Entering the City Building Phase – Well the Actual City Phase

Getting the Ducks Lined up – One at a Time


Two pieces of what I would call irony:

  1. Realising that a major Council Controlled Organisation of Auckland Council share similar ideas and “goals” as you do – yet you don’t realise it until you go find the material (on a totally unrelated issue)
  2. That despite the Auckland Plan being in operation for now nearly three years, the urban planning and development natural drift is heading away from what the Auckland Plan pigeon holed and more towards the alternative situation yourself and the CCO picked up on – independently and separate of each other.

Knowing Council (most likely through Auckland Council Property Limited) had just negotiated the new lease with Westfield over the land at the Manukau Mall site (specifically the car parks), I was trawling through the internet looking up information on the Westfield Empire – specifically its New Zealand operations in Auckland. While I did find the fact Westfield have restructured its Australian and New Zealand mall operations into an independent group called Scentre Group, it was researching for further information that brought me to (in the end) this website here: http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/AboutCouncil/representativesbodies/CCO/Pages/council_property.aspx – Auckland Council Property Limited.

The link that caught my attention from the ACPL site would be this one here (in which the full document is embedded below): Town centres and transformation projects overview report (PDF 894KB)

So I decided to have a look through it and realise the two irony points I made above. Despite the document being written prior to the Auckland Plan becoming operative later that year (2011) it still carries merit in what APCL are doing towards our Centres and as I will explain further down the natural drift to what ACPL has pointed out.


The document outlines our centres and the role of transforming some of our larger centres in Auckland (apart from the City Centre which is covered by the City Centre Master Plan). From the Executive Summary we see:

The project team was required to provide a commercial and business perspective on the selection of Auckland’s Transformation Projects and the critical Town Centres, as outlined in the Auckland Unleashed discussion document.
This report has considered a variety of factors in the evaluation of specific issues around Town Centre and Transformation Project investment. These have included the following:

  • Evaluation of a commercial development criteria;
  • The hierarchy of Town Centres and the appropriateness of this approach;
  • A hierarchical and intervention/timeframe based investment strategy; and
  • Particular details relevant to each Town Centre/Project.

The Project Advisory Team’s focus and brief was on Town Centres and Transformation Projects. As a result, it should be noted that the following has been excluded from evaluation in this report:

  •  The City Centre. The Project Team has previously addressed this issue in its report entitled City Centre Master Plan Overview Report to ACPL, dated 15 July 2011.
  •  The Airport/Wiri region. It is not seen by the Council as a Town Centre or a Transformation Project. However, there is a need for Council to recognise the Airport/Wiri region as a significant area for Auckland’s future regional economic development.
  •  Specific discussion on Auckland’s Growth Corridors and Development Areas. Whilst the Project Team has not addressed these areas in detail, we note that these areas warrant a careful, commercial focus as part of the planning and development of Auckland’s growth in and around these corridors and areas. Specifically, over the next 20+ years, the Auckland-Hamilton corridor will provide a strong opportunity to harness economic growth in the north of the Waikato and the south of the Auckland regions. It is suggested then, that this growth corridor and the Provincial Towns located in this corridor are a critical element of Auckland’s growth strategy. This corridor should be formally recognised in the Auckland Plan.


Role of Council
The role of Council in Town Centres and Transformation Projects can generally be described as either “Business as Usual with Excellence” or as “Transformational”. The first approach is generally appropriate in Centres that are mainly market driven and Council’s focus in these areas should be on developing a strong vision and undertaking its every day role to a high standard. The second approach will mainly be Council driven at the outset. Investment in such projects will require robust business cases and a strong/outcome vision which is tailored to the particular project.
Role of ACPL
ACPL will play a critical role in reinforcing and delivering the Council’s vision and programme with particular regard to leveraging off its land holdings. It will also coordinate private sector, CCO and stakeholder involvement and lead opportunities where it can utilise its holdings to influence outcomes that meet Council’s vision and objectives.

I will go into the Growth Corridor and Development Areas part after the Centres commentary. You will find this interesting as it corresponds with what I said in my “2014 – Where To – A Personal Take” – specifically the Manukau section where I make my own analysis of that particular situation (the Growth Corridor between Auckland and Hamilton (part of the Golden Triangle).





Sections Three and Four outline approaches and methodologies towards transforming our Centres within Auckland. Section Five looks at “Key Market Messages” in how Council should utilise its resources efficiently, can not “make the market,” and People Behave and Act Communally – to which I highlight (page 9):

“The level of Auckland’s growth cannot be accommodated within the existing Town Centres and their immediate catchments. We advocate strongly for quality investment in Town Centres, with them playing a fundamental part in Auckland’s development equation and growth management. However, it is recognised this is only part of the solution.”

Section Six looks at Commercial Development Criteria that is being used when planning any transformational plans to our Centres. This leads on to Section Seven where it outlines ‘Council Investment In Transformational Projects and Town Centres which outlines four categories of Council investment involvement with respective centres. Those four categories were:

1. Centres for Significant Investment

  • These are large, complex projects requiring significant investment but with very substantial value creation over the longer term. The market will be attracted to these areas after initial Council investment and/or partnership opportunities.
  •  These are areas where Council ‘picks winners’. They are Transformation Areas where there will be a focused, committed investment. They are also areas where the market will respond to Council prioritisation.

2. Business as Usual, with Excellence

  • These are areas where a small amount of upfront investment, with good planning and execution, will create substantial, economic and social value.
  • In these instances, the Council needs to play an enabling role. It is about delivering the normal services but to a very high standard. These ‘business as usual’ services include planning and regulatory regimes, through to master planning and capital works and services.
  • The Council can be an enhancer of development or an inhibitor of development through its normal business. In previous reports to ACPL on the City Centre Master Plan and on the Auckland Unleashed discussion document, we have identified the toolbox of measures which, if adopted, will significantly assist Council to become an enabler of quality development.

3. Centres that will need to reinvent themselves

  • There will be a range of Centres which need to fundamentally reinvent or re-position themselves if they are to be successful. There are a large number of examples where this has been done.
  • These reinventions are typically underpinned by a collaborative working relationship between Council and the business sector. Ponsonby and Balmoral are examples of where this has occurred.

4. Centres to be left to the market only

  • The reality may be that a few Centres will struggle to have a legitimate and credible function as a Town Centre.
  • These can become local employment and service nodes that serve small local communities.
  • It is important that any decline is managed in a way that a transition to new activities can be easily achieved without significant regulatory hurdles. This will avoid streets with empty shops.


The four investment categories are important as we approach the Area Plan timetable (released late February) for our Centres in Auckland. Depending on the level of investment Council is willing to commit (dependent of which of the four categories a Centre is assigned) will be how far an Area Plan can “developed.” I would expect more bold plans for Centres under “Significant Investment” than “Left to market only” owing to level of infrastructure required for any big pushes to that relative centre.

I will run the live commentary at the February Auckland Development Committee in Town Hall as the planners release the Area Plan Timetable and recommended investment levels to be tied into the respective Centres. It will be interesting to see who is first up and what type of investment is going to be committed to our Centres. Hopefully with a bit of sanity our large Metropolitan Centres go first (Manukau and Albany) as both can be deemed Centres of Significant Investment if they are to play their Super Metropolitan Centre roles. To point it out I have considered Takapuna which is noted under 8.4.3 (page 15) of the ACPL report. However, I would concur with APCL that Takapuna is a Metropolitan Centre needing to reinvent itself first before any other considerations and investment can be applied.

This brings the post to the next point – the Hierarchy of the Town Centres


Hierarchy of Auckland’s Town Centres

ACPL wrote up a section (Section 8) on the Hierarchy of Town Centres – that is level of importance through function (rather than investment which is covered in Section Seven). This is where irony point number one from the beginning of the post comes into play. That point being (as a recap):

  1. Realising that a major Council Controlled Organisation of Auckland Council share similar ideas and “goals” as you do – yet you don’t realise it until you go find the material (on a totally unrelated issue)


ACPL outline their hierarchy as:

8.1 The Hierarchy of Town Centres

  • The conclusion of this report is that a form of hierarchy is beneficial.
  • However, it is important that the debate on the hierarchy of Town Centres does not distort the drive for the right results. The focus needs to be on driving outcomes rather than settling hierarchical arguments.
  • It does help set public sector prioritisation and funding decisions. It sets clear expectations for the market, which, in turn, will provide a level of confidence.
  • The critical aspect, however, is not to constrain the market because beneficial initiatives don’t fit in with a preconceived hierarchy. From the market’s perspective, it will focus on opportunities where there are clear signals from Council as to where investment is targeted.
  • Figure 1 below outlines a proposed hierarchy of Town Centres.

APCL Town Centre Hierarchy chart

* This is a new Town Centre Hierarchy category introduced by the Project Team and not recognised in the Draft Auckland Plan
Figure 1 – Proposed Hierarchy of Town Centres
NB: Mega Centres have not been included in this hierarchy

  • It is important to note that the hierarchy for Town Centres is expressed in terms of function only (i.e., the difference between Metropolitan Centres and Town Centres), and should not be confused with the investment priority for the Council. There are different drivers as to whether the Council could and should invest its resources in various Town Centres.


As Mega Centres/Malls are mentioned above and three of the Metropolitan Centres (Botany, Westgate and Sylvia Park) (plus St Lukes) the definition of Mega Centres/Malls are below:

8.5 Mega Centres/Malls

  • Auckland benefits from a number of Mega Centres or malls which, in hierarchy terms, lie somewhere between a Town Centre and a Metropolitan Centre. These areas, like Sylvia Park, St Lukes, Westgate and Botany, are major generators of retail and economic activity. They are major destinations in their own right.
  • They have a high reliance on private car access, and this element drives the design and layout of these Centres.
  • The more recent Centres and the upgrade of existing Centres have sought to introduce a balance of private versus public transport.
  • Traditional mall developments have tended to isolate themselves from their surrounding community. They are typically malls in the Centre surrounded by car parking. More recent developments have recognised the value and importance of integrating back into the community.
  • These types of Centres require a different planning and urban design approach. They are a fact of life and a highly popular form of retail. They have the benefit of being in concentrated ownership. There is an opportunity for Council to work with the owners in the redevelopment of these areas to encourage a more mixed mode access and a better integration with their surrounding communities.
  • Over time, some of these Mega Centres/malls may evolve into Metropolitan Centres. They would need to embrace the mix of uses typical of such Centres, including a broad range of social and community uses and the normal mix of commercial, retail and residential activity. They also require a complex multi-layered approach to future development.
  • In straight economic value terms, the impact and turnover of these Centres can equal or exceed the identified Metropolitan Centres. However, the focus and investment on a Metropolitan Centre should be on those centres which offer the depth and broad range of public and community services and facilities. It is also considered appropriate to leverage such developments to create community benefits in the future.


The points in bold point out where these Mega Centres/Malls fit in the scheme according to ACPL (and in extent my own submission to the Auckland Plan back in 2011). Not quite Metropolitan Centres yet until more community and social infrastructure is built up and established like the actual Metropolitan Centres in Auckland. However, there is nothing stopping these Mega Centres/Malls evolving into Metropolitan Centres over time if they establish that community/social infrastructure.


Going through Section Eight it was quite interesting to see ACPL outline their hierarchy of the Town Centres. What made me smile and realise the sense of irony is what ACPL wrote in Section Eight was very similar to what I have both written in my submission to the Auckland Plan, and have been advocating strongly for with Manukau (and now Albany as well) to Council.

What I call Super Metropolitan Centres ACPL calls Primary Centres. The definitions and methodologies though are very similar. From ACPL’s definition on Primary Centres:

8.3 Primary Centres

  • While there is some debate about whether Auckland legitimately has two or three Primary Centres, the conclusion of this report is that there are two centres – one to the South (Manukau) and one to the North (Albany). These Primary Centres fundamentally complement the City Centre in servicing core parts of the region, and reflect the linear geography of Auckland.


My definition of Super Metropolitan Centre can be found in this post here: What do you want to see in your Super Metropolitan Centre


Heading back to the ACPL definition of Primary Centres this is what they have outlined for both Manukau and Albany:

8.3.1 Manukau

  • Manukau has traditionally been a strong area and has developed into a major Primary Centre extensively servicing South Auckland.
  • It would benefit from the overview of the City Transformation Unit. The commitment and focus this brings is beneficial. It sends a signal to the market that Council is committed to continuing investment in order to strengthen Manukau.
  • The key issues Council should focus on are:
    • The significant opportunity the new rail link to Manukau City Centre will provide. This should further boost the preference for office location in this area.
    • Opportunities to improve the walkability of the Centre, and in particular to connect the rail station to the Centre.
    • A more sophisticated entertainment and retail offer.
    • The need to promote a residential base within Manukau City Centre. It is this mix of office and residential use which will give Manukau a 24-hour urban lifestyle.
    • It is recognised that the reverse sensitivity aspects of the airport flight path do complicate residential opportunities.
    • Support the social policy initiatives and approach reflected in the broader Manukau Community and the opportunities the Manukau City Centre derives to support these policies.

8.3.2 Albany

  • Albany is a centre with ‘good bones’ but with little soul.
  • It needs a more sophisticated approach to create a heart for the Centre.
  • Albany needs a robust, strategic rethink. It is in danger of becoming a large dispersed centre. If the ‘heart and soul’ of Albany is to be created, then this requires careful thinking and probably a small range of works and actions which will build a sense of place and community at Albany.
  • There is significant opportunity to leverage off the Albany Mega Centre, Westfield Shopping Centre, the park, and North Harbour Stadium.
  • Connecting the transport hub to the Centre is a key requirement.
  • Implementing the North Harbour Stadium Master Plan and the broad range of complementary uses is advocated.
  • There is a need to create a residential population, to create the 24-hour city.
  • The constraints of the previous significant area of leasehold land tenure in Albany, and current unrealistic price expectations by some landowners, needs to be recognised. Whilst the land has recently become freehold, it is too expensive for the market to be attracted to. This may take some time to unwind and for the land tenure and pricing to adjust to the realities of a new business cycle and environment resulting from the GFC.

The point in bold about Manukau raises a great sense of irony for me personally. For three solid years I advocated to not only have Manukau City Centre recognised as a Super Metropolitan Centre but also to get the resources dedicated (outside of The Southern Initiative which needs to be junked). While that advocacy has been happening ACPL have basically been pushing for the same thing through its Primary Centres push with Manukau and Albany. The good news I suppose is that with this new term of Council and the Auckland Development Committee more receptive the wheels are turning slowly to give the ‘investment’ needed towards these two major centres.

Manukau City Centre Area
Manukau City Centre Area


The Golden Triangle – aka planning for an interconnected Mega Region

To tie all the above (especially with Manukau) into the second irony point I made at the beginning (That despite the Auckland Plan being in operation for now nearly three years, the urban planning and development natural drift is heading away from what the Auckland Plan pigeon holed and more towards the alternative situation yourself and the CCO picked up on – independently and separate of each other.) I highlight 2.1.2 on page four of the report:

2.1.2 Auckland Hamilton Growth Corridor

  • Over the next 20+ years, the corridor that links Auckland and Hamilton will provide a strong opportunity to harness economic growth in the north of the Waikato and the south of Auckland regions.
  • As a continuation of Section 2.1.1, it is suggested that this growth corridor and the Provincial Towns located in this corridor are a critical element of Auckland’s growth strategy. This corridor should be strongly and formally recognised in the Auckland Plan. It provides the basis for a future “conurbation” encompassing South Auckland and North Waikato regions.
  • Auckland’s economic and population growth must have an interest in, and relationship with, the Waikato and its primary agriculture base as it is so essential to the New Zealand economy. Auckland needs to recognise the opportunity that Auckland’s proximity to the Waikato, as the engine room of New Zealand’s leading industry of international scale and quality (i.e., dairy, agriculture and biotechnology), will provide in the future. There is significant opportunity for Auckland in the economic involvement, support and servicing of this industry.
  • Auckland will benefit from this (as will the Waikato) in economic returns as much as in the opportunity that such a corridor presents to accommodate future growth in the South Auckland/Northern Waikato “super region”.
  • The significant existing investment in rail, road and broadband infrastructure between Auckland and Hamilton also offers significant opportunity for Provincial Centre development along this major transport corridor. Further investment in this corridor may yield large gains for Auckland and relieve pressures elsewhere within the system. The relative merits of leveraging this infrastructure against alternate transport and economic investment is at least worthy of consideration in the next 2-5 years.
  •  There is a significant opportunity to provide both residential and business land and to accommodate a material number of businesses and residents over the next 20-30 years.
  • Pokeno and areas south of Bombay are considered to be attractive to the market and the southern growth corridor should consider carefully the impact and importance of such areas.
  •  With the main New Zealand market and economy located in Auckland and to the south, vacant land supply south and the connections to primary transport, make the Auckland-Hamilton corridor a critical factor that warrants recognition and close consideration in the future.

This growth corridor and mega-region concept I was first alluded to in May last year after the first Manukau Presentation to the then Auckland Plan Committee (predecessor to the Auckland Development Committee). My comments in 2014 – Where To – A Personal Take reflect this corridor/mega-region concept:


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



Concluding Remarks

Irony abound and a wry smile from me as I looked through the Auckland Council Property Limited report while in the beginning I was researching something else. None-the-less as I mentioned in that Manukau excerpt above we keep trucking on remembering:

Blogger presents to council, and council listens

Sometimes submitters to Auckland Council do get noticed for attention to detail and suggestions on how to improve the region.

After Talking Auckland blog writer Ben Ross gave a presentation to the council’s new Auckland development committee this morning on developing a 21st-century Auckland, Committee members not only asked questions but started basing thoughts on change preferences on his ideas.

And when Cllr George Wood suggested a committee workshop for politicians & relevant senior staff, deputy mayor & committee chairwoman Penny Hulse started looking at how to make the most of it.

That was after Mr Ross presented a number of ideas proposing quite different plans for central Manukau and mocked the council’s performance so far on one of mayor Len Brown’s favourite projects, the Southern Initiative – a multi-pronged project to lift South Auckland in all ways.

That criticism was effectively supported soon after in an annual implementation update for the Auckland Plan which had, as one of the areas to improve in 2014, ensuring resources are allocated to priority areas – such as the Southern Initiative.

Source: http://www.propbd.co.nz/propbd-q-thurs28nov13-council-ok-sh1-extension-highway-plus-penlink-ppp-possible-5-apartments-sold-blogger-wins-council-ear-fma-gets-new-chief/

Actual source to the full post is: https://voakl.net/2013/12/04/developing-a-21st-century-auckland-presentation-the-results/


2014 will be an interesting but fun year in terms of City Building – Auckland; especially as three of the five ducks are lined up (just waiting on Auckland Transport and the actual main planners for the other two). Once we get the other two ducks lined up then we can pull the trigger and get things really going. Catch is to get those other two ducks lined up before we can pull that trigger….