Each year 40,000 people move to Auckland. That is the equivalent of the entire population of Timaru – every man, woman and child arriving in a calendar year. They all need a house to live in. That house needs by law electricity, running water, sewerage disposal and a driveway. All of these have to be integrated with the larger electricity, water supply, sewerage and roading networks. Each house will create it’s own waste and leave behind an ecological footprint.
If all people in the world consumed the resources of the average New Zealander, we would need 94% of another Earth size planet.
How does this affect our biggest city? Auckland’s sprawl is eating up farmland that will never be recovered. Where was once acres of grazing land south of Titirangi two decades ago is now residential sprawl. I remember visiting relatives in the east Auckland suburb of Howick, an upper class area in 1998. Then the land only a few kilometres to the south was still farmland used for grazing animals and cropping. Now it is all urbanized and the particular area I remember is a large shopping complex. Auckland is forecast to have a population of 2.0 million people by 2030, which would mean possibly 40-45% of New Zealand’s total population living in one area.
This creates some serious infrastructural and environmental challenges for planners:
- How to dispose of the waste of so many people in an environmentally responsible manner
- How to reduce traffic congestion on already heavily congested routes – simply building more motorways will not work, for with motorway comes more urban sprawl
- Will a desalinization plant or another pipeline from the Waikato River be needed to supply adequate water
- Where will future electricity for Auckland come from
This is potentially a national issue, since although there has been an effort to get people to move away from Auckland, many people stay there because they like the climate and it has the most job opportunities of any New Zealand city. Government and private sector planning also has not done much to encourage people to move to Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin as many corporates have located their headquarters and some also their operations in Auckland. However, as the squeeze goes on Auckland, more and more may find that they have no choice because their location of choice is simply not affordable.
Auckland’s current trajectory is unsustainable. On its current trajectory I think it will reach a crisis point shortly by 2020, at which point the quality of living in Auckland will start to decline noticeably. That would mean another 160,000 people or roughly 66% the population of Hamilton and about 40% of Christchurch’s total population. When you think about the problems that are experienced right now with planning for Auckland’s future, this is a daunting increase.