Auckland’s changing choices: getting intense

Auckland Council Chief Economist, Shyamal Maharaj, David Norman
Auckland Council Chief Economist
Publication date:
  • The Auckland Unitary Plan (UP) increased opportunities to boost intensification – a response to the inefficient use of land, high infrastructure costs and externalities of sprawl.
  • The UP has kick-started more apartment development after a decade of lost opportunities.
  • Intensification, while not the answer for everything, overcomes a lot of negative externalities associated with sprawl, and encourages more efficient use of privately owned assets such as retail space as well.
  • At the same time, a growing population with different priorities and preferences is more amenable to the different housing typologies being delivered than those who came before.

The debate over greenfield expansion versus brownfield intensification has long occupied the minds of planners, urban designers, economists, and governments. Intensification is the redevelopment of existing urban areas to accommodate more housing, usually through terraced housing, apartments or smaller sections.

An advantage of intensification is that it can accommodate growth in existing urban areas, overcoming challenges that greenfield development tends to face.

These greenfield challenges include proximity to work and amenities, and the eye-watering cost of new infrastructure for development in new areas.

Infrastructure is not only very expensive; it is also incredibly difficult to fund. And funding issues aside, the actual construction of infrastructure is constrained by time and capacity. Moreover, the negative externalities that arise from added congestion, pollution and environmental degradation add further costs to sub-optimal greenfield development.

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Last updated: 2019-10-01