DCC spatial plan means dearer land

Mosgiel is steadily expanding.  This photograph showing the Silver Springs subdivision was taken in April last year.  Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Mosgiel is steadily expanding. This photograph showing the Silver Springs subdivision was taken in April last year. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

Dunedin's spatial plan and the proposal to put a ring around the city is just a futile attempt at social engineering, writes Peter Dymock.

It is good to see the Government taking heed of the Productivity Commission's call to free up more land on city fringes for home-building (ODT, 29.10.12) to help reduce the cost of housing.

What then is the Dunedin City Council up to with its proposals in its spatial plan (ODT, 27.10.12) to put an end to greenfield and rural-residential development and put a ring around the city preventing further expansion?

There is nothing surer than this will simply drive up the price of land and housing.

Not everybody wants to live in inner city apartments or intensive infill and multi-unit developments or to use public transport as promoted in the spatial plan . In fact, given a choice, the majority of Kiwis still prefer to live in a traditional stand-alone residential dwelling and many dream of a rural lifestyle on a small block.

For an insight into what drives people to want to live in a brand new bespoke house in a new greenfields development surrounded by other new homes, the recent excellent feature in the ODT on people living in the new developments around Mosgiel should be compulsory reading for our city planners. The city council has an absolute social and moral obligation to provide for this great Kiwi dream and to make it as affordable as possible. It is one of the reasons why we live in places like Dunedin and not London and New York.

When will our planners acknowledge the reality that Kiwis will sell their grandmother before giving up their car?

The overwhelming advantages of convenience, comfort, utility and unlimited personal freedom and the revolution in social mobility that universal private car ownership has bought means that most people wouldn't use public transport, even if it were free.

Not having to suffer the indignities and inconvenience of public transport is one the pleasures of living in a city like Dunedin. This needs to be celebrated, not decried.

As for preserving soils and land for local food-growing, let's get real - this is 2012, not 1930.

Thanks to the miracles of modern global distribution systems, our supermarkets are stuffed full of delicious food from all over the world at prices much less in relation to average incomes than when all our food was grown locally, just as supermarkets in North America and Europe stock food grown in New Zealand (and if they didn't, we'd be broke).

Ultimately, what use rural land is put to is governed by the international commodity markets and not pipe-dreams of self-sufficiency. Anyway, who wants to return to a 1930s diet of what can be grown around Dunedin - porridge, boiled cabbage, swedes, carrots and mutton!

The reality is the spatial plan is not what the citizens of Dunedin really want, as claimed by Mayor Dave Cull. Like all such plans it actually reflects the policy framework it was presented in and the views of those few people who bothered to make a submission - and most of them, it has to be said, have some sort of private agenda, such as global warming or peak oil.

However, I take heart from the fact that in our free and democratic society it is the market (i.e. what people really want) that is the ultimate arbiter of what Dunedin will look like in 2050. Much of the spatial plan is simply a futile attempt at social engineering.

 - Peter Dymock lives in Alexandra.




Housing Choice

Robbo 101

You've been influenced too much by your academic studies and utopian planners who want to foist their ideas on people of what the planners think is good for them, rather than give people what they really want, need and aspire to.

"Tianjin Eco - city" is not Dunedin. Back in the real world I suggest you study the DCC's own Research Report 2007/1 Dunedin City Housing Choice . In it you will find that over 80% of people surveyed prefer stand alone housing, given a choice. This is consistent accross all demographic groups, including those in in 20-30 year and 60 - 80+ year groups. I further quote from the report : "overwhelming preference for stand alone housing", "the prevailing preference for stand alone housing cannot be overstated" and most interestingly "housing preferences remain relatively fixed, despite demographic change"

I'm not opposed to alternative housing choices and fully support planning provisions for it . But that doesn't mean that traditional housing on green field sites should be restricted. We need both.

If there was a market for alternative housing then developers would be more than keen to supply it. However, at the moment there is a very limited market in Dunedin for such housing, apart from retirement villages (a market which is well supplied). While the overwhelming demand remains for large new stand alone dwellings in new subdivisions, then that is what the developers will produce.

You only have to look at the marketing put out by the group builders and the banks in the mortgage market to see the truth of this. It exclusively features traditional stand alone houses. These people know a lot more about what people across all age groups really want and aspire to, rather than your academic planners in their ivory towers. 




Not in this century

Sorry for the delay, only just found this article when I was researching for project- currently studying planning!

Peter, everything you have written in your article goes against the very movement that the entire globe is pushing towards. You talk about private agendas of people supporting the Spatial Plan, but the tables are turning: wanting to drive a car everywhere, living in a huge home beyond your needs, not using efficient energy sources- all of these are now private agendas. For the rest of the world are supporting the complete opposite to all of those things.

Absolutely it is social engineering, but about it being futile... Please research 'Tianjin Eco-city,' and you will see social engineering- but like it or not, that city is being hailed as the world saviour of architecture and design. While NZ will never quite get there, those same principles are creeping into our legislation, eg. The Spatial Plan.

You talk of the NZ dream- As a 20-30 year old without a family and wanting to be social and close to town, do I want that? As a 60-80+ year old wanting to get away from mowing lawns and be nearer to medical services, do I want that same Kiwi suburban living? Nope, the numbers are changing Peter, and the 'Housing shortage' is far more applicable to people wanting high density inner city living, and not suburban 3-4 bedroom houses- they're the stats.

I see where you're coming from, living the kiwi lifestyle with a bbq, two cars and a batch by the beach, but that is only for people 30-50~ year old age bracket who can afford it- which is no longer the majority, which the Spatial Plan recognises. It's about playing the numbers game, and currently, the DCC have got it spot on.