Harvard expert backs more high-rises
Do you still dream of owning a quarter-acre section somewhere in the suburbs?
Think again, visiting Harvard economist Edward Glaeser says – or risk stunting Auckland’s growth.
Mr Glaeser is the author of Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.
He says the council’s unitary plan, outlining regional growth over the next three decades, is not bold enough.
And residents also need to get real if they want the city to grow into an exciting place that continues to drive the national economy.
The quarter-acre dream is simply not sustainable.
‘‘Throughout most of New Zealand this will continue to be a perfectly reasonably and dominant way of living. But you do have this one city that will probably contain a larger economic edge as time goes forward – and that one city is scarce of land,’’ he says.
Mr Glaeser urges the council to be more aggressive in upzoning core urban areas as it works to solve regional housing issues.
building multi-storeyed buildings to create an exciting, pedestrian based city centre.
‘‘With 20 to 30 storeys in central Auckland you can produce massive amounts of space,’’ Mr Glaeser says.
He supports the City Rail Link but says buses are the best public transport option for a moderate density city like Auckland.
Continued investment in roads will not solve its congestion problems until there is an ideological shift away from the Kiwi obsession with the car, he says.
A congestion tax, charging drivers for the roads they use and the times they use them, would encourage a mindshift towards other alternatives.
‘‘I am intrinsically opposed to providing more highways that are paid for by the general taxpayer, not the drivers,’’ Mr Glaeser says.
The part-government, part-council funding structure of Auckland’s new transport projects has not been defined but most New Zealand road schemes are currently funded through petrol taxes which are set to increase 3c a litre annually for the next three years.
Auckland road users should be burdened with the social cost of their choice to use the car, Mr Glaeser says.
‘‘The gas tax is a terrible remedy for dealing with congestion, because it hits someone driving through the South Island the same as someone in Auckland.’’
Deputy mayor Penny Hulse says many of Mr Glaeser’s ideas fit with what the council is doing with the unitary plan.
‘‘He does agree with giving people the opportunity to live and work in close proximity.’’
But she says it would be difficult to develop the central city, given Auckland’s unique geography with two harbours separated by a narrow piece of land.
The council has instead chosen to develop the city, along with other hubs like Takapuna, Manukau, New Lynn and Henderson.
‘‘We’re not exactly the same as Vancouver or Houston. Shoving everything into the city centre is when you put the city most at risk.’’
Think again: American economist Edward Glaeser says the unitary plan is not bold enough.