Upgrades and Expansion

View of Auckland is Expanding its Scope

Yes, yes I know folks, VOAKL has only just come through one set of upgrades only to go through another so quickly.

I keep regular tabs on Macro Business Super Blog and New Geography with their excellent commentary in international business, economic, political and urban design/development affairs. Often those two sites provide backgrounds to some of the articles I write here in VOAKL and share with others across the internet.

NewGeography.com is a joint venture of Joel Kotkin and Praxis Strategy Group based out of the USA that provides commentary and analyse on demographics, geography, business, politics and all things urban/transport design/development/management.

Check out the ABOUT page to find out more about New Geography dot com

Macro Business is a affectionately known as super blog site with several bloggers commenting and providing analysis that the NZ Herald Business Section and The NBR don’t quite do well here in NZ. I can safely say to our Business Herald and NBR readers that Macro Business is a perfect supplement for your business, economic and political news from Australia and around the world (especially for those keeping an eye on China). Most often stuff that happens in Australia and is mentioned at Macro Business will have a direct translation here in NZ. Well worth a read – and you get to comment with others too.

However I’ll let you read the ABOUT page and find out for yourself.

So over the next week I will be doing some minor changes to VOAKL as I add in some new pages and features that will include titbits from these two sites for your reading pleasure.

VOAKL – Views of an average ratepayer in Auckland – now expanding his scope and vision to the world around him



The upgrade and expansion is complete with dual indexes covering New Geography and Macro Business. What I am also going to do is trial a twice weekly Round-Up style post of some articles at Macro-Business here at VOAKL. This trial is looking seeing whether I expand the scope of VOAKL or undertake a new venture with the Blog and cover a range of issues rather than Auckland Council and everything that stems out of it.

Basically I am looking at extending VOAKL’s scope from Auckland Council, Planning and Transport affairs and issues to a more global scope in; governance, economics, planning (urban and transport), and design (urban and again transport). With myself drawing on international pieces to provide commentary and comparison on “issues of an average Auckland Ratepayer about Auckland (itself)” (a.k.a Auckland urban/transport planning/design/management/governance and finances), I thought it would be time to widen the scope somewhat and look at international commentary and analysis on similar issues. However if the trial is deemed unsuccessful VOAKL will revert back to its founding focus on just “issues on Auckland.”

Will see how it goes at the end of the month shall we? 


I have Stirred a Hornets Nest

Someone wants the Speed Limit Dropped – I say No!


Last night I commented in the “Is reducing speed limits to save lives “nuts”?” that: 1) Speed Limit should be increased to 60km/h on some arterials; 2) You get run over because you committed an illegal act of jaywalking (or mainly crossing within 20 metres of a controlled cross, or crossing at a traffic light controlled intersection against that solid red man on the post) you “deserve it” – mainly because you willingly and knowingly put yourself through carelessness in that hazardous position and oops, the car that had right of way collected you. Now there are cases of “accidents” that are as the English language says are accidents to which will have my sympathies for, but those who commit an illegal act and get whacked for it – yeah well…


However it seems my rather libertarian comments have stirred up the hard-leftist lot with their comments pointed at me rather than the debate. They have seemed to have missed the point on both the illegal act and why I support 60km/h on some roads – more to the point they most likely refuse to see it because it goes everything against they “believe” in. Now apart from lugging the odd insult right back, you can see my reasoning behind my two points to which I stand by – we have roads that can support 60km/h easy with no increased risk to other users. Now our road engineering has much to be desired at times but Auckland can do this – we just need to stop cotton wooling people as those in that thread are basically doing.

Look if I can walk and cross a rural road that is called State Highway Two at Maramarua without getting killed (and that road is 100km/h) then I think pedestrians can cope with a 4-lane road doing 60km/h with a nice refuge island, pedestrian crossing, grass median strip, or traffic control signals without too much of a problem…

This is what Wiki has to say on Refuge Islands:

refuge island, also known as a pedestrian refuge or pedestrian island, is a small section of pavement or sidewalk, completely surrounded by asphalt or other road materials, where pedestrians can stop before finishing crossing a road. It is typically used when a street is very wide, as the pedestrian crossing can be too long for some individuals to cross in one traffic light cycle.

It is also often used when no light exists, and pedestrians need safe harbour after managing one direction of traffic, before taking on the next. This significantly improves the amenity for pedestrians trying to cross busy streets, as they are much more likely to find two small gaps in traffic rather than one situation in which gaps for both directions coincide. Since this reduces their average waiting time, it also improves safety – with impatient pedestrians less likely to use gaps that turn out to be too short for safe crossing.[1]


The [1] link will take you to the: Pedestrian planning and design guide – Land Transport New Zealand, 2007, Page 6-16 which was an interesting read.


Car-centric – I am not, anti-car – no I am not, anti-pedestrian – no I am not (I walk down some pretty busy roads such as the Great South Road and Manukau Station Road and have never been run over because I committed an illegal act when crossing those roads), balanced approach to both forms of traffic – that I am and as can be seen.


What you think – we cotton wool our citizens? Do pedestrians need to take responsibility if they commit an illegal act and put themselves in harms way willingly? Or am I being a bull in a China Shop?



Historic Preservation and Its Costs – City Journal

Historic Preservation and Its Costs by Emily Washington – City Journal.


An interesting piece from City Journal on historic preservation and how at times it can be a detriment to every evolving cities.

I highly recommend those on Auckland Council and Local Boards to read this as it gives a brief insight on what the Americans face – as it can be translated to here quite literally.


My view is that cities are evolving constantly and are fluid – like Earth is itself. Nothing lasts and change over time continues to shape (as well as history) our present and future. Why humans constantly think we can act as if we can “snapshot” a particular moment in time and hang on to it forever baffles me. As I just said: Nothing lasts and change over time continues to shape (as well as history) our present and future. Then again I suppose the liberal nature in me allows for “change” to flow through as life would naturally flow through me and constantly change/adapt to the ever changing environment. Preserving our history is good and noble – but not at the cost of allowing the city to evolve and change, as well as keeping the city affordable for our residents and businesses.


There are considerations to weigh up when preserving our historic places – but at what cost to our future generations. A debate Council constantly gets into a bind over regularly – that is for sure.



Superyacht dry dock would cost Auckland City $16m – National – NZ Herald News.


What is Council and the respective CCO‘s playing at here – are they failing to understand basic budgeting economics.

Things like Cruise Ship Terminals and Dry Docks that the Private Sector should be paying for any how, are Nice-to-Haves and built in the time of economic booms. We are in an economic slump at the moment with ratepayers and Council struggling to pay the bills for the Essentials to keep the basics running (or upgraded or even built).

The NZH asked for some views on this so I sent in mine – whether I get a response is another matter. But then again Blogs seem to be outstripping Main Stream Media on news, commentary and debates any-way:


To Bernard Orsman

RE: Superyacht dry dock would cost Auckland City $16m
You ask: WHAT DO YOU THINK? Should ratepayers contribute towards the cost? 
My simple answer is NO – the private sector should stump up for the entire cost. If they the Private Sector don’t want it, then it does not get built full stop.
Again it seems those involved are over selling the benefits and under selling the costs of this little project. $16.4m is not much may be compared to the $2.86 – $3.6 billion City Rail Link but that $16.4m represents a 1% rate rise – or decrease if Council could save that much in the first place.
So $20 million on a Cruise Ship Terminal that the shipping lines should pay for – or part of a comprehensive package to redevelopment the Waterfront as The Auckland Water-Frontier [https://voakl.net/port-of-auckland-index/the-auckland-water-frontier/] plus a $16.4m Dry Dock bringing total cost to around $36.4 million give or take.
Local Boards in Auckland would love to see that kind of money being given to them to upgrade soggy sports field, some town centre urban renewal projects, maybe a new rail or bus station there and there, or going back into the pockets of their ratepayers in savings.
Simply put, we can not afford this “Nice-to-have” when we can not even pay for the “Essentials” properly.
Rates, Road, Rubbish, (and Parks) FIRST before anything else Auckland Council – money does not grow on trees and I am sure ratepayers are not happy to see their painful rates rises go to a facility that the again the private sector should be paying for (to which rich lister  Graeme Hart could pay for it as loose change out his pocket and even have the facility named after him).
That is my view on the Dock
-Ben Ross-

Here’s hoping

Mid Term Reports – How does Councillors and the Mayor Rate

Auckland Super City report card: How they rate – National – NZ Herald News.


The NZ Herald has releases its Mid Term Report Card on Auckland Councillors and The Mayor – a.k.a Our Resident Prude. Before I go on though, will the author of that Report Card please put their name to it…

So lets take a look at some of the Councillors and the Mayor shall we?


From the article:

Cameron Brewer – A
Main responsibility – “Leader of the Opposition”

Brewer is leader of the opposition, and more effective than the entire C&R team combined. Some accuse Brewer of being a self-publicist, but there is no more effective councillor at getting their name in the media.

Brewer has unashamedly postioned himself as the leading opponent of Brown and provided an alternative voice. The ambitious Brewer says he has no plans to challenge Brown next year. He is probably too far to the right to lure the middle ground.


Well deserved Councillor and an accurate reflection of your work so far. Had to laugh that you are more effective than the entire C&R team combined, rather speaks volumes does it not of the primary opposition. A note to C&R I am watching developments your way as 2013 draws near – particularly because Brewer is doing what Fletcher said needed to be done PROVIDE AN ALTERNATIVE! 

Although that last bit about Cameron not challenging the mayor next year… Sure Cameron, sure. Need a better convincing cover story if ALL OF AUCKLAND thinks you are challenging the mayor next year…


Mike Lee – A
Main responsibility – chairman transport committee

Lee is the leader of the left on Auckland Council. The former chairman of the Auckland Regional Council has taken it on his shoulders to oppose the sacking of union workers in the ports dispute, oppose the pokies for convention centre deal and criticise the Government’s lack of support for the city rail loop. Always thoughtful and forceful when speaking, Lee is a political heavyweight who shuns the mayor’s practice of hiding behind process and leaves people in do doubt where he stands. Lee has a frosty relationship with Len Brown, who hardly speaks to the Waitemata councillor.


My resident Centre-Left Stalinist. Councillor Lee deserves his ‘A’ grade because he does the work and fights the fight that needs to be fought (even though I might disagree where he stands on that fight). Although two things disappoint me with Mike Lee; one being Port of Auckland (check the VOAKL Port of Auckland Index for reasons why), second being that Parnell Station he advocated for that SHOULD HAVE NEVER SEEN THE LIGHT OF DAY! Apart from those two things – well done Councillor


Cathy Casey – B+
Main responsibility – chairwoman social and community forum

Casey is not everyone’s cup of tea, particularly on the right. But there is no more hard worker or champion of the poor, disadvantaged and homeless than the Scottish-born Casey, who can lose her rag at the slightest provocation.

She is most comfortable and effective working alongside social and community groups and, as a dog lover, instrumental in forcing a council backdown on higher dog fees.

Sandra Coney – B+
Main responsibility – chairwoman parks and heritage forum

Coney is one of the few heavyweights on council to possess a sharp intellect and true regional perspective. Add to that real runs on the board, such as more funding for heritage and halting the spread of a kauri-killing disease and Coney can look back on the past 18 months with real satisfaction. Except, she won’t. There’s still too much work to be done to improve Auckland’s regional parks, environment and heritage.


As the Herald said on that one – mainly because I do not know those Councillors well. Although I am getting to know Cllr Casey better as I keep an eye on her work in Council


George Wood – B
Main responsibility – chairman community safety forum

The former North Shore mayor has been something of a revelation after a term in the wilderness. Energetic, stroppy at times and prolific user of social media. Wood has strongly criticised the city rail loop and its $2.86 billion cost, but gives the impression of pandering to his North Shore constituency who do not want to pay for rail on the isthmus. Deputy leader of C&R.

Now that should be a B+ if not an A- there. But then again I am showing a bit of bias with George. Mainly because Councillor Wood has shown me some of the inner workings of Council and been appreciative of my work in; submissions, presentations and lobbying to Auckland Council on issues I pay attention to (and write commentary here on VOAKL). I would say George is not pandering to his constituency, but more responsive to a very politically active and aware Ward who make their voices known often quite loudly. I wish some of that loudness would rub off down South here as it is often rather quiet (apart from the Manurewa Local Board who are noisy buggers (sorry Angela, Simeon, and Daniel had to have a poke at your high level of advocacy there 😀 ))


Dick Quax – B
Main responsibility – chairman tenders and procurement subcommittee

Quax has quickly built up a reputation as a vocal and effective councillor since replacing Jami-Lee Ross, who resigned as a Howick councillor after becoming the MP for Botany in a byelection last year.

The former Manukau City councillor has been a forceful debater against the compact city model promoted in the Auckland Plan, helping the original targets for growth inside the city boundaries being watered down. On the downside, Quax can be a bit too combative at times.

Now if I go into combat with Councillor Lee on the Left, Councillor Quax I would be going into combat with on the Right. I have called Quax out on a few issues such as the Manuaku Rail Line and station, however his combative voice in urban development did help get that Brownfield:Greenfield ratio from 75:25 to 60:40 which was a strategic victory. Quax is that combative voice you need to balance off the “ideas” from the other side of the table – mainly Mike Lee’s side of the table. Keep up the good work Dick.


Chris Fletcher – C+
Main responsibility – Auckland Transport board member

The jury is still out on Chris Fletcher as leader of Citizens & Ratepayers and other like-minded councillors. Fletcher has certainly abandoned her “care bear” image and become more combative in uniting the right to take a more aggreesive lines against Brown’s plans for higher rates, debt and the city rail loop.

But doubts remain about her ability to lead C&R back from its horror result in 2010, particularly as she supports the mayor’s inner city rail loop and opposes the pokies for convention centre deal on strong moral grounds.

As the article said, the Jury is out. Although Councillor Fletcher has heard me made my various submissions to Auckland Council and we have both chatted to each other in-length over issues of Auckland. Fletcher backing the CRL is actual political prudence and wise – just trust me on this one VOAKL readers 😉 .


Len brown – C
Main responsibility – Mayor

The first 12 months of Brown’s mayoralty were a commendable success. The past six months have been a shocker. Brown set out as the first Mayor of the Super City with panache and drive; setting out a vision to make Auckland the “world’s most liveable city”.

The rot began to set in when Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully announced the Government was taking control of the waterfront after the cup’s opening night debacle.

Since then, Brown has struggled to impose a sense of leadership and authority during the most bitter industrial dispute on the (council-owned) wharves since 1951 and finds himself supporting a pokies for convention centre deal. He keeps saying intervention would undermine due process, but that did not stop him ignoring the normal processes and unilaterally announcing a $27 million cruise ship terminal. Brown has infuriated his traditional supporters on the left, who accuse him of “sitting on the fence” and being “weak”. For undoing much of the good work in his first 12 months, Brown gets a C for his mid-term report mark.

Our resident Prude and closet Centre-Right Mayor. Brown deserves a report here at VOAKL all on his own – something I might do somewhere down the track. Does need to sharpen his pencil however as 2013 will not be a cake walk.


Penny Hulse – C
Main responsibility – deputy mayor

Hulse, moulded in the politics of the Eco City, was chosen by Len Brown to be his deputy for her “inclusive style and fairness” and has repaid the mayor with absolute loyalty.

Unfortunately for Hulse the hoped-for script of consensus round the council table has not occurred and Hulse has had to deal with a more partisan style of politics than she is comfortable with.

This has made her defensive at times and led to a cool relationship with some councillors on the right. Hulse possesses a likeable side that goes down a treat in the community.

Only begun paying attention to our Deputy Mayor since Cameron Slater posted a nice You Tube video of Hulse presiding over a meeting where Mike Lee threw a nice tanty and stormed out while The Auckland Plan was being debated. Hulse was at my table last Monday during the LTP Forum where se heard my POAL question, and Municipal Utilities District question get raised. I did get reassurances from the Deputy Mayor on POAL with an extensive review under way. I await that review to become public – to which VOAKL will be running extensive commentary on.


Noelene Raffills – C
Main responsibility – chairwoman hearings committee

Freed from the shackles of David Hay under the old Auckland City Council C&R regime, Raffills has blossomed under the consensual style of Len Brown and the mayor’s efforts to court the C&R councillor.

Raffills has proved a hard-working and competent chair of the hearings committee and while not the most intelligent councillor, she chips in during debates.

John Walker – C
Main responsbility – Auckland ambassador

The Olympian and Manurewa-Papakura councillor is a diligent councillor who is very economical with words, but can hit the nail on the head with a few short sentences.

Walker pointed to the loss of income to his Field of Dreams swimming programme from having more pokies at SkyCity, which contributes less to community groups than pokies in pubs and clubs.

The Auckland ambassador role given to him by Len Brown has not really worked. Walker has joined the right to oppose the mayor’s big-spending plans.

Penny Webster – C
Main responsibility – chairwoman strategy and finance committee

The former Rodney District Mayor, Act MP and farmer is a key member of Len Brown’s inner circle, chairing the powerful strategy and finance committee.

That has meant putting aside her conservative roots to become a Brown loyalist and steer through the mayor’s budgets.

Webster has not made friends on the right, but proven to be a fair and capable chair of the finance committee, albeit failing to stamp her own authority on the city’s finances.
With a new rating system on the horizon she needs to be more pro-active selling the changes.

Des Morrison – C-
Main responsibility – chairman regulatory and bylaws committee

A gentleman whose mana and calm demeanour has failed to make a big mark. He is prone to asking long, narrative questions of officers. Thoughtful on financial matters, but lacks cut-through. Suggestions the C&R councillor will not stand for re-election next year.

Calum Penrose – C-
Main responsibility – deputy chairman community safety forum

The former Papakura District mayor is a case of a popular local figure who has struggled to step up to the Auckland Council. Penrose remains a work-horse in his community, passionate about youth and fighting crime, but comes across as a frustrated councillor. He was loyal to Len Brown at the outset, but has recently joined other right-minded councillors in opposing the mayor’s long-term budget.

Sharon Stewart – D
Main responsibility – chairwoman audit and risk committee

Sharon Stewart is hugely popular in Howick where she out polled Jami-Lee Ross and Dick Quax at the 2010 elections.

Her contribution at the council table is minimal and would clearly be better suited on the Howick Local Board.


As the article has said for the rest of the Councillors. Bit frustrated with my two ward Councillors for Manurewa/Papakura in not being more out there with issues such as rates, transport and urban development; with me hearing more from Manurewa Local Board than my local Councillors…

For Councillors not mentioned – it is because I agree with what The Herald said so to save space here – I am not going to repeat or quote it here.


So that is the mid-term report card from the NZ Herald

What you think?

Comments welcome (although no personal attacks – they will be deleted)

Homebuilding Recovery: Part II | Newgeography.com

Homebuilding Recovery: How CAD Stifles Solutions | Newgeography.com.


Rick Harrison posts at New Geography part two of the Home Building Recovery series – this time on “automation” in the architecture industry.

I’ll let you read the entire post over at New Geography, however here is a snippet of what Rick has to say about CAD-ing:

The front cover of Engineering News-Record on March 12th, 2012 was about a technology survey conducted a few weeks earlier. Of 18 issues surveyed, the need for better software was mentioned most frequently. Under the heading “Software Shortfall – Better, Simpler, Cheaper”, the editors noted that ‘dissatisfaction with current products cuts across all responses,’ and labeled the area, ‘Needs Improvement’.

Better Software: Until a few decades ago the development of the world was represented by a hand drawn plan. Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) did not exist. There was an intimacy between the design of buildings and the land development task at hand. Since the introduction of CAD, the typical American city has seen few technology changes in the ways that housing is designed. There is virtually no advancement in the design of land development that can be associated with this new era of software-enabled design. If anything, it could be argued that CAD technology resulted in worse design of the cities in which we dwell.


All I can say is two things:

First that having seen some architects hand drawings been presented to the public for things such as the Tamaki Transformation Project, I am wondering what our universities are  teaching here and at what standard.

Second; when I was doing my (abortive) Master of Planning Practice at the University of Auckland, I was taught by a very good academic on how to do hand drawings for urban design developments. Now they were not flash hot and Rebkekka (my wife and not a graduate) assisted me in the hand drawings, however they were presentable and understandable to outsiders. After I left the program I have kept all my urban design work, tools of the trade, lecture material and tuition notes safely stored away here at home in case one day again I might take it (hand drawing urban development) up. Needless to say hand drawing compared to using the computer is not my biggest strength in urban design work.

While I was taught the basics of draughtsperson, the class did learn how to use the computer to represent our urban designs. I self-taught myself Google Sketchup so I could create basic renditions of urban design work I was tasked by my lecturer to do. Unlike my class mates who spent 99% of their time creating micro-detailed pretty stuff, I focused on the macro-detail when drawing up my computer generated urban design work (using a combination of GIS and Sketchup). You can see my work with Wynyard Quarter, POAL Relocation Project and The Auckland Water-Frontier by clicking on the respective hyperlinks. Basically I might create some micro-detailing, but usually is blocks, colours and importing of models to represent my urban design work. I let qualified Draughts people do the micro-detailing for me.

In fact here are  two pictures of my current work under way with the Auckland Water-Frontier:

Work in progress but once complete you should be able to see a basic mock-up to reasonable scale (in relations to surroundings) of my proposal for The Auckland Water-Frontier.

On Innovation

Funding Sources For Innovation: Would it be possible for someone to discover a way to create an affordable base for permeable pavement? Probably. There are hundreds of millions of dollars available from private foundations and government grants for solutions leading to sustainable growth. However, foundation grants fund only 501c non-profits. Should future solutions to development be tied only to non-profit or politically connected entities, or to private firms which may be more capable of innovation?

There is no technology that can create a better design; we can only create better designers. Instead of educating CAD users on how to automate design, we need to create a generation of designers who use technology to create wonderful neighbourhoods instead of quick subdivision plans.

The consultant needs to concentrate on the best solution, not just the solution that is a mere button press away. Today, there is no excuse for creating designs that are not precise. Architects, engineers, planners, and surveyors need to learn to fulfill each other’s basic needs. This would go a long way towards creating a new era of collaborative design.

A note that our lot should probably take heed of if nothing else from the article.

So CAD is a tool to aid innovation and creative design, not as a total replacement through mundane automation and laziness (in the name of efficiency and speed) for urban design projects. Creative innovation and design gives heterogeneity and dynamic sub-divisions, neighbourhoods and communities. Automation and laziness gives us boring, bland homogeneous neighbourhoods and communities that as my late grandfather said: “The same house build with the same cardboard and same piece of sticky tape for the front door.” McFries Boxes and McHouses anyone – and would you like a side of garden with that.

Will be interesting to see how our urban design in Auckland goes and what Rick offers as Part III to the Home Building Recovery process.