Opinion: Are we JAFAs prepared to let the Auckland Council's Unitary Plan make high rise schools inevitable or can Auckland's growth be slowed down?

Opinion: Are we JAFAs prepared to let the Auckland Council's Unitary Plan make high rise schools inevitable or can Auckland's growth be slowed down?
Will Auckland's schools lose their green fields and/or become high rise blocks?

By Gareth Vaughan

Several years ago when I was living in Wellington I went out one evening for a beer with an old school mate and a friend of his who was from Christchurch.

In what was maybe a Mainlander's piss take of we JAFAs, or perhaps of people from all three of our main cities, the bloke from Christchurch told us the following joke. What's the first thing a person from Christchurch asks when they meet you? What school did you go to? What's the first thing a person from Wellington asks when they meet you? Where do you work? And what's the first thing a person from Auckland asks you when you meet them? Where'd you get your sunglasses?

At the time I was quite amused. But I think a more likely question from Aucklanders, especially those with kids, planning kids, or obsessed with Grammar zone related property prices, might be: What school zone is your house in?

This was something that, believe it or not, my wife and I didn't give much thought to when the then childless version of us bought our current house in the hyped up property market of 2006. However, the real estate agent we bought the house through, who promoted it as being in South Epsom, assured us that our local primary school, Royal Oak, was a good one.

We've heard nothing to suggest otherwise since. And now that we have two young boys, with the eldest about to turn three, the school issue is growing in importance.

32.5 metre buildings may be heading our way

Hence when I heard Royal Oak was one of the suburbs, or "town centres", the Auckland Council's draft Unitary Plan suggests can have buildings and apartments of up to eight storeys, I did two things. Check to see whether our house, currently zoned residential 6a, was in an area where 32.5 metre high buildings would be allowed. It's not. It's slated to be in a mixed housing zone, which is an area the Council says will "encourage" a mix of detached, semi-detached and attached dwellings, units, town houses, terraced houses and small scale apartment buildings.

Then I looked more broadly around my neighbourhood to see what changes the Unitary Plan, described by the Council as a 30-year blueprint for Auckland's development, was proposing and thought about what this might mean for what I assume will be my children's first school.

As the map below, with the school zone marked in red shows, there's an eight storey zone planned for around the Royal Oak Shopping Mall and roundabout, a "local centre" area that will allow buildings of up to four storeys, plus large chunks zoned for terraced housing and apartment buildings, which will "encourage" the development of apartments ranging from four to six storeys in height.

Now, plenty of Auckland schools are already under the pump. Witness Point Chevalier Primary School. Building work has gone on at this school for seven of the last 10 years, it now has 750 kids, and debate's raging over expanding nearby Pasadena Intermediate School into a primary school, or continuing building at Point Chevalier Primary. The Unitary Plan will permit terraced housing and apartments of up to six storeys in parts of Point Chevalier.

Given the Unitary Plan is a long-term one, and assuming the draft is rubber stamped largely unchanged (it's open for public feedback until May 31), nothing too much is likely to change overnight. Expect perhaps for property spruikers bidding up the price of houses in zones that will allow apartment blocks.

But if you look at the potential impact on my local primary school, if building in the school zone ultimately goes as far as the Unitary Plan proposes, it all points to one very crowded school. And this is a school that's already pretty full. A member of the school's Board of Trustees, who lives across the road from us, told me a year ago that just because we're zoned for the school our kids won't necessarily get in. It has a roll of 600, which is expected to rise as high as 670 by the end of the year.

If our kids couldn't get in that wouldn't necessarily be the end of the world. But I've always assumed my kids would go to their local primary school. And my own memories of primary school, such as they are, largely consist of running around with my friends on wide open green spaces. Even if my kids are still able to enjoy a similar experience, those following them in central Auckland may not be able to.

High rise schools

Last week I interviewed Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse after the launch of the Unitary Plan and asked her about its impact on public amenities such as schools. I asked whether she thought new schools would be built in central Auckland and if so where, or whether existing ones would have to be built upwards. Hulse said that this question "got to the heart of the matter about why we do need to plan for growth." She said the Council would need to work with the Ministry of Education, but then went on to bemoan how Auckland was allowed to sprawl in the 1970s without planning for the likes of schools.

I then fired off some similar questions to much maligned Education Minister Hekia Parata. Her press secretary responded by saying I'd be better off asking the Ministry of Education. So I did and a spokeswoman from the Ministry came back with the following:

"Schools in Auckland City have been reflecting a worldwide trend of having less open space area and more multi level type buildings. Prior to the Canterbury earthquakes there were two inner city Christchurch schools based in commercial office space - Unlimited and Discovery. It is likely that over the next twenty years there will be more similar schools, as a result of more inner city living in Auckland. Students will access local community facilities such as swimming pools and council libraries as part of their normal curriculum activities."

"However, schools just outside the Auckland CBD still enjoy lots of open space and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon. What may happen is, that over the next 20 to 50 years, schools build upwards in order to maintain open spaces for their future students."

So it sounds like high rise schools are the future for central Auckland.

Now there's nothing wrong with them per se. They're common in many countries overseas. And if it means playing fields are retained, it's probably the right call. But it does signify that central Auckland schools, many of which are already under the cosh from rising student numbers, are set for soaring school rolls if - as our Council proposes - Auckland residents live, more and more, on top of each other.

Isn't there a way of reducing the number of high rises and/or slowing urban sprawl?

But does it have to be this way? Does New Zealand really want to have 40% of its population crammed onto, or around, one narrow isthmus?

Auckland Council favours the piece of social engineering known as the Unitary Plan and cramming more people into the existing city. The central government, led by Housing Minister Nick Smith, is talking about over ruling the Council by "smashing" Auckland's urban limits in the interests of housing affordability, which would allow the city to begin sprawling anew.

 But isn't there a third option?

Speaking on TVNZ's Breakfast recently Massey University Sociologist Paul Spoonley pointed out New Zealand's population is forecast to reach five million by 2026, with around 40% expected to live in the City of Sails, which by international standards is an unusually large chunk of its population for a country to have in just one city. Spoonley suggested conditions could be introduced to immigrant visas meaning the applicant must live outside Auckland for a period of time, say five years. He noted two-thirds of immigrants live in Auckland.

And Invercargill Mayor and transplanted JAFA Tim Shadbolt, who was Mayor of Waitemata City when I was growing up there in the 1980s, has called for action to prevent New Zealand becoming "too Auckland centric."

"It's devastating for us when you have a system of population-based funding," he told TV ONE's Close Up.

"We face huge pressure... because although we represent 3% of New Zealand's population in Southland we represent 12% of New Zealand's exports and I think that is a factor that should come into play when handing out funding."

"In Australia, for example, they said new immigrants had to spend two years outside the big cities and it did work for them," Shadbolt said.

I put a question to Hulse prior to my interview with her about whether anything could, or ought to be done to slow Auckland's growth. She said this was an issue that came up at every public meeting the Council's been having but rightly noted it was an issue for central government.

So isn't it time we had the debate at a national level over whether some attempt should be made to slow Auckland's growth and encourage people and business to other parts of the country?

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Building high-rises is not a problem. The problem is who pay for them.
You cannot put pokie machines in each one of them, right?

Your starting to get closer to the real issue.  That is....who gave our leaders the mandate to swell our population  by the figures being thrown around???  Who said Auckland has to grow to such a size.  When is the media going to start focusing on this as an issue?
Inviting the world to come and live here is not something I signed up to. 

That said, a big chunk of the projected growth is through breeding by those of us here already. But many people from other parts of NZ living in Auckland might be prepared to go home if there were better job opportunities on offer there...

That brings the lack of skills dimension.
I, as an employer, simply cannot offer a high pay job to an average guy with BA degree or less.

Gareth - I have just looked at Statisics NZ website and in 2012 in NZ there were 61,178 births. I also notice that this figure has been decreasing since 2007.  The number of deaths in 2012 was 30,099 the highest ever recorded.  So we have the number of births declining while the number of deaths is increasing and currently this gives a total natural increase of 31,079 per year and declining.   Greater Auckland has approximately 31.2% of the NZ population, therefore it's annual natural population increase is 9,716 per annum.  According to the Auckland Unitary Plan the Auckland Popualtion is forecast to increase by 1 million people  over the nest 30 years.  So using NZ statistics figures the natural population increase for Greater Auckland for the nest 30 years is approx. 291,480.  Therefore Auckland City Council must be assuming an increase of 708,520 by other means which can only be via immigration.  
So your assumption that "a big chunk of the projected growth is through breeding by those of us here already" would appear to be based on what?  

It's based on what the council has told me Andy.

Gareth - Thanks for your reply but from the figures that I have researched above it would seem that the Auckland Council are basing their long term plans on false assumptions.  Of course it maybe that they have been economic with the truth.

I don't have the detailed information the council's projections are based on at my finger tips but happy to follow up on it on Monday. Your number crunching is interesting...

Did you know

In New Zealand, renting is considered less "secure" than owning a home. However, over the last three censuses the number of "owner occupied" dwellings in New Zealand has decreased, resulting in an increase in the number of households living in rented accommodation. This indicator focuses on the various types of landlord active in the New Zealand rental market.
You could say that those additional 200k or 33k pa have gone straight into the rental market

I'd be willing to bet once new census is avail that more people now own who used to rent. It has to be; if immigration static, but we're getting this mini boom, then much action is coming from locals buying for first time. They are the ones you have to worry about, because if it gets too hard, or values begin to come down, they will be first to sell and go back to renting. This is what happened in US, and based on anecdotal reports the rental situation here seems to be easing, somewhat validating this. 

Finally, anecdotal becomes something more; Here is NZ Herald reporting on reduction in rents, although they are suggesting it is because owners of rentals are selling them to new owner-occupiers, which is totally counter-intuitive given this would reduce supply of rentals available. No. As mentioned above and on prior posts, this is happening because people who were renting have decided to become owners. Fine and dandy, until they realise renting has become cheaper, which is ironic given it's their action that has pushed prices down and the entry point of ownership up, thereby increasing risk of capital destruction with deflating values. As those fresh owners began to have buyers remorse, the US crisis was underway.

It comes from Statistics NZ. Here's the Auckland Council's Auckland Plan - "Auckland has a population of 1.5 million people, with 1.4 million living in urban areas. The urban core is surrounded by extensive rural areas, covering 80 per cent of Auckland’s land mass, which include large green spaces and numerous rural towns and villages.

Statistics New Zealand has projected medium population growth of 700,000 and high population growth of one million people for Auckland over the next 30 years. Given Auckland’s history of rapid population growth, Auckland Council believes it is prudent to plan for the high-growth projection."

And here's some stuff from Statistics NZ - "2006-base population projections for all area units were produced by Statistics NZ in 2008. These projections took into account the principles of the Regional Growth Strategy as well as information on population and housing capacities and the timing of known and possible future housing developments. The maps in figure 3.1 show that projected population growth to 2031 will generally be at a slightly slower rate than in the past, and that major growth areas will either be in greenfield areas or around the state highways in the Auckland region.
Natural increase (births minus deaths) is projected to decline over time for the majority of area units. Combine this with constant net migration levels and the result is declining population growth (and population growth rates) in the future for most area units. However, the major growth areas will not necessarily have stable or declining population growth rates. Growth rates for these areas will continually change as areas are redeveloped. Greenfield areas will see growth rates increase as housing developments take place but the rates will dramatically slow as areas become fully developed.
While population growth is projected to be slower, growth in the Auckland region as a whole will be higher than in other regions. The current medium-series projections show the Auckland region having the highest annual growth rate of all regions between 2006 and 2031. Annual population growth will average 1.4 percent between 2006 and 2031. This compares with annual average population growth of 0.8 percent for New Zealand as a whole."

And what would they know?
They assume they have to accept the present population shifts.
I would hazard a guess that the numbers by natural growth are compensated by those  of our existing population leaving for overseas.
Get real about where the pressures come from and that is IMMIGRATION
They come in walk from Auckland Airport for a day and stop at their mate's place.
It isn't just the three majors UK, India, China but they are 90% of the problem we are facing.
Who is responsible? It is NOT AUCKLAND
It is GOVERNMENT and lax political decisions from both political hues based on the false concept that more is better  for prosperity. All they are doing really is distributing existing finite resources among a greater number of consumers.
The only growth many businesses will see is by extra numbers and not by their efforts to grow their market.

80% of our population growth in the last couple of decades has been the net inflow of non NZ citizens .

jh - Thanks for that link.  So it is conclusive that the Auckland housing problems have been caused substantially by immigration policy.  

jh: excellent article
Interesting snippet contained within
a senior planning official noted that most of the residential zoned land around greater Wellington was owned by 4 groups, who tightly managed the release of land.

jh: you will note that 90% of the discussion over the past 4 years has been directed towards reacting to and accomodating the down-stream consequences (nb: note Hugh P...), and only 10% has been directed toward addressing the single largest cause .. and here it is, it's now official .. and you will also note that this article received no media coverage at the time of it's publication .. interesting that it should float to the surface now .. Treasury and RBNZ and Government have known ..

If you don't want to live in a growing city, just move to one that isn't - simple. Some of us like the idea of more people. More people equals more connections, more possibilities, more choices, more ideas, more investment, higher productivity, higher wages and higher quality of life (if you like urban life; if you don't, don't live in a city - your choice). Cities are the most efficient way (environmentally, socially and economically) of organising human activity. Cities, and the connections they facilitate, are responsible for almost every human advance. They are the inevitable consequence of the human quest for personal and familial advancement, and always will be. Every bit of planning regulation that inhibits the efficient allocation of urban land in the market is a lost economic opportunity, a lost connection. This plan reduces regulation and opportunities for NIMBY selfishness: it's pro city. Good.  

Lets see how wonderful your city is and how your premise holds up if the oil is turned off. For some reason I think you will fall short on efficiency and a good few of those others you list. 
While not for me, they do have merit for the concentration of intellect, ideas and culture, but there is a limit to where these benefits are outweighed by the inefficiency. The other trouble is the motor car has ruined cities and as ours have developed in this age they are simply all wrong.

Drivers of Economic Growth in Auckland
A report prepared for the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance
"There is robust evidence to support the view that larger city/regions are more productive than smaller ones. In addition to international evidence, several local reports have recently identified these agglomeration benefits. In our view, the best of these reports was written by Motu researchers. It found evidence that “localisation” increases productivity but that “urbanisation” decreases it. Localisation refers to physical clustering by similar firms, whereas urbanisation is defined as the co-location of diverse firms. This is an internationally unusual result, and may suggest that greater attention to clustering is warranted in Auckland.
Given that agglomeration economies appear to exist in Auckland, the size of the resulting benefits is of interest. There is a wide range of size estimates internationally, with most suggesting that doubling the size of a city will increase productivity by between 3% and 8%.
Any productivity boost would help Auckland firms compete more effectively against those in other locations. However, considering the official projection of population growth in Auckland (43% over the next 24 years), even elasticities at the top end of the international range would result in (agglomeration-sourced) productivity gains of only 3% in total, spread over the next two decades.
Moreover, agglomeration also brings added costs. Large cities also contain forces that drive people away, and there is some Auckland evidence of such an effect for older working age people in our report on the composition and scale of Auckland’s economy. The literature identifies land constraints as a key source of forces pushing people away from cities, and show up in land rents, the cost of commuting, and congestion. The resulting trade-off between the costs and benefits of greater population densities is an issue for regional government, impacting primarily on land-use and transport policy. These are matters on which some policy coordination is clearly warranted.
In summary, based on the available evidence, it seems clear that modest agglomeration economies will accrue gradually in Auckland, but they will not be a causative force that will transform the regional economy. Moreover, a larger and more dense population on which they rely also imposes costs, notably in the land markets.

Disagree. Even modest agglomeration economies are better than none. And I think that report suggests a different conclusion: that growth will impose costs (that will outweight the benefits) only if it's not managed properly. The negative forces, such as congestion and commuting costs, oil price vulnerability (or resource use more generally), are all matters than can be managed by sensible planning (i.e. focus on efficient land use rather than unmanaged sprawl) and sensible, long-term infrastructure investment (i.e. public transport). Other cities manage it. The conclusion that Auckland "is an internationally unusual result"  with regard to the productivty impact of urbanisation suggests we haven't managed it very well in the past. The answer should not be to give up on the idea that we ever will, and consign us to being an economic backwater that is only good for putting grass through cows (but only if it rains).

More people equals more connections, more possibilities, more choices, more ideas, more investment, higher productivity, higher wages and higher quality of life (if you like urban life; if you don't, don't live in a city - your choice). Cities are the most efficient way (environmentally, socially and economically) of organising human activity. Cities, and the connections they facilitate, are responsible for almost every human advance. They are the inevitable consequence of the human quest for personal and familial advancement, and always will be.
What a load of... half truths. Where is the mandate?

Where is the mandate for preventing people from pursuing economic and social advancement by limting their access to the strongest labour market? 

Why don't you just go to China, or Sub Saharan Africa?

well put. Many parts of suburban Auckland look like a rural village. If you want to maintain that lifestyle move to a country town.

Auckland should have a few more people so it can have its own IKEA store.  We haven't got one due to lack of ppopulation and suitable space

One big city from Hamilton to Warkworth! The motorway is there.
Southern California coming to a town near you... 
Courtesy of your government (no need to thank us!), we've done it all for you!!
Ministry of Thought.

So isn't it time we had the debate at a national level over whether some attempt should be made to slow Auckland's growth and encourage people and business to other parts of the country?
Yes.  I call it regional planning and it needs to be done by central government.  Instead we have our regions competing against one another - e.g. ports, transport hubs, airports, sporting/conference facilities and general infrastructure.
No one is planning the country.   

What we need is more planning said the soviet commissar.
... All of Switzerlands cantons 'compete' even to the level of taxation, doesn't seem to do any harm. One thing defining NZ is the lack of competition and too much top down. Look at chch (lack of) 'rebuild, everyones waiting for the commissars to make their minds up.

robby - I don't mean planned in the sense of land-use/zoning - rather economically planned. 
Take Auckland University (and Waikato for that matter). Great institutions but what is it about a university that means it needs to be in the heart of a major commercial/metro area?  To me - the traffic it generates alone impacts negatively on commercial productivity.  And students needing accommodation (Auckland Uni has 40,000 - more than 10% of which are from overseas) squeezes out productive/working families. All NZ university institutions rely on their overseas students to return a surplus, and hence be able to adequately reinvest in their businesses - so where these o/s kids get educated - so goes mum and dads money (i.e. overseas capital) to accommodate them.
Why not build a mega campus to house both Auckland and Waikato Universities somewhere between - in the countryside?  Te Aroha, Paeroa, Morrinsville? Or if you want it in a beach environment - Mangawhai - they've got spare capacity with respect to sewerage treatment that's made them broke!  Sending 40,000 folks up their way would be sensible.  What I'm saying is we need to look at where we have spare infrastructure capacity but declining populations - and think of what we can do to capitalise on that spare capacity, because as the roads alone will tell you in Auckland - it isn't there and there's no more room for it. 
Many of the best university campuses in the US are ones where the town IS the university.  They are relaxed places, totally orientated toward bicycle transport, student accommodation halls, lots of bars, pizzerias and wide open spaces with sports fields and tennis courts galore.
PS - and then turn Auckland Uni infrastructure into that so desperately needed (well, so says JK anyway) convention centre.

Yes, the flow on effect is tremendous - agreed. Not only in monetary terms - but in social terms. And the social issues become monetised in respect of transport delays, policing, housing etc.  The money from overseas students would flow on to no matter where the institution was sited. And the bulk funder of the university still remains the central government. The NZ students (subsidised by central government) are the bread and butter - the o/seas ones the icing on the cake.
There would be plenty of youth and vitality without the university... technical training would best remain in the city as there is good reason why students in apprenticeships are located geographically within the market for their training-related services.
I'm not looking at it from a vested interests perspective (and indeed as you point out there are numerous vested interests, such as the casino), rather one that delivers tertiary education at the least cost to society.
If the university did not want to relocate - it could constitutionally choose not to I suspect. But the government then could also choose not to subsidise Kiwi students at it. Kiwi students could still attend but would need to pay the same fees as the o/seas ones - or attend university in a more affordable location.
I admit these are radical thoughts - but then the problems of Auckland and NZ in terms of debt and unsustainability are immense.  And relocating a university is just one example of thinking outside the box to try and rebalance use of our existing sunk capital in infrastructure.

Shifting the universities - interesting idea, and surely with benefits, however I disagree...
Universities are a huge part of a city's civic pride and infrastructure. Auckland's CBD would have its life sucked out of it. And the physical infrastructure already invested in the universities is huge. 

Indeed you'd know better than me. But if the CBD would indeed have "its life sucked out of it" - then are you saying Auckland is to a very large degree a university town?
The other thing that occurred to me - you are exactly the kind of university graduate that ended up leaving Auckland.  Exactly what we cannot afford.  I wonder how many student's parents you competed against when trying to buy a home there.

yeah I think central Auckland IS largely based around its universities (its the same here in Adelaide BTW - both cities are too small to have massive business dominated CBDs). So much employment is decentralised now.

Gee, that's interesting. I had no idea of the reliance of Auckland's economy on the tertiary sector. Dunedin, Palmerston North .. yes, but Auckland - would not have picked it.  It does tell us something.

A quite frightening prospect considering that our universities must be entering the sunset phase following explosive unfunded growth and now increasingly unwanted entanglement within the employment structures of New Zealand industries and institutions.

Yes, just like convention centres, The Melbourne Convention Centre, a not so glowing PPP scheme, which somehow enveloped the Infratil, Morrison and Co empire, has evolved into an enterprise posting an array of continuing losses since it's inception.
Most recently:
The Centre recorded a positive result pre-depreciation and interest expense of $15.7 million compared to $15.6 million in 2010/2011. Depreciation and interest charges in relation to the loan entered into as part of the financing arrangements for the Convention Centre totalled $42.1 million, resulting in a net deficit of $26.3 million. The Centre generated net cash flows from operating activities of $10.3 million and continued to invest in the refurbishment of the Exhibition Centre.

Kate, interesting to see your comments about Mangawhai. My parents live there. A few years ago they were being told Mangawhai was going to be as big as Tauranga, I forget over what timeframe this was predicted though. The problem there, as in most of Northland is jobs.

This is where this Government is getting it all wrong with their planning.  They apportion budgets for infrastructure projects (roading, hospitals etc) based on existing population - which simply exacerbates Auckland's problems.  Take Ryman Healthcare which I believe JK spoke about growing investment and employment here.  Well, they are going to site any new healthcare facilities near access to central government funded healthcare, aren't they?  So the more resources you pump into Auckland's DHB - the more population growth you get with respect to aged care facilities.
If they would announce the building of an aged-care targeted health care facility in Managwhai - one that caters to hip operations and other common problems associated with aging - the private sector development will follow the lead.  They could do this with the budget allocated to the holiday highway.  The point is aged care folks don't generate a great deal of commuter traffic - they settle in these settlements.  What the government is instead doing is giving reason for Auckland city population growth and then planning roads out of it so that residential development can commute from further a field into the city.
It's just madness - stupidity of the highest order when we have spare capacity in infrastructure in other areas of the country, such as Mangawhai - and I suspect many other places.

oops - meant to say, Switzerland is one of the most prescriptively planned places in Europe.
And has one of the lowest rates of homeownership as well;
According to Credit Suisse, only about 37% of residents own their own homes, one of the lowest rates of home ownership in Europe

Right down to the zoned shanty towns, to house  the Vietnamese help, 45 mins out of town.

Indeed Queenstown is becoming that way as well.  They bus in the hospitality workers. A recipe for disaster.

But the crucial bit is the structure of the cantonal system of government and direct democracy, so the citizen actually gets some input into what they want.
Unlike here where a bunch of know nothing bueracrats can ram through whatever they like and there is nothing anyone can do to challenge it.
Under Helen we weren't far away from having nationwide regulations on showerheads
You also fail to point out the tax system in switzerland does not favour home ownership, long term tenancy is common. Swiss banks generally require 20% down.
What would NZ's ownership rate be under those criteria?

Gareth, the more in-depth treatment of this issue is appreciated. I am wondering where this projection comes from? This habit of projecting population to increase infinitely is quite common around the world. In fact, google maps of locations like the American Southwest show vast unpopulated grids in many states. It seems each city or community reaches a point during a population boom where projections are made based on current information extrapolated into the future and come up with wildly 'optimistic' forecasts. Also, it is a common technique among a certain brand of imported 'economic experts' to come in to a country and make a series of false projections which look very professional and official, which the media and the government then treat as gospel. All plans and infrastructure investments are made from this basis, people in various roles can make quite a bit of money either investing or speculating, and then it never materializes. Since  a country's economic health is largely based on perception, a bit of well placed misinformation goes a long way. Real assets are stripped in the end, and countries are left saddled with debt and with unneeded big money projects, like the Dunedin Stadium.
What I am getting at is that we are seeded with various urgent imperatives whose true origin is undisclosed and everyone makes very permanent and long term decisions based on murky data which may or may not prove out. For instance, is it really true that a new convention centre is an economic necessity for New Zealand? This is being thrown around as a fact, as if its verity should be obvious to everyone. There has been a white paper on the inevitable decline of tourism as petrol prices continue to rise. It is impossible to imagine large industries choosing to fly all the way to NZ instead of a hub country not 1 or 2 connections away. And at the same time we have Big Business engaged in this massively contracting global climate of cost cutting and job layoffs- not the kind of climate conducive to expensive junkets to farflung NZ. So where is the basis for the declared benefits?
The fact is that property is availble outside of Auckland from Warkworth to the northern border of the Auckland region. Property has been carved up into parcels for sale right now at costs of around 300k for a good-sized bit of land. But they are not selling. Because they do not come with the infrastructure that people have come to expect from cities and suburbs. The price tag of rolling out such infrastructure all at once to the large extent which Smith proposes leaves the country with a huge debt burden and dubious prospect of winning any of it back. It just doesn't pay. Because of course once the inhabitants are ensconced in their brand new neighborhoods they will start complaining that rates are too high.
There are a lot of unexamined assumptions which are propelling NZ into a state of indenture which implicitly leads to a lack of sovereign decision-making power. There is a well documented method of extracting assets from companies-in the form of hostile takeovers, and from whole countries and governments- in the form of crippling debt, and NZ is following the step by step 'Asset Strip' plan closely. How can NZ fall into this trap when we currently have such dramatic examples of indebted OECD countries to learn from?
Doesn't NZ need to 'get real' and appraise itself more honestly if it wants to make its own way in these times which NO ONE has the answer to?

well said.
Actually there is an outcome but few want to look  and fewer went to take action to minimalise the pain/disruption.
So we do it the hard way.

Millie one of the best comments for a long time...yes there is indeed a lot of BS, having worked in consultancy for a number of years and worked on projections and economic models I can tell you that A LOT of assumptions are often made that are barely credible, in order to support a case. From what I've seen, there's often a lot of dumb thinking too, not just intentional bias....By dumb thinking I mean analysts just looking at the obvious, the superficial, the norm.... 
I for one think the population projections are too high, especially if housing affordability is not addressed.  Population growth will slow unless there are SERIOUS changes. Young kiwis will continue to leave for Aus (the recent planning changes in Sydney are likely to provide housing options that are more competitive than Auckland), a not insignificant number of  older Aucklanders will move out of Auckland, and fewer immigrants will come to Auckland, going instead to cities in Aus.   
However, IF (and its a big 'if') Auckland got its housing policy right, then yeah the projections might be reached

Excellent post.  IMHO there is another way to solve Auckland's housing problem.  Instead of just  building more multi-storey housing, why not take the alternative approach of limiting the population, which is probably the more economical solution.  This easily done because 80% of the population increase is due to immigration which can be easily managed.

We have an un-holy alliance between the greedies and the looney left who object to people saying "my country" or "our country".

Yep, both want the merry go round to continue...both have promised the un-promisable...

A lot of skilled people like to live in big cities. I have a lot of friends that are living in the uk because auckland is too small and boring. A bit more density in selected areas will make Auckland a much more exciting place to live, and there will still be enough low density areas for families and nimbys. And for those that don't want to live in a city of 2 million there are plenty of other cities in nz to choose from. 

All your friends who are in the UK have no choice as to which city they iive in from a size perspective because London is the only city in the UK that has a larger population than Auckland.  I certainly don't envy their lifestyle in that awful place.

London is a great place to live except for the awful weather. So much to see and do.
Some people like a peaceful easy existance and others like a hectic fun existance. 

ahhh, wrong Andy. Birmingham metro area has over 3 million, Manchester metro area has over 2 million, Liverpool metro area over 2 million.
London is a great place - incredibly vibrant and diverse. Maybe not to live permanently if you have a family (unless you are wealthy)

It is an amazing city but so busy that you do really need enough cash in order to avoid the rat-race. Not sure how much that would be - less and less in NZ$/Auck House price terms though.
Better to live down here and visit the old friends up there for a month or 2 round Aug/Sept.

A lot of skilled people like to live in big cities. I have a lot of friends that are living in the uk because auckland is too small and boring. A bit more density in selected areas will make Auckland a much more exciting place to live, and there will still be enough low density areas for families and nimbys. And for those that don't want to live in a city of 2 million there are plenty of other cities in nz to choose from. 

And for those who don't want to live in a city of 1.5 million with easy access to the outdoors and roads that aren't gridlocked everyday, there are hundreds of overcrowded cities elsewhere in the world to get their "excitement".

SK: perfect squelch

Realistically, if Auckland wants to grow much more, it needs to move to having it's centre up to at least a medium density.   This does not mean endless high rises, which have the potential to make what is a dull, uninviting and over commercial city centre even less inviting than it is now.  
It would mean the development of denser low-rise with non-commercialised, shared spaces - parks, plazas, water's edge and such that would hopefully bring some life back in to the central city.   As an example of how to do it right, look at Melbourne: getting up around 4 million people with a vibrbrant centre and recenty voted one of the world's most livable cities.  
Melbourne works, so why can't we get Auckland to be a nice place to live?   My suggestion is that we leave far too much real control in a vastly fragmented private sector, with no overarching plan that can survive a multitude of individual commercial concern's vision of maximising returns at the expense of everything else.

Melbourne: a Parasite city?
Discussion on whether melbourne is a parasite economy growing on people servicing industries or is it also exporting interstate or offshore... (yes to former, no to latter).... Auckland?

The Ecology of Cities
By Stan Rowe
Cities are the rich nodes of civilization, the centers of every nation's culture, its commerce, arts, and sciences, which explains why so much attention is focused on their forms, their structures, and their internal functions.  Much less attention has been paid to outer ties, relating the city ecologically to its larger geographic setting: the primary focus of this article.
Like coral reefs, cities are complex ecosystems: three-dimensional physical bodies, a close fusion of organic and inorganic components.  Analogous to individual organisms, each volumetric city ecosystem depends not only on internal exchanges but also on outside exchanges, relying on the latter for the provision of necessary energy/materials and for the disposal of unnecessary wastes.  The far-reaching effects of energy/material inputs and outputs constitute the ecology of these peculiar human-dominated ecosystems.
Confusion results when the inner functionings of cities, their physiology, is mislabelled their ecology.  An example is the book, "The Ecological City," a collection of essays that largely deals with internal improvements of urban settlements by designing into them more of the undomesticated world.1  True, an inner ecology does exist in every urban setting, but it is not the ecology of the city; it is the ecology of people, the connections between inhabitants and the city ecosystem that envelops them.