Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Some Auckland mayors realise ring-fencing the city is 'unsustainable'

Some Auckland mayors at least have realised that 'ring-fencing' the city, as the Auckland Regional Council have done with their Metropolitan Urban Limit (discussed here and elsewhere), is restricting choice, restricting development, and driving up property prices -- without any positive spin-offs therefrom. Who would have thought it -- keeping a city contained within an arbitrarily decreed boundary wall leads to restricting the city's growth and "throttling economic opportunities"?! Herald story here.
Mayors of Manukau and Waitakere say the region's master plan for growth is throttling economic opportunities in their cities and needs an urgent overhaul.

When it was introduced in 1999, the Auckland Regional Council's regional growth strategy was hailed as the answer to managing the effects of growth such as in urban sprawl.
That is to say, when it was introduced in 1999 town planning gurus (who view 'sprawl' as an evil to be abolished, and the idea that people might have some choice in how and where they live as just anathema) hailed both the plan and the 'vision' of ring-fencing Auckland as "far-sighted" and "sustainable" and "smart." Idiots. Anyway, let the story continue:
But Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis says the 50-year blueprint created by the region's eight councils is "out of date and irrelevant".

... The shortage of land for housing was pushing prices sky-high and making it difficult for young people to get homes.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said he also wanted a review of the strategy to be completed as soon as possible.

He was impatient about the lack of progress in having potential new development areas at Westgate, Whenuapai and Hobsonville brought inside the metropolitan urban limit and made available.

"Anyone that is in local government is frustrated by long delays, procrastination and the inability to see the big picture - not by this council but by regulatory officialdom that stifles growth and prosperity."
As studies of the world's cities have shown and as I've argued and pointed out here before [see posts on Housing and on Urban Design], cities around the world that strangle the supply of land are less affordable to live in -- up to three times less affordable than comparative cities without similar restrictions! It's encouraging that Auckland's mayors -- some of Auckland's mayors -- are finally coming to terms with that.

Sadly, their call is not for no bureaucratic planning or for an end to all the petty "officialdom that stifles growth and prosperity" -- that would be too much sense to hope for: The call is just for a change to this plan and to its restrictions. Nonetheless, a recognition from at least some of the city's mayors that removing land from the supply-side of the equation is just nuts is a good thing. More power to them ... in a manner of speaking.

NB: You can read about Auckland's Metropolitan Urban Limit here, and about the economic effect of such limits on housing here and here.

LINKS: Auckland mayors unite in plea for more land - NZ Herald
East Germany in East Auckland - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
NZ Housing affordability "in crisis" says report - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
'Sustainable' cities are unaffordable cities - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

RELATED: Housing, Urban Design, Politics-NZ, Auckland, RMA

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