Kim Cambell: Business-friendly city a must for jobs

By Kim Campbell

The devil is in the detail of Auckland's Unitary Plan says Kim Campbell

Kim Campbell: investors need to know the Council's requirements.
Kim Campbell: investors need to know the Council's requirements.

Planning for growth in Auckland for the next 30 years must mainly be to predict where the jobs in our city will be, where people will want to live, and to optimise our transport systems for people to get from their homes to work and back.

Up to another million people are expected to call Auckland home in that timeframe. To house them, 13,000 dwellings a year are expected to be built, up from 3000 a year at present, a huge economic boost in itself.

The suite of Auckland's plans, including the 6800-page Unitary Plan, should be making a fair fist of planning for this. Does it? So far the detail seems lacking or askew. The plans don't integrate well with one another, there's a lack of detail about where the jobs will be located, what sort of jobs they might be, and where the people doing them will reside.

What we do know for certain is that getting the Unitary Plan into business-friendly shape is a necessary prerequisite for ensuring Auckland is an inviting place to invest and attract skilled jobs.

If we don't get the plan right, Auckland has no show of reaching its economic targets, and the Council will fall short of the revenue it needs to fund transport and the other capital infrastructure developments the citizens of Auckland will need.

The Economic Development Strategy expresses the targets as:

An average annual increase of regional exports greater than 6 per cent;

An annual average real gross domestic product (GDP) increase greater than 5 per cent, which by our reckoning will require Auckland to attract $90 to $100 billion of new investment;

An average annual productivity growth greater than 2 per cent.

These are extremely ambitious numbers, and they call for the creation of thousands of new jobs.

In the Auckland Plan we find Auckland now has 679,400 jobs supporting our current population of about 1.4 million people. By 2041 a further 276,700 jobs will be required to support the population which will by then be as many as 2.4 million.

The numbers seem plausible, as do the principles on which the planning is based, but the quantities of land resources, and the timing of their release will not be adequate to achieve the growth outcomes sought.

For example, the areas where our city planners think a lot of the extra jobs will be located seem completely unreasonable.

Half the extra jobs (138,350) they say, will be in the CBD with 70,000 more in South Auckland and another 70,000 spread through the rest of the city.

The expectation of 138,350 more jobs in Auckland's Central Area is fanciful. If they were there they would be mostly in financial, legal and accounting services, retail, and education. But the demand for business services in the Central Area won't require such numbers, and neither will retailers. It looks like a case of wishing and hoping, and perhaps to justify spending up large on transport systems in the city centre rather than on where the demand may really be.

Much more work has to go on making more business land available too; people need to be able to see where they may need to commute every day to work. But with most attention lately on the urgent need for more housing, the shortfall in the supply of business-zoned land is at risk of being overlooked.

The Unitary plan proposes to make 109 hectares of business land available each year for the next 30 years, up from an average of 96 ha in each of the last 15 years.

Virtually all this new zoning, it seems, will be for small lots. Any business wanting a site greater than about two hectares will almost certainly find it available only outside the present Rural Urban Boundary (RUB).

Not mentioned anywhere is the detail on the process or timing for the release of this land; business investors need to know well in advance on both.

The sheer complexity of the hierarchy of Auckland's plans is of course the enemy. For any one person to have a sound grasp of all their implications and possible interpretations is a monumental challenge.

But at the core there has to be a straightforward way to express what public and private sector investors can and can't do, where, and with what constraints and mitigations. After all, all investors, from the back yard shed builder to the multimillion-dollar food processor, want to know what the Council's requirements are when they want to build something, or pull something down. It cannot be beyond the wit of man to draw up a relatively straightforward flow chart that describes the processes required.

There is no point in planning for the next decades of business with the last decade's use of technology in mind. The future means ultra-fast broadband, with rapid and tight links between business and science, technology and tertiary institutions. Their programmes and activities will link training and skills development with where the jobs actually are.

Our planning must also have an Asia-ready focus for people looking for careers in business and trade. All these factors need to be integrated, and will hopefully include circuit breakers that will facilitate a co-ordinated approach between the Council, investors, the community, technology, skills and markets.

Kim Campbell is chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

- NZ Herald

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