Do we have adequate infrastructure capacity to support the higher density development in Auckland?

I appeared live on RNZ on the Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan on 13 May to discuss the above question. Click the link below to listen:

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2018841843/city-planning-needs-more-focus-on-infrastructure-in-auckland


Excerpts from the RNZ show and further additional comments on the topic below.


Without enough infrastructure to match the planned higher density, our city will come to a halt because:

  • We do not want the Bromley sewage plant situation in Auckland.

  • What is the first thing we talk about in the morning when we get to the office? Traffic congestion.

  • How do you feel about raw sewer flowing onto most of our beaches that we see after every slightly more than normal rainfall?

  • Do you recall recently how low water levels are going down in our drinking water reservoirs?

  • We are seeing this crazy pattern of flooding in our suburbs. The latest one flooded many parts of Greenlane in March this year.

  • We are talking about encouraging biking and walking but just a few weeks ago there were two fatal bike accidents.


What is the issue? Why?

In the upcoming changes to the unitary plan, higher density development has been proposed not only in the city suburbs but also in the fringe suburbs of Auckland such as Whangaparoa to the North, Swanson to the West, Howick to the East, and Pukekohe to the South. We know that many of our suburbs, more so in those fringe suburbs, are already struggling to cater for additional development. To make it worse, the existing infrastructure such as wastewater, drinking water and stormwater pipes are getting old.


Whangaparoa now (light grey - existing Single Housing Zone). Full legend, see below.


Whangaparoa after (dark orange - proposed Mixed Housing Urban Modified Zone)


Pukekohe now (light orange - existing Mixed Housing Suburban Zone)


Pukekohe after (dark orange - proposed Mixed Housing Urban Modified Zone)


So far we have not seen evidence of the current status and future capacity of infrastructure to support the planned density. Has there been an investigation? Where is it? We need to see it so that we can be confident that the situations outlined above do not occur in our city.


In the form to give council feedback, which closed on 9 May, infrastructure was approached differently from another qualifying matter of special character. The form included the following three questions about special character areas:

  • What do you think of our proposal to include identified special character areas as a qualifying matter? Tell us why.

  • What do you think of the proposed residential special character areas that we have identified? Tell us why.

  • What do you think of the proposed business special character areas that we have identified? Tell us why.


The form had the following sole question about infrastructure:

  • What do you think of our proposal to include areas in Auckland with long-term significant infrastructure constraints as a qualifying matter?


You can tell the difference in approach.


The investigation about infrastructure might have been carried out. It might be within council, Auckland Transport or Watercare. We don’t know.


What can Aucklanders do about it?

  • Ask about infrastructure to council and your local elected representatives (local board members, councillors and mayor)

  • Have a robust discussion about infrastructure

  • Raise the profile of infrastructure by writing and speaking about it in the media

  • Make a submission when the plan change will be notified on 20 August. Encourage your friends, family, colleagues and community members to make a submission.


Final words

We have a housing crisis in Auckland. That is why this change to enable higher density has been proposed. Only an additional and faster supply of homes will ease off the existing pressure on our housing market. We have to get this change right so that we can provide affordable housing to the growing population of Auckland. To supply more housing we need the higher density development to work. To get the proposed higher density right, we have to sort out the infrastructure capacity.


Note: This is not about pitching one issue (special character / heritage) against the other (infrastructure). I am not being anti heritage or anti density. I acknowledge the importance of historic heritage, and that heritage has been identified as one of the matters of national importance in section 6 of the Resource Management Act. Higher density is the reality going forward. I am merely pointing out the crucial importance of infrastructure. Our city will pay a big price to retrospectively fix the capacity deficiency in the future if we did not address our ageing and inadequate(?) infrastructure today.


Full legend