The Unitary Plan Improves Choice

Geoff SimmonsProperty7 Comments

The inevitable has happened; the NIMBYs (not in my backyarders) opposing the Unitary Plan have turned to legal redress to prevent change. The likes of the Character Coalition claim that the Unitary Plan process “trampled on people’s rights”, but this is completely wrong. The Unitary Plan is in fact increasing the choices available to all Aucklanders, including existing homeowners. It isn’t perfect, but we should just get on with it.

There is no loss of ‘rights’ here, just increased choice

First up, let’s deal with the obvious bit of misinformation floating around; nobody is going to force an owner to move or demolish their character home. Home owners have the choice to keep living where they live as long as they want to.

Generally speaking the Unitary Plan is increasing the choices people have over what they can do with their own property. If you want to build yourself a new home on the back section and sell the old one to pay off the mortgage, you can. If you want to bowl the lot and retire on the proceeds you can, and if you just want to stay undisturbed, good for you.

Much is being made of the loss of Auckland’s heritage. The Character and Heritage Coalitions claim wealthy inner city suburbs are ‘threatened’ with increased density. The owners are distraught their million dollar views are going to be lost. Sorry, but views are not part of your property right; if you don’t believe me have a look on your LIM.

Heritage schmeritage

These claims of heritage need a little perspective. Firstly Auckland isn’t that old. Every city has bits that are relatively old, but that doesn’t automatically grant them ‘heritage’ status. Secondly, heritage is still protected by the Unitary Plan. The pre-1944 overlay that everyone harks back to was actually intended as a temporary measure to allow the Council to undertake the heritage assessment.

If you want to continue to live in a bungalow filled suburb, you can. You will be generously compensated for your precious land in central Auckland and you can move to the city fringes or another city entirely. You can even afford to shift your current house there if you like. Heck, you can probably afford to shift your neighbours’ houses too if you like looking at them so much. And if you can’t afford that (what have you been doing with your untaxed capital gains I wonder), you can always take a trip to MOTAT to soak up the heritage there.

Of course, if we want restore Auckland to its true heritage status the first thing we should do is get rid of the motorways and restore thriving inner city neighbourhoods instead. But we can’t do that without decent public transport, which we can’t do without intensifying development. Even better, let’s remove people altogether and restore Auckland’s true heritage: the moa.

Kneecapping the creation of a world class city

We are so worried about today’s heritage of yesterday that we are kneecapping the creation of tomorrow’s heritage. That’s why it’s important to support quality building and design now. All we need to do is put the same effort into ensuring medium density housing is done well that we currently put into preventing it happening.

The whole of New Zealand needs Auckland to be a successful world class city, and it can’t do that without productive people. The trouble is that these people have nowhere to live. The refrain that people should move to the regions is the epitome of economic illiteracy – a more realistic prospect is more of our young people moving to Australia. Even without current levels of internal and external migration, Auckland’s population will continue to grow naturally.

In short, the Unitary Plan is not reducing choice, it is increasing it. If you are lucky enough to be part of Auckland’s landed gentry, you now have exponentially more choice. This is quite the opposite of young people whose only option to get on the housing ladder currently is to live in Pokeno and spend 3 hours a day commuting.

These houses out around the Bombays may be cheaper, but once you include infrastructure costs, transport costs and congestion, they are more expensive overall. More sprawl cannot solve Auckland’s woes. There is already enough sprawl in the plan to threaten the remaining productive land and environments on the city fringes. The amount of medium density housing in the plan is the absolute minimum the city needs to allow for future demand. It can’t be compromised any more.

Let’s get on with it.



The Unitary Plan Improves Choice was last modified: September 29th, 2016 by Geoff Simmons
About the Author

Geoff Simmons

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Geoff Simmons is an economist working for the Morgan Foundation. Geoff has an Honours degree from Auckland University and over ten years experience working for NZ Treasury and as a manager in the UK civil service. Geoff has co-authored three books alongside Gareth.

7 Comments on “The Unitary Plan Improves Choice”

  1. Well, let’s not get on with it when the rights of everyone in a community are threatened. Let’s not get on with it when a unique and panoramic sea view that is available to everyone is blocked out by a structure that only allows access to that view by the inhabitants wealthy enough to buy into that building. Such a view is enjoyed by every single person who enters the village of Howick from the west via Ridge Rd past Stockade Hill. As sensible as the Unitary Plan generally is, it contains flaws that allow the “tail to wag the dog”. The obliteratioon of a visual experience that adds so much to a community is an attack on their quality of life. Anyone who doesn’t receive a little rush of pleasure on witnessing the view from Stockade Hill in Howick deserves to live in a cave.

    1. Your moment is past, though. To keep that view you would have had to be voting for low-growth political candidates who advocated sustainable options and lower immigration….and done that for the past 40 years. It was possible: Values, then the Greens….

      It’s ironic that many people consciously and deliberately voted for parties promising rapid growth…..and didn’t consider the consequences that would entail. Oops. If fact, many who would have helped keep those views were derided as looney. Hmmm……not so looney after all.

      I don’t know who you voted for….but statistically it’s a good chance you voted for growth. Chickens coming home to roost. Growth is great as long as it happens somewhere else…..

      That was never going to work in the long run. Welcome to the long run.

      1. You are right about one thing. You don’t know who I voted for and it is arrogantly preposterous of you to devote the entirety of your reply dismissing my comments based on statistical assumptions. Somewhat ironically the only people who will continue to enjoy those views are the very people who do support growth; and come from another part of Auckland!

        1. Whether you voted one or another or not….most people did….and the consequences are plain. Sorry if I offended you. I hope it didn’t cause you to miss the point.

          1. Mmmm, miss your point? Nothing you’ve said seems to indicate that you have grasped the point I was making, so what was the point you were making again?

  2. Agreed for the most part. Anyone who has seen the kms-long queues northbound on the Southern Motorway at Drury at 6am knows that sprawl is already dead in real terms. Having to drive to work at 5am and nap under your desk or in your car for two hours before you start work isn’t a “lifestyle”.

    At the same time, one can understand the emotional aspect of having perhaps grown up in a home in Remuera with a view of the Hauraki Gulf your family may have had for decades. Emotionally it isn’t obvious you should allow others to impose themselves on your quiet, leafy suburb. You don’t want it. You don’t like it. Let them all live…..somewhere else. Explaining that is a natural consequence of growth may cut little ice with people who could conceivably been anti-growth and their policy preference ignored.

    I can see both sides of this….and do have some sympathy for people already in places for a long time who resent and oppose moves to change their situation because ‘late-comers’ and low-income types want to change things to suit themselves…..and you just want to keep things the same to suit yourself.

    I’m 100% for intensification and allowing more apartments. That has been slow to develop because of the terrible existing unit-title model though, it’s horrendous and rightly avoided. A government with foresight would have built thousands of rental apartments mixed in with other types of housing, as has been well done elsewhere.

    Short-sighted, narrow thinking seems to dominate all sides of the housing issue….which, I suspect, is a big reason for it being an issue at all. The conflict around this demonstrates many Kiwis aren’t really dynamic go-getters who move and change easily as circumstances evolve. Large numbers of us like things the way they are, who resist any and all change to that……until eventually we simply override them (or we are overridden) in a more or less coercive manner.

    By all means, let’s get on with it……but let’s not deride those who have every right to seek to preserve what they think of as “theirs”. It has been theirs, in a defacto way, for a very long time. I can respect that… I shift into my lovely new rental apartment on the 20th floor with awesome views of the harbour.

    Buy an apartment? You’d have to be 3 different kinds of mug to fall for that scam.

  3. Intensification can create a new and attractive view. Look at many of the older cities around the world. Great design, incorporating housing, play areas for children and adults, parks, cycle lanes, walk ways, gathering places etc all to enhance the area and allow Auckland to grow without making the whole country suffer. The NIMBY attitude just needs go, to accept change, and ensure it is for the best of reasons and a great result ….

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