Two things that most Aucklanders want in 2016 is less congestion on the roads and more affordable housing.
We live in a great city but unlike other parts of the country, it is the high rate of growth (not a lack of it) that poses the biggest problems for us.
The challenge is that investment in infrastructure, especially transport and housing, has not kept up with the more than 40,000 people who were added to Auckland’s population last year.
In two decades, our city size is targeted to increase by a further half million people. Rather than investing in a strong public transport system and extra houses in anticipation of that, investment in those areas is not keeping up with demand. As a result, there are growing problems in both areas.
Current reports project traffic congestion getting worse and while house and apartment building has risen to around 8000 extra units a year, we need 13,000 to keep up with rising demand.
City Rail Link
Soon the government will announce that it will meet half the cost of the City Rail Link.
I welcome that but we need the investment sooner than they plan.
There is also a strong argument that central Government should regard the Link as equivalent to a Road of National Significance, for which the Government meets the full cost.
The City Rail Link is necessary because it will double the capacity of heavy rail, which enjoyed a 22% rise in patronage last year. That will help the South Auckland and West Auckland but only partly addresses the problem.
We need more busways like they have on the North Shore.
Every Which Way
We need Light Rail, which is clean, quick and can carry twice as many people as buses. We need walkways and cycleways, including allowing students to use them to get to school safely rather than them having to be driven to school.
That could take a lot of pressure off the roads.
To fund these, the Central Government has to recognise that Auckland not only has more than a third of New Zealand’s population but has also become the economic powerhouse of New Zealand.
The Government has to work with Auckland to overcome our infrastructure deficit if New Zealand as a whole is to progress.
On the housing front, Auckland house prices last year rose on the average house by over 17% or $115,000. That pushed the dream of owning a home out of the reach of tens of thousands more Auckland residents.
Many are caught in a trap, with rents rising more than five times faster than overall inflation.
Fundamentally that is because demand for housing in Auckland has been rising much faster than the supply of houses.
Auckland has become one of the ten least affordable cities in the world.
The median house price in Auckland is nearly ten times greater than the median household income. Ideally, the ratio should be just three times greater.
We need measures to increase housing supply such as ensuring certainty and confidence so that the building industry gears up to do this, and planning changes to ensure there is ample supply of land within the city to build on. We can also reduce demand pressures.
Taking away some of the advantages property speculators enjoy, which allow them to outbid home owners, is one way.
Adopting Australia’s rules that overseas investors can’t buy existing residential homes, bidding up house prices, but must add new houses to the housing stock is another.
Auckland’s challenges will not be resolved overnight.
By year’s end, however, I hope that we will at least see real progress in the readiness of both central and local governments to address them more comprehensively.
Phil Goff is former Foreign Affairs, Trade and Justice Minister and has been Member of Parliament for 35 years. Elected from Mt Roskill, he is today Labour Party’s Spokesperson for Defence and Ethnic Communities. Mr Goff has announced that he would contest for Auckland Mayoralty at the Local Government elections this year.