Archive | Growth forum

Curtis loses fight to remove “compact” from development framework

Published 6 September 2007The Auckland Regional Growth Forum voted to endorse the Auckland sustainability framework yesterday, but not without a fight led by Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis over the presence of one word in the document: compact.

Sir Barry, supported by the mayors from the region’s periphery – John Law from Rodney & Mark Ball from Franklin – voted to drop the word compact from the framework’s reference to “compact urban form” and change the reference to settlement pattern to “quality settlement pattern”.

They argued that their districts had different needs from the more intensively developed centre of the region, and that the presence of the word compact in the document militated against moving the metropolitan urban limit.

However, Auckland Regional Council & forum chairman Mike Lee argued: “Compact urban form is a keystone of the growth strategy approach, the growth principle, and the principle itself is now embedded in statute. And to go back on that principle would be to unravel the work undertaken since 1999 (when the region’s 7 mayors & regional council chairman signed the strategy).”

Mr Lee & other forum members argued that aiming for a compact urban form didn’t preclude expansion of the MUL or urban development within Manukau, Franklin & Rodney.

The issue went to a vote and the request to remove the word compact was lost 3-7.

The forum went on to endorse the framework and also to change the forum’s name to the Regional Sustainable Development Forum.

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Attribution: Forum meeting & agenda, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Expect 4-5 centres to be earmarked in growth strategy review

Published 11 April 2007

A proactive, more aggressive approach to planning was proposed last week at the Regional Growth Forum, and the future focus would be on a handful of chosen growth centres.

The key element of the technical reports & workshop discussions is that 4-5 centres around the region would be identified as sub-regional business districts marked for more intensive development and a series of maybe 6-8 suburbs be identified as supporting centres, also to be more intensively developed.

Public development corporations could be introduced to implement the strategy. Essentially, the change would be more authoritarian – according with the Australian model of democracy.

The report, presented at the 4 April meeting of the growth forum by principal regional development advisor Brenna Waghorn, was received and will form the basis of discussion at the forum’s next workshop, on Thursday 26 April.

Details will pour out of the Auckland Regional Council through a series of reports which will go on its website, some finalised, others in preliminary stages.

New mood replaces guidance

Since the region’s mayors & regional council chairman signed the regional growth strategy in 1999, the strategy has always been said to be a guide rather than a demand: Population growth was likely to result in the Auckland region’s population doubling to 2 million by 2050, and the region’s public-sector planners & politicians needed to establish how that population increase could be accommodated.

The sticking point has been that, when any intensification has been proposed, local residents have resisted. A complication has been that intensive development has been allowed in places marked for growth – but the intensity hasn’t been as great as regional planners think will be necessary. One outcome has been that, while intensification has occurred, it may block the even more intensive development needed to turn chosen centres into the hubs that would make the compact-city concept work best.

When the Auckland City Council proposed more intensive development in Panmure in 2001, it raised the ire of locals by presenting very precise figures which were seen as targets. In the backdown, targets became guidelines and the intensification programme has never been quite the same since.

Until now. Under the programme outlined by Ms Waghorn, the key growth centres will be named, growth targets will be set, changes in transport & land use will begin.

The changed emphasis in implementing the growth strategy ties in with the new regional outlook on sustainable development, and also relates to the proposals for “one city” governance under which there would be some new over-arching policymaker for Auckland, although the present councils would be retained.

In the background, councillors around the region and central government officials have taken part in a number of workshops on reviewing the growth strategy, on the new sustainability framework, and on implementing the strategy.

Ms Waghorn said some of the key workshop conclusions were:

Considerable investment has been committed to physical infrastructure. However there is work to do to focus on & align this investment with social infrastructure
There is a disconnect between regional strategy & local-level implementation and a need for certainty about where & when redevelopment in growth areas will occur. Greater effort is needed to sequence growth so investment, particularly around infrastructure, can be effectively planned & aligned
The “business as usual” approach will not achieve desired outcomes. Agencies need to think beyond 5-10-year timeframes and challenge the traditional way of budgeting, communicating, planning & delivering
More proactive tools such as development corporations and place-based approaches are needed to achieve desired outcomes.

From a survey of developers undertaken last year, Ms Waghorn pointed to a few more issues standing in the way of intensification:

First was the lack of certainty about where, when & how growth will occur in centres
Council planning processes & procedures tend to hinder rather than facilitate intensification. There’s a lack of flexibility in existing rules to respond to intensification objectives. There’s little incentive for innovation, leading to risk-averse practices. And there’s inconsistency between council policy & practices, within councils and between the ARC & territorial councils
The cost of development is impacted by time delays caused by notification processes (through land holding costs) and the price of land
Market demand for intensification is growing. However, meeting demand is impeded by the infrastructure constraints in areas planned for growth, and due to the difficulty in amalgamating sites in key areas. Plan changes to allow intensification are slow in areas prime for redevelopment.

The regional development team has compiled a report on international trends and lessons in growth management, including a review of comparable cities (Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Portland & Vancouver) & tools they’ve used to implement growth & sustainability objectives. Among the tools used:

Land release programmes were established to facilitate orderly & economic development through the timely provision of land, services & infrastructure over 25-50-year periods
Priority growth areas were identified, including both new urban areas on the fringe & priority centres for redevelopment within the existing urban areas
Management authorities were established for growth areas
Land & property development agencies were established to deliver strategy & area objectives, often enabled by special legislation to amalgamate sites, acquire land & fast-track planning processes
Critical projects would be fast-tracked, creating specific town-centre planning teams with delegated authority & voluntary codes of practice to supplement statutory planning tools.

Economic drivers

Ms Waghorn said a report on economic trends & drivers identified continued population growth as a primary driver of economic growth, combined with a growing domestic market. Other drivers included the extent of foreign ownership of local firms, shortages of skilled labour and infrastructure capacity constraints. Also identified were the need to make better use of Maori & Pacific skills and a drive to increase export-led production.

“Despite this export focus, the report identifies that the fastest growth is likely to be in those sectors servicing the local economy (retail, services, construction & distribution). This will flow through to affect business land. There will be strong demand for retail space, as well as manufacturing, transport & storage, distribution. The demand from sectors such as financial & insurance services is likely to be more focused on town centre locations.”

Ms Waghorn said this report concluded by identifying some policy choices that will enable councils to influence future business growth:

Allow market forces within the existing regulatory framework
Councils can direct growth through an enhanced regulatory framework, and
Councils, together or individually, can express preferences for the location of growth and pursue a consultative, facilitative approach.

Residential capacity

Preliminary results from a 2006 study on Auckland’s capacity for residential growth were presented to the growth forum at its February workshop. A final report will be published in June, but initial findings were:

In 2001, metropolitan Auckland had 16-25 years’ supply of residential capacity under current policy. This level of capacity has been maintained largely through the addition of greenfields land within the MUL (the metropolitan urban limit)
In 2006, under current district plans, capacity will be exhausted around 2022 (16 years of growth)
Assuming remaining capacity in the sector agreements is realised through district plan changes, and combined with current district plan capacity, the region has 26 years’ supply of residential capacity available
Capacity from traditional sources, ie, vacant land & infill, is continuing to decline
Development over the past 5 years has occurred on vacant land (40%), as infill (33%) and on business-zoned land, largely the cbd (27%)
Under current policy (district plan) about one-third of remaining residential capacity is vacant land, one quarter of capacity is by way of infill (including some redevelopment potential)
A large proportion of existing capacity is in commercial zones, eg, the cbd, cbd fringe, sub-regional centres & town centres
Current infill development within residentially zoned parts of growth centres may compromise the capacity for higher densities in the future.

How they do it overseas

The regional council commissioned a report on overseas metropolitan infrastructure planning (in New South Wales, Victoria & Ontario), and Ms Waghorn said it highlighted “the fragmented state of Auckland’s infrastructure and the misalignment of planning for growth and funding of infrastructure”. She said it highlighted elements of successful infrastructure, including the need for:

a strategic vision, leadership and a champion
a co-ordination agency that provides strategic planning leads, and
“city shaping” through transport & land use and supporting funding & pricing to reinforce plans.

A report on intensifying town centres & business areas has identified tools & methods for employment intensification that have been successful overseas and might be applied here. Some suggested approaches are:

Developing a coherent framework to guide redevelopment
A regional development corporation to play a role in identifying strategic sites & areas and working with the private sector to play a more significant planning & consenting role in key sites and to optimise development outcomes for the community
Strategic land acquisition & site amalgamation
Identifying specific targets for residential & business growth to support redevelopment of centres
Additional planning mechanisms to support employment intensification such as density bonuses & permissible land uses
Funds & grants directed to key sites to promote rehabilitation of blighted sites or deprived areas
Establishment of business improvement districts where local businesses are levied in order to deliver supplementary services (main street beautification, new amenities).

Barriers to more intensive housing

In the updated report on mechanisms to intensify housing, a number of discussion techniques were suggested to promote demand in areas where market barriers exist. These included:

the need to slow or stop incremental infill-type development from occurring where market demand for intensive housing is low
structure & concept planning for selected nodal areas are helpful in providing direction, but real gains can be made by upgrading the environment within the selected areas
promotion of the benefits of living in and owning intensive housing versus other housing forms
encouragement of developers to respond more to the needs of end users rather than investors when designing developments
a regional development agency, with a role in providing certainty relating to future land use & infrastructure changes in & around the nodes selected for intensification.

The conclusions

Out of all that, the regional planning team came up with criteria for identifying strategic centres & corridors, suggested a hierarchy then presented some emerging trends and conclusions of the review. First, the criteria:

Geographic positioning
Overall trip generation
Numbers of jobs
Market catchment size
Diversity of activities
Transport infrastructure, services and planned investment
Capacity for additional development (development, infrastructure & economic opportunity).

Then came the potential hierarchy:

A strong cbd that serves the entire region
A series of sub-regional business districts that serve populations of around 300,000 people
A series of major centres that support the sub-regional centres and service large catchments (maybe 6-8 suburbs)
Specialised centres that recognise important employment areas
Corridors distinguishing between those appropriate for residential growth and those suited to employment activities, and
A series of local centres to serve local populations for day-to-day needs.

Among the trends:

Urban form in the Auckland region is beginning to change and a strong market has developed for more intensive forms of urban living
Although current regional & sector policy allows for development in the identified growth centres & corridors, district plans don’t enable this. The region continues to develop the easiest growth options first (ie, on vacant land and by way of infill). As a result, the capacity for this type of residential development is continuing to decrease
Current policy provides capacity for residential development for a further 16-26 years (under medium growth projections)
There has been a steady decrease in the regional supply of vacant business-zoned land, leading to a shortage of capacity for certain types of business development
Significant future capacity for residential & business development exists within centres (largely through redevelopment opportunities), but this is not being realised. Current planning & approval processes are not encouraging centres-based development and there are a number of barriers to this occurring
There is a lack of co-ordinated provision of infrastructure at regional & local levels. Investment across the region is not being used to drive the implementation of the regional growth strategy
There has been a lot of public investment (in transport, education, health, public realm, parks, for example) and use of new tools (urban design panels, development & property companies, joint ventures) to demonstrate & direct quality development outcomes. However this is on a small scale compared to the development that is necessary.

Ms Waghorn said strategic conclusions at this stage of the review were:

The need to stick to the vision and provide stronger leadership
A multi-centred compact urban form is the way forward for a city-region seeking to become more sustainable over the long term, and
The need to take bigger steps and possibly leaps to improve implementation. The most significant of these steps could occur through the prioritisation of planning effort & improved co-ordination of investment. For example, over the next 5-10 years, planning, investment & infrastructure delivery could be focused on 4-5 key centres in the region.

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Attribution: Regional Growth Forum meeting, agenda & presentation, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Lee proposes formal integration of regional growth & sustainability strategies

Published 1 April 2007

The Auckland Regional Council wants to integrate 2 of its strategies, one for regional growth and the other the long-term sustainability framework.

Its chairman, Mike Lee, has proposed the integration to the Regional Growth Forum, which meets on Wednesday. He wants the forum to endorse integration, a report on it to be presented to the forum’s next meeting, on Wednesday 4 July, and the political process also to be merged.

The integration idea got under way after workshops on the sustainability framework were held last year. With growing public awareness of global warming & climate change as international concerns, sustainability took over as the primary concern of the regional council just after it had become host to the Regional Economic Development Forum & the regional economic development strategy.

The key immediate elements of integration will be a further slowdown for growth proposals, particularly the allocation of more land for both business & residential development.

Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis speaks frequently about the need to provide more land – and to expand the metropolitan urban limits for that to happen.

Cllr Lee, on the other hand, speaks just as frequently about sustainable growth – instead of sustained growth – and the Lee side of the argument has the upper hand at the moment.

Earlier stories:

14 January 2007: Consultation in March on regional sustainability framework

6 October 2006: Business land study endorsed but availability still some way off – and some other views on business land of the future

6 September 2006: Business land take-up accelerates, but ARC sees infill potential

3 September 2006: Draft business land strategy endorsed, final version out soon

30 August 2006: Townsend lashes regional containment policy

6 August 2006: Update on growth strategies around the Auckland region

7 July 2006: Compact-city concept “destroying the Kiwi way of life”

10 November 2005: Curtis sets up scrap over containment policy

30 August 2005: Curtis cites slow Babich block rezoning as reason to use RMA instead of plan processes

30 August 2005: Regional Growth Forum loses the plot

22 May 2005: Regional council pushes harder line on intensification

22 May 2005: Regional policy statement changes on intensification

22 May 2005: Regional intensification schedule

27 March 2005: Compact city is in, sprawl is out, councils set out how they’re following the policy


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Attribution: Company statement, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Update on growth strategies around the Auckland region

Published 6 August 2006

The links below take you to items derived from the region’s 7 territorial councils’ latest report to the Regional Growth Forum.

Councils around the Auckland region report into the forum periodically on what’s happening in their neighbourhood – plans, strategies, sometimes proposals for zone changes or shifts of the urban limit.

Check the links for details from other reports to the forum’s last meeting, on 5 July.

Growth strategy update links:

Update on Auckland City growth strategy

Update on Franklin growth strategy

Update on Manukau growth strategy

Update on North Shore City growth strategy

Update on Papakura growth strategy

Update on Rodney growth strategy

Update on Waitakere growth strategy


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Attribution: Growth forum, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Compact-city concept “destroying the Kiwi way of life”

Published 7 July 2006

 “In many respects I think we are destroying the Kiwi way of life.” With that sentence this week, Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis damned the Auckland region’s compact-city concept.

Sir Barry was responding on Wednesday to an urban density study presented at the Regional Growth Forum, the organisation set up a decade ago to work out how Auckland should cope with projected doubling of its population to 2 million by 2050.

Former regional council strategic policy analyst Brian Waddell, now a consultant through his own company, Urbanista Ltd, presented the forum with a series of aerial photos of meshblocks (the small sample areas used for calculating residential & business densities), including oblique shots showing more of the urban form – parks, building shapes & styles, distances and the effects of bulk.

At Manukau, Sir Barry is in charge of a city which avidly promotes growth. It needs business growth just to supply jobs for school leavers, and it’s been guaranteeing a bigger supply of school leavers by being the fastest-developing city in the country, The Flat Bush strip between Manukau City Centre & Howick is filling with houses at a rate which should meet the projection of 40,000 people in a greenfields zone in 10 years.

But highrise, cheek-by-jowl growth? No.

The regional forum got formal assent to the more intensive growth concept from the region’s 7 mayors & regional council chairman in 1999. In 2000, Auckland City Council adopted its liveable communities programme, in which it laid out how it could meet growth projections. It set out strategic growth areas, with projected population growth on an evenly apportioned basis.

In the early stages there were to be growth corridors, replaced by a concept of hubs & nodes – more intensive urban & suburban points around a transport & business centre, with accommodation which would be at least medium-rise, if not highrise.

The Auckland City projections showed many areas increasing from dwelling numbers in the low 10s/ha to the high 20s/ha in strategic growth areas and, if development is confined to residentially zoned areas, to a range of 35-42 dwellings/ha. The first figures are net of roads & parks & schools – the veins of the suburban body.

Mr Waddell was involved in an exercise 4 years ago demonstrating to the forum the population densities that would make various kinds of transport work – a rising density indicator showing regular bus travel at a gross 15 dwellings/ha, regular rail at 25, rapid transit at 50, and 50% of all trips non-auto at 100 dwellings/ha.

Still focusing on gross rather than net figures, Mr Waddell presented figures this week showing the levels of population density that would support various types of transport – from a gross 60 dwellings/ha or employment density of 300 employees/ha for a rapid transit service in a sub-regional centre down to 20 dwellings or 50-100 employees/ha for a local bus service to a town centre.

He demonstrated by meshblocks how some areas were well advanced on this intensification path and would have numbers well above the required level, while the nature or topography of other areas made achieving the target densities less likely.

One of the conflicts not discussed was between shopping strips & malls – the strips draw higher employee numbers. But if malls draw more customers – more efficiently by needing fewer staff – shouldn’t they be supported?

The urban density study was conducted for Arta (the Auckland Regional Transport Authority), and the appendix listing the density figures referred to the numbers as those “required in high-density centres & corridors to support the public transport system”.

The forum had before it on Wednesday a number of related agenda items – on the Start programme (the proposed long-term sustainability framework for the region, renamed Sustaining the Auckland region together)¸ the proposed work programme to update the regional growth strategy, councils’ reports on how they’re implementing the strategy and the urban density study.

The review represents a major tug-of-war for the region, between the desire to intensify – reducing sprawl, raising the passenger numbers at convenient points to justify more expensive & efficient public transport systems – and the opposing urge to create more greenfields development and allow breaches of the metropolitan urban limits.

Manukau & Rodney are 2 areas where the councils want to expand outside the existing urban limits and, in Waitakere, the Whenuapai airbase is outside the limit.

In places where large numbers of flats (well, they’re called apartments at the moment, but most will in time be reduced to the less expensive-sounding term flat) have been built, the common perception is that a high proportion are not pretty.

At the growth forum and at the regional council, regional council chairman Mike Lee has been at pains to differentiate between 2 perceptions: “Sustainable growth does not mean sustained growth.”

North Shore councillor Tony Holman told the forum: “I’m concerned about our unbuilt form, our environment. I still do not know where we define what that sustainability is. What is it we are attempting to sustain…. the planet, the environment of Auckland, growth?”

He said there needed to be some focus on Auckland’s water supply and continued: “The growth idea has had its day. The growth of Auckland is, in my view, totally unsustainable and I think we (at the forum) are playing at the edges.

“If we continue with unsustainable population growth… we are fighting against ourselves & survival by promoting more population.”

He suggested a change in name for the organisation, from the regional growth forum to a sustainability forum: “Maybe we should be looking, as well as the growth proposal, as to what are the pros & cons of trying to really limit the growth of Auckland. I think we should look at alternatives to eternal growth.”

He questioned intensification’s role of supporting the public transport system, saying that must surely depend on the level of subsidy, among other factors.

And then came Sir Barry: “I’m very disturbed by what I’ve seen on the screen (on densification). Appalling building forms will not lead us to the promised land. In many respects I think we are destroying the Kiwi way of life, if it’s not too late already.

“Future generations of Aucklanders will not thank us for the structures we have put in place to achieve higher density in residential communities.

“When we commenced the formulation of the regional growth strategy it was based on many matters. One was that it would be providing for greenfields development in the region, coupled with increasing densities.”

He recalled the “very real reluctance” on the North Shore to increasing density and criticised that at the time. “You were right and I was wrong for a change,” he told Cllr Holman.

Sir Barry said achieving the numbers to deliver an economic public transport system “is going to destroy the way of life of new Zealanders both now & in the future. We have a particular quality of life in this region which many of us have fought over many years to retain.”

Intensification meant “transplanting a kind of development from overseas for New Zealanders to adapt to and it’s not going to work….. We’re stuffing up our environment.

“I want to warn Aucklanders that what has been done in recent times in the name of progress is not leading us to the promised land but leading us up the garden path. In Manukau, we’ve got many town centres which are ripe for redevelopment. The market has responded negatively. We’ve certainly had extensive greenfield development in Flat Bush, in decently designed housing with generous open spaces, but the tarting up of the neighbourhood centres has not been to the degree identified in the growth strategy.”

Cllr Lee said a mid-path was needed: “A lot of intensification has been carried out with the best of intentions…. We do need critical mass to make public transport viable, otherwise our roads will be congested. We don’t want to see our lovely old garden suburbs wrecked… There’s no simple answer, but I think the fundamental principles of the growth strategy are correct. But we have to work on the basis of sustainability and what that word actually means.”

Those comments put the ARC chairman on the side of the compact city (flexible version). Sir Barry, meanwhile, wants to see urban growth in parts of Manukau City which are currently outside the designated urban limits and also in Papakura & Franklin. And he wants all those southern local bodies joined into one southern Auckland council.

Sir Barry says there’s some evidence that, despite the exponential growth in places like Flat Bush, people are also starting to leave Auckland for other centres which are cheaper or have a more relaxed lifestyle, and Auckland’s population might not grow at the rate recently anticipated.

The discussion at the growth forum was highly important for the region’s prospects, signifying a point of potential change in direction from the formalised compact-city approach.

Overturning that policy direction would destroy the unified objective of the whole regional council bureaucracy and undermine local policies around the region. What it might open up is a direction not well explored over the past decade.

The story above will be expanded with additions over the weekend of articles on:

growth strategy implementation around the region
forces of change
the growth strategy review timetable
some policy positions
some thoughts on where & how rational change might be achieved.

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Attribution: Forum meeting, agenda, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Growth forum embarks on review – and the chance to adjust its thinking

Published 5 January 2006

The Auckland Regional Growth Forum began the process of reviewing the regional growth strategy at the end of 2005, but one thing it won’t be doing: opening the region & its boundaries up to open-slather development.

A report on the review has gone to the region’s 7 territorial local bodies for discussion, for ideas to be taken back to the growth forum early in 2006.

The region’s councils adopted the growth strategy in 1999, cementing 2 fundamental development elements in place:

a policy of making the region a compact city, and
intensifying development around nodes & transport corridors.

The regional council bureaucracy firmly resisted most attempts to expand the metropolitan urban limits, although some councillors from time to time tried to promote more greenfield development on the edges.

The regional bureaucracy also moved, very slowly, towards putting a business land strategy in place.

2 other elements of planning to cater for growth have been dealt with at varying distances from the growth strategy – the regional land transport strategy and the regional economic development strategy.

The transport strategy has elements of new roading – extension of State Highway 20, continuing Alpurt northward (but replacing one barrier against Northland, a section of curly roads, by imposing a toll; should there be a toll between Auckland & the Waikato as well?). It also has combinations – the Northern Busway and the more frequent appearance of buslanes – plus an intention to increase the movement of passengers by rail.

The economic strategy moved from one complicated setup to another, this time under the leadership of Chamber of Commerce executive director & regional councillor Mike Barnett. The economic forum, bureaucracy & board will report to the regional council’s finance committee, the land transport committee is its own master, with representatives from various outside organisations, but there’s also a regional transport policy committee, and the growth forum’s affairs get reported to the regional strategy & planning committee.

Plenty of bureaucracy, plenty of checks, but the balance is skewed against rapid progress. Nevertheless, there has been progress at local level around the region, as staff of the territorial councils have demonstrated in their quarterly reports.

The bureaucratic leadership at the regional council was almost entirely changed in the second half of 2005. Policy & planning director Craig Shearer began the growth strategy review process with a report to the growth forum’s November meeting before heading to the door at Christmas. He’ll be replaced in February by Greg Hill, who’s been a regular independent planning commissioner and will be the regional council’s policy & planning general manager.

Mr Shearer, and regional development manager Noel Reardon (who will move to a new role in 2006), proposed a review on 3 levels:

Vision, outcomes & principles
Land use & infrastructure issues, and
Implementation issues.

They said the future growth strategy could be structured differently if their approach was adopted:

“This would see a higher-level strategic document focussed on wider sustainability principles (it could be called Vision Auckland). Sitting underneath this would be a document which concentrated on the spatial ‘growth concept’ component within the current strategy. This document would deal with the land use development & infrastructure matters and would be on the same level as the land transport strategy and the regional economic development strategy. This document could be called the spatial development strategy.”

Because a review will take some time, they said the current strategy still had to be implemented, but the current strategy would also be affected by changes arising under the Local Government Auckland Amendment Act, from district plans and from variations such as applications to change the metropolitan urban limits to accommodate more business land.

It’s hard for outsiders to envisage the laborious process through which most local & regional government change is filtered. It’s also very handy – if you want to get a development through the system more easily, for example, to understand some of it.

Mr Shearer said the current growth strategy consisted of the following elements:

a vision
a set of principles
16 outcomes, and
a growth concept (a compact intensified city integrated with passenger transport).

To get better detail, the region’s councils established sectors and wrote sector agreements, setting out the scale, timing, sequencing & location of how growth would be accommodated at local level. Importantly, it became systematic. Gradually, councils have put local plans in place defining concepts & structures for development.

Before that, change was largely developer-led, and in a transition period there was a struggle as developers tried to do what they wanted outside prescribed development areas, while councils were at the same time trying to write the new rules under which such development would be allowed.

Among successes Mr Shearer attributed to the growth strategy:

It’s provided a broad framework “around which consensus has been built on the future direction of growth & development within the region. The community are generally in support of a more compact intensifying urban area.” (I think strong public support is an illusion, but accept there is strong political promotion of it)
The strategy has led the way in taking a longer-term view of growth management issues, resulting in the identification of infrastructure requirements to accommodate growth and the securing of infrastructure funding, for example, transport, schools & energy
The strategy & and the forum have served as an example or model for other regions
The strategy led the way in the move away from a purely effects-based approach to managing growth & development to a more holistic & sustainable way. Initially set up as a non-statutory process, its development resulted in the use of new tools to achieve integration within the region
The strategy has achieved a consolidation of the existing urban area and has resulted in good examples of compact urban development. This point should not be underestimated. In the development of the strategy, councils faced criticism that there was no market for the type of developments envisaged.

The Resource Management Act was portrayed as an effects-based replacement for the previous prescriptive planning law. From the fourth point above, you might think the forum has moved away from an effects-based approach, but I think what Mr Shearer has described – the “holistic & sustainable” – is the expanded understanding of effects.

It’s no longer a question of whether the piece of clay immediately across the boundary is affected by your development, or you impose shade on a neighbour within a tightly specified space where the neighbour can expect direct sunlight. It challenges the long-held Auckland perception that developing to the max equates to good development, and that developing more cheaply (but creating long-term costs) equates to good development.

The Shearer-Reardon report looked at issues & gaps in the existing strategy, saying implementation has been variable:

“The land use concept has been implemented in terms of agreed moves to the urban limits. There has also been general intensification throughout the region. Implementation is, however, slow in terms of zoning for quality intensification around transport centres.” They said the lack of progress should be kept in context of a strategy only 6 years old & sector agreements only 3½ years old: “To expect significant advances in this short a timeframe may be overly optimistic. It also underestimates the considerable time & resources required to engage with the community and effect change.”
Strategies have been produced for affordable housing & open space (out of the 16 outcomes), but implementation has been limited
Councils have limited tools to ensure the type of development envisaged in the growth strategy actually occurs
Arising from slow implementation is the issue of diminishing capacity to accommodate expected growth. If high growth rates & lack of substantial progress with selected intensification continue, the region could face capacity constraints within 10 years. This capacity constraint is for both residential & business land needs. This capacity constraint manifests itself in one way through the demand for more greenfields. In 2009, when the strategy is reviewed, this pressure is likely to manifest itself through Resource Management Act challenges to the metropolitan urban limits
Community acceptance of intensification has proved difficult to achieve, particularly in areas identified for intensification. The ARC environmental awareness survey shows support for the growth strategy (50% of those surveyed supported its basis, 22% were neutral, 28% disagreed; 40% indicated they would consider an apartment or the like as suitable accommodation for their needs at some stage). However, this support is at a generic level and is not translated into support by communities identified for redevelopment. Contributing factors include the poor quality of building construction, poor urban design, new developments’ lack of integration with the existing community, lack of supporting infrastructure and a general concern about change
One of the premises of the strategy is that of intensification supported by a high-quality public transport system. Significant progress has been made on addressing public transport in the region. However, to date the market has not placed a premium on locating near these transit stations.  Intensification must go hand in hand with the provision of the necessary infrastructure, particularly public transport
The existing strategy was primarily a residential land-use strategy and didn’t adequately integrate the business & economic development issues with the provision of land use & infrastructure. This is recognised by the subsequent work on Areds (the economic strategy) & the business land strategy. The proposed review allows the opportunity to integrate them
The question also arises about whether there are any other gaps or issues that should be considered in a review, such as energy planning and provision of social infrastructure
Rural issues were only tentatively addressed first time round, and more integration of them should be considered in the review
Underlying many of these issues is the question of infrastructure funding. The pace of growth has generally outstripped the ability of the region to fund necessary infrastructure. The type of development envisaged by the growth strategy requires considerable upfront investment by councils which are largely reliant on traditional funding mechanisms.

The rural question is much bigger than the 20 words above. At the forum, Rodney mayor John Law joined Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis in pushing for a more urgent approach to numerous issues:

the meaning of sustainability (not the same, they suggested, throughout the region; and ARC & forum chairman Mike Lee said some people thought sustainable development meant sustained development)
the need for appropriate adjustments to the metropolitan urban limits to recognise business & population growth pressures
population & business growth should be seen as vital ongoing needs.

Mr Shearer & Mr Reardon saw the spatial growth concept as likely to be the most contentious area where the current model of the compact, intensifying city and alternative models would be debated.

That debate is already late. Both Pukekohe (in Franklin) & the district up the east coast from Warkworth to Mangawhai (Rodney, into Kaipara, and so into Northland) are being developed in their own right. Pukekohe will become a centre – but should it be a satellite? – and around Warkworth, Matakana & Snells Beach, Mangawhai & Waipu, it’s anybody’s guess as to what might be a centre.

The growth forum began in 1996 with a session bringing together politicians, the public & representatives of various groups (before the term stakeholders became common). It’s smoothed down to a regular report by selected staff from territorial & regional councils to a selection of politicians.

The business land issue is an example of how this supposedly straightforward process can fail: A report was being prepared in 2002 and, after various criticisms & political failures over the past year, at the end of 2005 the subject matter was expanded so the arrival of a substantive report will take even longer.

Rodney mayor John Law said there seemed an ability within the process to sideline some issues, such as an agreement by politicians months ago to look at the metropolitan urban limits.

Auckland City deputy mayor Bruce Hucker said the strategy “has essentially been a population growth strategy. It has not been a community & economic development strategy. Even in the transport strategy there needs to be a freight strategy.

“One of the most serious weaknesses in the regional growth strategy to date has been the failure to make links with central government. It is not adequate simply to deal with the Ministry for the Environment over growth issues in the Auckland region, because there are decisions made on energy & health, for example, that central government are integral to, in which they have primary jurisdiction.”

While Cllr Hucker said Auckland wasn’t “a basket case, but in fact has vigorous economic development,” he made no comment on a change at the start of 2005 which should have affected his view – the setting up of an office in Auckland to co-ordinate the efforts of government departments in the region.

Cllr Hucker was also unsurprising in opposing extension of the metropolitan urban limits “at this stage”. Auckland City gains economically from intensification (with costs attached) but would suffer if greater opportunity for greenfield development was granted.

“That greenfields approach can undermine our important transport strategies. It can also lead to hidden public subsidies for infrastructure in those areas which is much more expensive than in already-built-up areas. It could significantly undermine the environmental, social & cultural as well as the economic benefits. The growth strategy is moving us from a suburban way of life to more of an urban way of life.”

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Auckland growth forum widens its horizons

Environment Waikato and the Northland Regional Council have accepted an invitation to join the Auckland Regional Growth Forum.

Auckland Regional Council & growth forum chairman Mike Lee extended the invitation after the last forum meeting for 2004, in December. Representatives from the 2 neighbouring organisations will join the forum as observers at its 26 January meeting.

They won’t have voting rights but will be able to participate in discussion and present & receive reports.

Cllr Lee wanted the neighbours involved because the Auckland region’s growth issues spread beyond its own boundaries. He said growth & development problems the region faced had implications for all northern New Zealand.

“If the regional growth strategy is really going to deliver results then we not only need to be working together within the region but we also need to be working with our neighbours, and with Government.

“The issues the region is facing in terms of population growth, urban sprawl & transport problems have implications for all of New Zealand, not just the Auckland region,” Cllr Lee said.He said any future changes to the regional growth strategy could link into similar strategies developed by other regions to further recognise that growth isn’t confined to specific council boundaries.

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