Friday, July 28, 2017

Affordable Housing and the Spanish Constitution

Was doing some research the other day trying to get to the fundamentals of why many European countries are not experiencing the same sorts of housing affordability crises we are here in New Zealand and also in Australia and Canada.

Discovered substantial comparative studies reported in academic research.

And I came across the Spanish Constitution 1978....

The Preamble to it reads:

The Spanish Nation, desiring to establish justice, liberty, and security, and to promote the well-being of all its members, in the exercise of its sovereignty, proclaims its will to:

  • Guarantee democratic coexistence within the Constitution and the laws, in accordance with a fair economic and social order. 
  • Consolidate a State of Law which ensures the rule of law as the expression of the popular will.
  • Protect all Spaniards and peoples of Spain in the exercise of human rights, of their culture and traditions, languages and institutions. 
  • Promote the progress of culture and of the economy to ensure a dignified quality of life for all. 
  • Establish an advanced democratic society, and Cooperate in the strengthening of peaceful relations and effective cooperation among all the peoples of the earth.

The academic research drew my attention to this section:

Section 47All Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing. The public authorities shall promote the necessary conditions and establish appropriate standards in order to make this right effective, regulating land use in accordance with the general interest in order to prevent speculation.The community shall have a share in the benefits accruing from the town-planning policies of public bodies.

I haven't edited that section. It's complete. It sits above legislation and local government.

What it explicitly intends is that land use should be regulated to prevent speculation. It also clearly intends that benefits accruing from town-planning policies should be shared with the community - I read this as requiring some sort of betterment or value uplift regime.



NZ Planning Institute Steps Up to MBIE

(Conflict of interest: I work at NZPI in the role of policy adviser.) Growth and housing affordability are major planning issues in many parts of urban New Zealand. Issues of almost crisis proportions. A raft of proposals and initiatives have been advanced by Central Government. Many of these are aimed at changing the country's planning systems. Most are short term measures. The NZ Planning Institute's 2,500 members are at the coalface - or perhaps more sharply - they are the meat in the sandwich. Much of the blame for the crisis has been heaped on the planning profession. 

Mistakenly. 

For a hundred years the economic job of the planning profession has been to correct the plethora of market failures that have erupted and which continue to erupt in unregulated urban developments left purely to market forces. Twenty five years of RMA urban planning appears to have removed from public consciousness a good understanding of what good planning is and achieves, and what planners do. 

Which is why NZPI is stepping up to rebuild that understanding. 

Below is an extract of high level commentary from its recent submission to MBIE's proposals for Urban Development Authorities.....

4. NZPI welcomes in principle the NZ Government Urban Development Authority (UDA) initiative that is being developed with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The UDA discussion document, along with an associated Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) outlines proposed legislative changes that:
…will enable publicly-controlled urban development authorities to access powers to acquire parcels of land and then plan and oversee the necessary development. Developments could include housing, commercial premises, associated infrastructure, and amenities including parks, community spaces or shopping centres…(MBIE, Feb 2017. Pg 5, Urban Development Authorities, Discussion Document)

5. The discussion document states that the framework for the proposed legislation is intended to:

…enable local and central government:
  • To empower nationally or locally significant urban development projects to access more enabling development powers and land use rules; and
  • To establish new urban development authorities to support those projects where required. (MBIE, Feb 2017. Pg 19, Urban Development Authorities, Discussion Document)

6. While NZPI supports this intention, because it plugs a planning gap that NZPI has submitted needs to be fixed, NZPI is concerned at the limited process that has been followed to develop the proposals, that some of the proposed powers don’t go far enough, and that some go too far – especially because they could undermine property and participation rights at the core of good planning. It is of particular concern that the reasoning given for UDAs is to streamline and accelerate development whereas our understanding of the UDA approach is to enable transformation over time. More generally NZPI considers that key issues with the proposals as drafted include the lack of transparent decision-making and meaningful engagement, and Ministers having overriding decision powers. In terms of good strategic planning, NZPI questions how an assessment of effects can be conducted for development plans that are not set within the local regional and city policy framework.

NZPI’s high level comment: Lack of consistency with Productivity Commission advice

7. The Government proposes that the new legislation provide an enduring legislative tool-kit to meet the ongoing needs of urban development. NZPI notes that while Productivity Commission (PC) findings (dated 2015 and earlier) have provided a significant policy input to the design of the current proposals, this input does not include the Better Urban Planning findings and recommendations released earlier this year. These include recommendations in support of spatial planning; economic instruments including betterment or value uplift levies or taxes to fund infrastructure; and land value rating instead of capital value rating. These are major recommendations for planning legislation reform, and NZPI submits that further policy and legislative design work is needed on the UDA proposals to ensure relevant PC findings are properly incorporated.

NZPI’s high level comment: Insufficient evidence and case study analysis

8. NZPI is concerned that the rationale offered for the UDA proposals does not include an examination of urban regeneration and redevelopment projects that have already occurred in New Zealand (especially in Auckland) under current legislative arrangements. Well documented examples include: Britomart, Wynyard Quarter, New Lynn, Hobsonville, Tamaki and Whenuapai – all of which have been planned and have been or are being implemented within the jurisdiction of the RMA and in accordance with relevant planning instruments and processes (such as district plan changes). These case studies provide opportunities for a fact based assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of New Zealand’s current urban redevelopment framework, thus providing a policy basis which can be used to justify and support legislative change and intervention. As it stands the discussion document does not clearly define the problem, or provide sufficient evidence, to justify its proposals.

NZPI’s high level comment: Proposals should prioritise urban redevelopment

9. While NZPI generally supports the urban focus of the proposals, it notes the scope of the proposals as drafted appear to encompass greenfield development proposals. These are currently provided for using structure plan methods. Providing for fast-tracking or out of sequence processing of greenfield developments could conflict with long term growth planning and infrastructure investment. Urban development authority legislation needs to prioritise urban regeneration, brownfield sites or redevelopment.

NZPI’s high level comment: Strategic objectives “to accelerate/streamline” inadequate

10. NZPI considers that policy interventions to address specific urban planning issues need to be comprehensively considered alongside other urban development objectives and strategies. We note “the intention of these legislative changes is to accelerate development through streamlined land acquisition, planning and approval processes…” and that a development plan is required stipulating how a stated set of strategic objectives are to be delivered. NZPI generally supports spatial planning for the successful development of an urban environment and considers that proposed development plans should be in the form of spatial plans. NZPI cautions against planning, even spatial planning, that is limited to accelerating development. The planning for future housing or business development needs to be an integrated process which includes all elements that make a successful, livable city. These include locations for employment, social and public services and facilities, transport networks, and other infrastructure, parks, reserves and community amenities and facilities. The strategic objectives of a proposed development should provide for all of these outcomes, otherwise there is a risk that the resulting urban redevelopment project will deliver an unsuccessful and unlivable piece of city.

11. NZPI considers that the legislation should require strategic objectives for a project to include a set of measureable urban indicators specifying the delivery of minimum public good outcomes. These could be drawn from ISO 37120:2014 (Sustainable development of communities – Indicators for city services and quality of life) and include: square metres of public recreation space per capita; number of public transport trips per capita; green area per capita; jobs/housing ratio. Project specific indicators might also measure the proportion of affordable homes. The Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) Congress 2017 focussed on urban growth and included presentations emphasising the important role such indicators play in the success of urban regeneration projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in particular. (NZPI can provide information about relevant case studies.)

NZPI’s high level comment: Planning profession is collaborative, rather than coercive

12. NZPI’s vision is that planning is a valued profession essential to achieving a better New Zealand. Its strategic objectives include championing the profession and supporting planners in their work and workplaces. To that end NZPI has generally encouraged and supported planning that provides for local aspirations and which takes a collaborative approach. Noting that its members will be instrumental in much of the implementation of urban development authority proposals and powers, NZPI is interested in ensuring that planners will be appropriately empowered by these provisions in the planning and facilitation of good urban redevelopment. While recognising the “stick and carrot” nature of some aspects of planning, NZPI is concerned at the weight given to coercive powers (such as compulsory purchase) and limitations on local participation, which could force planners into professional roles which ignore local aspirations and are not collaborative. NZPI considers there needs to be a greater range of powers and tools available that enable, incentivise and encourage urban redevelopment so that coercive and compulsory powers are much more of a last resort.

There are a number of other submissions on NZPI's website. Whichever major party forms the next government,  NZPI is anticipating significant change to NZ's planning systems.

Guardian: Privatised Public Space - Be Angry

I've been reminded by readers of a pair of well researched stories that recently appeared in The Guardian newspaper. Please read them. Remember Queen Elizabeth Square. Think of other public spaces that are either being lined up for outright sale, or where some property rights will be sold to a developer who will then be able to control future public access....

These squares are our squares: be angry about the privatisation of public space

Bradley L Garrett

Public space is a right not a privilege; yet Britain is in the midst of the biggest sell-off of common space since the enclosures of the 17th and 18th century.

The public spaces of London, the collective assets of the city’s citizens, are being sold to corporations – privatised – without explanation or apology. The process has been strategically engineered to seem necessary, benign and even inconsequential, but behind the veil, the simple fact is this: the United Kingdom is in the midst of the largest sell-off of common space since the enclosures of the 17th and 18th century, and London is the epicentre of the fire sale.

Cities shape our experiences. As we drift through the winding streets of our capital, our mood is affected by the bustling, menacing or inert environments we encounter. Stumbling upon a quiet square in the middle of a busy day can feel like finding water in the desert. In the days and weeks that follow, we might seek that spot instead of chancing across it, making it ‘ours’ in a meaningful way. Over years living in a city, we all weave mental maps of the squares, parks, paths and gardens where we pause, recharge, and meet. These are our public spaces.....See whole story here.

Revealed: the insidious creep of pseudo-public space in London

Jack Shenker

Pseudo-public space – squares and parks that seem public but are actually owned by corporations – has quietly spread across cities worldwide. As the Guardian maps its full extent in London for the first time, Jack Shenker reports on a new culture of secrecy and control, where private security guards can remove you for protesting, taking photos ... or just looking scruffy.

A Guardian Cities investigation has for the first time mapped the startling spread of pseudo-public spaces across the UK capital, revealing an almost complete lack of transparency over who owns the sites and how they are policed.

Pseudo-public spaces – large squares, parks and thoroughfares that appear to be public but are actually owned and controlled by developers and their private backers – are on the rise in London and many other British cities, as local authorities argue they cannot afford to create or maintain such spaces themselves.

Although they are seemingly accessible to members of the public and have the look and feel of public land, these sites – also known as privately owned public spaces or “Pops” – are not subject to ordinary local authority bylaws but rather governed by restrictions drawn up the landowner and usually enforced by private security companies...See whole story here.

Princes Wharf - Public Space Outcomes - Power and Academia

For the past few years I have poured hours and hours comparing the planning processes that delivered different public open space outcomes at Auckland and Wellington waterfronts. This was part of post-graduate research conducted at School of Architecture and Planning at University of Auckland.

Findings from that research were applied to inform my "active research" as part of the public campaign to stop Ports of Auckland (POAL) extending Bledisloe Wharf, and the campaign to stop the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square. One of these campaigns resulted in a victory - POAL plans have at the very least been put on ice. The other did not - though who knows what can happen to the space known as QE Square while it remains unbuilt upon as the CRL project proceeds.....

My key objective in conducting this research through an academic environment was the publication of papers which might be useful to the planning profession, rather than the completion of a thesis. I wanted to find a method that stood up to academic scrutiny which planners in NZ, in our present Resource Management Act environment, could legitimately use to defend the public interest in public space. (You get the picture: the RMA is primarily concerned with the regulation of adverse effects on the environment, rather than the delivery of economic or social outcomes - like public open space.)

Anyway, despite trying 2 journals and 3 rewrites over a couple of years, my first paper has been rejected again. So I think that academic channel is maybe not for me. But the paper's worth sharing - I think. I'll give some thought to publishing the full version of the Princes Wharf research, and the Wellington research. All very interesting. But for now here's the abstract of that Princes Wharf paper which summarises that research and describes the method:

An urban redevelopment project in New Zealand spanning more than two decades has been examined using a novel adaptation of Flyvbjerg’s phronetic research methodology placed within the context of power that enables systematic analysis of past planning practices and their failings, and which suggests practice improvements. The approach reveals the significance of stakeholder influences in plan-making and plan-implementation for a regenerated piece of city waterfront that has delivered economic growth objectives but failed to deliver planned public space and amenity outcomes consistent with literature critical of the performance of neoliberal urban planning
regimes. The present enquiry suggests the use of phronetic planning research methodologies that incorporate the influence of power into planning processes offer opportunities for urban planners to take back ground lost in neoliberal urban planning, to integrate urban public and private good planning, and to lift the planning profession out of its current neoliberal malaise.

Don't be put off by the slightly academic tone. Hint: phronesis is a Greek word for practical wisdom - something that experienced planners have in spades. The paper is entitled:

Locating Public Power and Public Places in Neoliberal Urban Planning: Princes Wharf, Auckland, New Zealand

If you google that title you'll find it in: Academia.Edu

Made it: A Top 100 Planning Blog

Top 100 Urban Planning Blogs And Websites For Urban Planners and Urban Development Professionals. 

This analysis has been conducted by social media operation "feedspot".

You'll know my blog - that's why you're here - but you might not be aware of some of these other planning blogs that made the list (btw I'm 88th). Full of ideas. See the Top 100 list here.

It's blurb goes:

The Best Urban Planning blogs from thousands of top Urban Planning blogs in our index using search and social metrics. These blogs are ranked based on following criteria: 

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook
  • Twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

Top 100 Urban Planning Blogs Winners CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top Urban Planning Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Urban Planning blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. If your blog is one of the Top 100 Urban Planning blogs, you have the honour of displaying the following badge on your site. Use the below code to display this badge proudly on your blog.

AmCup Celebration in Queen Street

For those of you who either could not attend the Auckland welcome to New Zealand's America's Cup heroes (men and women), or you were in the rain down by the Viaduct - here is a little video I made of what I saw in Queen Street. What's special is the variety of music and the feel....


See if you can spot the group whose big bass drum includes the line: "CITY OF SAILS"...

There was such a lovely vibe.... and after the parade had gone past, everybody wanted to walk in the street and enjoy it as a pedestrian environment.

One day Auckland will discover and value and give pride of place downtown to its cultures and their different expressions as live performance and street theatre. (I wrote about this here 3 years ago.) We'll get there when those in charge appreciate that Auckland's City Centre needs to be prioritised for Auckland citizens rather than primarily for visitors and tourists.

The most attractive cities internationally to visit and to tour might have stunning architecture, cultural centres and sights - but its what the local population create and express and how they play and have fun - that is the real magnet for the modern traveller.

People attract people.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Devonport's Disappearing 8 inch Gun Fires!



A massive 19th Century cannon mounted on top of an Auckland volcanic cone was fired on Monday, 3 July 2017, at 11:15am. I was there to capture the event on video.....

Fun....very Devonport... unclear who was in charge... or what the countdown would be... or when it would even start...
The firing of the so-called Disappearing Gun on Devonport's Maunganuika North Head reserve was filmed for the documentary series Heritage Rescue on ChoiceTV. (All sorts of cameras and drones were called into action).
​The British Armstrong 8 Inch gun battery predates World War I and was mounted on top of the volcanic cone in the late 1800s out of fear of a Russian navy attack.
Another of the same model rests nearby on Mt Victoria. It shattered windows when it was fired for ceremonial purposes in 1915, researcher Justine Treadwell said.
Not sure how loud this was. A good bang, but not a big bang. 
See rest of reporting here on Stuff.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Auckland Redevelopment & America's Cup

So. We won the America's Cup and very quickly there needs to be discussion and agreement about how and where to host it. Part of this debate is where syndicates might be based, where visitors might stand, sit or go to view proceedings, where the actual racing might be held, and what sort of development is best.

Very quick off the mark have been statements that Hobson Wharf (or the Viaduct) be extended. Misinformed I think.

This aerial shows the waterfront area around Viaduct Harbour, which got redeveloped on the back of the America's Cup win in 1995. Top right is Princes Wharf which also got developed around the same time as Viaduct Harbour.

The shaded blue area is the area of Viaduct Harbour that was developed after America's Cup win 1995. (You can see a more precise planning map in this waterfront plan change posting.)  The mechanisms in place to plan and fund the Viaduct Harbour are of interest and relevance today. Back then an Identity called Infrastructure Auckland was set up. Among other things it owned the Port of Auckland Ltd, including a large chunk of Viaduct Harbour, and it had a big chunk of cash. A very careful plan change under Auckland City Council's control sought to balance a good mix of public open space, heritage retention, marine activities, residential development (the apartments down there came from this), and some space for America's Cup syndicates. (Some were located in other parts of the Auckland waterfront.). This redevelopment is of its time of course. Some of the open spaces were a bit pinched (like the pedestrian walk areas around the Viaduct Wharf. And others were grand but unsuccessful (eg Waitemata Plaza and Market Square). The idea that fishing industry could still locate inside the Viaduct Wharf area was quickly given short shrift by apartment residents grumpy about fish smells and fishy language early in the morning.

I won't go on about the Princes Wharf regeneration disaster here, as have at length elsewhere. For example here and here and here.

Stop Press (1/7/2017)  A reader has drawn my attention to discussion about the option of Viaduct being extended (an option which I didn't include in my original posting - so I've added it now.). That could be some variant of the yellow area extending beyond the structure which supports the Event Centre. It shares some of the problems that an extension to Hobson Wharf has: further reclamation of a very utilised piece of water space (think triathalons and dragon boat racing - events with very low environmental footprints); and problematic land transport access conflicting with Event Centre utilisation. It also suggests that Auckland's fishing fleet is a disposable industry - can be shifted at a planning whim. Auckland should not be treating that industry lightly - as it did when residents had it removed from the inner Viaduct. I think it is critical to the continuing success of Wynyard Quarter in particular that a good balance is struck between public amenity and open space; high quality architecture for commercial, accommodation and residential uses; protection of maritime heritage; support for fisheries and related cuisine; and of course provision for marine industry and sport.

 Hobson Wharf is shown by the yellow area in this aerial. The Maritime Museum is at its southern end. Princes Wharf is to the right. Most of the actual wharf area of Hobson Wharf is now taken up by the special museum building that holds boats associated with Sir Peter Blake's maritime history including an America's Cup wining boat.








Hobson Wharf extends to the left in the background. The glass fronted building sitting on the wharf is ther Sir Peter Blake Museum.

In my opinion, extending Hobson Wharf out into Waitemata Harbour beside Princes Wharf for Am Cup 2021 is inappropriate for a whole range of reasons. Recalling the objections to POAL's extension of Bledisloe Wharf - it would be hypocritical to fast track anything like that here. Yes - this might be a piled extension, but it would still alienate a very popular piece of waterspace. Secondly, I think that Auckland in particular (and many countries generally) find that reusing pier/wharf/jetty type structures when they become surplus to maritime requirements is very problematic. Look at the poor use Auckland is making of Queens Wharf for example. (You only have to look at Viaduct and Wynyard to see how much more useful and useable a piece of reclaimed land is - compared with a wharf structure). And thirdly, if America's Cup syndicates were loctaed on an extended Hobson Wharf their transport options would be terribly limited. This is a very constrained piece of coastline. With Quay Street and Hobson Street extension the main means of land access - and such traffic would have to navigate past Maritime Museum and Sir Peter Blake Museum etc. Perhaps there is a desire to rethink Sir Peter's Museum - if so - be public. But for all of the above reasons I think Hobson Wharf - or any combination of Hobson Wharf and Viaduct - should be rejected as an option.

The best option - in my opinion - is the end of Wynyard Quarter. Creative incorporation among the tanks is a great design solution. I agree with Mayor Goff's call for that area to be targetted by this regeneration opportunity, with the legacy being open space - probably complimented by some appropriate development. An empty open space will not be the best use of this opportunity - primarily because the best open spaces in these sorts of locations include some built edges both to shape the space, provide shelter and informal surveillance, and some amenity - be it ice-creams or coffee or playground equipment. It isn't necessary for syndicate development infrastructure to be permanent. These buildings can be relocateable. Viewing and gathering areas can be temporary too. The legacy of this sort of redevelopment can be useable and developeable waterfront land. There does not need to be talk of iconic structures. It will be enough that the event is located successfully in Auckland and Waitemata Harbour. And all syndicates will be adjacent to the marine suppliers and chandlery facilities that have remained and are locating in Wynyard Quarter. Much of that support infrastructure is there. As is the roading and pipe networks.

And as to the location of the racing itself, check out this race course posting I did after 2014....

Process and funding. It is worth reminding ourselves that early Am Cup developments, and the Rugby World Cup we just hosted were all "planned" by empowering legislation. Thus the lead planning agency was Central Government. That shouldn't happen here in 2021. But there is a problem the ready public cash that existed in 1995, and which has enabled such high quality urban regeneration in the Wynyard Quarter has been spent - and is no longer available as a funding option.

It should be recognised by all concerned that the main public financial beneficiary from an event like the America's Cup is NOT Auckland Council - it is Central Government (because of GST collected on all of the additional economic activities, because of increased economic activity - more employment - more taxes and so on). This is recognised in Australia. There, Federal and State Government funding is used to trigger and underpin urban regeneration projects. What Local Government can bring to the party is good planning, and some measure of private development as part of the whole package.

I think this particular project presents a political opportunity in an election year to set out mechanisms and expectations for Central Government involvement. It is a pity - thinking back to the Rugby World Cup - that the Labour Govt's offer of a $1 billion for a waterfront stadium wasn't taken up. Maybe that would have been the wrong thing to do. Now seems like the time for some sort of commitment from the Labour Party (say) to fund remediation works on Wynyard Quarter, and perhaps public works acquisition of key titles, in order to lay bare parts of the site for redevelopment. Auckland Council for its part would need - in my view to commit to an appropriate plan change for that part of Wynyard Quarter. The long term legacy would be redevelopment at least as good as what i there now - but with much more public open space. The short term opportunity would be a place to host Am Cup syndicates and viewing platforms.

Get foiling. Now's the time for 100% flytime.




Friday, July 28, 2017

Affordable Housing and the Spanish Constitution

Was doing some research the other day trying to get to the fundamentals of why many European countries are not experiencing the same sorts of housing affordability crises we are here in New Zealand and also in Australia and Canada.

Discovered substantial comparative studies reported in academic research.

And I came across the Spanish Constitution 1978....

The Preamble to it reads:

The Spanish Nation, desiring to establish justice, liberty, and security, and to promote the well-being of all its members, in the exercise of its sovereignty, proclaims its will to:

  • Guarantee democratic coexistence within the Constitution and the laws, in accordance with a fair economic and social order. 
  • Consolidate a State of Law which ensures the rule of law as the expression of the popular will.
  • Protect all Spaniards and peoples of Spain in the exercise of human rights, of their culture and traditions, languages and institutions. 
  • Promote the progress of culture and of the economy to ensure a dignified quality of life for all. 
  • Establish an advanced democratic society, and Cooperate in the strengthening of peaceful relations and effective cooperation among all the peoples of the earth.

The academic research drew my attention to this section:

Section 47All Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing. The public authorities shall promote the necessary conditions and establish appropriate standards in order to make this right effective, regulating land use in accordance with the general interest in order to prevent speculation.The community shall have a share in the benefits accruing from the town-planning policies of public bodies.

I haven't edited that section. It's complete. It sits above legislation and local government.

What it explicitly intends is that land use should be regulated to prevent speculation. It also clearly intends that benefits accruing from town-planning policies should be shared with the community - I read this as requiring some sort of betterment or value uplift regime.



NZ Planning Institute Steps Up to MBIE

(Conflict of interest: I work at NZPI in the role of policy adviser.) Growth and housing affordability are major planning issues in many parts of urban New Zealand. Issues of almost crisis proportions. A raft of proposals and initiatives have been advanced by Central Government. Many of these are aimed at changing the country's planning systems. Most are short term measures. The NZ Planning Institute's 2,500 members are at the coalface - or perhaps more sharply - they are the meat in the sandwich. Much of the blame for the crisis has been heaped on the planning profession. 

Mistakenly. 

For a hundred years the economic job of the planning profession has been to correct the plethora of market failures that have erupted and which continue to erupt in unregulated urban developments left purely to market forces. Twenty five years of RMA urban planning appears to have removed from public consciousness a good understanding of what good planning is and achieves, and what planners do. 

Which is why NZPI is stepping up to rebuild that understanding. 

Below is an extract of high level commentary from its recent submission to MBIE's proposals for Urban Development Authorities.....

4. NZPI welcomes in principle the NZ Government Urban Development Authority (UDA) initiative that is being developed with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The UDA discussion document, along with an associated Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) outlines proposed legislative changes that:
…will enable publicly-controlled urban development authorities to access powers to acquire parcels of land and then plan and oversee the necessary development. Developments could include housing, commercial premises, associated infrastructure, and amenities including parks, community spaces or shopping centres…(MBIE, Feb 2017. Pg 5, Urban Development Authorities, Discussion Document)

5. The discussion document states that the framework for the proposed legislation is intended to:

…enable local and central government:
  • To empower nationally or locally significant urban development projects to access more enabling development powers and land use rules; and
  • To establish new urban development authorities to support those projects where required. (MBIE, Feb 2017. Pg 19, Urban Development Authorities, Discussion Document)

6. While NZPI supports this intention, because it plugs a planning gap that NZPI has submitted needs to be fixed, NZPI is concerned at the limited process that has been followed to develop the proposals, that some of the proposed powers don’t go far enough, and that some go too far – especially because they could undermine property and participation rights at the core of good planning. It is of particular concern that the reasoning given for UDAs is to streamline and accelerate development whereas our understanding of the UDA approach is to enable transformation over time. More generally NZPI considers that key issues with the proposals as drafted include the lack of transparent decision-making and meaningful engagement, and Ministers having overriding decision powers. In terms of good strategic planning, NZPI questions how an assessment of effects can be conducted for development plans that are not set within the local regional and city policy framework.

NZPI’s high level comment: Lack of consistency with Productivity Commission advice

7. The Government proposes that the new legislation provide an enduring legislative tool-kit to meet the ongoing needs of urban development. NZPI notes that while Productivity Commission (PC) findings (dated 2015 and earlier) have provided a significant policy input to the design of the current proposals, this input does not include the Better Urban Planning findings and recommendations released earlier this year. These include recommendations in support of spatial planning; economic instruments including betterment or value uplift levies or taxes to fund infrastructure; and land value rating instead of capital value rating. These are major recommendations for planning legislation reform, and NZPI submits that further policy and legislative design work is needed on the UDA proposals to ensure relevant PC findings are properly incorporated.

NZPI’s high level comment: Insufficient evidence and case study analysis

8. NZPI is concerned that the rationale offered for the UDA proposals does not include an examination of urban regeneration and redevelopment projects that have already occurred in New Zealand (especially in Auckland) under current legislative arrangements. Well documented examples include: Britomart, Wynyard Quarter, New Lynn, Hobsonville, Tamaki and Whenuapai – all of which have been planned and have been or are being implemented within the jurisdiction of the RMA and in accordance with relevant planning instruments and processes (such as district plan changes). These case studies provide opportunities for a fact based assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of New Zealand’s current urban redevelopment framework, thus providing a policy basis which can be used to justify and support legislative change and intervention. As it stands the discussion document does not clearly define the problem, or provide sufficient evidence, to justify its proposals.

NZPI’s high level comment: Proposals should prioritise urban redevelopment

9. While NZPI generally supports the urban focus of the proposals, it notes the scope of the proposals as drafted appear to encompass greenfield development proposals. These are currently provided for using structure plan methods. Providing for fast-tracking or out of sequence processing of greenfield developments could conflict with long term growth planning and infrastructure investment. Urban development authority legislation needs to prioritise urban regeneration, brownfield sites or redevelopment.

NZPI’s high level comment: Strategic objectives “to accelerate/streamline” inadequate

10. NZPI considers that policy interventions to address specific urban planning issues need to be comprehensively considered alongside other urban development objectives and strategies. We note “the intention of these legislative changes is to accelerate development through streamlined land acquisition, planning and approval processes…” and that a development plan is required stipulating how a stated set of strategic objectives are to be delivered. NZPI generally supports spatial planning for the successful development of an urban environment and considers that proposed development plans should be in the form of spatial plans. NZPI cautions against planning, even spatial planning, that is limited to accelerating development. The planning for future housing or business development needs to be an integrated process which includes all elements that make a successful, livable city. These include locations for employment, social and public services and facilities, transport networks, and other infrastructure, parks, reserves and community amenities and facilities. The strategic objectives of a proposed development should provide for all of these outcomes, otherwise there is a risk that the resulting urban redevelopment project will deliver an unsuccessful and unlivable piece of city.

11. NZPI considers that the legislation should require strategic objectives for a project to include a set of measureable urban indicators specifying the delivery of minimum public good outcomes. These could be drawn from ISO 37120:2014 (Sustainable development of communities – Indicators for city services and quality of life) and include: square metres of public recreation space per capita; number of public transport trips per capita; green area per capita; jobs/housing ratio. Project specific indicators might also measure the proportion of affordable homes. The Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) Congress 2017 focussed on urban growth and included presentations emphasising the important role such indicators play in the success of urban regeneration projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in particular. (NZPI can provide information about relevant case studies.)

NZPI’s high level comment: Planning profession is collaborative, rather than coercive

12. NZPI’s vision is that planning is a valued profession essential to achieving a better New Zealand. Its strategic objectives include championing the profession and supporting planners in their work and workplaces. To that end NZPI has generally encouraged and supported planning that provides for local aspirations and which takes a collaborative approach. Noting that its members will be instrumental in much of the implementation of urban development authority proposals and powers, NZPI is interested in ensuring that planners will be appropriately empowered by these provisions in the planning and facilitation of good urban redevelopment. While recognising the “stick and carrot” nature of some aspects of planning, NZPI is concerned at the weight given to coercive powers (such as compulsory purchase) and limitations on local participation, which could force planners into professional roles which ignore local aspirations and are not collaborative. NZPI considers there needs to be a greater range of powers and tools available that enable, incentivise and encourage urban redevelopment so that coercive and compulsory powers are much more of a last resort.

There are a number of other submissions on NZPI's website. Whichever major party forms the next government,  NZPI is anticipating significant change to NZ's planning systems.

Guardian: Privatised Public Space - Be Angry

I've been reminded by readers of a pair of well researched stories that recently appeared in The Guardian newspaper. Please read them. Remember Queen Elizabeth Square. Think of other public spaces that are either being lined up for outright sale, or where some property rights will be sold to a developer who will then be able to control future public access....

These squares are our squares: be angry about the privatisation of public space

Bradley L Garrett

Public space is a right not a privilege; yet Britain is in the midst of the biggest sell-off of common space since the enclosures of the 17th and 18th century.

The public spaces of London, the collective assets of the city’s citizens, are being sold to corporations – privatised – without explanation or apology. The process has been strategically engineered to seem necessary, benign and even inconsequential, but behind the veil, the simple fact is this: the United Kingdom is in the midst of the largest sell-off of common space since the enclosures of the 17th and 18th century, and London is the epicentre of the fire sale.

Cities shape our experiences. As we drift through the winding streets of our capital, our mood is affected by the bustling, menacing or inert environments we encounter. Stumbling upon a quiet square in the middle of a busy day can feel like finding water in the desert. In the days and weeks that follow, we might seek that spot instead of chancing across it, making it ‘ours’ in a meaningful way. Over years living in a city, we all weave mental maps of the squares, parks, paths and gardens where we pause, recharge, and meet. These are our public spaces.....See whole story here.

Revealed: the insidious creep of pseudo-public space in London

Jack Shenker

Pseudo-public space – squares and parks that seem public but are actually owned by corporations – has quietly spread across cities worldwide. As the Guardian maps its full extent in London for the first time, Jack Shenker reports on a new culture of secrecy and control, where private security guards can remove you for protesting, taking photos ... or just looking scruffy.

A Guardian Cities investigation has for the first time mapped the startling spread of pseudo-public spaces across the UK capital, revealing an almost complete lack of transparency over who owns the sites and how they are policed.

Pseudo-public spaces – large squares, parks and thoroughfares that appear to be public but are actually owned and controlled by developers and their private backers – are on the rise in London and many other British cities, as local authorities argue they cannot afford to create or maintain such spaces themselves.

Although they are seemingly accessible to members of the public and have the look and feel of public land, these sites – also known as privately owned public spaces or “Pops” – are not subject to ordinary local authority bylaws but rather governed by restrictions drawn up the landowner and usually enforced by private security companies...See whole story here.

Princes Wharf - Public Space Outcomes - Power and Academia

For the past few years I have poured hours and hours comparing the planning processes that delivered different public open space outcomes at Auckland and Wellington waterfronts. This was part of post-graduate research conducted at School of Architecture and Planning at University of Auckland.

Findings from that research were applied to inform my "active research" as part of the public campaign to stop Ports of Auckland (POAL) extending Bledisloe Wharf, and the campaign to stop the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square. One of these campaigns resulted in a victory - POAL plans have at the very least been put on ice. The other did not - though who knows what can happen to the space known as QE Square while it remains unbuilt upon as the CRL project proceeds.....

My key objective in conducting this research through an academic environment was the publication of papers which might be useful to the planning profession, rather than the completion of a thesis. I wanted to find a method that stood up to academic scrutiny which planners in NZ, in our present Resource Management Act environment, could legitimately use to defend the public interest in public space. (You get the picture: the RMA is primarily concerned with the regulation of adverse effects on the environment, rather than the delivery of economic or social outcomes - like public open space.)

Anyway, despite trying 2 journals and 3 rewrites over a couple of years, my first paper has been rejected again. So I think that academic channel is maybe not for me. But the paper's worth sharing - I think. I'll give some thought to publishing the full version of the Princes Wharf research, and the Wellington research. All very interesting. But for now here's the abstract of that Princes Wharf paper which summarises that research and describes the method:

An urban redevelopment project in New Zealand spanning more than two decades has been examined using a novel adaptation of Flyvbjerg’s phronetic research methodology placed within the context of power that enables systematic analysis of past planning practices and their failings, and which suggests practice improvements. The approach reveals the significance of stakeholder influences in plan-making and plan-implementation for a regenerated piece of city waterfront that has delivered economic growth objectives but failed to deliver planned public space and amenity outcomes consistent with literature critical of the performance of neoliberal urban planning
regimes. The present enquiry suggests the use of phronetic planning research methodologies that incorporate the influence of power into planning processes offer opportunities for urban planners to take back ground lost in neoliberal urban planning, to integrate urban public and private good planning, and to lift the planning profession out of its current neoliberal malaise.

Don't be put off by the slightly academic tone. Hint: phronesis is a Greek word for practical wisdom - something that experienced planners have in spades. The paper is entitled:

Locating Public Power and Public Places in Neoliberal Urban Planning: Princes Wharf, Auckland, New Zealand

If you google that title you'll find it in: Academia.Edu

Made it: A Top 100 Planning Blog

Top 100 Urban Planning Blogs And Websites For Urban Planners and Urban Development Professionals. 

This analysis has been conducted by social media operation "feedspot".

You'll know my blog - that's why you're here - but you might not be aware of some of these other planning blogs that made the list (btw I'm 88th). Full of ideas. See the Top 100 list here.

It's blurb goes:

The Best Urban Planning blogs from thousands of top Urban Planning blogs in our index using search and social metrics. These blogs are ranked based on following criteria: 

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook
  • Twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

Top 100 Urban Planning Blogs Winners CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top Urban Planning Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Urban Planning blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. If your blog is one of the Top 100 Urban Planning blogs, you have the honour of displaying the following badge on your site. Use the below code to display this badge proudly on your blog.

AmCup Celebration in Queen Street

For those of you who either could not attend the Auckland welcome to New Zealand's America's Cup heroes (men and women), or you were in the rain down by the Viaduct - here is a little video I made of what I saw in Queen Street. What's special is the variety of music and the feel....


See if you can spot the group whose big bass drum includes the line: "CITY OF SAILS"...

There was such a lovely vibe.... and after the parade had gone past, everybody wanted to walk in the street and enjoy it as a pedestrian environment.

One day Auckland will discover and value and give pride of place downtown to its cultures and their different expressions as live performance and street theatre. (I wrote about this here 3 years ago.) We'll get there when those in charge appreciate that Auckland's City Centre needs to be prioritised for Auckland citizens rather than primarily for visitors and tourists.

The most attractive cities internationally to visit and to tour might have stunning architecture, cultural centres and sights - but its what the local population create and express and how they play and have fun - that is the real magnet for the modern traveller.

People attract people.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Devonport's Disappearing 8 inch Gun Fires!



A massive 19th Century cannon mounted on top of an Auckland volcanic cone was fired on Monday, 3 July 2017, at 11:15am. I was there to capture the event on video.....

Fun....very Devonport... unclear who was in charge... or what the countdown would be... or when it would even start...
The firing of the so-called Disappearing Gun on Devonport's Maunganuika North Head reserve was filmed for the documentary series Heritage Rescue on ChoiceTV. (All sorts of cameras and drones were called into action).
​The British Armstrong 8 Inch gun battery predates World War I and was mounted on top of the volcanic cone in the late 1800s out of fear of a Russian navy attack.
Another of the same model rests nearby on Mt Victoria. It shattered windows when it was fired for ceremonial purposes in 1915, researcher Justine Treadwell said.
Not sure how loud this was. A good bang, but not a big bang. 
See rest of reporting here on Stuff.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Auckland Redevelopment & America's Cup

So. We won the America's Cup and very quickly there needs to be discussion and agreement about how and where to host it. Part of this debate is where syndicates might be based, where visitors might stand, sit or go to view proceedings, where the actual racing might be held, and what sort of development is best.

Very quick off the mark have been statements that Hobson Wharf (or the Viaduct) be extended. Misinformed I think.

This aerial shows the waterfront area around Viaduct Harbour, which got redeveloped on the back of the America's Cup win in 1995. Top right is Princes Wharf which also got developed around the same time as Viaduct Harbour.

The shaded blue area is the area of Viaduct Harbour that was developed after America's Cup win 1995. (You can see a more precise planning map in this waterfront plan change posting.)  The mechanisms in place to plan and fund the Viaduct Harbour are of interest and relevance today. Back then an Identity called Infrastructure Auckland was set up. Among other things it owned the Port of Auckland Ltd, including a large chunk of Viaduct Harbour, and it had a big chunk of cash. A very careful plan change under Auckland City Council's control sought to balance a good mix of public open space, heritage retention, marine activities, residential development (the apartments down there came from this), and some space for America's Cup syndicates. (Some were located in other parts of the Auckland waterfront.). This redevelopment is of its time of course. Some of the open spaces were a bit pinched (like the pedestrian walk areas around the Viaduct Wharf. And others were grand but unsuccessful (eg Waitemata Plaza and Market Square). The idea that fishing industry could still locate inside the Viaduct Wharf area was quickly given short shrift by apartment residents grumpy about fish smells and fishy language early in the morning.

I won't go on about the Princes Wharf regeneration disaster here, as have at length elsewhere. For example here and here and here.

Stop Press (1/7/2017)  A reader has drawn my attention to discussion about the option of Viaduct being extended (an option which I didn't include in my original posting - so I've added it now.). That could be some variant of the yellow area extending beyond the structure which supports the Event Centre. It shares some of the problems that an extension to Hobson Wharf has: further reclamation of a very utilised piece of water space (think triathalons and dragon boat racing - events with very low environmental footprints); and problematic land transport access conflicting with Event Centre utilisation. It also suggests that Auckland's fishing fleet is a disposable industry - can be shifted at a planning whim. Auckland should not be treating that industry lightly - as it did when residents had it removed from the inner Viaduct. I think it is critical to the continuing success of Wynyard Quarter in particular that a good balance is struck between public amenity and open space; high quality architecture for commercial, accommodation and residential uses; protection of maritime heritage; support for fisheries and related cuisine; and of course provision for marine industry and sport.

 Hobson Wharf is shown by the yellow area in this aerial. The Maritime Museum is at its southern end. Princes Wharf is to the right. Most of the actual wharf area of Hobson Wharf is now taken up by the special museum building that holds boats associated with Sir Peter Blake's maritime history including an America's Cup wining boat.








Hobson Wharf extends to the left in the background. The glass fronted building sitting on the wharf is ther Sir Peter Blake Museum.

In my opinion, extending Hobson Wharf out into Waitemata Harbour beside Princes Wharf for Am Cup 2021 is inappropriate for a whole range of reasons. Recalling the objections to POAL's extension of Bledisloe Wharf - it would be hypocritical to fast track anything like that here. Yes - this might be a piled extension, but it would still alienate a very popular piece of waterspace. Secondly, I think that Auckland in particular (and many countries generally) find that reusing pier/wharf/jetty type structures when they become surplus to maritime requirements is very problematic. Look at the poor use Auckland is making of Queens Wharf for example. (You only have to look at Viaduct and Wynyard to see how much more useful and useable a piece of reclaimed land is - compared with a wharf structure). And thirdly, if America's Cup syndicates were loctaed on an extended Hobson Wharf their transport options would be terribly limited. This is a very constrained piece of coastline. With Quay Street and Hobson Street extension the main means of land access - and such traffic would have to navigate past Maritime Museum and Sir Peter Blake Museum etc. Perhaps there is a desire to rethink Sir Peter's Museum - if so - be public. But for all of the above reasons I think Hobson Wharf - or any combination of Hobson Wharf and Viaduct - should be rejected as an option.

The best option - in my opinion - is the end of Wynyard Quarter. Creative incorporation among the tanks is a great design solution. I agree with Mayor Goff's call for that area to be targetted by this regeneration opportunity, with the legacy being open space - probably complimented by some appropriate development. An empty open space will not be the best use of this opportunity - primarily because the best open spaces in these sorts of locations include some built edges both to shape the space, provide shelter and informal surveillance, and some amenity - be it ice-creams or coffee or playground equipment. It isn't necessary for syndicate development infrastructure to be permanent. These buildings can be relocateable. Viewing and gathering areas can be temporary too. The legacy of this sort of redevelopment can be useable and developeable waterfront land. There does not need to be talk of iconic structures. It will be enough that the event is located successfully in Auckland and Waitemata Harbour. And all syndicates will be adjacent to the marine suppliers and chandlery facilities that have remained and are locating in Wynyard Quarter. Much of that support infrastructure is there. As is the roading and pipe networks.

And as to the location of the racing itself, check out this race course posting I did after 2014....

Process and funding. It is worth reminding ourselves that early Am Cup developments, and the Rugby World Cup we just hosted were all "planned" by empowering legislation. Thus the lead planning agency was Central Government. That shouldn't happen here in 2021. But there is a problem the ready public cash that existed in 1995, and which has enabled such high quality urban regeneration in the Wynyard Quarter has been spent - and is no longer available as a funding option.

It should be recognised by all concerned that the main public financial beneficiary from an event like the America's Cup is NOT Auckland Council - it is Central Government (because of GST collected on all of the additional economic activities, because of increased economic activity - more employment - more taxes and so on). This is recognised in Australia. There, Federal and State Government funding is used to trigger and underpin urban regeneration projects. What Local Government can bring to the party is good planning, and some measure of private development as part of the whole package.

I think this particular project presents a political opportunity in an election year to set out mechanisms and expectations for Central Government involvement. It is a pity - thinking back to the Rugby World Cup - that the Labour Govt's offer of a $1 billion for a waterfront stadium wasn't taken up. Maybe that would have been the wrong thing to do. Now seems like the time for some sort of commitment from the Labour Party (say) to fund remediation works on Wynyard Quarter, and perhaps public works acquisition of key titles, in order to lay bare parts of the site for redevelopment. Auckland Council for its part would need - in my view to commit to an appropriate plan change for that part of Wynyard Quarter. The long term legacy would be redevelopment at least as good as what i there now - but with much more public open space. The short term opportunity would be a place to host Am Cup syndicates and viewing platforms.

Get foiling. Now's the time for 100% flytime.