Andrew Dickens: Urban sprawl - It's the New Zealand way

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 12 December 2018, 1:01p.m.
What Mayor King is suggesting is what Auckland did wrong 50 years ago. Photo / NZ Herald

If you've listened to Newstalk ZB for the past 25 years you'll be very well aware of the Auckland problem.

The growing pains of our largest city have been endlessly discussed and debated, opposed and supported. Throughout the rest of the country people rolled their eyes and snickered at the JAFAs and the bed of thorns they had constructed for themselves.

But all along people with an eye to the future were warning that the Auckland problem would spread soon enough and we hope you're watching and learning.

So payback time. Let's talk about Hamilton.

The city is growing fast. Of course it is. Smack bang in the middle of the North Island. Smack bang in the middle of an immensely beautiful and fertile countryside brimming with jobs. Easy access to ports in Tauranga and Auckland. A couple of hours from splashing around in Lake Taupo. I've always wondered why it hasn't got bigger sooner.

The Mayor is worried about where to stick all the people wanting to live there. So Andrew King wants the city to sprawl and he says it needs to because it's too cramped.

He's quoted figures out of Massey University that show that Hamilton is NZ's fourth largest city by population, the third smallest territorial authority by area and has the highest population density.

By 2043, its projected population will be more than 244,000 - up from the current population of 168,000.

Andrew King says "We've got about 1500 people per square kilometre in Hamilton. There is no other city than Hamilton that has a population base of more than 1000 per square kilometre." And he’s right. Tauranga has about 900 people per square kilometre. Wellington 658 and Auckland a positively roomy 223 per square kilometre. Strangely enough the sprawlier you are the lower the density numbers. But the sprawlier you are the bigger the problems.

"In places like Christchurch, you can get in your car and drive for 30 minutes in any direction and your are still inside Christchurch. We're very constrained," King said. So he wants the city to spread but that’s against the wishes of the neighbouring Waipa and Waikato District Councils.

I’m sorry Mayor King, I haven’t noticed a crush in Hamilton at all. What I have noticed is exactly the problem that Auckland had in the past.  I notice no transport infrastructure. No expressway through the city. The drive through the Southern Suburbs to get out of town is one of the worst in the country. Public transport infrastructure is bad. Now if you spread even further the congestion in the inner city will be worse than anything Auckland has ever seen. 

What Mayor King is suggesting is what Auckland did wrong 50 years ago. The rampant development of the Eastern Suburbs, Pakuranga and Botany without major arterial road or motorway access. With no public transport. 50 years after the establishment of Pakuranga the remedial work is still going on with a busway finally being constructed.

Take a look at Tauranga Mr King where the Papamoa sprawl has created a congestion monster. Only now have they woken up and started to redevelop the city centre. 

The Mayors of Waipa and Waikato are right. Sort out what’s inside your borders before you start trying to expand them.

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