Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Housing inquiry met with silence

The Business Herald this week investigates the housing crisis, political response and solutions

John Copson has garnered local government support for his big plans to transform Takapuna. Photo / Natalie Slade
John Copson has garnered local government support for his big plans to transform Takapuna. Photo / Natalie Slade

North Shore businessman and Rich-lister John Copson has garnered local government support for his big plans to transform Takapuna.

Working with Ignite architect Jeremy Wheelan, he proposes 186 apartments on his 1ha site facing the beach.

"Takapuna needs people and that's why we're wanting a large component of residential [properties]. This project will be transformative," says Copson from the balcony of his fourth-floor office, with wide vistas of the beach and surrounding commercial areas.

His scheme drew praise from Auckland Council chief planner Roger Blakeley who supports turning the suburb's strip shopping to face the beach.

That plan for extremely luxurious, upmarket dwellings got political traction at the time it was announced in the autumn because it fitted the council's overall plans for Takapuna, a suburb ear-marked for growth and which will be intensified.

While Takapuna's future looks to be one of growth and change, a national inquiry into how New Zealand can get more houses has met with a deafening political silence.

After nearly six months, the Government is yet to respond to its own controversial inquiry into New Zealand's housing situation.

In April, the Productivity Commission lobbed out a bomb, taking a right-wing stance and calling for more land on the fringes of big cities like Auckland to be freed up for development to push down costs.

That has still been met with no official response although behind-the-scenes lobbying by Auckland Council might have shifted the political landscape somewhat.

Initially, insiders said the Government swallowed the commission's libertarian line and was about to force councils to push out what used to be called the metropolitan urban limit in Auckland, now the rural urban boundary.

Then, they say Finance Minister Bill English met with Auckland councillors who persuaded him the solution was not simply land.

Mayor Len Brown said Auckland needed about 10,000 dwellings to be built a year and 18,500 sections were available, zoned for housing and ready to go.

The answer instead, Brown said, was to intensify development with 70 per cent within existing limits and the rest outside.

Ree Anderson, the council's regional strategy, community and cultural policy manager, explained that the 18,500 housing lots were on greenfield sites without any infrastructure constraints at places like Riverhead North and Riverhead South in West Auckland, the Hobsonville Peninsula, South Auckland's Flat Bush, Takanini and Hingaia.

Anderson says a further 12,500 housing lots are available with some infrastructure constraints, such as water and utilities, citing places like Silverdale North, Long Bay and Massey North.

English says the biggest opportunity for brownfields housing development within Auckland's city limits is in the hands of the Government via Housing NZ Corp, the country's biggest landlord.

Phil Twyford, Labour Auckland Issues spokesman, said Auckland was living with the consequences of 60 years of motorway construction and urban sprawl and the only way to make it more liveable was to build high quality medium density developments along with a better public transport system.

- NZ Herald

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