From a 2010 viewpoint, who would have guessed that Auckland’s City Rail Link would start on site ahead of the Puhoi-to-Warkworth motorway? As a proxy for the battle of urban intensification pitted against continuing suburban sprawl, those two giant projects would be hard to beat. Our governments of late have not trumpeted the glory of the city, the delights of the urban experience, or the benefits of agglomeration effects. They prefer instead to ensure ex-urban trucking routes are smooth and uninterrupted, and that it’s an easy ride out of town. But here we are, about to start the biggest piece of truly urban infrastructure in a lifetime. Pardon the cliché, but I do believe this will be transformational for Auckland.
Admittedly, this is thanks to the dogged determination of Auckland Council. However, even Bill English has lately commented on some matters urban in a positive way – questioning the economic utility of mandatory car-parking on private land no less. In a recent speech he said
A study examining minimum car parking requirements in Auckland showed the costs of that planning rule exceeded benefits by a factor of at least six.
That’s a rule that should never have been made. It has probably cost the economy millions of dollars.
Fortunately, now that we're digging in to these issues, that rule has been mostly scrapped – and credit is due to Auckland Council for doing so.”
And while in the political zone, the new leader on the other side of the Tasman has made some very friendly remarks about cities, and has even appointed a minister in charge of them. If his admiration of our own John Key is reciprocated by even a little sharing of his urban appreciation, then we may be at the beginning of something very big.
Wouldn’t it be great to forge a productive alignment between local councils and central government on urban policy?