In Dr Seuss's The Lorax, the Truffula trees regularly get chopped down until there are none left, leaving behind a broken-hearted Lorax living in a wasteland.

In Auckland's case, instead of Truffula trees it is open space that is being gobbled up at an alarming rate. How long before it nearly all disappears?

As the population rises rapidly, pressure on open space increases. Developers are being offered patches of Crown land, no matter how far out or tucked away the land is. People commuting from those areas will simply add to the commuter congestion.

Now there is talk of using golf courses for building on. The reality is that we have no need to use golf courses nor to build so far out. We still have no idea how to build attractive intensive housing, such as can be seen in many European cities.


Most of all, if we didn't have so many people arriving in the city each year we could probably leave our green spaces as they are.

Almost all of Auckland's current problems are linked to the increasing population. It is a self-inflicted injury, something that could have been avoided. And it should be drastically reduced.

On 24 April 2003, New Zealand's population reached 4 million. The New Zealand Herald asked a number of people to comment. I was one of them. Everyone, except for me, thought it was a great thing. I said that day I would be wearing a black arm-band.

Twelve years on, the country's population has increased by half a million and growing at the fastest rate ever. That's an average of 42,000 a year. And most of these people settle in Auckland.

Forty-two thousand is the equivalent of a town the size of Upper Hutt. Each year. So we have, scattered mostly around the Auckland area, twelve more Upper Hutts.

Upper Hutt has three secondary schools, two intermediate schools, thirteen primary schools. And we now have 12 more Upper Hutts than we did in 2003.

Another way of looking at it is to say that four hundred thousand people is more than twice the population of Wellington. Think of the infrastructure required to support one Wellington, let alone two.

When it comes to the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year, no one ever asked us. No political party went to the polls promising more immigrants. It is a policy thrust upon us by successive governments with no consultation, no referendum.


Whether a person comes from Beijing, Banff or Balclutha, their impact on the environment is the same: they add to the burden on our roads, our health system, our schools, our waterways. And, above all, our houses.

If there are more people wanting houses than the number available, then house prices will rise and keep on rising. No politician seems to point that out. (Nor, for that matter, does anyone point out the number of unoccupied houses in Auckland.)

More people inevitably means more cars. Our road system and public transport are continually playing catch-up to cope with current numbers, let alone the thousands more each year. Our health system is playing catch-up. So are our schools. And, of course, our housing.

So while we can't turn off the tap completely on immigration (and we should always allow a number of refugees each year), we can surely reduce the huge flow. Slow down the number of migrants. Let's give ourselves a breather. Give providers of infrastructure a chance to start catching up.

It's understandable that people cast an envious eye on golf courses. (If only they knew the hell of actually playing the game!) Maybe, long term, there can be some form of shared use. But whatever is done, never build on them. Once that green space has gone, it has gone for ever. Long term, even people who have never held a club in their hands will look on those open spaces with gratitude.

Remember the Lorax.

Roger Hall is a playwright.
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