Mark Thomas - New Mayor for Auckland

New Growth Policies For Auckland

Auckland Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas will establish Special Development Areas in Auckland to fast-track new housing, he will use direct council incentives to bust land banks and he will develop a new ‘Hub and Spoke’ Unitary Plan model under the next council.

Thomas also announced he would prioritise resolving key transport and public engagement issues with the Ports of Auckland, rather than any plan to move the port and he would implement a Streets Of Local Significance (SOS) approach to better address local transport bottlenecks.

He outlined key parts of his growth plan to a Manurewa-Takanini Rotary meeting this week.

“Even with the most aggressive Unitary Plan delivered by the Hearings Panel, Auckland will not make quick enough progress on building new, more affordable housing using business-as-usual. We are not providing enough funding for our share of growth, we don’t use private capital effectively and we are too slow to process consents.”
Establish Special Development Areas And Streets Of Local Significance

“I will establish Special Development Areas in five key areas including: Henderson, Onehunga, Manukau, Northcote and Takapuna. This will allow much quicker progress on the potentially up to 15,000 new houses – on top of current developments.”

“I will also apply SDA status to locations in Auckland that are under greatest infrastructure pressure from housing development already underway. This includes areas such as Takanini/Drury, Kumeu/Huapai and Silverdale.”

“Our regional infrastructure deficit has worsened with Special Housing Area pressure and we need to make faster progress on key projects such new bus ways and road realignments.

“I will develop a Streets Of Local Significance approach to more quickly unblock some of our transport arteries.”

Thomas said he would seek Government agreement to amend the Resource Management Act to establish SDAs and the Land Transport and Local Government Acts as necessary to establish a Streets of Local Significance approach.”

“If Government will not amend the legislation, I will further reprioritise spending from councils $817M Governance, Support, Economic and Culture Budget into greater growth funding to get the transport and water infrastructure for new housing developments.”

“I will also advance the Auckland Council Chief Economists recommendations to allow private providers to provide their own infrastructure if they can do this more cheaply than Auckland Council’s monopoly providers Auckland Transport and Watercare.”

“I will also use direct council leverage (e.g. rates remission, development contributions concessions) to incentivise land bankers to help bust land banks and develop land more quickly.”

Thomas said he had already flagged his proposal to swap half the airport shares and the port operating company to fund agreed infrastructure. He is proposing to extend this approach using other council assets and facilities where a better return can be gained by swapping them into growth assets. This could include under-utilised stadiums and community facilities where local boards and their communities agree.

He will also fully implement the Rules Reduction Taskforce recommendations which he served on to change council’s culture, introduce a new ‘customer-led’ approach and dramatically improve consent processing times. This includes introducing a competitive consenting option.
New Hub And Spoke Unitary Plan

“The compact city approach of the Unitary Plan has divided Auckland. It is clear that Auckland needs a much wider range of housing options including more terrace houses and apartments. We also need to make it easier to make sensible redevelopment to existing properties to take account of changing family needs. But these development options have to be better linked to the infrastructure needed, and to also take good account of the heritage and character housing types we value. As Mayor, I will work with the incoming Unitary Plan and the new council to redevelop it into a ‘Hub and Spoke’ model which better connects communities to the development Auckland needs and provides the connections at the same time.”

“Our planning should take more account of the way communities want to develop and where it is market attractive, and this should be much better linked to connecting infrastructure.”

Thomas said he would focus first on the Special Development Areas where new housing can be built more quickly. However he will then initiate a council-led Unitary Plan change to reset the residential and heritage rules consistent with a “Hub and Spoke” model if those approved by council are unacceptable.

“I will do this by establishing a new local board/community led planning framework similar to that used by Vancouver and Brisbane.”
Plan For Life In Auckland, Not Life on Mars

“I expect that at some point the Port of Auckland may well outgrow its site, however this is decades into the future. We have higher priorities in Auckland right now than being distracted by such an exercise.”

Thomas said irrespective of any early decision to move the port, its growth pressures over the next five –ten years mean steps must be taken to relieve transport congestion.

“Improved rail servicing on the existing line and upgrading the Grafton Gully road corridor are priorities I will advance.”

“The port has consistently underestimated the impact of technology and productivity. I will direct them to think more innovatively how they can operate more effectively on a more limited footprint – with additional transport investment.”

Thomas noted the Transport Minister Simon Bridges had also stated he did not think it likely the port would be moved.
A New Economic Agency Driven By The Economy

“We have not made enough progress driving economic development in Auckland.”

“As flagged in my policy to merge the tourism and events aspects of ATEED together with Regional Facilities Auckland, I will also consult with business on the new form for an economic development agency. ”

“My preference is to integrate into Panuku Development Auckland unless business believes there are compelling reasons for it to stand-alone. Direct business funding into this agency will be essential.”

“Local town centres have been largely ignored by the current mayor. My new agency will produce a Local Economic Development strategy for Auckland, in partnership with local boards, business associations and communities.”

Thomas said his growth policy outline was designed to get Auckland working more effectively and achieving more of our immediate existing priorities more quickly.


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    2 comments on “New Growth Policies For Auckland

    1. Mark says:

      Hi Peter, my approach to the port will include exactly that: a strategy to free up CBD transport. The top priorities here relate to boosting the efficiency of the rail connection and probably ‘cut and covering’ Grafton Gully. These issues will need to be addressed even if an early decision were made to move to port. Both of these issues will require Government funding and my influence will come from a real world approach to issues like this.

    2. Peter Watt says:

      To exclude planning for the movement of the Port as part of any strategy to free up transport around the CBD is to confine Auckland to continue its history of shortsightedness that has blighted its growth up to now.
      And if elected, how much influence does Mayor Thomas expect to hold?