Reading Material on Unchecked Urban Sprawl

Suburban Sprawl – Exposing Hidden Costs and Identifying Innovations


That is the titular title of the 42 page PDF document on urban sprawl that is embedded in this blog post below:


The document is pretty thorough in outlining not only the consequences of what I called unchecked urban sprawl but innovations that can be used (or are in use) to mitigate against the sprawl. The bit I like is the double page graphic between pages VII and VIII (might pay to print those two pages out to put them side by side for a good comparison). Going from left we start with the hidden costs of urban sprawl before hitting “innovations” and “solutions” on the right hand side. Overall the document is pretty good however, I found flaws in it that while the document as a whole can help Auckland it is not well the best given Auckland’s urban geography.


One thing I need to find out from Sustainable Property (who coined the document) is their definition of “Central Neighbourhoods.” Is it (using Auckland as the example) the main CBD and the “inner suburbs” on the Isthmus? Or, does it include second tier cities (that even Brent Toderian pointed out) like our (Super) Metropolitan Centres such as Manukau and Albany where you could possibly get similar effects (although smaller) that you get if you followed what was in the Sustainable Property document.

I have a feeling the document was not designed for multi-centred cities like Auckland that despite what some in Transport Blog might say (but as Brent Toderian acknowledged to the point that we need an equal amount of attention on Albany and Manukau as well as the main CBD) might like to believe. Auckland (as even Auckland Council Property Limited has pointed out (Entering the City Building Phase – Well the Actual City Phase) and some of our more prominent civic leaders too) does run technically two centres (albeit at different hierarchies) with a third slowly evolving. Our urban planning and management despite what the Auckland Plan “wants” and what some are trying to pigeon-hole us into with a mono-centric core based city is on its own power doing what is a “best of both worlds” situation. Auckland via its freer market (when the NIMBY’s do not get in the road) is “intensifying” the main CBD and its inner suburbs but, at the same time Auckland is also intensifying its second tier centres as we see inter-regional development come into play (thus satellite centres within and outside of Auckland).

Looking from Manukau City Centre northwards towards Auckland Central
Looking from Manukau City Centre northwards towards Auckland Central

Thus we have a situation where the SP document starts to have holes in it. Again it is a good document do not get me wrong as unfettered sprawl even to me just unacceptable socially, economically and environmentally. However, it has holes in the matter it does not “tell us” how to deal with an existing dual-centric (soon to be poly centric) City that both effectively runs two “major” centres AND both of those centres are developing rapidly (although different paths). To make it easier I’ll point out the likely natural paths of the main CBD and Manukau City Centre (its proper name as recognised by New Zealand Transport Agency and the New Zealand Geographic Board):

  • Main CBD: primary commerce point, houses major financial, legal and tertiary institutions, houses the sea port, houses main local authority (The Auckland Council), large tourist hub
  • Manukau City Centre: secondary commerce point, houses satellite centres of those major financial, legal and tertiary institutions, near the airport, next to second heavy industrial complex in Auckland (first is Onehunga-Penrose), services that second heavy industrial complex in Wiri, houses inland port, acts as commerce hub for South Auckland (which houses 38% of Auckland’s population) and in part the northern Waikato

So the main CBD is the major commerce and “civic” heart as expected with main CBD’s while Manukau is an “industrial” city centre servicing industry and its population base of South Auckland and northern Waikato. Two very distinct differences with our two centres in their uses, futures, and natural paths. Again for a more fuller analysis on Manukau and Auckland’s City Building phase I highly recommend reading my Entering the City Building Phase – Well the Actual City Phase post after this one.

Looking from AT Ronwood Ave Parking Building back towards Manukau Civic Building
Looking from AT Ronwood Ave Parking Building back towards Manukau Civic Building


So where does Auckland go from here?

As I said earlier the SP document on urban sprawl is good but it has holes in it when it comes to a dual or poly centric centres type city like Auckland. Auckland will naturally resist any forced attempts to pigeon-hole it into a mono-centric city similar to the “outcomes” of the SP “solutions.” The SP document I will be using as a solid reference point in my Unitary Plan submission (currently being written) on why we can not go for unfettered sprawl (the document made that very clear). For the rest of it though Auckland is going to have to develop its own SP type of document(s) most suited to its urban geography. Meaning in a way we are winging it on our own here. Not very reassuring that sounds none the less Auckland has the capacity to City Build itself in an intelligent manner best suited for Auckland – not some other city in the world. Reference and Credit to  Toderian Urban Works
Reference and Credit to Toderian Urban Works


The Auckland Council Property Limited document was a very good attempt in framing where Auckland is likely to go. It is on my opinion even though Council rejected it (the lemon we know was the Auckland Plan being that testament and the exact opposite of what ACPL wrote) Auckland is heading down the path ACPL wrote in its submission to the now operative Auckland Plan and it will be a good idea to conduct a full academic study further fleshing out what ACPL wrote and what it means for Auckland. With that we are fully armed with the knowledge on Auckland’s actual natural path thus we can actually “plan” for it rather than go down another path the City will and is already naturally rejecting.

Councillors, Unitary Planners and our Urban Designers take note please…