Stadiums, Watercare and Housing Do Not Mix

If we were to get a new stadium…..

 

The last few days has been a rather odd mix of stadiums, Watercare saying ‘save water’ as the Ardmore Treatment Plant is backed up with silt from the heavy rain, and housing. Ironically I find it all consequential after giving a presentation to the Planning Committee on managing Auckland’s growth (The Auckland Donut: A Presentation to the Council Planning Committee).

 

Watercare and rain

The sub-tropical system that has belted Auckland since last Wednesday (thanks Sydney for your bollocks of a weather system) exposed an Achilles heel in our fresh water system. That is we lack storage of potable drinking water post water treatment if we were ever to lose a treatment plant or even dam for whatever reason.

When I toured the Watercare Ardmore Treatment Plant we asked the tour guides what happens after a storm. Rather ironically they said extra silt enters the filtration system causing a reduction of capacity. Even more ironically Auckland had outgrown the Redoubt Road water storage tank that could not last Auckland even a day if we needed it in emergencies. Fast forward and the Treatment Plant is down 50%, we don’t have enough water storage post treatment and we are being threatened with ‘boil water’ notices if we can not save enough water until the end of March.

Desalination (more to the point atomic desalination) is not an option so we need to either bolster alternative treatment sources (Waikato) or build more post-treatment storage to relieve pressure on the treatment plants in times like this (also think Civil Defence). Basically we need enough water storage for 3-5 days if a treatment plant comes offline.

 

Now the next question is if we were to build more post-treatment storage where do we place the tanks?

Cue the presentation and where Auckland’s growth is going:

The Auckland Development Donut

 

Most of the growth is heading south with the west not too far behind. Coincidentally the dams, treatment plants, existing storage tanks, and the Waikato pipeline are in the same areas as the growth. Couple all that with a gravity fed system (converging into the Isthmus and North Shore) and the placement of extra storage tanks becomes a straight forward exercise (cost not withstanding).

The tanks I would locate in the following areas:

  • Redoubt Road next to the existing tank
  • Pukekohe south nestled on the hills preferably near the Waikato pipeline
  • Foothills of the Waitakere Ranges

Remember the purpose of the tanks post treatment is to give security of supply for five days if we were to lose a treatment plant and further mitigate against the need for boil water notices especially after a massive storm or a civil defence emergency.

 

Stadiums and Housing

The front page of the Saturday Herald had headlines of Mayor Goff wanting a feasibility study into building a stadium in the City Centre replacing the existing Eden Park. The logic usually runs on running a smaller stadium (that can not host Rugby World Cups) on the fringe of the City Centre not far from the convergence of the transit networks at Britomart while Eden Park is replaced with housing. The location of this new stadium would be over Quay Park where the rail lines current converge to enter the Britomart tunnel.

Believe me I could not roll my eyes enough seeing that front page spread as well as the logic being used of a stadium in the City Centre.

 

I had only just presented to the Planning Committee on Southern Auckland taking the brunt of residential growth while the City Centre takes the brunt of employment growth. The polar disparity between residential and employment area triggers long commutes. While long commutes are not desirable in any case, trying to bring increasing amounts of traffic through Mt Wellington on the Southern Motorway or through Otahuhu on the rail lines is simply asking for trouble.

 

While I was making emphasis on the South last week there is emphasis also with the City Centre as well. That being what would be a better use of premium land on the fringe of the City Centre so close to major transit networks.

Would it be:

  1. A stadium that sits empty most days of the week and is a loss maker?
  2. Housing and commercial that at the minimum generate Rating income to the Council but ideally generate a constant stream of economic activity (rather than random hits a stadium would generate)?

Stadiums are large facilities that sit empty for long periods of time. They forbid other uses and generate noise and light at night to irk neighbouring residential or commercial properties. This is why I personally believe stadiums belong out with industrial complexes connected back to the City Centre by the transit network (usually heavy rail). It is why ultimately any new stadium should replace Mt Smart stadium as Mt Smart can be easily accessed by road or rail (with some upgrades to allow trains to access Sylvia Park directly through Westfield Junction). Mt Smart is also in the middle of an industrial complex (and one that would not face decamping unlike the Onehunga end of the same complex) which means noise and light do not go and annoy residents (a limitation of Eden Park).

Placing the stadium at Mt Smart frees Quay Park up for intensive mid-rise housing, a new school and some commercial spaces. Ironically new intensive housing would not breach the Unitary Plan rules governing a view shaft at Quay Park but a new stadium certainly would.

 

Stadiums and Transport

Stadiums generate a concentration of traffic prior and after a game (believe me stadiums are often a pain in the arse in Cities Skylines). Given stadiums are often most reached by cars (even when trains and busses also run) I become reluctant of placing a stadium in a City Centre due to that traffic generation (and also why I never place stadiums in City Centres in Cities Skylines). An industrial complex is better suited to concentrated traffic generation (given the complexes are often not working when the stadium is) especially if well-connected by transit.

Ironically with a bit of work at Penrose a new stadium at Mt Smart is quite suited with proximity to rail lines, bus lines, and both State Highways 1 and 20. Building a purpose-made bus and rail interchange at Penrose (with bus bays also on the western side to access SH20) along with a spur connecting the Southern and Eastern Lines from north to east at Westfield would give the transit connections needed. Remember heavy rail is suited for high volume passenger shuttling between two points. In this case it would be Penrose Interchange to Britomart via both Newmarket and Glen Innes. The Western Line is accessed from the Onehunga Line via Newmarket while through services from Papakura to Swanson would follow their normal path via the Eastern Line and the City Rail Line. Busses would act as shuttles to set destinations not accessible by heavy rail and later light rail.

Shuttling between the new stadium back to the City Centre for post game drinks should not annoy people when the set up is right. Those wanting to go straight home have the options as well whether it be east, south or west on the transit network while avoiding the congestion of the City Centre.

 

 

In the end land values and getting best bang for buck from land drive what we should be doing with land. Placing a stadium on premium land in a City Centre seems unproductive compared with intensive housing and commercial uses. Especially as we are trying to mitigate against long commutes from the fringe to the City Centre. This is why (also given traffic, light and noise generation consequences) stadiums should not be placed on valuable City Centre land but rather an industrial complex backed by decent transit connections.

With Cities Skylines I do not place stadiums in City Centres at all for land value/use reasons I have mentioned above. With Layton City the main stadium sits just outside the fringe of the City Centre and is connected by bus, train and subway. San Solaria City the stadium is placed well away from the City Centre and is in fact next to the main airport. Your transit connections are bus, light rail and subway with those connections to be updated when the new Mass Transit expansion pack comes out later this year.

 

 

Finally and none-the-less the planning for a stadium is ten years away with any construction at least twenty. We have plenty to do in the meantime like fixing the storm water system, getting some decent fresh water storage set up and properly planning for our growth. Priority first Mr Mayor as a stadium is certainly not one!

 

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