A New Battle Plan

To Win the War, Often you need to Commit to Sacrifices


Yesterday any Progressive or Liberal worth upholding their ideals would have literally wanted to force every single Conservative Councillor and Local Board Member at the Auckland Plan Committee to read Triumph of the City by Professor Glaeser until those Conservatives learnt that Auckland is not some 1960’s museum piece.

There are a few pieces summing up yesterday’s mixture of defeats and wins (for a progressive Auckland) which were covered pretty well by a few others out there:


My reactions can be best found in 160 characters on my Twitter Page – @BenRoss_AKL with the longer remark found at Talking Auckland’s Facebook page.

Here are some of my Talking Auckland Facebook postings from yesterday’s Auckland Plan Committee Proceedings:

  • The Unitary Plan covers today:
    Last of the Mixed Housing Zone Density Rules
    Height in Centres
    The Rural Urban Boundary (Will now be covered on Thursday as Council did not quite make it that far)
    You can watch the All About Auckland video feed or my tweets @BenRoss_AKL
  • Unitary Plan Proceedings under way starting with Recommendations hhh-kkk http://www.scribd.com/doc/163821815/APC-Recommendations
    Live feed can be seen at http://www.allaboutauckland.com/ (mmm, nnn, ooo was also worked through and mostly adopted with some amendments)
  • Yes Penny (The Deputy Mayor) Papakura is a good place. Needs a bit of love and polish like the rest of the South but as Councillors Coney and Penrose would say – great suburb (for first home buyers) 
    And yes Papakura is where Rebekka and I bought our first home (this is where the Councillors and Local Board members present at the Committee noticed I was online watching them via the All About Auckland Video Feed. Even got a mention from LB member Nigel James Turnball from it)
  • Can someone with legal knowledge please inform me: Can the Unitary Plan deal with Building Act issues please – that is regulate issues that would concern that particular Act rather than the Resource Management Act (that was answered after some clarification to which means Councillor Mike Lee’s argument around leaky homes and Manurewa Local Board Chair Angela Dalton’s comments around some poor quality/looking homes were invalid)
  • Can someone tell Sir John Walker (Councillor for Manurewa/Papakura) that we have left the 1950s behind please in regards to auto dependency. The market will provide as required, we just need AT to haul some backside and get our local streets to people friendly streets – you know where kids play on them and not get run over (this was in regards to Sir John’s question on where the kids will play with the backyard 80m2 minimum rule basically removed)
  • Lord Almighty some of our Councillors and Local Board need to be brought into the 21st Century with our planning – not the 1950s. 
    With the constant voting down on height and realistically Brownfield development sites, some Councillors and Local Boards have buggered up the freer market and US – the people exercising our rationale, freedoms and choices.

    It means the housing has to go somewhere and it will be well outside the 160,000 houses allocated to the Greenfields inside the Rural Urban Boundary. It means we will need to go outside the RUB and this will be BEYOND unaffordable for residents and businesses in the City. 

    Hope like hell to the Council that Manukau can take some of the brunt as we are going to need more that 18 storey Towers to take that load now shifted to the South as the Isthmus shuts up shop (and other areas as well)(you can tell I was getting cranky with the Conservatives really quickly)

  • Compulsory Reading for ALL Councillors and Local Boards http://triumphofthecity.com/ I was at his presentation and it was World Class (this should be compulsory reading before you even STAND for election for Council)
  • Thank you of those certain Councillors and Local Board Chairs, you have successfully sent Auckland back to 50s after we got it to the 70s on Friday.
    Back to square one (this was when the first round of Councillor Brewer’s amendments went through (the second set failed))
  • It comical that council is imposing height and density restrictions on some areas that have many buildings/developments in excess this e.g. in one part of Kohi they have imposed a 10m height restriction when buildings there are already 16m high. via Auckland Transport Blog  (retweeting ATB’s thoughts who were just as cynical towards the day’s proceedings as I was)
  • After Councillor Brewer’s amendments just got rejected (again) it seems Auckland just manage to crawl into the 60s. Still 50 years short where we need to be (my reprieve for the day)
  • Still seems the Centre Right are trying to figure out where their kids will play. Err try the front yard :-\
    From earlier today: Can someone tell Sir John Walker that we have left the 1950s behind please in regards to auto dependency. The market will provide as required, we just need AT to haul some backside and get our local streets to people friendly streets – you know where kids play on them and not get run over

    Further more kids playing on the street and out the front socialise with other kids building friends and relationships. As a bonus crime is also reduced due to the high level activity and socialisation.

    But then again the Centre Right will want their 2.5m fences and fortresses and their kids cotton wooled out the back which does the exact opposite of what I just said above.

    For those that live on arterials where there is a legitimate concern, this is where Council needs to haul backside and work on green streets and lots of parks (a correction there, it should be Conservative rather than Centre Right (more on that in a moment))

  • Councillors going on into the evening. They have not even gotten to the Rural Urban Boundary yet which is now a joke after today’s votes. With all the reductions and prohibitions on our Brownfield sites the RUB is going to need a serious rejig as the 160,000 houses in the Greenfield Plans will no longer be enough (this is where I started rethinking the Battle Plan for the Long War)

And finally this rather big spiel this morning which I will be giving when the Committee meets again on Thursday:

The Unitary Plan Proceedings can be described as a war zone in whatever length you wish to describe it. You win some battles and you lose some as well. I have seen that so far with the amendments going backwards and forwards as Councillors and Local Boards try to remould the Unitary Plan for whatever ends or purposes it maybe

In the end though you are usually in for a the long war which your success will be measured by the adaptability one can display.

Like any good General or Admiral in a fight and seeing through the long war; the amendments that have effectively killed off most of the Isthmus advancing into the 21st Century forces one to adapt the strategy so that Auckland advances.

If you can’t advance the whole then you advance the parts that will benefit the most when peacetime returns. In this case with the Unitary Plan you forget parts of the Isthmus and The Shore and focus efforts to the West and South.

If I was the Deputy Mayor and the Planners I would leave those certain sections (not all of them as there is a good few in there) of the Isthmus behind in the 1950’s as our Museum pieces and refocus all efforts to the South and West in advancing those sections forward to the 21st Century.

I see in the Herald that the Waikato and Bay of Plenty are ready to lend their assistance and I am sure we of can enter a beneficial arrangement with them.

Oh yes Orakei, the market attractiveness factor will play its part – when all of a sudden mass amounts of investment, economic drive and consumption occur in an Alpha Class World City – Manukau, as the world likes cities that evolve and change as society and her people do.

The Freer Market and its investment will always seek more attractive places to invest – often those with more (and in this case) liberal choices and planning rules in comparison to those who have shut up shop via NIMBYism. 

Am I being rather harsh – well yes as: Manukau City Centre: We ARE Open for BUSINESS So what are you waiting for


This picture also accompanied it:

Click for full resolution
Click for full resolution


You can gather I was not particularly thrilled with our Conservatives yesterday. But what is a Conservative and what is a Liberal when it comes to Planning? This is important as most people are beginning to tease this discourse out as the Unitary Plan proceedings grind on.

It is critical to know that it is not a Left/Right paradigm that most are used to. This is because you can get Social Liberals and Social Conservatives on the Centre Left, and Neo Liberals and Neo Conservatives on the Centre Right. Effectively it is an up/down paradigm best explained at The Political Compass (which I also recommend you take the test).

A Liberal (social or neo) will want to have as few planning controls in a planning document as possible. A Liberal believes in the freer market to allow the supplier and demanders (developer and resident purchaser) to exercise their freedom, choice, rationale, intelligence and responsibility to meet the requirements at a fair price. In saying this though a Liberal with their wits about them would still have Urban Design Controls and a very strong Building Code in force and enforced (for reasons that should be obvious (Leaky Housing Syndrome and Thatcher Brutalism any one?)). Essentially “the market” decides best in housing a city’s population when it is allowed to act in a more free manner. Arguably housing would be deemed more “affordable” for the same plot of land than if Conservative planning controls were imposed on it).

A Conservative (often can be touted as a NIMBY) will want to have as many planning controls in the planning document as possible. This can mean the following as an example (From and Credit to Auckland Transport Blog):

  • A building height limit of 8 metres
  • Height in relation to boundary rules requiring heights of no more than 3m plus 1m for every metre back from the boundary the part of the building is located.
  • Yard controls, including a (stupid in my opinion) front yard requirement of 4m.
  • A maximum impervious area control of 60 per cent (i.e. building or paving can’t exceed 60% of the site).
  • A maximum building coverage of 40% for sites 400m² or more or 50% for sites less than 400m².
  • A requirement to landscape at least 30% of a site, including covering at least 10% of the site in plants or shrubs (including a further requirement for at least one large tree!)
  • Outlook spaces of at least 6m by 4m from each main living room, from the principal bedroom of at least 3m by 3m and from other rooms of at least 1m by 1m.
  • Building separation requirements, including a requirement for separation from main living rooms of 15m.
  • At outdoor living space of at least 40 square metres, including dimension requirements.
  • Minimum amounts of glazing in the main living area, bedrooms and out to the street.
  • Maximum garage size and impact on the front façade including additional set back controls.
  • Maximum building length restrictions.
  • Minimum dwelling size requirements of at least 40 square metres for studios and 45 square metres for one bedroom apartments.
  • Minimum dimension requirements for living rooms and even bedrooms


What does this mean? For every control added is another cost passed onto the developer to the residential buyer. When this occurs your housing stock just became that much more unaffordable as the freer market was just curtailed. Conservatives think they know better than we do and effectively insult our actual right to: exercise tour freedom, choice, rationale, intelligence and responsibility to meet the our requirements at a fair price.

This will get me fuming real fast with those particular kind of Councillors as (again as ATB said):

Importantly, these areas also lack the provision of any affordable housing – because the only thing being built are huge standalone houses. And the reason why the only things being built are huge standalone houses is because the density controls mean a minimum amount of land needs to be set aside for each dwelling, leading to effectively a minimum size of house in order for the developer to make a profit and therefore a minimum sale price that’s often well north of $500,000.


The frustrating thing about density rules is that the urban form above does not necessarily result in more greenspace or less building bulk or a more spacious urban environment. Those aesthetic outcomes are controlled through the use of regulations like height, site coverage, yard controls and the like.”

Matt should run for Council in his Ward in 2016 – no seriously he should!

I also linked up two articles the other day on what Conservative Planning Controls can also do or rather inhibit:

If you want to know the damage Conservative Planning Controls did, check the so-called Rabbit Hutch apartments in the CBD that occurred under Conservative’s watch. 

I could go on further in length but this post is getting long as it is. But it should give a highlight to the difference between how a Liberal and a Conservative sees Planning.


I will be at Council on Thursday to observe the final Auckland Plan Committee Unitary Plan proceedings. Hopefully we can get the Southern RUB through without major headaches.

In the meantime the Long War is not over yet as we march towards three years of the formal notification process with the Unitary Plan.

We have a very long way to still go…


Talking Auckland: Blog of TotaRim Consultancy Limited

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Bringing Well Managed Progress to Auckland and The Unitary Plan

Auckland: 2013 – YOUR CITY, YOUR CALL