Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Planning to move with the times

Future Auckland generations will want a range of housing options rather than continuing urban sprawl

There are no height limits proposed for the Auckland CBD. Photo / Chris Gorman
There are no height limits proposed for the Auckland CBD. Photo / Chris Gorman

Prime Minister Keith Holyoake used to advise his new MPs to sit quietly and breathe through their noses until they'd sussed out the parliamentary environment. Mayor Len Brown will be pleased that Aucklanders seem to be taking the same approach to the new unitary plan.

While the final "draft" version didn't become available until noon today, the general thrust of the plan, to create an intensified city hosting another million residents over the next 30 years, is common knowledge.

If the reactions from Herald online readers to two of the more strident opponents, Councillor Dick Quax and perennial gadfly Bryan Leyland, are any guide, you and I seem to be both relaxed and generally receptive to the concept. A goodly number of respondents took issue with the Quax-Leyland shroud-waving in Wednesday's paper.

Ryan Mearns wrote: "As a young person of the next generation I want to live in high density housing! Cr Quax your argument lies in Nimby-ism and 1950 urban sprawl which has no place in planning for the changes in Auckland over the next 30 years which the Unitary Plan is looking at."

Or from Lester Naughton: "Higher density can mean perhaps more people have the beach or a well groomed park and cafe 500m away and a bus every 15 minutes to work.

"New Zealand needs to learn how to design higher density well, that is the issue and it need not be high rise. Anyone who has travelled to Europe has seen terraced houses and low rise apartments with vibrant street life and great public space."

From lunchtime today, Aucklanders have been able to go online here and discover how their own home and neighbourhoods are affected by the new masterplan. About 44 per cent of urban Auckland will remain zoned for single housing lots, 9 per cent of the total being in a "large lot" category on the fringes. A slightly larger land area - 49 per cent - will be zoned for "mixed housing", permitting an assortment of housing including town houses, terraced housing and small-scale apartment buildings. These zones will be restricted to two-storey dwellings.

The remaining 7 per cent will be for terraced housing and apartments up to four storeys next to local and town centres and six storeys next to metro centres. Within the centres, there's a hierarchy of restrictions, with no height limits in the Auckland CBD - volcanic view shafts willing, then dropping from limits of 18 storeys in metropolitan centres such as Albany and Manukau, down to four storeys in town centres such as Ponsonby, Devonport and Te Atatu.

It's not just "young" Ryan Mearns that sees apostles of urban sprawl as being trapped in a 1950s time warp. Many oldies like myself feel the same.

Each time I read of residents of the remoter East Coast Bays railing against the threat of "high rise" in their sleepy suburbs, I can't help thinking, a bit more Surfers Paradise development up the Auckland coast might be just what we need to bring back some of the Kiwi capital invested in apartments across the Tasman. In reality, of course, Browns Bay is restricted to 6 storeys, which is far shorter than Surfers.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's report on residential land availability in Auckland, released this week, highlights what will be a growing demand for a variety of housing.

By 2031, there will 223,580 couples without children, a 55 per cent increase on the current figure. There will be 178,800 single-person households, 67 per cent more than now. Families with children will drop from 47 per cent of households to 41 per cent - the number of additional housing units required for families rising just 53,587 over the 20-year period, compared with 79,319 new homes needed for child-free couples, and 71,800 extra needed for single households.

At the risk of repeating myself, what we should be concentrating our attention on during the period of consultation beginning today, is the detail. I've already mentioned the failure to rewrite the noise rules - heat pump generators, air conditioning units and the like - to reflect the new intensive living. Another obvious concern will be checking our local areas to see there are increased numbers of neighbourhood squares and parks.

Intensification is great. But only if we get the details right.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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