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Current as of 25/12/14 07:20PM NZST

Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Building boss has vision of very different Auckland

Ling wants to see four or five houses per section and city spreading out on fringes

Fletcher Building chief executive Land supply and planning rules are the main culprits behind expensive houses, says Fletcher Building chief executive Jonathan Ling.

But New Zealanders' obsession with having a unique home is also to blame for high prices and he wants more factory-made houses.

Today, the Productivity Commission's report into housing affordability is out and Ling wants to see Auckland's sections take four or five houses each instead of one, for land on the fringes of the city to be rezoned to allow more housing development and for the city to decentralise its workforce.

Auckland's council amalgamation was the first step towards a structural overhaul to allow more intensification and building on the fringes, he says, and now hopes for big Government moves after the Productivity Commission's report.

Auckland councils have tried to restrain urban sprawl and Gary Taylor, Environmental Defence Society chairman, has feared it being let loose which he said would be "a disaster for the environment and would add cost to our urban growth".

But Ling believes the city, local and central government have no other option but to allow the city to spread.

"Affordability should focus on the real issues around land development in Auckland and it's right up there on the agenda of the Auckland Council. It's been a priority to have one plan for the city.

"I think you have to do land rezoning to the north, west and south but in combination with rezoning in the inner suburbs so you can start building higher density. For example around Penrose, I look out my window to smaller factories and distribution centres and land around the edge of Mt Eden and One Tree Hill - it should all be rezoned out to Penrose so sections can take four or five units.

"The value of the land will go up so owners of the factories will sell and move out to Papakura and west so land here is the best use and you create jobs in the outer suburbs. If you open land on the fringes, you have to decentralise jobs, too, so the ideal situation would be houses in South Auckland, to the west and north selling for $300,000 to $350,000 each and a couple both working within 10 minutes of the house. At the moment, it's the opposite of that,".

Yet a couple's annual combined average income of $80,000 to $90,000 would easily service a mortgage on a place like this.

"And you'd have a great lifestyle and not spend all your time sitting on the freeway."

He cites his home city, Melbourne, as having achieved this growth pattern. He also wants resource consents streamlined, recalling how only about four house drawings were needed a few years ago, "but now it's about 24", pushing costs from $2000 up to at least $14,000 "just for the drawings".

Construction costs could be reduced by making more housing components in factories.

"In Australia, they standardise doors and windows and most of the house is made in a factory but in New Zealand you want design-and-build so you all have your own unique house. A lot of it is built on site," he said, citing the $2 billion 110ha Stonefields at Mt Wellington, a newly created subdivision on an old quarry floor.

"We build an entire street at a time there. You have to give up the design-and-build. Costs of materials are higher here than in Australia, too, but road transport is more expensive as well," Ling said.

Philip Archer of Litecrete Systems agreed about standardising housing components and said his company had built a $730,000 house from lightweight precast concrete wall panels at Flat Bush in South Auckland in just two days.

"The next two houses took only one day each to build," Archer said.

FIELDS OF DREAMS
*
Fletcher Building chief executive Jonathan Ling's suggestions:

* Free up more land on Auckland's fringes.

* Allow more intensification in existing city.

* Ditch design-and-build obsession.

* Factory-make more components.

* Standardise door and window shapes, sizes.

- NZ Herald

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