Friday's Top 10: Leith van Onselen tackles the housing affordability issue, plus Dilbert and more

Friday's Top 10: Leith van Onselen tackles the housing affordability issue, plus Dilbert and more

Today's Top 10 is a guest post from Leith van Onselen, co-founder His theme today is housing affordability.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to

And if you're interested in contributing the occasional Top 10 yourself, contact

See all previous Top 10s here.

1. Strangling supply worsens housing affordability
Over the past few decades, many of the world’s housing markets have grown increasingly restrictive as urban growth boundaries, minimum targets for ‘brownfield’ development (urban consolidation), up-front infrastructure charges, amongst other measures, have been implemented across jurisdictions.

A key outcome of such growth control measures is that land supply and housing have become increasingly unresponsive to changes in demand, resulting in higher prices and declining affordability.

It is a phenomenon that was acknowledged in 2006 by former RBA Governor, Ian McFarlane, but has fallen on deaf ears from policy makers and the planning profession alike, with devastating impacts on affordability in places like Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne:

Why has the price of an entry-level new home gone up as much as it has? Why is it not like it was in 1951 when my parents moved to East Bentleigh, which was the fringe of Melbourne at that stage, and where they were able to buy a block of land very cheaply and put a house on it very cheaply? Why is that not the case now? I think it is pretty apparent now that reluctance to release new land plus the new approach whereby the purchaser has to pay for all the services up front - the sewerage, the roads, the footpaths and all that sort of stuff, has enormously increased the price of the new, entry-level home ...

2. The volatility machine
Another consequence of urban consolidation policies, and the strangulation of land/housing supply, is that it makes housing markets not just less affordable, but also more prone to boom and bust cycles.

According to Harvard’s Edward Glaeser and Wharton’s Joseph Gyourko, who in 2008 released their seminal study of various literature relating to urban economics:

Recent research also indicates that house prices are more volatile, not just higher, in tightly regulated markets. 

…price bubbles are more likely to form in tightly regulated places, because the inelastic supply conditions that are created in part from strict local land-use regulation are an important factor in supporting ever larger price increases whenever demand is increasing. 

The authors went on to show that in the house price booms of the 1980s and 1990s "price increases were much higher in markets that were more supply constrained." They also noted that housing bubbles generally do not occur in responsive markets:

It is more difficult for house prices to become too disconnected from their fundamental production costs in lightly regulated markets because significant new supply quickly dampens prices, thereby busting any illusions market participants might have about the potential for ever larger price increases.

3. Enjoy the ride up, and the fall down
Glaeser and Gyourko (2008) are by no means alone in their thinking, with a number of US researchers uncovering that the markets that experienced the biggest housing busts were also those with the greatest restrictions on land/housing supply.

Included amongst these reports is the below comprehensive study from Huang and Tang (2011), who sampled more than 300 cities and found that those that experienced the biggest booms brought about by supply constraints also experienced the biggest busts:

In a sample covering more than 300 cities in the US from January 2000 to July 2009, we find that more restrictive residential land use regulations and geographic land constraints are linked to larger booms and busts in housing prices. The natural and man-made constraints also amplify price responses to the subprime mortgage credit expansion during the decade, leading to greater price increases in the boom and subsequently bigger losses. Contrary to prior literature, our findings indicate a significant link between supply inelasticity and price declines during the bust ...

4. Faulty logic
The rationale behind urban consolidation is the concern that excessive suburban sprawl is increasing humanity’s ecological footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as requiring expensive new infrastructure to be built in these new developments.

By restricting urban growth, it is claimed that these ‘costs’ can be reduced via less car dependence and energy usage, as well as more efficient (intensive) use of resources.

The evidence, however, is sketchy at best.

For example, data from Sydney shows that inner city residents consume far more resources than suburban residents who, in turn, consume more than those from smaller cities and towns. While there is an income component to this – higher income residents will consume more than lower income residents – it does highlight one of the many fallacies of urban consolidation policies.  

The sustainability challenge is the challenge of consumption: how much and what we consume drives our impact on the planet.  But presuming that by enforcing urban intensification we will transform ingrained patterns of consumption in favour of the environment may be a step too far…

Ultimately, how we live is more important than where we live.  What the evidence here confirms, though, is that under current patterns of consumption promoting large scale urban consolidation is flawed as environmental as well as urban policy.

5. Planner sprawl
Many of the policies implemented to restrict growth and reduce urban sprawl also tend to have the opposite effect, thus eliminating many of the purported benefits.

Perverse outcomes occur principally because measures aimed at excluding growth from one jurisdiction naturally generates pressure to accommodate it elsewhere, and exurban, underdeveloped jurisdictions beyond the metropolitan limits tend to be more inviting.

For example, the imposition of an urban growth boundary (UGB) can force many lower income households to ‘leapfrog’ the boundary and settle in far flung locations where housing is more affordable. UGBs, therefore, can act to exacerbate urban sprawl and increase car reliance and energy usage, which has detrimental distributional impacts in particular on lower socio-economic groups. The below example is from Adelaide, Australia, but the story is similar in just about every place where growth constraints exist.

In the words of Kieron Barnes, senior planning officer at Adelaide Hills council, “The South Australia Labor government created an urban growth boundary around Adelaide three years ago [2002] with the intention to stop the sprawl and to consolidate the city. But you could have guessed what happened then: People decided to move behind the growth boundary to places like Mt Barker from which they then commute to work in Adelaide [map of Mt Barker in relation to Adelaide shown below]. I was actually lucky to have bought my house there just before the growth boundary was put in place because after it was introduced land prices in Mt Barker soared.” How did the state planners respond? “Well, now they have created more growth boundaries around the smaller cities as well to stop this kind of leapfrogging.”

Talking about his own personal house preference, he admits that he likes having a large house and does not mind commuting to work by car. Asked whether that was not actually contradicting planners’ beliefs in consolidation and promoting public transport, he smiles: “It’s difficult for planners not to behave hypocritically when it comes to personal choices. Many I know live in big houses on large parcels of land with two cars that are not necessarily environmentally or economically efficient."

6. Density in the wrong locations
A related phenomenon to leapfrog development is that by forcing-up the cost of land within a UGB, households budgets are squeezed and they are forced to trade-off both space (smaller homes) and location efficiency (i.e. live further out).

This is reflected in absurdly dense fringe suburban development, whereby postage stamp sections are crammed into cul-de-sacs in patterns that have been mathematically designed to maximise the number of saleable properties. They typically also have narrow streets, minimal number of intersections (as it’s a waste of valuable space), minimal public green space, and no bike paths or walking tracks.

Portland, Oregon, is held-up as a model for urban consolidation in the United States. Yet as revealed by Alain Bertaud, senior research scholar at the NYU Stern Urbanization Project, Portland’s urban consolidation policies have driven increased density at the fringe but not nearer to the CBD.

Market forces would normally increase population density around the CBD and decrease it progressively toward the suburbs…

Portland developed the concept of an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), which limits for 20 years the area within which the city may develop…

Most neighborhoods resist any attempt at increasing significantly the current density and developers are uncertain about demand for higher density residential areas close to the center. As predicted, land prices are going up because of the supply constraint imposed by the UGB, developers respond by developing higher density housing in the vacant areas between the limits of the current built-up area and the UGB…

In the long run, the higher density which is built-up on the vacant land along the UGB will increase the accessibility of suburban shopping malls at the expense of the relative accessibility of the CBD.  This is not the outcome that the planners intended.


7. Urban consolidation will ensure people live closer to work, right?
Most urban consolidation policies are based on the presumption that the bulk of the population commutes to the central core for employment.

As such, there is the desire by planners to limit urban sprawl, which is believed to reduce overall commuting times, resource use and pollution, and the need for costly infrastructure improvements, such as new rail lines.

Similarly, there has been a growing desire by planners to increase the proportion of housing located along transit nodes, such as train stations, again based on the assumption that most citizens commute to the central core for work.

In most modern economies, however, the overwhelming majority of employment is located in the suburbs.

In fact, research derived using data from the Australian census shows that less than 15% of workers in Australia’s major capitals work in the inner-core – a result that is likely to be replicated in New Zealand.

Moreover, this trend away from the CBD is only likely to grow as more employees embrace technologies such as telecommuting. It also throws into doubt expensive new rail investment, which can only ever serve a small minority of the population.

…despite their profile, our CBDs account for a very small proportion of jobs in the economy. Census data for employment has its limitations but even with these limitations in mind, the evidence is emphatic: employment in our cities is overwhelmingly located in suburban locations ...

…what will also come as a surprise is that in the past decade, suburban jobs have been growing as fast or faster than in the inner city, meaning that CBDs are only holding their share, or losing their share, to suburban employment. This has come about despite what has arguably been a decade or two of intensive debate and policy investment into our inner city locations.

8. But doesn’t everyone want to live in the inner city?
For decades now, an array of commentators and academics have written-off suburbia, claiming that households are increasingly choosing to live in the inner city in order to be closer to night life and amenities. Of course, planners and governments have climbed on board, erecting barriers to contain the urban footprint and force more in-fill development to take place in pre-existing areas, often arguing that they are “improving housing choice”.

Again, the data often does not live up to the hype. For instance, the 2010 Census – by far the most accurate measurement of demographic trends – showed that over 90% of all metropolitan growth over the past decade in the US took place in the suburbs. Moreover, the suburbs actually did better in the 2000s than in the 1990s, when they accounted for only 85% of the growth. This result is even more remarkable given the growing use of urban consolidation policies across many US cities.

In any event, if planners and policy makers are so certain that most home buyers no longer want to live in detached houses on the fringe, then why are urban consolidation policies required at all, since consumer preference would drive such an outcome? Why not free-up land supply and planning requirements and let consumers choose for themselves?

In his masterwork A Planet of Cities, NYU economist Solly Angel explains that virtually all major cities in the U.S. and the world grow outward and become less dense in the process. Suburbs are expanding relative to urban cores in every one of the world’s 28 megacities, including New York and Los Angeles.  Far from a perversion of urbanism, Angel suggests, this is the process by which cities have grown since men first established them…

Clearly the data supports a long-term preference for suburbs. Even as some core cities rebounded from the nadir of the 1970s, the suburban share of overall share of growth in America’s 51 major metropolitan areas (those with populations  of at least one million) has accelerated—rising from 85 percent in the ’90s to 91 percent in the ’00s. There’s more than a tinge of elitism animating the urban theorists who think that urban destiny rides mostly with the remaining nine percent matters. Overall, over 70 percent of residents in the major metropolitan areas now live in suburbs…

9. The urban consolidation end game
The UK is arguably the developed world’s most dysfunctional housing market. Thanks to the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, the right to develop has been virtually nationalised and the UK is ruled by NIMBYs. All of the major cities and towns in the UK are surrounded by “greenbelts” that are off limits to development. And the centralisation of government finances has also led to a situation whereby local governments receive little benefit from increased population and development, but bear most of the costs, making them anti-development.

The end result is a chronic undersupply of homes, driving-up both prices and rents. And the situation has recently been made worse by the implementation of the government’s “Help-to-Buy” shared equity scheme for first home buyers and the Bank of England’s “Funding-for-Lending” program, which have artificially increased demand and pushed against the constipated supply system to further inflate prices.

If you want to see the ultimate end-game of forced urban consolidation, look no further than the below video, which shows that when you constrain land/housing supply via planning, you end up with deleterious consequences.

Essentially, Generation Y (dubbed “Generation Rent”) is unnecessarily being forced to live in expensive, cramped living conditions, renting at exorbitant prices from asset rich Baby Boomers or investors, who are gaming the rigged housing system to their own advantage.

10. It ain’t rocket science
Ultimately, expecting to achieve more liveable cities by restricting the urban footprint at the same time as the population is increasing is a contradiction in terms and mutually exclusive.

Residents in pre-existing areas will always oppose development, whereas owners of vacant land within the urban growth boundary will land bank in full knowledge that they do not face competition from land holders on the other side of the growth constraint.

The end result is a further appreciation of urban land values, deteriorating housing affordability (despite shrinking home sizes), development in the wrong locations, and worsening levels of congestion. Those lucky enough to be pre-existing land holders will benefit from the rising wealth brought about from higher values, whereas those yet to enter the market (and future generations) will suffer immensely.

The solution is as clear as day: free-up the supply of land; deregulate the constipated planning system with “right to build” laws; and improving the funding and provision of housing-related infrastructure.

The New Zealand Initiative’s recent report, Different Places, Different Means: Why Some Countries Build More Than Others, provided a number of viable reform options, with the Texas model my preferred approach:

[Texas] is a bustling state, with record rates of economic growth, barely touched by the global financial crisis, and with one of the highest standards of living in the United States. Annual per capita income is $NZ70,000 and the cost of living is low. One of the key reasons for the growth of Texas is its low-cost housing…

There are several reasons for this, and different cities in the state organise themselves in their own ways; however, what they have in common is a liberal land use law at the edges of cities. There is also a very clever model, becoming more widely adopted, by which new infrastructure can be funded and growth allowed.

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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Leith - well said, agree 100%

Well, I disagree 100%. So?
where be the truth, is the issue.
This man is arguing that one type of growth is better than another. Here's Prof Bartlett on that subject:

But we must note that:

Dumb growth destroys the environment.

Smart growth destroys the environment.

The difference is that smart growth destroys the environment with good taste.


So it's like buying a ticket on the TITANIC.

If you're smart you go first class

If you're dumb you go steerage.

Either way the result is the same.




Hmmm  - definitely an academic in want of gravitas.

Mr Hulme - indeed.

No he is not - he is saying that restrictive rules like MUL's make housing more expensive.

No what he's saying is lets build the castle on a peat bog and not quick sand....either means the battlements will fall over. just one may fall over a little quicker, or slower than the other, but fall they will.

#1 and what was the travel distance to work and the cost of petrol/transport?  far less for both.

Steven - with all due respect that's bollocks (sorry if I've acquired a degree of Aussie directness). Read the other parts of the piece that argue that most employment is decentralised, destroying the myth of the majority of jobs being in the CBD easily accessed by inner urban dwellings.
This is a brilliant top 10 and I believe one has to be ideologically blinded to argue against its overall case which I think is compelling.  

The piece argues this, however is the mileage more or less? if I live on the east side but work on the west I actually tarvel far more.
So its a Q Ive seen argued but not one Ive seen supported with data.

Wow, what a well researched and convincing argument. If I was leaning towards urban intensification before, I'm leaning away from it now! I still have one question though, what happens when the entire planet is covered in urban areas? Or will that not happen  because population is due to deline after reaching 9 billion?

Its largely a product of incomes. There has been a growing trend of gentrification o innercity neighborhoods by wealthy whites partly to flee the anomonie of suburbia and partly to be closer to their high paying whitecollar jobs in the CBD and displacement of their previous working class inhabitant who can't afford the rising rents and property taxes. This is particularly true of urban centres such as NYC, Washington DC and San Francisco.

You don't need to worry about urban sprawl eventually covering the earth.  Why not?  Two words:
Zombie Apocalypse. 
The undead really don't care how we populate the country, they're more interested in visiting high density city centres, moaning at each other and eating anybody too fat to run away. 
My investment advice right now would be to sink your cash into a lifestyle bunker out in the Wop Wops and at least one compound cross-bow. 
Then when the Apocolypse has passed you can move into that nice colonial town-house in Herne Bay you've always wanted!

Nah innercity folks can afford high class dining in their local trendy eateries and walk/bike to work whilst the poor have to eat cheap McDs from the drivethrough on the way to work from the cheap perpheral suburbs. The zombies just have to hang outside the suburban takeaway outlets if they want to be well fed.

9billion is for 2050, yet we eat oil which will be gone by 2050.  So we wont get to 9....I wonder even on 8.

9 billion is too late, it needs to start decreasing last week. The world is really only capable of providing enough sustainably for about 3 go 4 billion

I thought he may have a point until I got near the end..
Then he ruined the whole exercise with:
"Essentially, Generation Y (dubbed “Generation Rent”) is unnecessarily being forced to live in expensive, cramped living conditions, renting at exorbitant prices from asset rich Baby Boomers or investors, who are gaming the rigged housing system to their own advantage."
Just another Left Wing Loonie pushing an outdated Marxist policy.

I must admit, being a home owning "Gen Y" myself, I do tire of the assumed generational divide bandwagon.

Big Daddy - I think you have to take that bit and toss it over the shoulder. The BB and Investors are legally making money off the incompetence of the Bureaucrats and there is nothing wrong with that. That is just a free market mechanism at work. If it weren't for the investors and BB then many in the Gen Y wouldn't have somewhere to live now.
Its the NIMBYs who oppose applications for Resource Consents etc that are a huge problem. Too many lawyers and planners taking the cream off the top is by far worse behaviour than a PI or BB. The ones who are really rigging the system are always the hardest to rat out.

another one of the highly uninformed comments one has come to expect from BD, otherwise known as Ollie Newland. 
Leith is actually more to the right / neoliberal.
And he is absolutely right.

One of the best "Top Ten" I have ever read.

One of the worst I've read

Excellent pieces.  Takes apart the Plannerista nicely, and shows just exactly what disastrous economic consequences these damn theories have actually caused.
Should be printed, framed, and sent to every MP, Councillor and planner in the land.
Or something.

When you click in the links and read them they say different things to what the summary say. How is that "excellent"? 

I think prices are lower in sprawl cities simply because they are awful places to live and the demand is much lower. Houston is cheap only because no one would pay decent money to live there because it is a sprawling mess. 
Happy to let the rest of NZ sprawl, but can't we have one decent sized vibrant compact city in NZ rather than a whole lot of sprawling rural backwaters?  People who wan't big sections and sprawl or can't afford Auckland have so many other options to choose from.

JimboJones - If people want to sleep like a battery caged hen who gets time-out in a chook run that is fine. I can't quite see what is vibrant about that scenario but then I'm from the backwaters and used to space. looking at that video clip in No9, I couldn't help but wonder what the size of a prison cell was as a comparison.
It is good that people want different things that's what makes the human experience so wonderful. But when planners use force to implement their desires then the human experience is denied choice and this can cause suffering in not being able to live where they want and within income limitations.

Choice? What % of Auckland's existing housing stock is not freestanding sprawl houses? In how many suburbs is there a housing choice other than free standing sprawl houses? The claim that banning everything except sprawl housing will gives people choices is absurd.

Bob - what are you talking about????
Houses have to be affordable or should I say accommodation. I don't care if people want to live in a high-rise, low-rise, inner-city, suburbia, lifestyle block or farm. Each person has their personal preferences and their budget. It shouldn't be up to planners or Council to dictate where, when, how, why and who.
Let the free market do its homework and supply what people are wanting as this mechanism keeps the price levels steady.
The escalation in house debt has the potential to be very disruptive to the whole NZ economy. I would rather NZ'ers have cheaper housing and more money to spend on other items as it helps to raise the standard of living across the board. When Councils and Government manipulate through the legislative and Policy arenas and lower the standard of living then we all have problems.
If you want high-rise aparments build them and sell them. Or would you rather people were forced to live in the style of accommodation you think they should have? If humans do not have freedom to make their own choices then we are communist.

brilliant response. The case of the Adelaide planner summed up the hypocrisy brilliantly - planners advocating higher density housing 'because sprawl is unsustainable' but then go and live in a big house in the outskirts. Not uncommon from my understanding. 
I'm waiting for Bob to explain how 3 bedroom apartments large enough for families (say 110 sq m minimum) can be delivered in Auckland middle suburbs for under 450K. 2 bedroom 70 sq flats, maybe just if you are lucky and build on the cheap.
In your vision Bob where are the families going to be AFFORDABLY housed. Or should we forget about affordable family housing?
Enough rhetoric, enough idealism, I want detail......
Look forward to your explanation. 

Notice how it's too expensive to build decent high rise facilities...and those that say so live in huge mansions that can be large because meterage is cheap, labour is expensive

MIA you can already buy your dream Auckland 110sqm freestanding 3 bed family house for way under $450K. It's not a problem, it already exists.  The sprawl arguement that building stacks more of this cheap sprawl housing on the fringes brings prices down works how?
The advantage to price, even in the most expensive suburbs, of intensification is so obvious I'm not sure you're serious? 
There's a site in Grey Lynn just sold for $3000/sqm. Currently Mixed Use it will easily take 15 of your 110sqm units. Land cost per unit $170K. Under sprawl zoning it takes 2 units - land cost per unit = $1.2M (Under the unitary plan it will be allowed 4-5 dwellings - about $500k per dwelling).  
There's a new apartment building in Parnell. Land cost per unit is under 5% of the value - negligible. The adjacent sprawl zoned houses have land component 75% of the value.
The land value in desirable areas is a major component of dwelling cost if these are sprawl zoned. If more intensive zoning was allowed it becomes a minor/negligible component (contributions can be more). Land component in cheap areas is already a minor component.
"Enough rhetoric, enough idealism, I want detail......" likewise - who are these Auckland "planners advocating higher density housing 'because sprawl is unsustainable'" and where are the suburban areas that have been upzoned for easy (Permitted) more intensive development?

It's pretty obvious - the only choice allowed under current rules (and the revised UP) in most suburbs is a free-standing suburban house. If you're rich you get one close to town, if not on the fringes. That's not a choice (even though the pro-sprawl lobby will tell you it is). 
I want to live in, say, Point Chevalier but can't afford a free-standing house so I want an apartment... I look on Trademe, but the ONLY option in that suburb is suburban houses. How is that choice?
"Or would you rather people were forced to live in the style of accommodation you think they should have?" Whose doing the forcing - those that would like a variety of housing choices/costs in many locations or those that want to force everyone to live in suburban houses? 

The seclusion rooms or what the public might call 'cells' in the forensic psychiatrict ward I work in are about 12-15m2. That is a bed plinth, a toilet and a shower. They have one large external window for natural light. Due to their size and isolation, patients are observed every 10 minutes and assessed daily by a doctor. The official hospital policy is to try to limit seclusion use, with statistics kept and a downward trend expected.
In the rat hole 18m2 apartments of the above video do the residents need their heads examined? What about the citizens who allow it to happen?

You once saw a video of an 18sqm grotty apartment therefore everyone should be forced to live in a freestanding house. That's a well reasoned arguement.

I wonder how old JimboJones is? Sure when one is young' unencumbered with children, and have disposable income to pay the atrocious rents demanded in these vibrant gentrified smart growth neighborhoods would be tremendously appealing, but if you're older, have children who prefer  physical activity over Facebook and Xbox living in high density neighborhoods without a yard would bex a liability. And we can't all have jobs in IT,  finance, or social media which provide sufficient income to pay those rents.

Anarkist - exactly. When I was 25 I had a very similar viewpoint to JimboJones and Bob, so I understand their view. The reality of families - and an informed understanding of development economics - totally changed my view in my mid 30s.

So whoever's older is more right? 

At a guess I would say that 50% of Auckland households are not family units, yet they are forced to live the 'family dream', a 1/4 acre, nothing but houses around, etc. Can't people without kids just have a few suburbs nearish the city where highish density is allowed or even encouraged? They don't even need to be appartments - terraced housing would be a good option for many, and fine for a family too.
Personally I am getting to the stage where living in an appartment doesn't sound too appealing - but when I was younger I could afford to live close to the city as a student or bachellor. Those days are all but over, with the rich taking up most of the inner suburbs and forcing unaffordable 1/4 acre sections on everyone. If I was young now I think I would just go overseas and find it really hard to come back. I have a lot of friends in London who don't want to come back because they don't want to live 40 minutes from the city with nothing around and no public transport. If we don't cater to these people. Auckland and NZ will become nothing more than a retirement home.
I think a good compromise would be to remove all planning restrictions and let the market decide what to build (with the exception of height to boundary, minimum room sizes, etc). Happy to remove the MULs as long as the arcane restrictions on minimum land size are also removed.  But most right wingers only want a free market when it suits - when their neighbour in Epsom wants to tarnish the area by replacing their 1920's bungalow with three terraced houses, the free market doesn't seem to apply!

I don.t know about Auckland but here in Rotorua you'd be hard pressed to find a  quarter acre section anywhere but the very fringe of the town. I've only recently returned after 8 years away and have been dumbfounded by the changes. Postage stamp sections everywhere and apartments and multiunit dwellings popping up like mushrooms. Personally I don't enjoy high density living, can't get a moments quiet. I guess I've been spoilt with the peace and tranquility of rural living, well except for when its time for chemical spraying in the spring on meighbouring orchards.
I'm actuallylanning on moving back to the provinces at least until I begin studying next year.

Having lived in London I know there are some massive economic benefits to density. In London the local shops have thousands of people within walking distance; in Auckland you would be lucky to have a hundred people within walking distance. 

Excellent top ten.  Pity about falling for the intergenerational jibes though.
#9. Yes.  the UK is truely screwed in housing.  It's just the result of a mindless push for population increase (including immigration).   They need a de population policy.
It's not the fault of boomers.  And 'no development areas' will prove essential in the long run.     

These arguments againt intensification must be written by 'economists'  because they are shortsighted numpties...MUL's and intensification don't enforce energy efficiency or sustainability but they do set the groundwork required for it to occur, you cannot effectively retrofit sustainable transport options to a sprawled city (though Len is trying with the benefit of the public purse) but you can plan for the future.
When is the best time to plant an Oak tree, fifty years ago, the next best

There's quite a bit of spin here - for starters:
1: strangling supply is just as much about up & densification as out.
2. and 3. If Glaeser is anti-density and pro sprawl as inferred why has he since written books like "triumph of the city" saying exactly the opposite? Amazon it - " In this revelatory book, Edward Glaeser, a leading urban economist, declares that cities are actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest (in both cultural and economic terms) places to live. ". There's whole chapters on how how bad cheap texas towns are.
4: The reports linked clearly show that denser urban forms are more sustainable where consumption is equal. That's the opposite of what this article infers the reports say.
The "new geography" pro-sprawl propoganda site actually has an articles demonstrating that denser areas produce less pollution per person than sprawl areas - then explains that sprawl is therefore greener becase although it pollutes more the pollution is more spread out. Google "new geography" "wendell cox" and "nutter"
etc. etc.

Bob - do some homework.
#2: Glaeser is not anti-density nor pro-sprawl, nor the other way around. His viewpoint is a lot more nuanced, intelligent, complex and contextual than such lazy pidgeonholing would suggest 
#4: there are some good Aussie studies showing that medium density housing and outer suburban detached housing are generally similar in their overall enviromental impact, when measured on a per capita basis (rather than per household basis). Medium density housing typically has higher embodied energy, but conversely typically uses less energy for heating and cooling. Its transport energy use is slightly better on average
Like Glaeser I am not ideological on the sprawl vs density argument. I live in a semi detached townhouse in an inner suburban location, which ticks the urbanist boxes. I prefer to live this way than in a large house in far flung suburbs. But I can only do this because I earn quite a good salary and the inner suburban townhouse I live in in Adelaide is reasonably affordable (just a bit over 400K).
If I was in Auckland there is no way I would have the luxury of living this way - I could not afford it (700K?). So I totally respect the need for WELL EXECUTED peri urban development to provide affordable family housing.    

#2 so it's ok for Mr Leith to to insinuate Glaeser is pro-sprawl, but "lazy pigeonholing" to quote from the abstract of Glaeser's own book?
I thought you was an architect with some years of experience? I thought professional salaries were higher over there? 700k shouldn't be a big deal if you been in the industry a while and ignored most of the advice on this website over the years?

Bob - you are an [-------], idealistic and hopelessly ill informed [-----] and frankly all over the place.
yes I am an architect by training and have 17 years plus in and around the development sector, including working on more than 30 medium and high density projects, and probably twice as many feasibility studies. But clearly in your view that doesn't count for much if anything. Because you know it ALL
I can't be bothered wasting any more time
All the best, keep dremaing with your pie in the sky 'high density for all' (weren't you talking up the supposed saviour - the Unitary Plan - 6 months ago? Fat chance)
sorry for the candour, thats what a good shiraz does - but enough is enough 
[edited to remove unnecessary insults. Ed]

Don't worry Matt, no offence taken whether meant or not. It's just a blog site to discuss ideas.
As you correctly observe I need to "do some homework" being "..idealistic and hopelessly ill informed" and still cling to outdated idealistic ideas that you abandoned "in [your] mid 30s". As you admit you do have "an informed understanding of development economics"  so from now on I'll defer to your greater experience and wisdom. I apologise for my ignorance.
Yes I championed the Unitary Plan Draft and am very disappointed with the Proposed UP (which is a different document). Never argued for "high density for all" rather against "sprawl housing for all" just to be clear.
One last thing I'm really not understanding - please enlighten me. I've also been a salaried architect for around 17 years. While you've been working in the land of milk, honey, big salaries and low costs I have always worked in crappy low wage Auckland. I've purchased property based on my silly notions that only intensification will provide affordability in central suburbs (and that it probably won't happen), whereas with your larger brain & income you've been able to make better choices.
So starting from same point with same career how come 17 years later you live in a $400K townhouse in Adelaide 'cos you can't afford the $700K equivilent in Auckland whereas I could live in the $700K Auckland house (if I wanted to downgrade) plus buy the 400k Adelaide house all mortagage free? I don't understand - I must really be a thicko.

Why is the solution always "more"? More land, more electricity, more roads, ...
When "less" seems to have the potential to make our lives far more pleasant. Less people, less consumption, less driving. Leading to more green spaces, more free time, more health, etc.

When you believe that everyone must live in a freestanding house, in a nuclear family, with 2 cars, every trip must be made by car (like over 90% of Aucklands housing stock), global warming doesn't exist/isn't our fault/would be a good thing, there is no end to fossil fuel supply or the atmospheres capacity to deal with them etc. then more is the only solution.

Blame the planners rigid adherence to 1950s planning conventions which oppose multi use zoning and today's pattern of housing and transportation is due to hijacking of the Auckland City Council by the Queen Street Busines Asociation in the 1950s. They used their position to dictate the planning of the Auckland motorways to shift the prior polycentricc urban pattern toward the modern monocentric one, because they wish to funnel traffic and therby economic activity towards the properties they owned in the CBD.
Whats the point of increased density when your poor and you're forced out of tese now in demand inner city neighborhoods, because youcan't afford the rents within these urban growth boundaries yet you  have to spend to spend greater amounts of money on fuel to get to your job cleaning the offices of the smart hip young thing who've displaced you?

As I understand it even Adam Smith acknowledged hundreds of years ago that after a big burst of prosperity from capitalism, never ending growth from finite resources was impossible, and eventually a "steady state" would have to be realised. Was he a luddite?

Essentially, Generation Y (dubbed “Generation Rent”) is unnecessarily being forced to live in expensive, cramped living conditions, renting at exorbitant prices from asset rich Baby Boomers or investors, who are gaming the rigged housing system to their own advantage.
Very pour journalism, completely lacking objectivity.....the obvious missing word..?
some...Dear Guest, the word some at the front of (asset rich Baby Boomers or investors) Lookie see......Essentially, Generation Y (dubbed “Generation Rent”) is unnecessarily being forced to live in expensive, cramped living conditions, renting at exorbitant prices from some asset rich Baby Boomers or investors, who are gaming the rigged housing system to their own advantage. now don't that look way better ?
Being forced is also inflamatory by in live here and pay me hippy or I'll kill you and your family....? just drivel and as absurd as my parody...
And if your not Bernard , it's a bloody good impersonationof him.

No .. no bernard in disguise .. he's melbourne's version of christchurch's version of huge pavletich .. but they both enjoy the services of the same attack dog

Here is a wild thought, why doesn't the Govt support, through tax breaks etc, businesses setting up in the regions instead of the smokes?

They already do Murray86......heard of James Cameron..?, but if you mean actual business, not quik flick kick back tourism trickle down business.....then you'd need someone who can relate to small to medium business enterprise.
 We are currently on a path to monopolies with Key as an advocate....the whole idea of monopoly is to stomp out the small player or disincentivise him/her from starting.
 Jokes aside good thought Murray.

Like I said the other day, the National Party is like the Labour Party, both far removed from their roots. National used to be for private enterprise (not unfettered global financial capitalism) and SME's including small farmers (not big corporates) 
Key is the local consul of the anglo-american financial empire and as far removed from a Holyoake as you could get. Regional development and small but prosperous local businesses and communities isn't very exciting to global movers and shakers or their minions with eyes set on lucrative post political appointments

for SME you still need to have a market.  Costs in NZ for everyone, particuilarly interest, energy, wages and taxes (direct and indirect eg RMA) make it unviable for any but boutique enterprise

Jeez , its easy to pull a Kiwi's chain! Just express an opinion about house prices and its associated issues , and BAM  you get twenty comments in 50 minutes .
I wonder if Len Brown has ever heard of Leith Van Onselen ?
Maybe Len  should concentrate on Aucklands real problems instead of being distracted by girls his daughters age .

It's a sensitive issue because it hugely affects our lives.  As the sprawl-only-campaigners  ideology leads to higher prices in desirable areas, more traffic congestion, pollution, less public transport, less housing choices etc. 

Social engineering to idealogical goals shown to be, poorly thought out, badly executed and full of unintended consequences.  Nice.
People with ideological band wagons should stop making rules for everybody else to live by and be content in eating their own dog food.  Or simply move to North Korea, the nirvana of low carbon, low pollution, low energy lovers everywhere.
God save us from the nightmare of others good intentions.

Silly statement, Ralph. You - like so many scared folk - try and put those who warn, in the category of those who advocate. I understand the fear, but that won't change anything. Good on you for understanding that North Korea was a result of energy-supply cessation, not of a particular ideology. Note that Cuba did much better. Certainly climate had someting to do with that, but intelligent dictatorship beats both unintelligent dictatorship and democracy, every time, if you need to effect change.
We will end up, within a very few decades, on renewable energy. The first out of the blocks will be the best prepared, assuming no war(s) or pandemic(s). Only the stupid don't plan for the inevitable.

if they are really smart .. they will stitch up an agreement with the taupo tribes and start dredging lake taupo now before it becomes an urgent task .. just kidding

No need the Taupo rate payers are coughing up for a gold plated filtration plant designed to clean the lake - my inheritance is not so slowly moving towards being declared worthless as rates rises inexorably diminish it's utility.

you better keep your fingers crossed that there is enough snow-melt in the coming years to give you something to filter

LOL - hoping Ngati Tuwharetoa elders have enough sense to demand that the lake bed, which they claim to own, retains enough clear stuff to give it cover and worth.

To your narrow ideological world view I am sure I look silly, to me that simply underscores the incompleteness (and probably the inaccuracies) in your view.


Every ideologue thinks their issue is the centre of the universe, if that wasn’t the case the very word would not exist.


I don’t deny the energy profile of mankind is changing, I just don’t place the level of importance or panic to it that you do.  Sadly for you, my lack of fear is the problem.


Look, go off the grid, start a worm farm and covert your car to methane if you want to.  Good luck to you.


But I have a problem with any narrow mind that tells me it can’t be wrong and legislates its ideology at everyone else’s expense.  Which, I suggest to you, is what is being described in the above article.

"intelligent dictatorship beats both unintelligent dictatorship and democracy, every time, if you need to effect change."
Really Murray -PDK! You are back to green fascism. Who would define 'intelligent'. You? Your ego is now supersized. I thought we had embarrassed that out of you.

Brendon - nope. Read up on The Tragedy of the Commons, and Jevons Paradox. Mesh the two.
Then stand on a street corner during rush-hour, and study the passing faces. You think there's enough there to vote intelligently, ie to weight the long term over the short?
The difference between Cuba's reaction and North Korea's to energy curtailment (note Ralph upthread missing the point that energy is the ultimate underwriter of everything - no arrogance/ideology required) was the intelligence of their leaders. Well worth the comparative study

PDK my reply is below.

Suburban sprawl was every bit as much of an act of social engineering as smart growth was. It arguably reqired more government intervention than smart growth. Displacement of prior settlement patterns, public works on an immense scale (roads, electricity, sewage, water), State Housing, motorway construction which often required the demolition of previously existing neighborhoods on the route.

Well quite.  As if a change in the wind direction is the solution to everything.

I'mi not aruing it is. In fact I oppose Urban Growth Boundaries because suburban sprawl is merely a product of prexisting planning policy which are holdovers of the 1950s urban development regime and a mismatch in priorities between local.councils and the NZTA.Urban growth boundaries wouldn't need to exist if councils divested themselves of their fixation on sinfle use zoning and allowed residents of all types of occupations reside in the same area they work in not just high income yuppies.

Leith’s message, in summary, is restrictive controls make housing more expensive. This is not a high density vs low density debate. Los Angeles has high and low density, apartments and suburbs, has restrictive controls, and high land prices, just like Auckland does. Houston has high and low density, apartments and suburbs, has low restrictive controls, and low land prices. Let people build up and out, let houses be built at the rate of demand in real time, let people decide for themselves what type of lifestyle they want to live which they can as a group covenant to protect. Prices would come down and those that wanted to live closer in can now do so for less cost.

Like it or not, NZ cities need restraining - simply becuse they are built in areas or prime agricultural land.  Every house, suburb, street and car-park created diminishes our ability to produce real stuff. 
Sprawl advocates...please tell me at what stage you would curtail such sprawl...or do you consider that it can go on for ever?

I live in Canterbury and its population is 0.55 million compared to Netherlands 16.8 million, they are both flatish and about 45,000km2. So although not an advocate of more people coming to Canterbury I do not think we need to panic about population growth just yet.

Except we are trying to feed millions more than live there, kind almost like having an invisisble popultion explosion, so maybe we do have to worry about population growth

Brendon - where does that come from? That's a Hughey comment. Lacks relativity. Include the respective energy, food and resource-supply areas and siting, if you please. Otherwise you're just cherry-picking convenient numbers - which is what the spinners do.

PDK my answer is down below using the example of early fossil fuel Ireland, it comes complete with population, area, food production and who suffered from famine and who didn't.

Referendum poll: 69.3% against partial state asset sales

A great top ten by Leith van Onselen. Macrobusiness has been doing a superb job at creating insightful economic commentary to the otherwise ponderous and generally predicable media apologists to the status quo. 
Spot on Dale "let people decide for themselves what type of lifestyle they want to live." As Dale has pointed out you can have a city grow up and out at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive.
The objections to ending artificial land scarcity and allowing a true free market in land are often presented as dramatically as possible as series of false dichotomies, assumptions and misrepresentations by of course the large cabal of entitled beneficiaries. I have lived in both inner cities, the suburbs and the country and all have their possibilities depending on what suits your own requirements and circumstances at the time. 
It is a reductio ad absurdum argument to say that to allow organic growth (pejoratively called sprawl) is to want it 'to go on forever'. Obviously infinite growth is impossible and that's not what is being proposed, it's the nature of artificial land scarcity and it's advocates motives which is being observed and questioned. Currently approx 1.9% of NZ's land is urbanised (Stats NZ). If 'sustainability' was truely a concern then lifestyle blocks wouldn't be allowed to gobble up arable land and immigration would be limited....can anyone explain why this isn't the case? Actually why allow people to live here at all?  
Regardless of the fact that you can live in the country and still bike to most NZ cities and towns in 15-20 minutes. Amazingly there's also been the evolution of the 'digital age' which has altered the paradigm of working and the nature of commuting which seems to escape the 'Smartgrowth' zealots. We're not all commuting into the old CBD/factory paradigm. Let's not pretend that Smartgrowth is largely an artificial constraint and a euphemistically cloaked power and money grab mechanism for the inside traders, council empires, speculators and land bankers. All it has produced is exaggerated overheads, disenfranchisement and a handbrake on our economy, if not a total global economic disaster zone for the majority via the global property bubble. The gate keepers and rentier beneficiaries of an economic apartheid like to pretend they have everyone's best interest at heart, which is absolute BS.
Of course there are the howls of protest by the usual suspects. The vested interests using wild assertions, strawman arguments and ad hominem attacks to justify their own self interests and to shut down genuine debate e.g. Olly's "Left Wing Loonie pushing an outdated Marxist policy." Really Olly? identify complicit enablers, constraints and market mechanisms in order to address the issue of affordable housing, are examples of 'outdated Marxist policy'? It of course has nothing to do with you and the other beneficiaries of a distorted tax system wanting to maintain preferential bias to property speculation? Of which a large proportion are baby boomers. Arguably this is a rational response to distorted economic incentives but non the less, a complicit majority does make something right. Of course the corollary to that is the predominantly younger generations are rationally 'p-off' at their economic betrayal and social disenfranchisement globally as well as in New Zealand. C'est la vie, vive la revolution....
As Leith has pointed out "unnecessarily being forced to live in expensive, cramped living conditions, renting at exorbitant prices from asset rich Baby Boomers or investors, who are gaming the rigged housing system to their own advantage." This seems a clear statement of fact but doesn't of course rule out exceptions. They maintain political control because of their numbers and have largely conferred and consolidated economic benefits to their own generation which has broken the intergenerational social contract and want us to remain entrapped in a convolution of debt, toll booths and rentier tributes.

Lots of great comments here, especially in the first paragraphs. Thumbs up!

Singaporean interests given permission to buy 23471 hectares in the South Island.
Lets  buy a section today because soon there will be no  land left.

Pretty much seems to be the default setting now for any sales. I have emailed John Key asking him when he thinks he might put the brakes on it, seeing he doesn't want kiwis to become tenants in their own land. I also asked him if he just said that to throw us off the scent
I will not hold my breath for a reply, as I am hoping that so many thousands of others do the same - please

Well, if Kiwis will insist on -

  • consistently importing more than they export
  • consistently cashing in the rising equity in their biggest investment (homes) to do economically useful stuff like take overseas holidays
  • consistently taking on student debt in return for qualifications that return no real lifetime income increment
  • consistently moving house every 7 years and handing over 5% of the price to intermediaries

then ya gets:

  • deficits
  • which ya then has ter Borrow for
  • from Offshore because Onshore tends to dis-Save

and guess what?
The IOU's come due.
A friendly warship or three steams into one of yer Harbours to make sure the Collateral's hanging in there.
And quelle surprise, there are Bargains galore for cashed-up Furreners.....

Yeah an interesting piece...
v "oh its hasnt happened yet so its all OK"  side of the argument.

Britain used up all its natural resources to overly increase its population, coal is gone, its oil is 50% has nothing of real value except financial smoke and mirrors and lots of mouths to feed.
America is going the same way and texas is leading that charge.
"America's safety net is fraying under the weight of ballooning Social Security and Medicare costs"
really? uh no...
So when the auther is this deluded/politically baised, then anything else he pen's has to be queried.

Yet china would appear to have built freely as you wish, and yet its in dire straights.
that should be telling you something.

Hugh wants NZ to have the 'right to build' not necessary just to build blindly. In China you do not have the right to own let alone build. Chinese 'capatalism' is so different to what we are familiar with I'm not sure you can make comparisons.

I don't think China is an easy mkt to figure out....
At first glance  it looks like a bubble with over supply....   but
I understand there are still 200 million people who are expected to move to cities over the next few yrs....
That is a staggering figure.

1st class article. I hope you read it Bernard Hickey - twice!
...and it now needs to be turned into an advocacy video, I believe. I would do it myself if I had the damned time! (And that video should be streamable from people's smartphones, after clicking on one of those barcodes they now use. This is where modern advocacy is going go, I believe).
Anyway, one point is that forced-intensification is in fact sustainability policy, though indirectly. It makes housing so expensive, and cities so anti-child (in structure), that people don't/can't have many (or any) kids in them. In turn it makes for less consumption by helping to kill off the human race.
I prefer other "sustainability" methods myself.

Youll be referring to the unsustainable kind?

What concerns me here is that there is zero balance.  David has given MacroBusiness (aka Hugh Pavletich in drag) total licence to trot his arguments across all 10 items, with no attempts at providing any contrary arguments.  So of course it is convincing!  So was Mein Kampf if read in isolation.  When I read 10 at 10, I look for a balanced view of situations.  There is no way in the world that a reputable publication such as The Economist would ever sanction this approach.

I completely disagree. I think it is great that guest authors get the chance to develope a cohesive argument. I think this is something missing in the NZ media scene -think TV with its 2 minute reports and constant interruption interview style. is not biased because different authors are chosen every week with differing viewpoints. For instance Murray Grimwood aka PDK has done an excellent top 10 some weeks ago.

and indeed that that argument is open to rebuff.

No David C is correct, think of it as a "Theme" PDK published 10 pieces, so here are another 10.
Your opportunity to debate them out in the open.

In fact, a couple of years ago, The Economist did have a discussion on this very topic.  While they said that there indeed arguments that housing bubbles could be generated by constrained land supply, there was also evidence that they could be caused by other factors, eg excessive $$ supply, stimulatory interest rates etc.  I think from memory that Spain was given as an example.   So the issue is not a simplistic as the blog suggests.

The article is right on. The author of the article is well aware that once you cap the supply response, the buyers access to credit will government how high the artificially restricted market will climb. The foundation of the problem is the restricted supply.

#9 thats why they have room taxes for the poor and unemployed

Watch Christchurch, it's a natural experiment. The Press recently published a high level  population change map based on the recent census data. It shows that Christchurch is shifting away from poached egg to cigar along the axis of SH1. I would now define Greater Christchurch as Amberley to Rolleston even as the eastern and southern suburbs depopulate. I look forward to someone crunching the numbers at mesh-block level to see where development is occuring in more detail.
Essentially people have already voted with their feet. Even if there was an element of coercion I don't expect a reversal anytime soon.
Tellingly NZTA have embarked on an expensive and largely unnecessary upgrade to a motorway intersection well north of Cristchurch even as the northern corridor within the city clogs up to breaking point. while the government ra-ra's its rebuild of the central city people are living, working and recreating somewhere else that's more workable.

Vast swathes of the light commercial and industrial business have already shifted to wigram which I didn't realize till recently is now connected to the southern motorway extension.


on another note NZ is not in the business of feeding millions of others. We produce luxury food for the select few. We don't need every square cm of land to do that. Besides which a small handful of food scientists, engineers and marketers will get us a better return on our food products than more tractors, more paddocks, more irrigation

People could of course choose to live in places other than Auckland where there is a surplus of housing.
Invercargill, Dunedin, Timaru, Oamaru. Anywhere in the South Island (Te Wai Pounamu) other than Christchurch.
It is not necessary to live an a crowded urban environment in New Zealand.

Hughey, do your homework. Stop cherry-picking.
How much do we. and they, consume? Food, energy, resources, natural capital? Remember to include the natural capital involved in say, China's smog, aquifer depletion and water-issues induced by producing the items we buy from them.
Where does it all come from? How long will that system last? What is the linchpin to it all? Who will be better off in the long term? Even 4 million, is probably over NZ's permanent caqrrying-capacity, given that the planetary figure is 1-2 billion.

PDK, Ireland is about 80,000 km2 so roughly double the size of Canterbury and one third the size of New Zealand. Early in the fossil fuel era -1840 they had 8 million people and were exporting food to the UK for a further 2 million people. This was sustainable until the potato blight came. The poor in Ireland suffered, not the rich in the UK who continued to receive regular imports throughout the famine. Half a million people died and more migrated away. Ireland's population has never recovered.  
The problem is not energy or food production but basic rights including democratic rights and freedom from exploitation.
One of reasons I am inclined towards Oliver Hartwiches German/Swiss proposal is that I believe that Local government receiving more tax revenue from local residents and businesses will attract a diverse spectrum of business to NZ making us more resilent to future challenges such as the ending of the fossil fuel era. But Hughs Texan model is a close second and easily beats our current exploitative system.

Thats growth Brenden, or a model that locks it in even more "securely" with local authorities discounting taxes for corporations in order to attract them.  So when the growth fails the problem and fall over is even bigger.  You can look at the US states for that....there we see that the tax burden falls on the greater inequality.
"resilient.....ending of the fossil fuel era" you really dont get it at all....not one bit. More ppl on less resources per day does not make us more resiliant, it makes us less.  When we are "poorer" what are all these businesses going to make and sell? to whom?
Our real wealth is our natural resources much of it in the ground and thats not only a per capita wealth but a multi-generational per capita wealth. so more ppl imported today makes each of us and future generations, poorer.  Those advocating more ppl really mean more $s for some of the present generation, again ineqiality is higher and across generations.
Hugh's texan model is a farce, its un-restricted growth on a planet thats finite, at best its can kicking....classic "grow out of the bust" that worked until 2006 more or it wont work...not for the periods of time a mortgage runs for.
Funny how you see what we have as exploitative, but other systems less so. Mainly because you discount to zero future generations, the quality of life in NZ  (low pollution etc) and our one time resources.
The irish potato famine is interesting, we sort of have it here, our natural wealth is being sold overseas for the benefit of a few or the fact that Fonterra etc insists we pay international prices for cheese etc.  Im kind of hoping that as things deteriorate that with democracy and common man's right to vote that we'll shut that off to ensure our own well being and stability of our system/nation.


I'm refering to this kind (and I know you won't read it. So this is really for others).

...and if population control is ever eventually required, it should be done with direct caps on how many children people can have. It should not be done by conditioning and financially starving people out of the option.

Brendon - lacks logic. The poor were fine until the potato blight, and the rich just continued BAU at their level. Sure, they out-clouted the poor - as is happening now globally/fiscally/resource-wise - but don't confuse the issue of scarcity with a social vis-a-vis one.
Andrew Atkin - if?  Population is overshot by a magnitude of perhaps 4x, and the fact that the bulge is in the reproductive age-group suggests it will get worse. Do you not look ahead? I agree with your 'how' it should be done, but if you continue to attempt growth past the gaussian peak, that option is off the table.
And - for the record - I read everything.

Today however we have a wider voting base, though I'd note in the USA at least the drive from the right wing to remove that right to vote and even greatly increase the cheap labour pool via prison population increase.  The return of slave labour, maybe even debtor prisons.
So I wonder on how long the BAU aka irish potato famine" could last within a democratic system today. Take Greece as an example of fringe loopy parties gaining voter share as the mainstream parties fail to give the voter the option of change.  Or the worry of huge riots as those that have nothing....the numbers are greatly different.

So you expect the already converted to greet this dubious piece of libertarian "opinion" with unquestioning open arms, yes probably. Thats just it, ppl want to believe so they will believe if you give them the opportunity.
Interesting.......only 20% less efficient, micro-cars etc....really? 
Utpopia or libertarian la la land? latter I think. Zero appreciation of the costs to do this, run and maintain this idea.
This is the same as Hugh's "woodlands" make believe development that puts houses inside a more leafy but still artifical environment...disconnected from reality.

Steven - no. Atkin is far smarter than Hughey. I read that he gets population, is engineer enough to get ff depletion. and probably gets biodiversity.
That's hell-and-gone ahead of the cluster-sprawl, never-ending-growth twits.
But - I would repeat to AA the piece I put up at the top of the thread: there is no impactive digfference between smart growth and dumb growth, in outcome terms. I've done exactly what Atkin advocates - got enough ground, set up biodiversity and set up sustainability, built an energy-efficient house, all that. The problem with that is that I've been indulging in 'inverted quarantine'.
Which is where my 'tragedy of the commons' comment to Brendon came from.
Given that we will use all the fossil fuels in an increasingly-dysfunctional attempt to keep 'going', and that the results will be mass die-off, perhaps it doesn't matter. Proactively, though, AA should start at the top of the systems pyramid. First goal has to be sustainability (or all bets are off, the only diffo being 'time'). Globall we have 50% urban, and less than a decade lead-time. That says optimisation of urban habitation will happen. It also says more people per food-production acre will happen, The AA approach helps the latter.
Ultimately, the prerequisite for sustainability is growth-based  fiscal collapse. It's interesting where your thinking ends up.......

AA does in some ways, however the idealist layout would absorb huge energy.  I expect we'' see some of this but from ppl with "money" failing to grasp that the space around them will need cultivation by them.  The poor who I suspect are more open to cultivation, wont have the space.

"It should not be done by conditioning and financially starving people out of the option"  This however is what we are choosing / have chosen by ignoring the paradgym shift and the time needed to cope with it.
You also ignore that Nature doesnt care it simply is...

PDK read some history -I suggest Replenishing the Earth by James Belich it will be in your local library. Ireland's population built up over the centuries to 8 million in the pre fossil fuel era until it reached its peak in the 1840s. Ireland's land mass is one third of New Zealand's. This seems to indicate that New Zealand can sustainably feed itself even in a post fossil fuel era.
In the 1830's and 40's a structural change occurred in Ireland's economy whereby it switched from grain to meat exports. This was because the fossil fuel driven steam ships allowed livestock to be delivered efficiently to UK markets with little loss of condition. The problem for the Catholics in Ireland was they were land poor and the new livestock farming did not require as much labour as grain harvesting did. So they were marginalised to subsistence small plots, highly dependent on one high calorie crop. For Irish Catholics the gamble on pototoes went bad.
But Ireland could have look after its people during the famine. Food for 2 million was being exported while initially only 1/2 million died of starvation and 1/2 million fled the country. As I said before the problem was exploitation and I think in NZ we have the same problem. Not a problem of energy or food production.
The question is do you support the exploiters or the exploited?

Nope. Keep the issues separate, and don't jumt to conclusions. The "8 million" were not 'steady-state'. That was a growth paradigm, and will have been accompanied by a draw-down of natural capital. Forest cover, biodiversity, peat-bog/wetlands, erosion, acidification, will all have been part of that growth. The 8 million cannot be assumed to be a sustainable number, merely a peak.
I agree re exploitation - the only way to be a sustainable society is by practicing altruism - but if the ship is sinking, it doesn't actually matter how kind first-class are to steerage, and it won't alter the fact that the ship goes down.

This apparantly is informed journalism....
"Is Bakken set to rival Ghawar?"
Really if things this bad are being written in the financial media is it no wonder there is only limited concern over peak oil?

PDK Ireland's population grew predominately in the pre fossil fuel era, hit its peak 20 years into the fossil fuel era and has declined/stagnated for the last 170 years of the fossil fuel era.
As I explained the decline resulted in part due to the unfortunate dynamics of fossil fuel growth tied to pre-existing inequalities.
This is not consistent with your environmental economic theory, where fossil fuels have caused too much population growth that will no longer be sustainable once those fossil fuels have been depleted. In Irelands case suddenly you are groping for other explanations -forest cover, peat bogs. This shows your theory may not be valid in some situations, it is not the overarching explanation of all things economic that you think it is.
Hence my previous jibes about arrogance and the danger of putting all your faith in one dictator, not matter how intelligent he thinks he is.
Go well Murray, although you may not be the whole solution your voice will help us find the solution.

Responding to previous "Green sprawl" comments:
How much does it cost to plant a tree? Make it leafy - it's not hard. Natural is low maintenance.
You can drastically cut back on aerodynamic drag and weight, with a specialised car. And note 2x the speed = 4x the energy consumption for a given distance travelled, aprox. Get rid of stop-and-go, use small cars for bulk demand, operate at ~30km/h and energy consumption can *only* be trivial. Run it on [virtually inexhaustable] geothermal if you must. Even if geothermal costs more than double coal, your transport energy bill will still be a joke. None of this is even remotely difficult and we have the technology today.
If it's really all about the environement - then we should look at *all* the options.
btw: I'm not brighter than Hugh. I'm just less specialised in my focus.