#UnitaryPlan Business Zone Capacity Study Interesting. Lacks Human Geography Element

Where are the people?


On Friday the Council released a report in the supply of Business Zones land and their likely capacity through the life of the Unitary Plan ( -2026) and the Auckland Plan (2012-2041).

You can read the summary and main reports below:


Summary Report:


Full Report:


The reports are very particular and make their case on the supply, demand and capacity of the Business Zones in Auckland and whether we face a shortage of business (including industrial) land or not.

In short with industry we are not facing a shortage yet for industrial land with the South able to take the brunt up of new industrial development. That said if heavy industry decamps from the Onehunga-Southdown complex (and it will) then we do face shortages for industry.

With commercial the results get a bit more mixed. According to the report we have enough theoretical capacity in the Metropolitan Centres (they also had the most vacant or potentially vacant land available) while the Town, Local and Neighbourhood Centres face shortages of land capacity.

Also and again the report suggests the South while having most capacity is also to take up the brunt of new commercial and industrial development as well (even more than the City Centre itself). Given there is around half a million in the South now and that is forecast to hit around a million by the end of the Auckland Plan we have to be smart in how our commercial and industrial land is used if we want to mitigate against excessive long distance commuting into the Isthmus.


Looking at some key extracts from the reports I am going to apply a Human Geography lens (rather than an Economist lens as the report did) to flesh out key points governing demand and supply of the Business Zones land through until 2041.


Unitary Plan Business Land Demand Source: https://www.scribd.com/doc/305300249/081a-Ak-Cncl-General-PAUP-Business-Land-Summary-of-Land-Demand-by-Activitiy-and-PAUP-Supply-Further-Analysis
Unitary Plan Business Land Demand
Source: https://www.scribd.com/doc/305300249/081a-Ak-Cncl-General-PAUP-Business-Land-Summary-of-Land-Demand-by-Activitiy-and-PAUP-Supply-Further-Analysis


The report suggests that the North, Isthmus (would be the City Centre) and the South could take most of the commercial growth while the West experiences little appetite (a problem within itself due to high residential growth). The report suggests that commercial land demand in the South through to 2026 is around 15 hectares per annum. For a comparison Manukau City Centre (Metropolitan Centre zoned) is around 55 hectares while the wider surrounds if included was some 245 hectares. Given Manukau has a poor land utilisation rate (and most is owned by Council) Council can argue (and did) that the Super Metropolitan Centre is not necessary at this stage in Auckland’s development (see my Centres Evidence at the bottom – page 42, paragraph 46). But as I argue back the Super Metropolitan Centre looks at the linear Geography of Auckland (that extends into the Waikato) as well as the goals from Auckland Transport not wanting 80% of southern commuters going further north than Manukau.


Unitary Plan Business capacity floor space
Unitary Plan Business capacity floor space


This is a tad annoying as the new figures on maximum floor space capacity would have been beneficial at the Centres hearing last year.

Anyway the above chart shows that both the Isthmus and South have high amounts of theoretical floor capacity available with the North not too far behind. But the above chart should be looked in tandem with the following:

Unitary Plan Business land forecasts til 2041 https://www.scribd.com/doc/305300249/081a-Ak-Cncl-General-PAUP-Business-Land-Summary-of-Land-Demand-by-Activitiy-and-PAUP-Supply-Further-Analysis
Unitary Plan Business land forecasts til 2041


While the demand is concentrated to the South for business land that demand would be around the industrial complexes (the South has four of the five) the demand in Metropolitan Centres at moderate levels but in need of reconciliation. Reconciliation on why is the demand in the Metropolitan Centres low (nine of the ten Metros according to the ACDC15 modelling were deemed non-viable with feasible development) given the Metro’s are meant to be the second highest in concentrated density and development behind the City Centre itself.


This answer needs to be answered on a Geography angle rather than Economic angle before the Hearings Panel if we are to achieve both successful integrated developments and mitigate against further congesting the already congested Southern Motorway and parts of the Southern rail Line (the Otahuhu-Mt Wellington bottleneck). To further amplify the geography issues of the South here are some extracts from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment and Housing New Zealand:


Effectively the South is moving in such a way that it will become a de-facto City within the City of Auckland itself. This is not a bad thing and should not be discouraged by authorities in any way. Geographically (both environmental and human/urban) this would be of benefit to Auckland and help with the Auckland Plan goal of World’s Most Liveable City. If we take a look at this extract from the report this is where demand (type) will likely to be:

Most growth in employment is expected in economic sectors that generally prefer to locate in commercial zones (or in non-business zones). The forecasts indicate that almost half of the growth in employment is expected in four industries; health, professional services, retail and education. It therefore follows that there will be a significant demand for business floorspace focussed on commercial zones.


Source: https://www.scribd.com/doc/305300249/081a-Ak-Cncl-General-PAUP-Business-Land-Summary-of-Land-Demand-by-Activitiy-and-PAUP-Supply-Further-Analysis

(page 15)


If I take a look at what the South has going for it, it is the following:

  1. The accompanying table illustrates the similarities of the geographies of Manukau and Parramatta:
Parramatta Manukau
Education University of Western Sydney: 10,000 students by 2017 MIT and AUT South campuses: 1800 FTE[1]as of 2015. 5,000 FTE by 2020[2]
Arts, Culture and Entertainment Sydney Plan states Parramatta to expand arts, cultural and entertainment offerings[3] A more sophisticated entertainment and retail offer[4]. Te Papa North campus proposed
Nearby Industrial Complexes/Areas Western Sydney Wiri, Airport, East Tamaki, Highbrook, Takanini, Drury South
Immediate population catchment Western Sydney including ‘Greater Parramatta’ Southern Auckland [5]
Knowledge Industries: Education, Health Health and Science, Food and Nutrition, Technology and Enterprise, and Human and Social Development
Current Transport Infrastructure Heavy Rail, Motorways, Ferry, Bus Transit Ways, Arterial Roads Heavy Rail, buses, Motorways, Arterial Roads
Future Transport Infrastructure Opportunities Light Rail, improved cycling and walking connections Manukau Transport Interchange (delayed), walking and cycling connections especially to Manukau Station
Place in relative City Second City Centre complementing main Sydney City Centre Metropolitan Centre under Auckland Plan and Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

Proposed for new Super Metropolitan Centre zone concept

[1]  Full Time Equivalent (Student)

[2] https://voakl.net/2015/07/21/south-auckland-the-cotinued-rising-jewel-in-aucklands-crown-betterauckland/

[3] See 42.f of this document

[4] See 25.c.III of this document

[5] Southern Auckland defined from Otahuhu at Portage Road south to the border with the Waikato


  1. Thus 10.34 of Mr Bonis’s evidence against a further tier of Centres in the proposed Unitary Plan[1] in my opinion is redundant for two reasons:
    1. Again the Super Metropolitan Centre was not designed to lift a Metropolitan Centre to the level equivalent of the main City Centre Zone. The Super Metropolitan Centre sits as an independent hierarchy although its objectives and policies are blended from both the City Centre Zone and the Metropolitan Centre Zone. However, that said given the unique geography, form and function (including social function such as Manukau being part of the Auckland Plan Southern Initiative[2]) of the Super Metropolitan Centre(s) the Objectives and Policies do incorporate specifics such as:
      1. For Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre: Support for the social policy initiatives and approach reflected in the broader Manukau Community and the opportunities the Manukau City Centre derives to support these policies[3]
  2.  The Super Metropolitan Centre like Parramatta as Sydney’s second Central Business District is designed to be complementary to their respective main City Centres not compete against it. Again this is due unique geographies of the Super Metropolitan Centres like Parramatta on offer and should be utilised to full potential. In regards to blurring distinctions between a Super Metropolitan Centre and the City Centre, if that is going to happen that is because a Metropolitan or Super Metropolitan Centre has evolved over time to act more like the City Centre Zone. If that does happen let it and plan around it. But from what Council is saying in 10.34 it seems they are trying to shimmy or rather box the Centres into artificial boxes set by the Unitary Plan rather than allowing a Centre to evolve naturally (if it does).

[1] Point 22.c – Page 11 of this document (quoted)

[2] https://www.scribd.com/doc/269098570/SNAP-Southern-Intitiative

[3] Page 55 – Object 6


Source: https://www.scribd.com/doc/274254208/Ben-Ross-1606-2-Centres-Zones-051-Primary-Evidence (pages 40 and 41)


Remembering this from then Auckland Council Property Limited now Panuku Development Auckland (which is setting about a Transform program for Manukau):




ACPL's submission to Auckland Plan on Centres' Hierarchy
ACPL’s submission to Auckland Plan on Centres’ 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.
  • 3 Primary Centres
    1. 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. 
  • 3.1 Manukau
    1. Manukau has traditionally been a strong area and has developed into a major Primary Centre extensively servicing South Auckland.
    2. 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:
    1. 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.
    2. Opportunities to improve the walkability of the Centre and in particular to connect the rail station to the Centre.
    3. A more sophisticated entertainment and retail offer.
    4. 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.
    5. It is recognised that the reverse sensitivity aspects of the airport flight path do complicate residential opportunities.
    6. 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

[1] This is a new Town Centre Hierarchy category introduced by the Project Team and not recognised in the Draft Auckland Plan



Source: https://www.scribd.com/doc/274254208/Ben-Ross-1606-2-Centres-Zones-051-Primary-Evidence (page 16)


Manukau City Centre is the largest Metropolitan Centre in the South and contains the southern most mall servicing around 393,000 people (Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura and Franklin Wards) as of 2016. As mentioned earlier the population and demand in the South is increasing and while there is large amounts of theoretical floor space available, as I asked the Hearings Panel: “Are we planning for now, 10 years or 50 years down the track?”


Essentially the South will start seeing agglomeration  affects  similar (although lesser) to what the Isthmus and City Centre do now. The Geography of the South I predict will evolve in such a way that it (the South) it becomes a de-facto City in all but name (without administrative powers though). As I said earlier this is not a bad thing and could benefit Auckland greatly in ways such as:

  • Reducing commutes up the Southern Motorway and Southern rail Line through the Otahuhu-Mt Wellington bottleneck (thus achieving Auckland Transport’s no further than 80% going further north than Manukau)
  • Reduction in such long commutes would benefit productivity (less people being strung up from the long commute)
  • Physical environmentally beneficial if congestion can be mitigated by the above
  • Better for our mental health again owing to mitigation against long commutes
  • Open up accessibility to high paying and knowledge jobs to the South which does feel the effects of higher social deprivation
  • Required infrastructure investment could be reassigned elsewhere if long commutes are cut down and higher concentrations of employment is provided closer to home
  • Both the South and Isthmus cooperate with each specialising out to demands and needs
  • The South evolves its heart (Manukau City Centre) to their social identity and demands to that identity (the South affiliates with Manukau more than the main City Centre)
  • Realisation of MBIE’s aspirations shown in the pictures above (to of benefit to the people of the South and to both the Auckland and national Economy)


Potential Projects Source: Auckland Transport and NZ Government
Potential Projects
Source: Auckland Transport and NZ Government


The report for the Hearings Panel looks at the quantitative analysis of business zoned land in Auckland but in my opinion does not look at the qualitative side that will ultimately influence the demand and supply of that business land.

Unitary Plan Business Metro outlook 2026 Unitary Plan Business metro outlook 2041

The charts say the Metropolitan Centres in the south (Manukau, Papakura and Botany) do not hit initial capacity issues for another 20 years (2036) thus arguably no need for the Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre zone (or expansion of Papakura and Botany). I would challenge that straight away if the South (including Howick and Botany) is to take 45% of the population by 2041 (2.2m people in Auckland), Auckland Transport’s 80% commute goal is to be achieved, and if Housing New Zealand get their own way in getting more intensification in Otara, Mangere, Manukau, Clendon and Papakura. One other factor I would like to know is whether Council is basing their assumptions with the Metropolitan Centres after the Global Financial Crisis. Because Westfield expanded the Manukau Mall just before the GFC really hit home (but subsequently delayed expanding the other malls due to the GFC). With Westfield is expanding again, Auckland’s continued population boom and most of that boom heading southwards and Panuku is beginning its work in Manukau I wonder if the supply chart above is entirely accurate given? I would say No those charts are not accurate.


So what are your thoughts on the matter?


Manukau City Centre Source: Auckland Plan Implementation Update 2015
Manukau City Centre
Source: Auckland Plan Implementation Update 2015


Ben Ross 1606.2 Centres Zones 051 Primary Evidence


One thought on “#UnitaryPlan Business Zone Capacity Study Interesting. Lacks Human Geography Element

  1. My problem is the separation of land use which I still think is a mistake since economics shows why you wouldn’t build a factory in the CBD etc. I would have simple zones like Urban which means e.g. 3 story apartments or offices or both allowing easy mixed use like how we did it in them old days.

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