#UnitaryPlan Rezoning Hearings Not Off to a Great Start for Council

Centres Plus policy not achieved, economic modelling holed


Hearings got under way last week for the rezoning topic for the Unitary Plan Hearings. It is the last set of hearings before the Panel sends its recommendations back to Council in July for the Governing Body to vote on and adopt (or reject). Earlier on the Panel had decided to over-rule the Governing Body and keep the out-of-scope material in play despite Auckland 2040’s best efforts not to (see: Out of Scope Material Still to be Considered by #UnitaryPlan Panel. Free for Submitters to Rebut On). So with the out-of-scope back in play attention quickly turned to the modelling from Council on the feasibility of residential developments across the City.


You can see initial thoughts here: Latest #UnitaryPlan Feasibility Modelling Shows Enough Residential Capacity. Distribution Unequal. According to Council’s economic modelling we have enough capacity for dwellings but the distribution is unequal with the Isthmus slacking off while the South takes the brunt.


Over the course of Thursday and Friday the full Hearings Panel heard the evidence put forward by Dr Fairgray (Economics) and Kyle Balderston (capacity and feasibility modelling) before the Panel put questions to the two Council witnesses.

How the Panel asks the questions and how the Council witnesses answer them is somewhat crucial in that you can prepare the framing of your arguments when you present to the Panel later on (April 5).


Below is an excerpt of the questions and answers between the Panel and Dr Fairgray, and Balderston in regards to the capacity, feasibility and economics:

Panel questions to Dr Fairgray on Unitary Plan modelling Source; Twitter
Panel questions to Dr Fairgray on Unitary Plan modelling
Source; Twitter


Two quite important points came out of that exchange that submitters might want to pick up on in their respective presentations later on. They are:

  1. Panel is not convinced the economic modelling would improve house prices in fact the modelling would make house prices WORSE (this is a consequence of factors such as geographic constraints and wrong inflation data)
  2. The Centres Plus policy is not achieved at all with the Planners unable to give an answer on why so


Oh and the most important part Dr Fairgray’s modelling does not factor in the Auckland Plan as well which is the master document over the Unitary Plan (although the Auckland Plan comes under review next year) .


If the economic modelling from Dr Fairgray is interpreted by the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel at making housing affordability worse and not better a key assumption of what Council is trying to achieve has subsequently failed. The idea with the Unitary Plan is to stabilise prices out and encourage development right across the price spectrum (whether it be one bedroom apartments or three bedroom terraced housing) rather than at the $600,000+ mark as the modelling shows and the Panel was quick to point out.

The geographic constraints issue also comes into the mix especially if the South takes the brunt (30% of all development) while the Isthmus slacks off (23%) and you try to funnel everyone through the Otahuhu-Mt Wellington bottleneck. Auckland Transport has already said that can not be done and in its predictions it would want no more than 80% of southern commuters going north of Manukau and the Airport.


Cue the Centres Plus policy of the Unitary Plan

The Planners decided that the Centres and certain transport corridors (think Lincoln Road) would step up and carry the bulk of the intensification load through the life of the Unitary Plan. The idea being that this would take pressure off some of the residential areas. Looking at the distribution by zone type the Metropolitan Centres don’t go anywhere near that load sharing capacity. On nominal value you have 1,440 dwellings across all then Metropolitan Centres. That equates to around three to five apartment towers in each Metropolitan Centre. Forgive me but that seems very unambitious for the likes of Takapuna, Albany, New Lynn, Manukau, Sylvia Park and Botany.

Also and as noted before in the blog nine of the ten Metropolitan Centres are deemed un-feasible for residential development (Takapuna being the only one feasible). That is nine of our ten Metro’s (including Manukau which is under Development Auckland’s Transform regime) either not ready or as developments in all ten Metropolitan Centres show the modelling is out.


In any case something has caught the Unitary Plan Hearings Panel’s attention for them to turn around and fire back to Council that the Centres Plus policy of the Unitary Plan has not been achieved from an economic view point. What would have not impressed the Panel even less is Council witnesses replying back with nothing but umms and ahhs.

So the question is why is the Centres Plus policy not stacking up economically and more to the point why is Council struggling for answers when they put forward this policy (and got critiqued on it) back in the 051 – Centres Zones Hearings last August. Because if this policy does not stack up economically then the Metropolitan Centres are dead in the water no matter how much investment Panuku Development Auckland floods into them (in fact it would make investment in this case reckless).


Now if the Planners were to think laterally (the Mayor even told them to do so at the Unitary Plan vote recently (to no avail it seems)) the solution with at least the Metropolitan Centres becomes very obvious given all of them sit on decent transport connections (private and/or mass (public)). Get these non-required height limits off: Albany, Takapuna, New Lynn, Sylvia Park and Manukau would be a good start as the market can decide what is best over the next thirty years. Moving Manukau and Albany (but especially Manukau given the Panuku Transform regime under way) to the proposed Super Metropolitan Centre status would also send a signal to the market that these two places are ready for some intensive development over the life of the Auckland Plan.


While Manukau might go into Super Metropolitan Centre mode this August we might not see development straight away. But through the life of the Unitary Plan and acknowledging the two core facts of the South taking 30% of residential growth (within Auckland) and Auckland Transport projecting no more of 80% of those southern residents going north of Manukau and the Airport you can see how Manukau comes into the mix more as a Super Metropolitan Centre than a standard Metropolitan Centre seen elsewhere in the City.


Potential Projects Source: Auckland Transport and NZ Government
Potential Projects
Source: Auckland Transport and NZ Government
Future Urban Land Supply Study Map Source: Auckland Council and Auckland Transport
Future Urban Land Supply Study Map
Source: Auckland Council and Auckland Transport


Thus it comes back to the Panel to instruct Council to undertake modelling with height limits removed off some of the Metro Centres and Manukau to become a full Super Metro Centre and see where that places capacity and economic projections over the next 30 years.


Because right now what Council shows is that housing affordability is to get worse under current projections not better. And the official Council policy is for housing affordability to come down from 8.0 to 5.0 by 2026 (House price median being five times the median income in Auckland).


Time for Council to think laterally.


My evidence to the Centres Zones


Council Evidence to 081 Rezoning


081a Ak Cncl – General – Capacity and Feasibility Modelling – Hearing Presentation


081a Ak Cncl – General – Capacity and Feasibility Modelling – (K Balderston) – REBUTTAL – LATE


081a Ak Cncl – General – (JD Fairgray) – Economics _ REBUTTAL


Urban Growth Expert Group Memo – David Hill


081a Ak Cncl – General – Capacity and Feasibility Modelling – Residential Capacity Results, Methodology and Assumptions


Manukau Unitary Plan 081 Super Metro Zone
Manukau Unitary Plan 081 Super Metro Zone