#AucklandPlan2050: NODES! Or Rather Auckland Becoming a Multi-Nodal City

How Auckland will look dictates how we invest to make it all work?


The Auckland Plan 2050 (the refresh) is currently open for consultation until March 28 long side the Long Term Plan 2018-2028 – see: https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/have-your-say/topics-you-can-have-your-say-on/ak-have-your-say/Pages/default.aspx


The Auckland Plan or Auckland Spatial Plan is the overarching document outlining Auckland’s goal, vision, directions, focus and strategy that dictates the outcomes to all other documents such as the Unitary Plan (land use) and the Long Term Plan (master budget).

While the Auckland Plan is pages and pages of goals, vision, direction and focus it is the Development Strategy where it all comes together for the document and for Auckland. The Development Strategy inside the Auckland (Spatial) Plan outlines how Auckland’s residents will be houses, how many jobs will be needed, how we will get around and outline the social and physical infrastructure to support the organism that is a City. In this case the Auckland Plan Development Strategy states Auckland has 1.6 million people in it with another 740,000 on the way meaning we need another 340,000 homes and 270,000 extra jobs to support us all.

Yes I know those figures do not line up with the Unitary Plan of 422,000 homes and a million extra people by the end of 2042 however, the discrepancy between the Unitary Plan and the Auckland Plan stems from the National Policy Statement Urban Development Capacity that has Auckland set for medium population growth rather than high population growth (where it should be).

For the sake of the argument I am ignoring the NPS-UDC (I am submitting to have it scrapped entirely) and am following the High population growth trajectory unless the results for Census 2018 has our actual growth between the low and medium trajectories. 


Development Strategy Outlining Auckland’s Spatial Form

The Auckland Plan Development Strategy is basically applied Urban Geography – that is the spatial development of Auckland and the variations within City itself. Thus it is the Auckland Plan Development Strategy where you will find Urban Geographers like myself going through the material with a fine tooth comb analysing, critiquing and evaluating as what ends up in the Strategy will dictate Auckland’s spatial form until the next review (6-10 years time).



The Development Strategy outlines four directives in the consultation document and eight sub-strategies in the e-version of the Auckland Plan. The e-version also includes Future Auckland where NODES are mentioned for the first time.

This is the Development Strategy in brief as seen on page 60 of the consultation document:

Development Strategy in brief
Source: Auckland Plan 2050, Auckland Council


You can see the larger breakdown here.


Underhill Heights. The high density development in the background is Laytonville City Centre. San Solaria runs two City Centres and two smaller nodes all connected by RTN that help slow down the need for constant Greenfield Urban Sprawl. The same applies to Auckland’s nodes!



Under “Future Auckland” we see a chapter on what Auckland will look like, and how Auckland will grow and change over the next thirty years.

In regards to what Auckland will look like this is where we get our first mention of Nodes. What is a Nodes? This from the Auckland Plan:

What will Auckland look like in the future?

The Development Strategy sets out how Auckland will grow and change over the next 30 years to become a place that Aucklanders love and are proud of, a place they want to stay in or return to, and a place that others want to visit, move to or invest in.

This is a revised Development Strategy

This is an update of the first Auckland Plan Development Strategy, which was released in 2012.

The initial Development Strategy set the direction for a quality compact approach to growth.  There have been a few important changes since 2012 which are reflected in this updated Development Strategy.

One of the most important changes has been the release of the Auckland Unitary Plan in 2017, which sets out the planning rules for Auckland and creates adequate capacity for jobs and homes over the next 30 years.

Another important change is around Aucklanders’ expectations of housing, transport and public spaces. We also live in a time of rapid technological advancement, which will have many impacts on Auckland’s future growth.


Why we need a Development Strategy

Auckland is anticipated to grow significantly over the next 30 years. To make sure that we build on its strengths and hold on to the things that are dear to us during this growth, we need to plan for how and where Auckland will grow.

Around 1.6 million people currently live in Auckland.

Over the next 30 years this number could grow by another 740,000 people to reach 2.4 million. This means Auckland will need many more dwellings – possibly another 320,000, and room for extra jobs – possibly another 270,000.

Growth on this scale is significant, and requires us to work together and ensure we have a clear understanding of where and when investment in planning and infrastructure will be made – this is what the Development Strategy provides.


Auckland’s context

From the arrival of the first Māori settlers to its recent evolution into a modern international city with a substantial rural sector, Auckland’s story has been one of constant growth and change.

While initial settlement by both Māori and European tended to cluster around the waterfront, development soon spread further afield in response to population growth.

By the early 1900s Auckland had become New Zealand’s largest city and suburban development had extended to the central isthmus and parts of the North Shore.

However, it wasn’t until the arrival of the motor car, particularly after World War Two, that Auckland’s urban footprint really started to expand.

The resulting pattern of lower density suburbs, enabled by the motorway system and widespread car ownership, is still the dominant feature of Auckland’s urban form to this day.

The urban area now covers approximately 20 per cent of Auckland’s land mass. It is home to over 90 per cent of its residents, many of whom live along a narrow axis stretching from Orewa in the north to Drury in the south.

The urban area is surrounded by extensive rural areas, with numerous towns and villages, and an outstanding natural environment that includes:

  • beaches
  • harbours
  • maunga
  • the surrounding ranges.

Geography continues to shape and constrain Auckland’s development.

Physical pinch points, particularly where the isthmus is at its narrowest, complicates development and the transport network.

It also complicates the flow of goods and services, including to and from the port and airport, Auckland’s two international gateways.

Supporting residential and business growth, while managing their impacts on the natural environment, will be one of the great challenges we face over the next 30 years.


Auckland will look very different in 30 years

The extent of its urban footprint will include:

  • newly established communities in the future urban areas
  • significant redevelopment and intensification in areas that are already developed.

There will also be a small amount of additional growth in rural areas outside of the urban footprint.


A multi-nodal model

Over the next 30 years, Auckland will move towards a multi-nodal model within the urban footprint.

The city centre will continue to be the focus of Auckland’s business, tourism, educational, cultural and civic activities. It will continue to be an important residential centre as well.

But it won’t be the only main centre in Auckland.

The areas around Albany, Westgate and Manukau will emerge as nodes which are critical to growth across the region.

They will become significant hubs of a broad range of business and employment activity, civic services and residential options.

These areas, with their large catchments, will accommodate substantial growth in the north, north-west and south and will be interconnected by a range of efficient transport links.

Outside the core urban area, the satellite towns of Warkworth and Pukekohe will act as rural nodes.

They will:

  • support significant business and residential growth
  • service their surrounding rural communities
  • be connected to urban Auckland through state highways and, in the case of Pukekohe, by rail.

City centre

Auckland’s city centre is critical to the success of Auckland and of New Zealand.

It is:

  • Auckland’s primary business area with its mix of commercial, education, employment, cultural and civic activities
  • linked to the rest of Auckland by an extensive transport system.

Around a quarter of all jobs in Auckland are located in the city centre, and it contributes around 7 per cent to national gross domestic product.

The city centre’s residential population has increased substantially over the past decade to reach almost 45,000 residents.


Manukau is becoming an anchor for southern Auckland.

It has:

  • a strong civic, academic, business and retail focus
  • several Auckland-wide attractions
  • integrated rail and bus stations.

The surrounding industrial area and proximity to Auckland Airport strengthen its future as a sub-regional node.


Westgate is an emerging node of northwest Auckland.

It is the centre for future urban areas, particularly Red Hills and Whenuapai, and new business land at Whenuapai.

Strategically located at the juncture of state highways 16 and 18 on the western ring route, it has road connections to the north, west and south.

Future transport infrastructure will transform Westgate into a major public transport interchange, and will support further mixed use intensification of the centre and development of the surrounding business land.


Albany plays a strategic role as the key node for the north. It will help to support the future urban areas of Wainui, Silverdale and Dairy Flat as they develop.

Albany will see significant residential and business growth and intensification.

Motorway access and the Northern busway provide much needed transport connections for the area.

In time, and supported by industrial areas such as Rosedale, Albany will provide a diverse range of employment, housing, education, community and civic facilities.


Warkworth is the largest rural town in the north of Auckland.

It provides a range of services to the surrounding rural areas and is developing into a self-sufficient satellite town.

Significant future employment growth is anticipated alongside residential growth.


Pukekohe is a growing rural town at the southern extent of Auckland.

It is strategically located on the North Island Main Trunk railway line and is connected to Auckland via State Highway 22.

It serves a wide catchment, and is centred on rural production with some of New Zealand’s most elite soils and prime agricultural land.

Pukekohe has the potential to function independently. An increase in business land will help achieve this aim.


[Note: the links within the above open to a new window outlining the current and future of the respective node]


Auckland will move from a mono-centric model under the Auckland Plan 2012 where you had the City Centre then the subservient centres including Metropolitan and Town Centres to a multi-nodal model where you have four Nodes followed by the subservient centres under that. Note the language around each of the Nodes (not the rural satellites) differs:

  • City Centre: critical to the success of Auckland and of New Zealand
  • Manukau: becoming an anchor for southern Auckland (it already is)
  • Westgate: an emerging node of northwest Auckland
  • Albany: plays a strategic role as the key node for the north. It will help to support the future urban areas of Wainui, Silverdale and Dairy Flat as they develop


I also noted that only the City Centre and Manukau nodes made their play on Civic infrastructure:

​City centre

Auckland’s city centre is critical to the success of Auckland and of New Zealand.

It is:

  • Auckland’s primary business area with its mix of commercial, education, employment, cultural and civic activities
  • linked to the rest of Auckland by an extensive transport system.



Manukau is becoming an anchor for southern Auckland.

It has:

  • a strong civic, academic, business and retail focus
  • several Auckland-wide attractions
  • integrated rail and bus stations.

The surrounding industrial area and proximity to Auckland Airport strengthen its future as a sub-regional node.


Source: Auckland Plan


We have the four Nodes which will influence Auckland’s spatial form especially around the Compact City model. The next question is how will the nodes work and how will they tie into the multi-modal transport system?

Below is expansions on the City Centre and Manukau nodes and how they will influence Auckland’s spatial form or Urban Geography:

What will Auckland’s city centre look like in the future

 The city centre is Auckland’s primary centre.

It plays a critical role in the success of both Auckland and New Zealand.

One of its strengths is the concentration of population and economic activity.

It is the main location for business, tourism, educational, cultural and civic activities in Auckland, and is supported by the three main nodes around Albany, Westgate and Manukau.

History of the city centre

Auckland’s city centre has changed substantially over the past 10 to 15 years, as a result of significant public and private investment in infrastructure and development projects.

Public investment has revitalised areas that were once run down, such as Britomart and Wynyard Quarter on Auckland’s waterfront, and has been the catalyst for further private investment.

A number of developments have contributed to making the city centre a much more welcoming place for people, such as:

  • shared spaces, where neither cars nor pedestrians have priority
  • public space improvements
  • improved public transport services.
One of the City Centre’s shared street spaces Source: Auckland Plan


There has been substantial growth in the city centre resident population, estimated to be almost 45,000 people.

The city centre is the largest and fastest growing employment centre in New Zealand. Infometrics report there were 114,264 filled jobs in 2016, including those who were self-employed. (Infometrics, 2017).

An estimated 17 per cent of Auckland’s gross domestic product is generated from the city centre alone. (Auckland Council, 2017)

In addition to the greater number of people living in the city centre, it is well served by the transport network and draws people from as far afield as rural Auckland and northern Waikato.

Continuing investment in infrastructure, such as cycleways and the City Rail Link, means that increasing numbers of people can easily access the city centre.

Future development of the city centre

Improvements in the city centre are ongoing. The public and private sectors must continue to ensure it carries on being a highly competitive, interesting and enjoyable place to be.

Its success shows that investment in public transport, pedestrian environments and public spaces, along with the strong vision in the City Centre Masterplan and Waterfront Plan, can shape the future of central Auckland, leading to a place that is attractive, competitive, inclusive and prosperous.

In the future, the city centre will continue to be the focus of Auckland’s business, tourism, educational, cultural and civic activities.

It will grow as an important residential centre, and the number of people working there and visiting will also increase.

The city centre will have to continue to change and adapt over the next 30 years to serve Aucklanders, but also as it competes in the global network of cities.


Source: https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/plans-projects-policies-reports-bylaws/our-plans-strategies/auckland-plan/development-strategy/future-auckland/Pages/what-aucklands-city-centre-look-like-future.aspx




What will Manukau look like in the future

 ​Manukau is the largest and most established of Auckland’s nodes outside of the city centre.

Close proximity to key distribution and transport links, including the southern and north-eastern motorways, the inland Port at Wiri and the Auckland International Airport, underpin a strong employment base and local economy.

Manukau and the surrounding business area produce about 14 per cent of Auckland’s gross domestic product (Gross domestic product is for the combined local board areas of Māngere- Ōtāhuhu, Ōtara-Papatoetoe and Manurewa. It is measured in 2010 prices.’). (Infometrics, 2016)

Manukau is currently undergoing major transformation that fosters and builds on the existing pride, values and culture of its people. The momentum of change and development in this area will drive demand for a more diverse range of services and activities.

​History of the Manukau area

Similar to other key nodes such as Albany, Manukau centre was planned in the 1960s. It was designed as a major administrative and commercial centre that would service southern Auckland, at a time when the area was predominantly rural.

From the outset Manukau received significant public and private investment, which allowed it to develop over time into a large centre. It played an important role of servicing a fast growing population in the southern part of Auckland.

Several government functions and service agencies were shifted into purpose-built office buildings well before the wider area developed. The Manukau mall followed in 1976 and Rainbow’s End theme park opened in 1982.

The last decade has seen Manukau mature in its role as the commercial, cultural and educational hub of southern Auckland.

Recent developments in the centre include:

  • public space improvements
  • the building of residential apartments
  • expansion of the shopping centre
  • completion of a multi-purpose events centre.

In April 2012 a fully integrated rail station and university campus development was completed and Manukau was connected to the Auckland rail network.

 ​The Manukau bus interchange, immediately adjacent to the Manukau train station, is a critical component of both Manukau’s development and of the Auckland transport network.  Being close to public transport will make it easier for people to live and work in the area.


Future development of Manukau

The residential population of central Manukau is expected to increase from 500 households at present to around 3000 in the next 30 years.

Manukau is also an investment focus for Panuku Development Auckland (an Auckland council-controlled organisation). This includes urban renewal in and around Manukau centre.

The investment currently being made in Manukau centre, and the momentum of business and employment growth in the wider area, will see Manukau continue to develop and mature in its role as the centre of southern Auckland.


Source: https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/plans-projects-policies-reports-bylaws/our-plans-strategies/auckland-plan/development-strategy/future-auckland/Pages/what-manukau-look-like-future.aspx


So to relieve pressure on the transport system the Auckland Plan will abandon the long touted mono-centric system and focus more on a poly-centric system when it comes to residential and job distribution. Given a 2013 Ministry of Transport commuter report indicated at least half of Southern Auckland residents commute within Southern Auckland (unlike the West mostly commuting south or to the City Centre) it is a worry it has taken this long for the Auckland Plan to catch up to a multi-nodal spatial form.

The multi-nodal city approach also throws up questions around the Unitary Plan and the Centres Hierarchy.


South Auckland bottleneck
Black = rail line
Blue = SE Highway
Yellow = Southern Motorway
Cyan = SH20


The Auckland Plan, Nodes and the Unitary Plan

The Unitary Plan relied on the Auckland Plan when it came to how the Centres would sit in a hierarchy structure. At the top of the Auckland Plan 2012 and the current Unitary Plan was the City Centre, then the Metropolitan Centre, Town Centre, Local Centre and finally the Neighbourhood Centre. However, I have long argued lugging Centres like Manukau and Albany into the Metropolitan Centre category alongside Takapuna and Henderson assumes all Metro Centres are homogeneous in their urban geography. They are not as Manukau and Albany (and now Westgate) operate very differently to the other seven Metropolitan Centres and the current hierarchy around the Metro Centres fails to recognise the heterogeneous  of our Metros.

Subsequently the Nodes have pulled three of our larger Metropolitan Centres out of the Metro Centre ranking and put it with the City Centre – forming the Nodes. The Auckland Plan 2050 maps have now altered the hierarchy of the Centres in the following way:

  • Node
    • City Centre
    • Metropolitan Centre within a Node
  • Metropolitan Centre
  • Town Centre
  • Local Centre
  • Neighbourhood Centre

The picture below illustrates this (with Manukau being the example):

Example of an AP2050 Node – Manukau
Source: Auckland Council


Great to see the Manukau node encompass a very large area that includes the airport. However, we have a legibility problem around the terms: Node, Metropolitan Centre within a Node, and a standard Metropolitan Centre.


The Return of the Super Metropolitan Centre?

To support the Auckland Plan Development Strategy question around “How Auckland will grow and change – a quality compact approach” the Plan itself must be legible and line up with other documents such as the Unitary Plan (even if it means the Unitary Plan needs an interim update itself).

The proposed hierarchy of: Node, City Centre, Metropolitan Centre within a Node, Metropolitan Centre, Town Centre etc makes the Auckland Plan illegible and confusing. If we look at Manukau we can see the node itself that encompasses a large area with the Metropolitan Centre in the middle of it. Given a Metropolitan Centre inside a Node will have different functions and characteristics to a standard Metropolitan Centre the new name needs to be brought in to differentiate the two Metro Centre groups.

Cue the return of the Super Metropolitan Centre.


The Super Metropolitan Centre was a concept I developed in the Unitary Plan debate of 2013-2016. In brief the Super Metro elevated Manukau and Albany into a new tier above the Metropolitan Centres but below the City Centre itself. The purpose being that the Super Metro recognised Manukau and Albany’s wider catchments and larger support roles than a standard Metro Centre seen elsewhere. As a consequence the Super Metropolitan Centre proposed zone allowed similar intensity of developments as the City Centre for when demand would warrant it.

While the concept was never adopted as the Super Metropolitan Centre was not recognised in the Auckland Plan 2012 it seems the Auckland Plan 2050 is trying to usher the Super Metro Centre back in, in all but name – thus creating the illegibility problem in the proposed version of the Plan.

Proposed Hierarchy reflecting the goal of a Multi-Nodal city:

  • Node
    • City Centre
    • Super Metropolitan Centre
  • Metropolitan Centre
  • Town Centre
  • Local Centre
  • Neighbourhood Centre



How Auckland will grow and change – a quality compact approach

That is the fundamental question the Development Strategy is trying to answer.


This is what the Auckland Plan 2050 proposes:

How Auckland will grow and change – a quality compact approach

 Auckland will take a quality compact approach to growth and development.

A compact Auckland means future development will be focused in existing and new urban areas within Auckland’s urban footprint, limiting expansion into the rural hinterland. 

By 2050, most growth will have occurred within this urban footprint, particularly focused in and around:

What quality means

The quality aspect of this approach means that:

  • most development occurs in areas that are easily accessible by public transport, walking and cycling
  • most development is within reasonable walking distance of services and facilities including centres, community facilities, employment opportunities and open space
  • future development maximises efficient use of land
  • delivery of necessary infrastructure is coordinated to support growth in the right place at the right time. 

What compact means

The compact aspect of this approach means that:

  • Future development will be focused within Auckland’s urban footprint, with most of that growth occurring in existing urban areas.
  • By 2050, most growth will have occurred within this urban footprint, limiting both expansion into the rural hinterland and rural land fragmentation.

This approach contributes to investment certainty by understanding where and when growth is likely to occur. 

The benefits of a quality compact Auckland

The benefits of a quality compact approach to growth and development are:

  • greater productivity and economic growth – a compact urban form produces increased economic productivity from the greater proximity between firms, workers and consumers
  • better use of existing infrastructure – growing within existing urban areas makes more efficient use of existing assets. Providing physical and social infrastructure costs less per household, which results in a higher overall level of service
  • improved transport outcomes – a compact urban form brings more people closer to their place of work. Greater population density supports faster, more frequent public transport services. Both reduce congestion on the road network and create a more efficient transport network overall
  • rural productivity and character can be maintained – encouraging growth within urban areas helps to protect rural environments from urban encroachment, and maintain the productive capability of the land and its rural character
  • enhanced environmental outcomes – adverse effects of urban activities are concentrated into fewer receiving environments. Growth creates more opportunities for environmental enhancement, particularly as part of infrastructure upgrades
  • great social and cultural vitality – concentrating activity into urban centres and neighbourhoods provides a wider variety of activities to meet the full range of people’s needs. This brings diversity and vibrancy into the urban environment which in turn enhances interaction and social cohesion.

How this will be achieved

The quality compact approach to future development will be achieved by:

  • enabling sufficient capacity for growth across Auckland
  • embedding good design in all development
  • sequencing what gets delivered 
  • aligning the timing of infrastructure provision with development.


Source: https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/plans-projects-policies-reports-bylaws/our-plans-strategies/auckland-plan/development-strategy/future-auckland/Pages/how-auckland-grow-change-quality-compact-approach.aspx


Again I notice the 60:40 Brownfield-Greenfield ratios have disappeared.


The methodology of the Compact City is clearly set out (even with the missing Brownfield to Greenfield Ratio) and the Nodes (or Super Metropolitan Centres as it were) are doing the heavy lifting in making sure the Compact City goal is achieved. Linking the Nodes up with the rest of Auckland and outside of Auckland is outlined here: #AucklandPlan2050 – Transport: Linking Auckland In and Out. The question becomes: How do we fully support the Nodes apart from transport and social infrastructure?


Next up in the Auckland Plan 2050 series: The Return of the Super Metropolitan Centre, and having the Industrial Capacity (business land) to support our Nodes.


Developing blank land requires extensive planning and infrastructure builds. The Nodes of the Auckland Plan are designed to facilitate more intensified growth in Brownfield areas slowing down the need for expensive Greenfield developments