Peter White: Takapuna a show home for controversial housing plan

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The Takapuna Central Business District. Photo / Supplied
The Takapuna Central Business District. Photo / Supplied

The leaked Studio D4 and Jasmax studies - identifying possible areas of intensification in Auckland - have sparked community concern and media scrutiny.

Always controversial, the issue of where the growing numbers of Aucklanders are going to live and work is one which deserves rational debate based on fact rather than fear, and focused on the future rather than the past.

Our 1.5 millionth Aucklander was born last month and we will need to house another million people in 400,000 new homes by 2040.

While demand for housing increases, it's at a time when building activity is slow and building consents low, and adds even more pressure on the market and our people.

Older Kiwis raised on quarter-acre sections and relying on their cars have traditionally considered apartment living as foreign and generally negative. Let me put forward the case for the affirmative: an Auckland based on sustainable principles, good urban design and pride of place where people can afford to live where they love.

Takapuna can become the intensification show home for Auckland, but let me first set the scene. Intensification provides the most viable alternative to urban sprawl, which bleeds public coffers to provide the extra roading, utilities and public amenities needed.

Intensification along transport hubs will finally help create a viable, world-class public transport system, complete with long-awaited integrated ticketing and which will not require ratepayer subsidies.

Intensification provides a means of allowing families to live closer to one another, with younger members taking an affordable step on to the property ladder.

Intensification also supports the empty-nesters who want to make the most use of their newly acquired free time.

Intensification is a sustainable, viable alternative lifestyle for both current and future generations. But the past has taught us many things, most importantly not to repeat our mistakes. Apartment blocks erected by fly-by-night developers keen to make a quick buck will not entice Aucklanders from their homes and gardens.

We can learn from the best of the rest. Well-designed apartments in desirable locations make up some of the world's most expensive real estate, such as Manhattan in New York and Kensington in London.

Takapuna's business and political leaders strongly endorse the draft Auckland Plan, launched by Mayor Len Brown last year, which promotes quality compact living.

We welcome this game-changing spatial plan and reality check. We want to play our part in establishing Auckland as the world's most liveable city.

Takapuna can become the intensification show home for Auckland, displaying all that is good about our coastal paradise. It makes sense to focus intensification where people want to live, not across paddocks in the city's far-flung fringes.

The intensification of Takapuna - with a population exceeding 100,000 within 5km of Hurstmere Rd - will assist in providing an exciting, vibrant inner city. Virtually no other city centre has its natural advantages.

Takapuna is identified in the draft Auckland Plan as one of the eight prioritised growth and investment areas in the region. Over the next 10 to 15 years, its commercial core can be transformed, creating jobs, supercharging the local economy and becoming one of the most attractive town centres in the world. More than $440 million is recommended through to 2030, although only $110 million in funding is set aside in the draft long-term plan 2012-22 to unleash its potential.

A beloved tourist destination with its beautiful beach, strong fashion and hospitality precincts, full events calendar and the opportunity to build Auckland's only beachfront resort hotel, it stands ready.

Apartment living is alive and well with the fully occupied Sentinel and beachside Mon Desir and Sands apartments providing locals with a lifestyle that's the envy of many.

With a population of 10,000 workers and 4000 residents - expected to increase to 15,000 workers and 15,000 residents by 2040 - Takapuna will attract further apartments and tenants but will not lose sight of the beautiful natural assets that drew them here.

Takapuna is an opportunity for the Auckland Council to turn words into action, work with the private sector and future-proof our community.

* Peter White is a former North Shore City councillor and is now general manager of the Takapuna Beach Business Association.

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