by Len Brown, Mayor of Auckland
Today is a major milestone in Auckland’s journey to become the world’s most liveable city. This is where the rubber hits the road.
Two years ago a new, unified council was tasked by the government with putting Auckland back on the path to becoming a true international city.
The government set it out in legislation. One council. One mayor. One vision. One plan.
One of my first tasks as Mayor, working closely with the new council, was to set the vision which became the Auckland Plan.
We talked extensively with Aucklanders about how we could best meet the challenges facing the region, and how we can best seize the opportunities they present.
15,000 people made submissions on the Auckland Plan, many others engaged through public meetings, online forums and involvement with their local boards. We have also consulted widely on the draft Unitary Plan through our 21 local boards and their communities.
Their response has been – and remains – loud and clear. They want a balanced and planned approach – a modern, liveable city, with a compact urban footprint, a revitalised city centre, integrated transport, environmental preservation and a dynamic economy.
They don’t want unconstrained urban sprawl that would turn Auckland into another Los Angeles.
They don’t want to live miles from their workplace, or spend hours each day in their car.
They want to protect and improve the environment that makes this region such a great place to live.
We have also talked extensively with international experts. Their advice reflects the views of Auckland. Last week, this was encapsulated in Michael Enright’s report. He identifies five key priorities for Auckland:
• Mass transit, particularly rail.
• Revitalising our city centre as a hub for finance, business and tourism.
• Maintain or reduce the urban footprint – a denser Auckland will be more vibrant, sustainable and liveable if done properly.
• Clusters of sectors and related businesses
• And finally, a substantial change in mind-set in how we live, travel and work.
We could ignore this. We could continue to do things the way they were always done from the 1950s on.
More sprawling suburbs. More roads. More laissez-faire development. And what would happen?
There would be more congestion. There would be even less of a sense of pride in being Aucklanders, as we live in far-flung suburbs and centres.
We would see the loss of more of our farmland – some of the most productive land in New Zealand – as it was turned into roads and pavements.
And there would be more costs on ratepayers – because of the huge infrastructure costs associated with sprawling cities.
We’ve been here before. In a 1969 report Sir Dove-Myer Robinson warned government of the consequences of ignoring Auckland’s challenges:
He wrote of the “accelerated urban sprawl, ruinous decentralisation of the CBD, and continuing increase of the cost to the community already resulting from congestion.”
We did not ignore Aucklanders.
The Auckland Plan, which we released last year, reflects the desire and the necessity for a modern, compact city.
It reflects the need for an integrated transport system which provides quality public transport alongside the roading network.
It reflects the need for a concerted drive to develop an export-focused regional economy.
And it reflects the need for the region’s development to be achieved in a way which improves – not injures – the environment.
The next step was to bring together Auckland’s array of district and regional plans into a new, single Unitary Plan.
The Auckland Plan sets the vision for 30 years. The Unitary Plan provides the detailed policy framework for how we implement the Auckland Plan.
It will eventually replace Auckland’s 14 existing district and regional plans with a simpler set of rules for the management of the built and natural environment.
It is through the Unitary Plan we can begin to deliver on the goals of the Auckland Plan.
From heritage and environmental and coastal protection, to the mix of heights in and around our town centres, to minimum apartment sizes, density of business areas and protection of productive farmland.
One set of rules which guides the development of resilient communities, a strong environment, integrated transport, quality urban living and a powerhouse economy.
The Unitary Plan recognises that when it comes to housing, people want choices.
There will be low, medium and high-rise apartments, terraced town houses, mixed use developments and stand-alone houses.
There will be some apartments in town centres, as well as in metropolitan centres like Manukau, Takapuna and New Lynn.
But there will also be land release and development around the edges of Auckland.
Importantly, this plan recognises that people want different types of housing at different times in their lives. Many young people and retired people want to live where they can give up their car or live right in the heart of their town.
Others still want to live further out, to enjoy more green space as they raise families.
Under this plan, the city will give them all of these options.
This is in sharp contrast to a vision in the 1940s and 50s which drove Auckland down the track of LA urban sprawl.
A vision that consigned our transport planners to building motorways. A tragic mistake that we’re now addressing.
The Unitary Plan will help to deliver a better city. It will also help us to deliver one which is affordable for our communities.
Auckland’s population is set to nearly double over the next 30 years. Our population will grow by a million people. More than 60 per cent of this will come from our existing populous. They have to live somewhere. The region needs a mix of new housing land, and more intensive housing in key areas of the city.
This plan allows for intensity – but it also expands the existing city by creating a new rural-urban boundary.
The land for housing will be available – under this plan. But we cannot simply allow sprawl – and destroy some of New Zealand’s most productive land in the process.
Over the past few months, we have heard a lot from the government on the topic of housing affordability. Ministers have told us that the key to providing more affordable housing is the availability of land – there is not enough to satisfy demand.
If the government wants to make more land available to Aucklanders more quickly, then they need to allow the Unitary Plan to take effect on notification. That will bring the new rural-urban boundary into effect much more quickly and address the issue the government says is central to housing affordability.
I have written to the Prime Minister to make this point. The people of Auckland have been clear that want us to see it through. I hope the government recognises that.
Over the coming weeks and months we want Aucklanders to have their say on this draft Unitary Plan for Auckland. Such a plan has never been more necessary or timely for Auckland.
If we get this right, we can start to meet the challenges Auckland faces – now and in the coming decades.