Project AucklandWe need a 'big-picture approach' when it comes to building our communities, writes Connal Townsend

Infrastructure provision and more specifically the ability to link the housing developments with key infrastructure such as water, transport and electricity is vital to building a thriving, vibrant city that we all want to live and work in.

The best result for cities is to take a long-term view and for governments and councils to work with developers in building communities and cities that are well supported by infrastructure.

Developers understand this and spend much time considering factors like proximity to public transport and the surrounding infrastructure in determining if a project is worth doing.

But often there is friction between developers and planners when it comes to looking at and addressing infrastructure requirements needed to support both current and future population growth.


Rail, roads, water supply and sewerage infrastructure all come with a large amount of cost and disruption, however they are all inherently important factors when facilitating future growth.

The main challenge will always be that infrastructure is expensive and very time-consuming to make available. Also, it is mostly over the long term that debts raised to pay for them are able to be paid off.

For too long New Zealand's "number eight wire" and "she'll be right" attitude towards infrastructure and a "just-in-time" philosophy has impacted timely provision of infrastructure as well as economic productivity.

Auckland provides a perfect illustration of this with an incomplete motorway system, a harbour bridge that needed the "Nippon Clip-ons" ten years after first opening, and now a City Rail Link that has possibly compromised its potential through reducing stations and access points. We still do not have a motorway to the airport.

In New Zealand, we traditionally develop housing first and then think about the infrastructure needed. We also do not develop housing or infrastructure in an integrated manner or at a large enough scale.

There is no big-picture approach in how we build our cities, towns, and communities. Instead, we develop incrementally, adding bits here and there, which is short-sighted and can lead to poor urban outcomes.

Cities exist because of people, and people need not just a house but a home.

Cities are where we go to work, play and live. Their sheer size and scale give us opportunity.


Infrastructure benefits everyone -- the residents of the new homes, existing residents, businesses, tourists.

For our cities to become and remain economically and socially prosperous, we need a variety of housing, and enough of it... It needs to be supported by quality infrastructure.

Traditionally, housing infrastructure is funded by developers through a "development contribution" levy. This just makes housing more expensive as it is added to the cost of the house.

Exacerbating housing affordability is the last thing we want in a housing crisis.

The Government's $1 billion housing infrastructure fund, when it is up and running, will be a good start. Despite the large headline figure, it is just a drop in the ocean given the need in Auckland but it must also cover Hamilton, Tauranga, Christchurch, and Queenstown.

Labour is talking bond financing. Targeted rates to spread the cost over years instead of capitalising at the outset into a more expensive house is also a good idea. We need all the tools we can get.

We also need a culture change in councils to recognise infrastructure as an investment in a liveable city. They need to move away from the "just in time" approach currently favoured to planning infrastructure decades out, and building in spare capacity from the start.

Leaving construction too long will act as a choke on growth and risks infrastructure that is obsolete from the start.

For our cities to become and remain economically and socially prosperous, we need a variety of housing, and enough of it that reflects the specific needs and aspirations of a city's inhabitants. It needs to be supported by quality infrastructure, and enough of it.

So, let's be bold, think nimbly and set in motion the momentum needed to build the sorts of cities we all want to live in both now and in the future.