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Opinion: Hugh Pavletich sees a political circus running the rebuild and objects to taking the 'garden' out of the Garden City. Your view?

Opinion: Hugh Pavletich sees a political circus running the rebuild and objects to taking the 'garden' out of the Garden City. Your view?

By Hugh Pavletich*

There is a attitudinal change underway in Christchurch, New Zealand, following the first major earthquake 4 September 2010, the second 22 February with the third 13 June 2011.

To date, there have been some 7,700 aftershocks in total and they are still continuing.

In development and construction terms, Christchurch was on its knees prior to the September 2010 event, mainly because the failed amalgamation of local authorities some 20 years earlier, had bureaucratically buggered the city, sapping it of commercial vitality and enterprise.

Development in the wider city had degenerated very much in to a “political game”.

Some six months prior to the September 2010 earthquake, the writer discussed within “Houston, we have a (housing affordability) problem”, where Christchurch was getting it wrong with its 'dense thinking'. And importantly – what some of the consequences are for the wider economy.

The bloated centralized Council “ruled” - and still does - so that now, it is at war with its community and business.

It is very much now a contest between the romantics and realists – whatever their political persuasions.

The realists will prevail of course, as increasingly the romantics will be found to have nothing to offer – other than continuing failure.

Until the realists prevail, there will be no effective political leadership, to allow the city to start on the necessary path of recovery.

The Leadership Vacuum

The three key players to date have been the former accountant / forex dealer and current Prime Minister Rt. Hon John Key, former woodwork teacher and current Recovery Minister Hon Gerry Brownlee and former chemist / television presenter and current Mayor Bob Parker. From the time of the first earthquake event, September last year, these three people never grasped what needed to be done, to maintain public morale and ensure commercial confidence was maintained.

An effort was made during the early part of this year to address the “leadership vacuum”, by bringing on board Roger Sutton, Chief Executive of the local Orion electricity network provider, to head up the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, responsible to Minister Brownlee.

Sutton has failed to date. He has not replaced the civil service management team, with skilled specialist people from the private sector to support him. Sutton's abilities appear to begin and end as a “communicator”.

Attributes - resilience, affordability, flexibility

It is also clear that none of these people realise that for a city to thrive and cope with adversity, it must be resilient, affordable and flexible.

Let’s consider these three attributes.

1. Resilience:
The ability to cope with adversity and recover quickly. Poor quality urban governance and planning means the city has lost this important attribute. Because of this, these earthquake events will likely cost $30 billion, where the costs should be closer to $10 billion (refer my June 2011 article Christchurch earthquakes: Council Stalled Recovery) – with comprehensive lost opportunity costs higher still. Some 12 months following the first major earthquake event, the recovery has still to get underway.

2. Affordability:
Christchurch’s generally poor quality housing stock is rated “severely unaffordable” at 6 times annual household earnings, as this year’s 7th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey illustrates. It should not exceed 3 times annual household earnings, in normal and properly governed markets.

3. Flexibility:
Because of the bureaucratic, “anti market” and highly prescriptive planning and generally hostile governance (with notable exceptions), there is no scope to make timely changes, in attempting to address issues at the local level.

Instead they have chosen to take the bureaucratic approach, in endeavouring to deal with issues. Properly, they should have realised that their role was to focus on being enablers and provide a sound regulatory environment, to allow people with their homes, communities and businesses to get back up on their feet as quickly as possible.

One great success through this saga of poor quality governance, was in how the central businesses that were able to (following the most destructive earthquake event of 22 February 2011), managed within 7 to 14 days, to have their operations up and running throughout the suburbs of the city. A spontaneous and truly remarkable achievement, where there was little involvement by the Authorities.

During this “spontaneous exodus”, regrettably, the Authorities disrupted and denied many businesses the ability to retrieve stock, files and equipment. Most of these businesses will long remember these difficulties, when considering whether or not to return to the central area in the future.

The draft CBD Plan fiasco ...

As though that wasn’t enough, the Christchurch City Council in “adding insult to injury”, ignored business completely and instead embarked on an unworkable and highly prescriptive Central City Planning exercise – in large measure, devoid of competent research to back it up.

Light rail was thrown in to this hodge podge for bad measure – with a dart board cost estimate of $400 million. No one was kind enough to tell Mayor Bob Parker, that Christchurch is not Hong Kong.

... and the public and business have had a gutsful ...

A seasoned Wellington based commercial property investor, Sir Robert Jones, provided a very thoughtful response soon after with an Opinion in The Press late September CBD cannot be rebuilt, stating plainly –

Christchurch has always justifiably boasted of being our garden city. A new and realistic strategy should build on this desirable feature and abandon thoughts of resurrecting its CBD. It could follow the model of many Christchurch – size American cities with insignificant CBD’s and instead comprise suburbs, each with its own commercial centre of low rise, low cost, walkup offices with shops below in garden settings, much like the delightful Havelock North. Such buildings are quickly built, cheap and will find a ready investor market.

These considered comments from Jones are important, because residents need to be reminded that Christchurch is part of the New World. Hankering for the whimsical 'aesthetic delights' of the pre automobile cities of the Old World (as romantic architects - and here - and their professional cousins urban planners tend to do) is futile.

Instead of fantasising and becoming even more irrelevant within the development and construction sectors, the architects would be well advised to discuss amongst themselves, how they might play a more constructive role. Just playing politics to fill in the day, is not good enough.

Little wonder the engineers are the lead profession of our built environment today, as this concise (unlike the verbose eyewash architects inflict us with) and highly relevent report (in conjunction with the Royal Society of New Zealand) dealing with the Christchurch earthquakes illustrates.

This report is a great credit to the engineering profession.

Successful cities in today’s globally competitive world, must be resilient, affordable and flexible.

The Press Readers Poll that followed with over 9,700 responses – the largest on record – illustrating that around 65% of respondents shared Jones’s views. Curiously, these results were the opposite to what the Council was pressing for with its Draft CBD Plan, with its sham consultation 'Share an Idea' exercise. And a costly one at that.

This would suggest that business and the community are to a large extent, on the same page – while the Council (bureaucracy in the main) is out on a limb. The McFarlane family interests have been committed and loyal investment supporters of central Christchurch for generations. At the CBD Draft Plan hearings soon after, Angus McFarlane justifiably laid it on the line - as reported by The Press -

The draft plan for the recovery of central Christchurch is a “rubbish pipedream”, that has terrified potential investors, councillors have been told.

The Christchurch City Council’s draft central city plan came under fire from property owners during yesterday’s public hearings.

Councillors sat in stony - faced silence as property owner Angus McFarlane said the “obstructive, dictatorial and impractical” plan was a “rubbish pipedream”.

McFarlane, who said he owned more than 10,000 square metres of the city, said the city was in despair before the earthquakes, with a failing central economy and diminishing values.

He told councillors they had made a mess of the city before the quakes and the draft plan “proves you have got it wrong again”.

The Chief Executive of the Property Council of New Zealand, Connal Townsend, largely reinforced McFarlane’s comments.

The barrage from the business community has been relentless. Finally the beleaguered Mayor Bob Parker, was forced to capitulate and arrange a rather hasty meeting with the business community (the writer was not invited – having been told not to communicate with him by email, for good measure).

These were in the main people who had been supporters of the Council for years.

They had chosen for their own reasons not to say anything publicly, when clearly, there have been serious problems with this Council for the past two decades.

Mayor Parker must have been disappointed with the reception he got from these carefully chosen individuals from the business community, as reported by The Press “Investors will fund rebuild of Christchurch”.

Hamish Doig, a local commercial real estate agent (and a cheerleader for the Councils CBD 'visions' in the past) told Parker, that it will take “more than smiley faces and pretty pictures” to rebuild the city.

Doig was referring to the 'Share an Idea' Council sham consultation exercise, originally organised by the planners and Parker, to sidestep and ignore the business community.

Council staff had told central property owners earlier, that they were not interested in meeting – advising these commercial property owners to air their views at the 'Share an Idea' show (with crayons provided).

The message was clear. Respected retail entrepreneur Tim Glasson reinforced Doig’s statements, adding – “It’s all very well to have a vision, but if that vision isn’t going to work financially, it’s not going to happen.”

Mayor Parker should have been reminded of his failed involvement in the Magazine Bay Marina fiasco. Ten years later it is still a wreck. And other Council development 'initiatives', such as the 'Hendo deal', Turners & Growers, Civic building and others.

As one leading politician told this writer “There isn’t a commercial brain in the place”.

Long term property developer and financier Humphry Rolleston was reported as saying

However, Rolleston said he could not think of one Christchurch high-rise that had been a commercial success ... Taller buildings had done “a lot of damage” to the city in the past 30 years.

Rolleston spelt it out very clearly to the Council people – “Councillors lacked the expertise” Rolleston said.

“You haven’t been trained to do it, you are not property developers and I think it would be wise to pass over that responsibility to a forum which you are part of” he said. Investors were “frightened” by the councils “overregulated” process” Rolleston said.

As is usual with those from the business community, Rolleston made the suggestion that a Mayoral Group could be formed to “attract fresh capital” to the city. Hardly a solution – as the real problem is that the structure and culture of the Council needs to be dealt with – with urgency. Rather surprisingly, Rolleston obviously didn’t realise that once Parker had pulled him in to his orbit, the Council bureaucrats will control them all anyhow.

Then the "Brownlee bombshell"

As though the Draft CBD Plan fiasco wasn’t enough, the bureaucrats (many seconded from the Christchurch City Council) over at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), led by Rosalind Plimmer from the Department of Internal Affairs, were up to the same mischief, with disastrous changes to the Regional Policy Statement – an Order from Recovery Minister Brownlee.

This should properly be referred to as the “Brownlee Bombshell”.

It seems clear that Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee hasn’t even read this Order. Back in 2007 / 08 Brownlee had been  Chairman of the NZ Parliament Commerce Committee Housing Affordability Inquiry. He knows right from wrong on these issues. Coming in to Government late 2008 and being appointed Minister of Economic Development as well, Brownlee and his colleagues knew exactly what the problems and solutions were, as his colleague, Housing Minister Hon Phil Heatley made clear early in 2009, at the time of the release of the Annual Demographia Housing Survey.

Prime Minister John Key told the international community soon after through the Wall Street Journal “You can't spend your way out of a crisis". reported on the “Brownlee Bombshell” and I commented there as well.

This is referred to as Chapter 12A - Regional Policy Statement and is the usual hodge podge of quack planning lore - divorced from the real world.

Not only is their grossly insufficient land supply made available on the good ground on the fringes of Christchurch, where the real demand is, but this Order actually bans the provision of new family housing on the fringes of Christchurch.

If new home buyers want a conventional family home on 700 square metre lots / sections or more, they are forced from Christchurch and will have to go out to the adjoining counties of Selwyn and Waimakariri , where densities of 10 per hectare minimum are allowed.

Policy 11: Residential Densities states – 

Residential subdivision and development shall achieve the following net densities, arranged over the whole of an Outline Development Plan area shown on Map 1 and for intensification developments:

(a)   10 lots or household units per hectare in Greenfields Areas in Selwyn and Waimakariri District;

(b)   15 lots or household units per hectare in Greenfields Areas of Christchurch City;

(c)    50 lots or household units per hectare for intensification development within the City Centre Area;

(d)   30 lots or household units per hectare for intensification development elsewhere as identified within the Christchurch City Plan.

Option (c) and (d) are unmarketable of course, as Christchurch residents are acutely aware (because of the earthquakes) of the dangers of dense development.

Living on top of one another, like battery hens, is not the 'Kiwi way'.

Medium density with sections / lots of 450 square metres or less (b – above) are environmental eyesores and not suitable for normal family living.

What people want are reasonable size sections / lots, where they can grow vegetables and trees (where the roots don’t interfere with services), have room for the kids to play and park cars, caravans and boats.

And as we do not know the future (unlike indoctrinated urban planners who fantasise that they do), people need large sections, so that they can modify and add to their homes, as their needs change and incomes rise.

Christchurch too is New Zealand’s Garden City – as Sir Robert Jones reminded us – and we should be proud of that.

There is abundant land supply available in New Zealand, with our small population of just 4.4 million, as I made clear some years ago within New Zealand Lifestyle Block Mythology.

Just 0.70% of New Zealand is urbanised. Although public officials have conned some of the gullible public in to believing the myth that we must be sustainable and conserve resources, the real reason is because Local Government has lost control of its costs and the capacity to meet its infrastructure responsibilities to the public it is paid to serve.

Indeed – being preached to by public officials about how to manage resources property, is an insult to the public. They are hardly “glowing examples” of the wise use of resources.

'Brownlee Bombshell' ignores real issues

No attempt is made within Chapter 12A – Regional Policy Statement to address any real issues of course. It is a ham-fisted hodge podge of inappropriate muddled and micro planning – completely contrary to the spirit and intent of the Resource Management Act. Well at least as the original architects of the Act intended it to be.

It is not only incompetent – but callous as well.

In generating this drivel, it seems Brownlee, Sutton and Plimmer and the other people at CERA, did not think for a moment about the additional hardship they are inflicting on the people they are paid to serve.

And Sutton at $500,000 a year, is “handsomely paid” to serve the public and perform to an acceptable standard.

Brownlee - Where are the $200,000 fringe houses?

As the writer made clear on Canterbury Television Jo Kane One on One Programme (Video) back in June (did you get that Minister? – back in June), the priority should have always been to get affordable fringe land opened up, so that $200,000 house and land packages ($50,000 for the serviced lot - $150,000 for the actual house construction) were made available for people to relocate to.

Particularly those from the Red Zone, where the average payout will be in the order of $295,000. But then I made this clear to the Authorities via the New Zealand Herald back September 2010, a few days following the first earthquake event - Earthquake highlights need to open city limits. And for that matter, as far back as early 2005 – some 7 years ago - when the first Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey was released.

What needs to be done has been exhaustively discussed these past 7 years – refer Performance Urban Planning – Highlighted Article Section in particular.

The people of Christchurch do not deserve this political circus.


*Hugh Pavletich runs Performance Urban Planning 

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Well done Hugh - the city is full of suits, ties and lies sitting in café’s and bar’s.

Now they are saying that unless some serious land issues are resolved in CBD then it should be built somewhere else. So I would'nt expect any significant re-build anytime soon if this is now the case. Dont expect any insurance company to come to the rescue if you  start to re build on unsuitable land.

Just don't expect any rebuilding in the CBD period and very little elsewhere. The insurance payouts are being taken elsewhere or stashed in a safe investment until the worldwide banking debt fiasco blows up in the faces of the reserve bank bosses and pollies and corporate crooks.


Gosh I can use the BUGGER word when it's warranted....thanks mate!


I am surprised this solution has not got more coverage regarding transport solutions for Chch.

There is a fatal flaw with rail based transit systems that its advocates do not understand.

They all require subsidies to operate. (Except for some cities with tens of millions of people). These subsidies are paid by "everybody". But the "benefits" are captured mostly by the owners of property served by the system.

This is why rail based systems gets "pork barrel" politics really really GOING. The property owners who will benefit do not give a toss if the "benefit" is $1 - TO THEM - to every $4 of cost - paid by "everyone else". So if we care about inequality, social mobility, and wealth transfers from the bottom to the top, this is a REALLY BAD IDEA.

Even IF population and business activity increases in the area served by the rail system, WHO benefits? The incumbent property owners, that's who. And very early on, after only a few more people and businesses have located in the favoured area, real estate prices lock out everyone else. Curitiba, Brazil, overcame this tendency by "nationalizing" land around their planned public transport routes (AND they had the intelligence to do busways, not rails. Buses can pick up anywhere, including growing new developments, and then trundle onto the busway for the rapid leg of the trip - without a "transfer" or "park and ride").

Roads "spread the benefit", which is why you don't get vested interests pushing them like with rails or radial busway networks.

The correct way to fund a rail based system, or even a busway system that overwhelmingly benefits the property owners at its "core", is to raise the funds from the property owners who will benefit. But if we tried this, we would suddenly find that the interests previously applying the most pressure to get the project done, would oppose THIS element.

Of course you are discounting the costs of having to upgrade roads and the property interests that don't allow for two lane roads to be four laned etc. (A huge constraint the closer you get into the city)

And of course there is the subsequent tax that is placed on society through congestion. 'Motorways' from satellite centers north and south already exist and have plans for extensions, but where are all these cars going to go?

Yes, but my point is that with roads, "everybody pays", and "everybody uses". Even so, your point about "monocentricity" applies just the same - central area property owners second most preferred option to rail based systems, is to have all the highways converging on their area.

This misses the point that urban areas have been "decentralising" perfectly naturally for a century or more, in spite of all the expenditure on "monocentric" infrastructure, and it is now a RARE city that has 20% of its total employment in its CBD.

What we should be doing, is going with this flow, not trying to impose a monocentric straightjacket on our cities just because this might increase public transport use.

People travelling from a suburban home to a suburban job, do not add at all to "convergence related" congestion. Furthermore, they are not all travelling the same direction and inter-suburban roads tend to get utilised more evenly in both directions at both ends of the day. When you add a lane to 1 lane, you increase capacity 100%. When you add one lane to 2 lanes, you increase capacity 50%.

I think it is self evident to anyone who thinks this through carefully, that we have been "inducing" traffic where "induced traffic" is certain to be the biggest problem; but if we did a concerted program of "second-level road" expansion, we would not see the "induced traffic" problem, because we would have dispersed it, not focused it.

THIS study is the only one I know that evaluates productivity improvements from road spending "monocentric versus dispersed":


It finds that productivity increases are many times higher, for "dispersed" road capacity increases.


By the way, productivity increases with public transport expenditure are minimal or negative.

Thanks, I'll take a look at the report.

My initial observation was that the study is entirely USA based, a little ironic considering gasoline price fluctuations of between say $0.5 to $1/USgal basically are the difference between whether their economy is in recession or not.

But that aside, I take your point that rail could induce price appreciation on property near stations etc. I wonder if there is a rates/tax model that would provide for at least some adjustment?

I disagree that the rail model is necessarily 'monocentric' however, I would argue it is more polycentric/multicentric, given that [the rail link above] basically allows access to all areas of business/commerical/industrial/airport sites around Chch and peripheral areas whilst also not prohibiting a CBD commute. Effective bus from stations

The issue with roads and where going with the flow breaks down is to do with the current reality where aquisition of any new land for road expansion whether through suburbs or existing arterials is expensive (affected by NIMBY), also consider rail throughput on one line per hour compared to a road lane.

It's hard to argue the roads model has been successful for Auckland especially when you consider that provision could have been made at the time for both road+rail in the corridor.

Am going on a bit here, - I don't disagree with using cars, but given human nature is what it is in terms of there being certain places in cities where masses of people tend to frequent, why not provide an efficient rail service, and thus allowing cars for other more unique point-point journeys with less congestion. I'm not sure it' has to be a mutually exclusive choice.

Doesn't look good for Chch. Seems to me that any business that intends staying in Chch must have already set themsleves up in new premises - albeit some are calling these temporary.  However, can't escape the fact that business life continues without the CBD.  The longer ChCh is without this CBD the more entrenched those business's will get in there new locations.

Factor in the empy office spaee available in the other main centres and one wonders who or what will want to move into any new premise in a rebult CBD?  Everyone seems catered for already.

Hugh ston we have a problem!

this rebuild will take forever and cost heaps.Move while you can.

But a rebuild does not mean all business and productivity stops until the rebuilding is finished. It would be interesting to know just what has happened to ChCh GDP since the eathquake - I bet it has rebounded already by more than it yet might once some grand plan for "rebuilding" has been enacted.

I am now picking, thanks to all the realistic assessments we are getting from people like Hugh P and Bob Jones and the other people Hugh quotes, that ChCh might just do BETTER if no costly rebuilding occurs in the CBD. Just as long as the council does not get in the way of stuff happening wherever it makes financial sense.

I can quite believe that it is a blessing in disguise if ChCh gets a chance now to NOT "rebuild" in a way that was financially unviable already. NZ has a disproportionate amount of big buildings for the size of the country already, in Akl and Wgtn. Big and tall buildings are not what makes a country a first world country - it is the kind of prosperous businesses that tenant these buildings and provide the demand for them.

How many other areas in the world have ONE quite big CBD for every 2 million population? What is the logic in NZ trying to have 3 or more for 4 million people? This is just typical of NZ attitudes, trying to "play first world countries" by having the toys, but not by having the population or the resource-utilising production. It might make sense to have 3 or more big CBD's if we had 25 million people and an automotive and electronics export industry as our main source of wealth. But even the fact that farming and tourism are "major" here, make it stupid to expect lots of big buildings in cities. How many big-building CBD's does the State of Minnesota (pop. 5 mill) have?



Interesting Phil, particularly when I in favour of higher density for aestetic, community and psychological reasons. However four stories should be the limit for the same reasons. Mixed use also comes in there as I am sure you know.

Have you done any research into cities dominated by the bicycle? Copenhagen springs to mind as the most likely candidate but there are likely others. Without having been there it is hard to tell how they really work. Are they better, with giving that term a frame of reference. Could they be better?.


The thing with Copenhagen and cities like it, is that they have massive ancient central areas that have never been "renewed" and are virtually slums - yet the cost of real estate is quite high. While the slums in US cities (mostly blitzed by renewal now) were quite well known, probably due to the racial boundary issue, the slums and their urban bumpkin residents in European cities stay under the radar.

We simply cannot get NZ-ers to live this way - in fact it is impossible to retroactively provide slums with 300 year old buildings.

MODERN high density living is simply always going to be expensive. Can you point to any exceptions? Real Estate markets simply react to demand (and to distortions of supply), that is all. If planners were serious about high density AND "affordability", they would be talking about nationalising inner urban land. After all, they are saving the planet, aren't they?

The fact that they are not talking about the need to nationalise land to save the planet, means that either they are too stupid to understand economics and real estate markets, OR they are in cahoots with property owners who stand to rake in capital gains.

"Kiwis will happily go into apartments and centralised flats" - Your posts seem quite smart generally, however this half of your comment is ill-thought out. Why would people want to encase themselves even further, you must have some solid faith in the food production supply etc in NZ, not to mention the control of the spiralling cost of living you make mention of..

Would you happily live in an inner city jail cell?

Those old cities were built when transport was by horse and cart.


My thoughts were that in central cities the slum are often fluid. Heck Grey Lynn and Ponsonby were not the flashest of suburbs when I first became mobile. Some pretty dodgy flats that mates were living in that is for sure. Now we find that very same suburb is now houses the world wide headquarters of of

Gee just read my post above again, should have prood read that one better.

What I would like to see is a fast rail system to Christchurch from say Pegasus and Ashburton. That would enable people to live in the smaller towns north and south of Christchurch where houses are more affordable. That would help develop those small towns and Christchurch. Think of Wellington and those towns north of Wellington. Wellington would be nothing without the people from those towns. It is from the people that businesses develop not the other way round.

We are all certain the owners of the land plots at Pegasus will agree with you Pat! Who pays Pat?

The fallacy that underlies this reasoning, is the assumption that it is more efficient for people to travel a long distance by train because affordable development has been banned in the city itself; compared to the same people travelling a shorter distance by car.

Having the most people travel a shorter distance by car, actually uses less resources and contributes far HIGHER to economic "productivity". This higher contribution to economic productivity from cars and roads keeps "compounding" for decades, which will lead to considerable differences in income levels after that time has passed.

The problem with a rail system is that one train leaves at the same time, from the same place and arrives at the same time (or should do) and same place.  It relies on a very large population all wanting to be at the same place at the same time every day.

There is an illconceived proposal (rate payer subsidised) for a commuter train from Ham to Auck. There will be one departure time with a capacity for hundreds - and empty. 

Contrast this to buses - they can offer 6 buses leaving every 10 minutes over an hour - some going to different  Auck locations on the way to the CBD - serving a range of times and destinations

I am afraid in most NZ cities, trains just don't add up as commuter transport

a) Not if you have a system that can operate (say) in a loop (bidirectionally)  which serves all the major business, industrial and commercial centres. i.e there are many places where people are getting on and off.

b) Yes Auck-Ham is not feasible with current trains, (with the caveat at current speeds). If rail line on the sector were capable of say 200kph average into Auckland and allowed for transfer to existing public transport you would see: Hamilton as a viable commuter centre, an increase in public transport usage in Auckland (thus less subsidy as Hamilton commuters utilise it).

But I accept it is not likely with current policy or levels of capital expenditure.

c) Buses are fine, until you get buses caught in traffic jams and even worse creating bus-jams (look at some areas of Sydney). In these cases you may as well take a car and contribute to the jam even further.

Is it possible to do 200 kph on narrow-gauge ?

Not that I'm aware of, that's why you'd be looking at a new corridor (expensive).

Searched it. Top speed for narrow gauge is 145 kph (90 mph)

I look at leaky homes, Cave Creek and Pike River Mine tradegys and think bugger even going 90km/h let alone 200 with the state of the maintenance that is like in this country.

cripes...i wouldn't want to be in a train on our network doing 145kph.....

It might be expensive, but eventually, (2050?) Whangarei and Hamilton will be dormitory suburbs for Auckland.

Well exactly, also if Auckland needed another airport you could just expand Hamilton airport and utilise the high-speed rail link with a 30min commute time.

But perhaps looking a bit too far forward for Auckland. Not that Auckland could ever be acused of doing that in the past.

Yes, but the problem with a "loop" is what I was saying above - it benefits mostly those who already own property there, and IF there is "demand" for higher density of living and businesses around the loop, prices will rise quickly to a level that will shut out anyone beyond the incumbents and the first few people who get in.

There are only 2 solutions: one is to make an ongoing "charge" on the properties that will benefit, lowering their value to the point that higher density will be both possible and necessary. The second one is for government to nationalise or compulsorily acquire the properties and redevelop them according to the "plan" and put the result on the market "at cost".

Fringe development, especially under a free market, is simply the best value. To make a "plan" for affordable high density living actually WORK, it is necessary to actually replicate this "best value" with the efficiently located high density redevelopments. And this sure ain't happening anywhere where we still have free markets in real estate, private property rights, and NIMBY rights.

I cannot repeat too often: "smart growth" and rail based transit advocates are either too stupid to understand this, or they are in the pocket of the property owners who will benefit from a "plan" handing semi monopoly powers to them. On a big picture scale, it is no accident that certain filthy rich international property magnates lavishly fund "environmentalist" groups generally. There is nothing quite so effective at creating semi monopoly power for incumbents, as constraints on all and any new entrants to urban economies. Which environmentalism does, thus the filthy rich magnates have worked out that they are extremely useful idiots.

Sorry didn't see this when I replied above.

I'm not advocating 'smart growth' or strict plans for 'high density' and I agree with Hugh on the availability of fringe sections etc, but why not think about transport solutions at the same time? If high density was the outcome by property investors at some sites it wouldn't be an objectionable outcome however.
The reality is the current council is considering a $400mil spend on light rail to nowhere, when we already partially have this infrastructure, which with a little further investment would both secure future freight needs and provide commuter/metro rail.

The 'property owner' arguments sounds a little overblown, the other side of the coin is there are already existing property owners who benefit from having (desirable) land near to shopping centers/major employment centers/schools etc. In this regard rail would reduce some of the existing inequalities.

On a big picture scale, it is no accident that certain filthy rich international property magnates lavishly fund "environmentalist" groups generally.


don't know about that but the Koch brothers seem to have a bit to do with your cause.

Your logic is broken / limited on several fronts.......and seems all mixed up.

"same place at the same time every day" which is exactly what a "commuter" train seeks to achieve....for instance my line has 2 peak train times with a peak fare, before and after this is a not so peak fare to encourage ppl to use a differing time.....and then an off-peak fare....Those two peaks can be 500 would need 10 busses and ten drivers and a lot of platform and organisation. Or 1 train and 4 staff....with buses ppl would also probaby have to wait more and take longer to get off and on....then there is energy efficiency........Now outside those rush hours I agree a 10~20 seater bus would do the job.

A bus uses 1 driver per 50 passengers, a train 1 driver then a conductor per 150~200 passengers, it doesnt get traffic problems so is more relaible in arrival times. 

Most cities for commuter trains, NZ that is the case....but then there is also light in effect a bus on rails....but this isnt the same argument as Hamilton to Auckland. Indeed here in Wellington there is the Palmy train and Wiarappa of each in the morning and evening and they are quite full.....they must pay or they wouldnt run and ppl must be happy enough or they wouldnt use them everyday.

NB cities or towns? NZ has only small towns really, no real cities....


..don't think my logic is mixed up at all.  Original comment was promoting trains between Pegasus - Ashburton Chch.  The suggestion was compared to Hamilton - Auck pointing out the  need for very large commuter numbers who want to go to the same place at the same time everyday to make the thing work

You take a train...poor choice when compared to a bike, but you presumably have chosen to live too far from your work place for this to be an option.

Clock watching every morning and very night to catch the damn train would drive me cuckoo.  Terrible for work flexability and work life balance....that is unless you live in an area big enough to have one leave every 10 mins or over an hour or two, which i don't beleive is achieved anywhere in NZ.....

Rastus - you are onto it. It would be nice to see "reason" and logic prevail on here occasionally.

Ah, I must have missed that and you are very probably correct Pegasus to Chch almost certianly makes no sense for public rail transport.....Its quite a simple "equation" the larger the quantity  of goods you move the more sense it makes to move in larger bulk.....They knew that even before the shipping is about the most efficient method per mile per tonne there is, rail is moving say 100 ppl is cheapest on 2 buses.....1000 and its going to be rail.  Bike, personally I could actually do it except for the pigs of hills I would have to climb.....if it was flat like ChCh I probably would bike.  Train v bike..... 1) Rain gets you on a bike and 2) you need a shower both ends to stay human.....time saved in such a scenario high though I agree, lowest cost I agree....

10mins or so, Where I live (Wellington) that is the case...Auckland would work as well I suspect.....not sure on Chch....on the existing line(s) it might well.  Its not as flexible, but it lowers my CO2 footprint and its considerably cheaper, parking the car is $35 a week and probably that in petrol and wear and tear v $140 a month unlimited.....

Cuckoo, well if you look at peak oil the choices in our future will be telecommuting of public transport, or a will be low energy, cars will be gone except for the very wealthy who wont bork at $10 a there is no choice for most of us on that IMHO.



...there's always a choice Stephen...saying there isn't is usually a cop-out.


I gotta tell you, the rail service from Ranui-Swanson to Auckland CBD is first-class. The park-and-ride is full catered for. The trip from Auckland Central to Papakura-Pukekohe and back is most enjoyable. If you havent experienced it, you gotta try it.

This documentry convincingly concludes that politicians and bureaucrats just need to get out of the way.

Hugh - hows the Commonwealth Games plans coming along down there ?

Mayor Bob Parker believes a rebuilt Christchurch could host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The possibility of New Zealand hosting the international sports event has been discussed after the country's successful hosting of Rugby World Cup 2011.

Mr Parker is suggesting Christchurch host the opening and closing ceremonies along with both the track and field and swimming events, with other events spread throughout the country.

He says it would be a wonderful goal for the city, which needs an aspirational target.

.....more like a Tui add

Hugh – is it a big one any lions, giraffe’s, donkeys or/ and elephants ?

 ....maybe a hippo ?

Hugh, nice one, in keeping with "GoNZ's" deep sarcastic wit which comes to the fore occasionally, you may have noticed.

bother - Bob could have organised the high jump

great piece Hugh

you replied to me yesterday saying there wouldn't be much of a rebuild - I presume you mean in terms of housing and offices?

I guess there will need to still be a fair bit of infrastructure rebuild, which will provide some stimulus. But your basic proposition is that GDP growth from the rebuild will be nowhere near what the optimistic forecasters are predicting?

Originally all the land in Canterbury was leasehold. You can imagine the advantages that situation would hold in dealing with Christchurches growth and the quake.


From the Libertarians video:

"Let's release the power of sponteanious order" [picture Estern Europe apartments].

Bob Jones says the best cities are built by autocrats.

All and all you are cherry picking when you point to the good things developers do and forgetting the mealy mouth rubbish people build insearch of a quick capital gain.

As for Ronald Regan trickle down hasn't worked and our system which has allowed fleet footed people to capture capital gains from land has made it hard for those who don't own it to get on their feet.


Interesting about the airport and development, one thing it shows is that land isn't just 3 dimensional space as libertarians seem to represent it, any more than you can live on the ocean without a boat. In other words there are infrastructure costs, liquifaction areas, flood planes etc.


PS not everyone is convinced growth is good.

79% of Americans Oppose any new development.

64% of Americans believe the relationship between developers and local officials makes the process unfair.

Yes, but the USA is just about the only country in the world with MANY cities that DON'T have this unfair racket running between developers and local officials. This is why, in several years of Demographia reports, these few dozen cities in the USA had no house price bubble at all, and would be the world's most stable economies by a long shot - especially if they were not being dragged down by being part of the same political union as California.

Those findings you quote, obviously do not reflect the fact that the people in most Southern and heartland US cities are quite happy with growth, a fair go for the young, economic stability, jobs, discretionary income, etc etc. It would not surprise me if the survey was done in California.

The findings themselves neatly illustrate our problem. People "don't want growth" because they are selfish NIMBY-ists - then they complain because anti growth restrictions lead to unhealthy gouging by "developers" in cahoots with local officials. This is post-reason, decadent, end of civilisation stuff.

Actually, "developers" in Texas actually make an honest living making a modest profit per unit of houses built. It is unfair to tar "developers" with the accusation that THEY are responsible for speculative, land banking rackets, and pork barrell politics with "planning". Developers will just make the best of whatever the politicians impose on them. Many will go bust. The game becomes high risk. A few honest old hands like Hugh Pavletich, quit the industry in disgust and go lobbying. Why sneer at him for this?

One thing you must have noticed Hugh is that the current boom bust cycle got underway at the same time the NZD was floated.

But the Kirk Govt in the early 1970's managed to create an insane very short term price bubble, with crazy taxpayer subsidised cheap loans for just about everyone.

THIS Rodney Dickens historical analysis is interesting:


Excellent point Phil, for a change I agree with the focus of this post. We can of course see the parallel between government subsidized cheap loans and the loosening of credit conditions done by the finance industry over the last 10+ years, or the de-regulation of finance in the US. The obvious conclusion is that loosening of credit conditions (including by de-regulation, or government subsidy) leads to or exagerates bubbles in the economy. This is the primary reason why putting the creation of credit, a.k.a money, into the hands of private institutions is a bad idea. At least the Kirk government was somewhat accountable to the public.

If you want a really good example of this, have a look at Steve Keens analysis of the Australian housing bubble (including the influence of what Steve Keen calls the first home vendors grant). I notice that the NZ Treasury has not considered the likely influence of the collapse of this in it's recent forecast for New Zealands economy.


Milton Freidman says all inflation is a monetary phenominon. I assume he means asset inflation as well.

Good work as usual Hugh.

The CCC planners believe they are doing Gods work saving the planet from cars and global warming. They need to be sacked on mass. Parker simply lacks judgment along with any commercial understanding at all and relies totally on Marryatt and Co tell him.

We have a serious problem here and yes Sutton to date has been a big disappointment. I am beginning to wonder what it is going to take before things are turned around probably the realisation that when the payout process for residents and commercial property owners gets underway big time that a mass exodus is beginning to take place the market will prevail.

I shudder to think what the revised CCC city rebuild plan is going to look like.

It’s all so stupid and the solutions obvious but these people currently have power they have illusions of grandeur rather than down to earth practical we are here for the people stuff. 

If you relax the rules and allow greater height limits in the 'burbs you'll be compensating us handsomely for loss of sunlight ofcourse!!!  Wink!..

Hugh, you're right in general but I have two comments.  First is that the architects are in general right as well.  We can't let rubbish buildings fill the CBD.  If tilt slab boxes and asphalt carparks are what fly by night developers want to build, then ChCh will never recover.  Second is, that it is simply not possible to develop sections at $50k in NZ conditions.  I spoke with a fellow developer today who put a 16 lot subdivision recently, costs were about $50k per lot plus council costs of $25k per lot plus raw land cost at $50k per lot.

In regard our insurance woes.  Two thirds are stuck in an EQC quagmire, but we have about a third of our overcap claims for total loss properties nearing resolution now.  The insurance company is willing to replace with existing buildings (up to rebuild cost), so that gives us about $5m to replace with property anywhere in NZ.  Obviously we are taking this option and unfortunately not one cent of that $5m will be spent on a ChCh rebuild.  Nearly every person I have spoken to in similar circumstance is doing the same, so any significant rebuild in ChCh is unlikely.

We will simply consider our sites as projects to reactivate when they become economically viable.

Also in an indication of where the market is, I attended an auction this afternoon where a house (owner was uninsured) with only modest EQ damage in an area with no liquifaction but close to the red zone in north Linwood sold for 52% below rateable value at $141,500.

Not much new here...however  good to see you are keep it as an issue out there. Christchurch needs all the help it can get.

I'm amazed  that you have actually  made an attempt to answer ChrisJ question on achieving the costings you always quote for land and building. As expected though really fallen silent on the construction cost supply chain dynamics and differences... generalities don't cut it. Good you appreciate economies of scale as well.  Anything to get cost down I agree with, just pulling figures out of hat without a re- analysis to support it doesn't seem helpful.

The CBD is a mess however it is interesting the amount of money from overseas looking for a home in christchurch. Get the insurance sorted and investment will happen. Some substantial settlements are starting to come through in November...

A lot of commercial insurance policies have lock in clauses so the assumption people can just take the money and run is not a sound assumption. More applicable for the residential sector.

I agree there is a lot new out just isn't in your article, nice attempted twist though :-)

I do find it refreshing that you have finally revealed you do not have all the answers with regards costing ( not the why but the how) which you have continually side stepped and the only reason I have questioned you.

I think you are wrong with regards people waking up, Governance has always been an issue where human endevour is involved.

Its a shame your response is more about your ego than commercial reality and the issues however all good for the reader to form their own conclusions.


Interesting Article.  Thankyou Hugh.  A related question but not directly to your article.

It has seemed to me that the owners of houses built in geotechnically risky land would have very strong grounds to sue the council for permitting the subdivisions because these risks were well known within engineering circles and highlighted in a report to the council by Don Elder about 20 years ago.

John Key's reaction to this was that the council was not able stop subdivisions due to some foolish aspects of the RMA act.  This sounds a bit suspect to me, more like an attempt to deflect action.  I would have thought that to succesfully defend legal actions, that the council would have to produce correspondence showing a credible attempt to stop subdivision on this basis or mitigate the effects.  Was correspondence and information on the title or title file?  Were special provisions made in issuing of local building permits that required special foundation details to deal with the risk as other regions do (Papamoa)?  Without evidence of all of this I cannot understand why they are not very vulnerable.

Yes, thanks Hugh, that fills in  the main gaps in my understanding of what went on.  The council wallahs should have their noses thorougly rubbed in it for their behaviour over this, if only to make dam sure they behave responsibly in future.  As you say they are likely to get away with it and hopefully none of the victims are too disadvantaged. 

I know exactly what you mean about the bloated and out of control council empires.  The debts that some of them are truely scarery.  I am truely amazed at some of the incredibly out of control price estimates that they are blithly offering up for major projects.  E.g. 1.2 km Auckland harbour crossing at $4b give or take a bit whether its a tunnel or bridge.  Compare this with the NZ$700m that it cost to build the 2.4 km 250m high Mileiu Viaduct or approx NZ$ 7b for the link between Denmark and Sweeden that includes a 4.5km undersea tunnel an artificial island and a 5.3 km bridge.


Regarding those failed subdivisions to the east, my understanding is that the Council resisted consenting these subdivisions. Importantly though, for "birds & bees" reasons - not for solid engineeering and geotechnical ones. Then the Environment Court OKed them to proceed.

If my understanding is correct (and I would appreciate others with more knowledge of these particular subdivisions commenting here as well) the Council failed, because it did not present the appropriate geothechnical information to the Environment Court. A case of "rubbish in - rubbish out".


The private developers who bought the council land sought rezoning in 1992. The only objectors were environmentalists concerned about the loss of wetlands. The Environment Court acceded to their requests to reduce the area for housing.

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


Ahh so the developers (the experts) have to be made to do the right thing (profits before people- the dross)?


Conditions requiring remediation of potential liquefaction sites have been required in more recent years by the regional council, notably at Pegasus Town. Environment Canterbury was unsuccessful in preventing the development of the suburb that is about 20km north of Christchurch.

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


So it was those pesky beurocrats who saved Pegasus... not the developers.

You may have a point there although land owners would have lobbied to have those   sort of places built on and claimed they were "locked up". They are near the sea after all.

I think the availability of land around Christchurch is exagerated given the airport to the west and Waimakariri flood plain. What's more the growth problem is not due to natural population increase it is the result of industry lead cornucopian beliefs.

I note Phil Best believes NZ should and could have 40 million people before it is a desirable place to live.

..trouble with suing the council (of gummit) is the poor old ratepayer/taxpayer are the ones that copit..not those who were negligent.

With regard to the libertarians video link (above) we need to hear CERA's side as to why they don't let people in. Personally I favour letting people take there own risks.

I had a lot of sympathy for the lady untill she said (gutteral tones): "it's my building, I ought to be able to build a tilt slab if I want to". The Chinese man who cut the side off a historic railway workers state house in Mandeville Street said the same thing as (no doubt) the Choi brothers did.

Eric Crampton said building owners of tall buildings might want to build somewhere else.  An example of that happening would be Gloucester towers. The planners wanted the high rises grouped around the CBD and between those and the park you had villas. Mainstay Properties were on the way down at the time of the share market crash and needed a successful project. They found(?) a loop hole in the town plan so now you have one tall building amongst all the villas. That's what spontaeneuos order would give us.

One of Hughes themes is letting markets do their thing without a referee yet if you do an incentive analysis of the players (banks, finance companies, developers) while some do have good values many have the same moral character as Al Capone.

City developer aims high Property millionaire, developer and realtor

Steve Brooks is building homes to sell all over Christchurch. And he's just turned 20.

LIZ McDONALD meets the young achiever.

Steve Brooks: "I always turn back to property". Steve Brooks may be one of the youngest people in the property game in Christchurch, but he is not without experience.

After qualifying in real estate at 14, he sold homes at 15, became a landlord at 16, built homes to rent at 17 and was a millionaire at 19. So what's left to Brooks to achieve in the business?

He has just turned 20 and having achieved so many goals already, has had to line up more.

Brooks has formed his own property company. Brooks Homes, and is in the process of developing his first homes to sell.

"I wanted to become a millionaire by 21," he says. "But I reached that at 19 and I needed something else to do.

"I've had other businesses but I always turn back to property. I had built some for myself to rent, so I thought why not go out and develop property as a business?

"Now I don't know what to do next — I'll probably have to make it $10 million by 30."

In the same way he tackles life, Brooks is not doing the development business by halves. He has four units almost finished in Yaldhurst, "10 or 2" going in next door, eight planned on two sites in Linwood and Woolston, and several more on the drawing board for neighbourhoods including Woolston and Sockburn.

"I'm hoping to get about 25 houses out in the next 12 months. "I would love to go out and find a section to build 50 homes. Within three years I would love to pump out 300 homes."

Brooks' first complex is four pensioner units is under construction on Buchanans Road in Yaldhurst, right next to the 28-hectare Masham block where a major subdivision is going in.

The young developer looks enviously across at the Masham site, saying a subdivision is another item on his to-do-list.

"I'm looking at doing some larger developments. I would like to deal in bigger ones if I can but the problem is the land is so scarce.

"With bigger blocks, not competing with small investors but with larger blocks you are competing with other developers. "It's almost as hard to build two townhouses as it is to build 20, anyway. You still have to organise the plumbing and all the other services."

Brooks lists the value of his property assets at $3.2 million — not counting the two houses he bought last week — against which he has debts of $2 million.

He has built up his portfolio of "15 or 16" homes with 100 per cent mortgages and believes that even if his property values drop he could sell up and still make money.

So far Brooks Homes' projects are all in Christchurch's cheaper suburbs. The plan, he says, is to save money on land than skimp on the houses. The sites are small, with the homes aimed at the over-65 market. "I want to create a really good product that will sell."

Brooks is a faithful believer in the value of owning property, and says his yields are between 10 per cent and 37%.

Timing has been on his side with the five-year-long housing boom, and he admits he has had a good run.

But even if he lost everything he could make it all back up because of the knowledge he has gained, he says. And he has learnt from the bottom up, first selling real estate for his mother's business, then managing his rental properties and spending up to 16 hours a day renovating properties.

Brooks believes the secret to success is to become an expert in your field by reading and getting hands-on experience.

"Get out there and do it, make the mistakes and learn the next time.

By no means exhausted by his developing, buying, renovating, renting and studies towards a business diploma. Brooks shares ideas by being on the committee of the Canterbury Property Investors Association, leading the associations young punters' club and co-writing a book with a Wellington author (on the subject of property, of course).

Ironically for a property man, Brooks does not own his own home. He prefers the ease and flexibility of renting, justifying the economics because the rent is cheap.

He enjoys his work, he says, because property developing combines his two loves — business and property — and is more of a challenge than being a landlord.

"It's not a nine to five job. If I don't want to go to work I don't have to — but I seem to be working

From (Romantic?) at Motley Fool:

That's the PROBLEM with alternative energy...
Every few years, we're told of another "energy miracle." An alternative energy source that is going to boost our economy, release us from the grip of hostile Middle Eastern sheiks, and save all humanity from the impending doom of climate change...

And, of course, make a fortune for investors.

But it never pans out. For 20 years I've heard the talk, but I've yet to see one of those miracles come through.

The truth is, every alternative energy source poses substantial problems, whether it's solar or nuclear power, clean coal or natural gas. And they all lose money!

Have you ever heard of the "Microsoft of alternative energy"? Or a "green energy billionaire"? Neither have I. There isn't one!

Instead the investment losses just keep mounting...
Solyndra's just the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. government -- and dozens of venture capitalists -- have poured billions into the search...

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens spent a reported $10 billion to build a vast wind farm in the Texas Panhandle... too bad the lines to carry all that energy never materialized.
      * The federal government gave $100 million+ in grants to two clean-tech battery makers, Ener1 and A123, yet their stocks are still down 92% and 61% respectively, over the past year.
      * The state of Massachusetts plunged $58 million into Evergreen Solar, but now the near-insolvent company says it's only obligated to pay back $4 million, leaving the state with a gut-churning 93% loss.
The price tag for all these false starts may actually be in the trillions.

Not to mention the incalculable human and environmental disasters caused by our search for alternative energy...

Despite our best intentions, the disasters keep happening...
Death and destruction aren't usually included in the alternative energy story. Even so...

Areas around Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant may be uninhabitable for DECADES after the tsunami and generator failure that caused a meltdown.
      * In Dimock, Pennsylvania, ground zero for natural gas "fracking," residents' well water has turned brown. One well just spontaneously combusted! And no one knows why all the pets and horses are losing their hair.
      * Last September, a natural gas pipeline blew up in San Bruno, California, burning down an entire neighborhood... killing eight people and injuring 60.
Difficult as they may be to reconcile with the happy vision of a green economy, these failures are a part of the sorry truth about alternative energy. 

What makes the situation all the more troubling is... there IS one SURE THING staring us right in the face!
It's true: A safe, viable, long-term solution to the energy crisis ALREADY exists.  

In fact, it's maddeningly obvious. It's staring us right in the face!


Unlike most alternative energy companies, this company's solution is already proven and already profitable.

What's more, this little energy company is uniquely positioned to benefit no matter whether we experience a "double dip" recession or don't...

Do you remember how I described it as both a "top dog" and "first mover"? It's true. Though it has not developed any new technology, this company IS a pioneer.

Its CEO -- truly the godfather of the industry --  was the first to develop a special, new kind of contract that guarantees his customers actually spend less on energy. It's called "performance contracting." (I'll explain how it works in just a moment.)

Esteemed consulting firm McKinsey is estimating that performance contracting will be worth $520 BILLION by 2020. That means growth of more than 10X in the next nine years...

And all the signs point to this company dominating that huge market. Mark my words...


So what kind of energy are we talking about?

For just a moment, forget everything you've heard about alternative energy, and consider this...

The cleanest energy is the energy we don't use at all. The cheapest energy is the energy we DON'T use.  

The biggest and best thing going in alternative energy is... energy efficiency, plain and simple. "


So Passive houses with double standards of insulation, bicycles and vasectomies are what will guarantee our future.



Do Urban Planners Still Misunderstand Jane Jacobs' Lessons?

In a recent interview, she [Jane Jacobs] stated that “Portland’s a place that gives me great hope.”
What Portland may have taken most directly from Jacobs’ legacy is an unfailing commitment to community-based planning. This has been true at the street, neighborhood, city, and regional scales. Our remarkable form of excessive democracy has generated a genuine partnership between neighborhoods, the development community, and government. The result has been an active, rich, economically vibrant urban environment. This is hardly the result of the “authoritarian recipe for policy intervention” Mr. Gilroy [Reason Foundation] imagines. He’s correct in emphasizing Jane’s statement that “no other expertise can substitute locality knowledge in Planning.” Embracing this premise has much to do with Portland’s success, prompting Jane’s observation that Portland “obviously has a very strong sense of values that is immediately recognizable.”
Jane Jacobs visited Portland more than once. In her most recent visit, she was asked repeatedly what she thought we might do differently or better. As sharp-tongued and stunningly articulate as ever, she consistently refused to take the bait. She found Portland’s planning results to be successful and replicable.
It’s precisely the power and success of this Portland model that concerns those such as Mr. Gilroy, who maintain that the government and community should have no role in establishing visions and plans for our cities and towns, that we should just “step out of the way of innovators and entrepreneurs” (i.e. - builders and developers).

Just reading your article Hugh and one comment:

Our invention of the transistor, integrated circuit and laser has led to the entire computer industry which the US dominates with its software (hardware, formerly an American monopoly, is now an Asian commodity product - you're welcome). Every step from your fingers on the keyboard to your words on my screen takes place courtesy of US intellectual creativity - something Asia totally lacks. Consider the GPS system - entirely US designed, US funded, US built, US implemented AND THEN made available to the entire world FREE. After 40 yrs no other country has been able to match it. Every time you use a GPS device you should say "Thanks American tax payer, scientist, engineer"


Advances in information technology but little in the way of advances in how hunks of metal are moved about.

I'm reading this book by Richard Heinberg: End of Growth


"Far from already having implemented the most efficient transit systems imaginable, we find ourselves today even more dependent on cars and trucks than we were a half-century ago. Moreover, the typical automobile of 2011 is essentially similar to one from 1960: both are mostly made from steel, glass, aluminum, and rubber; both run on gasoline; both have similar basic parts (engine, transmission, gas tank, wheels, seats, body panels, etc.). Granted, today’s car is more energy-efficient and sophisticated—largely because of the incorporation of computerized controls over its various systems. Much the same could be said for modern aircraft, as well as for the electricity grid system, water treatment and delivery systems, farming operations, and heating and cooling systems. Each of these is essentially a computer-assisted, somewhat more efficient version of what was already common two generations ago.'

"In fact, rather than showing evidence of great technological advance, our basic energy, water, and transport infrastructure shows signs of senescence, and of vulnerability to Murphy’s law—the maxim that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. In city after city, water and sewer pipes are aging and need replacement. The same is true of our electricity grids, natural gas pipes, roads, bridges, dams, airport runways, and railroads.


I live in Sonoma County, California, where officials declared last year that 90 percent of county roads will be allowed to deteriorate and gradually return to gravel, simply because there’s no money in the budget to pay for continued repairs...."


Jh – great to read stories from people living overseas and what they are experiencing - daily. I’m supporting Heinberg’s view strongly and placed frequently his video “Who killed economic growth” here. As a small, remote country with only 4.5 million people I think New Zealand should distance it self from megalomaniac behaviours trying to compete with the big boys. Considering worldwide accumulating and accelerating problems on many fronts, concentrating on a sustainable 100%NZ pure economy would lead into much more happiness and prosperity for New Zealand long term.

Here another 2 videos of R. Heinberg :

"As a small, remote country with only 4.5 million people I think New Zealand should distance it self from megalomaniac behaviours trying to compete with the big boys." 

Globalisation is dead.....we just have not buried it we will be local......the Q is the timescale, the pain getting there and what the end result will look like.....Im young enough (I hope) to watch it get quite far (30 years or so) however, I will be doing it.....Im in the test tube just like everyone else....

I prefer to think of NZ as a "lifeboat"....our population at 4.5million is small enough that we can feed it and keep it warm.....Im not so sure that many other countries can achieve that....doing that means we should keep much of our skills, science, art and literature....Pakistan on the other hand for instance Im not so sure about......especially with its nukes.


It wont be just roads its power systems are fragmented and worn out.....its just a Q of time really.....they wont get thier act togather me thinks.....the GOP for one are hell bent on driving the US economy into a basket case so they can blame Obama and get him kicked out.....quite why they think voodoo economics will continue to work for them is mind boggling...but another 30 years of it is clearly what they intend....some other ppl along the line of Richard's thought suggest the USA will go into a new dark age......Im wondering if they are right on that.....


It is hard for the people of Christschurch these past few years since the Earthquake. Not only do some people lose their homes, some have lost families to the afterschocks. The worst thing is, rebuilding efforts are often slowed down due to political bickering. I wonder when that will stop.
Derek -