Published 3 September 2018
The wheels are turning and transformation down the southern corridor to Hamilton is on the way. Alternatively, transformation is on the way up that corridor, from Hamilton to Auckland.
Presumptuous? For Auckland there’s a serious adjustment: Instead of looking at Hamilton as a place to extend to, Auckland needs to see the Waikato is an active & growing part of a larger matrix, where change will occur at many stops in multiple directions.
The NZ Transport Agency has a Hamilton-Auckland corridor plan – and it has another for Hamilton-New Plymouth. Auckland, if it sees a triangle at all, sees one encompassing Tauranga/Mt Maunganui.
Image above: The corridor, running 5km each side the rail line between Hamilton & Auckland.
It’s all very hard to keep with, but consider these points of discussion & action, in the last few days and into the next week.
Tomorrow, Auckland Council’s planning committee considers the Hamilton-Auckland corridor plan & its role in this. The recommendation is to endorse participation, and the new Auckland Plan 2050 development strategy as the basis for staff input.
The corridor plan stemmed from calls from Waikato councils for investment in a commuter rail service between Hamilton & Auckland.
Urban development authority ideas also enter picture
The committee will also need to start thinking hard, and quickly, about the Government’s plans for an urban development authority – not just as a twinkle in the eye but something likely to be in place this year.
Ideas for such an authority have been around for the last 3 years, promoted by former Housing Minister Nick Smith and sent through a consultation process in 2016-17 by the Minister of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE), and taken up by Phil Twyford, now Minister of Transport and also of Housing & Urban Development.
Natural development will cross the Auckland-Waikato border – Pokeno as an Auckland suburban outlier on top of being a growing Waikato business & dairy production centre is an example.
Report notes interdependencies
As Auckland Council senior transport advisor Szening Ooi says in her report to tomorrow’s committee meeting: “There are significant interdependencies between Auckland & the Waikato that cross local government boundaries. However, previous spatial planning along the Auckland-Hamilton corridor has largely been confined within these administrative boundaries.”
She said the plan was initiated by the Government, aiming to investigate opportunities to unlock & shape growth along the rail corridor, unlock the potential to connect communities and provide access to jobs in Auckland & Waikato towns along the corridor.
The corridor plan went to a ministerial briefing on 25 June, aimed at getting all partners in it to agree on the project scope, purpose, objectives, deliverables, timetable & ongoing partnership. That was followed by a 3-day enquiry-by-design workshop in Tuakau on 27-29 August, where the project partners developed a draft integrated spatial plan for the corridor.
The NZ Transport Agency board is due to consider the business case for the Hamilton-Auckland start-up passenger rail service in October. That ties in with electrification of the Auckland rail line to Pukekohe, building the third main rail track along the southern line and completing the city rail link.
Maori roles & gains
Ms Ooi said Waikato Maori – Tainui, Ngati Paoa & the Hauraki Collective – were partners in the project, and it presented investment opportunities for Tamaki Makaurau iwi as well: “Additionally, Maori will benefit if the project’s aims of improving housing affordability, providing employment opportunities & enhancing the quality of the natural environments along the corridor are achieved.”
Auckland Council staff have recommended the establishment of a mana whenua–iwi steering group to sit in parallel with the project’s steering group.
Pressure on urban boundary structure
A pressure point for the Auckland council is the Government desire to see more land released for housing both inside & outside the rural:urban boundaries agreed in the brand-new Auckland unitary plan, to improve housing affordability. This is expressed in the just-released Cabinet paper, Urban growth agenda: Proposed approach (see link below).
Ms Ooi said: “Through the project, central government has indicated that it aims to provide spatial plans that are more ‘minimalist’ and allow the market to ‘fill in’ & sequence development where possible, rather than through regulation.
“There is a risk that, through this project, central government could apply a top-down approach to addressing growth management in Auckland & the Waikato that could undermine Auckland Council’s approach to urban growth and be contrary to both the Auckland Plan development strategy & the unitary plan.
“The project’s focus is also to connect communities & provide greater access to jobs in Auckland & Waikato towns along the rail corridor. The project does not aim to displace growth from Auckland to Waikato but may have this effect as it provides growth opportunities along the corridor. This is not an issue in itself, but the potential impacts & subsequent responses need to be better understood.”
The timeline now:
September: Refine the plan and further test with key stakeholders, amend as required
Late October: Governance leaders consider proposed plan
Mid-December: Governance leaders consider the partnership design & refined list of projects; formal consultation & endorsements & implementation to follow.
The Waikato lead
Future Proof, created by Waikato public bodies, says on its website: “We estimate that there will be nearly half a million people living in Hamilton and the surrounding Waikato & Waipa districts by 2061. That means we will almost double our population in the next 50 years. We want to know our future by planning today.”
The Future Proof partners have produced ‘Future proof strategy, planning for growth, November 2017’. This updates the 2009 strategy & implementation plan. The partners are now working on the second phase of the update.
Auckland Council planning committee, agenda item 4 September 2018:
11, Hamilton-Auckland corridor plan
Outcomes of the Wellington ministerial briefing on 25 June
Cabinet paper, released in August 2018: Urban growth agenda, proposed approach
Future Proof, Hamilton to Auckland corridor study, December 2012
Future Proof strategy 2017 – summary
Future Proof strategy 2017
NZ Transport Agency, transport corridor plans:
NZTA, 31 August 2018: $16.9 billion investment in the future of NZ
NZTA, 31 August 2018: National land transport programme, 2018-21
NLTP regional summaries
Auckland land transport plan summary
Attribution: Council committee agenda, Cabinet paper, Future Proof.