Inter-City Rail and Satellite Cities/Towns – Auckland’s Relief Value

The Waikato acting as a pressure relief value to Auckland


Councillor Newman seemed to be the only Councillor in the Planning Committee on Tuesday to fully grasp the wider geographic consequences of inter-city rail (while the majority were stuck on dollars and cents)(see: Planning Committee Digests – June 17. Council Drops Ball on Inter-City Rail). That is the establishment of satellite towns and centres around the rail line (especially the stations) between Drury and Te Rapa with residents then commuting to and from Auckland (or even Hamilton) for work.

In my Finance Minister’s Appalling Obstructionist Attitude Continues to Hamper Upper North Island post I had mentioned:

Rail also has a wider economic and social benefit that the Minister misses as well. When rail runs through or next to something like a Metropolitan Centre (the network goes through six of the ten) it becomes a catalyst to intensive urban development. Clustering around a transit station especially in a Centre brings on agglomeration bonus effects pulling in both commuters and leisure travellers for work and play. Manukau City Centre is an example this as a (Super) Metropolitan Centre under going urban regeneration triggered by the catalyst of Manukau Station continuing to surge in patronage (currently the sixth busiest station in Auckland). If you want an example of a Centre not working due to lake of transit but connected solely by motorway and roads (the things Joyce loves) then look no further than North West Mall at Westgate.



While that related to a Metropolitan Centre the urban development of a satellite centre around an inter-city rail station in the northern Waikato would follow similar albeit smaller scale pattern.  Fortunately the towns with their mothballed stations in the northern Waikato are already in place saving a major expense of establishing a new town from absolute scratch. However, investment would be needed (preferably led by Central Government) to bring the track and mothballed stations up to scratch to handle the new semi-frequent inter-city services between Auckland and Hamilton. Further planning coordination and investment (again led by Central Government) would subsequently be needed to help these (new) satellite centres retrofit existing and establish new infrastructure (social and physical) to then handle population growth as the uptake to these (re)new(ed) satellite towns would handle.

One thing we also must factor in when planning and investing into these satellite centres along the rail line is the possibility of heavy industry establishing into the area (to take the benefits of a nearby workforce and a rail line to move goods). As land values and pressures continue to increase in Auckland heavy industry will usually seek out land that has lower values and pressures. At the moment Wiri, Takanini and Drury South are providing enough of that class of land for industry that wants to move out of Southdown but remain in Auckland. In time though the Southern Auckland industrial complexes will begin to face the same pressures as Southdown and industry will leap-frog into the northern Waikato. With the establishment of satellite towns served by heavy rail industry will likely establish themselves nearby. A win for all.


But while the Planning Committee seems to struggle with inter-city rail its property arm Panuku Development Auckland and its predecessor Auckland Council Property Limited (ACPL) understood very quickly the Auckland to Waikato corridor when they submitted to the Auckland Plan back in 2011. What ACPL (now Panuku) wrote then is still very relevant today:


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



Full post:


Panuku six years later continue to realise the above when they wrote the Transform Manukau Framework Plan. The two extracts below illustrate how Panuku knew Manukau would become a major hub to connections in the northern Waikato:


Manukau Opportunities 1 of 2
Source: Panuku Development Auckland



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


The northern Waikato will act as a pressure relief value to Auckland much as the Unitary Plan’s growth corridors act as a relief value to the Centres within Auckland. Inter-city commuting is and will continue to be a fact of Auckland and burying your head in the sand screaming DOLLARS will only get us further in a mess we can ill-afford to take.


So we have two options available:

  • Bury our heads in the sand and look inward
  • Look outwards and Council becomes Auckland’s main advocate to get inter-regional planning off the ground.


I would prefer the latter rather than the former (looking at you Councillor Linda Cooper) given we do not have a Planning Ministry like Australia nor a very pro-active Government. Inter-city commuting is going to be a fact of Auckland’s life no matter how much housing we build within our region.  ACPL and its successor Panuku definitely know this so I struggle to see why Council as a whole struggles.

Unless we really want the Southern Motorway jammed up more than it is Council better pull finger on the realisation of the inter-city commute, the establishment of satellite towns outside of Auckland and how rail is able to best serve that inter-city commute.


Clock is ticking Auckland Council Planning Committee and time is not on your side


Train at Manukau Station



One thought on “Inter-City Rail and Satellite Cities/Towns – Auckland’s Relief Value

  1. I think an electrified rail link into central Waikato would be of benefit to both regions. That’s the rub, it’s not part of AT or Auckland Councils bailiwick nor is it part of Waikato Regional Councils. Central Government must lead the way to linking regional centres in order to diversify national production centres. I can’t imagine though, why AT don’t seem to want to link ALL Auckland urban centres, including Pukekohe by the most cost effective means available, Electrified rail!!

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