The recent announcement by Housing Minister Phil Twyford of building about 4000 houses in 29 hectares of land bought from Unitec is set to change Auckland’s face forever.
No one knows the impact outcomes with full confidence yet, neither the most ardent supporters of the government nor the opposition and other naysayers!
What is known with confidence is that Auckland’s face is set to change, and so is the explicit manifestation of a desire for the long-cherished Kiwi-dream of big houses on a quarter acre section.
Owning large backyards has long been embedded in the very DNA of being a New Zealander, and Auckland was no exception.
However, the time has come for Auckland to relinquish that Kiwi-dream of large houses and switch towards relatively small, but comfortable and reasonably visually aesthetic housing that reflects urban housing of any major global city around the world.
Indeed there has been a gradual change in the quarter-acre aspirations since last few decades, with sub-divisions, infill housing, apartments, and townhouses, becoming more common in large cities of New Zealand.
However, nothing in the recent public memory had taken a hit or expedited the gradual decline of Kiwi-dream of quarter acre home ownership, as this Mt Albert project has the potential to do so.
The project is expected to bring together 6000-10,000 residents within an area of 0.29 square kilometres, much more than the average rate of urban dwelling in Auckland region.
While experts are still divided on merits of this project, and the possible distortion of the Kiwi-dream of quarter square section houses, it is apt to understand the changes in Auckland’s population growth that has been happening in the recent past, and possibly the driver behind the government’s Mt Albert project.
Auckland's population is estimated to have passed 1.5 million in the year ended June 2014 and is projected to reach 2 million by 2033.
Furthermore, the Auckland region is projected to account for more than half of New Zealand's population growth between 2013 and 2043, with an increase of 833,000 – from just under 1.5 million to over 2.3 million (medium projection).
This is rapid growth for a city, which even though being country’s largest city and economic centre, had only been recently catapulted towards becoming a major global city.
If we look further deeper in the Auckland city centre area, which is just nine kilometres away from the proposed Mt Albert project, the projected population growth is further steep.
In 2012, Auckland’s City Centre Masterplan laid out a 20-year vision for transforming the city centre, which predicted that the 2012 population of 27,000 would grow to 45,000 by 2032.
Experts believe that figure has already been reached in 2017, well 15 years ahead of the prediction.
The increase in the number of people dwelling in Auckland city centre alone is equivalent to the half of population of Rotorua being crammed into the city.
Indeed these are phenomenal changes and predictions ahead for the growth in the population of Auckland.
Against such a backdrop of massive change in Auckland’s population, and with recent reports that there is no respite in the net growth of permanent and long-term migrants, it will be naive to assume that Aucklanders can hold to the dream of quarter-acre section houses.
The change in the style and design of housing and public spaces in Auckland is imminent, to the likes of some and dislikes of many.
It’s only that how well we prepare ourselves now, and in advance, to the changes predicted in the near future.
The recent project is indeed a welcome announcement and demonstration of right intention and the government has to be applauded for taking this initiative.
However, the major challenge that lies ahead is to translate this well-intention, of which there are already too many by this government, into an achievable reality.