Could Auckland take Wellington after a disaster
The short answer is no or rather not easily.
The continued news of Government or State buildings in the Government and Centre-Port precincts receiving damage that prohibits workers from returning to those respective buildings not only raises geo-engineering concerns (why are these buildings so damaged if so modern)(see: Thousands of Wellington workers face more disruption) but capacity issues back in Auckland.
By capacity issues I refer to the following:
- Auckland having the office space or land to build office space for any relocated Government department headquarters from Wellington
- The Southern and Eastern Lines having capacity for increasing amount of freight trains with Centre-Port (Port of Wellington) out of action meaning freight heads to the Port of Auckland to go down to Christchurch by boat.
Office Space restraints
Premium office space is down to around 1.6% (if not even lower) in the City Centre with B and C Grade spaces on the fringes being snapped up for use for conversion to Premium grade or apartments. Even with more office space being constructed in the City Centre the City Rail Link build is acting as a major catalyst for even further demand (shows quality rail links not motorways spurs demand for premium space). Couple that catalyst from the CRL with construction constraints and we get a long backlog of needed office supply happening.
So this debate on moving some Government services to say Auckland City Centre should be wary given the constraints of office supply already present.
What about Manukau City Centre?
IF we are to move Government services into Auckland (rather than Palmerston North or Hamilton) and with City Centre space at a premium what about Manukau?
Manukau does have a large amount of blank land available to its south while some Government services like the IRD, Ministry of Social Development (WINZ), Housing New Zealand and ACC (located in Wiri) are already in Manukau City Centre. Office space is not fully utilised in Manukau so in the interim moving a department like Statistics New Zealand or the Ministry of Education could be easily facilitated. However, while Manukau could take a single department any other departments that decided to move the logistics get a bit more interesting.
Interesting in that Manukau would need to construct new office space to house more moved Government departments. Transform Manukau under the stewardship of Panuku Development Auckland could very easily leverage its planning and development capacity to utilise the Metropolitan Centre zoned Manukau to its fullest and allow 18 storey towers to house new offices without needing to go to low rise sprawl all over the place (poor use of land). I estimate three new 18 storey office towers (or mix use towers (retail on the bottom, office in the middle, apartments on the top) as well as utilising existing office space already present could allow the housing of five Government departments if they were to move north.
The Rata-Vines and Wiri residential areas are zoned either: Mixed Housing Suburban, Mixed Housing Urban or Terraced Housing and Apartments meaning an influx of residents to work in the new office towers can be easily facilitated WITHOUT displacing existing residents. The Mixed Use Zones scattered through the Transform Manukau area house supporting facilities such as hospitality and hotel accommodation so you wouldn’t need to go far for them.
Manukau and Wiri are linked transport wise by road, motorway, bus, heavy rail and in the not too distant future either a bus-way or light rail to the Airport so getting around is not too difficult.
With Transform Manukau currently under way new and renovated public spaces are in the pipeline so there will be places to take a lunch time stroll or that morning Latte.
All sounds attractive to Manukau and South Auckland taking some Government departments out of Wellington due to quakes right?
Well no to burst your bubble. Moving such services to Manukau would be nice but I become concerned about the sheer concentration of power to Auckland if it takes on increased Government services. Would the economy go out of kilter concentrating Government activity into Auckland (even Manukau) rather than using Hamilton or Palmerston North?
One aspect of moving Government services into Hamilton is that is could very well spur the need for high-speed rail between Manukau and Hamilton so that Hamilton was not reliant on the very fragile link called State Highway One (oh hello Kaikoura).
Finally given offices operate in a 9-5 fashion and one of Panuku’s aims is to move Manukau away from a 9-5 economy to more full-time economy that includes weekends and late nights I wonder if a further concentration of office space via relocated Government services would be prudent?
Despite what Whale Oil and others of the Far Right think (especially with the main line knocked out in Kaikoura) the rail system is very system stepping up to enable coastal shipping keeping the freight lifeline between the North Island and Christchurch open.
With Wellington’s Centre-Port again out of commission after a quake Port of Auckland and Kiwi Rail are working together to enable freight capacity to the South Island and possibly overseas. Port of Auckland have opened up capacity at their Wiri Inland Port facility (connected by rail) and the Port itself (also connected by rail) while Kiwi Rail is stepping up freight trains to move the subsequent extra freight as a result.
From KiwiRail, Port of Auckland and Lyttelton Port of Christchurch:
Ports of Auckland, Lyttelton and KiwiRail join forces to keep South Island supplied
18 November 2016 4:04PM
KiwiRail to provide fast, direct freight connections to ports so sea lanes can take the strain, easing pressure on damaged roads.
Freight demand on New Zealand’s busiest domestic sea route, Auckland to Christchurch, has doubled following the massive Kaikoura Earthquake on Monday.
Ports of Auckland (POAL), Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) and KiwiRail have joined forces to provide fast, efficient and sustainable movement of domestic freight from Auckland to Christchurch.
Extra capacity has been opened up at the ports and KiwiRail is ramping up rail services from the ports’ inland hubs to make the most efficient use of the shipping capacity on the Auckland to Lyttelton freight route.
“This is one of a number of initiatives we are deploying and an important step in getting New Zealand moving again,” KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy says. “We’ve been working very closely with our partners to offer an integrated approach to getting freight flowing in the South Island. This will get non time-sensitive freight volumes moving from Auckland down to Lyttelton, which will assist to relieve some pressure on roads.”
“Coastal shipping will now play an important role in serving the needs of affected communities,” said Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson and Lyttelton Port of Christchurch CE Peter Davie.
It demonstrates that the rail system is the most efficient at moving the largest amount of freight either overland or connecting to the coastal shipping systems. Trucks would not be able to keep up given a freight train can move 100 truckload of goods in a single go (also the congestion issues on the motorways).
While the extra freight rail movements is great to see it does mean congestion issues on the Southern Line and Eastern Line. This congestion means conflicts with our passenger trains that ply both lines with the freighters.
The Third Main between Westfield and Papakura is designed to untangle the freighters from the passenger trains and is planned to be built over the next thirty years. The problem is the Centre-Port saga shows we need that Third Main NOW – as in Budget 2017 if we are to build resilience in the rail network for when Wellington gets hit again (not if – when). The other benefit of the Third Main being built now is also that regardless of Wellington the Main would untangle the increased freighters from Port of Tauranga and our increasing passenger services.
One way or the other the need for the Third Main is pretty much now with the rail system again showing its worth and resilience in stepping up to move freight quickly (also why the rail line at Kaikoura needs to be rebuilt rather than mothballed).
The Kaikoura quake and its consequences in Wellington demonstrate the need for our networks and services to be resilient. Right now it seems the Government is struggling with the very concept which will have consequences on the rest of New Zealand. Auckland and rail can help but a resilient Government helps even more.