A major step change in Auckland's ability to deliver quality urban redevelopment is gathering momentum with the prospect of a new single agency CCO that will enable faster, better quality urban redevelopment across the region.
As the city grows, regeneration of brownfield areas is critical so that Auckland doesn't sprawl.
It's not efficient to keep stretching infrastructure networks farther and farther when we have the ability to make better use of what is already within our urban footprint.
We require a new way of ensuring we can deliver speedy, high-quality redevelopment of these areas.
The Governing Body of Auckland Council last month authorised continued detailed investigation into the creation of the new CCO - tentatively named Development Auckland - that will have a broad mandate to stimulate urban regeneration in partnership with both the public, philanthropic and private sectors.
Development Auckland will be a "one-stop shop" taking a holistic view of everything that is required to enable speedy quality development of brownfield locations where ownership of land is fragmented, making it difficult for developers to deliver.
While these areas for rejuvenation would ultimately be determined by the Council's governing body, town centres such as Avondale, Otahuhu and New Lynn appear to be obvious candidates for such renewal.
Development Auckland will have the ability to leverage the scale of the wider Auckland Council Group, giving it the capacity to undertake comprehensive redevelopment of suitable locations. For example, Development Auckland would co-ordinate the amalgamation of a council-owned but not well-used property, such as a car park or council building with, perhaps, adjacent land owned by another interested party.
Taken together these larger blocks of land would make sites significant enough to allow quality redevelopment such as apartments with shops and other community amenities to be built. Development Auckland would also ensure that the infrastructure provided by the rest of the Council group (such as transport and water services) could be delivered on time to allow development to go ahead.
We're not proposing that the council gets into the business of property construction. Rather, we will put underutilised land and new infrastructure alongside another partner's land (Housing Corp, iwi, private developer) to give enough scale so that well planned town centres could be created. We will work with developers and other parties to ensure quality housing for a range of households.
Practically, this means Development Auckland will take charge of the master-planning process in redevelopment areas agreed by Council, ensuring land is available for redevelopment, seeking development partners and co-ordinating programmes of public infrastructure and helping streamline the consent process.
Additionally, Development Auckland could be a "patient" investor where it was contributing under-utilised land, and this would help reduce risk and overcome the current financial barriers many developers face.
For example, the developer may not be required to pay for the land until the joint venture project is complete.
This would generally be on the basis of a minimum pre-agreed value for the land, plus holding costs and a profit share, all payable on completion or in stages of a development, subject to the approval of the Development Auckland Board.
Focusing public sector effort in these locations provides developers and their investors with much needed assurance that regeneration will go ahead.
Such arrangements would foster long-term relationships between Development Auckland and development companies, building confidence within the sector to progress different increasingly diverse housing types.
Bringing together the existing CCOs Auckland Council Properties Ltd (ACPL) and Waterfront Auckland, Development Auckland will utilise the expertise and skills within the council's land holdings managed by ACPL and the highly successful and proven development expertise of Waterfront Auckland to provide a total urban redevelopment package.
We've had outstanding success with the development of the Wynyard Quarter, so we're asking how can we do more of that in other town centres? How can we do it faster and maintain good quality community facilities and housing?
Auckland has around 80 special housing areas and, in addition, 10 spatial priority areas, all of which are candidates, over time, for some sort of regeneration stimulus. So the potential is there and we believe Development Auckland is the mechanism to help us achieve our urban regeneration and development goals as identified in the Auckland Plan.
The Council's governing body is supportive of the concept as are many local boards who can see the potential to become involved in regeneration in their areas. We see the Local Boards leading the community's wishes with regards to master-planning.
We have briefed the Government and it is very supportive of the proposal.
CCOs on track
A review of Auckland's Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) found they are generally well aligned with the Council's priorities and are delivering the right outcomes for the region. This exercise has also brought sharply into focus the exciting possibility of a new CCO to streamline, accelerate and speed-up the region's "brownfield" development potential to cope with the growth of the region.
Stephen Town's priorities for the first three years are encouraging better cohesion within the council family of organisations and building partnerships with central government, business and our communities. Town is working towards developing and supporting a positive culture within Council, dedicated to serving citizens, ratepayers and customers. A key operational focus is continuing the drive for efficiency in everything Council does.
Stephen Town has been Chief Executive of Auckland Council since January 2014. He was previously the Regional Director for the NZ Transport Agency in Auckland.