Auckland Councillors wobble on intensification plan; Major plank of Govt's housing supply strategy under threat; National supporters sabotaging plan; Property Council accuses Baby Boomer Councillors of locking out next generation

Auckland Councillors wobble on intensification plan; Major plank of Govt's housing supply strategy under threat; National supporters sabotaging plan; Property Council accuses Baby Boomer Councillors of locking out next generation
Ockham Residential's Turing building apartment development opened in November 2014 at 2 Ariki St in Grey Lynn

By Bernard Hickey

A revolt by some Auckland ratepayers and National Party-aligned Councillors opposed to the intensification of housing could derail a key part of the National Government's response to Auckland's housing shortage.

A reversal of Auckland Council proposals released in December to 'upzone' significant parts of the 'leafy' suburbs closer to the CBD to allow more townhouses and apartments would also concern the Reserve Bank, which has argued a significant supply response is needed to reduce the financial stability risks created by Auckland's high house values.

A majority of Councillors are now reported to be opposed to the 'upzoning' of the draft version of Auckland Unitary Plan, which is currently being considered by the Government-created Independent Hearings Panel (IHP). The shift occurred after a public meeting in Kohimarama last week where more than 600 ratepayers protested against a Council recommendation to the Panel in December that just under 6% of Auckland's land area be up-zoned from 'mixed housing suburban', which allows two-storey buildings, to 'mixed housing urban', which allows three storey townhouses and apartments. See more on that December recommendation here from me and here from Jenee Tibshraeny.

The revolt appears to be an action replay of one before the 2013 Council elections, when an initial draft Unitary Plan that allowed more densification was quickly over-turned after some local residents opposed it.

Councillor Sir John Walker, who has moved to a lifestyle block at Bombay south of Auckland, was quoted in the New Zealand Herald as opposing the changes.

"I'm on the residents' side. I don't want to see high rise buildings towering over Auckland," Walker said.

"Why ruin the city with three-storey apartments? They might not be very high but I wouldn't want to live next door to one," he said.

Walker cited the high turnout to the meeting at the ASB Centre in Kohimarama last Tuesday night, which was organised by Desley Simpson. She is a senior National Party figure married to National Party President Peter Goodfellow and was once married to current National MP for Coromandel Scott Simpson. Other National Party figures campaigning against the intensification include Councillors Cameron Brewer, Denise Krum and Christine Fletcher.

The push against the intensification measures contrasts with general support from the National-led Government for Auckland's moves to growth both 'out and up'. Just last week Housing Minister Nick Smith threw the weight of the Government's legal resources behind a move by Fletcher Building to build 1,500 new houses in a dis-used quarry in Three Kings. A local residents group has challenged the plan in the Environment Court.

Auckland is forecast to need an extra 400,000 houses by 2040 to handle an extra 1 million people. The Council wants to focus 60-70% of that within its existing boundaries, which amounts to needing to be able to build 240,000 to 280,000 houses inside that boundary. The previous 2013 Draft Unitary Plan only allowed the economically viable building of 180,000 houses, leaving a potential shortfall of 100,000. Some have estimated that economically number could be below 100,000, creating a shortfall of close to 200,000. This would add to the current shortfall of 25,000 to 30,000.

Auckland Council's General Manager Plans and Places, John Duguid, said in December the Council expected its 'up-zoned' maps would push the figure closer to the required 280,000 so a reversal would prove a major blow to hopes a supply-led push could improve affordability. The IHP is due to make its recommendations by August, but the Council could decide not to accept the recommendations and oppose them in the Environment Court. The current council, which is up for re-election in October, would be able to reject the recommendations before the elections.

Property Council appalled

The Property Council, which represents commercial and residential property owners and developers, said it was appalled with Auckland Councillors who had withdrawn their support to rezone Auckland suburbs with the capacity for more houses and apartments.

Auckland Branch President Phil Eaton said soaring house prices were creating systemic social injustice, inequity and major economic risk.

“The councillors who have withdrawn their support to rezone and upzone suburbs to allow for more houses have done so at the expense of Aucklanders, because they want to come back after the local elections," Eaton said.

“Now, Baby Boomers have essentially locked an entire generation out of their own homes. Young people and families will never be able to work and live in Auckland, and ‘Generation Rent’ is the legacy these councillors will leave behind," Eaton said.

“We desperately need to open up supply. The market tells us we are not building what customers want. We need a wider range of housing choices to suit the changing demographic profile of Auckland over the next 15-20 years, including smaller homes in existing areas for both older and younger people," he said.

“Local politicians must ditch their “Not in My Election Year” mentality and do what is right by all Aucklanders, not just some. Scaremongering by local politicians has residents believing their suburbs will be covered in high-rise apartments, when realistically less than 6% of suburbs will have apartments with more than three storeys: up just 1% from the previous version of the Plan."

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Pretty strong words from the Property Council. Nevertheless, I find it hard to believe that they're too concerned about the status quo, as supply is "controlled" to protect their own members' interests. As for the grey rinse brigade, they want to go to their graves living in the NZ they always knew. They should all be shipped off to Japan for a month to see how the other half lives.

Have you lived in Japan?
"Majority of Tokyo urbanites crave escape to coastal Kanagawa area"

Why shouldnt ppl live in the NZ they always knew? I left London to get away from the over-crowding, noise, pollution and filth and I have paid considerably for a house without these attributes. Now that view is considered mean? Lets be frank densification is practically speaking bottomless ie the more you do the more new ppl will want more of it to happen, then eventually you end up living in an over-crowded cesspit that no one wants.

Because we have population growth duh...

NIMCA...instead of NIMBY.

I think everyone realises we need plenty of new homes but the elephant in the room still remains the excessive amount of property speculation that has come into the market from overseas. The government and council urgently need to rethink home ownership by non residents as it is they who are pricing the younger generation out of the market,not the baby boomers. An additional tax on second home ownership as well as a wealth tax on overseas owners would not go amiss-even though It would hit my pocket.

Personally I think it needs greater control on the amount of immigration per annum as well. We should expand at the rate that our infrastructure can cope with.


Michael Reddell AKA croakingcassandra at has been dealing with this issue for some time - but on a macro level - it seems the upper-echelons of government departments - Treasury etc are mostly of the view that immigration is good for NZ economically speaking - trouble is no factual supporting evidence is ever provided - just repeat after me - migration is good for NZ - especially seen in large numbers of chefs (largest category of migrants) who very quickly become ethnic restaurant managers who eventually become taxi drivers

I would like to get one thing straight. There now seems to be a general agreement that our Auckland housing boom is largely fuelled by massive immigration to Auckland.
Hence, I would like someone in the know to please tell me who exactly has the authority to cut or stop immigration: is it the government or the RBNZ ?
The answer to this question is the only piece of the puzzle that hasn't to my knowledge been satisfactorily supplied.

The fact that you have to ask this question is pretty disturbing.

It's pretty simple what needs to be done and the Govt needs to be tougher about it.

It became a political hot potato in the UK and belatedly the Govt have done something about the influx of funds which has cooled down the top end.

they are building two 3-storey houses just next to me where there used to be a single storey state house. And you know what? I don't give a shit. What's wrong with this people?

Good on you Ian64. Pity John Walker doesn't share your attitude. He's so privileged, he can vocalise the fact that he wouldn't like to live next to a three storey apartment. He doesn't have to out on his lifestyle block. That the future of Auckland's housing requirements are in the hands of fossils like him and his mates is truly scary.

So John Walker has moved to Bombay to get away from the tiny minority of apartments that have been built in flat bush in amongst the sea of single house McMansions.

Well good luck to him, but most Aucklanders don't want to live in isolation on a lifestyle block, and even if the whole of Auckland moved to Bombay to get away from apartments, you'd need to build apartments to house them all!

What is wrong is people that don't have a damn clue about urban design. Auckland is a city that is being sold to the highest bidder with almost no concern as to what makes a community. But that is the way it has always been. Good luck to you in your ghetto.

Not only that, most people have been brain washed about property ladders and that can only result in one thing. Move every 2-3 years to "take the profit" and move on up which means every one does a 'quick and cheap job' because eventually, they will make it into a 'nice' place. But where to in the end? What a pity so few, if any, give a damn and have the capacity to think critically about what (or who) comes into their house after they moved on. Still such a sad state of affairs with the vast majority!

ah ah my ghetto is the good side of Orakei dude.

that leads to the obvious question

What's the difference between the "good" side and the "bad" side of Orakei ?

Help us out here, which is the "good" side, I really need to know

Yes, you probably don't give a shit because in a year or two you move on anyway to "make a profit", so why should you care ? Or is it that you just like to look at very high, ugly walls right on your boundary? Maybe not, you just hate to get a bit of sunlight in your garden? Might explain the level of sophistication in your comment...

or maybe I become friends with my new neighbours. Or my son will. they might keep the superette down the road ticking along. and on top of that they will pay 3 TIMES the rates the previous house did. what a sad life one must live where everything new is surely bad.

The real sad thing is the level of intelligence in your comments... I stop now, because there is no point exchanging view points with someone who doesn't give a shit about their surroundings or rates bill!

Stop it!

sweet I'll go on then. The rates bill are laughably low in AKL.

compared with?

Agree, I don't see what the big deal about the current rates regime is.

People just love whining.

They want to live in a "world class city" but don't want to pay a cent for it.

Sadly, this obstructionism will only be cured by the passage of time in some cases...

As soon as a property can house more intensive buildings, its value goes up. Its rates go up. You either pay these extra rates or move. Is that what you want? If you move, where to?

The only way you can possibly justify the current prices of most inner city Auckland properties is if they had apartments built on them. Rezoning will have little or no effect on prices in my opinion.

So the supply side is going nowhere (who would have guessed) must be time to address the demand side.

When you understand the battle for unearned income, outcomes like this are quite hilarious.

1. Immigration pressures - not too hard to rebalance I.e. Cut to the bone
2. Redress the imbalance between investors and home buyers using the tax system. That is not too hard either.
All apart from voter fallout?

Either (a) open up supply and let the market work, or (b) outlaw investment in housing and bring back state housing en masse to supply rentals to those who don't want to buy. No more half-assed free markets. Do it properly or don't do it at all.

What would the median house price be in AKL if we prohibited investment?

So now the majority of councilors come out in opposition when the plan is due to be signed off in late September after years of planning and supposedly supporting the plans. A total shambles. Bottom line - In my opinion we will not have affordable housing until council and govt build the much needed infrastructure to enable the existing ear marked land to be developed and they seem slow of the bat to do this. Forget about building houses. There should be pressure on building infrastructure. Build the infrastructure everything will follow in quick succession. Furthermore does anyone else think we might need a few more schools and hospitals with these circa 100,000 new emigrants coming in?

How can they strangle the land supply at the perimeter, if they cannot deliver the alternatives that they aspire to. They need to open up a whole lot more land to relieve the pressure and use the time to sort out the alternatives. Either that and or shut down immigration.
They also need to seriously think about the layout of the city so that jobs are where people live to ease pressure on transport.

You cannot have it both ways, with record immigration to "prop up the economy" and keep this country "rocking" you have a housing shortage that comes with it. Simple maths folks, cut the immigration to zero for a couple of years and watch the housing problem go away. Problem is no one in control wants to see an economic crash on their watch so nothing is going to change.

of course then they'd have to train NZers to do the work and that would cost them more rather tahn bringing cheap overseas labour.

Too many vested interests among the Councillors, it sounds like.. It seems that disposition is transcending the central, into the local.
The New Zealand macro and regional economy is a doomsday economist's wet dream.

people are so effing selfish.

So what is the difference between their selfishness and your selfishness?

Oh hi Steven.

There's a big difference between my selfishness - wanting to see more affordable housing, which would benefit the masses, versus the selfishness of a few already very well off (and housed) people.

There's pressure on this city for higher density housing that people can afford - just the facts mate.

There are facts and facts. Thing is many are not "very well off" in fact I think its a misnomer. In this case you quote (the very well off) in these very expensive areas eg say Khandalla so not many FHBs will be buying as even postage stamps will be expensive so moot.

What is more likely is the not so expensive areas see densification which ruins the quality of them IMHO that effects ppl such as myself who bought as best we could but see such suburbs end up looking like a cesspit which I escaped from (London).

In neither case I dont see that it will house the "masses" you want, just some. Finally when we bought 20 years ago we accepted many of the better areas were outside of our price range and bought where we could afford it and got on with life. Oh and even if house prices drop (and they will) there will always be a bigger demand than supply in the best areas.

I am an Architect with a degree in urbanism, I graduated in Switzerland, worked in San Francisco and now I live and work in Auckland. The simple fact is that Auckland's population is growing (which is a sign of a desirable health city). And quite simply we need to accomodate the extra residents. So there are 2 options urban sprawl (building further away from the centre) which causes more travelling, higher roading costs, more traffic jam and more pollution or build denser (allow to build higher closer to the city). There is no other option. Allowing for 3 story townhouses is very mild intensification and the NIMBY'S (Not In My Backyard) have to be less selfish and accept this densification.


well there's another option. Close the borders, declare Auckland a big retirement village, cut all non fundamental services (like arts-parks etc) and halve the rates. Every sane person will leave and once all old people will be dead houses will be super cheap.

Yes all good until you find yourself being the NIMBY. Everyone purchases in an area they don't mind getting better but no one wants its to turn into a slum with high rise apartments. No thanks I do not want even a 3 story building next to me blocking out my sunlight. Fact is NZ has enough land to build a new high rise city. I have seen it in South Korea, Soeul to be precise. If you got drunk I have no idea how you would find you way home, there were 40 or 50 identical high rise apartments all the same colour in one big group. Hundreds of acres over the back of me in Long Bay, build them there. The big question is however is this what you came to NZ to live in ? the answer currently is no because they continue to build 6 bedroom, 3 bathroom houses in Long Bay that they have no trouble selling.

you really don't get the infrastructure part do you?

Yes I do, build a a high rise city where there is currently nothing. Its condensed so roading and services are easier to put in at the start. Enough people and you run a bus service through the middle of it to the CBD every 20 minutes. Those that want to live there can. Its simply too late to start trying to go up in the suburbs that already exist, don't waste your time.

the problem is where they should build apartment blocks i.e along the coast line is also where some of the biggest donations come from to support those in power.

I am not quite sure why you think that those are the only two options. Especially since you have studied in Europe. I have just one question. What will we do when we all live in 3 storied townhouses and still find ourselves short of accommodation in Auckland? Tear down the lovely 3 storied one's and build four storeys?