Amidst the clamour for more affordable housing and the ongoing debate about accommodating new suburbs around our metropolitan fringe, the Cinderella plight of existing Aucklanders in our established suburbs has been overlooked. That's dangerous.
Auckland Council and the Minister of Housing require that long-established communities of residents share their utility assets, give up parks and public open space and forgo other amenities to accommodate both greenfields as well as intensification throughout Auckland.
Assets such as local roads are "renewed" to the same standard to ensure the health and safety of commuters. Yet those same roads heave under the compounding pressure of more and more traffic.
In effect, the resilience of our utility assets and level of service available to hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders is being frittered away; cuts in service standards are the norm.
Making the Unitary Plan operative does not resolve the city's planning challenge. Completing the City Rail Link does not resolve traffic congestion.
Figures from the 2013 Census proved a point blindingly obvious to most of us: more than 80 per cent of us live and work in the suburbs. Few of us lead linear lives. The commercial towers of Queen St may be a focal point for commerce, but in fact most Aucklanders do not work there.
Late demands for out-of-scope urban intensification followed by a radical upzoning for much of metropolitan Auckland by the former Independent Hearings Panel has created enormous pressure on local roads and our network of wastewater and stormwater pipes. Replacing standalone homes with compact townhouses means more people, more traffic, more flushing toilets and more impermeable surfaces.
Auckland can sweat its utility assets for longer and demand more for less renewal investment, but at some point, the standard of amenity will fall.
In fact, the fall in living standards is well under way, most evident during the afternoon peak on the roads. New suburban subdivisions in my own ward, consented during the previous term, will push more cars on to the roads. A drive from Manurewa to Papakura during the afternoon peak now can take you up to an hour on a bad day; and those days are increasingly frequent.
My forthcoming letter of bid to Mayor Phil Goff sets out a need to fundamentally reconsider the council group's renewals budget in the forthcoming annual plan. Yes, financial prudence requires that we avoid the debt ceiling and preserve the financial covenants necessary to retain the council's credit rating.
But we cannot and should not rob our constituents of the amenity and level of service they enjoy to require more cars on existing roads, more wastewater down existing pipes, and more hours of use on existing sports fields.
Intensification requires an increased level of service; more resilient roads and pipes, better maintained local parks and playgrounds, and better stewardship of our utility assets. This needs to be funded; and opportunity cost savings in other parts of the budget need to be identified to meet an increased level of service.
My fear is that a bow wave of unfunded transport renewal liabilities will eventually hit the council; liabilities that exceed our current revenue path. Auckland Transport must account for this.
Above all else, Aucklanders must demand that levels of service cannot and should not be compromised. They have at least one vote in support - mine.
Auckland's pace of growth now exceeds the council's capacity to fund the infrastructure necessary to accommodate growth. The Government's $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund is a useful contribution towards accelerating housing development; but it won't fund more than a small handful of areas identified for future urban development, such is the deficit in transport funding.
The cost of the Kaikoura earthquakes will not be cheap. But moving forward, it is time for the cost of growing Auckland - the largest regional economy - to be shared nationally. Yes, Aucklanders are paying more and struggling under an increasing burden of congestion and CO2 emissions from idling cars and trucks.
This is not a regional challenge, this is a national challenge that requires a national solution.