Relegated to micro-detailed wankery


And no this is not good for the City, its residents, and its businesses within it!


Social Housing was to go here
Social Housing was to go here


I am not sure with the Unitary Plan debate whether I am (while the Unitary Plan hearings go on):

  • seeing and/or expecting things entirely outside the current box/square/realm of thinking
  • missing something entirely
  • About to stir a hornets nest from the above
  • or all of  the above in some mixed sort of fashion


The logical question would be “Why so?”


Because (after initial conclusions in UNITARY PLAN TRAGEDY PART ONE) what I see with the Unitary Plan acting as a more holistic enabling framework guiding Auckland’s development is more like to be turning out into a disabling document telling you want you can’t do further bogged down in micro-detailed technical wankery at the Unitary Plan hearings.

Now to be extremely clear the above is not levelled at the Hearing Panel members and Judge Kirkpatrick in any sense of form. I do not envy them for the task they have at hand on a rather limiting time frame that was imposed by Central Government. I also do not envy them for what the process has been so far bogged down to: micro-level and detailed technical wankery packaged up in a debate that Bob Dey so kindly put “going around and around (again)” by (often) opposing submitters (http://www.propbd.co.nz/up6-mcdermott-argues-better-ways-compact-city-accommodate-growth/).

To repeat: The Unitary Plan bogged down into an around the merry-go-round debate on micro-detail technical wankery.


And if the Bob Dey – Property Report series covering the Unitary Plan Hearing so far are anything to go by, my conclusion to the above in my eyes would be a correct assessment!

His assessments thus far in six parts can be accessed by clicking the links below:

UP1: The PAUP, the MUL, the RUB, the RPS & the LRP – the what-the?
UP2: Council tells panel the evidence backs compact city, and new urban boundary will work
UP3: Paper on preferred form an important backgrounder
UP4: Fairgray doesn’t fix on the far horizon, but says million new Aucklanders will fit in
UP5: Rule changes would shorten land supply and discourage new villages
UP6: McDermott argues for better ways than compact city to accommodate growth



Papakura Metropolitan Centre
Papakura Metropolitan Centre

As I see the Unitary Plan as well as the Auckland Plan, they are both designed to be holistic documents designed to create frameworks and guideline on where and how we are going to development Auckland.

Bob Dey believes in that assessment and from what I can gather so does the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel:

However, interim decisions on where the panel stands on the regional policy statement may lay the ground enabling submitters to better understand how the panel sees the whole unitary plan, and therefore how to better submit on the many sections reliant on how the policy statement is spelt out.

One of those sub-sections beneath the policy statement is zoning, the second fundamental plank of the unitary plan after the rural:urban boundary is set. Observation of guidelines on where urban development can be carried out will be followed by guidelines on where that urban footprint can be intensified. The 2 go together.

Source: http://www.propbd.co.nz/up1-paup-mul-rub-rps-lrp/


Thus as I see it the Auckland Plan has outlined the Rural Urban Boundary which is attempting to be codified through the Unitary Plan itself via the Regional Policy Statement. So on that basis we know WHERE we can develop in Auckland with the urban footprint (in order to accommodate the existing and future population).

The zoning outlines in the Unitary Plan in my eyes tell me WHAT we can develop and HOW MUCH BY within that given zone. So a development maxima you could say. And with that we create some basic guidelines on what and how much via things called ‘Development Controls.’ Of course such development controls need to be in line with the master Auckland Plan document to accommodate the “Where” requirements.


Now this is where I am going with: am I seeing and/or expecting things entirely outside the current box/square/realm of thinking – in regards to the Unitary Plan especially the zoning line of thought.

For me as a Geography (to which Planning was born from and technically subservient to in the fields line (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography#Related_fields and don’t chew my head off for it either 😉 ) I (in regards to Auckland’s planning future) see things at a wider level. That is “Okay Auckland Council thinks we are going to grow by a million more people by 2042 (end of the Auckland Plan’s life) and the Mayor wants us to be ‘The World’s Most Liveable City (which provokes a different debate from me).'” The Auckland Plan has set out a 60:40 Brownfield:Greenfield minima/maximum (no less that 60% Brownfield and no more than 40% Greenfield). But if through Auckland’s growth it develops differently but still within those limits then so be it. So we have this 60:40 requirement, and the next question to me is What and How Much by to accommodate this requirement.

Through my own Geographic analysis as a Geographer (Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Political Studies from the University of Auckland if anyone is wondering) of allowing Auckland to naturally evolve the next question is how to lay down the zones (so the What and How) to meet  the 60:40 parameters of the Auckland Plan.

Cue Sim City 4, and Sim City 2013 methodologies of zoning. Yep Sim City as I like to apply the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) rule in our planning and it fits in with my more liberalised tendencies with zoning in Auckland.

As with the Sim Cities I think up of what I want for the region (which is divided into tiles which you think as individual suburbs within that region) and more specifically (although no so much in Sim City 2013) where I want the region to develop both its rural and urban footprints. So for Solaria (in both versions of Sim City) I mimic Auckland in being a “World City” thus an economic power house through the different means available to make it happen. The next question after deciding the goal and where for Solaria is what and how am I going to develop it to reach the actual overall goal (which plays into the Where question) just as set out for Auckland via the Auckland Plan.

Cue the zones and with Sim City 2o13 as a new feature some economic ploppables whether it be extraction, manufacturing, tourism or “culture.” And so via the zones (which in Sim City 2013 are further dictated by those new economic ploppables) I as “Mayor” decide what develops where and how much by until it reaches that zone maxima (in Sim City 4, there is no maxima per say in Sim City 2013). Remembering via the zones I am determining at a holistic level what and how the tile (call it a suburb) develops in the hope it fulfils the goal I set out at regional level. I do not through the zone have ominous development controls that can dictate where to put a garage door, what tree goes here, and what shape my house or commercial building should be. Because for me that is micro-detailing technical wankery I rather leave to the developer of the lot/subdivision (the supplier) and the ones who will either live or provide a business there (the demander) rather than a public authority via its planning manual. Now of course the limitation with Sim City is that a butt ugly building could develop or a high-rise in a high density zone next to a single story house. Well the Auckland Design Manual for Auckland should mitigation butt ugly buildings. As for that high-rise next to a single story house in a high density zone? Sorry more in line to go meh owing to the said zone (progress can some days sucks).



Of course things change (or I change my mind) and you alter your zoning regime to reflect that change. Often it when gentrification of an area kicks off (and it does happen in Sim City) with wealthier sims or businesses moving in. So you build the infrastructure to accommodate, people or businesses move in some more and land values get high enough to warrant upzoning.

Thus the tile and the wider region continuously evolves to the ever-changing environment and therefore my zoning regime needs to reflect that if I want the region thus city to remain viable.


Back to Auckland and the Unitary Plan hearings.

I must be missing something entirely if the hearings thanks to submitters (and maybe in part the Council) going around and around constantly on the same debate points which are often at the micro-detail level rather than the more macro level I am inclined to look at.

I suppose if I treat Auckland as the way I treat Sim City (yeah being the sole dictator does seem to have its merits compared to some of the hair brained schemes our own Council comes up with) I am more inclined to look at Auckland’s evolution via planning via this method:

UP3: Paper on preferred form an important backgrounder

Who should lead?

Mr Mead & Ms Ritchie wrote that planning-based prerequisites for quality compact housing must involve a mix of regulatory & non-regulatory actions, and said support for and enablement of a wide range of compact living options would depend on whether redevelopment was market-led, plan-led or a mixture of the 2.

“Left to themselves, market forces are likely to see urban redevelopment focused on certain neighbourhoods, particularly those that offer an ‘amenity advantage’ such as access to coastal areas, large reserves, expansive views or close proximity to inner-city, character neighbourhoods. This is likely to lead to large-scale infrastructure works to cope with the additional population, while significant change to the character of desired areas is likely to be seen.”

On the other hand, they wrote that a plan-led approach would see redevelopment pressures more evenly spread across the urban area, better matching growth with infrastructure capacity and lessening the impact of concentrated change on the character of areas.

But – they wrote 3 years before the council’s budget crunch saw a $300 million belt-tightening proposed – there is a catch: “For this to work, their need to be incentives created so redevelopment pressures are redirected from high amenity areas to areas where amenity can be improved. An example would be improvements to the amenity of the middle ring suburbs, such as improved parks & open spaces. This would require investment by the council, yet council’s finances are constrained. There is therefore a trade-off between working with the market and shaping the market.

“A middle course is needed, with the extent of plan-led redevelopment dependent upon investment in infrastructure & amenities that will support urban redevelopment in less commercially desirable areas. The extent of investment needed needs to be identified, as it is a key parameter.”


The above fits into the wider context of the:

How to encourage quality compact housing

Mr Mead & Ms Ritchie also turned their attention to the question of quality compact housing: “Making quality, compact housing attractive to a wide range of households is important to the success of the preferred urban form.

“While a constraint on the rate of urban expansion is important in helping to set the framework for a more compact city, demand for compact housing options cannot be driven by restricting alternative housing options (ie, new housing on the edge of the city). Demand for quality compact housing within the existing urban area needs to be a first choice for many households if the overall strategy is to work, rather than be a second or third choice.”

The authors wrote that a major concern raised with regard to the 1999 regional growth strategy was the slow take-up of intensive housing opportunities, and that a mismatch of development opportunities & market demand had resulted in development that was often of low quality.

“Background work on intensive housing options & housing preferences indicates that, to make a compact urban form work, there needs to be a much closer alignment between where people are happy to live in more intensive housing and development opportunities.

“In other words, there needs to be much greater opportunities for people to live close or next to amenity features like open spaces, coastal areas, expansive views, vibrant village centres or the city centre.

“Experience indicates that people are generally accepting of the idea of trading off private outdoor space for proximity to public open spaces & amenities (ie, small private outdoor living space provided it is close to public ‘living’ spaces of high quality).

“Analysis of the market feasibility of urban redevelopment (which considers factors such as building age, average capital value, average site size, availability of vacant land, and land for infill or redevelopment) can be used to build a picture of where & how the market is likely to respond to calls for greater levels of urban redevelopment.

“Urban redevelopment is most feasible in areas of high land values, generally being areas close to coastal areas &/or close to the central city area. In these areas, demand for housing is high while urban redevelopment involving the aggregation of sites and the replacement of 2 or 3 houses with a group of flats or apartments is a feasible proposition for a developer, provided zoning allows for this.

“Redevelopment elsewhere in the urban area of the scale needed to accommodate growth demands is potentially feasible, provided there is a significant programme of well planned, co-ordinated & sustained interventions in areas to lift their amenity.

“The issue for the spatial (unitary) plan is that, while redevelopment in the higher value areas will be important, these areas cannot meet all needs in terms of affordability, sector demands & housing types. Compact housing options need to be spread across the city so there are local choices to encourage people to transition to quality compact neighbourhood areas, whilst retaining a sense of place, proximity to friends & services etc (eg, aging in place). However to make this feasible in development economic terms, significant investment will be needed in public amenities.

“It can therefore be considered necessary for the spatial plan to follow the market for intensification, but at the same time be able to shape the market.” The authors said a variety of compact housing options needed to be planned for, depending upon context & community such as:

  • In central – urban – neighbourhoods, intensification needs to be in the form of mid- to highrise apartments in the “fingers” of land that run between the heritage areas/character suburbs (eg, business land following road corridors)
  • In coastal communities edging the Hauraki Gulf, significant intensification is possible in all areas, but transport/infrastructure/community issues are likely to confine redevelopment to the coastal bays (not headlands) and clusters on surrounding “backdrop” ridges
  • In the middle ring, inland communities, feasible development opportunities need to provide for smaller, site-by-site compact housing options including duplex-type units, modern-day sausage-block flats (3 or 4 townhouses on a single section). Larger scale developments are possible where larger sites exist and onsite amenities can be provided. Development needs to maximise use of these sites (extra height, density possible). All are best located around existing & new reserves, where good views can be secured (ridgelines) or on the fringes of neighbourhood centres
  • In the middle ring, inner harbour-edge communities, significant redevelopment should be planned for & facilitated. The Harbour View subdivision on the Te Atatu Peninsula provides an example of the lift in density & quality of development & natural environment possible in middle-ring suburbs with a water edge. Redevelopment of existing suburbs would need to be facilitated through public action, particularly in relation to site amalgamation
  • In the existing outer ring, inland, working communities, compact housing options would involve the ability to add housing in a low-cost way. For example, add a minor unit, divide an existing house into 2 units, extend an existing house to accommodate extended family (more building coverage), build an infill unit.


Source: http://www.propbd.co.nz/up3-paper-preferred-form-important-backgrounder/


Of course and again using my Geographic analysis to allow the bold blue to work which would allow the above (in “encouraging” rather than forcing) our zoning regime (once the RUB is set) needs to be liberal enough to allow it. That is the development controls within each zone not being bogged in that micro-detail techno-babble wankery currently doing the Merry Go Round at the Hearings by the submitters.


My own submission (which is more Southern Auckland focused) hopefully reflects my desires of the Unitary Plan being that macro level enabling document rather than a technical rule book giving more DO NOT DO THIS rather than enabling us to do this instead.

The ultimate question though is ‘How Can We Be the World’s Most Liveable City” if we are bogged down in that micro-detailed techno-babble level of wankery that has everyone tied in cursed knots?

The ultimate answer is: You Simply Can Not!


Unitary Plan Submission


Oh and the urban dictionary for our W word

Language that academics use to bamboozle and confuse poor, unsuspecting students. The language incorporates long and technical words designed to display intelligence and knowledge of literary terms but all it really shows is that the author is an academic WANKER! Or A.D for short.
A.D- A knowledge of contextual information broadens ones analytical and probing skills that adds dimension to the concept of existential construct developed after World War One.
Student- I don’t get it!
A.D- That’s because it really doesn’t mean anything and I could probably sum up my point in one sentence because it is so shallow and brief but I would rather confuse you with my extensive knowledge of fuck all!
Student- Aha! Academic Wankery!