Har­vard ex­pert backs more high-rises

Central Leader - - SPORT - By SI­MON DAY and SCOTT MOR­GAN

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.

That means

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.’’

Photo: KEVIN STENT

Think again: Amer­i­can econ­o­mist Ed­ward Glaeser says the uni­tary plan is not bold enough.

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