Aucklanders saying no to 18 story suburban apartment blocks

April 9th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

and his city planners seem to think that you build a city to fit in with your transport plan, rather than build a transport system to fit in with where people want to live.

Their master plan is to force as many people as possible into apartments. But not just CBD apartments (which I am quite fond of), but massive apartments everywhere – up to 18 stories in height.

Yes Len and sidekick Penny have not just proposed 18 story suburban apartment blocks, but are demanding that the Government fast-track their plan to do so. Labour seem to be backing them.

The Herald reports:

Communities are rebelling against high-rise and in-fill housing, Aucklanders are struggling to follow the complex document and nine of 20 councillors have written to the Prime Minister urging him to slow down the process. …

Auckland-wide community meetings have sparked angry reactions to plans in a draft copy of the unitary plan for high-rise and in-fill housing in more than half of the urban area. …

Meanwhile, St Heliers residents turned out in force last night to oppose more “concrete monstrosities” destroying the character of the seaside village.

I understand there were almost 500 people at the meeting.

Len and Penny want a height limit of 18 stories not just for the CBD (which is fine) but also for:

  1. Albany
  2. Botany
  3. Henderson
  4. Manukau
  5. New Lynn
  6. Papakura
  7. Newmarket
  8. Sylvia Park
  9. Takapuna
  10. Westgate/Massey

In 13 other town centres they want 8 stories, or 33 metres.

There is no doubt that Auckland needs to grow both upwards and outwards. But the majority needs to be outwards, not upwards to reduce house prices and give Aucklanders more choices over where they live.

Auckland already has a higher urban density than Sydney and Melbourne.

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50 Responses to “Aucklanders saying no to 18 story suburban apartment blocks”

  1. swan (665 comments) says:

    “There is no doubt that Auckland needs to grow both upwards and outwards. But the majority needs to be outwards, not upwards to reduce house prices and give Aucklanders more choices over where they live.”

    Thats just assertion. Surely it should grow based on demand – that would give people the most choice over where they live and would have the most impact on the cost of housing vs other priorities that people weigh up when deciding where they want to live.

    As for the urban desnsity it is a bit meaningless to look at average urban density. If you have a large swathe of exurbs with 1 acre plots this will massively lower the urban density but doesnt actually mean a lot. Weighted urban density is a better measure.

    As for “Aucklanders say no…”, no one asked me, as an Aucklander. A few vocal St Heliers residents is hardly a representative sample.

    As for “seaside village” – that is just redefinition fallacy. St Heliers is a suburb of a city not a village.

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  2. BR AKL (1 comment) says:

    DPF err proper city planning that does not get you in the crap is actually build the transport (and other infrastructure) first, then the urban fabric rather than the other way around you just uttered: [Len Brown and his city planners seem to think that you build a city to fit in with your transport plan, rather than build a transport system to fit in with where people want to live.]

    Australia to a degree does that quite well to building transport links out to no where then going and plopping the urban fabric over the top of it so it is ready to rock and roll from the word get-go. Of course this needs a bit for vision to pull off – not that I see any from your remark.

    As for the height limits on what are actually the Metropolitan Zones of the UP and Auckland Plan, yep agree not all can take the 18 storeys. Papakura would be better off with 10, New Lynn 15, while Takapuna and Albany can take 18, and Manukau can go even higher and rival the CBD with heights (although there is the airport to watch). It is about rationale, compromise, and some decent alternatives in place.

    As for the Town and Local Centres, need some more work on them (Milford came to mind) with an alternative being worked on for St Heliers – not that most of last nights NIMBY crowd there would know, or have even thought of. Then again DPF they are not representative for other parts of the city as some don’t mind those 18 storey towers in some places of Auckland (read the above). So the title is a case disambiguation at best there ;)

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  3. Simon Lyall (60 comments) says:

    David. Please qualify your density numbers for Auckland vs Sydney. Is this the same document that shows both have a much higher density than New York?

    Density figures are very sensitive to what areas you define as part of the “city”. Some cities only include built up areas while others suburban and even “Country” areas. Of course the “Auckland has high density” number won’t be brought up when the merits of public transport systems are debated.

    Seriously though. People like the above should think about whether they want to live in a “city” with growth and jobs where people (like their kids) can afford to live and business will want to set up shop. If they just want a 1/4 acre section there are plenty of other places in NZ where they can get that for half the price.

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  4. wreck1080 (3,923 comments) says:

    I’d compare Auckland with London which has some quite good high density housing areas.

    When you talk of 18 story high rises I think of slums with paper thin walls and peoples washing hanging over the edge of external balconies.

    Yuck.

    I’m more in favour of 3 story terraced housing.

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  5. shady (246 comments) says:

    And the Unitary Plan suggests 16 stories for Milford.

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  6. swan (665 comments) says:

    shady,

    Wrong. 8 storeys.

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  7. garethw (205 comments) says:

    “Their master plan is to force as many people as possible into apartments… massive apartments everywhere”
    Good to see your balanced and non-hysterical approach to this continues

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  8. RRM (9,933 comments) says:

    Hey! When I was young and single and living in Auckland I would have *chosen* to live in a suburban apartment tower, if one had been available in the right area. ;-)

    The only thing wrong with that town is that everyone has to drive across town to get to work, because only so many people can live ( / can afford to live) in the desirable suburbs close in to the city centre, everyone else has to form a disorderly queue on the motorway twice a day.

    So suburban 18-storey apartment buildings would be a bloody good idea IMHO for Auckland, as long as the regulations allowed them to be built where people wanted to buy them. Rather than where some artist socialist mayor or council working group – who will inevitably guess wrong – might think they *should* be.

    (There are already a few suburban multi-storey apartment blocks, and none of them are new – if you stand on the Devonport wharf the one On Remuera Rd (or is it St John’s Rd?) the little group of them on Jervois Rd in Ponsonby, and the one off Owens Rd in Mt Eden all leap out at you.)

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  9. graham (2,335 comments) says:

    RRM: There’s also one (or has it grown to two now?) in Manukau City, right next to Manukau City Centre. Looks quite nice from the outside.

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  10. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    http://shapeauckland.co.nz/heights-in-our-centres/

    This link is quite useful for some of the facts on the matter

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  11. RAS (63 comments) says:

    I notice that Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and Westmere aren’t on that list.

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  12. Data (22 comments) says:

    I thought you wanted less regulation of housing. So you want the deregulation of urban limits, but want regulation on height limits to remain. Doesn’t seem very consistent or liberal. Should it not be up to the market to decide whether there are 18 story apartments?

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  13. Alan Johnstone (1,087 comments) says:

    “Len Brown and his city planners seem to think that you build a city to fit in with your transport plan, rather than build a transport system to fit in with where people want to live.”

    Actually what you do is start with geography and work from there.

    Auckland transport is very difficult due to the choke points imposed by the narrowness of the isthmus, two harbours and the volcanic rock that makes going underground very expensive.

    The city has natural borders to the south with the Bombays and to the West with the Whitakere ranges to the east with the Whitford peninsula. Only on the shore is the “natural edge” of the city unclear.

    If you want 2.5m people in it, your options are limited.

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  14. Simon Lyall (60 comments) says:

    David says “give Aucklanders more choices over where they live” but it seems that the “choice” of living in a multi-story apartment or anything other than a traditional “house” isn’t allowed. If you are a household of 1 or 2 (the vast majority of growth projected in the next 40 years) you will just have to buy a 3 bedroom house an hour from town.

    Apartments are going to be built by private companies who won’t bother if the demand isn’t there. The cost to the council and government will be minimal.

    On the other hand build far flung new suburbs requires new roads, sewers, public transport and other infrastructure to be built with much of it on the public’s dime (and plenty of complaints if the developers get charged).

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  15. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    “RAS (39) Says:
    April 9th, 2013 at 2:31 pm
    I notice that Ponsonby, Grey Lynn and Westmere aren’t on that list.”

    Ponsonby is .. 4 story max
    maybe that includes Grey Lynn.

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  16. Nigel Kearney (1,019 comments) says:

    Shortages drive up prices. So complaints from people who already own property are completely self serving.

    People should have wide freedom to build what they want on their own property. This change just makes it harder for others to object when developers want to do exactly that.

    The restriction on outward development is wrong but is a separate issue from infill housing. Auckland needs both.

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  17. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    “Len Brown and his city planners seem to think that you build a city to fit in with your transport plan, rather than build a transport system to fit in with where people want to live.”

    Nothing wrong with that in any case. They are saying build upwards where the services, transport etc. already exist

    From the Unitary plan:
    “…one of the key proposals of the draft unitary plan is to limit high-rise buildings (9 or more storeys) to the city centre and the 10 metropolitan centres. This is where the public transport, offices, shops, leisure facilities, public spaces and services will be strong enough to support more people”

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  18. Jim (398 comments) says:

    “Auckland already has a higher urban density than Sydney and Melbourne.”

    Here we go again. Based on that same Demographia survey that puts Hamilton, NZ as higher density than New York, USA.

    “massive apartments everywhere – up to 18 stories in height”

    Firstly, 18 stories is not massive. Secondly, it’s a maximum.

    I’d be more concerned about the ratio of dwellings to green space, conveniences, public transport, etc. Apartments done well (carparks underground with gardens and parks above) are a hell of a lot better in those respects than the equivalent single-level sprawl that would occupy many times the space.

    Middle-earthers can move to the ‘denser-than-New York’ metropolis of Hamilton and mow around their rotting cars on the front lawn.

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  19. Akld Commercial Lawyer (165 comments) says:

    It is interesting to try to make sense of key parts of the plan (not an easy task) and the logic that lies behind some of it. And before people start using the NIMBY label about those in the more expensive parts of town, some of the criticism seems quite well thought out and considerably better researched than aspects of the planning material itself.

    A number of the areas where higher density living is proposed, are also areas where existing infrastructure is under huge stress already. As a result transport links and even basics such as schools, sports facilities, swimming pools and so on are at saturation point. Consequently, I am disappointed but not surprised that the Herald has failed to examine the practical implications on a suburb by suburb basis.

    On the one hand, the plans have some quite sensible proposals for clustering types of activity in zones – but when you look at the logistics involved in much more concentrated housing in areas of the city (especially the older parts) the logic breaks down. Again, the Heralds leader writers seem very quick to criticise Wellington for interfering and yet do not seem to do the legwork on making the mayor’s plans work. The coverage of Auckland Transport seems equally inadequate. The new ticketing systems being one such example.

    Probably the high water mark with high rise living will not be the eastern suburbs, where I suspect that a combination of high land prices and well resourced objectors may make it difficult for too many high rises to be built – but the North Shore. The proposed Milford project (which lost at round 1) is one example, but plans for 6-8 storey apartments suggest that pockets of Housing Corp land may be the target of this example of social engineering. Simply moving around some parts on a busy day is hard enough now (Takapuna to Devonport being the prime example) but adding a large number of new households simply won’t work. The Devonport meeting could make the St Heliers objectors seem quite tame as it is coupled with the Council trying to sell the only sizeable remaining plot of Council land that could be used for sports facilities – to a supermarket. (Competition is a good thing – but I understand that it will come at the price of some sort of transport hell).

    Nick Smith’s new committee will, I expect, be following this process closely – hoary ambitious goals are one thing but an ounce of common sense seems conspicuously absent at this stage. And the Herald has not covered itself in glory either. I also suspect that Labour could do a much better job – even if it was to express reservations behind the scenes. By going tribal and backing the mayor to look after the Labour voters only – they simply allow the Greens further opportunity to come up with a more balanced response and portray themselves as the true opposition.

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  20. toms (299 comments) says:

    I see David Farrar is about as well informed as Nick Smith on Auckland affairs.

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  21. Ed Snack (1,883 comments) says:

    Simon, adding multi-story blocks also demands changes to sewerage, water, transport, electricity etc etc, no different really to a distant suburb. Although for some time the council has pretended that they can get by without changing the infrastructure to cater for the numbers, and this is the cause of much of the traffic chaos outside the centre.

    There are a few tower blocks in places, notable because they are rare, and almost without exception, damned expensive even by Auckland standards.

    Best solution, don’t focus so obsessively on the centre and multi-hub the city, develop regional centres like Albany and the North Harbour industrial centre.

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  22. Sb (63 comments) says:

    In my part Avondale a 14 story apartment block sold out in 1 week with most of the apartments being sold
    in the first 48 hours.

    Its not built yet just foundations.

    Somebody wants to live in these developments, why not let them.

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  23. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    Sb (34) Says:
    April 9th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
    In my part Avondale a 14 story apartment block sold out in 1 week”

    Under the new plan the limit for Avondale will be 8 stories, so obviously Aucklanders are say YES to suburban apartment blocks!

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  24. dime (9,980 comments) says:

    Dime says build em and they will come!

    I dont see the problem with 18 stories at all.

    We are nuts if we think we dont have to also open up a shitload of land.

    the arguent that new apartment blocks selling quickly means people love them may be a touch flawed. if its all you can afford… personally id rather slit my wrists than live in an apartment in avondale..

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  25. Kleva Kiwi (289 comments) says:

    You can’t sustainably continue to build out. Too much valuable productive land close to the city is destroyed driving up economic factors such as fresh produce prices.
    Auckland needs to build up not out. It makes the most economical sense. Transport infrastructure becomes more efficient and less expansive services/utility development requirements, ie lower rates.
    If Kiwis want to live the “Kiwi Dream” 1/4 acre etc then they need to move out of Auckland. This will then drive the NZ economy as business and industry dosn’t just default to Auckland. You can’t have your cake and eat it to…

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  26. Sb (63 comments) says:

    Dime – nobody is forcing you to live in Avondale, though I quite like it.

    But you have made an assumption that these apartments were cheap, their average price was $420K

    You can get a lot of nice properties around here for that price, my 3 bedroom, two bathroom, double garage with a bit of garden stand alone house is currently valued at about that.

    So its not desperation to get somewhere cheap to live driving those sales.

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  27. dime (9,980 comments) says:

    420k is cheap.

    Dimes not against apartments. I will no doubt be buying a few of what they build :D

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  28. Cactus Kate (551 comments) says:

    18 floors is tiny. You need at least 25 to get a decent view.
    Auckland needs to build up and build out
    Build baby build

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  29. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Simon Lyall>Apartments are going to be built by private companies who won’t bother if the demand isn’t there.

    That’s only true if you ignore the 100,000 new homes that Labour plan to build, most of which will be in Auckland. By now it is obvious that the only way to build those sort of numbers for the budget they expect is to build them big and cheap. Sort of like Tower Hamlets, but in suburban Auckland.

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  30. somewhatthoughtful (466 comments) says:

    That lie you keep telling about Auckland density being greater than Sydney doesn’t become less of a lie if you write it more.

    As an aside, the residents of St. Helliers seem to be pretty good at erecting ugly monuments to their egos on their own, now they can make them taller. win/win

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  31. HC (154 comments) says:

    Well, development up to 18 storeys high is not proposed “everywhere”, to be fair. It is correct, that it is proposed for certain “centres” as listed above (e.g. Albany, Botany, New Lynn, Henderson, Manukau, Newmarket and so forth). But while I am for some intensification, I cannot accept, that we need to allow blocks and towers up to such heights in those places. This would certainly destroy the landscape and views of Greater Auckland, and create little “islands” of Manhattan or Hong Kong, which would become little concrete jungles, where there will likely be concentrations of traffic, pollution, crime and other problems.

    And another thing is, is there going to be the infrastructure coping with such intensification? It would cost a lot to put that into place, and in the end Auckland would be no better off.

    While I can now live with high rises in the CBD, which though also in part will need to come down and be replaced with “decent” ones that have no leaky, noise and sundry other issues, I am stiffly opposed to any blocks of apartments or units going higher than 3 to 4 levels in most places. Perhaps up to 6 levels can be accepted in former quarries and new kind of similar settlements, but that will be the absolute maximum I would put up with, and only under strict conditions. A good mix with townhouses, traditional sections and houses, maintained green areas and good services are needed.

    I am also against an ever so more sprawling expansion of Auckland, so my proposal is to oppose this plan, and to press Central Government to bring in regional development planning, that will set incentives for businesses, also for government agencies and operations, to set up in other parts of NZ. Incentives and expectations should be placed on new migrants to settle outside of Auckland, which would take this insane pressure off the city. Adding another million in up to 3 decades is insanity and will destroy the Auckland we know, no matter how much will be put into transport and else.

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  32. Bob R (1,377 comments) says:

    ***Incentives and expectations should be placed on new migrants to settle outside of Auckland, which would take this insane pressure off the city.***

    Or they could just reduce the number of migrants to a level that results in a stable population?

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  33. jakejakejake (134 comments) says:

    Any haters and wreckers should be ignored just like those who signed the asset sale petition. Len Brown has his mandate.

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  34. Jim (398 comments) says:

    “adding multi-story blocks also demands changes to sewerage, water, transport, electricity etc etc, no different really to a distant suburb.”

    No different?

    The overall system capacity might need to be the same, but the networks will have very different costs. Generally speaking: many more kilometres of little pipes vs. significantly fewer kilometres of higher capacity pipes.

    As for transport, it is compounded by the fact that traffic moves at a relatively low fixed speed, and you will be dealing with a lot more passenger kilometres the more sprawled the network is. More fuel and more time on the road even if you have over-provisioned the road network. You also simultaneously kill the cost-benefit of full coverage public transport.

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  35. Colville (2,272 comments) says:

    For every person that lives in a nice appartment block there are 20 that need to look at/be shaded by/have view ruined by the new big ugly box that gets built cheap by a fly by night developer. The time horizions for allowing an area that previously allowed only 10 meters height of residential development being changed to say even a low 30 meters (8 levels) needs to be quite long so people can make informed choices if they want to live close to said big ugly boxes.
    NZ has a shockingly bad history of building fast cheap and short term and if we go down the path of multi level high density it needs to be done very carefully.

    To me about 8 levels is where I would stop at.

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  36. Sb (63 comments) says:

    “Incentives and expectations should be placed on new migrants to settle outside of Auckland”

    Who is going to fund this?

    The majority of people moving to live in NZ want to live in Auckland. I know its not popular to point this out
    but that’s the way it is.

    I can’t see how you would make such a system work unless you introduced internal passports!

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  37. andrewd (2 comments) says:

    Density is as good or bad as you imagine it. I lived in a beautiful 35 storey apartment building in Monaco. Fantastic. But other people imagine Tower Hamlets and automatic slumdon.

    Milford is a dreadful waste of space. I imagine a suburb surrounding the main drag more like the Mon Desir apartments in Takapuna. When I get rid of the kids I’d be there in a flash.

    The opposition to high density housing comes mainly from middle class middle aged people who are sorted, don’t want their St Heliers or Milford to change, yet still want the opportunity to buy more investment rentals. He says generalising.

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  38. Rightandleft (663 comments) says:

    Just as DPF said of youth rates, no one is forcing people to build or live in these buildings. All the plan does is open up the market to allow them to be built. If people aren’t interested in living in high-rises they won’t be bought and they won’t be built. The whole association of tower blocks with crime is quite foreign to me. When I lived in Washington DC’s suburbs there were high-rise tower blocks all over the place and the areas around them were very upscale and cultured. They were built through Northern Virginia following the spine of the Metro orange line. People paid good money to buy those apartments, but others still preferred to live in terraced housing further out or three-bedroom plus houses out in the exurbs. I don’t often agree with Len and I still think is city rail loop is nuts, but this policy makes sense. Takapuna already has high-rises and I wouldn’t describe it as either ugly or dangerous as a result.

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  39. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    There is the other side of the coin – be unfortunate enough to back onto a reserve with a bit of kauri on it then you need permission to use a leaf blower.

    We received our letter that deftly hid the information that I cannot touch a plant further than 3 metres from our property that has 1300m2 of slowly restoring bush without applying for permission. Time to get the chain saw out before it is signed off.

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  40. PhilBest (5,125 comments) says:

    What kind of house, on what size section, does Len Brown live in?

    I would have thought this information somewhat relevant…….

    Same for Penny Hulse too….

    DPF: if no-one else is going to publicise this…..?

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  41. swan (665 comments) says:

    Slijmbal,

    Yes I had a similar letter. Can’t believe some prick circles a bit of land based on an aerial photograph and decides that is sufficient reason to steal my property rights.

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  42. Northland Wahine (667 comments) says:

    Just been watching 60 minutes…. Interesting idea of vertical fruit and veggie gardens, instead of apartment buildings. Something to ponder.

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  43. duggledog (1,559 comments) says:

    Build out? DPF you live in Wellington.

    The motorways are already jammed all the way around 7 am till 9.30 am. They start jamming up again at about 3.30. The developments out west are going to mean all those suckers who buy out at Westgate and beyond just aren’t going to be able to get to work.

    The infrastructure ain’t there, and what they’re doing now isn’t going to be finished for years.

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  44. seanmaitland (501 comments) says:

    I don’t think these should be built in Papakura, they would be guaranteed to turn into slums then, given that 90% of Papakura is disgusting state housing filled with DPB mums, bludgers and lowlife’s. It would be exactly like the disgusting ones in London. If you build more cheap, low quality housing in Papakura, you’re just going to make things worse there.

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  45. valeriusterminus (243 comments) says:

    “See you at the beach for fish and chips” – Browns Bay. Well all-comers vie for the narrow angular spot on the grass where the sun does shine – past 6:00pm that is. Yes – the existing Beachfront Lane residential low rises (is that you Murray on L3?) are sort of tolerable – if you’re in first with the picnic blanket and get to bask in the subsiding rays between the blocks – shame that the sun sets in the west – and the beach is to the east.
    So many good times there with our kids and friends – we hoped for these experiences with our children’s children.
    This is where we live – already!

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  46. V (720 comments) says:

    Did somebody get a photo of 500 nimbys?

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  47. Chinarugby (88 comments) says:

    I generally support the Unitary Plan and as far as i am concerned Mayor Brown has the mandate. AKL needs to build up and the by and large the town centres make sense to me. If we can only be clear on the quality expectations of multi storied buildings – AKL’s recent history with slum buildings in the CBD has made us very nervous indeed.

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  48. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    I lived in many apartments before I came to NZ as did many of my colleagues/friends and we got to visit, talk etc.

    You do not want to live in a tower block type apartment of 18 stories – they are noisy (despite the best insulation), impersonal, more often burgled etc etc They are a reasonably poor quality of life.

    All the best apartments are from 3 to 10 floors and based on a staircase type approach – admittedly the 10th floor apartment we lived in was was a pretty good fitness challenge as it was built after the 2nd world war and elevators were expensive – it made you incredibly fit though. Somewhat extreme. These still give a substantial increase in density whilst providing the feeling of an owned space and some knowledge of neighbours – a neighbour who knows you is less likely to get the pogo sticks out after midnight on the floor above your bedroom.

    If Auckland gets its act together I will buy a decent apartment in town when I retire as you’re closer to everything, less maintenance etc

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  49. Left Right and Centre (2,986 comments) says:

    seanmaitland 9:50 pm -what’s the answer/s?

    DPB mums, bludgers and lowlife’s. I suppose it depends if you like your lowlives to live high density or low density. How about… highly dense lowlives that get high in low density housing?

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  50. Left Right and Centre (2,986 comments) says:

    duggledog (283) 7:57 pm

    The motorways are already jammed all the way around 7 am till 9.30 am.

    Lanes and lots more of them….

    I’m talkin bowling alley styles….

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