Unitary Plan: Inevitable NIMBY backlash begins

OPINION

Geoff Simmons

Auckland Mayor Len Brown (Photo: Tinaz Karbhari)

With a residents association representing existing property owners in a leafy suburb threatening legal action, and wealthy residents in the coveted Paritai Drive expressing outrage, the battle lines for the Unitary Plan are drawn.

The fact is that the Unitary Plan is absolutely essential to meet the projected demand for housing in Auckland. In the process of providing denser housing the existing (already wealthy) landowners will benefit enormously and, if they don’t like the new arrangements, this compensation will be enough for them to move anywhere they choose. The plan is already a compromise, and cannot be compromised any further.

Auckland must change. The NIMBYs need to get over it.

The Unitary Plan provides the supply needed 
The previous plans submitted by Auckland Council completely failed to provide enough housing to meet Auckland’s population growth estimates. By that measure, the current plan is a success – allowing for 422,000 new dwellings against a projected demand of 400,000 by 2041. Previous council attempts didn’t come close to that figure.

More importantly, the bulk of this growth will come from increased density – with around 64% of the growth coming in existing urban areas. This is crucial to prevent young people having to spend thousands of dollars and hours each year commuting from Kaipara Harbour or Pokeno to work in the city while retired baby boomers sip lattes in the leafy inner-city suburbs.

Landowners will be generously compensated
What the NIMBYs don’t acknowledge is that the Unitary Plan will generously compensate them for any inconvenience associated with increased density. By being able to build more dwellings on the land they own, with less land needed per house, their land values will increase even more than they already have. This means that under the Unitary Plan we are likely to see lower house prices AND higher land values in central Auckland.

All that adds up to even more untaxed capital gain for already wealthy landowners in central Auckland. They have no need to whinge. If they don’t like the increased density in Auckland, they can afford to move anywhere they like.

The plan is already a compromise
The Unitary Plan is far from perfect. It has removed rules governing energy efficiency, cultural sites and affordable housing. These admirable goals have been sacrificed at the altar of providing more housing as cheaply as possible. We have to ensure the increased building that comes out of the plan doesn’t cause another version of leaky buildings or the disaster that happened when apartments were thrown up in central Auckland in the 1990s. We have to make medium-density housing attractive so that young people will want to live there.

Hopefully, affordable housing will come as a natural result of the sheer extra supply of houses that will be built, ideally bringing prices down. Regardless, the Plan can’t afford to cut any more corners than it already has. It mustn’t be compromised further.

Auckland has to change
People tend to dislike change so the NIMBY reaction is understandable but still dismaying. This selfishness is destroying the dreams of home ownership or even affordable rental for a generation. In lieu of quality inner-city living, people are being forced to spend their lives commuting long distances to work. The baby boomer NIMBYs may hold the power at the ballot box currently but they need to be wary of the growing backlash; termed ‘rental rage’ by cartoonist Toby Morris.

Auckland is our only world-class city, and to compete with other cities it has to change. Wealthy property owners may not want that to happen in their back yard but their alternative is to watch even more of their grandkids move overseas. Or if by some miracle their grandkids do manage to stay in Auckland, they probably won’t have anyone to teach them.

Geoff Simmons is an economist working for the Morgan Foundation. This post first appeared on Gareth's World.

Tune into NBR Radio’s Sunday Business with Andrew Patterson on Sunday morning, for analysis and feature-length interviews.


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22 Comments & Questions

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Hamilton is very nice and has expanding business setting up commercially.

Why do young people have to live in Auckland where minimum wages and maximum traffic are the norm?

There are thousands of businesses requiring professionals like accountants and lawyers and a whole spectrum of careers on offer in Hamilton.

I live on the Northshore of Auckland and I am moving to Hamilton.

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Peter, I lived in Auckland working as a commercial lawyer for 10 years. Moved to Hamilton a few years ago, only wished I had done it earlier. Awesome city with a booming business sector.
Yes, I loved buying a house that was half the price of an Auckland equivalent, but more than that I loved the city, people, its restaurants, feel, river, 5 min commute is a bonus but not a main reason my family and I love living here.

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What about Hawkes Bay - plenty of jobs, business doing great stuff, fantastic climate and place to work etc etc etc

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Even if the UNitary plan was perfect and met everyone's needs and wants, it should be rejected. NZ had become a Petri dish for all sorts of UN experiments. The Unitary plan is no different. Rejection of it would decouple NZ from the UN's back door interference or control over Nations, and hopefully see NZ do a N-EXIT.

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Here we go again. Another Wellingtonian banging on about the Auckland property market. Bernard Hickey, Geoff Simmons, Fran O'Sullivan, Gabriel Makhlouf, Arthur Grimes, et, al. When is this going to stop? None of these individuals have to bear any of the consequences of their rantings and ravings about how Aucklanders should have to live. Not one of them. Talk about do as I say, but not as I do! Why don't the whole lot of you bore off and let the citizens of Auckland make their own decisions.

Of course I notice the articles had been coming thick and fast from them all over the last 10 years about how the various Auckland councils had choked off the supply of land to allow the city to grow appropriately and build enough houses, and look out for the consequences, not.

I couldn't care less about what non-Aucklanders have to say about the unitary plan. I want to know what Aucklanders think. So come on, NBR, lift your socks up and get some opinions from the very people it's going to affect, eh?

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Give us a break. We who don't live in Auckland wouldn't normally feel the need to comment on Auckland issues but we keep getting the whole "Auckland's problem is New Zealand's problem" and "New Zealand needs a healthy and viable Auckland", blah blah. TV and newspapers are constantly harping on about Auckland's housing. It's in our faces every bloody day.

So why don't you get your act together so we don't have to listen to it. Or feel the need to make suggestions.

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If TV and newspapers are harping on about, that's not Aucklander's fault. That's the fault of the TVs and newspapers and I suggest you take it up with them rather than inappropriately giving Auckland a serve for something that is beyond their control.

But that is irrelevant to the issue of non-Aucklanders glibly dictating to Auckland its living arrangements when those who are making those dictates have no skin in the game and who will not bear any of the consequences of their demands.

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Yes we do have skin in the game mate because when your pathetic property market collapses we all go down. Find out if you can what happened in Dublin. Auckland is a mirror image of Dublin in 2007.

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It's mainly because we are all so sick of Auckland's complete inability to do anything right as it constantly bangs on about how great it is. The ridiculous property market there also has the potential to wreck the entire country so yes we have a right to have a say about NIMBY land...

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+1

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Fran O'Sullivan is an Aucklander. Has first-hand experience in the challenges of runninga body corproate for a large inner-city apartment building. Not easy under NZ's out-dated and horrible legisaltion that governs body coirproates.

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The unit titles legislation is not out of date. In fact it was completely renewed in 2010. Nor is it horrible. It is complex because it has to cover many issues and there are a few holes and gray areas. But the biggest problem with the UTA is that bodies corporate are run by volunteers with day jobs and most don't have the time or inclination to read the darn thing.

But also to be fair, there is no agency or authority that has attempted to provide support and publish how-to guides etc. And you can blame the MBIE for that. They are the ministry that oversees the unit titles sector and they've been sitting on their hands while confusion reigns.

But you can expect changes with the legislation some time soon because there has been a lot of criticism and a now a review. Also you can expect the government will want to dampen down as much housing related noise as possible before the election next year.

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Maybe the residents of Auckland don't actually want another million people living in a city that doesn't have the infrastructure to cope with its current population. Maybe people don't want intensive housing; apartments the size of cupboards; gridlocked traffic; green spaces gone; houses replaced with concrete blocks. Maybe the reason that Aucklanders like living in Auckland is because it is like it is now.

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Maybe they do. Check the Unitary Plan and you will find that's the case.

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Auckland ain't great . It's not a first world city , in some respects it has more in common with a third world country.

The only reason it is growing with immigrants moving there is because NZ is insanely beautiful and people are desperate to move here, and Auckland is the only place with work. It's a step closer to where people want to be - the countryside and the South Island . But aucklanders are tugging themselves if they think it's a nice city

Ah property - the only asset class where stupid people can be great money. No wonder we are in the middle of this bubble. John Key and his crony capitalism.

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Have to agree - Auckland is a delusional ugly sprawl. Full of self importance but signifying nothing.

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It's clear from your statement Lance that you've neither read and or do not understand the UN plan.

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Do you have any links perchance Geoff, with the NZ Property Council?

Just asking - nicely.

Penny Bright
2016 Auckland Mayoral candidate.

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I am a Wellingtonian and therefore loath to comment, however would like to share my golden rule. When someone describes you as selfish, they are about to try to shaft you royally.

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I have just found out that a block of 4 two level flats on my northern boundary has been re zoned to 7 stories high.!! I will have to go to the enviromental court to stop them destroying my house. How is that fair?

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How exactly does that destroy your house?

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Wellingtonians drooling over capital gains taxes they can rort out of Aucklanders and waste on their central government "consultant planners" gravvy trains.

I believe Helen Clarke got the ball rolling on the "super city" rort, seems it is being carried on by equally corrupt successors.

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