Property editor of the NZ Herald

Auckland's $10 billion do-up

Photo / Greg Bowker
Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland is being rebuilt before our eyes, as projects worth at least $10 billion-plus rise across the city.

In one of its biggest transformations, a series of infrastructure, education, roading, commercial, retail, housing and prison projects are rising or planned.

Graham Darlow, chief executive of Fletcher Construction which is working on many of the projects, says what we're seeing now is simply catch-up after the global financial crisis.

But economic growth, Auckland's fast expansion, a critical shortage of residential accommodation, desperate need for big new housing estates, the development of entire new town centres to meet demands, expansion of the workforce, rising population, requirements for better university and school buildings, consumer demand for bigger and better supermarkets, and extending our roading network are just some of the drivers.

The biggest project now on is the $1.5 billion -$2.5 billion Long Bay housing estate and town centre. Yet Todd Property has only just begun and it will be many years before this vast, controversial new suburb on rolling grassland above the regional park is finished.

The $1.4 billion Waterview twin tunnels motorway job is the second biggest now on but the $2.4 billion City Rail Link (CRL) and a $2.4 billion job at Auckland International Airport will top the other jobs.

Property purchases have been made to secure the CRL route but construction is yet to start, while at the airport planning is well advanced for its big transformation.

A string of projects are in the $1 billion league: the new $1 billion Westgate town centre is now well under way by the privately owned NZ Retail Property Group; the University of Auckland's $1 billion spend planned over a decade is also well advanced; the $1 billion Wynyard Quarter CBD waterfront urban renewal, which will see hundreds of new apartments, a six-star hotel, new transport links, offices, shops and cafes; and the $1 billion Britomart transformation, which is yet to see a big new group of office blocks or a new hotel, all on the drawing board.

After a lull of some years, apartment building is again popular, and private developer Robert Holden, a former Bayleys real estate agent, is one of the busiest with four big jobs including the new Urba now rising by the motorway in Freemans Bay.

Construction work ground almost to a halt last decade when a number of developers folded, taking many finance companies with them.

Now, demand has risen, money is easier to get and tower cranes dot the skyline. The work is not being funded by mum and dad investors, buying bonds in mezzanine finance companies. Much of this work is backed by our major trading banks, extremely keen to lend to businesses with strong balance sheets, like giant $1.7 billion-plus Precinct Properties, which is required to be transparent about its accounting because it is NZX-listed.

Banks are also solidly backing Ryman Healthcare which has a $710 million Auckland spend-up planned after buying many hectares of land across the city.

But the taxpayer is also footing the bill: the Government is a huge player, pouring money into the transport network and other infrastructure and educational work.

To see a city change before your eyes, don't blink. Watch this space.

- NZ Herald

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