Population (Trends) Matter

An Auckland Conversation on Population Trends


I got an email in my box inviting me to an Auckland Conversation event that is hosted regularly by Auckland Council. The topic matter being discussed at this conversation tonight is: “Population Growth Trends” with Mayor Len Brown, Council Chief Planning Officer Dr Roger Blakeley and acting CEO of the Families Commission Len Cook heading the panel discussion tonight.

Three questions are being asked about population trends and how that would affect Auckland. We have heard in the Unitary Plan debate recently that Auckland needs to plan for one million more people by 2040. We heard from some aligned to the foil tin hat brigade – Auckland 2040 that Council should be scaling its projections back to around 300,000-500,000 more people in while the Prime Minister has said Auckland should get ready for an extra million – IF NOT MORE by 2040. Now that comment from the PM is scary but also quite realistic. I have made my views clear on why we should plan for that extra million with the flexibility to adjust up or down depending on the population tracks through the next 30-odd years. As I have said I would rather be pro-active in planning and end up with an infrastructure surplus than be reactive and end up with a major infrastructure deficit due to massive under projections.

So those three questions being discussed tonight are:

  1.  Will we have an extra one million people living in Auckland in 30 years ?
  2.  Who will they be ?  What will they need ?
  3. How do we plan for this in the draft Unitary Plan ?

Very important questions and questions I even raised in my “Missing Something with the Unitary Plan” post last month during the Unitary Plan debate.

An extract from that post:

To make this easy I am going to provide some rough definitions here:

  • Small House: 2 bedrooms
  • Medium House: 3 bedrooms
  • Large House: 4 bedrooms
  • Super Large House: 5-8 bedrooms
  • Walk Up Apartments: 3 storey apartment block with no lift provided
  • Low Rise: up to four storeys – lifts need to be provided per building code
  • Mid Rise: 4 – 12 Storeys
  • High Rise: 12+ Storeys
  • Super Tall: Over 300 metres

For the houses I have not provided height definitions as that can vary quite largely as the Mixed Housing Zone model shows with 2-4 bedroom houses all two storey. As for apartments and terrace housing I have not given bedroom counts as that also varies however, 1-2 bedroom would be the norm and 3-4 bedroom commanding a premium.

The Unitary Plan and most commentary has been focused on the following:

  • Small House: 2 bedrooms
  • Medium House: 3 bedrooms
  • Mid Rise: 4 – 12 Storeys
  • High Rise: 12+ Storeys

Commentary from the Main Stream Media has begun looking at low-rise apartments and large houses but, nothing on Walk Ups and Super Large Houses. The same applies with the Unitary Plan although the Mixed Housing Zone material does have 4 bedroom premium houses mentioned.

This brings me to a disturbing question with Council, planners, the MSM and the media. What and who is the Unitary Plan catering for. Upon looking; what we get is a Euro-centric designed around the Western Nuclear Family Model. The Western Nuclear Family Model being: mum, dad and the children. And by Western I mean the Anglo-Saxon realm of Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. So in those regards the Unitary Plan does serve quite well Nuclear Family Model of the Anglo-Saxon world(probably better than using the word White) and you can see how 2-3 bedroom residential dwellings as a main stay would work (4 bedroom often being a middle class premium).

However we have people and cultures in the world that do not adhere to the Anglo-Saxon Nuclear Family Model. We have cultures (basically everyone else to varying degrees) that operative on a Collective Family model; mum, dad, kids, grandma, aunts, uncles and even maybe the cousins. They operative in a collective manner in raising the family (rather than a nuclear manner as I might). As a result in operating in a collective manner (regardless if they believe in private individual or communal property), it will often mean different housing requirements to say what I will require.

For me three to four bedrooms would be ample for my family (although we are looking at 5-6 in the long-term if we flip to a collective manner) but would not be for a collective family. To house all their occupants a 5-8 bedroom house (hence a super large) would be required (for health and safety reasons to avoid over crowding). Now you can build a 5-8 bedroom house two ways (well three but I would not prefer apartments here):

  1. A sprawling one-two storey house that consumes quite a bit of land
  2. For the same amount of land as the above option, you build your super large house as three storeys reducing the land foot print required. This means extra space on the land for whatever; lawn, garden, outdoor cultural living area, car space etc

But I look through the Unitary Plan and I become stuck. With the city becoming more cosmopolitan every day it seems the Unitary Plan is not catering for our different cultures who have different needs to the Anglo-Saxon Nuclear Family provisions provided. And our families needing the Super Large Houses might also want to live on the isthmus as well as the fringes of the city. The Unitary Plan is meant to be providing housing choice but, it is sorely lacking in one critical aspect…


I might take the full post on Super Large Houses tonight and quiz the three panel members on the apparent lack of provision in both recognition of our diverse housing needs and supply super large houses for our non-European collective families.

This is worth considering and debating vigorously as Auckland grows that extra million and becoming more cosmopolitan in the progress.

I will run the commentary tomorrow on the event tonight to see what answers were given.