Visualising the Auckland Unitary Plan: IHP Recommended Version

Given there appears to be a lot of misinformation being spread about the Unitary Plan, I OIA’d the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) recommended version of the Unitary Plan (aka the “RUP“).  This follows on from Stephen Davis doing an OIA for the previous version the Council proposed back in 2013 (the “PAUP”).

The purpose of this post is really to collate a bunch of stuff I have been throwing up on twitter so there is a record of it.  Also check out Aaron Schiff’s very cool analysis of the overlays in the Unitary Plan (heritage, volcanic view shafts etc…) and the Herald Insights visualization of the residential zones, which overlaps a lot with I have here.  (Update: The Spinoff have a some amazing maps here).

All of the maps that appear below can be accessed directly here.

How the single house zone changed

The first thing I looked at was how the Single House Zone changed between the 2013 PAUP and the 2016 RUP.  I initially created separate static maps, but at Aaron Schiff’s suggestion I turned it into an animated GIFSHZ change 2000ms

This demonstrates how much of the Single House has been removed, it’s astonishing really!  Though note it still has a stranglehold around the CBD.  Those areas with the best amenity the CBD, and thus which would be most valuable if intensified, are being frozen in time.

I also made an interactive map combing the two sets of data, with RUP in solid red and the PAUP set to be transparent.

[iframe width=”100%” height=”520″ frameborder=”0″ src=”” allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen] Direct link to map

High-rises everywhere?

The big fear around the unitary plan is that we are going to get high-rise apartments in the middle of leafy suburbs.  The sentiment is nicely capture by this tweet:

I’m not sure what the average person would consider “high-rise”.  The famous “Painted Ladies” in San Francisco look to be 3.5 storeys and I don’t think most people would consider them high-rise (see below).

With this in mind, I did a map of the areas allowing residential development greater than (>) 3 storeys.

[iframe width=”100%” height=”520″ frameborder=”0″ src=”” allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreeniframe]
Direct link to map

As you can see this is concentrated around public transport (PT) trunk lines and employment centres. The burbs are relatively unscathed, except the parts within walking distance of PT or jobs.

Where is Auckland Staying flat?

The flip side of the previous question is where will Auckland “stay flat”.  I’ve looked at this two ways:

  • “Flat” = up to three storeys (i.e. the reverse of the previous high-rise map) ;and
  • “Real flat” = up to two storeys

Flat (up to 3 Storeys)

[iframe width=”100%” height=”520″ frameborder=”0″ src=”” allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen]Direct link to map

Real flat (up to 2 Storeys)

[iframe width=”100%” height=”520″ frameborder=”0″ src=”” allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen]Direct link to map


Either way you define it,  residential Auckland is actually staying pretty flat, at least based upon a very unscientific eyeballing of the maps.

One map to rule them all

And the last map I did is probably the first map I should have done.  This map contains all the zones allowing residential development and allows you to turn certain zones on or off under “Visible Layers”, allowing replication of any of the maps above.  Note that because I am using a free version of Carto, I had to lump city/town/metro/local center into one layer.

[iframe width=”100%” height=”520″ frameborder=”0″ src=”” allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen]Direct link to map

The Single House Zone: PAUP 2013

The Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) has released its recommendations on the Auckland Unitary Plan. One of the ways the IHP is proposing to increase density is to reduce the Single House Zone (SHZ) by 22%. The SHZ is areas with relatively large sections that you are only allowed one house on.  So these areas are effectively frozen in time, no growth will can happen and they will remain villages of sorts.

To get a feel for how the SHZ effects Auckland, and therefore what reducing it might do, I’ve pulled together a map of the SHZ, as proposed by Auckland Council back in September 2013 (what is known as the “Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan” or PUAP).  I.e. the IHP is proposing to reduce what is shown in this map substantially. But the data that would allow me to draw that map hasn’t been released yet.  (You can view the maps with all the zones online here.)



Looking at this, it’s striking that the CBD is encircled by the SHZ.  So the land it is closest to where people work, and therefore would benefit the most from increased density, is precisely the land that can’t be unlocked for increased density.


Auckland Home ownership and income maps

While the map that everyone will be interested in today is the new Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP)….I have been playing around with drawing maps in R.  The maps below use the 2013 census meshblock data set.

Given all the discussion around NIMBYism that has surrounded the AUP process, I thought it would be interesting to look at where people actually own the homes they live in.  The first map below shows the proportion of households within a meshblock that either own/partially own the house or it is held in a family trust.  Including the latter category in my measure of home-ownership may cause some anomalies, such as with the leasehold land around Cornwall park.

It will be interesting to compare this the AUP when comes out and see whether the are any patterns in zoning in areas where there is a high % of owner-occupied dwellings vs those where people rent (i.e. investors own the homes).

The other map I pulled together uses household income data. For this map I looked at the proportion of households with an income over > $100,000. I.e. I was interested in “which areas had the highest concentration of wealthy households”.household.100k

Again, pretty much shows what you would expect, higher concentrations of wealthy households in the inner suburbs and waterfront eastern suburbs.   South and West Auckland on the other hand have lower concentrations of wealthy households.

Uber surge pricing: “Sugar coated poison”?

A quite sensationalist headline on stuff this morning…Uber app ‘sugar-coated poison’ – cabbies“. The head of the Taxi Federation is telling us that Uber is evil. Now Uber is a big threat to the traditional taxi business model so take these comments with a grain of salt. Particularly the fact that:

The app is currently illegal in New Zealand

Just because the law hasn’t kept up with technological innovation doesn’t make Uber a bad thing. Now the real fear mongering comes when he talks about Uber’s “surge pricing”

The metering system isn’t authorised and they don’t want to change it because they want to be able to bring in surge pricing. For those people who complain about the cost of taxi fares, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

It’s our job to educate the drivers and the public that this is sugar-coated poison.

What is surge pricing? I’ll let Uber themselves explain it:

Without a surge pricing mechanism, there is no way to clear the market. Fixed or capped pricing, and you have the taxi problem on NYE—no taxis available with people waiting hours to get a ride or left to stagger home through the streets on a long night out. By *raising* the price you *increase* the number of cars on the road and maximize the number of safe convenient rides. Nobody is required to take an Uber, but having a reliable option is what we’re shooting for

So yes, surge pricing means Uber is really expensive when there is a large demand for car rides. You might pay more $ than you would for normal taxi at the same time, but this ignores the non financial cost you might incur waiting for a normal taxi. So we incur the opportunity cost today when we are trying to find a cab on Saturday night. Surge pricing gives you the option to pay a premium to avoid that. In total it may not be more “expensive” depending on how you value your time. Is that a bad thing? You still have the option of catching a normal cab….I can think of a few nights where surge pricing would have come in mighty handy.

Update: by pure coincidence Jesse Mulligan just tweeted the following from LA…turns out Uber can be cheaper than taxis too, no wonder the taxi industry is scared!

Costs and (or lack of) benefits of transport projects

Auckland Transport Blog have put up a post today discussing the costs and benefits of the planned transport projects in Auckland that the government is backing. I’ll discuss that in a second, but first there is something I want to get off my back regarding the assessment of transport projects.

BCR ratios (aka CBA by another name)

One thing that has always intrigued me when I hear about transport projects is that rather than talking about the “net benefits” from a “cost benefit analysis” (CBA), they talk about “benefit cost ratios” (BCR). Now the BCR is just the calculated benefits divided the costs (B/C). The surprising thing to an economist is that the BCRs are often < 1.

This means one of two things:

  1. The projects are money hole and shouldn’t be built (we get less benefits than we put in)
  2. There are significant non-quantifiable (or difficult to measure) benefits, and bureaucrats have made the judgement call that the non-quantifiable benefits are enough to tip the balance to give a true BCR>1. So there is some objective analysis, and some “gut feel”, but this can’t be avoided.

Read more

Minimum parking restrictions in the Auckland plan (#binthemins)

So another hot topic in the debate around the Auckland Unitary Plan is whether there should be minimum parking restrictions for new developments. I.e. when a new dwelling is built, developers will be required to build a certain number of car parks depending on the size of the dwelling. I’m not that familiar with the actual detail (it’s covered well by Auckland Transport Blog here), but the main gripe people seem to have is that most new dwellings with two or more bed rooms in suburban Auckland will be required to have two car parks.  Generation Zero have been doing some great advocacy around the Unitary Plan and have produced this graphic, complete with a trendy twitter hash tag #binthemins

Source: Generation Zero

Source: Generation Zero

On its face, as an economist I am suspicious of any arbitrary restriction. Therefore my first question is “what is the market failure this is seeking to correct?”. Or in more simple terms, “why do we think the market will under-provide car parking?”. Read more