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Len Brown’s lifestyle estate ‘outrageous hypocrisy’

Under-fire Auckland mayor Len Brown has been accused of hypocrisy for living on a spacious lifestyle block outside the urban limit while pushing for a “quality compact city” full of small high-rise apartments.

The mayor lives on a bush-covered 6970 sq m (0.688ha/1.7 acre) property at Tiffany Close on the outskirts of Manukau, just outside the current Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL). 

His house is a spacious 406sq m and he has a pool in his backyard, for which resource consent was granted in October 2002. 

The property was a bare section when Mr Brown bought it with his wife Shan Inglis in 1995 for $180,000. 

It now has a rateable value of $1.2 million, including land value of $495,000 and improvements of $705,000.

Critics say the mayor’s housing choice shows he is not practicing what he preaches when it comes to high-density living.

'Outrageous' double-standard
One of those is former Reserve Bank governor and one-time National Party leader Don Brash, who describes the intensification regime being pushed by Mr Brown as a “disaster” for Auckland, both economically and socially. 

“It smacks of hypocrisy, ” Dr Brash says. “I gather it’s one of the areas not being targeted for intensification, and if that’s the case that is outrageous.”

Dr Brash, who ironically lives in a 67sq m apartment in a six-storey building, says he is not opposed to intensification because he does not like apartments.

His concern, he says, is that trying to force higher density by restricting development on the urban fringe is making housing increasingly unaffordable for Aucklanders. 

For instance, he recently saw a 500sq m section in the new Manukau suburb of Flat Bush advertised for $400,000, equating to $8 million/ha. Top-quality dairy farming land outside the urban limit is worth about $50,000/ha, he says.

“What the hell are we paying that kind of price for in a country that’s one of the most sparsely populated in the world?”

Len's McMansion
Dick Quax, a councillor for the Howick ward where Tiffany Close is located, says residents fighting intensification plans around Auckland will be galled to hear how the mayor lives.

“Len Brown lives on a country estate in a McMansion and wants the rest of us to live in rabbit hutches,” he says.

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“I think it’s the ultimate hypocrisy that someone who advocates people live in small apartments around railway stations, which can have floor areas as little as 30sq m, lives on an acre and a half of land.”

NBR ONLINE wanted to know what the mayor thought of the criticism, whether he planned to move into an apartment and whether his property will be inside the Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) that will replace the MUL.

Mayor Brown refused to talk to NBR, or answer our questions, issuing only a pro-plan propaganda statement through his chief spin doctor, Glyn Jones.

“The most important thing is that Aucklanders continue to have a range of choices about where they live as our city grows, whether it’s a larger place further out or an apartment closer to the city," his statement read.

Mr Jones says it will not be known whether the mayor’s house is inside the RUB until the boundary is decided in August.

Doubtful virtues of Vancouver
Fresh from spending ratepayers’ money promoting a private 10-storey apartment block in New Lynn, Mr Brown is trumpeting a ratepayer-funded report extolling the virtues of high-density housing in Vancouver, Canada.

“I would encourage any Aucklanders who are concerned about the impact of greater urban density to check out this report,” he says in yet another PR promotion.

Mr Brown claims the Vancouver example shows it is possible to build a more intensified city that is more liveable and affordable, and that residents are allegedly proud of.

He claims Vancouver has many similarities to Auckland, including a central isthmus and low-rise suburbs spreading out from the central city.

But according to the annual Demographia Housing Affordability Survey, Vancouver’s housing is the second most expensive of cities surveyed – after Hong Kong – at 9.5 times median incomes, compared to Auckland, where housing is 6.7 times median incomes.

The survey considers a median multiple greater than three unaffordable.

More by Niko Kloeten

Comments and questions

Brown is a socialist. Their mantra is 'do as I say, not as I do'.

You missed out the word Chardonnay

Is it tall poppy harvest time still/again?

Not the tall poppy harvest, just showing the hypocrisy of NIMBY (Not in my back yard) Mayor Brown. Today's high density housing is tomorrow's ghetto.

Really, people are making an issue of this?

So because the mayor has a plan to deal with the rise in population that invovles a compact city he has to live in an apartment to justify it.

People need to stop clutching at political straws.

The plan is good for the most part, but there is room for improvement. Aucklanders need to lose their sense of entitlement and focus on the long term. Their lives and the city will be better for it.

Thanks for raising the issue of the rise in population. The "1 million people" is a worst case scenario accepted by the council and Stats NZ. It's likely it's really about 300,000-700,000. Why are we planning for worst-case scenario? Why not plan for, say, 500,000 and in 15 years replan. Love the info on facebook site, with some great info on the stats everyone is preaching, as well as how the approach is to plan properly with the major stakeholders - ie, transport, education, council and how to finance it all. If we can do this in the next 6 months, before Sept, then at least we might have a plan that may work and we can start to agree on. At the moment it's a strawman approach which is allowed to be challenged, so please keep up the debate all, but don't get upset if someone disagrees.

Any city needs planning with staged development, not a grand slam approach that will provide an unacceptable mix of development for the next 20 years. It is unreasonable to expect people to live with a high rise on their northern boundary taking their sun and potentially forcing them out at a lower value until the demand for redevelopment of their property catches up. Wake up, Len.

Gee, that rail loop's not going to help him much getting to his job.

But why should he care about the rail Loop? He won't be paying any fuel tax or tolls to get to work in his council expensed/chauffeured car! And if the IRD decides that incurs a Fringe Benefit Tax, the council will pick that up also!
I suspect he is a student of Red Ken, former hard-left wing mayor of London. Actually, Red Len has a nice ring to it!

There's nothing hypocritical about Len Brown's spacious and generous living space. What nonsense!

Len Brown is one of the left's elite pigs. And we know that in the left's brave world of fairness and equality all animals are created equal, and pigs are the most equal animals of all.

I support intensification but I would also be fine with the MUB being scrapped as long as the city then had a completely level playing field on housing.

That means no minimum set backs, no minimum lot sizes, no minimum heights, no minimum parking. Ensuring access to air and light are separate issues and need to be retained.

Then we will see what the market really wants and if that is sprawl, then so be it. Right now it isn't a level playing field as if we released the MUB with no other chnages to restrictions on development, of course the market will just explode out as it is a skewed market right now.

I don't believe the city will sprawl as I have yet to hear anyone say to "I just can't find an affordable house in Pukekohe". It is always on the isthmus or inner North Shore where people complain that affordable housing is in low supply.

It's a bit rich Don Brash commenting.
Most of the correspondence comes from right-wing reactionaries anyway, so I am not sure that mayor Len is terribly worried about what people who wouldn't have voted for him think anyway.
As for Dick Quax - the people didn't want him in the first place. He only got in because of a byelection.

Surely the mayor is entitled to live where he likes. Last time I looked nothing in the proposed plan makes it compulsory for anyone to live in apartments or multi-unit housing within the Metropolitan Urban Limit. Imagine the outrage if the mayor obtained subdivision consent to cut his 6.970 m2 block into 20 or so sections to facilitate more urban sprawl. The irony is that with the cost of reserve contributions, development contributions, roading and services, he would probably lose money on the exercise.

For goodness sake, give mayor Brown a break! Let's put this into some perspective. He and his wife brought the bare land well before he became mayor of Manukau, let alone Auckland City, and they made improvements over the past 18 years. Come on, I see no excess in the cost spread over 18 years to establish what the Browns have.

There is absolutely no relation (or hypocrisy) between the housing consolidation required to make Auckland function effectively as a city and someone being able to afford a lifestyle block on the outskirts of the city - particularly when a significant amount of the $1.2 mil is capital gain. Come on, get real!

Only $1.2m? In Auckland? The man is clearly living in a slum...

It's not really Auckland - it's south Auckland :-)

Disclosure: I live in sth Akl.

What's up with Aucklanders?
Among the booming population surely there is a credible rightish candidate who could send Len off in style at the elections. If no such person exists then perhaps there's a lot of barking at shadows. If it is such a terrible proposition he's made - and if there are spinal cords in right-ish Auckland a credible opposition candidate will be put up to challenge him and a true test will eventuate. Otherwise, I think people south of Auckland could be laughing at the hot air being expended while no solution or alternative is being offered. Cringe territory.

The issue is about the unitary and other plans. It is not about the home the mayor raises his family in. I suspect he and his wife worked hard to acquire the residence of their choice and and had no obligation to depart from the golden rule we all adhere, and that is to buy the best we can with the money we have. It maybe an above or below quality home and is not a matter for idle gossip.