Bryan Jackson: First ask who wants another million

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Auckland's current population size is causing enough problems already.

Even this image of the Million Man March doesn't show a full million extra people. Photo / AP
Even this image of the Million Man March doesn't show a full million extra people. Photo / AP

Who wants another million people in Auckland? Len Brown does. Auckland City Councillors do. Auckland town planners do. The Government does. I don't. None of my friends do. No one I have spoken to does.

The question arises as a consequence of the publication of the Auckland Unitary Plan (UP), which aims to accommodate 1 million more people in Auckland over the next 30 years.

The debate should firstly be about the need or wish to increase Auckland's population by one million. The UP looks at an Auckland population of 2.5 million by 2043. This would mean 600 more Aucklanders each week for the next 30 years. Is that what you want? Is this population imbalance good for the rest of New Zealand?

There seems to be a fixation in some quarters on growth. And in order to have growth you have to have more people in Auckland. But bigger is not always better.

What are the reasons for not wanting 1 million more people in Auckland? A major reason is the congestion they would cause in our schools, hospitals, parks, on our roads plus the cost of accommodation. At present Auckland's infrastructure in relation to transport is not coping. The lack of sufficient houses being built is only making the future look bleaker. So where are the additional people to live? One of the aims of the UP is to allow the building of 35sq m apartments. Will you be rushing to buy one? Increased congestion, pollution, noise and crime are definite consequences of another million people living in Auckland.

But why not limit the population growth? Of Auckland's population increase, 33 per cent is derived from immigration and 66 per cent from births.

Reducing the number of migrants coming to New Zealand each year would be a first step. Short-term visas for migrant workers should be abolished. The number of foreign students should be reduced and they should not be able to receive residency while studying here. If the Government wants 80,000 students a year then it should direct a large number to study outside of Auckland. Over the past 10 years NZ has taken in 7500 refugees. We should have a hiatus period of taking none or they could be directed to live in the South Island. Compounding the position is that both immigrants and refugees then bring family members to New Zealand to settle. This reunification should be abandoned.

Redirecting people away from settling or living in Auckland would be a positive step. A good example is in Invercargill where students pay no fees. The fees at Auckland learning institutes should be increased and those elsewhere removed or reduced significantly.

Another group who could be redirected out of Auckland are those who wish to live in retirement homes. Banning the building of any more in Auckland could be followed by rate or compliance cost reductions to developers who build their retirement homes further afield.

Without so many Kiwis emigrating to Australia over the last decade, Auckland's congestion would have been far worse. A carrot in the form of cheap airfares to Australia should be looked at to continue this emigration.

As so much of the population increase is likely to come from an increase in births, a decrease is urgent. Incentives need to be provided such as free contraception, especially to those under 20 years of age. The provision of family benefits regardless of whether you have two or 10 children should be looked at.

The vital discussion now should be around do we want another one million people in Auckland, not around where and how they should live.

Bryan Jackson lives in Warkworth which could, under the Auckland Unitary Plan see its population rise from its present 3900 by 20,000.

Debate on this article is now closed.

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