Can Pukekohe be both a satellite town for Auckland and remain a key food growing region? Steve Forbes investigates

Can Pukekohe be both a satellite town for Auckland and remain a key food growing region? Steve Forbes investigates
Pukekohe

By Stephen Forbes

Is Pukekohe going to continue to be a food bowl for Auckland and New Zealand, or yet another victim of the Super City’s metropolitan sprawl? 

The small rural town is at the frontline of the battle between sustainable development and urban encroachment.

The ongoing importance of Pukekohe and the need to preserve it was highlighted in the Auckland Council’s recently released Climate Action Framework. It goes out for consultation next month and states:

“The Pukekohe hub comprises 4,359 hectares of some of New Zealand’s most fertile and productive soils. Fruit and vegetable production contribute $1.2 billion to Auckland’s economy. The hub generates $327 million, which is 26% of NZ’s total domestic value of vegetable production.

“From 2002 to 2016, vegetable-growing land across the country was reduced by 30%. Land like the hub faces increasing threats like urban sprawl. The future of the hub is important for Auckland. With a forgiving and temperate climate and proximity to essential transport routes, the hub is well-positioned to supply year-round vegetables to help feed Auckland’s growing demand for fresh food.”

But the horticultural value of the area seems to be on track for a head-on collision with the Auckland Council’s wider plan for the area, which sees Pukekohe’s growth as part of the solution to the city's burgeoning population.

Urban development and future growth

The Council’s Planning Committee has recommended the sale of a number of properties in and around the Pukekohe town centre that are owned by the Auckland Council, Panuku and Auckland Transport for redevelopment. It also approved the Unlock Pukekohe High Level Project Plan and Panuku’s role in the urban regeneration project.

The Auckland Council’s Draft Pukekohe-Paerata Structure Plan released in April states: “The Auckland Plan 2050 (Auckland Plan) signals that Auckland’s population could grow by another 720,000 people to reach 2.4 million people over the next 30 years. This growth is an opportunity for Auckland as a catalyst for cultural and economic success.

“The Auckland Plan identifies Pukekohe as a “satellite town” with the potential to accommodate up to 14,000 additional dwellings. The Auckland Unitary Plan Operative in Part (Auckland Unitary Plan) has zoned 1,262 hectares (gross) around Pukekohe-Paerata as Future Urban Zone – a transitional zone (refer to Map 2 below). The development of the Future Urban zoned land in Pukekohe-Paerata is part of the solution to the growth challenge.”

According to Auckland Council Pukekohe’s population is projected to grow from 23,600 people (2013 Census) to over 50,000 people by 2040.

The Auckland Council says this will require upgrades to water, wastewater, stormwater and transport infrastructure. While plans are already in place to electrify the Auckland Rail network between Papakura and Pukekohe and improvements to the road network to deal with increased capacity.

Environmental tensions

Auckland Council’s chief sustainability officer John Mauro says it does highlight the obvious tensions between development on the one hand and the need to maintain a source of horticulture and food for the city on the other.

Mauro helped to author the council’s Climate Action Framework.  

“Pukekohe is a bit of a gem and it has some of the best soils in the country,” Mauro says. “So I think it is a concern and I have said many times before that when it comes to land use urban sprawl doesn’t work, for the environment, for people, for infrastructure, or for rates. Greenfields developments just commit people to a lot of time in their cars.”

Thoughts shared by Environment and Community Committee chairwoman Penny Hulse. She says Pukekohe is an important source of food for the country, not just Auckland, and it’s important that it isn’t lost to the Super City’s endless urban sprawl.

Hulse says she has been reassured by Panuku that the development won’t carry-over into adjoining horticultural areas, but she still has some concerns about growing development in the area.

“It’s critical not just for Auckland, but New Zealand,” she says. “The worry I have is in the rush to build houses we’ve lost sight of some of the key issues. We’ve got to hold a line and not just allow the city to spread all the way to Hamilton,” Hulse says. “The bottom-line is we need houses, but we also need food security for New Zealand and the Auckland region.”

Past decisions and protections 

Auckland Deputy Mayor and Franklin Ward councillor Bill Cashmore says some of the land use issues in the area are the result of historical decisions by the now defunct Franklin District Council, as well as Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan which came into effect in 2016.

“There has been some existing blocks subdivided on the hills above Pukekohe and the landholders had the rights to do that. But all of the productive soils to the west [of Pukekohe] have been protected.”

He says most of the areas earmarked for development are in East Pukekohe, Paerata and Drury. While Cashmore says Panuku’s work centres on increasing the amount of residential, retail and commercial space in and around the existing town centre.

“However, under the Resource Management Act (RMA) someone can still apply for a plan change or resource consent and they can apply to change the zoning from rural to urban, but under the Auckland policy statement it says that should be discouraged.”

But Cashmore concedes that Pukekohe was identified as part of the city’s future land supply under the Council’s Unitary Plan.

Metropolitan pressures

The property sales by Auckland Council, Panuku and Auckland Transport to allow for the redevelopment of Pukekohe town centre are expected to be signed off by the council later this month.

And while Panuku’s regeneration project isn’t going to spell the end of horticulture in Pukekohe, increased development in the area means the ongoing threat of Auckland’s urban sprawl is very real.

A joint report by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ titled: Environment Aotearoa 2019 released in April highlights many of the same problems Pukekohe’s facing.

“The growth of urban centres has led to land fragmentation and threatens the limited supply of versatile land near Auckland and other regional centres. Our urban areas are spreading – the area of urban land increased by 10% between 1996 and 2012, especially around Auckland, Waikato, and Canterbury.

“Our versatile land and high-class soils are gradually being lost to urban growth, making them unavailable for growing food. The loss of versatile land is happening at the same time as our food production system is under pressure to increase production without increasing its effect on the environment. This loss can force growers onto more marginal land that is naturally less productive and requires more inputs, like fertiliser.”

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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There is more than just food-production land, although it is important. The real ecological footprint of a city is much bigger

https://www.wwf.org.nz/?1283/living-planet-report-reveals-new-zealanders...

So Auckland needs about 13 million global hectares - more actually, given that some Kiwis are rural and therefore lesser of footprint. Preferably where the locals can be repressed and their desire for a healthy environment sideswiped. Pukekohe is a minor symptom of Auckland's unsustainablility

This is a good article, as far as it goes. I wonder if Interest.co have the cohones to publish the 'bigger picture' one they're sitting on?

Decades ago Avondale was a good fruit & vegetables growing area until they covered what’s now Rosebank Rd in factories & warehousing.
Henderson used to have orchards & vineyards galore too which are now covered by factories & warehouses
We seem to repeat the same mistakes over & over

And Mangere

Happening in Northland too. Orchards being sold off for residential development and too expensive to purchase and keep as an orchard. Citrus almost all gone and avocado and kiwi fruit purely for export markets. When it's too expensive to grow food and the lust for more money overrules wisdom, what then?

11
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Its not only the soils.. its the free draining quality of the land, the aquifer and climate.. add introduced
pests/ disease and weather extremes and growing crops will become increasingly challenging. But food is overrated.. what we need is more people and more debt.

Let them eat mortgages

10
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Also... Pukekohe is a dumb place for a large "satellite town" who are the retards organising this clusterduck?

Kind of my first reaction to the headline, can Pukekohe be both satellite town and food growing land, no it ducking well cannot.

Vested interests and politicians...possibly one and the same

With the mayor sidelined the deputy mayor, Penny Hulse, provided the political muscle to widen the sprawl out of Auckland.

Back in 2017, Greens rallied on the proposition of building up Hamilton and Tauranga as satellite cities to Auckland. They spoke of higher intensification of urban areas in these cities to prevent sprawl into fertile rural lands. There was even mention of a high-speed rail for moving people between this “golden triangle”.
I feel bad for people who actually bought those empty promises!

How do you propose the Greens actually get to do something toward achieving these things unless people actually vote for them? Please remember they are only there as confidence and supply, they have no real clout, certainly not for something as game changing as this. Sad.

Why is this question even being asked? Of course it is absolutely idiotic to the nth degree to concrete over your food basket.
We insist (although I don't know exactly who that "we" is) on importing huge numbers of new people, then we cut up the best growing land around into sections so tiny it will never be possible to grow your own food on them, then you ask, should we be doing this??
Time for action over this now, no more questions.

13
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What is this obsession with growth, anyway?

Central Banker nefarious designs to weaken the nation state, bring about necessary structural reforms in order to make us more compliant for the next step in their plan for all of us which is.... probably a chip in your head and a completely digital monetary system run by unelected bankers at the mercy of international financial speculators. That's my guess, but I could be wrong. We could just be idiots... maybe both.

The removal of high value cash notes does have extremely nasty precedents in European history. As do cemetery records. Centralisation of power is rarely a good idea. Yet we follow the Stalinist playbook and deliver power to those who think they know best.

Growth is a natural function of Nature, as is birth and death. Unfortunately humans are obsessed with external growth, growth of the material world rather than their own internal world. Is it all to alleviate our fear of our own mortality?

Well, I am fairly convinced it has something to do with people who seek wealth far and away beyond what they will ever need or even truly want in a lifetime. The likes of these people who seek bolt holes etc, or those like Peter Thiel seeking eternal life, pretty much have confirmed that for me. I believe wanting to accumulate massive amounts of wealth is a form of mental illness all of its own, because it seems to come at the cost of other things the rest of us would consider to high a cost.

I tend to agree. It's a deeply rooted issue in the human psyche/ego. It's ultimately an emotional issue driven by fear and affects almost the entire human population. Mental/emotional wellness is the exception not the rule and everybody is suffering one way or another. Unfortunately many aspects are accepted as societal norms and not questioned. Our consumerism, our entertainment, our demand for always more are all attempts to fill an emotional void. The wealthy at any level are still driven by fear. Greed, selfishness, desire for status and power are all fear based, ego emotions. Unfortunately our economic system was created from these underlying "values" and continues to feed them hence where we are today.
"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all"

“The Auckland Plan 2050 (Auckland Plan) signals that Auckland’s population could grow by another 720,000 people to reach 2.4 million people over the next 30 years. This growth is an opportunity for Auckland as a catalyst for cultural and economic success.“
- Because we can’t achieve cultural and economic success without immigration? Work smarter not harder wouldn’t go amiss here.

Shareholder dilution seems to be the result so far. More people, less per person.

Let us overpopulate our major cities and under invest in infrastructure and productivity because such a model surely worked for Manila, Mumbai, Shanghai, KL, etc.

What the heck is "cultural success"?

The thing you want to be measured on when you can't deliver any tangible infrastructure or meaningful reform.

What is economic success? Is it still successful when the environment is destroyed? Is it still successful when the majority of people are living in fear?

What is "cultural success" and why do we need an extra 720k people achieve it?

No cohesive cultural identity outside the banker ghetto state

The $720,000 question.

Let them eat pills and supplements...and do mindfulness meditation.

There is a large amount of Auckland land, where development is banned, closer than Pukekohe. Auckland City is devoted to sprawling out from Pukekohe for absolutely no reason.

Takanini, I believe is one of those places, soil is very peaty, but it is nowhere near the growing value of Pukekohe soils

As one of the few dairy farmers left in South Auckland, i have been saddened by the housing sprawl that has taken over the area that used to be all farming when our family moved here 45 years ago.
The problem is that farming is not an economic use of the land as costs have risen through the roof. Council may zone an area rural, but they also tax you so it is uneconomic to do so. The urban sprawl brings conflict between "townies" and the country. When the neighbors complain about cows mooing or tractors operating in the field next door, even at civilized hours, then it becomes harder to operate. They want the rural outlook, but that means someone has to work the land to pay the bills. If they have issues, may be they should have looked over the fence before they bought the land.

Probably an argument for a poll tax

Double up

If people had to commute into Auckland from Pukekohe every day you would see a huge opportunity for psychotherapists.
After continued use soils are only as good as their management. Because of continued production the soils as a food producer are only producing because of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. I am a strong believer that it is the food growing practices that are promoting many modern health ailments.
Move out of the Auckland area entirely, buy a composting toilet and grow your own veges, better for you.

That is a solution for some, but as long as we keep growing our numbers, fewer and fewer people will be able to do this.

That is a solution for some, but as long as we keep growing our numbers, fewer and fewer people will be able to do this.

Almost all the Future Urban zoned areas around Pukekohe are on the best soils. It shows the folly of the council trying to direct development. Best forget about town planning and let houses go anywhere - instead trying to get people to live only where they can bike to a train. Autonomous electric cars are coming it wont matter where you live soon. Auckland councilors are living in the past