Is the Auckland Plan Refresh Bland?



Yesterday Greater Auckland in their A new Auckland Plan is progressing – but it’s a bit bland outlined the following:

The original plan was generally pretty good – bold and aspirational about Auckland’s role in the world and built around the dearly departed vision of making Auckland the world’s most liveable city. But it’s nearly six years since the original plan was published and the website doesn’t even work anymore (why have you pulled it down Auckland Council). Obviously a lot has changed in that time, which becomes clear when you take a look through the transport chapter or at the development strategy map which sits at the heart of the plan.

It was the Auckland Plan set the strategy that fed into the Unitary Plan, that highlighted the key role of the City Rail Link to Auckland’s future and much more. The previously government were not particularly fond of the plan, especially due to it’s position on housing and transport issues.

Of course the plan wasn’t perfect, especially parts of its transport chapter that “talked the good talk” before including a long list of roading projects. The Auckland Plan is where the recently cancelled East West Link first emerged. It wasn’t even in the draft but was suddenly catapulted up to become second equal most important project. The Plan also suggested the hugely expensive and destructive Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing project would need to be built in the 2020s. Thankfully ATAP pushed that back by 20 years.

Throughout this year the council have been going through a process of “refreshing” the plan. We provided some feedback on an early version – emphasising the need for the plan to be bold and outline a long-term vision for what we want transport in Auckland to be like and achieve.


Source: Greater Auckland



It’s also important to note what isn’t included in the Auckland Plan transport content. There’s no list of projects, no maps of the major networks (although they’re referred to in Direction 1) and really not much detail at all that provides guidance for how tricky trade-off decisions will be made around things like supporting new growth areas or fixing current problems, building more infrastructure in response to demand, or looking to shape that demand more.

I understand that the Auckland Plan needs to stay pretty “high level” as it covers such a wide range of topics and it is ultimately up to other plans to deal with the details and implementation, but it feels like that this has perhaps been taken to the extreme. This leaves a document that promises a lot and hints at a lot of the right things, but is so watered down and dumbed down that ultimately it’s hard to know what the Plan really stands for and wants to achieve. If that happens then it will be used by officials to justify any and all positions, making the whole plan utterly pointless.

Perhaps with a new government the council can dial up up the boldness setting – I certainly hope so, because currently it just feels bland.


Source: Greater Auckland


Bland, boring, uninspired, status quo and insipid. That is what I would call the Auckland Plan Refresh as it currently stands and as will be presented (as part of a ongoing project) today at the Planning Committee.

You can see the Auckland Plan Refresh agenda item here: 9 Auckland Plan refresh: Report on targeted engagement

Attachment B: Summary Targeted Feedback PLA_20171107_AGN_6727_AT_files/PLA_20171107_AGN_6727_AT_Attachment_56464_2.PDF*$   is where Council has accepted, accepted in part or rejected outright feedback while 10 Digital Auckland Plan and approval of draft content  is a test phase heading out to the public.


I concur with Greater Auckland’s concluding remarks on the Auckland Plan Refresh being bland and boring. I hope the Planning Committee tomorrow finally decides to give the Refresh a bit of a kick up the rear especially as we have a bold Central Government Administration in power pushing transit and housing ahead at full speed (unlike the Administration who was stuck in neutral).


I had given feedback on the Auckland Plan Refresh back in July. In short how the Plan was well not very inspiring back then (and it certainly isn’t now). Below is that feedback for your referfence:


My Feedback to the Auckland Plan Refresh

Views and thoughts


Last month I sent in my feedback on the Auckland Plan Refresh to Planning Committee Chair Councillor Chris Darby. The letter outlines some basic premises on where the Refresh is going with some links provided at the bottom.

Below is that feedback sent in to Council:

Informal feedback to the ‘Auckland Plan Refresh: Theme summary to support stakeholder engagement: May-June 2017

Note: feedback will follow the Theme Summary document and questions


What does success for Auckland’s Growth and Development look like over the next thirty years to you?

Auckland recently completed a massive achievement in bringing to life a single Planning rule book – the Unitary Plan. Now that we have the consistency of standardised zones across the Auckland region it becomes the case of getting best returns back on future development determined in part by the zones.

One big challenge is when we upzone or flip a zone from Future Urban Zone to a live urban zone (residential or business). This challenge is complicated by four further challenges three that were picked up in the Auckland Plan Refresh theme summary. Those further challenges were:

  1. High ongoing population growth
  2. Uneven distribution of growth benefits
  3. Continuing environmental decline
  4. Complex Game Theory with a constantly evolving urban morphology


In my opinion Complex Game Theory into urban morphology could give an insight into producing a Development Strategy around:

  • Future Urban Land
  • Targeted Brownfield investment (I assume via Panuku)
  • Growth Model
  • Future networks for physical and civic infrastructure
  • Business land provision (especially industry)
  • Maps showing the FULSS sequencing
  • Meeting the NPS on Urban Development Capacity


Complex Theory with urban morphology illustrated

  • Urbanists have viewed cities as complex systems at least since the 1960s. An eclectic set of approaches has looked at how implicit economising and cultural rules shape cities; and how networks give effect to relationships among a city’s agents. Complexity underlies many of the benefits that cities offer through “agglomeration economies” – particularly through better matching and learning among diverse and specialised agents.
  • Complexity and unpredictability challenge the feasibility of urban planning beyond a certain point. In response, some theorists propose to limit planning to setting a few simple and universal rules to guide private development, while allowing place-based plans for publicly resourced city elements (such as roads and public spaces). Simulation games suggest that such rules, combined with private action, could generate well-ordered urban spaces, while supporting the complexity that give cities their advantages.
  • The other broad response to complexity recognises that while no one actor can control urban outcomes, agents acting collectively and iteratively can identify shared goals and agree on a means to achieve them.
  • Government is just one of an evolving set of collective choice mechanisms in a complex system. In a participative approach to urban planning, government can influence the evolution of other collective action mechanisms, building on and influencing existing norms and values. Emerging mechanisms need the appropriate scale and scope to match the urban development issues they are addressing.
  • A rules-based approach to planning (using a few, simple universal rules) still requires place-based plans for publicly resourced city elements. In a hybrid system, policy would need to define the relative scope of rules-based and collaborative, participative approaches. Rules may also need to vary over space to better accommodate different urban morphology, such as desirable differences in density.


The points in bold are key emphasis issues that would have impact to the Auckland Plan Development Strategy and the Future Urban Land Supply Strategy.

(Complex Theory was a paper presented and published by the Productivity Commission into Urban Planning as is part of a wider research project I am taking on Planning Critiques and Housing with the University of Waikato. The paper can be accessed here: )


Complex Theory would be an underlying assumption into how I see Auckland’s development over the next three years. The Southern Auckland Development Pressures Omnibus and Transform Manukau Omnibus are two documents of collated individual posts on how I see success for Auckland for Auckland’s Growth and Development over the next thirty years.

Complex Theory also supports why I see Auckland developing as two Cities across three sub regions (as I presented to the Planning Committee in March).


The Auckland Development Donut


In regards to the FULSS, I made a submission to the FULSS when it was open for submissions earlier this year. My submission is No# 28 and can be found in Attachment B of the FULSS Adoption Report heading to the July 4 Planning Committee. In general I disagreed with the FULSS over staging with the opinion Puhinui, Drury West and Paerata should be brought online ASAP while Takanini should be focused on light industry due to flooding and peat soil concerns.


What does success for Homes and Places look like to you over the next thirty years?


Are we focusing on the right things to be successful?

Home ownership will continue to decline if it does not stabilise out first. However, this is not a bad thing if strong tenancy laws were in place that encouraged long-term tenancy. Germany and The Netherlands focus on strong tenancy laws given the majority of its population rent long-term. In fact German and Dutch tax laws are more punitive towards home ownership than renting. While I do not see New Zealand structuring the tax system to be punitive to homeowners the Germans and Dutch focus long-term tenancy is worth exploring. All the landlord needs to provide is the shell (the structure with taps, electricity and insulation) while the tenants provide everything else in return for long-term lease agreements. The tenants are free to do as they wish with the place providing the basic shell is left as it was found when the tenants move on.

A home is either one you rent or one you own so success to me would be acknowledging that long-term renting is not a stigma in a cosmopolitan City that is highly mobile. Auckland should be the key advocate of this if we want healthy and safe homes that support all tenure arrangements and most of all affordable. Of course fully furnished apartments will still have their place and great for short term renting for those starting out or highly mobile as Millennials generally are. But it should also be seen as normal to be in a life time rental that you can call home that is co-maintained by the landlord.


The Unitary Plan and its zones are a great first step in ensuring the diverse topologies in dwelling stock Auckland will need into the future. However, not enough Mixed Housing Urban Zone is in Auckland (and is also the highest demand zone for new builds) and Metropolitan Centres are not really getting there in encouraging mixed use development and sense of place.

Council needs to look at more upzoning from Mixed Housing Suburban to Mixed Housing Urban across the Isthmus while Future Urban Zone land flipped to live urban zoning should also place emphasis on the Mixed Housing Urban zone.

Even with Transform Manukau, Unlock Takapuna and Unlock Henderson Metropolitan Centres still seem to be lagging behind to their full potential. I have illustrated what needs to be done for Metropolitan Centres to step up to the plate in the Transform Manukau Omnibus.    


Enduring Neighbourhoods should focus in part around the Greenways Program. That is the Greenways Program for all the Local Boards should be entered into the Auckland Plan under Enduring Neighbourhoods AND Access and Connectivity.  If we can’t encourage supportive and connected neighbourhoods at local level we are going to struggle at sub regional and regional level. Placing Greenways into the Auckland Plan would give the program more emphasis and hopefully the stronger encouragement to fund them fully as fast as possible.


Access and Connectivity

What does success for Access and Connectivity look like over the next thirty years to you?

Two parts to this section: first the Congestion Free Network 2.0, second some links from the Transform Manukau Omnibus.


Congestion Free Network 2.0

I have seen the Memo dated May 29, 2017 that is attached to the July 4 Planning Committee Agenda. The CFN 2.0 goes some distance in achieving access and connectivity more so than the current iteration of the ATAP. That is why when on page four of the memo it stated: “Given the ATAP identified a minimum $4b funding gap in the first decade and was based on population growth forecasts that have been recently substantially increased; funding the CFN 2.0 would either increase the funding gap or require substantial funding reprioritisation” I was disappointed in that response in two ways.

First it was an error to base the ATAP on medium rather than high population growth when the Auckland Plan had high population growth marked down.

Second it seems the Officers have not got the gist of what the CFN 2.0 does. It REMOVES that funding gap through prioritisation of transit projects first and shunting roading projects last to the point some might not have to be done due to prior transit investment. I would suggest the Officers undertake the exercise again with the CFN 2.0 with costings given Greater Auckland had already done their own showing substantial savings to the CAPEX lines.

The CFN 2.0 was also based on the High Population Growth trajectory so is in a better position to be carried into the Auckland Plan than the ATAP currently is.


Is Council focusing on the right things to be successful with the access and connectivity story? In short ‘no.’

Below are three posts from the Transform Manukau Omnibus that focus on access and connectivity:

Building Community Through Urban Design. Run Up to Next #TransformManukau Chapters

#ourmanukau Key Move 2: Creating a Vibrant Heart. Part 22 of the #TransformManukau Series

#ourmanukau Key Move 5: Enhancing Community Connectivity. Part 23 of the #TransformManukau Series


Key Move 5. Part 1 Source: Panuku Development Auckland


This concludes my feedback to the Auckland Plan Refresh Theme Summary booklet.


Again any questions or comments please feel free to get into contact with me.




The Auckland Plan Refresh Themes:

Auckland Plan Refresh Consultation Stage 1


The Auckland Plan Refresh is a rolling feast (in which half the Councillors don’t turn up to its workshops anyway) that continues until June next year.  Where it will end up is a case of who knows….


Southern Motorway 1963 Source: