Mike Hosking is a breakfast host on Newstalk ZB.

Mike Hosking: Auckland has room yet to spread

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While there’s valid arguments for both “up” and “out”, the city has the space for those happy to commute.
Expanding the city's limits gives far greater choice. It creates new neighbourhoods as opposed to potentially wrecking existing ones, writes Mike Hosking. Photo / iStock
Expanding the city's limits gives far greater choice. It creates new neighbourhoods as opposed to potentially wrecking existing ones, writes Mike Hosking. Photo / iStock

Happy New Year to you, I hope you had a wonderful break - I know I did.

Part of that break was spent at Tindalls Bay, on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula.

Tindalls is a mix of retirement and holiday abodes. The lawns are cut, the plants are tended, there is the sort of pride and energy in the gardens that Maggie Barry would be proud of.

There are a disproportionate number of homes with trailers containing jet skis and boats, and why not, given the bay is beautiful.

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Tindalls, if you don't know it, is a small beach, curved at the shore, perhaps a little short of sand at high tide but a safe place for the kids with even a wave or two on the right day.

It lacks hoons and idiots and has a wonderful series of pohutukawa heading low off the land virtually touching the water.

It is quintessential New Zealand.

It must be good because Sir Russell Coutts is building his house there - more on that later. But the interesting part for me was we were holidaying in what is suburbia; we didn't leave town to stay at the beach, so this was new to us.

We were there because friends were, and those friends had been holidaying at Tindalls for decades, in fact the land was purchased by the grandfather of the current owner 70 years ago, and in that story is the story of the expansion of Auckland.

When the land was originally purchased, before the jet skis and Russell and his Cape Cod mansion, it was largely farmland. There were a couple of houses in the bay but basically it was rural and a world away from the big smoke, given it took four hours to get there.

That's what a motorway will do for you. The four-hour trip is now 40 minutes, the farms are gone, the houses are in and a decent chunk of the population commutes.

The holiday getaway turned into the city neighbourhood.

I was relaying this bit of historic detail to some of the kids on the drive home, and before I knew it the whole urban plan was under discussion ... which I know when you read this sounds like we're the most boring bunch of nerds.

But one of the kids quite perceptively asked just how far you could spread out from town before it became too far.

Which of course is exactly what's been exercising the city planners.

Are we going up or out?

We're doing both, but as far as I can work out in a more "up" than "out" kind of fashion.

Which has got no small number of people up in arms.

They see their 600sq m overshadowed by high-rises.

They see their sun blocked, they see their neighbourhood invaded with increasingly intensive living, they see their lifestyle overtly affected by change they didn't ask for or want.

There is also much debate around how the council has gone about this, how many people have been listened to as opposed to ignored, how many promises that were made that are now broken, how much of Auckland's future has basically been a major jack-up with the democracy part nothing more than a smokescreen.

But that's for another column.

What you find out very quickly, when you holiday in Tindalls, is you could live in Tindalls and commute - given we hadn't finished the chat about urban sprawl before we were home.

Unlike many I'm not afraid of "up". "Up" done well can look good and, in many parts of Auckland, already does.

Herne Bay has those towers that have been there for decades, are a landmark and aesthetically look a mile better than in-fill housing.

Remuera and the ridge along Remuera Rd is dotted with low, mid and the odd high-rise building; none of them look out of place and none of them ruin the neighbourhood or its look.

As in all things in life, it's how you do it that counts.

"Up" and "out" are not bad ideas in and of themselves, but either can be brilliant or disastrous depending on the execution.

The commute from Tindalls to a Londoner would be a joke, to a person from Timaru a daily journey beyond their comprehension.

But for those who argue "up", I think we still have quite some way to go "out" before we reach the limits that even international cities would openly question.

Expanding the city's limits gives far greater choice. It creates new neighbourhoods as opposed to potentially wrecking existing ones.

Expanding encourages increasing amounts of infrastructural development that keeps people out of the city centre, therefore placing less strain on current resources.

Expanding creates satellite neighbourhoods and cities within cities.

The more intensity, the more trouble ... trouble in all sorts of areas from transport to lifestyle to space. People don't like to be squashed.

It is true there is a mile of room still to move when it comes to intensifying inner city living.

Go to Hong Kong if you want a lesson in space.

But my sense of New Zealanders is we are still blessed with so much space, and we like it and there's no need to give it up.

If it took 70 years for Tindalls to go from farm land to a suburb, there's many hundreds of years left yet in expansion for a city like Auckland.

But that's what makes the debate so interesting - given it's not black and white, it's in the eye of the beholder.

Which is why Russell's house is so contentious.

Apparently the locals dreaded it, but they dreaded what they hadn't yet seen.

And once they saw it, as far as I could work out, their minds were changed completely.

I love it - it's beautifully designed, it sits on the landscape perfectly, the materials are glorious, it's a house from the movies.

Oh, there will be critics, but there are critics of everything.

It's like expanding the city instead of intensifying it, as logical as that is, you'll never convince some.

- NZ Herald

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Mike Hosking is a breakfast host on Newstalk ZB.

Mike has been Newstalk ZB’s breakfast host since taking over from Sir Paul Holmes in 2008. He also hosts TVNZ’s nightly current affairs show, Seven Sharp. Mike's insightfulness and knowledge makes him one of New Zealand’s most successful broadcasters.

Read more by Mike Hosking

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