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Epsom MP David Seymour highlights growing pressure on Auckland Boys Grammar and Epsom Girls Grammar rolls; suggest new apartment tenants be blocked from school places; or just not built

Epsom MP David Seymour highlights growing pressure on Auckland Boys Grammar and Epsom Girls Grammar rolls; suggest new apartment tenants be blocked from school places; or just not built

By Bernard Hickey

Epsom MP and ACT Party Leader David Seymour has suggested Auckland Grammar (AGS) and Epsom Girls Grammar (EGS) could avoid becoming overwhelmed by new entrants by either stopping the densification of the Grammar Zones or removing Grammar Zone entitlement from the occupants of the thousands of new apartments expected to be built in the zone in the coming decade.

Seymour told the schools were already close to bursting point and had little scope to build up or out, given the lack of available land and restrictions on building heights.

Apartment developers have been openly touting their properties as being in the Grammar Zone, which in some cases can add up to to NZ$0.5 million to the value of the property.

Seymour said the risk was that the Grammar Schools may eventually have to restrict admissions, which could affect the entitlements of those who had already bought into the Grammar Zone for their children.

"That's the sort of investment that a lot of people have put in and you have to have some empathy for that," he said.

Owners and tenants of new apartment and townhouse developers in the zones were effectively free-riding on the benefits of being in the zones, which could ultimately hurt the rights of those already in the zones.

"If you're going to continue this process then the schools eventually burst," he said.

Seymour said AGS' roll was already at 2,600 and was headed for 3,000, while EGS was coming up against its limits with a roll of 2,200.

"Even if they can afford the buildings -- Grammar has been able to fundraise a lot and EGS less so --you then come under enormous lack of space and just how many kids can you manage in one school?," he said.

"These are some of the challenges and when you come to the possible solutions then none of them are easy, but it's a conversation that needs to be had."

Another option would be to build a new school, possibly at the Auckland University's Epsom campus behind the Mt Eden shopping strip, but that also raised tricky questions about whether it would cause existing zones to change or what type of school it would be.

'Stop the intensification'

Seymour said the most obvious solution was to stop the densification of the Grammar Zones, either by allowing existing residents to block development, or by using the school's admission rules to block the residents of new buildings from being eligible for admission.

"I don't believe in 50 years time when we're a society with vastly more sophisticated transport that people will be as attracted to living so intensely," he said.

"As transport technology improves, as it has for the last 200 years, people will say that's great and travel farther and faster and we're going to consume more space," he said.

"Stopping the rate of intensification is one option, and I've suggested one way you might do that through education."

'Stop the free riding developers'

Later, in a phone interview, Seymour suggested changing the Education Act to give boards the power to exclude residents from new residences, potentially from a future date, but not retrospectively. Councils could also be forced to account for public goods such as education in their planning processes for new properties, he said.

"If they were also faced with an Education Act that required them to have a certain limit on the number of school places available for new dwellings, and that would be a time limit, that would be something they have to consider," he said.

"Sub-dividing and building up to benefit from a public good in a certain school zone -- and you see that in the advertisements -- that would not be allowed and probably make the council's job simpler because that incentive would be removed in the first place."

"The moratorium would be on new dwellings over and above the current number. What you're really rationing here is the bundled good, which is access to a certain school zone, and you see that in how they advertise their developments."

Seymour pointed to potential developments of 250 apartments at Alexandra Park and up to 500 on Gilies Ave. Others have pointed to as many as 1,800 extra apartments being planned across the Grammar Zone over the next three years.

"You have to wonder how many of those projects would pass the stop-go point were it not for the value and the premium people are prepared to pay for access to school zones," he said.

"This would prevent the cycle we currently have where people are incentivised to build as intensely as possible in the zone, but as they do that they're inevitably going to destroy that very (public) good that they're building to partake of."

Seymour agreed that such a rule could create perverse outcomes where developers rebuild existing residences with Grammar Zone rights with dozens of bedrooms for students, but he said such avoidance activity was inevitable with any law.

'Protect the interests of existing residents'

Seymour said he favoured allowing residents in the zones exercising their property rights to block adjacent development.

"I'm in favour of people being able to protect the level of noise, traffic, shading and basic things that directly affect their property," he said.

He preferred development happen on the fringes around Auckland and he opposed Auckland Council moves to impose metropolitan limits.

"What I'm opposed to and why I believe the RMA requires reform is the kind of macro level planning where a group of urban planners at Auckland Council say 'we know what the correct amount of density is and we're going to draw a line around the city and we're going to tell you how you're going to live and get around 30 years into the future," he said.

"They simply don't have the information about how technology will change the way people work and get around."

Seymour preferred Auckland built out rather than up.

"I'm saying upwards to an extent, but you have to protect the expectations of people that bought into a neighbourhood with a certain community character, and on the other hand you've got a country that's 0.7% built out," he said.

"If we got rid of this fetish for intensifying the city, you'd see a relaxation of the supply of housing."

(Updated with more comments from Seymour )

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Classic Act party!! They want a small government, they want a free market - unless it effects Epsom, in which case the government / council should make a whole lot of rules preventing the free market!
I don't think they could be more hypocritical if they tried!

You mean hypocritical?

Isn't the purpose of a representative democracy to defend the electoral district's interests?

Epsom has elected him as MP and before ANY national interest he has to do what the district's voters chose him for.

I don't see hypocrisy but a good MP for that district.

I'm sure if all the districts had a libertarian as MP nobody would want any kind of central government as libertarianism tends to individualism.

Not my choice but I think he is consequent with that ideology and with a representative system.

Recently when there were protests about a tree being chopped down, the Act party said that if the protesters wanted to protect the tree they should buy the land. The same should apply to Epsom - if they want to prevent their neighbour building high density (protect the level of noise, traffic, shading and basic things that directly affect their property), they should buy the neighbouring land!

Amazing - Bernard restrained hisself - kept his nimby gun in its holster

Not like you Bernard to let it go through to the keeper

Yes, AGS has been an Auckland Icon for many years. It has a reputation second to none which many people have paid out many bucket-loads of money to get into the Grammar Zone and here is a nimby being interviewed by an anti-nimby

Well it's going to happen sooner or later whether they like or not - up or out doesn't matter - the following links go to the heart of the matter - be informed that Grange Road Mt Eden is inside but right on the outer boundary of the Grammar Zone and these following articles demonstrate what will happen - one day

84 year old living in an old 1914 villa on 3040 sqm block of land in Grange Road

It's a lose-lose situation
Accept the nimby solution and lose the densification opportunity and thus protect an icon, or
Accept the densification solution and lose the icon
Low-level densification is going to happen anyway (per above) - so lose the icon

To cope with population growth in the central city just put another school in and redraw the zones. Signal it well in advance so the market adjusts over time. Thats what they do on the outskirts even though people have bought into existing zones. Why should it be any different for the avid pro-choice pro-freemarketeering act voters of epsom?

Where will the children of apartment owners go to school otherwise? Shipped out of zone to some poor preforming school sounds like class based segregation to me. If thats what you want send you kids to an expensive private school.

Good point. The prison is next door to AGS, and arguably doesn't need to be there. Create a new school there, or extend AGS into the space.

So David Seymour agrees Auckland's (grammar school) is full!

This is the problem, people. Auckland is jam packed, with traffic congestion, insane house prices and more people still to pack in. All for what benefit? None. Stop the insanity. Reassess the problem. Lock up loony John Key, who thinks there is no problem.

We need Winston, now!

Disagree. Auckland isn't full, no where near it. (And the last person we need is WP.)

Auckland Council area = 4,894 km2

Auckland Council population = 1.527 mln

Density = very very low low. (Compare that to any other NZ city.)

Even Auckland urban, (not including parks), density is still very low. Heaps of opportunity. Only insular vision says it's 'full', a vision where no-one want to pay for new infrastructure. (Very boomer view, selfish.)

Selfish? There seems to be this thought that you can just stack people in (why I don't know) without a thought for the amount of land required somewhere to provide everything they need. Are you planning to jam people into Auckland from other places? The responsibility for the future of the planet lies with us all, and NZ can't just dodge it because we can seemingly fit more in.
Oh and btw how is not wanting to degrade the environment further with the detritus of human behaviour, selfish and what on earth is wrong with a seemingly low population density?

By building up we take less arable land to house more population allowing more land for nature / argiculture, how is this bad for the enviroment?

agree there should be no restrictions to build up, and if AGS and EPGS need to do the same so be it why cant a school be housed in a 5+ story building. the only reason they haven't in the past is lack of students in the area and plenty of land.

It is still finite and they all produce waste (to put it mildly) and what is attractive about being piled up in concrete boxes, please tell me? Do you ever get outside onto ground that hasn't been paved or altered by people in some way. It could do you some good

It is still finite and they all produce waste (to put it mildly) and what is attractive about being piled up in concrete boxes, please tell me? Do you ever get outside onto ground that hasn't been paved or altered by people in some way. It could do you some good

As someone who is in his early 20s I can confirm that a significant portion of young adults (most of my mates) want density resyrictions removed / reduced to enable us to build more modern dwellings. Inflating land values gives us an opportunity to expand our portfolios and make a start at catching up to the boomers.

DC, when even Act thinks there is a problem, clearly there is a problem!

It's disingenuous at best to suggest Auckland is 2% of NZ's land mass. Most of that is hilly, out in the gulf or otherwise useless. Greater Auckland has maybe useable land 400km2 within commutable distance to the CBD. That's a staggering 4000 persons per square km, or 40 persons per ha or 4 people per quarter acre and that includes all public, commercial and open space within the urban area.

Try to convince that isn't nearing full. I don't think you can.

Oh, and we definitely need Winston. I voted for him.

I vote for that.

Off to Syria with you and Winston then

It is extremely dense on the roads

Dense in leadership too.

So ironic. Here's the leader of the ACT party, the party that espouses free market, and limits on regulation, saying there should be more regulation on development, unless it's urban sprawl nowhere near his constituents...what a NIMBY....and frankly pathetic

David Seymour probably wouldn't be a fan of Dutch style Euro-bloc high density developments but many on Transportblog seem to like the idea.

Does David really think he can oppose this sort of market response and still claim to be some sort of economic libertarian?

So he supports those who bought into an area and want to keep it that way.

He also supports those who bought into an area and want to change it (the 50ha of land at waitakere)

What do they have in common?


Oh, bless the ACT party for providing material for jokes at their expense for the foreseeable future. Free market my arse.

Surely they should be recommending that residents take responsibility and buy the land to establish their own charter schools?

Auckland Grammar is a brand, the name and what that name represents stands for something. As I have stated before, The government is sitting on an asset that should be exploited. So build more Auckland Grammars, Auckland itself could cope with 4-5 of them. They can be tied to new developments, ie if you want an Auckland Grammar zone for your housing development then you must pay.
We should also look to exporting the model into Asia as English public schools have successfully done.
Of course it is possible to do this an maintain the value of the brand.

If Auckland Boys Grammar are so wonderfully popular why don't they sell up and use all that moolah to purchase a big space out of town (like DiIworth) - surely the faithful well follow.
Sorry to burst your bubble but Aucklands not all about ABG - very much a subsidiary.
Epsom and surrounding suburbs urgently needs much further housing intensification.

ABG and EGS are state high schools ... Dilworth is private

You could still shift AGS private or not, and release capital; which makes me wonder why the eyesore jail is on such expensive land

It's not Monte Carlo. The value of the built infrastructure is way higher than the land. That's why I can't understand the Crown disposing of schools and other assets at land value when there is often still an economic use (now or at some stage in the not distant future).

Apparently all the 'famous' public schools were designed to serve the local community which not used be full with newly built apartment residents. Considering the capacity, maybe it's fair to set a limit saying 1000 heads, selected by academic results and interviews results. The other pupils may be spread to other schools around.

The traditional school zones are way out since the introducing of unitary plans. The decision makers don't care as their kids will to go private schools instead.

Hilarious, all the same, all the time. One motivation alone sees parents wanting their kids in these schools, it gives them access to the exclusive clique that has occupies that space. That clique is very keen to protect its boundaries. You want real comedy? Build a new school somewhere and redraw the zones. I love watching the entitled squirm.

Public schools, public money. There can only be one answer. The boundaries must be shrunk to suit the capacity of the schools, and if that means the gentle folk in the leafy inner city suburbs lose out in favour of the plebs in the inner city apartments, so be it. Anything other than this is likely to end up in indefensible court cases. Maybe the answer for the Epsonites is to build some decent apartments in the city and shift there.- No? maybe shift to Karaka and send the little dears to Strathallan or perhaps do the sensible thing and get the hell out of Auckland.

The solution is at the bottom of the following article, and Mr. Seymour is fully aware of it. Why does the Grammar zone have to change just because a new school is built?:

If Mr. Seymour is a nimby who doesn't like the idea of apartments in his electorate perhaps he should deal with the problem at the resource consent stage, not by banning students from attending the local school that they are in zone for.

This is the same ACT MP who is pushing for the Resource Management Act be watered down to remove barriers for developers & allow for more housing around Auckland!

I remember at the time some wag suggested the deregulated RMA be trialled in Epsom first. I think the answer to that was pretty obvious - a laughable suggestion.

Thanks David for confirming that!

Haven't had such a hoot for years! What a hypocrite!

Total hypocrite. these libertarians talk up property rights and the right to develop property but the moment something might affect them (or their electorate) they are jumping up and down like pathetic little NIMBYs. What a joke.
A true libertarian would support intensification provided certain externalities (sunlight access etc) are reasonably protected

BTW, has the govt put RMA reform on hold? The RMA is a joke. It's a cash cow for dickhead lawyers, plan changes are dragging on for years and years, the country can't afford it.
But a flag is more important?

This is nonsense but the underlying issue is real. Those schools cannot cope with the influx of population that higher density housing will generate.

Our local Primary school which is on the edge of this area is up to 23% Chinese children. The school is having to start publishing notices in Mandarin so the Chinese parent/guardians can understand them - read in not English speakers. Not a massive leap to say this sounds like grandparents looking after the school kids while English speaking ma and pa are offshore working paying tax elsewhere.

Attendance to any public school, and healthcare for that matter, should require you to be paying tax in NZ on your income (all of it). If mum and Dad are avoiding paying tax on their incomes by living/working elsewhere then surely user pays should apply as they are not putting anything back into the pot via taxation.

I thought that a condition of entry into NZ is fluency in English? If they are not then they should shut up about is and get fluent.

This is so, so true.


hahahahaha. Don't build apartments because the school is too popular. Hilarious. If you don't want apartments for whatever reason restrict them. The school roll is a completely different matter. Just shrink the zone. (yes we know - enraged mobs and all)
But really. The zone is only a line on the map. Even the Berlin wall changed