Craig Werner, of Macandrew Bay, maintains the Dunedin City
Council's spatial plan is good for city progress.
Peter Dymock (16.11.12) complains about the "futility" of the
Dunedin City Council's spatial plan, which I think will be a
very good foundation for city progress.
Mr Dymock correctly points out the National Government's
Productivity Commission wants to sidestep protections and
free up more land to be sold on city fringes. This is because
land affordability and land cost as a percentage of the total
house price is high in the large cities.
However, it is not true here, and we are not Auckland,
Wellington or Christchurch. With the exception of these
places, all of urban New Zealand lives quite well with our
distinct urban-rural boundaries. You encounter them every
time you're driving past paddocks towards a town at 100kmh,
and suddenly it's a 50kmh speed-limit sign, and the suburban
houses compacted side by side pop into view. This does not
evidently result in a severe land-price impact for most of
New Zealand nationwide, and I doubt that Dunedin has had
house-price increases due to supply constraints, because
population growth is low.
The spatial plan policies support new "granny flats",
mixed-use commercial/residential and multiple dwellings
replacing some single houses, for instance, and these will be
an incremental whole new source of available housing
throughout Dunedin's future.
Some, like Mr Dymock, champion the -acre Kiwi dream houses
and perhaps see the present vast number as totally attributed
to consumer choice and the free market at work. That pattern
of this housing growth was established more than half a
century ago, and single-occupant households are now far more
common than in the past.
Also, the free market concept is false unless there is a
variety of housing types on offer to choose from. Where in
Dunedin's locales is there broad choice of townhouses, garden
and courtyard apartments, granny flats, clustered housing,
mixed-use commercial/residential, first-floor apartments
above shops, etc etc?
Each of these examples, by the way, would cost less than the
traditional suburban house, and some of them much less.
Allowing these housing alternatives a bit of "breathing room"
is one small aspect of the new spatial plan.
Mr Dymock points out affordable housing is one of the reasons
people choose to live in Dunedin and he states that "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". This is wrong. The council's true
obligation is to avoid the myriad problems that would result
from not balancing the many other factors that contribute to
When it comes to public transportation, the remark has been
made that "Kiwis would rather sell their grandmother than
give up their cars". While this over-the-top statement is
humorous, I don't think that feeling applies to all Kiwis.
Although Mr Dymock is certainly a proponent of "unlimited
personal freedom" as cited in his article, perhaps change is
possible for many even if in the past they have been set in
their ways. Let's not forget that in one of the Scandinavian
countries the king (who also engages in commercial
enterprises) regularly commuted to his office on the bus! We
should remember, too, that if there are fewer parking lots,
and fewer cars garaged in city residential areas, that
potentially creates additional space for population
With a reference to our well-stocked supermarket shelves, Mr
Dymock scoffs at the need to preserve soils and land. Plenty
of food around and, after all, it's a globalised world,
according to his argument. Would we just defer to the
"international commodity market"?
With Africa and other places developing agriculturally, would
we form the opinion that Dunedinites shouldn't have to
support any form of conservation or "land banking" here?
Would we just let other countries grow our food, knowing that
the amount of good land these other countries have left to
live on will eventually and unfortunately be reduced but
Dunedin would reap the benefit of cheap housing by building
on even the highest-class soils?
Along with Dunedin being a university town and its economic
focus on becoming one of the world's "great small cities",
our reputation will also rest, in part, on being a good