Schoolkids from Manurewa High turned up to a council meeting yesterday to talk about housing.
They've been doing a research project, with help from AUT, and they've whittled the local issues down to three. First, bigger families need bigger homes, which isn't always reflected in social housing projects and makes housing more expensive.
"People shouldn't be penalised for having more children," said Analina.
Also, explained Tegan, noise is a problem, especially with terraced housing. They need more soundproofing.
And then there's transport. "Public transport shouldn't be a factor when you buy a house," said Elvis. It should be a given. Everyone should live close to good PT connections.
Relevant to his interests, that same council meeting heard distressing information from officials. While 33.9 per cent of jobs in Auckland are accessible within the range of a 30-minute journey by car, only 9.8 per cent of jobs can be reached by a 45-minute journey on public transport.
"This makes me pretty angry," said councillor Shane Henderson.
"We continue to allow more services to go to those who already have them," said Newman. "Because it's easier." He's not wrong.
Also relevant to Elvis' interests, the Government's Light Rail Establishment Unit (LREU) launched yesterday with a website and a plan to seek feedback from Aucklanders.
Among other things, the proposed new line from the city centre to Māngere will plug a surprising hole in South Auckland bus services. Right now, according to the light rail unit's boss, Tommy Parker, if you live in Māngere and want to catch a bus to work near the airport, you have to go north, change buses and then go south.
Light rail will take you quickly and directly there. Maybe, until it's built, a bus could do the same job.
The unit has also recently recognised that the "city centre to Māngere" line should probably go through Māngere. That is, with a stop at Māngere town centre. The old thinking was that it would just zoom down the motorway to the airport.
Councillors Angela Dalton, Fa'anana Efeso Collins and Daniel Newman frequently complain about the lack of public transport in South Auckland, which they represent.
Auckland Transport will say there are two train lines and more buses than many people realise, and that's probably true. Sometimes, though, it's easy to see why the councillors are so frustrated.
Councillor Desley Simpson (Ōrakei) asked the Manurewa students if they expected a future in which they relied totally on public transport, or would they always have cars?
Braxton told her that, yes, there would always be cars but public transport was the future. A clever answer. He said he'd seen the numbers: 70 people take up a lot less space on a double-decker bus than they do in their own cars.
Yesterday, the council began what will be a lengthy and ongoing discussion about the implications of the new National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD). Confusion reigned almost supreme.
The NPS-UD was introduced last year by Environment Minister David Parker and then-Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford. In essence, it instructs councils to make density possible in their cities.
To cope with population growth and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the NPS-UD anticipates our cities will develop with good rapid transit networks and apartment living congregated around town centres and along rapid train and bus routes.
You can't have apartment blocks without good public transport; you can't have the public transport unless you focus new homes, at scale, within walking-distance. Growth will be good for the city, if we start, for the first time in decades, to plan it well.
Of course, good planning, like the intrinsic merits of a property, is in the eye of the homeowner. Everyone wants the right to sell their house to a developer but will take to the barricades to stop their neighbour doing the same.
So, because most councils will have trouble getting ratepayers to agree, Government is telling them they have to do it.
This is brilliant. It may turn out to be the best thing the Government does. It's also the most significant advance for Auckland since the harbour bridge opened in 1959, and the lessons from then are worth applying now.
The bridge opened the North Shore for development, creating whole new suburbs and town centres, connected to each other and the city centre by what was then regarded as the most efficient, future-focused transport mode of the time.
Yep, that's motorways and arterial roads for private motor vehicles.
It was bold, forward-looking planning. Sadly, it wasn't bold enough: The bridge was going to be larger (with walking and cycling included) but they cut costs, and within 10 years had to fix that by adding four more lanes. That doubled driving capacity and, as it happens, condemned other bridge uses to oblivion.
Now, we know that transport mode and the dispersed suburbs it enabled were not as future-focused as they thought. Now, the NPS-UD invites us to be forward-looking once more, only this time with built-in boldness.
The aim, as in 1959, is to meet the demands of growth with an integrated approach to housing and transport. That's critical. But it's also more than that. Just like 60 years ago, the hope is to build resilient, caring and connected communities.
The trouble is, the future of housing so easily boils down to conflict between homeowners and everyone who wants to become a homeowner but can't. If that conflict is handled badly, you can forget about those community goals. The NPS could start a war.
Yesterday, councillors started the long and difficult process of working out what to do about this, knowing that it overlaps with the equally long and difficult process of how to get re-elected next year.
Some of them rather seem to welcome the war. John Watson (Albany) spoke up for fighting the NPS. "Rather than bend to a new version of Rome and the barbarians," he said, "I'd prefer us to put up a stand."
Mayor Phil Goff told him the city needs balance. He said the NPS allows for that and it was "our job to find it".
Councillors shouldn't be so worried. "We're not going to send in the bulldozers to wipe out the old villas," he said.
It's hard to know exactly where some councillors stand. Linda Cooper (Waitākere) made an impassioned speech recently about the importance of climate action, but she supports protesters who oppose a shared paths project for cycling and walking on her home turf in Henderson.*
Tracy Mulholland said when she started in the job she thought it would be about rubbish and roading. "But really, it's not. It's about new housing. On Titirangi Rd, people are not used to so much traffic. That might be a bit of nimbyism but I hope not."
Wayne Walker (Albany), a self-avowed greenie, dismissed the environmental values of the NPS altogether. He said he was against the whole thing because it would benefit developers. "I hope there is a public outcry."
Shane Henderson (Waitākere): "The NPS will enable more people to own homes, let's not forget that. The choice of many people of my generation is: Do we have kids or do we try to buy a house? That's not acceptable."
This won't happen overnight. The council is required by statute to put its plans for implementing the NPS out to public submission by August next year. Next month, it will decide on a schedule for doing that.
But: A word of warning. Researcher Mario Fernandez warned the council that although the NPS has the potential to add capacity, competition and more variety in housing types, in itself it will not fix the affordability crisis.
It was a sobering note. There's much more to come on that, and those Manurewa kids will be watching.
* Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Cr Cooper joined the Henderson protest. That was not true and we apologise.