Saturday, August 1, 2015

City Centre Integration

Auckland's Downtown Planning - or selective planning - is a cause of concern. It's not just that Auckland Transport and its arms length "City Centre Integration" team are occupying top dollar office accommodation in the HSBC and Zurich Towers - though associating with high end commercial business and away from what happens on the ground can be problematic and have perception risks. Tempting to take rent deals in exchange perhaps. It is symbolic of the kind of integration that is happening. It is an indication of the priorities for integration that are happening in the "engine-room" of Auckland (Council's 2032 vision is for the Engine Room to: … Auckland’s CBD, or Engine Room, is critical to New Zealand’s economy.)

Reflection: During my time at the ARC, legislation created Auckland Regional Holdings (ARH) and Auckland Regional Transport Agency (ARTA). This happened in 2004 - the year I was elected onto ARC. My responsibilities were in the transport space. An interesting thing happened. Senior staff of ARH decided that the Pitt Street offices of the ARC weren't salubrious enough, and so they took themselves off and found designer office space on the waterfront. Us minions didn't get to know about it for a while, but I remember Chairman Mike Lee took up the cudgel as only he can, and after a few months we got them back in house. ARH was in charge of about a billion dollars worth of public assets, including a load of cash, and Ports of Auckland Ltd. The feeling was that this treasury arm of Council needed to be close its governing body, accountable for its actions, and not too independent. Another experience came with Watercare. I was on the Shareholder Representative Group (SRG) for a few years. It came to our attention that the management team of Watercare decided to set up office in superior offices the ASB building. Maybe to be close to investors at a time when privatisation was to the fore. Top consultancy Halcrow came out from UK and did an audit of Watercare to advise the SRG on ways Watercare could become more efficient. One of those recommendations was that Watercare didn't need city based top end HQ offices. Eventually they moved back to Newmarket. End of that reflection.

Highly visible development projects in the area of Downtown Auckland bounded by Quay Street, Lower Queen Street, Custom Street West, and Lower Albert include the underground CRL enabling works (tunnelling - and obviously all underground) and the proposed Precinct Tower at the corner of Lower Albert and Custom Street West. Public concern has been expressed about the potential loss of downtown public space that would be associated with Queen Elizabeth Square being sold for private development, without commensurate public space being provided in public compensation.

Less visible - so far - but nonetheless high impact projects that are part of this major urban regeneration project are those needed to handle surface transport demands. By this I mean infrastructure required to handle the private traffic movements required to meet the travel demands of the proposed Precinct development, AND the bus stop and interchange infrastructure that will be required to replace the public transport infrastructure that is to be removed from Lower Queen Street. So far, none of those projects - all of which have an enormous impact on the public domain (footpaths, pedestrian walkways, road space utilisation, impact on adjacent public spaces) - have been shown to the public. They haven't been notified. There has been no opportunity for public consultation. And as such - despite the words "integration" - the emphasis is very much on sorting out arrangements between a private developer and Auckland Transport. (like living together!)

Reflection: I was Deputy Chair and then Deputy Chair of North Shore City Council's (NSCC) Works and Environment Ctte. Half of its agenda and responsibilities related to transport and transport infrastructure. Interestingly, in my time, and without naming names, two of the key characters with high level responsibilities relating to City Centre Integration and Development were General Managers in charge of transport at NSCC. So I got to know their modis operandi pretty well. I hasten to add that it wasn't particular to them. It appears that Auckland's local road and transport behaviours are much the same across the region. What I learned over those years, and the years that have followed, is that local transport planning generally goes below the public radar. I learned that a key reason for this was to maintain flexibility in transport project planning and in budgeting. You could see this as an excuse for sloppy management, but in fact - if you can persuade the powers that be - it is a highly rational strategy. It gives the transport department freedom to do pretty much anything it wants, whenever it wants - and avoid robust political or public accountability. Interestingly, I found that District Plan provisions relating to the management of adverse effects from transport projects, are almost entirely non-existent. "We need flexibility. We can't be notifying what we want to do every five minutes...", was the refrain. In the old colonial days this might have been appropriate behaviour. But today - when regenerating a central area of the city - engine room or not - this sort of behaviour is not acceptable and it is very much against the purpose and principles of the Local Government Act. End of that Reflection.

The redevelopment of Downtown West presents enormous development opportunities. It also presents opportunities to create a piece of city with remarkable public spaces and places. But those opportunities inevitably conflict with private development opportunities and desires, and they also conflict with the need to provide for transport needs. It is unhelpful to wish these conflicts away with wishful "integration" thinking, and by minimising public engagement and putting all hopes and trust in the hands of a few urban design professionals unable to put hand on heart and say they agree what "good urban design" actually is. Because there is no such thing. There might be a process. However, in every urban regeneration project someone loses, and someone gains. These gains and loses are measurable - particularly loses in public space and pedestrian amenity - even if the goodness of urban design is not.

It is because these gains and loses are measurable that it is dishonest to wish those issues away and hope for the best with an integration process reliant on deals being made between Council (Auckland Transport) and the private developer. Some may argue that this is a good example of a PPP - a Public Private Partnership. But unless the goals and ideals and objectives of unhindered and freely accessible and useable public spaces are fully integrated into the planning processes - this PPP has to be seen for what it is: a deal between a private investor and a publicly owned institution that has - so far - excluded wider public interests.

Facts supporting this criticism are hard to find, because little has been public notified. Setting aside the CRL which is underground, and putting the poorly managed sale of QE Square aside as well, there are a number of transport infrastructures and activities that will have significant adverse effects. I understand that Precinct want a three lane wide entry and exit crossing into Lower Albert Street. Assuming the underground parking provision doubles on the site, both for private cars and for commercial vehicle movements, that footpath crossing will be dangerous. It will have the movements of a side street. The quid pro-quo for this, the deal between Precinct and Auckland Transport - we'll help you if you help us, lies in the detail of how Auckland Transport proposes to replace the bus interchange infrastructure that is presently located in Lower Queen Street. Vague drawings were shown in the Downtown Framework - but these were widely criticised as being inadequate and unspecfic (consistent with the need for "flexibility"). Where will all this infrastructure be placed? What will it do to Lower Albert Street? What will it do to the small streets within Britomart? And what will it do for the pedestrian amenity and endangered public spaces?

Looks like the engine-room will be filled with engines.

That's the sort of outcome that is the risk of a planning process that does not properly integrate and include public ideas, aspirations and interests, and which does not honestly do the calculus of who gains and who loses with the various options under consideration, and those which are not. Yet.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Coming to a Waterfront near you!




This is the Holcim Cement storage silo that's currently under construction on Timaru's waterfront. As I drove into Timaru on State Highway 1 I became aware of this massive presence on the skyline. Wondered what it was. Drove down, and there it is. Nine or Ten stories high - and as I understand it - a similar one has been consented (non-notified of course) on Auckland's waterfront, and will be constructed under contract to Ports of Auckland Ltd. At least in Timaru the location is separated from urban Timaru by quite a bit of transport infrastructure, and the housing that directly views the structure, is built atop a cliff about six stories high (next to the railway line). 

The same is not true in Auckland. POAL's Holcim Silo will be directly in front of the Quay Park buildings. It is a massive mono structure.

In Timaru, seems like no-one really knew what it was going to be like. Then suddenly it was up, and everyone took a deep breath. Many were shocked. 

There are significant visual effects associated with a mono structure of this scale. It is at odds with the fine grain architecture of the heritage buildings along Quay Street. And even the articulation of Quay Towers will be swamped. Maybe it's a future mural site for Auckland imagery for visiting cruise ships.    
If it was felt an expansion of Bledisloe wharf would affect views and waterfront amenity - look twice at this proposal which has been consented. POAL's strategy of rationalising Onehunga operations to downtown Auckland is problematic. This is not a good look for the Auckland waterfront.      





Monday, June 29, 2015

Lesson: Public Principles of Waterfront Development

More than twenty years ago Wellington citizens lost confidence in the institutions entrusted with redeveloping the Wellington waterfront. Among other things community concern led Wellington Council to establish a Community Consultation Committee. This posting contains the main recommendations of that Committee Consultation, with a few Auckland comments from me (NB: Wellington "waterfront" comprises land that was reclaimed for port and related purposes, and which became surplus with containerisation - its equivalent in Auckland comprises reclaimed land north of Custom Street including the Downtown Precinct)....


The Committee made a 100 specific recommendations which were presented to Wellington City Council and Lambton Harbour Development Ltd (Wellington's equivalent of Auckland's Waterftont Development Agency, which - in Wellington's case had responsibilities for most of the land that had been reclaimed by the Wellington Harbour Board and was deemed surplus to WHB requirements). A selection of these 100 recommendations were deemed "key outcomes" relating to the creation of a public environment concept for the whole Wellington waterfront area.

These are listed below. I have numbered recommendations which I think are lessons for Auckland, and which we should take seriously, before we lose the opportunity to create and develop public spaces across our waterfront.....


The first recommendation here was a predictable response from a community that was seeing plans emerge for private highrise developments of various shapes and sizes first up, with very little emphasis being put on public amenity. The recommendation numbered "2" is a clear call for public space design to be prioritised before private developments could occur (recall the land was all in public ownership - having been transferred from Wellington Harbour Board - much the same was the case with Downtown Auckland, Viaduct, Wynyard Quarter etc.)

Recommendation "3" is for public space at ground level (ie not at level 2 as we see has happened on Princes Wharf - where public space is easily confused with Hilton Hotel private space). It is also a call for public space - not public "oriented space" or "pedestrian oriented space". It is a call for public space at ground level.

Recommendation "4" clearly emphasises the  provision of public space for pedestrians - not for vehicles. Consider Auckland's Princes Wharf where the "30% of public space" is almost entirely taken up with roads for cars and parking for cars. Consider also Auckland's Queens Wharf. Much of it is now taken up with parked cars - we complain and protest bitterly about Captain Cook and Bledisloe Wharves being used as imported vehicle carparks - but quietly accede to them parking on hard won waterfront public space. Not so in Wellington.

And recommendation "5" speaks about views to the water being protected. For some reason unbeknownst to me Aucklanders have agreed to lose waterfront views through a Hilton Hotel on Princes Wharf, and to an America's Cup monolith on Hobson Wharf. But thankfully Auckland Council has stepped up lately with provisions to protect views from the end of Queens Wharf.


The recommendation I have labelled "6" is an interesting one for Auckland where we have Auckland Transport pushing hard for a tram/light-rail link running along Quay Street, round the corner into Lower Queen Street, and up into Queen Street. Such a service has obvious attractions - but it also has major detractions - as recognised by the Wellington community consultation. They advocated that it should NOT travel along Wellington's equivalent of Quay Street.

You can see aspect of what emerged in Wellington waterfront planning AFTER this community consultation in this posting. Scroll down to the Community Consultation section. You will see some images from the public space design concept that was then produced under Wellington City Council leadership (very different from the economic growth emphasis that has driven the creation of Auckland's Downtown Framework.)

What was very important was the call from this consultation that there be matching changes implemented in the Wellington City Planning Schemes (note "7" above). These changes were built into a new planning document known as The Wellington Waterfront Development Framework, which was then incorporated into the relevant planning scheme by Variation 22.

Suffice to say that NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS HAPPENED IN AUCKLAND for its Downtown area, nor for Queens Wharf.

And before I leave this posting, a few of the more detailed recommendations that came out of Wellington's Community Consultation about transport:


Of note again is the strict removal of car-parking, and the robust calls emphasising pedestrian experiences. These are among the planning moves which set Wellington's waterfront apart from Auckland today. It is not too late. The lesson is though - that to get something in Auckland that approaches Wellington's waterfront amenity, we need to plan for it explicitly.
It won't happen otherwise.

Averages fail in Affordability Analysis

It's mid-year at University and I have just finished teaching a second year urban planning course exploring the use of quantitative and qualitative research methods. One of the main case studies was the matter of housing affordability in New Zealand - and Auckland in particular.

Students had access to the same data that is available to Demographia (for example) and other research institutions. These slides give a flavour of the studio activity....

As you might expect, the student group (average age 20 or so) had little experience of home-ownership. Their responses to this are of interest however. Recall that they were working with house sales data that is about a year out of date. I have reproduced some of these rough activity memos unedited here. Part of the teaching was to explain and show that census data, and the use of medians and averages, can conceal information that is more useful than headline seeking statistics. Averages, medians and other descriptive statistics can be useful, but - and this is especially the case in Auckland - they hide the community level reality, that it is specific areas of Auckland that are experiencing high price increases (because of schools, views, and other amenities), and that there are other areas that are not experiencing those same increases.

Group 1

There is a relatively small amount of housing available under your set limit of $260,000 in Auckland. Of 28,394 dwelling sales in Auckland in 2013, 2035 had a net sales price (Price excluding chattels) less than this threshold. This means you may need to look around extensively for housing under this amount, and may have to be willing to make compromises on size and/or location. In order to determine the best locations for you to purchase a small house we used the following criteria; the dwelling must be over 60m2 to allow for multiple bedrooms, have good condition building and roof construction to try minimize ongoing and future maintenance costs, and have over 10 units sold in the suburb to give an indication of availability. We have discounted Auckland Central as the housing stock in this location tends to be apartments with smaller floor areas, which may not be ideal for your future lifestyle. Out of 2035 sales under $260,000, 1459 were stated to have both good roof and construction quality, so we decided to narrow this down by suburb to determine which ones best met the floor area criteria, and had sufficient sale numbers to satisfy our last criteria. We have found five suburbs as an example that meet all the criteria. They are Grey Lynn and Eden Terrace in Central Auckland, New Lynn in the west and Papatoetoe and Randwick Park in the south. Housing in this price bracket is much more common in the southern suburbs, with 67 properties sold in Papatoetoe and Randwick Park compared to 37 in Grey Lynn and Eden Terrace and 14 in western New Lynn.

In the southern two suburbs you will be able to afford a slightly larger house, generally detached, with more land (There is a median floor area of 80m2 in Randwick Park and 74.5 in Papatoetoe) however, the location may be lacking in amenities and infrastructure, with the potential for longer commutes depending on where you work. In the central suburbs you will not necessarily be able to afford as large a dwelling, with floor areas generally between 60 and 70m2, and you will be more likely to only be able to afford a terrace or an apartment as opposed to a detached house, but you will be closer to the CBD, with better access to social amenities and infrastructure.

Recommendation:
If you are looking for location but a smaller house, search around the Grey Lynn/Eden Terrace area, but if you want to be able to afford a bigger house, then look south.

Group 2


Housing Options for our Client Couple:
• There are limited options in Auckland for couples buying a house with a small budget of $260,000, but we were confident we could find an option, even if it was very limited.
• Firstly we decided to look at the suburbs that were repeated throughout the house sales data that sold for under $260,000
• We found two patterns:
The Central City;  Outlying Southern and Western suburbs

OPTION ONE: THE CENTRAL CITY
• The first pattern we found was evident in the house sales data 2013
• Single Units in the Central City were very common at this low price.
• A total of 980 sales were found in the data matching the criteria of a single or multi unit within the price range of $260,000
• However, we also noticed the size of these unit were very small with a median floor area of 38m squared.
• The building and roof conditions were mostly in good condition with few in average condition.
• This option suggests that most of the units are small studio or one-bedroom apartments in the inner city. This could be an option for a professional couple, but would not be ideal for a couple looking to start a family.

OPTION TWO: OUTER WESTERN AND SOUTHERN SUBURBS
• We found that there were an even mix of single and multi-unit dwellings in these areas.
• We noticed that the median size of these units which were primarily within outer Western and Southern suburbs such as Randwick Park, Papakura, Ranui, Manurewa, Mangere and Kelston amongst others, was 70m squared.
• The building and roof conditions of these units were a relatively even balance of good and average condition.
• This option suggest that most of the units are small 2 bedroom dwellings, which would enable the couple the opportunity to start a small family, and live slightly more comfortably within their means.
• Within the data of dwellings below $260,000 there was a small collection of options within the central (not including central Auckland) suburbs, such as Grafton, Eden Terrace and Parnell. These however were generally quite a bit smaller than the dwellings offered in the far west and south suburbs, e.g roughly 45m squared – a mix of studios and one bedrooms.
• Within this dataset displays that there are quite a lot of options above 90m squared which therefore takes into account larger 3 and 4 bedroom dwellings. As a couple without kids, houses of this size are arguably unnecessary unless they have a definite intention on starting a family with the ability to accommodate comfortable living space.
• The main factor that must be taken into account however is the lifestyle cost of travelling to and from the CBD to these outer if they were to be working there. On the other hand if they are both able to find work in these respective western or southern suburbs this option would be much more affordable in lifestyle costs.

Through this brief assessment of the house sales database 2013, we have given this couple 2 different housing options, for which they can chose based on their work, future family plans and general lifestyles and preferences, within the spectrum up to $260,000.

Group 3

Buying an affordable home in Auckland

A typical couple in their late 20’s whose joint income is $51,000 (after tax) are looking to purchase their first home in Auckland working with a budget of $260,000. While the majority of homes in Auckland are severely unaffordable, there are still available options for those with small purchasing power.

They are searching for a home that meets certain requirements:
• Being relatively affordable
• Is an appropriate typology. i.e. bungalow, unit, apartment, townhouse, etc
• Is new or in good condition
• Is located in Auckland

We have used the New Zealand House Sale Database 2013 to determine which suburbs contain homes which meet these requirements. To achieve this, we sampled four different suburbs across Auckland – Albany, Henderson, New Lynn and Weymouth.

Of all the suitable houses, the price ranges for the building typologies are as follows;
- Apartments $203,000-$226,000
- Post-War Bungalows $167,000-$260,000
- Units $232,500-$255,000
- Townhouses $223,000-$235,000
- Terrace Apartments $259,000

Albany
- 22 houses that were in good condition and under $260,000
- They were split into the following typologies
o 9 Post-War Bungalows
o 8 Units
o 3 Apartments
o 2 Townhouses

Henderson
- 31 houses that were in good condition and under $260,000
- They were split into the following typologies
o 30 Post-War Bungalows
o 1 Unit

New Lynn
- 22 houses that were in good condition and under $260,000
- They were split into the following typologies
o 18 Post-War Bungalows
o 2 Units
o 1 Apartment
o 1 Terrace Apartment

Weymouth
- 30 houses that were in good condition and under $260,000
- They were split into the following typologies
o 30 Post-War Bungalows

Group 4


Housing Affordability in Auckland
Given that the couple roughly pay $260 to $350 each week for rent, this means they are paying approximately $13,500 to $18,000 each year. On the other hand, if they decide to get a mortgage of $260,000 with a fixed interest rate 5 percent each year, they will have to pay approximately $17,000 in the first year with $13,000 as interest and $4,000 as capital. Given that the interest rate is fixed and the capital will gradually decrease with more and more mortgage repayment, the total amount that the couple has to pay each year will gradually decrease as well. Therefore, it is better to take the mortgage option, because the couple are eventually paying for a future investment.

First, we will investigate the number of house with a net house sale price equal or below to $260,000, good building condition and good roof condition. It is important to take into account the condition of the building and roof, because poor quality would eventually lead to more unnecessary money spent on maintenance. The initial result shows that there are approximately 1,483 houses that fit all of the criteria. Given that the couple wants to live a small home, we have decided to add in a floor area criteria as well, which will be 50m2 to 150m2. The result shows that there are approximately 310 houses with a floor area between 50m2 and 100m2. Only 21 houses have a floor area larger than 100m2. So, out of the 28393 Auckland house sales that occurred in 2013, only 331 houses fit the criteria, which is only 1.17 percent of the total number of house sold. Therefore, we believe that unless we lower criteria such as building condition and roof condition, it is very difficult to find a house that fit the ideal criteria. However, this would mean the couple might have to take some risks with their houses, as lower quality housing means high potential maintenance cost.

With a lower criteria, we managed to find 1922 houses, so 6.77 percent of the total number of house sold, which is still not very promising.

Just a flavour.

Lesson: Protecting Waterfront Public Space

This is Waitangi Park on Wellington's waterfront. In 1995, the area that is now Waitangi Park was part of the infamous "Variation 17" proposals by Wellington City Council which threatened high-rise apartment blocks all over the area in the photo.

It's not the same as what's being proposed for QE Square in Auckland. But there are similarities, particularly the loss of waterfront public space for development. And the method used: a Plan Change.

Waterfront Watch with public support finally helped to defeat those proposals in April 2000, and together have managed to project the community's vision of the waterfront in the now widely-acclaimed Waitangi Park. Throughout this period Waterfront Watch has enjoyed massive public support:
  • 1996: WW presents a petition to Council signed by more than 10,000 people opposing big new buildings on the waterfront.
  • 1996: WW commissions professional market research company to find out what Wellingtonians want. 90% want buildings to be restricted and wants lots of open space.
  • 1996: 800 people attend a meeting held by Lambton Harbour Management (precursor to Wellington Waterfront Limited) where they vote against plans for new buildings and they specifically vote for a park at Chaffers free of buildings (now Waitangi Park).
  • 1997: Council survey, professionally run, shows a majority preference for more parks and residential areas on the waterfront and 70% state their belief that only minimal residential or commerical development should be allowed on the waterfront.
  • 1998: City Voice (weekly newspaper) carries a professionally run survey in which 70% state their wish for a 100% park at Chaffers.
  • 2000: Wellington Town Hall packed with 2000 citizens protesting against Variation 17. Meeting passed unanimous resolutions opposing buildings on the waterfront and demanding the retention of public open space and views.
  • 2000: Petition with 12,000 signatures opposing new buildings on the waterfront presented to Council.
  • 2000: 2,400 submissions from the public in opposition to Variation 17. Of 932 submissions on Chaffers Park, only 3% supported new buildings on the Park.

Variation 17 (Wellington City Council's Plan Change to effectively commercialise public space) was withdrawn by Wellington City Council. And as you can see - the area has been retained as public space. Some are critical of the designs used in the public space, others support. But what is often not recognised is that the space is likely to remain as public space in perpetuity, and it's always possible to try different designs in future - budget and spirit willing. But once it's gone - it's gone.


Bottle it and Coin it

There's a public discussion going on about bottled milk prices. It's interesting partly because there's not also a debate about bottled water prices. One of my favorite lectures with planning students is about  the cost of infrastructure to service the needs of a typical Auckland house. These are network services including: transport, electricity, telecommunications, and of course water, wastewater and stormwater. An interlude in this lecture is the price of water. Most students know how much it costs to buy bottled water. Half of them have a bottle on the desk as they take notes. $2.99/750ml Pump - $4 a litre.

I ask them how much it costs for household water in Auckland? For a cubic metre. That's after getting them to figure out how many litres there are in a cubic metre. Then it's hands up those who reckon a cubic metre would cost more than $1000 - you'd be surprised how many think that. And so it goes.

What's the difference between a litre of bottled water and a litre of milk?

In terms of price, this is what I find at my local New World supermarket:
  • Today 2 litres of light blue, or dark blue milk was $4.06. (Remember, Pump retails at $4:00/litre.)
  • So bottled water costs twice as much as bottled milk.

But that's not what's really interesting. What's really interesting is the difference in food value for every dollar spent on bottled New Zealand milk compared with New Zealand butter. The image below shows the food value of bottled water, according to Wikipedia:

You get the idea. In terms of calories, fats, sodium, carbohydrate, vitamins, all of these things - a big fat zero in bottled water Which is what you'd expect..

What triggered this posting was not so much that there's a debate in NZ about the price of milk. It was when I saw on TV - in the Dancing with the Stars ad breaks - that a supermarket was selling New Zealand butter for $3.87 for half a kilo (500gms - or about a pound weight).

Butter is - pretty much - concentrated cream, concentrated butter fat. It is where the food value from grass, eaten by cows, converted to milk fats, largely ends up in the Fonterra food chain. It also ends up in the baby foods and other concentrated, high energy, high butter fat, high food value products.

But it certainly doesn't end up in our milk.

If you buy a litre (kilo in weight) of Trim Milk, it contains just 1 gram of fat, and 370 calories of energy. If you buy milk with added calcium, it contains 2 gram of fat and the equivalent of 460 calories of energy. This milk costs around $2.43/ litre (kilo in weight - since a 2 litre bottle costs $4.86)). (NB: the less food and energy value/litre, the more you pay.)

If you buy butter however, which is almost 80% milk fats, it contains 814 grams of fat per kilo, and a whopping 7,250 calories of energy equivalent. And at the TV price it costs under $8.00/kilo.

Weird world really.

Boils down to this. If you want your energy from milk (in terms of calories), then you'll pay 5x as much as you would if you took the same amount of energy from butter. And if you wanted some food value from butter fats, and you think you'll get that from Trim Milk, then you'll pay 200x more than if you get that food value from butter. (I know that's a strange example - because you do expect little butter fat in Trim Milk.)

I guess you could say that you get what you pay for. Seems like the less food value that is contained in milk the more you pay for that milk. And the more food value that is contained in other dairy products (like butter and cream), the less you pay for it.

Water - added water - is the new gold. Not forgetting the corporate branding and the corporate bottle.

Friday, June 19, 2015

High Court Quashes Bledisloe Consents!

Justice Venning's decision on Urban Auckland's judicial review application has been released at 4:00 today.

Recall that Urban Auckland argued that the consent applications to extend Bledisloe Wharf (B2 and B3) should have been notified, and also that the various consents that made up each of these applications should have been bundled and decided together (among other things).

In summary, Justice Venning judged (with my emphasis in bold:


[190] The decision to proceed without notification was flawed for two reasons:
(a) The applications for consent should have been bundled which would have required notification, as the most restrictive activity was a discretionary activity. The adverse effects identified by Urban Auckland will fall to be considered.
(b) Alternatively, special circumstances existed which required notification in this case. The Commissioners fell into error in determining that because the extension was a controlled activity and an expected development no special circumstances existed so that it was unnecessary to notify in any event.

[191] The consents issued on a non-notified basis are set aside.

Of interest, in response to POAL's submissions that costs would be incurred should the court decide to set aside the resource consents (and which POAL is relying upon right now to extend B2), Justice Venning judged:

[187] Mr Farmer then made a number of submissions emphasising the cost and commercial imperative in this case and the effect on third party contractors. I accept the significance of that to the POAL. He also referred to a number of matters which have been discussed above and submitted that there would be little point achieved by notification. However, the same reasons which support notification in this case, also support the grant of relief. I accept there would be no point in setting the consents aside and requiring notification if there is no purpose to it, but for the reasons given above I consider there will be purpose. It may well be that ultimately the consents are granted but that should follow the proper process contemplated by the RMA on the facts of this case.
[188] To the extent that there will be further delay and cost to POAL it has to a degree brought that on itself in the way that it urged the Council to proceed on the non-notified basis in the knowledge of the reaction that was likely to engender. In doing so it took a commercial risk in proceeding in that way. 
[189] The cost and commercial imperative in requiring notification is a significant factor, but it cannot override the legal requirement for non notification which the Court has concluded is applicable in this case. 

A great result for the public of Auckland, and for public participation.
Download the full decision here.



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Urban Auckland Vs Council and POAL

The decision from Justice Venning is expected sometime this week in the matter of the High Court Judicial Review proceedings triggered by Urban Auckland in regard to the lawfulness of the B2 and B3 Bledisloe Wharf extension consents.

This posting provides access to some of the evidence that was provided to the Court.

I provide highlights here extracted from selected affidavits, and links to the original affidavits (in some cases without their exhibit annexures - because of problems of space!).

First up the affidavits from Urban Auckland, which were in support of the Statement of Claim and the various causes of action. There were 8 of these:

Julie Stout for Urban Auckland (Chair, Urban Auckland)

15. Ms Halpin says the B2 and B3 extensions will be “barely perceptible”. I disagree with this analysis. The impact is obvious from a simple “before and after” of the B3 extension on Queens Wharf (Annexure 3). Once constructed, B2 and B3 will jut out into the harbour. Both structures (especially B3) will affect public enjoyment and appreciation of waterfront spaces and the amenity values of the Harbour for all Aucklanders.

16. POAL provided no visual assessment of the B2 and B3 extensions from public viewing points. Ms Halpin did no analysis and sought no independent assessment to substantiate her position of a “barely perceptible” effect. The decisions by Commissioners Macky and Kaye to approve B2 and B3 contain no detail on visual and amenity effects to the waterfront. This is surprising to me considering that they had to be satisfied that the effects on the environment of the extensions would be no more than minor.

17. In my experience as an architect, a site visit is essential to assess potential visual and amenity effects. There is no evidence that Ms Halpin or any other report-writers visited the site and its’ surroundings to view the impact, before writing their reports. Commissioners Macky and Kaye appear not to have done a site visit either (by reference to their Duty Commissioner record sheets (attached and marked “JS4”)).

18. The visual and amenity effects of the B2 and B3 extensions will be significant. Another part of Auckland’s vista over the waterfront from public spaces will be lost. A further step in POAL’s well-known plans for reclamation (Exhibit JS3) will be taken. All this will be done without any scope for public input.

19. Urban Auckland will, as part of these proceedings, commission additional expert landscape evidence (Mr Gavin Lister) to demonstrate the kind of information that Council could (and should) have required when assessing the visual and amenity impacts of the B2 and B3 extensions.

See the full affidavit here.

Gavin Lister for Urban Auckland (Landscape Architect)


20. The end of the B3 extension will intercept the line-of-sight to Devonport Wharf (i.e. Victoria Road Wharf), blocking views of the water beyond this line. It will effectively block views of the eastern end of the harbour, the harbour entrance, and the outer Waitematā.

21. The B2 extension by itself would extend roughly half way across the current view of the harbour entrance.

22. The B3 wharf extension will also enclose Queens Wharf within a basin so that the current experience of the harbour proper will be lost. Queens Wharf’s prominence as the principal axis between main street and harbour will be weakened.

23. Such effects will be caused by the wharf structures themselves, but will be exacerbated by any cargo stored on the wharfs and ships berthed at the wharf extensions.

24. To explain it another way, the worst place to build a new structure in the port precinct in terms of visual effects from Queens Wharf is the location of the B3 extension. The B2 extension also adversely impacts views from Queens Wharf, although the effect is not as pronounced as B3.

See the full affidavit here.

Andrew Anderson (RNZYS) for Urban Auckland (Commodore)

See the full affidavit here.

Cedric Owen for Urban Auckland (Statutory Planner)


46. Where more than one activity is involved and those activities are inextricably linked, the general rule is that the activities should be bundled and the most restrictive activity classification applied to the overall proposal.

47. Splitting the proposal into its separate applications for the purposes of notification and assessment of effects could lead to the unsatisfactory outcome that the Council fail to look at a proposal in the whole and do not consider possible interrelated or cumulative effects. Integrated management (looking at all consents jointly) is especially important in the coastal environment from my experience.

48. In this case a number of resource consents are required under three separate regional plans: two operative and one proposed.

49. The applications have been separated out by POAL into separate applications, not just in terms of different aspects of the activity under the Coastal Plan and ALW Plan, but also in respect of the operative regional plans (Coastal Plan and ALW Plan) and the Proposed Plan.

50. The most restrictive of these consents requirements is that of a discretionary activity. However, this consent status is effectively ‘siloed’ from the other consent requirements for the same structure by the approach requested by POAL (via Bentley), and acceded to by the Council processing officers. I refer here to the splitting of the B2 application into the separate B2.1 and B2.2 applications. The same approach is also adopted for the B3 application.

See full affidavit here.

Graeme Scott (Chair Auckland Urban Design Forum)

9.  One of the understandings arising out of the development of the Proposed Unitary Plan was that the inner harbour is the key open space in the central city, and I would suggest an extension of this principle to conclude that the wider harbour is the defining open space of Auckland. The viewshaft linking these two parts of the harbour from what will become the city’s landmark viewpoint at the end of Queens Wharf demands urgent protection.


10.  I have examined the photo-images prepared by Gavin Lister in his affidavit depicting the visual impact of the proposed extensions from both Prices Wharf and Queens Wharf. I confirm they accurately depict the blocking of the views from those viewpoints, and in particular the blocking of the view from the end of Queens Wharf of the harbour beyond Devonport toward the south as a result of the proposed extensions.

11.  I consider the proposed wharf extensions have significant negative visual effects on the important public view from Queen Wharf to the wider harbour beyond Devonport, and that urgent action is required to halt the extensions and to protect the view.

See full affidavit here.

Heather Shotter (Chair: Committee for Auckland)


5. The focus of this affidavit is on the issue of special circumstances, as these apply to Ports of Auckland Ltd’s (POAL’s) expansion within the waterfront and inner Waitemata Harbour. My understanding is that Council had the opportunity to publicly notify the B2 and B3 resource consent applications to extend Bledisloe Wharf, on the basis of “special circumstances”. ‘Special circumstances’ is undefined but responds to context, and involves unusual but not necessarily unique circumstances where it is appropriate to have public input.

6. The Committee’s position is that there are special circumstances and the B2 and B3 applications should have been publicly notified. There is a great deal of public debate, and policy work, that has been done in relation to future and best use of POAL’s occupation of the inner Waitemata Harbour. The Committee has actively participated in this debate, and has prepared several reports highlighting public interest in the very issue of extending POAL’s footprint into the Waitemata Harbour. Auckland Council and POAL are well aware of this debate, ongoing for a number of years. It is therefore a matter of surprise that special circumstances were not considered to exist. I produce below two reports prepared by the Committee, which speak to the public policy debate on POAL’s expansion plans.

See full affidavit here.

Ngarimu Blair (Ngati Whatua)


20. There is no mention that the new impervious surfaces would be extensions of existing wharves into the Waitemata.

21. It is obvious that the larger the wharf extensions, the greater the likelihood of impacting cultural sites, waahi tapu or other taonga. All iwi groups consulted would have relied upon POAL’s assurance. It is therefore of great concern that B2 and B3 (in combination) exceed the 3500m2 “additional impervious surface area”. If construction of B2 and B3 is allowed to proceed at this time, then POAL will be in breach of an important assurance given to Ngati Whatua Orakei and other iwi, both as to the extent of new surfaces and an understanding that new wharves, or extensions to existing wharves, were not involved.

22. As noted, consultation was limited to stormwater impacts of potential structures within the Port Precinct Area and how this might be mitigated through the TP10 standard. POAL did not disclose that other resource consents were required to construct structures in Port Precinct Area 1A. POAL did not consult on construction effects and opportunities for improved public access, including Captain Cook Wharf. Ngati Whatua Orakei has a policy of encouraging public access to its whenua at Orakei Marae and Takaparawhā. We would expect to be consulted on opportunities for improved public access, for example, to Captain Cook Wharf. This could include improved access by mana whenua (and tangata whenua) for cultural practices.

23. Consultation requires good faith discussions. Sufficient information must be provided by the consultor (POAL) so that the party being consulted (Ngati Whatua Orakei) can provide informed consent. POAL must have known about its intention to apply for the B2 and B3 extensions, as part of its overall plan for expanding the Bledisloe Wharf. It did not disclose those extensions. Had it done so, Ngati Whatua Orakei would have clearly identified the adverse cultural effects of doing so and would have required further information from POAL.

Full affidavit for Ngarimu here.

Joel Cayford (Planning Expert)


4.1 The B2 and B3 wharf extensions are controlled activities under the Auckland Regional Plan Coastal which contains a broad policy for controlled activities. The policy is:
25.4.7 Maintaining or enhancing the landscape and amenity links between the harbour, the port and adjacent areas, including the Central Business District.

4.2 There are rules and a single method to implement this policy. The method is:
26.6.1 That the ARC will liaise with Auckland City Council and Ports of Auckland Ltd on issues associated with any future development or expansion of the ports in Port Management Areas 1A and 1B, to encourage consistent management across administrative boundaries.

4.3 The foregoing chronology suggests that there has been some liaison at officer level – but only in a regulatory sense following the lodgement of the B2 and B3 extension applications. It is clear that Councillors were not involved in any liaison, especially not in regard to “issues” that had been debated in public and which are also canvassed earlier in this affidavit. The POAL consent applications for the B2 and B3 extensions – despite being regarded as contentious by many – were not even referred to Auckland Council’s Hearings Committee for consideration, despite Council’s Hearings Policy. The explanation given for the method gives a fuller account of why the policy writers felt the method was necessary:
26.7.2 Maintaining liaison between the ARC, Auckland City Council, and Ports of Auckland Ltd complements the objectives, policies and rules and is important because of the potentially significant cultural, social, economic, and environmental implications of port expansion for the port company, the downtown area, and the Auckland Region.

4.4 This recognises the significant social and cultural implications of port expansion for Auckland, the downtown area and the port company itself, and in my opinion is a clear policy signal that any expansion proposals advanced without evidence of Council liaison will need careful assessment, including for notification purposes, and particularly the special circumstances notification discretion.

4.5 In that regard, I consider there were four obvious special circumstances that at least needed detailed evaluation (which did not take place) in the context of considering how to process the applications (i.e., notified or non-notified).

4.6 The first of these relates to the fact that Queens Wharf had been brought into public ownership (like Wynyard Quarter), but without any plan change that would have allowed the implications of that change in ownership and status to be reflected in the Auckland Regional Plan: Coastal.

4.7 For example, as noted above in the Matthews and Matthews Heritage Assessment of Queens Wharf and Sheds which advises: “Views from along the centre of Queens Wharf back to Queen Street and towards the Waitemata harbour are important.” I consider that a plan change would likely have protected this view shaft. The heritage assessment notes that in relation to its landmark quality, Matthews and Matthews advise: “Queens Wharf occupies a prominent position when approaching Auckland and the ferry terminals from the harbour.” Again, this suggests that being able to see Queens Wharf and its structure while approaching from the water is another view that needs some form of protection or recognition. This is a special circumstance that did not exist until the study had been carried out and which was triggered by the purchase of Queens Wharf.

4.8 The second special circumstance relates to the fact that Queens Wharf, as noted in the chronology above for December 2010, was listed as a Category 1 Historic Place by Heritage New Zealand. It is likely that the Historic Places Trust would have been treated as a potentially affected person in relation to any activity that would potentially affect the heritage character and amenity of Queens Wharf, if this matter had been identified and considered. In any case such a significant listing should be regarded as a special circumstance leading to notification in my view.

4.9 The third special circumstance relates to the fact that it appears from the chronology that POAL and Auckland Council were clearly aware that POAL’s intention was to infill between B2 and B3 in order to achieve an objective that it has articulated consistently since 1989 - to expand Bledisloe Wharf north by reclamation, and that B2 and B3 extensions were clearly a means to that end.

4.10 The fourth special circumstance is that Council, in recognition of overwhelming public concern expressed over port expansion plans in the last 3 years, had adopted the non-complying rule for reclamation in the draft Unitary Plan. This surely was an indication that there was very significant public interest in any development that would enable, or be by itself, an expansion of Bledisloe Wharf into Waitemata Harbour. It was surely a good reason to notify these consent applications – preferably together, but at the very least one at a time.

Full affidavit here.

Evidence in Reply

These affidavits and Urban Auckland's Statement of Claim were responded to by POAL and Auckland Council. Auckland Council provided affidavits from Jennifer Valentine the main officer responsible for processing the B2 and B3 resource consent applications, and also from the two independent commissioners engaged to decide the applications.

Jennifer Valentine (Council Resource Consent Processing Officer)

Full Jennifer Valentine affidavit here.

POAL provided several affidavits to support its defence, including evidence (with commercial detail redacted) from the contractor POAL has engaged to carry out the B2 and B3 extension projects. I have confined my interest in this posting to the affidavits I engaged with most closely, and they were those by Alistair Kirk who is the General Manager Infrastructure and Property for POAL, and by Mark Arbuthnot, Principal Planner at Bentley and Co which was engaged by POAL to assist it with resource consent applications. First of all an extract from Kirk's affidavit:

Alistair Kirk: General Manager POAL

Full Kirk affidavit here (minus exhibits).

An extract from the comprehensive and lenghty affidavit of Arbuthnot:

Mark Arbuthnot: Engaged as Principal Planner for POAL

Full affidavit of Mark Arbuthnot is here.

It has been a very interesting process. Urban Auckland's team ended its role in the process by filing affidavits in reply to those from Auckland Council and Ports of Auckland. I'll end this with an extract from my reply.

Joel Cayford in reply


8. At paragraph 102 Mr Kirk states: “Queens Wharf was released to enable its development as a cruise ship terminal and as fan zone for 2011 Rugby World Cup, not for its public views. Queens Wharf remains an operational wharf and access is restricted when cruise ships are berthed…”. I was an Auckland Regional Councillor at the time ARC allocated $20,000,000 to purchase its 50% share of Queens Wharf and I attended all of the related Council meetings and public occasions and do not agree with this statement. For example it is a matter of public record that the northern end of Queens Wharf cannot now be used to berth ships in recognition of the need to provide for unrestricted views and for recreational fishing and other activities, and that these public activities continue to be available even when a cruise ship is berthed at Queens Wharf.

And so it goes. You can see my reply here.

The judicial review court hearing largely revolved around the legal submissions prepared by and for the QC's who acted as Counsel for Urban Auckland, POAL and Auckland Council. I will give some consideration to posting those submissions at a later date. However the written versions of these submissions - while they are of interest and comprehensive - don't necessarily portray the main arguments taking up court time and attracting interest and debate between Counsel and the Judge, though they are on the table - along with the evidence - as the judge writes his decision.

We await the decision with interest.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

City Centre Integration

Auckland's Downtown Planning - or selective planning - is a cause of concern. It's not just that Auckland Transport and its arms length "City Centre Integration" team are occupying top dollar office accommodation in the HSBC and Zurich Towers - though associating with high end commercial business and away from what happens on the ground can be problematic and have perception risks. Tempting to take rent deals in exchange perhaps. It is symbolic of the kind of integration that is happening. It is an indication of the priorities for integration that are happening in the "engine-room" of Auckland (Council's 2032 vision is for the Engine Room to: … Auckland’s CBD, or Engine Room, is critical to New Zealand’s economy.)

Reflection: During my time at the ARC, legislation created Auckland Regional Holdings (ARH) and Auckland Regional Transport Agency (ARTA). This happened in 2004 - the year I was elected onto ARC. My responsibilities were in the transport space. An interesting thing happened. Senior staff of ARH decided that the Pitt Street offices of the ARC weren't salubrious enough, and so they took themselves off and found designer office space on the waterfront. Us minions didn't get to know about it for a while, but I remember Chairman Mike Lee took up the cudgel as only he can, and after a few months we got them back in house. ARH was in charge of about a billion dollars worth of public assets, including a load of cash, and Ports of Auckland Ltd. The feeling was that this treasury arm of Council needed to be close its governing body, accountable for its actions, and not too independent. Another experience came with Watercare. I was on the Shareholder Representative Group (SRG) for a few years. It came to our attention that the management team of Watercare decided to set up office in superior offices the ASB building. Maybe to be close to investors at a time when privatisation was to the fore. Top consultancy Halcrow came out from UK and did an audit of Watercare to advise the SRG on ways Watercare could become more efficient. One of those recommendations was that Watercare didn't need city based top end HQ offices. Eventually they moved back to Newmarket. End of that reflection.

Highly visible development projects in the area of Downtown Auckland bounded by Quay Street, Lower Queen Street, Custom Street West, and Lower Albert include the underground CRL enabling works (tunnelling - and obviously all underground) and the proposed Precinct Tower at the corner of Lower Albert and Custom Street West. Public concern has been expressed about the potential loss of downtown public space that would be associated with Queen Elizabeth Square being sold for private development, without commensurate public space being provided in public compensation.

Less visible - so far - but nonetheless high impact projects that are part of this major urban regeneration project are those needed to handle surface transport demands. By this I mean infrastructure required to handle the private traffic movements required to meet the travel demands of the proposed Precinct development, AND the bus stop and interchange infrastructure that will be required to replace the public transport infrastructure that is to be removed from Lower Queen Street. So far, none of those projects - all of which have an enormous impact on the public domain (footpaths, pedestrian walkways, road space utilisation, impact on adjacent public spaces) - have been shown to the public. They haven't been notified. There has been no opportunity for public consultation. And as such - despite the words "integration" - the emphasis is very much on sorting out arrangements between a private developer and Auckland Transport. (like living together!)

Reflection: I was Deputy Chair and then Deputy Chair of North Shore City Council's (NSCC) Works and Environment Ctte. Half of its agenda and responsibilities related to transport and transport infrastructure. Interestingly, in my time, and without naming names, two of the key characters with high level responsibilities relating to City Centre Integration and Development were General Managers in charge of transport at NSCC. So I got to know their modis operandi pretty well. I hasten to add that it wasn't particular to them. It appears that Auckland's local road and transport behaviours are much the same across the region. What I learned over those years, and the years that have followed, is that local transport planning generally goes below the public radar. I learned that a key reason for this was to maintain flexibility in transport project planning and in budgeting. You could see this as an excuse for sloppy management, but in fact - if you can persuade the powers that be - it is a highly rational strategy. It gives the transport department freedom to do pretty much anything it wants, whenever it wants - and avoid robust political or public accountability. Interestingly, I found that District Plan provisions relating to the management of adverse effects from transport projects, are almost entirely non-existent. "We need flexibility. We can't be notifying what we want to do every five minutes...", was the refrain. In the old colonial days this might have been appropriate behaviour. But today - when regenerating a central area of the city - engine room or not - this sort of behaviour is not acceptable and it is very much against the purpose and principles of the Local Government Act. End of that Reflection.

The redevelopment of Downtown West presents enormous development opportunities. It also presents opportunities to create a piece of city with remarkable public spaces and places. But those opportunities inevitably conflict with private development opportunities and desires, and they also conflict with the need to provide for transport needs. It is unhelpful to wish these conflicts away with wishful "integration" thinking, and by minimising public engagement and putting all hopes and trust in the hands of a few urban design professionals unable to put hand on heart and say they agree what "good urban design" actually is. Because there is no such thing. There might be a process. However, in every urban regeneration project someone loses, and someone gains. These gains and loses are measurable - particularly loses in public space and pedestrian amenity - even if the goodness of urban design is not.

It is because these gains and loses are measurable that it is dishonest to wish those issues away and hope for the best with an integration process reliant on deals being made between Council (Auckland Transport) and the private developer. Some may argue that this is a good example of a PPP - a Public Private Partnership. But unless the goals and ideals and objectives of unhindered and freely accessible and useable public spaces are fully integrated into the planning processes - this PPP has to be seen for what it is: a deal between a private investor and a publicly owned institution that has - so far - excluded wider public interests.

Facts supporting this criticism are hard to find, because little has been public notified. Setting aside the CRL which is underground, and putting the poorly managed sale of QE Square aside as well, there are a number of transport infrastructures and activities that will have significant adverse effects. I understand that Precinct want a three lane wide entry and exit crossing into Lower Albert Street. Assuming the underground parking provision doubles on the site, both for private cars and for commercial vehicle movements, that footpath crossing will be dangerous. It will have the movements of a side street. The quid pro-quo for this, the deal between Precinct and Auckland Transport - we'll help you if you help us, lies in the detail of how Auckland Transport proposes to replace the bus interchange infrastructure that is presently located in Lower Queen Street. Vague drawings were shown in the Downtown Framework - but these were widely criticised as being inadequate and unspecfic (consistent with the need for "flexibility"). Where will all this infrastructure be placed? What will it do to Lower Albert Street? What will it do to the small streets within Britomart? And what will it do for the pedestrian amenity and endangered public spaces?

Looks like the engine-room will be filled with engines.

That's the sort of outcome that is the risk of a planning process that does not properly integrate and include public ideas, aspirations and interests, and which does not honestly do the calculus of who gains and who loses with the various options under consideration, and those which are not. Yet.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Coming to a Waterfront near you!




This is the Holcim Cement storage silo that's currently under construction on Timaru's waterfront. As I drove into Timaru on State Highway 1 I became aware of this massive presence on the skyline. Wondered what it was. Drove down, and there it is. Nine or Ten stories high - and as I understand it - a similar one has been consented (non-notified of course) on Auckland's waterfront, and will be constructed under contract to Ports of Auckland Ltd. At least in Timaru the location is separated from urban Timaru by quite a bit of transport infrastructure, and the housing that directly views the structure, is built atop a cliff about six stories high (next to the railway line). 

The same is not true in Auckland. POAL's Holcim Silo will be directly in front of the Quay Park buildings. It is a massive mono structure.

In Timaru, seems like no-one really knew what it was going to be like. Then suddenly it was up, and everyone took a deep breath. Many were shocked. 

There are significant visual effects associated with a mono structure of this scale. It is at odds with the fine grain architecture of the heritage buildings along Quay Street. And even the articulation of Quay Towers will be swamped. Maybe it's a future mural site for Auckland imagery for visiting cruise ships.    
If it was felt an expansion of Bledisloe wharf would affect views and waterfront amenity - look twice at this proposal which has been consented. POAL's strategy of rationalising Onehunga operations to downtown Auckland is problematic. This is not a good look for the Auckland waterfront.      





Monday, June 29, 2015

Lesson: Public Principles of Waterfront Development

More than twenty years ago Wellington citizens lost confidence in the institutions entrusted with redeveloping the Wellington waterfront. Among other things community concern led Wellington Council to establish a Community Consultation Committee. This posting contains the main recommendations of that Committee Consultation, with a few Auckland comments from me (NB: Wellington "waterfront" comprises land that was reclaimed for port and related purposes, and which became surplus with containerisation - its equivalent in Auckland comprises reclaimed land north of Custom Street including the Downtown Precinct)....


The Committee made a 100 specific recommendations which were presented to Wellington City Council and Lambton Harbour Development Ltd (Wellington's equivalent of Auckland's Waterftont Development Agency, which - in Wellington's case had responsibilities for most of the land that had been reclaimed by the Wellington Harbour Board and was deemed surplus to WHB requirements). A selection of these 100 recommendations were deemed "key outcomes" relating to the creation of a public environment concept for the whole Wellington waterfront area.

These are listed below. I have numbered recommendations which I think are lessons for Auckland, and which we should take seriously, before we lose the opportunity to create and develop public spaces across our waterfront.....


The first recommendation here was a predictable response from a community that was seeing plans emerge for private highrise developments of various shapes and sizes first up, with very little emphasis being put on public amenity. The recommendation numbered "2" is a clear call for public space design to be prioritised before private developments could occur (recall the land was all in public ownership - having been transferred from Wellington Harbour Board - much the same was the case with Downtown Auckland, Viaduct, Wynyard Quarter etc.)

Recommendation "3" is for public space at ground level (ie not at level 2 as we see has happened on Princes Wharf - where public space is easily confused with Hilton Hotel private space). It is also a call for public space - not public "oriented space" or "pedestrian oriented space". It is a call for public space at ground level.

Recommendation "4" clearly emphasises the  provision of public space for pedestrians - not for vehicles. Consider Auckland's Princes Wharf where the "30% of public space" is almost entirely taken up with roads for cars and parking for cars. Consider also Auckland's Queens Wharf. Much of it is now taken up with parked cars - we complain and protest bitterly about Captain Cook and Bledisloe Wharves being used as imported vehicle carparks - but quietly accede to them parking on hard won waterfront public space. Not so in Wellington.

And recommendation "5" speaks about views to the water being protected. For some reason unbeknownst to me Aucklanders have agreed to lose waterfront views through a Hilton Hotel on Princes Wharf, and to an America's Cup monolith on Hobson Wharf. But thankfully Auckland Council has stepped up lately with provisions to protect views from the end of Queens Wharf.


The recommendation I have labelled "6" is an interesting one for Auckland where we have Auckland Transport pushing hard for a tram/light-rail link running along Quay Street, round the corner into Lower Queen Street, and up into Queen Street. Such a service has obvious attractions - but it also has major detractions - as recognised by the Wellington community consultation. They advocated that it should NOT travel along Wellington's equivalent of Quay Street.

You can see aspect of what emerged in Wellington waterfront planning AFTER this community consultation in this posting. Scroll down to the Community Consultation section. You will see some images from the public space design concept that was then produced under Wellington City Council leadership (very different from the economic growth emphasis that has driven the creation of Auckland's Downtown Framework.)

What was very important was the call from this consultation that there be matching changes implemented in the Wellington City Planning Schemes (note "7" above). These changes were built into a new planning document known as The Wellington Waterfront Development Framework, which was then incorporated into the relevant planning scheme by Variation 22.

Suffice to say that NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS HAPPENED IN AUCKLAND for its Downtown area, nor for Queens Wharf.

And before I leave this posting, a few of the more detailed recommendations that came out of Wellington's Community Consultation about transport:


Of note again is the strict removal of car-parking, and the robust calls emphasising pedestrian experiences. These are among the planning moves which set Wellington's waterfront apart from Auckland today. It is not too late. The lesson is though - that to get something in Auckland that approaches Wellington's waterfront amenity, we need to plan for it explicitly.
It won't happen otherwise.

Averages fail in Affordability Analysis

It's mid-year at University and I have just finished teaching a second year urban planning course exploring the use of quantitative and qualitative research methods. One of the main case studies was the matter of housing affordability in New Zealand - and Auckland in particular.

Students had access to the same data that is available to Demographia (for example) and other research institutions. These slides give a flavour of the studio activity....

As you might expect, the student group (average age 20 or so) had little experience of home-ownership. Their responses to this are of interest however. Recall that they were working with house sales data that is about a year out of date. I have reproduced some of these rough activity memos unedited here. Part of the teaching was to explain and show that census data, and the use of medians and averages, can conceal information that is more useful than headline seeking statistics. Averages, medians and other descriptive statistics can be useful, but - and this is especially the case in Auckland - they hide the community level reality, that it is specific areas of Auckland that are experiencing high price increases (because of schools, views, and other amenities), and that there are other areas that are not experiencing those same increases.

Group 1

There is a relatively small amount of housing available under your set limit of $260,000 in Auckland. Of 28,394 dwelling sales in Auckland in 2013, 2035 had a net sales price (Price excluding chattels) less than this threshold. This means you may need to look around extensively for housing under this amount, and may have to be willing to make compromises on size and/or location. In order to determine the best locations for you to purchase a small house we used the following criteria; the dwelling must be over 60m2 to allow for multiple bedrooms, have good condition building and roof construction to try minimize ongoing and future maintenance costs, and have over 10 units sold in the suburb to give an indication of availability. We have discounted Auckland Central as the housing stock in this location tends to be apartments with smaller floor areas, which may not be ideal for your future lifestyle. Out of 2035 sales under $260,000, 1459 were stated to have both good roof and construction quality, so we decided to narrow this down by suburb to determine which ones best met the floor area criteria, and had sufficient sale numbers to satisfy our last criteria. We have found five suburbs as an example that meet all the criteria. They are Grey Lynn and Eden Terrace in Central Auckland, New Lynn in the west and Papatoetoe and Randwick Park in the south. Housing in this price bracket is much more common in the southern suburbs, with 67 properties sold in Papatoetoe and Randwick Park compared to 37 in Grey Lynn and Eden Terrace and 14 in western New Lynn.

In the southern two suburbs you will be able to afford a slightly larger house, generally detached, with more land (There is a median floor area of 80m2 in Randwick Park and 74.5 in Papatoetoe) however, the location may be lacking in amenities and infrastructure, with the potential for longer commutes depending on where you work. In the central suburbs you will not necessarily be able to afford as large a dwelling, with floor areas generally between 60 and 70m2, and you will be more likely to only be able to afford a terrace or an apartment as opposed to a detached house, but you will be closer to the CBD, with better access to social amenities and infrastructure.

Recommendation:
If you are looking for location but a smaller house, search around the Grey Lynn/Eden Terrace area, but if you want to be able to afford a bigger house, then look south.

Group 2


Housing Options for our Client Couple:
• There are limited options in Auckland for couples buying a house with a small budget of $260,000, but we were confident we could find an option, even if it was very limited.
• Firstly we decided to look at the suburbs that were repeated throughout the house sales data that sold for under $260,000
• We found two patterns:
The Central City;  Outlying Southern and Western suburbs

OPTION ONE: THE CENTRAL CITY
• The first pattern we found was evident in the house sales data 2013
• Single Units in the Central City were very common at this low price.
• A total of 980 sales were found in the data matching the criteria of a single or multi unit within the price range of $260,000
• However, we also noticed the size of these unit were very small with a median floor area of 38m squared.
• The building and roof conditions were mostly in good condition with few in average condition.
• This option suggests that most of the units are small studio or one-bedroom apartments in the inner city. This could be an option for a professional couple, but would not be ideal for a couple looking to start a family.

OPTION TWO: OUTER WESTERN AND SOUTHERN SUBURBS
• We found that there were an even mix of single and multi-unit dwellings in these areas.
• We noticed that the median size of these units which were primarily within outer Western and Southern suburbs such as Randwick Park, Papakura, Ranui, Manurewa, Mangere and Kelston amongst others, was 70m squared.
• The building and roof conditions of these units were a relatively even balance of good and average condition.
• This option suggest that most of the units are small 2 bedroom dwellings, which would enable the couple the opportunity to start a small family, and live slightly more comfortably within their means.
• Within the data of dwellings below $260,000 there was a small collection of options within the central (not including central Auckland) suburbs, such as Grafton, Eden Terrace and Parnell. These however were generally quite a bit smaller than the dwellings offered in the far west and south suburbs, e.g roughly 45m squared – a mix of studios and one bedrooms.
• Within this dataset displays that there are quite a lot of options above 90m squared which therefore takes into account larger 3 and 4 bedroom dwellings. As a couple without kids, houses of this size are arguably unnecessary unless they have a definite intention on starting a family with the ability to accommodate comfortable living space.
• The main factor that must be taken into account however is the lifestyle cost of travelling to and from the CBD to these outer if they were to be working there. On the other hand if they are both able to find work in these respective western or southern suburbs this option would be much more affordable in lifestyle costs.

Through this brief assessment of the house sales database 2013, we have given this couple 2 different housing options, for which they can chose based on their work, future family plans and general lifestyles and preferences, within the spectrum up to $260,000.

Group 3

Buying an affordable home in Auckland

A typical couple in their late 20’s whose joint income is $51,000 (after tax) are looking to purchase their first home in Auckland working with a budget of $260,000. While the majority of homes in Auckland are severely unaffordable, there are still available options for those with small purchasing power.

They are searching for a home that meets certain requirements:
• Being relatively affordable
• Is an appropriate typology. i.e. bungalow, unit, apartment, townhouse, etc
• Is new or in good condition
• Is located in Auckland

We have used the New Zealand House Sale Database 2013 to determine which suburbs contain homes which meet these requirements. To achieve this, we sampled four different suburbs across Auckland – Albany, Henderson, New Lynn and Weymouth.

Of all the suitable houses, the price ranges for the building typologies are as follows;
- Apartments $203,000-$226,000
- Post-War Bungalows $167,000-$260,000
- Units $232,500-$255,000
- Townhouses $223,000-$235,000
- Terrace Apartments $259,000

Albany
- 22 houses that were in good condition and under $260,000
- They were split into the following typologies
o 9 Post-War Bungalows
o 8 Units
o 3 Apartments
o 2 Townhouses

Henderson
- 31 houses that were in good condition and under $260,000
- They were split into the following typologies
o 30 Post-War Bungalows
o 1 Unit

New Lynn
- 22 houses that were in good condition and under $260,000
- They were split into the following typologies
o 18 Post-War Bungalows
o 2 Units
o 1 Apartment
o 1 Terrace Apartment

Weymouth
- 30 houses that were in good condition and under $260,000
- They were split into the following typologies
o 30 Post-War Bungalows

Group 4


Housing Affordability in Auckland
Given that the couple roughly pay $260 to $350 each week for rent, this means they are paying approximately $13,500 to $18,000 each year. On the other hand, if they decide to get a mortgage of $260,000 with a fixed interest rate 5 percent each year, they will have to pay approximately $17,000 in the first year with $13,000 as interest and $4,000 as capital. Given that the interest rate is fixed and the capital will gradually decrease with more and more mortgage repayment, the total amount that the couple has to pay each year will gradually decrease as well. Therefore, it is better to take the mortgage option, because the couple are eventually paying for a future investment.

First, we will investigate the number of house with a net house sale price equal or below to $260,000, good building condition and good roof condition. It is important to take into account the condition of the building and roof, because poor quality would eventually lead to more unnecessary money spent on maintenance. The initial result shows that there are approximately 1,483 houses that fit all of the criteria. Given that the couple wants to live a small home, we have decided to add in a floor area criteria as well, which will be 50m2 to 150m2. The result shows that there are approximately 310 houses with a floor area between 50m2 and 100m2. Only 21 houses have a floor area larger than 100m2. So, out of the 28393 Auckland house sales that occurred in 2013, only 331 houses fit the criteria, which is only 1.17 percent of the total number of house sold. Therefore, we believe that unless we lower criteria such as building condition and roof condition, it is very difficult to find a house that fit the ideal criteria. However, this would mean the couple might have to take some risks with their houses, as lower quality housing means high potential maintenance cost.

With a lower criteria, we managed to find 1922 houses, so 6.77 percent of the total number of house sold, which is still not very promising.

Just a flavour.

Lesson: Protecting Waterfront Public Space

This is Waitangi Park on Wellington's waterfront. In 1995, the area that is now Waitangi Park was part of the infamous "Variation 17" proposals by Wellington City Council which threatened high-rise apartment blocks all over the area in the photo.

It's not the same as what's being proposed for QE Square in Auckland. But there are similarities, particularly the loss of waterfront public space for development. And the method used: a Plan Change.

Waterfront Watch with public support finally helped to defeat those proposals in April 2000, and together have managed to project the community's vision of the waterfront in the now widely-acclaimed Waitangi Park. Throughout this period Waterfront Watch has enjoyed massive public support:
  • 1996: WW presents a petition to Council signed by more than 10,000 people opposing big new buildings on the waterfront.
  • 1996: WW commissions professional market research company to find out what Wellingtonians want. 90% want buildings to be restricted and wants lots of open space.
  • 1996: 800 people attend a meeting held by Lambton Harbour Management (precursor to Wellington Waterfront Limited) where they vote against plans for new buildings and they specifically vote for a park at Chaffers free of buildings (now Waitangi Park).
  • 1997: Council survey, professionally run, shows a majority preference for more parks and residential areas on the waterfront and 70% state their belief that only minimal residential or commerical development should be allowed on the waterfront.
  • 1998: City Voice (weekly newspaper) carries a professionally run survey in which 70% state their wish for a 100% park at Chaffers.
  • 2000: Wellington Town Hall packed with 2000 citizens protesting against Variation 17. Meeting passed unanimous resolutions opposing buildings on the waterfront and demanding the retention of public open space and views.
  • 2000: Petition with 12,000 signatures opposing new buildings on the waterfront presented to Council.
  • 2000: 2,400 submissions from the public in opposition to Variation 17. Of 932 submissions on Chaffers Park, only 3% supported new buildings on the Park.

Variation 17 (Wellington City Council's Plan Change to effectively commercialise public space) was withdrawn by Wellington City Council. And as you can see - the area has been retained as public space. Some are critical of the designs used in the public space, others support. But what is often not recognised is that the space is likely to remain as public space in perpetuity, and it's always possible to try different designs in future - budget and spirit willing. But once it's gone - it's gone.


Bottle it and Coin it

There's a public discussion going on about bottled milk prices. It's interesting partly because there's not also a debate about bottled water prices. One of my favorite lectures with planning students is about  the cost of infrastructure to service the needs of a typical Auckland house. These are network services including: transport, electricity, telecommunications, and of course water, wastewater and stormwater. An interlude in this lecture is the price of water. Most students know how much it costs to buy bottled water. Half of them have a bottle on the desk as they take notes. $2.99/750ml Pump - $4 a litre.

I ask them how much it costs for household water in Auckland? For a cubic metre. That's after getting them to figure out how many litres there are in a cubic metre. Then it's hands up those who reckon a cubic metre would cost more than $1000 - you'd be surprised how many think that. And so it goes.

What's the difference between a litre of bottled water and a litre of milk?

In terms of price, this is what I find at my local New World supermarket:
  • Today 2 litres of light blue, or dark blue milk was $4.06. (Remember, Pump retails at $4:00/litre.)
  • So bottled water costs twice as much as bottled milk.

But that's not what's really interesting. What's really interesting is the difference in food value for every dollar spent on bottled New Zealand milk compared with New Zealand butter. The image below shows the food value of bottled water, according to Wikipedia:

You get the idea. In terms of calories, fats, sodium, carbohydrate, vitamins, all of these things - a big fat zero in bottled water Which is what you'd expect..

What triggered this posting was not so much that there's a debate in NZ about the price of milk. It was when I saw on TV - in the Dancing with the Stars ad breaks - that a supermarket was selling New Zealand butter for $3.87 for half a kilo (500gms - or about a pound weight).

Butter is - pretty much - concentrated cream, concentrated butter fat. It is where the food value from grass, eaten by cows, converted to milk fats, largely ends up in the Fonterra food chain. It also ends up in the baby foods and other concentrated, high energy, high butter fat, high food value products.

But it certainly doesn't end up in our milk.

If you buy a litre (kilo in weight) of Trim Milk, it contains just 1 gram of fat, and 370 calories of energy. If you buy milk with added calcium, it contains 2 gram of fat and the equivalent of 460 calories of energy. This milk costs around $2.43/ litre (kilo in weight - since a 2 litre bottle costs $4.86)). (NB: the less food and energy value/litre, the more you pay.)

If you buy butter however, which is almost 80% milk fats, it contains 814 grams of fat per kilo, and a whopping 7,250 calories of energy equivalent. And at the TV price it costs under $8.00/kilo.

Weird world really.

Boils down to this. If you want your energy from milk (in terms of calories), then you'll pay 5x as much as you would if you took the same amount of energy from butter. And if you wanted some food value from butter fats, and you think you'll get that from Trim Milk, then you'll pay 200x more than if you get that food value from butter. (I know that's a strange example - because you do expect little butter fat in Trim Milk.)

I guess you could say that you get what you pay for. Seems like the less food value that is contained in milk the more you pay for that milk. And the more food value that is contained in other dairy products (like butter and cream), the less you pay for it.

Water - added water - is the new gold. Not forgetting the corporate branding and the corporate bottle.

Friday, June 19, 2015

High Court Quashes Bledisloe Consents!

Justice Venning's decision on Urban Auckland's judicial review application has been released at 4:00 today.

Recall that Urban Auckland argued that the consent applications to extend Bledisloe Wharf (B2 and B3) should have been notified, and also that the various consents that made up each of these applications should have been bundled and decided together (among other things).

In summary, Justice Venning judged (with my emphasis in bold:


[190] The decision to proceed without notification was flawed for two reasons:
(a) The applications for consent should have been bundled which would have required notification, as the most restrictive activity was a discretionary activity. The adverse effects identified by Urban Auckland will fall to be considered.
(b) Alternatively, special circumstances existed which required notification in this case. The Commissioners fell into error in determining that because the extension was a controlled activity and an expected development no special circumstances existed so that it was unnecessary to notify in any event.

[191] The consents issued on a non-notified basis are set aside.

Of interest, in response to POAL's submissions that costs would be incurred should the court decide to set aside the resource consents (and which POAL is relying upon right now to extend B2), Justice Venning judged:

[187] Mr Farmer then made a number of submissions emphasising the cost and commercial imperative in this case and the effect on third party contractors. I accept the significance of that to the POAL. He also referred to a number of matters which have been discussed above and submitted that there would be little point achieved by notification. However, the same reasons which support notification in this case, also support the grant of relief. I accept there would be no point in setting the consents aside and requiring notification if there is no purpose to it, but for the reasons given above I consider there will be purpose. It may well be that ultimately the consents are granted but that should follow the proper process contemplated by the RMA on the facts of this case.
[188] To the extent that there will be further delay and cost to POAL it has to a degree brought that on itself in the way that it urged the Council to proceed on the non-notified basis in the knowledge of the reaction that was likely to engender. In doing so it took a commercial risk in proceeding in that way. 
[189] The cost and commercial imperative in requiring notification is a significant factor, but it cannot override the legal requirement for non notification which the Court has concluded is applicable in this case. 

A great result for the public of Auckland, and for public participation.
Download the full decision here.



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Urban Auckland Vs Council and POAL

The decision from Justice Venning is expected sometime this week in the matter of the High Court Judicial Review proceedings triggered by Urban Auckland in regard to the lawfulness of the B2 and B3 Bledisloe Wharf extension consents.

This posting provides access to some of the evidence that was provided to the Court.

I provide highlights here extracted from selected affidavits, and links to the original affidavits (in some cases without their exhibit annexures - because of problems of space!).

First up the affidavits from Urban Auckland, which were in support of the Statement of Claim and the various causes of action. There were 8 of these:

Julie Stout for Urban Auckland (Chair, Urban Auckland)

15. Ms Halpin says the B2 and B3 extensions will be “barely perceptible”. I disagree with this analysis. The impact is obvious from a simple “before and after” of the B3 extension on Queens Wharf (Annexure 3). Once constructed, B2 and B3 will jut out into the harbour. Both structures (especially B3) will affect public enjoyment and appreciation of waterfront spaces and the amenity values of the Harbour for all Aucklanders.

16. POAL provided no visual assessment of the B2 and B3 extensions from public viewing points. Ms Halpin did no analysis and sought no independent assessment to substantiate her position of a “barely perceptible” effect. The decisions by Commissioners Macky and Kaye to approve B2 and B3 contain no detail on visual and amenity effects to the waterfront. This is surprising to me considering that they had to be satisfied that the effects on the environment of the extensions would be no more than minor.

17. In my experience as an architect, a site visit is essential to assess potential visual and amenity effects. There is no evidence that Ms Halpin or any other report-writers visited the site and its’ surroundings to view the impact, before writing their reports. Commissioners Macky and Kaye appear not to have done a site visit either (by reference to their Duty Commissioner record sheets (attached and marked “JS4”)).

18. The visual and amenity effects of the B2 and B3 extensions will be significant. Another part of Auckland’s vista over the waterfront from public spaces will be lost. A further step in POAL’s well-known plans for reclamation (Exhibit JS3) will be taken. All this will be done without any scope for public input.

19. Urban Auckland will, as part of these proceedings, commission additional expert landscape evidence (Mr Gavin Lister) to demonstrate the kind of information that Council could (and should) have required when assessing the visual and amenity impacts of the B2 and B3 extensions.

See the full affidavit here.

Gavin Lister for Urban Auckland (Landscape Architect)


20. The end of the B3 extension will intercept the line-of-sight to Devonport Wharf (i.e. Victoria Road Wharf), blocking views of the water beyond this line. It will effectively block views of the eastern end of the harbour, the harbour entrance, and the outer Waitematā.

21. The B2 extension by itself would extend roughly half way across the current view of the harbour entrance.

22. The B3 wharf extension will also enclose Queens Wharf within a basin so that the current experience of the harbour proper will be lost. Queens Wharf’s prominence as the principal axis between main street and harbour will be weakened.

23. Such effects will be caused by the wharf structures themselves, but will be exacerbated by any cargo stored on the wharfs and ships berthed at the wharf extensions.

24. To explain it another way, the worst place to build a new structure in the port precinct in terms of visual effects from Queens Wharf is the location of the B3 extension. The B2 extension also adversely impacts views from Queens Wharf, although the effect is not as pronounced as B3.

See the full affidavit here.

Andrew Anderson (RNZYS) for Urban Auckland (Commodore)

See the full affidavit here.

Cedric Owen for Urban Auckland (Statutory Planner)


46. Where more than one activity is involved and those activities are inextricably linked, the general rule is that the activities should be bundled and the most restrictive activity classification applied to the overall proposal.

47. Splitting the proposal into its separate applications for the purposes of notification and assessment of effects could lead to the unsatisfactory outcome that the Council fail to look at a proposal in the whole and do not consider possible interrelated or cumulative effects. Integrated management (looking at all consents jointly) is especially important in the coastal environment from my experience.

48. In this case a number of resource consents are required under three separate regional plans: two operative and one proposed.

49. The applications have been separated out by POAL into separate applications, not just in terms of different aspects of the activity under the Coastal Plan and ALW Plan, but also in respect of the operative regional plans (Coastal Plan and ALW Plan) and the Proposed Plan.

50. The most restrictive of these consents requirements is that of a discretionary activity. However, this consent status is effectively ‘siloed’ from the other consent requirements for the same structure by the approach requested by POAL (via Bentley), and acceded to by the Council processing officers. I refer here to the splitting of the B2 application into the separate B2.1 and B2.2 applications. The same approach is also adopted for the B3 application.

See full affidavit here.

Graeme Scott (Chair Auckland Urban Design Forum)

9.  One of the understandings arising out of the development of the Proposed Unitary Plan was that the inner harbour is the key open space in the central city, and I would suggest an extension of this principle to conclude that the wider harbour is the defining open space of Auckland. The viewshaft linking these two parts of the harbour from what will become the city’s landmark viewpoint at the end of Queens Wharf demands urgent protection.


10.  I have examined the photo-images prepared by Gavin Lister in his affidavit depicting the visual impact of the proposed extensions from both Prices Wharf and Queens Wharf. I confirm they accurately depict the blocking of the views from those viewpoints, and in particular the blocking of the view from the end of Queens Wharf of the harbour beyond Devonport toward the south as a result of the proposed extensions.

11.  I consider the proposed wharf extensions have significant negative visual effects on the important public view from Queen Wharf to the wider harbour beyond Devonport, and that urgent action is required to halt the extensions and to protect the view.

See full affidavit here.

Heather Shotter (Chair: Committee for Auckland)


5. The focus of this affidavit is on the issue of special circumstances, as these apply to Ports of Auckland Ltd’s (POAL’s) expansion within the waterfront and inner Waitemata Harbour. My understanding is that Council had the opportunity to publicly notify the B2 and B3 resource consent applications to extend Bledisloe Wharf, on the basis of “special circumstances”. ‘Special circumstances’ is undefined but responds to context, and involves unusual but not necessarily unique circumstances where it is appropriate to have public input.

6. The Committee’s position is that there are special circumstances and the B2 and B3 applications should have been publicly notified. There is a great deal of public debate, and policy work, that has been done in relation to future and best use of POAL’s occupation of the inner Waitemata Harbour. The Committee has actively participated in this debate, and has prepared several reports highlighting public interest in the very issue of extending POAL’s footprint into the Waitemata Harbour. Auckland Council and POAL are well aware of this debate, ongoing for a number of years. It is therefore a matter of surprise that special circumstances were not considered to exist. I produce below two reports prepared by the Committee, which speak to the public policy debate on POAL’s expansion plans.

See full affidavit here.

Ngarimu Blair (Ngati Whatua)


20. There is no mention that the new impervious surfaces would be extensions of existing wharves into the Waitemata.

21. It is obvious that the larger the wharf extensions, the greater the likelihood of impacting cultural sites, waahi tapu or other taonga. All iwi groups consulted would have relied upon POAL’s assurance. It is therefore of great concern that B2 and B3 (in combination) exceed the 3500m2 “additional impervious surface area”. If construction of B2 and B3 is allowed to proceed at this time, then POAL will be in breach of an important assurance given to Ngati Whatua Orakei and other iwi, both as to the extent of new surfaces and an understanding that new wharves, or extensions to existing wharves, were not involved.

22. As noted, consultation was limited to stormwater impacts of potential structures within the Port Precinct Area and how this might be mitigated through the TP10 standard. POAL did not disclose that other resource consents were required to construct structures in Port Precinct Area 1A. POAL did not consult on construction effects and opportunities for improved public access, including Captain Cook Wharf. Ngati Whatua Orakei has a policy of encouraging public access to its whenua at Orakei Marae and Takaparawhā. We would expect to be consulted on opportunities for improved public access, for example, to Captain Cook Wharf. This could include improved access by mana whenua (and tangata whenua) for cultural practices.

23. Consultation requires good faith discussions. Sufficient information must be provided by the consultor (POAL) so that the party being consulted (Ngati Whatua Orakei) can provide informed consent. POAL must have known about its intention to apply for the B2 and B3 extensions, as part of its overall plan for expanding the Bledisloe Wharf. It did not disclose those extensions. Had it done so, Ngati Whatua Orakei would have clearly identified the adverse cultural effects of doing so and would have required further information from POAL.

Full affidavit for Ngarimu here.

Joel Cayford (Planning Expert)


4.1 The B2 and B3 wharf extensions are controlled activities under the Auckland Regional Plan Coastal which contains a broad policy for controlled activities. The policy is:
25.4.7 Maintaining or enhancing the landscape and amenity links between the harbour, the port and adjacent areas, including the Central Business District.

4.2 There are rules and a single method to implement this policy. The method is:
26.6.1 That the ARC will liaise with Auckland City Council and Ports of Auckland Ltd on issues associated with any future development or expansion of the ports in Port Management Areas 1A and 1B, to encourage consistent management across administrative boundaries.

4.3 The foregoing chronology suggests that there has been some liaison at officer level – but only in a regulatory sense following the lodgement of the B2 and B3 extension applications. It is clear that Councillors were not involved in any liaison, especially not in regard to “issues” that had been debated in public and which are also canvassed earlier in this affidavit. The POAL consent applications for the B2 and B3 extensions – despite being regarded as contentious by many – were not even referred to Auckland Council’s Hearings Committee for consideration, despite Council’s Hearings Policy. The explanation given for the method gives a fuller account of why the policy writers felt the method was necessary:
26.7.2 Maintaining liaison between the ARC, Auckland City Council, and Ports of Auckland Ltd complements the objectives, policies and rules and is important because of the potentially significant cultural, social, economic, and environmental implications of port expansion for the port company, the downtown area, and the Auckland Region.

4.4 This recognises the significant social and cultural implications of port expansion for Auckland, the downtown area and the port company itself, and in my opinion is a clear policy signal that any expansion proposals advanced without evidence of Council liaison will need careful assessment, including for notification purposes, and particularly the special circumstances notification discretion.

4.5 In that regard, I consider there were four obvious special circumstances that at least needed detailed evaluation (which did not take place) in the context of considering how to process the applications (i.e., notified or non-notified).

4.6 The first of these relates to the fact that Queens Wharf had been brought into public ownership (like Wynyard Quarter), but without any plan change that would have allowed the implications of that change in ownership and status to be reflected in the Auckland Regional Plan: Coastal.

4.7 For example, as noted above in the Matthews and Matthews Heritage Assessment of Queens Wharf and Sheds which advises: “Views from along the centre of Queens Wharf back to Queen Street and towards the Waitemata harbour are important.” I consider that a plan change would likely have protected this view shaft. The heritage assessment notes that in relation to its landmark quality, Matthews and Matthews advise: “Queens Wharf occupies a prominent position when approaching Auckland and the ferry terminals from the harbour.” Again, this suggests that being able to see Queens Wharf and its structure while approaching from the water is another view that needs some form of protection or recognition. This is a special circumstance that did not exist until the study had been carried out and which was triggered by the purchase of Queens Wharf.

4.8 The second special circumstance relates to the fact that Queens Wharf, as noted in the chronology above for December 2010, was listed as a Category 1 Historic Place by Heritage New Zealand. It is likely that the Historic Places Trust would have been treated as a potentially affected person in relation to any activity that would potentially affect the heritage character and amenity of Queens Wharf, if this matter had been identified and considered. In any case such a significant listing should be regarded as a special circumstance leading to notification in my view.

4.9 The third special circumstance relates to the fact that it appears from the chronology that POAL and Auckland Council were clearly aware that POAL’s intention was to infill between B2 and B3 in order to achieve an objective that it has articulated consistently since 1989 - to expand Bledisloe Wharf north by reclamation, and that B2 and B3 extensions were clearly a means to that end.

4.10 The fourth special circumstance is that Council, in recognition of overwhelming public concern expressed over port expansion plans in the last 3 years, had adopted the non-complying rule for reclamation in the draft Unitary Plan. This surely was an indication that there was very significant public interest in any development that would enable, or be by itself, an expansion of Bledisloe Wharf into Waitemata Harbour. It was surely a good reason to notify these consent applications – preferably together, but at the very least one at a time.

Full affidavit here.

Evidence in Reply

These affidavits and Urban Auckland's Statement of Claim were responded to by POAL and Auckland Council. Auckland Council provided affidavits from Jennifer Valentine the main officer responsible for processing the B2 and B3 resource consent applications, and also from the two independent commissioners engaged to decide the applications.

Jennifer Valentine (Council Resource Consent Processing Officer)

Full Jennifer Valentine affidavit here.

POAL provided several affidavits to support its defence, including evidence (with commercial detail redacted) from the contractor POAL has engaged to carry out the B2 and B3 extension projects. I have confined my interest in this posting to the affidavits I engaged with most closely, and they were those by Alistair Kirk who is the General Manager Infrastructure and Property for POAL, and by Mark Arbuthnot, Principal Planner at Bentley and Co which was engaged by POAL to assist it with resource consent applications. First of all an extract from Kirk's affidavit:

Alistair Kirk: General Manager POAL

Full Kirk affidavit here (minus exhibits).

An extract from the comprehensive and lenghty affidavit of Arbuthnot:

Mark Arbuthnot: Engaged as Principal Planner for POAL

Full affidavit of Mark Arbuthnot is here.

It has been a very interesting process. Urban Auckland's team ended its role in the process by filing affidavits in reply to those from Auckland Council and Ports of Auckland. I'll end this with an extract from my reply.

Joel Cayford in reply


8. At paragraph 102 Mr Kirk states: “Queens Wharf was released to enable its development as a cruise ship terminal and as fan zone for 2011 Rugby World Cup, not for its public views. Queens Wharf remains an operational wharf and access is restricted when cruise ships are berthed…”. I was an Auckland Regional Councillor at the time ARC allocated $20,000,000 to purchase its 50% share of Queens Wharf and I attended all of the related Council meetings and public occasions and do not agree with this statement. For example it is a matter of public record that the northern end of Queens Wharf cannot now be used to berth ships in recognition of the need to provide for unrestricted views and for recreational fishing and other activities, and that these public activities continue to be available even when a cruise ship is berthed at Queens Wharf.

And so it goes. You can see my reply here.

The judicial review court hearing largely revolved around the legal submissions prepared by and for the QC's who acted as Counsel for Urban Auckland, POAL and Auckland Council. I will give some consideration to posting those submissions at a later date. However the written versions of these submissions - while they are of interest and comprehensive - don't necessarily portray the main arguments taking up court time and attracting interest and debate between Counsel and the Judge, though they are on the table - along with the evidence - as the judge writes his decision.

We await the decision with interest.