former Waitakere council had in place plans to open up Westgate mainly for commercial development and high density housing but restrictions are still in place within a certain distance of the Whenuapai airbase on the off chance that maybe one day a second airport would be developed here.

And this is how to create wealth off of land - get it cheap from the govt. first and then sucker in the local council to develop it for you.  http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/western-leader/4892282/Land-to-cost-15m

Did you see Campbell Live interviewing young MP's who can't afford a house in their own electorate?

I did.  I also saw other reports looking at council development costs in both Auckland and Tauranga.  Either way I don't believe the interview/reports went deep enough in addressing the reasons why.

I also noted on here that the MP's are paid quite well and they could afford to buy in other areas of Auckland if they adjusted their expectations.   They both commented on the Herald website regarding the issue of affordability and like typical MP's like to talk up what their party is doing, what the other party didn't do and in the end are just all talk when it comes to addressing the issues.

The thing that really pissed me off on that show, was Mike Lee saying that Auckland simply couldn't afford to build any more infrastructure. How did they ever grow Auckland or any city to the size it is now? How come there are cities several times the size of Akl, in the USA, that still build affordable housing on the fringes, and their economies are among the strongest in the world, and their local taxes among the lowest?

The real problem is that the councils have become more and more inefficient and wasteful, and to balance their budgets without raising rates too much, they create "planning gain" (see Wikipedia) that they can gouge a share of via "development contributions". Good luck to them once the house price bubble THEY CREATED, BURSTS.

Using local tax revenue (i.e. rates) to fund infrastructure is equitable, and sustainable in practice; as per the many cities around the world much bigger than Akl, that have funded growth that way. This is really "CORE function" of councils and the prime reason for which they existed in the first place.

It is not just the people who live in the new homes, who benefit from the infrastructure provided. Look at the capital gains enjoyed by people who live in more established areas, as the city grows.I have no problem with this, by the way. I have a problem with another layer of capital gains being added by urban growth boundaries, "planning gain", and even "development contributions". Lesson number one that planners and advocates need to get into their heads, is that any fees and "gains" they impose at the fringe, pushes the prices of every property in their city, up by a commensurate amount. The "fee" or "planning gain" is not just paid by every "new home" buyer, it is paid by EVERY FIRST HOME buyer regardless of where they buy. Who gets this money? Incumbent property owners and banks.

To start with Ive seen nothing from Hugh on the impact of the cheap credit boom that has eventuated over the last 30 years driving house prices well past the 3:1 ratio to 6 and beyond, forget land controls, this is the single biggest ponzi scheme of the century....and its due to pop....aka USA.

Lets step back and consider the impact of what Hugh wants which is effectively a mad building craze in a last dash for stupidity.  The end result can be clearly seen in the USA with a housing collapse of 30+%, (and its still going down) jingle mail (except NZers cant do that) and an over-supply of housing of god knows how much, houses that will never be occupied. Then there is the empty plots and the roads and servcies to them that Hugh wants the local councils to get into huge debt viw municipal bonds to pay for....and not the developers who want this "development'....

So the first time buyers who see 50% losses on their first property are going to thank him? he'll be lucky if he isnt strung up from one of the neglected lamposts that will litter the landscape.....Then there will be the municiple bonds the councils and the ratepayers will be lumbered with to pay for installed services that will never be used....so if the bankrupt first home buyers dont get him the destitute rate payers might....

Lets not forget that this is more than just first time buyers....the cost Hugh and his brigade want to nail to the OAPs' on fixed incomes too cant afford it....Im sure they will be happy with rises in rates for that...






Steven, Steve, Steven. Is there a "slow learner" award on this site?

We have got what you describe ANYWAY. You are evidently confused about what happens with new-built homes, and what happens with EVERY PROPERTY ALREADY STANDING, under conditions of growth restriction - or the absence of "freedom to build".

Have you ever looked at the powerpoint "Crack Shack or Mansion"? Million dollar crack shacks in growth restricted cities, (these remind me of Thorndon and Aro Street), million dollar genuine mansions in cities with free land markets and no bubble.

I have said this again and again and you take no notice.

Damage to the economy is greatest WHEN:

1) there are 1,000 "too many" new homes at $200,000 each? Or

2) the entire stock of 800,000 homes is inflated in price by an average of $200,000 each?

There you have the "US" housing bubble explained. It actually wasn't "The US" housing bubble at all; it was the "growth constrained cities in the US" housing bubble.

If we thought THEIR bubble was destructive, when it only applied to about 33% of the urban land in the country, what makes us think NZ is in LESS trouble because 90% PLUS of OUR urban property is in a bubble situation? The USA has huge regions unaffected by the bubble, that are helping drag the problem States back up again. Of course, the problem States will leak business and population to the non-problem States until such time as they work out what they did (and are still doing) wrong.

"endearing charactaristic of Kiwi" funny but Ive never  come across NZers saying this.

Tax, LOL, well out comes the Libertarian in you.....

Housing bubbles, I certainly wouldnt say that...its not a productive good, I have far more respect for the genuine business man you sem to think we detest.  Developers, frankly the few I have been unlucky enough to meet are pretty un-pleasent people....I try to avoid them now....its not that they develop new property, its how they go about it.

"welfare is glorious"  I wouldnt go that far to say the least but as a social safety net, we choose as a society to have it....


Developers are what we make them. If we've made property development a game where clever lawyers and consultants and greasing the local politicians and bureaucrats, counts more than building freakin' stuff, expect property developers to be a bad lot. All the more when what Hugh calls "bubble bunnies" get involved.


Once Hugh's vision has been realised the "Garden City" spiel will need to be rewritten to something more like this (it will really bring in the tourists)...

Internationally famed ‘The Sprawl City’, Christchurch’s well-established expansive freeways and roads owe much to the planning and foresight of the pro-sprawl lobby.

The enourmous mall carparks, the 6 lane highways, the endless cookie cutter budget housing, pedestrian free zones and spectacular drive through facilities bear testimony to this legacy. It is a vision which is embraced and perpetuated today by proud residents right throughout the city.

Two large sprawl festivals occur each year, The Festival of Boyracers is held in February each year and the Boyracers International Boyracer Show is held each March. Both are popular festivals in the annual calendar… and it is a great time of year as the city is especially polluted.

Christchurch is acknowledged as the outstanding sprawl city from 620 international entries and is judged Overall Winner of Major Cities in the We're Still in the 1960's International Competition to become ‘Suburban Sprawl City of the World’!

Well DUH, I don't notice Rome and Paris losing tourists because of the hundreds of miles of sprawl surrounding the quaint bits.

Any city with ALL "quaint bits", is "third world".

It may suprise you to know that the tourists don't visit the surrounding sprawl.  If they were all sprawl there would be hardly any toursists (like Fort Worth, Texas - just a few pro-sprawl fanatics driving the streets, drooling at how awesome it is)

Has it occured to you that the denser cores of cities are more expensive because they are more desirable places to live, whereas your beloved fringe sprawl suburbs are cheaper because they provide an inferior quality of life?

I never said the tourists visit the surrounding sprawl and I know they don't. They see it flying in, though. But it doesn't stop them going to see the Coloseum and the Eiffel Tower. If they go to ChCh to see the cathedral, a bit of sprawl won't stop them. In fact, rebuilding the cathedral and the "heritage" bits of the former CBD near the airport on stable ground, would be a freakin' AWESOME idea.

Even if I don't agree 100% with your next sentence, I will run with that:

".........the denser cores of cities are more expensive because they are more desirable places to live, whereas your beloved fringe sprawl suburbs are cheaper because they provide an inferior quality of life?....."

Now explain to me how the number of people living in the more expensive cores of cities can be increased, without their incomes rising to the level where they can afford to do so, or property prices in the core falling to the point where they can afford to do so. Explain to me how you will grow their incomes without property prices at the core rising just as fast or faster. Explain to me how you would push the prices of CBD property down at the same time as increasing the number of people "buying in".

Do you STILL not "get it"?


"Now explain to me how the number of people living in the more expensive cores of cities can be increased..."

It's called density.  Instead of one family living on a 749 sqm site (750 is the minimum before you can subdivide in most of Auckland city) make it so 2 families can - their land cost is halved and under current bulk rules they each still get a 262.15 sqm house.

Yes, but at what price?

The more you force this density by regulations, the further the price will move against the inner area location. You will get half the space for twice the price, a few years later it will be a quarter the space for twice the price, and a few years later it will be an eighth of the space for twice the price.

This is literally how it has worked in Britain - they now have less floor space per person than any other OECD country including Japan; and around one eighth of what Americans and Aussies have - and the median multiple "house" price is still just as high.

Is this what Kiwis are genuinely going to vote for?

Road mileage charges have been analysed by economists like Breuckner and Anas and Cheshire, to achieve far superior results to an urban growth boundary, at one 20th to one 60th the actual cost to society.

It's very difficult to see how a population of only 300,000 could 'sprawl' anywhere quite frankly. More so now that the earthquakes are likely to cause Christchurch to lose some of its population.

David B - I don't have any problem  with a static population, the majority coming from one-storey detached housing, displacing elsewhere. Presumably sheep may safely graze (per J.S. Bach)   between silting events.

The debate with Hugh and his creationist supporter actually started well before the first 'quake, and is about no-rule growth forever.



No, it is about "freedom to build" - even if that freedom does not need to be exercised because no growth is necessary - keeping urban land prices low and stable. The alternative is high, volatile urban land prices and this is bad for the economy and counterproductive of EVERY SINGLE ONE of the outcomes for which the urban growth boundary is claimed to be necessary. It also renders us LESS resilient to the future shock that PDK claims is coming apon us.

By the way, PDK, I agree with turning the unstable bits of ChCh back into farmland or parks.

I have always agreed with "green space" in cities; the opportunity cost of this is always lower when the price of urban land is lower.

I am snorting with derision at Wellington's new grand plan to have a "green" CBD in tandem with relentless urban boundary constraint. There won't BE an "economy" in Wellington, by the time they have achieved their objective.

Icelanders take up knitting:

The real value of the economic crash, one young woman told me, was that “people are rethinking, Who am I as an Icelandic person?” A number of people suggested to me that the nation, as a whole, was going through a period of intense introspection and that the consensus seemed to be that Icelanders needed to return to their roots. “Everyone is knitting” is how Steinunn Knutsdottir, a drama teacher, put it. “People are also making jam.” I thought that Knutsdottir was joking, until one day I saw a woman standing directly across the street from my hotel, perched on a chair, yarn in hand, stitching some so-called “knit graffiti” into place around a tree.


Christchurch has to stop the spread. We have used up too much good horticultural land around Christchurch already. Halt the 4 hectare subdivisions in Canterbury. The FOOD BOWL of New Zealand is in Canterbury and it is being destroyed by small rural subdivisions. We must have smaller sections in Christchurch and build 3 story walkup accommodation. Build up and increase the density. Increase the population/hectare in the city.

Look, if agricultural land WAS "worth preserving", it would be more expensive than it was worth for developers to turn it into residential. We are nowhere NEAR that point.

All the growth in the world economy in the last 60 years has been in urban economies. The international "terms of trade" for agricultural products has steadily gone down in that time. There have been blips upwards but the trend is all bad for agricultural production. China and India barely need to import food any more, Brazil is starting to export, and some of the most fertile bits of Africa are finally sorting their culture and politics out.

If we want to stay "first world", we need to abandon this ridiculous fetish around primary products. Urban economies produce far more, provide far more jobs, earn far more income, and even pollute less; per acre. Housing is merely a labour cost input into the urban economy. Push this up, along with the cost of land for business, and what do you think you are doing to future productivity and income levels?

This is economic Darwinism.

You are right agburb, and one of the points they are missing is that just on the outer of CHC places like Leeston, Southbridge, Springston/Lincoln, Kirwee, they have infrastructure there schools etc that can be extended quite quickly if need be,  to cater for a larger population, all we need is transport into the city Fringes (as this is where all the jobs are now- not in the CBD), fringes of Hornby , whose high school is half empty. These areas have lost population growth over last 15 years , but now can gain this back plus some..these are the areas that ned to be looked at..not trying to produce brand new towns with added cost of building new infrastructure......

Sure, but the price of land there needs to be affordable, not propped up by restrictions on the "total supply of land".

Here is how that works in the North of England. They have had 25% unemployment for 30 years. But they also have "seriously unaffordable" housing. Same for new business startups. DUH.

The unemployed stay on benefits and in subsidised "social housing" because they would be tens of thousands of pounds worse off if they got a job and had to pay their own rent. DUH again.

We are heading down this path. The speed of Christchurch;s recovery will be affected positively by low land costs, and negatively by high land costs.

Even "rust belt USA" cities are rejuvenating because their land has dropped to such low prices - entrepreneurs can establish whole new industrial and technology parks on land they have picked up for a song, and potential workforces can move into and rejuvenate surrounding neighbourhoods, at minimal cost to themselves. Check out Pittsburgh, for example.

Alexander takes a position, with which I concur, where the front end of urban design is community. You get that right and everything else follows.

You get better communities, then you get better collective decisions.

Most people here have posted their wish list, which amount to snippets of the comprehensive package that he advocates

The density necessary for community to happen is stated at 30-60 people per acre.

If you relate this to the comment on my earlier post regarding the size of political representation. With these ratios and densities it creates society where the representative become personally accountable to all the constituents. 

The '30-60 people per acre / community happens'. Thanks for this... explains loads. 

Off to find Christopher Alexander.

What is 30 to 60 based on?


Not sure what you mean by that Steven.

But at a stab I would say that you can't just throw 30-60 in haphazard and expect it to work. The context in which it is proposed is as an individual pattern amongst 258 or so others.

Read 'A Timeless Way of Building' and you will know what I mean:) I you check out Alexander of Wikipedia you will see his credentials.

I  assume that at 30 to 60 per acre and community "feeling" is "formed" the problem with this is what about food? energy?


Keep in mind that Alexander is talking about 'timeless' patterns and that no single pattern will solve your problems. The patterns are cross reference and listed in order of importance, so for instance patterns 1-7 are:

The distribution of towns

City country fingers

Agricultural valleys

Lace of country streets

Country towns

The Country side

Whereas density is down the list. Actually it may not be Alexander that directly gives that density, I picked that up in my Urban Design paper. But he certainly talks about it. I think if you take the time to read it, it will blow you mind as to its comprehensivenss. How about pattern 43, university as a market place.

Scarfie, here is another point about "community".

Where a large number of children who went to the same school, stayed in the area after leaving school, as they raise their own families; there will be a VERY high sense of community.

Higher density communities tend to be associated with "transience".

Higher density is of course a relative term. 30-60 is not actually that dense and even our 'quarter acre' history might have approached that when the birth rate was high.  

Agree that transience is not desireable, although a certain amount should be accomodated to account for different personalities. I have read research somewhere that indicates facilitating land ownership is critical to prosperity in a society.

Actually what Alby and Wolly talk about is pretty much on the mark when it comes to urban design. That isn't direct from Alexander but from others in my urban design paper. Mixed use of course, but that would happen eventually if you got rid of planners:)


"The density necessary for community to happen is stated at 30-60 people per acre. ""

Thats way too simplistic I'm afraid - utter garbage: is that what they are teaching up in the ivory towers these days?

"community" is not causally linked to density. You can have a very strong community with low density. Many rural communities where the residents are strewn far and wide have good "community"  

you MIGHT get good community at that density - depending on the quality of the development, inter-relationship between design of public / private realms etc.

But I think you'll find generally that you'll get much better "Community" in lower density to low/ medium density settings 

We are talking about an urban context here Matt.

As my reply to Phil, 30-60 is not all that dense in world wide terms. It is also not something to be considered in isolation, as per my reply to Steven.

Funny thing is that density is intimately linked to crime, and I have significant professional experience in that area. I assure you I am not some mindless kid that can't connect the dots. For instance I researched your last comment regarding the origins of zoning to find your theory full of holes. The examples you gave are quite isolated from your theme of getting away from the industrial slums. So be careful about the criticism you level at ones learning. It was in fact a class issues. Modernisn was perhaps not the first instance of zoning, but it was popularised by the movement, and facilitated by the motor car.

On a better note I find a lot of your posts agreeable.

scarfie - how is density linked to crime? There are some high density communites with very high crime and low density communities with high crime.

Crime IS highly correlated to the socio-economic status of residents in a neighbourhood

If the density is too low, it gives the opportunity for crime to happen undetected. On the low side acts like graffiti, all the way to the woman getting murdered in a walkway while on her way home from work (I have personal experience of this).

Higher densities are going to lead to more type of disorder type crime, of which manslaughter and murder are also the unfortunate extreme.

There is a sweet spot in the middle where densities are high enough to provide witnesses that would deter a potential crime, but not too high to cause issues that arise with over crowding(lower socio economic perhaps). 

You will find this on the curriculum at the Police College.

So when my Architecture lecturers talk about mixed use in the context of communal spaces that are utilised throught and extended period of the day, say 6am to midnight, then this falls nicely into that sweet spot.

So the 30-60 per acre actually fits in nicely with my general knowlege of the world.

thats taking environmental determinism too far in my view.

As a GENERAL rule of thumb I would agree that a mid range medium density outcome is optimal in terms of crime. As you state, you have good surveillance, and the density is not high enough to produce anonymity and isolation.

However, its even more influenced by the socio-economic factors. Talbot Park, a recent HNZ development in Glen Innes, is a very good example. That would be very much mid range medium density, its got all the good CPTED "eyes on the street" stuff etc.

But its got terrible problems. And thats because its a concentration of beneficiaries with poor tenancy management. The medium density environment there HAS NOT prevented crime - very hard to know to what extent it has reduced crime, if any. Hard to tell whether it would have been better or worse in a lower density design - some say even that level of medium denisty is far too high for social housing       

But if it was full of middle income professionals its crime profile would probably be great

So yeah, density and design CAN positively influence crime, but its only one of several factors. All things being equal, I agree mid range medium density is probably optimal from a crime perspective in a non social housing setting   

Haha I think I am familiar with Talbot Park. Is that the 3 story lot that have been facelifted just near the GI town centre?

Agree with your sentiments there.

There is a similar area on the North Shore around Tonar and Cadness St, affectionately know by the local constabulary as 'the reservation'.

I couldn't really see how the facelift was going to change anything.

its a lot more than a facelift to a few of the old 3 level star block buildings

whole lot of 2 level terrace housing, 3/4 level apartments etc

have a drive through some time

its very good urban design, but that hasn't overcome the problems of concentrating a whole lot of beneficiaries fairly densely in one location

Heather MacDonald is a great author who has written some useful articles on the connection between policing and urban renewal. You really can't have the latter without the former. Trying to repaint and refurnish and so on will not work as long as the local pushers are still in control of the neighbourhood.

I do not so far believe that there is any correlation between city size and the proportion of income required to service infrastructure.

The McKinsey Institute recently posted this article suggesting that "management" is the single biggest factor in "limits to growth" of a city:


Shlomo Angel et al in "Making Room for a Planet Full of Cities" discuss a number of principles of good planning that ensure the lowest-cost expansion of a city. Eg rights-of-way secured well in advance really helps.


A lot depends on the individual city; where the water has to come from, where the energy has to come from, where the sewerage has to go to, topography, etc. There really is no simple rule to fit all.

I understand that in Texas, it is possible to incorporate new municipalities very easily.

In which case, new growth can be facilitated with infrastructure without incumbent local governments making excuses.

The biggest cost for a city's residents, is housing, which is affected considerably by land values. Growth constraint policies invariably impose far greater costs on society than simply continuing to fund infrastructure, and this cost falls disproportionately on the young. City-wide property taxes are actually a fair way to fund new infrastructure. The problem with anything else is, that "impact fees" or "planning gain" always filters through to the price of ALL property in the city. So it becomes not just a case of the new development home buyers paying for impact fees or planning gain; every first home buyer pays a similar amount or more (prices tend to "multiply" from the fringe inwards) to the lucky incumbent owner of ANY home they buy anywhere in the city.

Whereas new infrastructure that enables new growth, tends to result in increases in value anyway for incumbent property owners due to their location inwards of the fringe. One of the big misunderstandings that occurs in urban politics today, is that issues of value and payment get framed in the wrong terms and applied to the wrong people. It is constantly said that we are "providing fringe infrastructure for new home buyers", "providing roads for car drivers", "providing trains for commuters", etc. The reality of urban economics is that MOST of the "value" gets captured by the property at the destinations of these people's trips. The road, the train, the fringe infrastructure; all create value for the owners of the best located business land, by bringing them workforces and customers.

When a city is "monocentric", which planners mostly seem to think all cities are, land prices slope upwards from fringe to centre by a factor of about 100. But decentralisation flattens out land value curves. One of the practical consequences is that, in a "monocentric" city it will always cost more to "move closer to work", and the closer you move the more it costs. But when everything is decentralised, the options are numerous.

There have been computer models of urban economies around for decades that planners use, that all assume "monocentric" urban form. But one of the main guys who designed it in the 1970's, William Wheaton, put out a paper in 2002 called "Commuting, Ricardian Rent, and House Price Appreciation in Cities with Dispersed Employment and Mixed Land Use"; that should have finished his earlier model off for good. Since then, Prof Alex Anas (SUNY-Buffalo) and his colleagues have been steadily refining a highly complex model to reflect real life, and publishing a series of papers. One of the worst consequences of the "wrong" computer models, is planners love of "urban growth boundaries". Anas and his colleague Rhee comprehensively demolish this fallacy.

One of their findings is that road tolls and mileage charges, which are politically unacceptable, would "contain" urban growth as effectively as a boundary (which, perversely, IS politically acceptable), at somewhere between one twentieth and one sixtieth of the cost to society. AND the growth boundary's "unintended consequences" mean that efficiency losses under the growth boundary scenario are worse than the intended gains anyway. Economists like Anas and Breuckner use a euphemism to describe this; they say an urban growth boundary is "not a second best option" - which is polite academic language for "does not work".

There IS one major problem with infrastructure costs that increase exponentially as a city expands and decentralises: public transport. This is the BIGGIE.

The problem is that "decentralisation" of employment as well as households, is actually a natural free market phenomenon that allows for continual efficiency gains in the urban economy. This is especially the case when low cost urban fringe land is available to the urban economy without "planning gain", and the price of all land can be kept lower. I can send you quite a lengthy essay on this if you like. The only thing that LOSES efficiency, is public transport, especially rails and fixed guideway. Planners are hell bent on "doubling down" trying to spend more and more money "providing access" that can offer a credible alternative to car use, when they SHOULD be "cutting their losses and running". "Public transport" needs to get more flexible to remain relevant - owner driver passenger vans, etc.

It is public transport costs under a paradigm of continued decentralisation of households and employment, that is the BIG cost over-run for local bodies today. It is even squeezing out spending on other things. And rail subsidies are squeezing out spending on buses, which are actually more relevant. Unionised monopolies with inflexible work practices are also an extremely poor fit with real life public transport requirements in most first world cities today.

The comparison between the cost of automobile use and the cost of public
transport has steadily swung in favour of the automobile.

One of the main reasons, is the labour intensivity of public transport. The
higher average incomes get, the less competitive public transport gets.

The higher average incomes get, the higher the price of urban land goes. The
higher the price of urban land goes, the GREATER the money that can be saved on
mortgage versus commute costs, by locating FURTHER AWAY from city centres.

Rising fuel costs are "neutral" regarding this trade-off because the cost of
travel capitalises into property price differences across locations.

This is the paradigm that planners are up against. Rising incomes drive
decentralisation. Both the decentralisation and the rising incomes count AGAINST
the viability of public transport.

This needs to be stated, and stated, and stated, until all urban planners have
"got it".

Advocates of public transport and "planning" like to use "average" costs of
automobility to compare against public transport fares. This is nonsense because
MOST of THIS cost of "automobility" is DISCRETIONARY - larger cars, V8 engines,
SUV's, new cars that depreciate rapidly, expensive brands that depreciate

The cost of automobility provided by a ten year old Japanese subcompact is a
fraction of the "average". Anthony Downs points out very convincingly in his
admirable book "Still Stuck in Traffic", that the cost at which "automobility"
CAN be obtained relative to incomes has only ever steadily dropped in spite of
oil price rises. This is because cars have become so much more reliable as they
age, than they used to be; including some still very "economical" cars.

Money spent on public transport is a "subsidy"

Money spend on roads is an "investment"


"The comparison between the cost of automobile use and the cost of public
transport has steadily swung in favour of the automobile."

Of course it has - cars are subsidised.  If a driver had to pay the true cost of their car public transport would suddenly look a whole lot better.


For example the average driver pays $317.40 to ACC which equals 700 million.  Social cost of car crashes per year equals $3,800 million.  That's a pretty good subsidy.  Then there's roads, free pollution, cost of congestion someone else pays for etc.etc.

Have you EVER read anything about "positive externalities" of roads and automobility?

Imagine NZ's cities without our motorways. Imagine our GDP and our income levels. These things actually ARE connected, believe it or not.

Our ancestors were not fools at all. They actually understood benefit-cost ratios, and the inclusion of a total economic case in them.

Every project with a "total economic case" benefit cost ratio of much higher than 1.0, NOT built, is future income foregone for our descendants.

"Imagine"  try imagining that without energy and cheap energy at that, roads, or at least motorways are probably pointless....imagine what expensive energy does to automobility....its severly curtails it...cant be to big a jump can it?  GDP, simple it will start to shrink.....population, simple it will start to drop.....When you have 7billion ppl who have eaten through most of the resources in at most 2 generations then you have a severe problem looming and worrying about cheap or not land is plain silly.

"Every project" projects consume energy and materials, our descendants will curse us for consuming all the fossil fuels in 100 years and leaving them with the huge impacts of AGW....crazy expansion a "benefit"? uh no. Economists basically suck IMHO....very few of them I think are worth the air they breathe....to trust them when they have been so wrong and keep being wrong is I believe one of the definations of insanity....


Still trying to cope with the negative externalities.

Our ancestors were fools sometimes - they belived in bleeding themselves, spraying themselves with DDT, smooking for it's health benefits and worst of all car reliant suburban sprawl cities.

Actually Bob there is good evidence to show that tobacco is quite benign if grown organically.

I won't bother to draw to links to how it became a poison because if you are smart enough you will find them anyway. 

Oh, so you agree with banning DDT, letting malaria mosquitoes make a comeback, and millions more people in 3rd world countries die as a result. "The Green genocide", it is already being called among non-lefties.

You and Steven are just sick in the head.

Sprawl and automobility replaced far worse conditions and were the means of doing so. We should be thanking our lucky stars, not spewing lies and poison about civilisational progress in the service of some evil political agenda.

While I have concern for the environment, I am careful keep a critical attitude to anything I read. Don't trust anything you read, even if it supports your view.

So it was quite interesting to read a while back a well researched piece on DDT. It seems the greenies got the better of the mosquito eradication program at the penultimate moment. A few months more and they would have succeeded. It was also alleged that the dangers have been overstated. Bloody interesting.

You said "our ancestors were not fools".  I said "yes they sometimes were" and lightheartedly illustrated the point with DDT.

Some ancestors thought it was good.  Some ancestors thought it was bad.  Whether it's good or bad one group of ancestors was fools.  Therefore your statement "our ancestors were not fools" is incorrect.

Your red herring discussion on who thinks what about DDT is completely irrelevant.

The solution to a few people moaning about housing being unaffordable - is not to ruin the city for everyone else by letting it sprawl out into the distance in a bland shopping mall hell.

Albany is plenty far enough thanks.

Scarfie - the best community - pers com - is the village. There's enough folk to have most bases covered, if your kid falls off their bike, everyone knows them by name, the school,  library, playcentre, hall are the hubs, and you need a 'green', probably allotments too, looking at the future.

Ours has a green, which does rugby, soccer, has a tennis court and a skateboard park. Does the A^P show yearly, and a lot besides. Great hall, good library.

Of course, the big worry backing-off to that, is inbreeding, both physically and of ideas.

You need the odd gypsy rover coming

over the hill

so to speak.


PDK, you continue to astonish me.

Are you "FOR" villages? Are you "FOR" THIS?


These guys are already fighting Auckland's regional "planners" to be allowed to DO this.

So whose side are you on? The planners, or people who want to build on greenfields because the cost of land is not an obstruction to good ideas?

Phil I have only had a quick look at that site, but it seems worthy of a closer look, just as PDK could perhaps look at the underlying themes to your posts. I think we are all in the same science, but just talking different languages to get there.

While I can see the villages are  too rigid in the application, it is applying the principles of good urban design. It seems to be implementing a lot of Alexander's ideas, but perhaps missing a few critical ones.

The photo on the front page looks very much like a 'street' should look like. It is a very good example of cognitive console:)

Probably a bit light I climate response though.

The ideal would be a result similar to what that site proposed, but not centrally planned.

Certainly nodes of density are probably desireable, but there a pattern called 'Magic of the City". A centre of 300,000 or so starts to become a centre where certain what you might call cultural attractions can happen. For instance how many people does it take to support an Opera House? 

Check my answer to Steven PDK, Alexander does address the resource issues for cities.

Cheers Scarfie - I will.

We were at the Hampden gathering last week - shared food and a speaker type evening - and one fellow mentioned going to help out in the first 'quake'. Said that folk didn't know their neighbours, couldn't get it together to dig a long-drop, had no idea. Just waited for somebody to do something.

Compare that to the village we lived in (23 years) where is someone was sick or bereaved, there was system where they took it in turns to cook/mow/clean for the folk involved - where everyone helped everyone with house-maintenance and/or alteration, knowing it would come back around.

Sharing tools, vehicles, labour, child-minding, running things (I ran the locall pool for a long time, entirely voluntary) - it really works, and will where we are going. Of course there are villages within cities - Bondi was certainly one such in the '79's.

Bigger than that, I think anonimity becomes an issue.

PB, as ever, rushes to some conclusion I never meant - or even heard of!

Unfortunately I think some of us here have to try to make our positions understood to people that have no comprehension of what you have just described. Up hill battle.

Best place i ever worked was the RNZAF. It was, and to degree still is, a great community as opposed to just a workplace.

Agree with the village, groups of villages serviced by a town.....the structure evolved for a good reason, it worked....


PhilBest - is this question too hard for you?

A section in a desirable location close to a centre is zoned for 1 dwelling - the land cost for that dwelling is X. 


Which is a more rational way to reduce land price:

1) increase density to 2 dwellings so land cost per unit is 1/2X.

2) remove the MUL in the hope that the price will drop even though you have not increased the stock of housing where it's wanted (as reflected by the higher price) and the owner now has to subsidise the building of new roads and infrastructure, through rates, in the wonderful new 'sprawl' areas?

Great, we can really get somewhere considering the realities.

The price of land at X will be a multiple of the price at the fringe. 10 times would be completely realistic.

If fringe sections are $50,000, the same size lot at X will be $500,000 and splitting it into 2 will result in $250,000 sections for townhouses.

If fringe sections are $200,000, the same size lot at X will be $2,000,000, and splitting it into 2 will result in $1,000,000 sections for townhouses.

Under which scenario will the most people who like the idea of living at X, be able to afford to do so? Under which scenario will it be MORE worthwhile to spend $10,000 per year running a car from the fringe? 

Put it in terms of "Total cost of housing plus transport" as a proportion of income. Under my regulatory framework, this cost will be around 40% of median household income in BOTH locations, and people will choose according to their taste. Under YOUR regulatory framework, the cost will be around 70% at the fringe, and around 250% at X. Somewhere between the fringe and X, 100% is crossed. This is the explanation for all those disastrous 100-mile-commute suburbs in California. This was the ONLY location where total cost of housing plus transport, was below 100% of the income.

Take a look at "discretionary incomes" on page 13 of the PDF below:


Notice how the average for the growth controlled cities in California is NEGATIVE - i.e. on average they are BORROWING MONEY just to EXIST?

Read the whole PDF. It should be a policy framework for every NZ city. It is the secret to "owning" the economic future. Discretionary incomes ARE "wealth", whoever would have guessed it? Most of our grandmothers, I suggest.

Wrong, so wrong.  The price of fringe land does not affect the price of central land.  It is the other way around.  You are completely back to front.

Do you really think that Mr Greedy on Paratai Drive cares one iota about the price of land in Manurewa?  Do you really think Mr and Mrs reasonably wealthy of Grey Lynn's valuer takes in consideration the price of land in Flatbush when valuing their property.  Do you seriously think that if a site in Albany drops in value by 10K a the value of a site in Parnell is influenced?

Desirable areas are more expensive and this flows out.  Cheap doesn't flow in.

You will not reduce the price of central city land no matter how many sqkm of sprawl you add to the city because there is still a limited supply in the most desirable locations.  I'm not going to suddenly decide I want to live an extra 5km's away from the centre of town just 'cos there's some cheaper subdivisions available 20km's away - if I did decide that I already would have.


I'm probably way off the mark as I've spent my time involved in the development of a few thousand NZ residential units from the fringes to the CBD's, from the most expensive to the cheapest, houses, townhouses, apartments - rather than reading pro-sprawl articles about Houston.

How about the psychological principle that all rooms should have natural light entering from two sides?

I bet 100% of the crap you have 'developed' are a gross breach of that principle.

That's clever.  You don't know who I am, what I do, what projects I've been involved with, NZIA awards won etc. and yet you are able to pronounce that everything I have ever been in involved with is 'crap' with windows only on one wall.

Yep NZIA awards are BS, I have one of them on my wall also. Just all self agrandising.

I can say this because virtually all design in this country is poor, heck just take a drive through Omaha to see the trash there masquerading as design. So not a hard generalisation to make. Read Alexander and you might understand, emphasis on might.

NZIA awards ! ....... Pah !!! ....... Gummy is high up on the  " Hickey Roll of Dis-Honour " ...... a mere swear word or so  below the Gods : The Duke / The Man / and Westminster ........

...... eat yer heart out , Mr scarfie !

Maybe I don't have them - you don't know.  Maybe I have a copy of "A Pattern Language" on my bookshelf.  Maybe I got a whole new urbanist book collection.

Maybe, if you read my posts, you would realize that - I'm not happy about the town planning regeime we've been forced to work with since the 1991, I'm not happy about Hugh promoting more of the same, I've had enough experience to learn that sprawl does not provide more affordable housing and that I'd like to see town planing rules changed to allow affordable housing to be built (and, of course, new urbanist design principles to be adopted).


Ahh then perhaps you are facing a moral and ethical dilema by having to work within a system you find flawed?

But perhaps one to many self brewed beers has been consumed tonight and it is time to go to bed:)

But you want "planning gain" to stay. To be divvied up between you, the council, the consultants, the lawyers, and incumbent land owners. As if this helps "housing affordability".

Bob: You're so correct, and so close to the mark.  I'm an economist, a field of endeavour that is useful in analising "past" economic processes, depending on the number of "inputs" involved in the analysis, assuming the inputs are ALL known and quantifiable together with the mix ratios, BUT, useless for determining future outcomes. A good example of this is to take a standard dice, throw it against a wall and let it come to rest of its own accord, where it falls, and record the face up value. Do it 50 times. And it wont matter how many times you do it, it will produce an average of 3½. Now, as you know, it's impossible to throw a 3½. And that is the basic flaw in Hugh Pavletich's unconvincing hypotheses. There is no such thing as 3 x income. It's an artificial mathematical statistical construct just like the 3½ face on a dice. Useful in hindsight. Useless as a determinant.

You said it, Hugh. If "Iconoclast" is an economist, and thinks Bob just stated the truth about urban economics, it is no wonder the economics profession is part of the problem.

There were a series of debates over public policy in Britain in the 1980's, between Prof. Alan W. Evans and bureaucrat Steven Grigson, with Grigson claiming all sorts of absurdities based on misinterpretation of classical land economics. Evans has ultimately been accepted as correct. He has written a text book to advance the economics profession's understanding in the light of modern regulatory distortions to land markets, that the classical economists did not have to cope with. The book is called "Economics, Real Estate, and the Supply of Land". Anyone who has read it, can PWN any idiot calling himself an "economist", who still argues that restrictions at the fringe do not cause urban land price inflation. And a whole lot of other idiocies that people like Grigson were responsible for.

Evans deserves to join the pantheon of Ricardo-Van Thunen-Alonso-Muth. He has advanced our understanding another notch or 3 in his own time, just as they did in theirs.

Bob says:

".......Wrong, so wrong.  The price of fringe land does not affect the price of central land.  It is the other way around.  You are completely back to front....."

In all the years I have discussed and debated these issues, I have NEVER ever met anyone who was SOOO wrong, and so certain of himself. I have NEVER encountered that theory on economic land rent in any of the many text books I have read.

The price of raw fringe land SHOULD be set, regardless of city size, by the agricultural rent available from the vast stock of further land beyond the fringe. Anything above this, is "planning gain" - another clearly established principle in land economics.

The fact that cities with "planning gain" at the fringe, ALSO have far higher "land rent curves" throughout their length, is also so bleedin' obvious it hardly needs to be discussed in land economics texts.

I now conclude that Bob is a desperate property investor/spruiker who is just thrashing around saying any old thing and trying to sound plausible, in the hopes that his little racket will hold up a bit longer.

Bob said 21 Jun 11, 8:46pm

"I'm probably way off the mark as I've spent my time involved in the development of a few thousand NZ residential units from the fringes to the CBD's, from the most expensive to the cheapest, houses, townhouses, apartments - rather than reading pro-sprawl articles about Houston."

Yep, that confirms it, Bob is a "bubble bunny". One of these guys dependent on a racket, who never understood the underlying economics. Another Mark Hotchin. Now he wants a generation of young NZ-ers to have to keep paying for his greed and folly.


So because I want cheaper housing plus efficient public transportation in desirable parts of the city and have argued that intensification is the only plausable way to do this I am:

- A mark Hotchkin

- A greedy fool / racketeer

- An economic ignoramus

- A 'bubble bunny'

- A desperate property investor/spruiker


... sorry - interupted by my 10 minute commute to work. 

Instead of name calling do you have a plausable explanation of how your solution of sprawl will make inner city house cheaper?

Adding more cheap fringe sprawl is not going to make me suddenly want to move further away from town (or anyone else after similar property) so it will not reduce the value of my section.  in fact the more the city sprawls the more desirable it comes to live closer to the centres as the sprawl causes even more congestion.

You have stated that if sections on the fringe were 10x cheaper that inner city property would become 10x cheaper.  Do you really think that if land in Flatbush went down by $180,000 then sections in Parnell would go down by $1,800,000?

Or to use the Omaha example (if you can discuss the point without digressing into a discussion on how you do or don't like Omaha).  The most expensive property is the beachfront because this is the most desirable right?

How could you make the beachfront property cheaper?  By your theory you would allow sprawl all the way back to Matakana.  How would that make beachfront sections cheaper?  There are no additional beachfont sections - you've just made the hinterland less pleasant and more congested and made the beachfront even more desirable.

Bob....did you ever see that Steptoe and Son episode where the old bugger conned the neighbours in a snotty street into offering him a bundle for the property he bought on the street...horse and cart parked outside etc...funny as a fart that was....but you see Bob it works the other way too...the perception of values can be changed by playing the right cards....the old wrecks on the lawn that is left to go wild...the cuzzies with their Harleys arriving regular like...the stack of empties left on the footpath...you get the picture Bob.

It is very easy to reduce the value on many properties and leave yourself as the only buyer...many a city centre overseas has evolved into a slum of shite...abandoned by the wealthy...take your pick.

Yes I did.  The question is does sprawl or intensification reduce land prices.

I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say? - we have to choose between unlimited sprawl or inner city slums as there are no other options?  If a section adjacent to Auckland's CBD is allowed to be less than 750sqm then it will become a slum?

Incidentally up here piles of empties and weed infested car wrecks are found in cheap fringe suburbs.


I am prepared to believe you ARE a property developer, and you don't understand basic urban economics. Maybe it was a bit harsh to call you what I did, but I am sure Mark Hotchin and a few other people MIGHT have lacked understanding of both urban economics and economic cycles.

"Intensification" of itself, does NOT and never has, "reduced" land prices per square metre. It does allow for people to reduce the size of their purchase to save money.

Density CAN turn to "blight", which reduces the value of property. But in contrast to the famous inner city slums of the past, inner city apartments now often cost MORE than a suburban home. This is precisely because the urban land rent curve has such a slope on it, that the "increase in cost of land" still swamps the "downsize" of the home.

I am pleased to see that you "get it" about the urban land rent curve. But do you not see that a crucial difference between Houston and a city with a growth boundary, is that the rent curve at the fringe, starts so much LOWER in Houston?

What I do say as a rough rule of thumb, is that the property closer to the centre rises and falls in proportion to the rises and falls at the fringe. My "ten times" illustration was for the sake of simplicity. Understanding this, would have kept a few developers in certain cities, out of trouble. Just because you might be steering clear of fringe development, doesn't  "proof" your business against risk.

The "location" price premium, is a premium over and above "something else". That "something else" is usually the fringe.

The urban growth limit, planning gain, and serious "step up" in value at the fringe, and the effects on the city, DOES produce all sorts of illusions among developers and even their financial advisors. Thinking that "value" is ALWAYS the result of "fundamentals" is a HUGE mistake. There are such things as regulatory distortions in the market, and "bubbles".

The economics profession internationally is still working on the following; check out the paper by William Wheaton called "Commuting, Ricardian Rent, and House Price Appreciation in Cities with Dispersed Employment and Mixed Land Use".

The rent curve historically in a big city, HAS sloped up from fringe to centre by a factor of 100 or more. ("10") applies to inner suburbs. This rent curve flattens if the city becomes less centralised, so that the rent at the centre might be 40 times the rent at the fringe, and there might be several "peaks" within the city, at, say, 10 times and 20 times. The MORE a city decentralises, the flatter the rent curve becomes. Atlanta, Georgia, has a wobbly rent curve where there are many "peaks" at around 3 to 7 times the value of the fringe. 7 times is the highest peak.

Consider that there is NO fringe planning gain in Atlanta, and you have B-----Y cheap land everywhere. Very low medians.

An urban growth boundary and planning gain, force up the rent curve at the fringe, and proportionate increases occur everywhere in the city, at least initially. This is irrational, speculative, and unsustainable. The economics profession right now, is still trying to get a handle on the LONG term outcomes, and what happens to the urban land rent curve as speculative cycles peak and trough.

One thing that makes a major difference, is the extent to which "planning" allows for businesses and people "priced out" of the higher price location, to locate elsewhere. Look at the paper "The Costs of Utopia" by Alain Bertaud, and see what has happened in Portland, Oregon, after 40 years of urban growth boundary. The distribution of density within the city has been distorted AWAY from the centre by the inflated land prices.

I suggest that "planning" that both forces the price of land up (from the fringe inwards), AND attempts to stop decentralisation from occurring, will simply collapse the economy concerned.

I am actually quite sympathetic with property developers facing these highly complex situations that even many economists fail to understand. I really should save my ire for the politicians and ideologues responsible; I regret losing my rag and calling you names.

Bubble bunny? yet cheap credit, casually lent out is the major factor...simple.....however no one wants to face the reality of fixing that....loses too many votes...

BTW, "rackets" if the limits were extended do you really think those plots would drop significantly in value?   So from what Hugh and you are saying the land owners would simply open up lots of land, all at rock bottom prices and sell it off "cheaply", yeah right.  That is plain silly, what will happen is the plots will be sold off piecemeal at high prices either to owners in "closes" where you have to use "approved?" builders / developers and meet covenants....or to One man builders who then on sell but have to meet the same "standards" ....end result little cheaper just tidy profits for the owners and developers of the land.

So, no I dont expect for an instance expanding the city boundaries will make much of a difference for the first time buyers....


It's like thinking that opening up more claims during a gold rush will decrease the demand for claims.

Steven, explain to me how banks "self regulate" to stop the prices of property bubbling, without having the Commerce Commission coming down on them like a ton of bricks.

Also explain to me how Korea has had several property bubbles when their banks require 40 to 60% down payment.

Also, why there have been no price bubbles in 100 odd cities in the USA that had just as loose credit as the rest.

These bubbles are ALL ABOUT "supply".

You obviously do not read the things I quote.

When "supply" of land is free and open to anyone to build on, "planning gain" will be completely absent. PDK could build his low energy home far nearer the city, on a smaller land holding if he wanted to. There would be nothing stopping him.

There is no way anyone can hold anyone else to ransom. It becomes impossible for anyone to "corner" the land supply, because the quantity is so great that financing it while waiting for buyers to come along over the next 30 years, would kill the profitability.

You have this extraordinary fallacy that a bigger supply of land will just mean a bigger bubble, with bubble values still applying to the whole.

This is economic stupidity of the highest order and I am sick and tired of idiots like you doing your best to wreck the country and ruin young people.

"The fact that cities with "planning gain" at the fringe, ALSO have far higher "land rent curves" throughout their length, is also so bleedin' obvious it hardly needs to be discussed in land economics texts."

I have never said I disagree with this.  I fully accept that a sprawl city like Houston will have flatter values right across it whereas cities like Sydney will get more valuable towards the more desirable areas and cheaper in the less desirable areas (which are the fringe suburbs).    

See my longer comment above. I am pleased that you understand a little bit about the urban land rent curve.

Did you see THIS "Close Up" program?


Note the young American couple from Texas expressing their horror at the asking prices.

If you have cheap new fringe homes, you also have cheap inner city apartments. Do some checking on Realtor sites in cities like Houston.

But it is not just Houston. Use the Demographia Reports. ANY city with a low median multiple house price will also have FAR CHEAPER inner city living, than a city with a high  median multiple house price.



Don't worry Bob, they're an overwhelming majority of two, and they operate from a manuscript that would make the Dead Sea Scrolls look like an E-book.

Note there's only about two short pages in the tome - one headed 'Texas' but the bit about abundant on-site energy is missing, the other headed 'Median Multiple'.

Second verse

is same as the first




It's the illegitimus carborundum theory.


Haha, come on now PDK.

I do wish Hugh would read Alexander though, a lot of answers in his work.

The most amusing thing is the headline "Why high density didn't work in Chch "

Must be a different Christchurch to the one I used to visit.

I would be interested to see your responses to Alexanders timeless principles of building. 

Yeah, that was sooooo rich, coming from a guy whose script is "no resources.......!!!!!! "no resources......!!!!!!!" no resources......!!!!!!" and puts his hands over his ears about any reasonable argument.

And utterly insults my careful scholarship. I certainly do NOT have "only 2 pages". Neither does Hugh.

Any visitor to this thread can see for themselves.

I hope, for NZ's sake, that PDK/ Dr Goebbels has had his day.

Reasonable argument to "no resources"? I have yet to see one from you....or unfortunately anyone...


That is because you can't, or won't, READ.

Ive read heaps on the subject of Peak oil, food and AGW.  The difference is as an engineer I know bad/dodgy engineering that does not add up mathematically let alone in engineering / physics terms when I see it.  Then there is project management....it takes time to do something let alone money and resources.....neither is being commited right now to alternatives on the scale needed....why? mostly because the alternatives just dont work....ethanol is a classic example....its lucky if its a net energy producer.....say about 1.2 to 1 (and even that is questionable, 0.8 to 1 seems more like it), we need 10 to 1 minimum....

So, sorry but you obviously are reading rubbish and dont have the Math, Physcis, engineering a project experience to understand you are reading rubbish....


Yeah, reams of stuff by CREDIBLE people like Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich and Lester Brown; who have been predicting the end of the world in ten years, since 1965.

Fair enough - nothing like a dramatic headline, even if it doesn't reflect the story.

Excellent article Hugh and thank you. You obviously have a great depth of knowledge and refreshing to listen to some clarity. Caused a bit of excitement amongst the interest.co frat boys!

For me there is a simple question about Christchuch I ask myself: Is it a place I believe has a future? At the moment this seems a very marginal proposition. The city is destroyed and we're living in peripheral enclaves without a centre. The largest qaugmire is uncertainity over leadership and vision. It seems to me more of the usual status quo beaucratic convolutions. The preservation of some old outdated system of a deteriorating small town in an environment that otherwise has a lot going for it. Personally I think it's beyond hope and will just implode into a convoluted mess....if this is not already the case. It's a City that has and continue to stagnate.

While our business is based here (and Christchurch has has some excellent technical services to support it) it doesn't need to be per se as I transact business just as well from Spot X as I can from Christchurch.  One of the largest problems for us the entire time we've been here has been resonably priced good qualiy housing. I also think this 200K starter house should be possible and ideal. I saw some very nice 3 bedroom houses in Pheonix at 150k! Why can't we also have resonably priced houses?

Without engaging and magnatising people's willingness to overcome risk and adversity for some greater goal the situation is lost and I think that what you're advocating is a large part of the solution. I already spend some of my time in Auckland where the rest of family are but I'm a Southerner at heart and like to remain here if I can.

Another decent series of quakes just rolled through now. I don't mind sticking it out given there's some use in it. But I'm sure once people get their payouts they'll just leave.



You are an absolute hoot and/or loon.....


Steven doesn't actually read anything or engage with arguments, Hugh. He is this site's "Green" Troll - I am afraid most blogs have one. I suspect someone actually pays them to do it.

It was his type that that Mike Adler guy writing in "Quadrant", was talking about. The ones who formed their opinions based on mass chanted slogans, and expect you to form yours likewise.

(As I posted 20 Jun 11, 3:30pm)

As opposed to loony libertarian arguments?  Neither hold water....


Phil Best - please state clearly that you have never, and do not intend to, stand to gain from land development.

I'll bet Steven is not paid by anybody - and I'll give you the tip, I sure as hell don't.

I do note a style though - I call it the Shipley style - which often indulges in that which they would suggets others do.

I smell a vested interest.

And a reactionary, creationist, cornucopian troll.

PDK... You may doing yourself a disservice...

I read Mr Best as a 'genuine' person. It is far more likely that his writings will be hi-jacked by others for their own gain (and perverted en route)..... happens a lot .....of course I am often wrong. 

His writings are highly libertarian....not many ppl would....uh.....hijack fringe....uh.....writings. I can quite accept he's genuine in his beliefs so I agree PDK is probably incorrect this time. Philbest clearly seeks to advance the libertarian agenda at any cost....to anyone....I would suspect this is enough reward for him....I maybe wrong of course....


For Pete's sake, who stands to gain WHAT?

I want "planning gain" eliminated.

I have lots of young friends struggling to pay mortgages, and many other young friends wanting to buy their first home.

Hugh Pavletich wants to restore property development to the once normal status of building stuff, not playing a role in a racket.

The people pointing fingers and asking "what have YOU got to gain", are pointing their fingers in completely the wrong direction.

People who have a problem with developers making money by BUILDING stuff, but NO problem with developers, AND incumbent land owners, AND lawyers, AND consultants, AND councils, making a cut on "planning gain"; are stuffed in the head.

Of COURSE when you want to END a racket, the people currently profiting from it will put up a fight.

The biggest problem is that "first home buyers" are NOT politically organised and NO-ONE is speaking or advocating for THEM. No-one is even telling them the TRUTH. They are bombarded with spruiking from banks and real estate agents and MOST of their well-meaning old friends.

The COUNCILS cut out of planning gain, has been nothing more than a "subsidy of rates". Only a FRACTION of it has been spent on infrastructure.

Now that the boom has ended, the councils are staring at a fiscal black hole. Rates are going to have to go up another whack because the "development contributions" have dried up. This is all about "killing the goose that lays the golden egg".

Yet about 30 billion dollars "too much" has been paid by first home buyers over the last 10 years, involving  ANY home they have bought ANYWHERE; this money has gone to retirees, deceased estates, and banks.

Hugh - it appears performance is regarded as important, now, well maybe:


Indeed Hugh. It will be interesting to see the objectivity of the performance analysis as things progress. Perhaps they could have a look at central government's handling of the situation as well ....

Fiascos you say, well I hope this isn't for the sake pf poor unfortunates who bought here, just recently:


I recall it was Garry Moore's council that consented this. I wonder how things would have turned out if it'd been built to 14 storeys as orginally intended, supposedly? Or, how much better things might be now if it were half it's height, as advocated by many local residents? I wonder if the tax and ratepayer will be on the hook for related possible expenses?

Keep up the good work Hugh, and you Chris_J. Personally I have relatively little to complain about and while I'm not an optimist regarding some aspects, I remain hopeful about others. (Thanks Rev. Tutu.)  However, the misery wrought on others around me and what I'm reading on this blog is stunningly "obvious" and just as obviously being caused by the "obvious," - not necessarily MotherN as she runbles through the eq process - we have no control over her, but the "obvious" could have better control, if it were capable - is it?

This is interesting in an fyi kind of way:


Cheers, Les.


Hugh - it's my understanding that during the public consultaion of the consenting process that local residents suggested such subsidence would be a risk to such a structure on the land concerned, particularly during an eq. Note, the foundations are metres away from the estuary floor, that looks like a moonscape after each decent eq as the liquefaction process takes hold in the sub-surface region. To the south west is Ferry Road, which is apaptly named, given the degree of water that exudes onto it during/after an eq - so I guess given those factors it's performing quite well. However that will be cold comfort for those who have bought the apartments.

Cheers, Les.


I think quite a few will take the money and run.


The Government is set to offer residents on the worst-affected land in Christchurch the option of walking away from their homes with a substantial pay-out.

Radio New Zealand's political editor reports that under the deal, households on badly damaged land would be paid out based on the valuation of their houses before last September's earthquake, as long as they are insured.

The Government would pay the households, allowing them to rebuild or buy elsewhere in Christchurch, or move out of the city. It would take over the household's insurance cover and be repaid later by the insurance companies.

Under another option, households will be able to stay and continue dealing directly with their insurance companies.

They might choose this option if their replacement value cover is higher than the valuation of the property. However, that would leave them living in a suburb which no longer had basic services.

Good call.

Especially if they can get another newbuild home at what is, for NZ-ers, the first time for more than a decade, the price is FAIR because the RAW land on which it is built has not been inflated some tens of times in value.

Nil carborundum bastardii, Hugh.

It's quite amusing seeing the flame wars on the thread - puts me in mind of the age-old solutions which (admin! Hint! Hint!) could be adopted:


But of course Preferences trump Planning, and this is sure gonna play out in Christchurch (remember folks?  That we started off talking about Christchurch?) as people pocket their RV-less-mortgage and ponder their options.

Thing about Urban Limits and the whole squiggle-on-maps and Zones for This and Zones for That (but never Zones for Criminals or Zoneas for P-labs)....is that they cannot Trap people in them. 

People aren't cows in a paddock, waiting for the next milking...

Dese cows have Wings!

On "housing affordability" in the "Demographia" Reports. I have concluded that decentralisation is an additional help to this factor, as well as freedom to develop at the urban fringe.

I also think that decentralisation (i.e. of employment) is a natural trend whether "planned for" or not. The extent to which it is planned for or at least "not opposed", will have an effect on economic performance as well as housing affordability.

I was surprised myself, to discover a few years ago how strong a trend "decentralisation" is in cities in the developed (as well as the "developing") world; and have been noticing since that a surprising number of experts who SHOULD know about this, do not.

Decentralisation is contributed to by the following natural process:

Initially, under the conditions of rural-urban shift, all types of industry locate "centrally". Rising incomes and urban growth cause increases in the price of land, which increases occur disproportionally at the centres of cities. A certain speculative element occurs in city centre land prices even without much speculation occurring in suburban land, which worsens this effect.

Certain TYPES of city centre land users are then "priced out". It is obvious that different industries have different requirements for "space" and abilities to pay for a given square footage - farming at one extreme and international finance at the other. There are numerous uses of land that fall between these extremes. City centres are always "victims of their own success" in natural evolution of urban form, once a certain level of development, income, and land prices, is surpassed.

"Agglomeration efficiencies" are of a variety of types. A SINGLE "agglomeration" of ALL city business land users will be far less efficient than a number of agglomerations of the different types. A SINGLE agglomeration will subject the participants to far greater congestion inefficiencies; "co-location" difficulties (relative to the most relevant co-participants in their particular type of agglomeration); and "cost of land" burdens; than multiple agglomerations do.

Besides the different industry types, there is also the question of "new startups" ability to pay the higher rents of inner city land.

As "nodes" grow and compete with the main centre, "downwards sticky" land prices mean that the main centre's land prices fail to adjust downwards fast enough to prevent losses of activity to the increasing "agglomeration" gains taking place elsewhere.

I think this is an area of research on which academic focus is quite lacking. Restrictive and prescriptive "planning" will have consequences for the whole economy, right down to the KIND of industries and jobs that are lost to other regions/countries.

"Housing" needs to be looked at NOT as "wealth", but as a labour force cost input. "Wealth" needs to be re-identified as "discretionary income". "Housing as wealth" is merely a wealth TRANSFER from the young to the old (even if it is decades of future income of the young which is thus transferred). "Discretionary income" is ultimately the only source of real, permanent, democratic wealth creation.

Tory Gattis of "Houston Strategies" shows the way for academia and policy makers:


That table of discretionary incomes on page 5 should ring alarm bells in all cities with inflated land prices. Note that the cities with the highest land prices are going backwards on average; with NEGATIVE "discretionary incomes". Household debt must be increasing, merely to maintain status quo existence.

Note Gattis' comments about the "feedback effect" of discretionary income.

Only a very small minority of experts are saying these common sense things that all our grandmothers probably understood intuitively.

That Gattis piece is great thanks Philbest. You should send it to Key, English, Heatley, Smith...It's nice and concise, easy for busy men to read.....

High Density ? They haven't tried high density in Chch. What are you talking about?

The 'deadly' part is to do with the type of land they build on, and the quality (earthquake resistance) of the buildings, not the density per se.

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"The Riccarton area will become the major service centre for the more affluent west (median household incomes about $65,000) and the commercial activities must be allowed to expand in to the adjoining residential areas as quickly as possible."



So what sort of compensation can home owners adjacent to the commercial activites expect?. Will it be "bad luck" you've got a big building next door or will the commercial properties have to compensate for causing negative externalites? Will the usurpt sunlight be a gift to the commercial property?

If the discussion is continuing I would be interested in any comments regarding the idea of including the right of the individual to pursue their economic, social (and holistic) development (liberty is very narrowly defined at present) in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (Key government is presently conducting a constitutional review, including bill of rights matters). This is so individuals can challenge bureaucratic red tape in court (remembering the Key government thru orders in council had to cut thru' about 22 statutes to get business up and running after the first earthquake).

I visited ChCh twice after the two major earthquakes because of my concern re bureaucratic red tape might stiffle rebuilding and also because at the national level little progress seems to be taking place and there may be a conflict of interests re Chch.

You may like to read a letter I sent to the St Alban's community centre and published by Scoop New Zealand - it is entitled Global, ethical human rights culture to rebuild Christchurch (see internet). I am writing a book (my third) which will include the application of this approach with respect to Christchurch but as human rights are universal it will be extended to the rest of NZ, even the world.