by David Clendon
The cabinet papers that Rodney Hide has released relating to Auckland’s Spatial Plan make for interesting reading. It is obvious that this government will attempt to call the tune on Auckland’s development, despite the substantial mandate that Auckland voters gave to their mayor and council just a few months ago.
A discussion document that will in part inform the Spatial Plan will be launched this Wednesday. The Spatial Plan will play a major role in determining Auckland’s future development. Much of what we know so far about the vision of the mayor and our elected council is forward looking and could help solve many of Auckland’s challenges.
By contrast the government’s papers carry a much more reactionary message. For example :
“until now, the Government has played a relatively passive role in Auckland’s urban planning, having left these decisions to local government….Auckland’s governance reforms and the advent of the Auckland spatial plan provide an opportunity for the Government to change this approach, and to positively engage with the Auckland Council on urban form issues.”
“The Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 requires the Auckland Council to
prepare an Auckland spatial plan … The Auckland Council must involve central
government and other significant decision-makers throughout the preparation and
implementation of its first spatial plan.”
The assault on democratic process that bulldozed the so-called Supercity into being was ‘justified’ by a claim that Auckland must speak with one voice. What is now clear is that Key, Joyce, Hide et al intend that their voice should be louder.
It is evident that what the government wants is radically different from what most Aucklanders voted for when they elected Len Brown and a majority of councillors, who talked about sustainable urban design, improved public transport, stronger and more resilient communities, a 21st century EcoCity.
The transport papers for example suggest the government will not be able to afford any more investment in public transport projects over the next 10 years (apart from ongoing projects like electrification of rail and integrated ticketing), but can find money for motorway projects within or near Auckland. The message is clear that Auckland Council should continue to favour private vehicles and motorways as the key to meeting our mobility needs, despite petrol prices at record level, congestion, peak oil, climate change issues, etc…
The papers around urban design and housing send a very clear message that the government wants council to abandon metropolitan urban limits and allow more sprawl around our city. This is quite explicit, e.g.:
“The Government understands that the new Council is likely to continue to support a quality compact urban form…..The Government would support a move from the Council to consider other urban form options in its discussion document. This should include the option of a well-planned expansion of the urban area beyond the existing footprint,”
So expanding out from the periphery, link the parts together with motorways while under-investing in public transport – where have we heard that before, and where did it lead us?
Funding documents actively encourage the council to consider using private-public partnerships as an alternative way of generating funds. There is of course an important role for the private sector in infrastructure development, and in implementing any vision of an Auckland that retains the best of the past and plans for a sustainable and socially cohesive future. But trying to impose, in advance of the visioning and design work, particular funding models (especially those that have been found wanting in other cities) is not helpful.
Central government will naturally make a contribution to funding Auckland’s future development, as it has a role in every city and region. Central government’s role should however be to support and complement the direction preferred and aspired to by Auckland’s citizens and their elected representatives, that will meet our needs for the next fifty years. The government must not use the purse strings to impose a model that replicates the errors of the last fifty.