Even the Greens want to end Auckland’s growth boundary

By Leith van Onselen

Last week I wrote how New Zealand’s two major political parties – the National Government and Labour – seemed to have reached bipartisan agreement on the need to eliminate Auckland’s urban growth boundary (UGB), called the Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL), in a bid to increase competition in the land market and free-up affordable housing supply.

Well, the consensus has grown even stronger with both of the two minor parties, ACT and the Greens, supporting with some caveats the elimination of Auckland’s growth boundary, thus placing increasing pressure on the Auckland Council. From Interest.co.nz:

ACT Leader and Epsom MP David Seymour said he was glad Labour had adopted ACT’s position from before the 2014 election, when it was the only party calling for the abolishment of the RUB.

“They say, first they fight you, then they laugh at you, and then you win,” Seymour said…

Seymour also welcomed the calls for infrastructure bond financing, which he described as a Texan-style Municipal Urban District (MUD) with mandatory Council involvement.

“All of this disarms the speculators and the land bankers. The best thing to do to the land bankers and speculators is to drown them in supply of land and that will do this, so I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do,” he said of the plan to remove the boundary and bring in new financing techniques…

Green Co-Leader and Housing Spokeswoman Metiria Turei said the Greens were also open to Labour’s package of relaxed city limits, relaxed density controls and new infrastructure financing, as long as it included integrated planning with public transport and protection of special land.

“That deals with a lot of our general concerns about just freeing up land on the rural boundary to allow for more sprawl. On the face of it, it looks like something we could consider and support because it has all of the parts of the puzzle integrated. The devil is in the detail always, but we’re certainly interested in their proposal,” Turei told me, adding she was also open to the infrastructure funding idea.

“If this is a measure to help with the affordability question, then this is a measure that should be given some serious thought. With the housing crisis as it is, every idea needs to be explored. We can’t afford to dismiss any idea outright”…

The Greens’ concerns about ‘open slather’ development could be easily accommodated by making sure that land with high environmental or social value is preserved.

But this should not prevent an adjacent landowner or a landowner further afield from developing their land merely because it sits on the wrong side of an arbitrary barrier, such as an urban growth boundary (UGB).

The important thing is to restore competition and contestability to the land market, thus preventing land owners (or developers) from cornering supply, land banking, and driving-up its cost.

Open competition underpinned by the right to develop (subject to standards being met), is key to lowering land prices and ensuring that housing becomes affordable and the economy competitive.

It is highly encouraging that New Zealand is reaching a political consensus on this issue, but also a damning indictment on the Australian political system, whereby land supply and housing affordability are barely on the political radar despite soaring land (housing) costs.

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Unconventional Economist


  1. Maybe they have a farm they forgot to declare – and want it rezoned to become residential?

    • I am sick of urban spread – and the Greens are no different to the other major parties, want to cater to those inner liberals who want houses…

      England is the size of Victoria and manages to fit in over 50m people – have national parks and lots of green areas. Melbourne is so huge, it could triple its population without effort within its current boundaries!

      Metropolitan Auckland is aerially one of the largest Cities globally. And we cannot fit more people in? I mean seriously?????

      I tell you now, there is a real dearth of any ideas in this part of the world! Idiots at the helm and all that… so one eyed, we lack any imagination.

      • Stewie Griffin

        Sick of Urban spread? Go buy a pad in Goolgowi – lots of nice wide open spaces out there, and the internet connection is poor enough that only about 1 in 5 of your pompus, useless, whiny dirges to your own brilliance and insightfulness, would be able to be uploaded , sparing us all and adding greatly to Australia’s overall quality of life.

      • I agree with you. Density in our cities is so low that makes our cities unlivable in terms of commuting and community (I’m always amazed our cities score high in livability surveys – I wonder what kind of american loony libertarian-communist-neoliberal-progressives are running those surveys)

        Density of our cities is one third of those of comparable size German cities and yet home prices are three times more expensive and better quality. This clearly shows that density has nothing to do with prices – it’s the combination of media fueled Anglo-Saxon feudal landlordship fetish, easy credit mania and corrupt taxing system that makes our homes so expensive, not high density.

        Introduce speculative capital gain tax similar to one that NZ had in 70s and prices will go down permanently to one third without need for any new land

      • So we have a reply that (a) does address the article or (b) nor the criticism of it. Rather, a person does not want a reply.

        Truth is, if you had decent analysis before hand, and actually thought about this issue – you wouldn’t be shot down in flames so easily. Its positively embarrassing. The lack of insight palpable. Rather we just pick the Greens headline and run with it.

        Too political…

      • Stewie Griffin

        The UK has some of the lowest percentage of urban landscapes in Europe, at less the 13%, while the actual percentage of countryside that has been ‘built on’ is less than 3%. It also has the most expensive housing, by far, and the smallest house size, by far, in the whole of Europe.

        Green belts cover one and a half times as much land as all of England’s towns and cities put together, and serve little purpose other than helping to enforce the creation of a monopolistic product within its boundaries, helping to preserve golf course and land banking rent seekers like ResearchTwerp.

        As far as quality of life go, I’ve lived in London and spent some time in Dallas Fortworth, arguably the largest most spread out city on earth, as well as Houston, and I can assure you, both the cost of living is lower and the quality of life higher in those US cities without UGB.

        I don’t bother addressing your arguments, because frankly most of the time your “points” are so blatantly transparent and self serving as to need no response at all.

      • moderate mouse

        @RT….Agreed. The sheeple are being fed a big fat one by the developer lobby in NZ. No one yells shortage louder than the developer looking to cash in on the boom.

      • Auckland is NOT aerially one of the largest cities globally – that is an oft-repeated lie. Refer to some good factual data about urban area density, such as Demographia “World Urban Areas”.

        Wikipedia is useless because they use political boundaries, not actual “urban areas” size.

        Auckland is around the same density as many urban areas in Germany, France and even the Netherlands. In fact many French urban areas of Auckland’s population, are significantly less dense. Auckland is the second densest urban area in the entire Anglo New World, after Toronto, which has 6 times the population.

        Britain is a disaster for housing affordability, social justice in housing, urban productivity, etc – it is THE exemplary warning what NOT to do in urban planning.

      • Moderate Mouse – there is no argument more stupid than that vested interests are in favour of abolition of a growth boundary. Even “developers” are all hostages to the racket in urban land – most of them, to stay in business, have sites in progress and waiting to be developed; collapsing the price of land as abolition of a boundary will do, will put them out of business. They have been opponents of reform all along.

        Actual speculators. land bankers and property investors who don’t even do development, are an even more obscene vested interest against reform. And the finance sector. Which fat cat is paying people like you to confuse the issue – or are you a geared-up property portfolio owner yourself?

      • Auckland population density (2600 per km2) calculated using MLB area is not comparable to population density numbers of of German cities because in those calculations much wider area is included. Anyone who ever visited Auckland and any of the large German cities can tell that without phony numbers. three quarters of all dwellings in Auckland are detached houses and half of all of dwellings are single storey detached houses on an average 700-800m2 block. Not nearly as close to density in German cities where most of people live in unit blocks.

        If German cities equivalent area is used in to calculate Auckland density number would be well below 1000 per km2.

      • If you have ever visited Europe or the UK, housing density leaves Auckland behind… no wooden houses on quarter acre blocks as far as the eye sees!

      • I call “bullshit” on Researchtime and DoctorX

        Demographia’s “World Urban Areas” data set has a transparent methodology, and is accepted and relied on by numerous institutions including UN and World Bank agencies, the LSE, the Wharton School, etc

        No authoritative institution has rejected it and suggested a more reliable methodology.

        It is unutterable BS that France and Germany have not had post-WW2 suburban sprawl at all; and it is also unutterable BS that Auckland has mostly houses on 700 – 800 square metre sections. Sections this large were always only ever a minority of new development at any one stage in history; sections half this size were always in the majority, and almost all truly large sections have long since been subdivided, often with multiple units. This is visually obvious to the point of repugnance when one drives through the place!

        About 1 year ago the NZ Herald ran a feature article on “the 1/4 acre section properties that still remained in Auckland” (entire isthmus). There were exactly NINE such properties left!

        Furthermore Auckland central is full of tower blocks of apartments that rival anything that small to medium European cities have. Remember, a city of around 1 million is “small to medium” by global standards. On average, cities that have been there longer, and cities that have larger populations, are denser as a rule. It is dishonest in the extreme to compare an Anglo New World city with 1 million population, with a European city that has been in existence 20 times longer, and with a population several times as great – as a basis for saying the Anglo New World city is “not dense enough”.

        Idiot smart growth fundamentalists visit Europe as tourists, and see nothing but the historic urban cores. Anyone can look at Google Earth and see that Demographia’s calculations relating to “whole urban area” are entirely plausible.

        Lyon, population 1.5 million, is well below Auckland’s density. Nice (nearly 1 million) is lower density still. Cologne (2 million), Frankfurt (2 million) and Essen-Dusseldorf (6.6 million) are all similar density to Auckland. Berlin (4 million) is not a lot denser.

        This issue is infested with fiscal child abuse deniers whose level of integrity in all aspects, is as can be expected for such scum.

      • $Phil

        you clearly have no ida what you are talking about
        Officially according to NZ census. 75% of all dwellings in Auckland are detached houses and 50% of all dwellings are single storely detached houses. Single storey detached houses are almost nonexistent in large german or french cities. And with 1.3m population Auckland would rank into large cities in Europe, not small or medium : It would be third largest in France and seventh in Germany

      • Phil – seriously, you have never been anywhere except NZ. Granted its been few years since I have been to Auckland, but plenty of those ex-council houses when I last looked. Lots of bush and space in-between. I have never seen that ever anywhere in Europe or the UK. And I mean nowhere…

        I have been to Lyon – and people live on top of each other, lots of big boulevards granted, great Roman ruins, but densities you do not see in many places here in Oz or no-where in NZ – with certain parts having a massive un-official N. African populations, many living on 50-75 Euro per month!!!

        Seriously, before you comment next time, make sure your audience is as clueless as yourself!!

  2. Only a fool can think that removal of MLB is going to reduce house prices in Auckland.
    It’s funny how they all think prices will fall if more land is available for speculation. Prices are even now extremely similar on both sides of the MUL. Sometimes a newer house within MLB is cheaper than an older and smaller house on just marginally larger block on the other side.

    Current prices have nothing to do with real supply demand ideology. They are product of credit fueled speculative bubble and the only thing that removal of MLB is going to do is to provide more opportunities for speculation – I can only imagine a frenzy going on for land on the other side at the moment. Once removed it push prices of land currently out of MLB and clearly not cause prices to fall inside the MLB

    This is purely political distraction from the real issue of easy credit speculative bubble that is going on. That’s why all political forces agree on this.

    • Stewie Griffin

      Then if a MUL makes no difference to the price of land – why be so afraid of removing it?

    • moderate mouse

      +many. Supply/Demand analysis is useless when we are basically talking about speculative financial assets. Morons will be morons.

    • So how are prices of any goods or commodities at all, reduced globally, as has been happening for decades – if increased supply only increases speculation?

      In fact for decades urban land in most first world cities fell in real price, as automobile based development happened so freely. Your argument is nonsense.

      The booms in speculation combined with over-supply, such as in Spain after 2000, always involve a controlled “pipeline” of land supply being “released”, even if it is only because of infrastructure planning. Historically, when infrastructure planners co-operated with developers doing splatter development, urban land rents were flattened. Plenty of US cities still have responsive enough infrastructure supply approaches, that they keep house price median multiples below 4.

      • So how are prices of any goods or commodities at all, reduced globally, as has been happening for decades – if increased supply only increases speculation?

        so what do you think how? why house prices fell in USA, Ireland, Spain, …. almost everywhere
        why oil price fell by 60% while both supply and demand stayed almost unchanged? why stock prices fell 50% in 2008/09?
        because credit driven speculative system has it’s own limitations and tends to crash or because amount of speculation in other direction can became larger

        If you really think prices of any commodity today is based on current supply and demand not some speculative prediction you have no idea how system works

      • Rubbish, Dr X. I am referring to the dramatic fall in the real price of urban land for decades during most of the 20th century. This was exactly the same phenomenon as the falling real price of almost everything. Food, clothing, wool, cotton, minerals, metals, oil, coal. Refer to the Simon – Ehrlich bet.

        The volatility of the price of oil was subsequent on the formation of a large cartel, which proves MY point, not yours. Urban growth containment is like the formation of a cartel in land for urban growth. The existence of dozens of cities where the real price of urban land has continued to be stable at least, due to the superabundance of land allowed to be developed, is unanswerable proof besides – denied only by the fiscal child abuse deniers, with the most dishonest arguments and rebuttals.

        It is possible for “supply chains” to be swamped by record demand – such as Chinese demand for iron ore – without a deliberate cartel being formed; but the superabundance of global supply will cause a reversion to mean. In contrast, urban land markets like those of the UK, with decades of urban growth containment, have a chronic trend to higher and higher real land values and greater and greater injustice in housing costs and wealth transfers. The moral enablers of the kind of injustice that is ongoing, and worsening, over there, are the lowest of the low. Get a conscience and some integrity.

    • “Current prices have nothing to do with supply and demand…”
      Wow, you live in a parallel universe….

      • when you quote someone it’s expected that you do not intentionally omit words than change the meaning of the of a statement.

        As you well know because you deleted it from the quote – I said “Current prices have nothing to do with real supply demand ….” Real demand means homes needed for living, not for speculation.

        If you think that real demand and supply have anything to do with prices how do you explain the fact that unit prices skyrocketed faster than houses despite the record large real oversupply (record number of vacant and unused units)?

  3. The Greens, I suspect, do not want to be associated any more with their former bed-fellows in the Auckland Council Planning department. First they laugh at you, then they fight you, then their own friends start abandoning them…. The writing is on the wall.

  4. There are things you can do within the UGB:

    Look at Civic Dr, Epping 3076. There are 3 storey aged care buildings next to a single storey high school.

    To save land, you could put the aged care rooms atop the high school – the ground floor would be classrooms and the 2nd and 3rd floor would be aged care rooms.

    Also, you could build tennis courts atop supermarkets – saving land.