Growth Pressures in Southern Auckland: Is/Should the Super Metropolitan Centre to Make a Comeback?

Pressures in Southern Auckland require some more unique thinking


[Republishing this after it gotten lost with Cyclone Cook]

From 2013-2016 when the Unitary Plan was being created I floated the idea of the Super Metropolitan Centre. The idea of the Super Metropolitan Centre was born out of the work Auckland Council Property Limited (now Panuku Development Auckland) did when the Auckland Plan was drafted in 2011-2012. What ACPL recommended was a hierarchy of Centres starting with the City Centre at the top, Primary Centres after that, then the Metropolitan, Town and Local Centres in respective order. Manukau and Albany would be the two Primary Centres.

ACPL’s submission to Auckland Plan on Centres’ Hierarchy


From my Unitary Plan Submission in regards to Primary Centres and the Super Metropolitan Centre:

8.3 Primary Centres

  • 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.


My definition of Super Metropolitan Centre can be found in this post here: What do you want to see in your Super Metropolitan Centre


Heading back to the ACPL definition of Primary Centres this is what they have outlined for both Manukau and Albany:

8.3.1 Manukau

  • Manukau has traditionally been a strong area and has developed into a major Primary Centre extensively servicing South Auckland.
  • 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:
    • 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.
    • Opportunities to improve the walkability of the Centre, and in particular to connect the rail station to the Centre.
    • A more sophisticated entertainment and retail offer.
    • 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.
    • It is recognised that the reverse sensitivity aspects of the airport flight path do complicate residential opportunities.
    • 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.

2.1.2 Auckland Hamilton Growth Corridor

  • Over the next 20+ years, the corridor that links Auckland and Hamilton will provide a strong opportunity to harness economic growth in the north of the Waikato and the south of Auckland regions.
  • As a continuation of Section 2.1.1, it is suggested that this growth corridor and the Provincial Towns located in this corridor are a critical element of Auckland’s growth strategy. This corridor should be strongly and formally recognised in the Auckland Plan. It provides the basis for a future “conurbation” encompassing South Auckland and North Waikato regions.
  • Auckland’s economic and population growth must have an interest in, and relationship with, the Waikato and its primary agriculture base as it is so essential to the New Zealand economy. Auckland needs to recognise the opportunity that Auckland’s proximity to the Waikato, as the engine room of New Zealand’s leading industry of international scale and quality (i.e., dairy, agriculture and biotechnology), will provide in the future. There is significant opportunity for Auckland in the economic involvement, support and servicing of this industry.
  • Auckland will benefit from this (as will the Waikato) in economic returns as much as in the opportunity that such a corridor presents to accommodate future growth in the South Auckland/Northern Waikato “super region”.
  • The significant existing investment in rail, road and broadband infrastructure between Auckland and Hamilton also offers significant opportunity for Provincial Centre development along this major transport corridor. Further investment in this corridor may yield large gains for Auckland and relieve pressures elsewhere within the system. The relative merits of leveraging this infrastructure against alternate transport and economic investment is at least worthy of consideration in the next 2-5 years.
  •  There is a significant opportunity to provide both residential and business land and to accommodate a material number of businesses and residents over the next 20-30 years.
  • Pokeno and areas south of Bombay are considered to be attractive to the market and the southern growth corridor should consider carefully the impact and importance of such areas.
  •  With the main New Zealand market and economy located in Auckland and to the south, vacant land supply south and the connections to primary transport, make the Auckland-Hamilton corridor a critical factor that warrants recognition and close consideration in the future.


Source: My Unitary Plan submission


Manukau Opportunities 1 of 2
Source: Panuku Development Auckland


In 2013 I took what then ACPL had done with the Primary Centre idea and from it created the Super Metropolitan Centre. The idea behind the Super Metropolitan Centre was to insert a new tier of Centre between the City Centre and the Metropolitan Centres. While Metro Centres had a sub-regional focus and catchment the Super Metro had a regional focus and catchment however, Super Metros were not of the same size and bulk as the main City Centre. As the submissions and hearings went on I had argued the point behind the concept of the Super Metropolitan Centre and why it was needed. In the end the main stumbling block would be the Auckland Plan itself. As Council never adopted what ACPL suggested with Primary Centres inserting the Super Metro was going to be an uphill task. This is because the Unitary Plan is subservient to the Auckland Plan and for the Super Metro to be inserted into the Unitary Plan it needs to be in the Auckland Plan first.

Fast forward to 2017 and the Auckland Plan is under a whole-scale refresh process while limitations of the Unitary Plan have cropped up.


Growth Accelerating in Southern Auckland

As a product of the Unitary Plan more Greenfield growth via the Future Urban Zone was created than was originally envisaged. The Unitary Plan had capacity for 400,000 new homes with 160,000 to be in Greenfield zones. However, the then Independent Hearings Panel widened the net of the Greenfield catchment allowing for some 422,000 homes to be accommodated.

Unitary Plan New Dwellings
Source: Auckland Council


Recently (and open for submissions until April 24) the Future Urban Land Supply Strategy was created (and currently being updated) to handle the release of Future Urban Zone land into live urban zones allowing urban development. Before I go on I would quickly like to remind people that the Southern Auckland Future Urban Zone capacity is 55,000 homes and 35,000 jobs while Transform Manukau has capacity for 20,000 new residents and equally as many new jobs in both commerce and industry). Now somewhere with all this Future Urban Land Supply Strategy happenings the floodgates opened in the South with a lot more Future Urban Zone land to be flipped to urban zone than originally proposed. This is not a bad thing as the South is in the best position to take growth compared to the North West (lack of busway) and the North (lack of Light Rail). However, it does mean having the eye on the ball in facilitating the growth.

With recent announcements of land acquisition to establish a new Town or Metropolitan Centre in Drury (Kiwi’s Announcement With Drury Starts Ball Rolling on New Town/Metro Centre) and developments like Auranga also triggering the demand for a new Town or Metropolitan Centre (Auckland to Receive its 11th Metropolitan Centre? Is the Super Metro Back?) it might be time to seriously consider what we want under of a refreshed Auckland Plan.


For context of the growth pressures facing the South here is my presentation to Auckland Council’s Planning Committee:

Presentation slides and reaction can be seen here: The Auckland Donut: A Presentation to the Council Planning Committee.


From: Auckland: The Donut City

It was more a reference to where new developments are going:


ATAP pop vs jobs Source: Auckland Transport Alignment Project
ATAP pop vs jobs Source: Auckland Transport Alignment Project


Note where majority of the new residents are forecast to be and where the majority of new employment will be both from the City Centre.

There is a major disconnect between new residents and new employment centres which means commuting and often commuting long distances to and from the City Centre. That major disconnect means the need for expensive infrastructure expansions (motorway or transit) to handle the increase commuting load, something I have made mention (and will present on tomorrow) here: UPDATED: Planning Committee March 7 Agenda + Presentation to Committee on Auckland’s Boom.


Where am I going with this?

A planning brought it up yesterday that the majority of new residential developments is happening out on the fringe. The fringe being:

  • Albany
  • Westgate/Hobsonville
  • Manukau
  • Flat Bush
  • Takanini
  • Drury
  • Pukekohe

Meanwhile there is very little new residential developments (of scale) on the Auckland Isthmus.

In employment we are seeing major growth in the City Centre and the City Centre fringe with little growth (at the moment) outside the fringe apart from the Airport complex.


Auckland is developing like a donut with a jam splodge in the middle (and a bit to the side).


The Auckland Development Donut
The Auckland Development Donut



  • Grey circle that radiates out from the City Centre is the current higher density residential developments away from the Isthmus. They all fall with the 15-20km from City Centre indicator
  • Blue circle that radiates out from Manukau City Centre is the 30 minute boundary by one of the following:
    • Car (off-peak)
    • Transit
    • Proposed transit
  • It is near equal distance between the City Centre and either the Airport (via heavy rail) or Manukau City Centre, or Manukau City Centre and Paerata (home of the largest Special Housing Area – Wesley College)

The Auckland Development Donut does bulge to the south until the Silverdale sites begin their developments sometime in the future. As for the industrial complexes at Drury, Takanini and Wiri while there is high industry demand most of that is being absorbed in East Tamaki or the Airport currently. However, within the next decade and especially as Onehunga decamps its industry those three industrial complexes will begin taking up the slack.


In any case we have a perverse situation of residential developments occurring on the fringe with employment growth happening in the core of Auckland. As I said earlier that creates commuting pressures especially for those living in the South working on the Isthmus all trying to get through the Otahuhu-Mt Wellington bottleneck. However, with the South growing quickly in terms of residents (and will be growing even faster as housing supply comes through and prices level off) not only is at a question of where to house the residents but also one of where will they work (200,000 New Residents. Where to House Them and Employment in South Auckland?).



With the development bulge happening in the South what would be the most logical step or steps?

The Re-Rise of the Super Metropolitan Centre

I would allow Drury for starters to evolve into a new Metropolitan Centre as I outlined in: Auckland to Receive its 11th Metropolitan Centre? Is the Super Metro Back?. That does mean an 11th Metropolitan Centre would nominally be added however, the Auckland Plan would still have ten. So which Metropolitan Centre got taken out?

Manukau City Centre would be removed and elevated into the new Super Metropolitan Centre tier in a refreshed Auckland Plan 2.0.



From: Auckland to Receive its 11th Metropolitan Centre? Is the Super Metro Back?

So would Auckland get an 11th Metropolitan Centre?


Would it harm Manukau and Papakura?



Manukau Economics

The simple answer is no, a new mall next to a new transport interchange at Drury would not harm Manukau City Centre and its mall.


Urban and economic Geographies between Drury and Manukau are different as are their respective catchments.


Some ideas from Otahuhu down to Pareata

The new mall at Drury would be set in a Town Centre environment while Manukau is set in a Metropolitan Centre environment. Town Centres (like Local Centres but bigger) are designed for a localised catchment where as a Metropolitan Centre is designed for a sub regional (or in Manukau’s case regional and inter-regional) catchment. The size of the catchment will ultimately determine the agglomeration bonus effects – that is what and how much will cluster together in mutual benefit of one another inside a respective Centre. The City Centre obviously has the largest catchment thus the largest agglomeration bonus benefits in Auckland (hence the clustering of services and high density towers). Manukau City Centre would be next on the list with its catchment all of Southern Auckland and the northern Waikato. Consequently from this large catchment it too has large agglomeration bonus effects Drury would not be able to reach (being a Town Centre it does enjoy agglomeration benefits but at a small-scale).

I would not expect to find Government department headquarters in Drury but would in Manukau is an example of catchments and agglomeration. Manukau through its catchment would attract more international offerings in terms of retail and hospitality hoping to cash in on the large agglomeration bonus Manukau provides where as Drury necessarily wouldn’t (would favour smaller and local based retailers). Simply put I would go to Manukau for very different reasons compared to going for Drury. Drury I would visit for the “local” shop and quiet catch up at a cafe or local green space. Manukau I would visit for the big retail scene, the wide hospitality scene especially at nights or the weekends, or the civic services clustered in the area.

Manukau is undergoing urban regeneration via Transform Manukau with the Metropolitan Centre zone allowing 18 storey residential or commercial towers. Ideally the Manukau Mall would double its size (by going up) to allow space for 400 retailers, a diverse and ethnic food-court scene, plaza space for informal recreation and allowance for residential and office towers above the mall itself. At least then the core of Manukau would be able to service its growing sub region of Southern Auckland more effectively than now. But in the end Manukau and Drury serve very different purposes to each other.


Manukau: The Meeting Place of the South


As for Papakura Metropolitan Centre? Apartments are slowly being built to give the place critical mass but a lot need to be done streetscape and retail offerings wise to bring Papakura up to its full potential.




Southern Auckland housing another Metropolitan Centre would give a signal to residents, businesses and investors the South is the place to be. Also remember we are trying to cut down long distance commutes from the South into the Isthmus to relieve pressure on the transport system. A new Metropolitan Centre allowing intense development over the next three decades would certainly act as a pressure relief value for the South and wider Auckland.

That said Auckland could still house ten Metropolitan Centres – with Manukau being elevated to a Super Metropolitan Centre. Yep a year later the Super Metropolitan Centre concept seems to have been revived as developments continue to evolve in the South. If Auckland does receive a new Metropolitan Centre in Drury then elevating Manukau to Super Metropolitan Centre status (reflecting its true regional catchment) would be prudent.


Unitary Plan centre relief values





Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre would act as both a relief value to the City Centre while also acting at the vibrant heart to Southern Auckland (as outlined in: #ourmanukau Key Move 2: Creating a Vibrant Heart. Part 22 of the #TransformManukau Series).

As part of that vibrant heart Panuku Development Auckland recognised with Manukau:

Step 4 and 5 of Manukau Framework Plan
Source: Panuku Development Auckland


Manukau’s strategic geographic location to the upper North Island gives Manukau regional and even inter-regional clout something the standard Metropolitan Centres lack. I had mentioned this regional and inter-regional clout during the time of the Unitary Plan Hearings however, we were shoe boxed in by how Manukau was seen under the Auckland Plan 1.0. Panuku as I see it with step five have re-illustrated Manukau’s regional and inter-regional role given Manukau’s prime geographic location. With this in mind it is not fair to have Manukau as a standard Metropolitan Centre given Metro’s have a sub-regional catchment while Manukau has a regional and even inter-regional catchment.


As a result elevating Manukau to Super Metropolitan Centre status given its geographic importance would fit the ideas behind The Donut City concepts I have previously outlined.


Goal 2.8 of Manukau Framework Plan
Source: Panuku Development Auckland


The Super Metropolitan Centre

This is what I had originally envisaged as the concepts of the Super Metropolitan Centre during the Unitary Plan processes of 2013-2016:

How the Super Metropolitan Centre Zone Fits in D.3 Business Zones of the Unitary Plan

The following to be inserted into the Unitary Plan to incorporate the Super Metropolitan Centre business zone:

D.3.3 Super Metropolitan Centre zone

Zone Description

The Super Metropolitan Centre is the second highest in the centres hierarchy after the City Centre zone. While the City Centre zone recognises the pivotal role in Auckland’s present and future successes, the Super Metropolitan Centre can also play such a future pivotal role.

More intensive than a Metropolitan Centre in development and catchment but less so than the City Centre Zone, the Super Metropolitan Centre will act as smaller scale complementary regional hub and international centre in: business, learning, innovation, industry, entertainment, retail and hospitality, culture and urban living.

To improve the vibe of the Super Metropolitan Centre environment the zone permits a wide range of activities to establish in most parts of the SMC. The zone also manages activities that have the potential to adversely affect the amenity of the Super Metropolitan Centre. The Unitary Plan enables the second greatest level of development in terms of height and floor area to occur in the Super Metropolitan Centre (behind the City Centre zone). Within the Super Metropolitan Centre (Manukau and Albany) itself, development potential is concentrated in the core central business district. Development potential reduces towards the respective ridgelines (e.g. Redoubt Hill) and transitions to lower heights towards its surrounding flanks (e.g. bordering Papatoetoe, Manurewa/Browns Road, Wiri and Auckland International Airport.

The Super Metropolitan Centre zone manages the scale of development in order to protect important sunlight admission to parks and public spaces, and significant views to the volcanic cones and other landmarks. The significant height and scale of buildings in SMC increases their visibility from many places, affecting the quality of both public and private views at local and citywide scales. In addition to managing the scale of development, the zone manages the quality of building design to ensure new buildings successfully integrate with the SMC’s existing built form and public realm to create an attractive and recognisable skyline.

The Super Metropolitan Centre makes an important contribution to our sense of identity whether it is international, national, regional or sub-regional in sense identity construction.

A Super Metropolitan Centre does have comparisons also with the lower order Metropolitan Centres in acting as hubs for a wide range of activities including commercial, leisure, high density residential, cultural, community and civic services – but also including tourism activities. Super Metropolitan Centres development and activities are more intense level than an existing Metropolitan Centre but not as intense as a City Centre Zone as mentioned above.

In further reinforcement to the urban-scape of the Super Metropolitan Centre while still recognising its higher order hierarchy, the SMC again must have some street frontages within the zone are subject to a Key Retail Frontage or General Commercial Frontage overlay. Key retail streets are the focal point of pedestrian activity within the centre. General commercial streets play a supporting role. Development fronting these streets is expected to reinforce this function. Rules for the overlay are incorporated in the zone rules. New development within the zone requires resource consent in order to ensure that it is designed to a high standard which enhances the quality of the centre’s public realm. This recognises that the Super Metropolitan Centre is a blend of the higher order City Centre zone owing to sense of identity and greater intensity of development, production and catchment; as well as the lower order Metropolitan Centre zone in the fact an SMC still will act as the “sub regional” (as well as wider regional) “place” as well.

In saying that a Super Metropolitan Centre is viewed as a complementary City Centre area in-lieu of the existing City Centre Zone by some as part of their sense of identity attached to the SMC.



  1. To serve as complementary to the main City Centre Zone in servicing core parts of the region (Manukau serving Southern Auckland and arguably the northern Waikato, and Albany in time serving the North Shore, Rodney and Northland), as well as reflecting the linear Geography from Auckland.[1]*
  2. The Super Metropolitan Centre is an attractive place to live, work and visit with a 24-hour vibrant and vital business, entertainment and retail areas.
  3. Development in the Super Metropolitan Centres is managed to accommodate growth and the second greatest level intensity of development in Auckland (the City Centre Zone being the first) and New Zealand while respecting its surrounding physical geography features such as hills, volcanoes, streams, lakes and harbours
  4. A hub of an integrated regional (and inter-regional)*[2] transport system is located within the Super Metropolitan Centre and the Super Metropolitan Centre is accessible by a range of transport modes.
  5. Key retail streets are the focal point of pedestrian activity, with identified general commercial streets supporting this role. Malls continue to act as centre anchor points but are retrofitted to incorporate functionality with the surrounding Super Metropolitan Centre rather than operating in their isolation away from the wider surroundings of the Super Metropolitan Centre as they are now
  6. 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



Land use and development activities

  1. Provide for a wide range and diverse mix of activities that enhance the vitality, vibrancy and amenity of the city centre including:
  2. commercial and residential activities
  3. arts, entertainment, events, civic and community functions
  4. high-quality visitor experiences, visitor accommodation and associated services
  5. learning, teaching and research activities, with a particular concentration in the learning precinct.
  6. Enable a significant and diverse residential population to establish within a range of living environments and housing sizes.
  7. Enable the significant concentration of office activity in Auckland (behind the City Centre Zone) to locate in the Super Metropolitan Centre by providing an environment attractive to office workers.
  8. Provide for a wide range of retail activities throughout the Super Metropolitan Centre while maintaining and enhancing the vitality, vibrancy and amenity of core retail areas within the Super Metropolitan Centre and centres outside of the Super Metropolitan Centre. In particular:
  9. enable small-scale, niche retail to occur throughout the Super Metropolitan Centre
  10. Encourage supermarkets and department stores within metropolitan centres by recognising:
  11. the positive contribution these activities make to centre viability and function, and
  12. Designs that positively contribute to the streetscape and character of their surroundings, having regard to the functional requirements of these activities.
  13. avoid large department stores and integrated retail developments locating outside the core retail area where they would adversely affect the amenity, vitality and viability of core retail areas within the Super Metropolitan City Centre and/or centres outside of the Super Metropolitan Centre.
  14. Support the development of public transport, pedestrian and cycle networks and the ability to change transport modes.
  15. Identify and encourage specific outcomes in areas of the Super Metropolitan Centre that relate to:
  16. distinctive built character; and/or
  17. concentration of particular activities; and/or
  18. activities that have specific functional requirements; and/or
  19. significant transformational development opportunities.
  20. Use framework plans to encourage comprehensive and integrated development of key development sites or precincts in the Super Metropolitan centre.
  21. Recognise the reverse sensitivity effects of the airport flight path can complicate (but not inhibit entirely) residential developments within the Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre.


Super Metropolitan Centre form

  1. Enable the tallest buildings and the greatest density of development to occur in the core Super Metropolitan Centre district (subject to overlays such as the flight path).
  2. Manage adverse effects associated with building height by:
  3. requiring building height and development densities to transition down to neighbourhoods adjoining the Super Metropolitan Centre
  4. protecting sunlight to identified public open spaces and view shafts
  5. requiring the height and form of new buildings to respect the surrounding physical geography form of the Super Metropolitan Centre and the existing established or proposed character of precincts
  6. managing the scale and form of buildings to avoid adverse dominance and/or amenity effects on streets and public open space.
  7. Maximise light and outlook around buildings.
  8. Encourage public amenities to be provided within developments where possible, including publicly accessible open space, works of art and through-site links.


Public realm

  1. Require building and development of the highest quality that contributes to the city centre’s role as an international centre for business, learning, innovation, entertainment, culture and urban living.
  2. Require building frontages along identified public open spaces and streets to be designed in a way that provides a sense of intimacy, character and enclosure at street level.
  3. Enable high quality and interconnected public open spaces that are accessible and provide spaces for recreational opportunities, facilities and events.



  1. Recognise the importance of particular streets identified on the Key Retail and General Commercial Frontage overlay as primary places for public interaction:
  2. by requiring buildings with frontages to these streets to:
  3. provide greater ground floor heights to maximise building adaptability to a range of uses
  4. avoid blank walls

iii. provide easily accessible pedestrian entrances.

  1. and in addition, require building frontages subject to the Key Retail Frontage overlay to:
  2. maximise glazing
  3. erect frontages of sufficient height to frame the street

iii. provide weather protection to pedestrians

  1. avoid new vehicle crossings.
  2. In the terms of the Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre: Recognise and facilitate the fact that the Manukau Super Metropolitan Centre is the “commercial” hub supporting the southern Auckland industrial complex in: Wiri, Takanini, Drury South, Glenbrook, East Tamaki, as well as the rural sector of Southern Auckland and northern Waikato


[1] See Golden Triangle Note on page: 43

[2] See Golden Triangle Note on page: 43


Source: My Unitary Plan submission


The leg work for the Super Metropolitan Centre tier is all there ready to be inserted into a refreshed Auckland Plan 2.0. Given current development trends and pressures specifically in Southern Auckland, and the geographic prominence of Manukau as Panuku outlined I do not believe Manukau’s place as a Metropolitan Centre is well suited. Not when Metro Centres focus on smaller sub-regional catchments within Auckland while Manukau’s focus is indeed regional and even inter-regional. Because of the regional and inter-regional nature of Manukau having it elevated into full Super Metropolitan Centre status would be fit the Urban Geography trends  both with Manukau itself and developments in Southern Auckland.


The ultimate question is will Auckland Council recognise this urban geography trend with Manukau and Southern Auckland and finally bring the Super Metropolitan Centre into existence?


2 thoughts on “Growth Pressures in Southern Auckland: Is/Should the Super Metropolitan Centre to Make a Comeback?

  1. That was a very long read (ok ok I didn’t read it all!).
    I’m surprised that Takapuna and possibly even Henderson/New Lynn aren’t part of this?
    Takapuna certain as it has been the heart of the North Shore for decades (has 4 skyscrapers) and has a reasonable population density with many businesses. Going forward this is likely to become even more so with more mid-high rises etc. Takapuna will also have good access and is reasonably close to the CBD.

    1. It all comes down to the Auckland Plan refresh and what Council has in mind.

      But to be fair Ive only covered the City Centre and the South where I am based and where most of the action is under the Future Urban Land Supply Strategy.

      I could look at the north and west and might do so at a later date.

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