Month: December 2013

2014 – Where To – A Personal Take

Where we going 2014

 

I was going to wait before putting this particular post up. However, owing to someone making a racket in an NBR piece (I consider it somewhat hot air) I’ll go post my own musings for 2014, Council, and the City.

The NBR piece

Opinion: Auckland mayor fails to deliver – and will continue to do so

Cameron Brewer | Monday December 30, 2013

Auckland Council’s blocking of the Living Wage policy is another big blow to Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

When his own credibility crisis broke in October he promised to fast-track the living wage to shore up a bit of political support and keep the left happy.

Now he’s failed to deliver it and rest assured any followers he has left have lost even more faith in him.

This was going to be a circuit breaker for Mr Brown but he has failed. This second term is going to be so much harder for him and his Labour mates to push their political agenda through.

Mr Brown’s planned political expediency was beaten by better process. The council’s decision is a much more prudent and considered approach.

At the last council meeting of the year to sign off the draft 2014/15 annual plan for public consultation in the new year, I put up an amendment, seconded by Dick Quax which was won 11/10.

The successful amendment read: “That the Governing Body agrees that Auckland Council first and foremost prepare a remuneration policy in the 2014/15 financial year, and as part of that policy work fully investigate the costs and wider implications on the organisation, business community and region of the Living Wage policy and have the CE back to the Governing Body at a later date.”

You can read the full piece at the NBR site

What the above shows (and what I have also gotten into a debate over with some of the Centre Right) is that there is blood in the water and it is time for the Centre Right to strike. That would be wrong and incorrect analysis of the situation at hand. Actually that could be a fatal analysis owing to the wounding Brewer, Cooper and Quax took after the Censure situation of the Mayor. Yes the Mayor is wounded, whether it is terminally we will know as time plays this out. However, three of the opposition five were also badly hit as both the Deputy Mayor, and Councillor Chris Fletcher saw the Governing Body through situation through to its natural end – all things given. The City in the end rallied behind Hulse and Fletcher for their level-headed and mature approach to a bitter situation. They were both angry don’t get me wrong – I could see it literally in their eyes that day in Town Hall. But rather running round with pitchforks being spiteful and failing big time to even get a No Confidence Motion off the ground (due to it failing standing orders which Quax is a stickler of), Hulse and Fletcher saw through natural justice through the means available – the Censure. If natural justice was not seen done “well,” we will see Central Government tighten up the Local Government Act (Auckland Amendment) 2009 to most likely allow more punitive measures against errant Mayors and Councillors of Auckland.

Despite what one well-heeled strategist has said, Quax and Brewer are not in ascendancy, the Deputy Mayor and Councillor Fletcher technically are. Quax and Brewer can not pull support outside of their own core base where as Fletcher and Hulse can very readily depending on the situation at hand. At one point the Mayor could as well however, the mantle has been passed onto these two well-respected women civic leaders. The City responded and if you take out the fringe with pitch forks you will find where the City has gone looking for leaders and policy guidance – not lynch mobs.

This brings me to the next point – 2014 and what we will see

 

2014 – and a guess what this will bring for Auckland

First of all I am not doubt going to get an email and a long cup of tea owing to airing my thoughts here publicly with a couple of people (and they know who they are ;-). Talking Auckland though is my public vehicle in airing my thoughts and having a conversation with you. And so this is where I see Auckland over the course of the 2014 year.

To bring the post into context I will outline some key points coming through this year:

  • 2015-2025 Long Term Plan being drafted and open to submissions (Long Term Plans are master budget documents that influence the subsequent Annual Plans)
  • 2015-2025 Integrated Transport Plan also gets drafted and open to submissions (The ITP determines the transport spending program over a period of time and is updated every three years)
  • Unitary Plan: while this is now before the Commissioners and away from the Council we still are in the process of lodging our submissions and preparing for the hearings. Council will be watching proceedings carefully
  • Area Plans: the timetable for these (to be all completed within this term of Council) is released in late February. These Area Plans as I have mentioned before will guide urban development in local areas over the next 30 years. Although Area Plans are subservient to the Unitary Plan
  • Congestion Free Network: this will get fleshed out through the ITP debate. How much the CFN gets put in to the 2015 ITP substituting what was put in the current 2012 ITP is yet to be seen
  • City Rail Link: well this is on a Merry-Go-Round with Central Government committing to 2020 for construction to start although if strict targets can be met (8% patronage growth year in year out as we head to 20 million rail trips per year) construction could start around 2018 (regardless of which Government is in power at the time)\
  • Manukau: arguably a pet project of mine that has started in the wheels turning of that being seen through. Early next year after some site visits and workshops will determine where this particular project goes as well as wider consequences to our planning here in Auckland and beyond

Breaking down the outlook point by point

 

The 2015-2025 Long Term Plan

I expect this version of the Long Term Plan to be more fiscally conservative than its 2012 counterpart. As the City adjusts and settles in behind its natural leaders (who can be different from ones we elect) more conservative fiscal policies will come about. The 275% projected debt level does shock most ratepayers in Auckland – both residents and businesses. The extremely high level even shocks some of our civic leaders who you wouldn’t expect unless you took a proper look. Even the current 175% level is pushing some Councillors’ tolerance levels considerably and despite the City still needing significant investment do not want the level to blow out any more than it needs to. This could mean even a scaling back towards 150% while still funding infrastructure provisions through. For that to happen Council will need to watch our pennies very carefully and not waste it in areas where it should not be going (White Water Rafting and Cathedrals as an example….).

If our civic leaders rise to the plate and push through a more fiscally conservative Long Term Plan document regardless of what the Mayor does you most likely find general support on the Governing Body to see the policy through. I would guess the vote would be 12-9 in passing it through if this scenario were to occur and the Governing Body guns for that alternative away from the Mayor’s own LTP (despite the fact he sets it initially). If our civic leaders do not rise to the plate and the Mayor literally rams through his own LTP policy without more restraint then both Council will get divisive and debt levels blowing out to unacceptable levels (175% is pushing my tolerance already with 275% beyond the pale).

 

The 2015-2025 Integrated Transport Program – and the Congestion Free Network

This is make or break for a few of our Councillors, Generation Zero, Transport Blog and Campaign for Better Transport; in getting sufficient amounts of the Congestion Free Network onto the 2015-2025 ITP. The Integrated Transport Program sets out the transport policy, investment and expenditure over the 10 year time period. Roading, rail, cycleways, public transport are all laid out in the ITP document so if you want a particular transport objective included, the ITP would be it. The operative 2012-2022 ITP is a total dog with a $60 billion package that is $15 billion short – but yet if we carried everything out in the 2012 ITP congestion levels get worse than now (in a relative sense).

Generation Zero, Transport Blog and Campaign for Better Transport have been rallying and lobbying hard for the Congestion Free Network – an alternative that is cheaper and actually lessens congestion (so gets Auckland moving better than now). You can see the Congestion Free Network and what that is/means here: http://transportblog.co.nz/our-proposals/congestion-free-network/

To get the CFN into the 2015-2025 is going to be no small task with Central Government still pro-road and motorway (thus taking up significant amounts of the transport funding budgets). Even though the Government has said provincially yes to the City Rail Link it and the Mayor are still cosey on massive roading projects here in Auckland. These projects include the East West Link,in part the Holiday Highway north of urban Auckland and the expensive Mill/Redoubt Road Corridor (although that is solely an Auckland Transport project).

So the catch is can the pro Congestion Free Network group get the numbers from Council to get the bulk of the program into the 2015 ITP. Taking a run at the numbers and even with open support of key players like Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse and Councillor Chris Darby I say its going to be close with a lot of resistance from a few corners of the City. I do not currently expect the CFN as it currently stands with this Government in power (and at the moment I am taking into account it gets a third term on the back of a growing economy and apparently happy citizenry (87% according to Stats NZ)) to make it through the Governing Body. The CFN looking at the situation and to get it through in part will be modified to a different timetable (if the CFN does not get Cherry Picked prior).

The City Rail Link also at the moment looks more likely to be delayed until 2018 for construction starting with construction finished by 2025 at the latest. Even if Labour do come to power construction can not technically start until 2016 owing to the fact The Budget in 2015 needs to happen first to allow money to be appropriated legally for the project. There are a couple of reasons behind the 2018 forecast start date and I have made them clear in my Rail Fallacy posts why. You can search up Rail Fallacy here at Talking Auckland for those explanations.

For the rest of the CFN to get it through the Governing Body you are most looking at a delayed time frame as well. So the 2020 milestone gets pushed back to 2025, the 2025 milestone back to 2030, and the 2030 final milestone being pushed back to 2035. Ironically if this were to occur it the CFN aspects would fall into line with parts of my own Auckland Plan Submission as seen below (although still subject to tinkering as I work my way through projects like Manukau as well as changes to the Auckland Environment (Port of Auckland)):

Priority One (To be completed by 2018)

  • Building of the Eastern Highway (to the Sub-Regional Standard Option as mentioned in Section 3.5 of the EASTDOR Final Report
  • Realigning the Westfield Diamond
  • Relocating or adding rail stations
  • Re allocating bus routes, improving bus feeder systems to rail stations or bus RTN systems
  • Feasibility Study of the Airport Rail Line including freight option
  • Starting the bus RTN roll out especially along State Highway 20, 20A and 20B
  • South-to-Manukau Rail Link Completion 

Priority Two (To be completed by 2025)

  • Completion of Inner City Rail Link
  • Third Rail Line from Port to Papakura
  • Airport Rail Line (if deemed feasible)
  • Second Harbour Crossing
  • South West Rail Line (if freight is still moving to Northland)
  • Rail Electrification to Hamilton (not mentioned or included in this submission)

Priority Three (To be completed by 2040 or optional)   

  • Botany Rail Line
  • North Shore Rail Line
  • Upgrade Eastern Highway from Sub Regional Function option to full Regional Function option

Source: http://www.scribd.com/doc/74829024/Ben-s-Auckland-Plan-Submission#page=49

 

If you ask would the Councillors go down such a path as mentioned above then yes they would. They would in order to secure the Congestion Free Network (whether in-whole or in-part) through political prudence rather than having the whole thing scotched because of political “expediency.”

Politics is a fickle animal and will the Council heading towards a more conservative path in some aspects, some ideas and projects will go through the processes a bit longer than what we would like. In the end though those ideas and projects will be seen through to the end result if the proponents can keep level heads.

 

Unitary Plan

At the moment the Unitary Plan is under formal notification with the plan open for formal submissions until February 28th next year. After that Commissioners will begin hearings from those who wrote submissions after which they will go into deliberations and pass down a final version of the Unitary Plan. Unless Council appeals on points of law by 2016 we shall have an operative Unitary Plan. The Unitary Plan as such is out of this current Council’s hands apart from the fact they can make their own submission I believe to the Unitary Plan. Once the Commissioners have decided on the final version of the UP, that is it pretty much with the plan becoming operative. In saying that the Council does have mechanisms to review the Unitary Plan around every ten years and adjust it accordingly (for factors such has changes in population growth or trends).

That said with the submission and hearings all sides will be jostling to the Commissioners to try to ensure the final version of the Unitary Plan reflects their wishes best. There will be countless letters to the editors, blog posts, talk back calling and the Herald spamming like mad as we saw in the earlier feedback round this year. If you are asking what way the Unitary Plan will end up? Even that I do not know.

 

Area Plans

As I mentioned after the Auckland Development Committee meeting on November 28, the Area Plan timetable will be released late February next year to Council and the wider public arena. When the timetable comes out there could be some debate on who goes first on the Area Plan timetable list. I am taking a punt that it will end up being between myself pushing for Manukau and Albany to have those Area Plans being done first (as they are deemed the higher order Metropolitan Centres or Super Metropolitan Centres) and Orakei Local Board wanting to go first with their Area Plan. OLB will say market attractiveness (that is residents wanting to move there) dictates they go first while I say market attractiveness yes but where the big economic hubs are in Auckland. Those hubs being Albany for the North Shore and Manukau for Southern Auckland (which houses 38% of the City’s population).

Once the debate on who goes first is sorted we will soon see which way the Local Boards will swing in influencing the Area Plan designs. Effectively you have a dual split between the inclusive and exclusive Area Planning where exclusive will lower density developments with a wanting of cars and lots of on street parking going down their main streets (yuck). Inclusive will push for more higher density developments, shared spaces on the main street and parking moved to “around the back” away from the main street. These two methods of planning will apply to Local, Town and the Metropolitan Centres across Auckland and give an indication on where communities lie in the direction of the Unitary Plan come 2016.

Crunching numbers across the Local Boards I would say West Auckland will be up for inclusive planning as well as parts of the western and central Isthmus (Albert-Eden-Roskill, Waitemata and Whau). The southern and eastern parts of the Isthmus will most likely go exclusive as will large parts of the North Shore and Rodney. Howick and Botany Local Boards will most likely go down the Exclusive Path as well with their Area Plans. The Papatoetoe/Otara, Manurewa and Papakura Local Boards seem to be an enigma in the fact they are mostly conservative and will have a tendency to go down the Exclusive Path for their areas. However, I suspect there will be strong challenges to flip that over to inclusive which will actually save dying Town Centres like Papakura rather than continuing down the Exclusive Path. It will be interesting to see how things play out with these Local Boards while acknowledging the fact I live in the Papakura area and participate in activities in all of those areas. Finally with Pukekohe/Franklin by the looks of things they want to go down the Inclusive Path after seeing successes with areas like Fort Street and Elliot Street in the CBD as examples of more inclusive planning.

In saying all that with Area Plans when they do come out for submissions, if you love your local community to bits then I recommend submitting on that respective Area Plan. It will help shape your local community for at least a generation to come.

I have already commented on the Congestion Free Network and City Rail link in the ITP point back above.

 

Manukau

Arguably a pet project I have spent three years cultivating and starting to see the shoots of progress to an auto-centric and dominated hub of Southern Auckland. While we go through the motions of; site visits, workshops and Area Plans for Manukau there are some more far-reaching inclinations that can affect our planning methodologies here in Auckland.

I was first alluded to inter-regional planning between Auckland, northern Waikato (Hamilton) and Western Bay of Plenty (Tauranga) and those respective Councils in May this year. From what I gathered we are looking towards more collaborative planning between those three areas in urban/rural planning as well as transport planning. There is a chance we could drift away from the Mayor’s Vision for Auckland and be looking at a more Megalopolis or Mega-Region look in the upper North Island. Meaning Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga acting as central urban node points (with Auckland being the anchor point) and all linked up by efficient and eventual high-speed road and rail links. Admittedly this can lead to a more dispersed pattern in our development with many satellite centres of various sizes spread through what is known as the Golden Triangle. By extension you could link our Marsden Point and Whangarei to equation and get the Golden Banana.

I remember a conversation I had in May with a particular civic leader in Town Hall after the May presentation that Manukau could be a catalyst in kicking off the mega-region approach I have mentioned above. And with thoughts around the Unitary Plan after it went for notification in September coupled with comments made again at the Infrastructure Committee this month in regards to heavy industry in Penrose and Onehunga; I am more convinced that this chance of the mega-region is becoming more actual as time progresses. So where does this leave Manukau in 2014?

We keep trucking on with the Super Metropolitan Concept for Manukau and with renewed emphasis as some of our Civic Leaders draw us away from the Mayor’s vision and towards this natural drift of a mega region. I asked in May would Manukau become a gate-way to Auckland from the South and the answer was yes. While the Isthmus moves towards its high-end commercial and residential evolution, southern Auckland is the main southern gateway by road and rail for all people and freight movement in and out of Auckland. Industry and large Logistics over time will relocate southwards where land is plentiful, cheap and very close to State Highway One and the main rail line (without the inner Auckland congestion). From there; freight shuttling to destinations within Auckland would occur from the large southern based inter-city hubs. As industry and logistics need support services from the commercial sector, that commercial sector while still having bases around the rest of Auckland will cluster around a commercial hub so that they can support both the residents and industry in the South. Cue Manukau City Centre – a Super Metropolitan Centre. Not quite a fully fledged CBD/City Centre by considered a second tier City Centre (and even carries the name (Manukau) City Centre). Sure Manukau City Centre won’t house the main bases for tertiary, financial and legal institutions as the CBD would, but Manukau would house commercial sector businesses (retail/ hospitality/trade/service and office) that would be supporting in large the residents living in the south as well as the industry and logistic firms that need support as well.

All this has to be considered as land use changes and evolves in Auckland owing to the changing national economy. Where our Council goes depends on how they see Auckland fit into the puzzle in the terms of the upper North Island machine. For now I can see the Council slowly drifting towards the more dispersed mega region model through the 2014 year.

Locations of the Centres Click for full resolution
Locations of the Centres (from May Presentation) 
Click for full resolution

 

Concluding Remarks

2014 is the year we enter the City Building Phase for Auckland. While we go more fiscally conservative and the leadership will naturally drift towards new rally points away from the Mayor, Auckland will start this building phase in increasing large strides after a slow and methodical start. Slow and methodical – what will determine the Council in 2014 as it progresses through and resets itself after the Len Brown saga. The City has already rallied behind two alternative leaders in case the Mayor goes lame-duck on us (which can still happen). However, we are seeing policy drives starting to drift away from the Mayor who is effectively no longer in the captain’s seat and more towards cross-table collaborative approaches. This could end up as a good thing if the City perceived negatively that the Mayor took a more authoritative approach in his administrations up until now. I do not think looking at the 15-5 split at the last Governing Body meeting of 2013 that we will slip into paralysis, not unless three of those five opposition Councillors really want to commit political suicide…

 

Thus the City is at this point in time in safe hands as we march towards the first year of City Building – Auckland – albeit a slow and methodical start at that

 

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2013/2014 Summer Series #3

The Talking Auckland Summer Series

 

The Talking Auckland 2013/2014 Summer Series, a collection of photos, quips, and light stories from around Auckland over the ChristmasNew Year run. Normal Talking Auckland commentary will resume from 13th January, 2014.

 

Summer Series Post #3

 

Boxing Day Madness

 

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Just some of the Boxing Day adverts currently floating around as people hit the malls in tribute to rampant consumerism.

 

To give further weight to the consumer economy, according to the Herald Christmas spending was up $500 million compared to four years ago – the height on the Global Financial Crisis:

From the NZ Herald

Kiwis’ major seasonal spend-fest up by $500m

By Nicholas Jones, Harkanwal Singh 5:30 AM Thursday Dec 26, 2013

Retailers offer online option for crowd-shy Boxing Day shoppers as confidence surges 

Shoppers will descend on the Boxing Day sales today – but New Zealanders have already splurged nearly $500 million more than they did four years ago on Christmas shopping.

The surge in spending confidence is shown by a comparison of electronic transaction data, adjusted for inflation.

According to Paymark figures, Kiwis spent nearly $500 million more than they did four years ago in the first three weeks of December. Spending for the whole country increased by 16 per cent over the same period.

The biggest rise was in Palmerston North and Auckland/Northland, at 28 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

Spending in Wanganui and Marlborough was largely static, while the West Coast was the only region where spending fell, by 1 per cent.

Paymark processes about three-quarters of New Zealand’s electronic transactions and its figures show Christmas spending for the whole country has been steadily increasing, after it fell between 2007 and 2008.

Despite the increase in Christmas spending, thousands of shoppers will brave the crowds competing for bargains at today’s Boxing Day sales.

Last year malls reported lines of eager shoppers waiting for doors to open at 9am, with cars later nose-to-tail for more than 500m from Westfield’s St Lukes mall in Auckland and long waits for parks.

In light of that disruption, some retailers are advertising to entice those who want both peace and a bargain.

The Warehouse has urged customers to use its online shopping system to select the best deals, and then collect the goods in store at a time when the crowds have thinned.

On Boxing Day last year 380,000 customers came through the doors of its stores, and this year the retailer’s online shopping deals have been available since 7am yesterday.

And for the first time, electronics retailer Dick Smith has included a QR scanning code on its top sale items featured in newspaper advertisements and in-store flyers. Using the store’s mobile app, customers can scan the QR codes to buy the goods directly – skipping checkout queues and crowds in the stores.

“Instead of spending time in a queue, they can pick up a flyer in store, go have a coffee, put their feet up and make their Boxing Day purchases from their mobile phone,” said Nick Abboud, chief executive of Dick Smith, Australia and New Zealand.

You can read the full article over at the Herald site – although the photo attached for that article will not exactly help a couple of stereotypes out there either…

 

I note some of the big retailers making a big push with online sales to entice the mall-shy customers who would not otherwise spend all their vouchers (like me). And just to demonstrate how much I despise Boxing Day crowds but want to spend up some of those Christmas voucher gifts received (with thanks) yesterday, I will be doing my Boxing Day shopping online and either have it delivered or picked up early tomorrow morning when Auckland empties out for the rest of the Summer Break 😀 . To which I call smart shopping 🙂

 

And speaking of Auckland being emptied out we have the usual stuff from NZTA as people hit the highways:

Thousands more cars will clog roads

5:30 AM Thursday Dec 26, 2013

 

NZTA highway manager Tommy Parker says drivers need to plan their trips and allow plenty of time for a safe journey. Photo / Natalie Slade

The busy period on the roads for holiday travellers in and out of Auckland is expected to start today, with 5,000 to 8,000 more vehicles on the road daily.

Regional highways and roads are traditionally clogged on Boxing Day, the NZ Transport Agency says.

“This is one of our busiest times of the year – the time when Aucklanders head north and south for their holidays and the city’s Christmas sales start,” agency highway manager Tommy Parker said.

The Northern Gateway Toll Road on SH1, north of Auckland, would be one of the busiest roads, he said. It usually hosts 15,000 trips a day but averaged almost 20,000 a day over Christmas last year. Its busiest day, January 2, totalled 23,500 trips.

Mr Parker stressed the need for drivers to plan their trips and allow plenty of time for a safe journey.

The proportion of crashes on open roads that result in injury increases from 39 per cent year-round to 54 per cent over the holiday period, police statistics reveal. For serious or fatal crashes, this increases from 51 per cent to 66 per cent.

—ends—

 

I wonder how many people will be stuck on State Highway One between Puhoi and Warkworth today while the smart ones will be flying up State Highway 16 through to Welsford shaving off up to a third of their travelling time heading north?

 

Hope everyone had a great Christmas yesterday despite the weather being finicky in parts of New Zealand. Stay safe if on the roads (or in the malls) and don’t forget to slip, slop and slap when out in the Sun.

 

2013/2014 Summer Series #2

The Talking Auckland Summer Series

 

The Talking Auckland 2013/2014 Summer Series, a collection of photos, quips, and light stories from around Auckland over the Christmas-New Year run. Normal Talking Auckland commentary will resume from 13th January, 2014.

 

Summer Series Post #2

Gone to the chickens, some random photos of the backyard with the chickens out for their daily Summer run (and raiding the vegetable patch):

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Auckland from Te Atatu

Looking at Auckland from Te Atatu North on a Summer’s day

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