$300m Riccarton Racecourse housing development gets Government green light


The Government has approved a $300 million, 600-home development at a Christchurch racecourse.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said building could start at Riccarton Racecourse after Cabinet removed the land’s reserve status on Monday.

The land, situated around the outside of the race track, will be developed by the Christchurch Racecourse Reserve Trustees and Ngai Tahu Property.

Parliament passed legislation to hasten the development last June.

Smith said freeing up the land would increase the housing supply and provide a financial boost for the Canterbury racing industry.

“The key to improving affordability is increasing supply and this development will do that while helping first home buyers into a new, high-quality homes,” he said.

“This development, alongside those at Awatea, and Colombo and Welles streets, is the final phase of the Government’s housing response to the Canterbury earthquakes.”

Smith said Government interventions in house planning and supply since the earthquakes made Canterbury one of the most affordable regions in the country.

“It provides a model of how we can resolve issues in other centres and a competitive advantage for the Canterbury region in attracting new industry and people.”


  • Jamie Small
  • The Press

Earthquake laws – A step too far?

SCCZEN_310714NZHSRIHISTORIC04_620x310Lindsay Jones has no desire to knock down his 129-year-old church at the top of Queen St. But as things stand, the senior pastor and his congregation can’t afford to keep it open either.

The church’s striking facade of white Corinthian columns has been an Auckland landmark since 1885. The ceiling of its 700-seat horseshoe-shaped auditorium was painted by church secretary Charles Blomfield, more famous for capturing the Pink and White Terraces. It’s still a busy inner city church, with 500 people attending four services each Sunday and a mission to international students and homeless people on its doorstep.

Yet it is also now officially an earthquake-prone building, which will cost “millions and millions of dollars” to fix, according to geotechnical engineers in Jones’ congregation. The Baptist Tabernacle has failed to meet the requirement of the new Earthquake-prone Buildings Amendment Bill that every commercial, public or multi-storey residential building must have at least 34 per cent of the earthquake design strength expected of a new building.

It scored a miserable 15 per cent of the New Building Standard (NBS).

Jones says he took the moral obligation seriously, asked around and was told the actual risk of anyone dying in his church during an earthquake was very low. He hasn’t asked for a detailed cost estimate yet, as this would be expensive in itself and the church has no hope of finding the money. “Our current annual income on the church is about $650,000, so you’re talking about a large multiplication of that.”

Jones’ next-door neighbour Glenn Teal, who runs the Baptist charity Tabernacle Trust, says his colleague is caught in a catch-22 situation.

“Even if they had the money to earthquake-strengthen it, some of what they would want to do would run foul of the heritage protections that are on it. So they don’t know where to go.”

Teal’s trust owns heritage properties on Karangahape Rd, including one ornately decorated building around the corner from the church, which is about 100 years old and has a 17 per cent earthquake rating. A quantity surveyor’s report estimates it will cost about $765,000 to strengthen but the whole site is worth only $2.2 million.

Teal says the best result the trust could get with such an old building is 40 per cent of NBS — still considered very low — and it could not justify charging any higher rent.

“So our return on investment just went down to about 2 or 3 per cent a year. You may as well put your money in the bank, it’s not worth doing.”

The trust hopes to preserve the facade but plans to demolish the building once the time limit for earthquake strengthening runs out. Teal expects a “fairly involved process” with Auckland Council as the building is in a heritage area, but says he has no choice. He appreciates the heritage and special character of K Rd but says the trust, which pays out to charitable causes, has to make a return on its investments.

Similar moral and financial dilemmas are happening across the country. About 193,000 buildings are caught up in the bill and between 15,000 and 25,000 are likely to need strengthening, at a cost conservatively estimated by officials at $1.7 billion.

Yet critics of the bill, ranging from business, farmers and local councils to engineering experts, say it is a huge overreaction to the Christchurch earthquakes, which will impose excessive costs on property owners, force the unnecessary closure of many old buildings in areas of low earthquake risk and possibly cost as much as $10 billion — roughly equal to the leaky buildings debacle — once heritage costs are taken into account.

The new rules stem from recommendations by the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission and a review by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in the wake of the 2011 earthquakes, which killed 183 people, including 133 in the modern CTV and PGG buildings. Both were concerned at the lack of nationwide information about which buildings were safe and urged the Government to make sure that all buildings had at least one third of the strength of new buildings to resist the sharp horizontal ground movements caused by earthquakes. (The standard is graduated according to local seismic risk, meaning a new building in Wellington has to be four times stronger than a new building in Auckland.) The Government agreed and gave building owners and councils five years to assess all buildings, excluding single and double storey houses, plus another 15 years to complete any necessary strengthening work. Owners of heritage buildings could apply for an extra 10-year extension.

Although Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith has indicated a softer approach in today’s Weekend Herald, the law change is expected to be devastating for old buildings. In Auckland, it will affect heritage suburbs such as Ponsonby, Kingsland and Devonport, plus older arterial routes such as Dominion Rd and Mt Eden Rd. The impact will be even greater on provincial cities and towns which have a bigger proportion of pre-World War II buildings and less income from rents to pay for strengthening. A chorus of alarm has been growing louder over the past two years, from Wanganui, which has 11 per cent of the country’s at-risk buildings and is already losing commercial tenants, to Oamaru, which fears losing its historic stone buildings despite a Government promise that they will somehow be saved.

earthauckOften the tone has been close to panic — the mayor of Oamaru’s Glenn Teal’s Tabernacle Trust owns several historic Auckland buildings and can’t justify the cost of getting them all strengthened. Picture / Sarah Ivey It might be several millennia before a serious earthquake happens in Auckland, but it might be Friday this week.

Connal Townsend Property Council chief executive and neighbour John Coles, predicted the bill would flatten the 50 Edwardian buildings in and around the main street of his town with “catastrophic” results for the district. Dannevirke real estate agent Kerry Sutherland warned last year that three-quarters of the town’s buildings would fail the 34 per cent test. He said one sale had fallen through because the building would cost $100,000 to buy but another $350,000 to strengthen. A New Plymouth real estate agent predicted the city would be left in ruins.

Many councils are furious that the bill will force them to needlessly assess tens of thousands of buildings at ratepayers’ expense. Tauranga City Council, which earlier predicted the changes could cost the city tens of millions of dollars, told the select committee considering the bill that it would have to triple the number of buildings it checked, even though it knew already that most of them would pass.

Hamilton City Council, which assessed about 3200 buildings last year, said it was pointless to repeat the whole exercise.

The Waikato Mayoral Forum predicted a typical rural district faced costs of up to $5.5 million a year just to administer the scheme and estimated only about 20 per cent of buildings would turn out to be a risk. Like several councils, it warned of a likely skill shortage of engineers to do the work in five years and a conflict of interest if the same engineers were required to work for both building owners and councils. It predicted that owners faced with massive bills would simply abandon or demolish their buildings.

Auckland commercial landlord Terry Gould of Phillimore Properties told the committee that claims of financial ruin were not exaggerated. Banks were forcing owners to sell at huge discounts as the cost of upgrades breached loan to value ratios and bankers, insurers and corporate tenants demanded at least 67 per cent of NBS, rather than the legal minimum of 34 per cent.

He knew of one beautiful heritage building, a converted warehouse far stronger than a typical new office building, which was assessed at 32 per cent just because it was made of brick. Under the bill, the council would have to place it on a national register and inform panicked tenants and bankers that it was earthquake prone. The owner would probably try to demolish it as the bare land would be worth more than an upgraded building.

Several independent experts, including the leading engineering professional bodies, have also rubbished the bill. Tailrisk Economics consultant Ian Harrison said the 34 per cent trigger did not reflect the actual risk of an earthquake. Harrison said the figure was “plucked out of the air” with no supporting evidence when earthquake safety standards were revised for the 2004 Building Act, then attached to the bill. He predicted the regime would cost about $10 billion and take 4000 years to save a single life in Auckland.

Auckland Council’s submission included a report from GNS Science, which described the risk of death from an earthquake in the city as negligible. It said the estimated number of deaths was also virtually the same whether or not the city’s supposedly earthquake-prone buildings were strengthened to the 34 per cent standard. To put the risk in perspective, the council added that in the 10,000 year period between major earthquakes, the city could expect to deal with four Japan-sized tsunamis, 10 volcanic eruptions and thousands of floods.

GNS’ own submission said the blanket standard grossly underestimated the real ability of buildings to survive an earthquake. It pointed out that nearly all the older (pre-1976) buildings left standing after the Christchurch earthquakes would have failed the 34 per cent test.

GNS also argued that despite the allowance for local seismic risk, the scales were still weighted against low risk areas because of an earlier change in the earthquake design standard, which effectively meant Auckland had to be ready for a 1-in-1000 year earthquake, compared to 1-in-500 years for Wellington. The cost difference was minor for new buildings, which the standard was intended for, but became excessive for an owner trying to retrofit an old building.

Several experienced engineers wrote forthright personal submissions attacking the bill as unnecessary, including Robert Davey, an earthquake engineering specialist at Opus International Consultants (formerly the Ministry of Works), who said the cost of spending hundreds of millions of dollars would “grossly outweigh the benefits of the minor reductions in harm that would be achieved”.

He added; “As an earthquake engineer with a professional commitment to improving our community’s resilience to earthquakes, I would not make this recommendation if I did not believe it was necessary to prevent a waste of the community’s resources that could be better used elsewhere.”

Eventually the four leading bodies involved — the Institution of Professional Engineers, Society for Earthquake Engineering, Structural Engineering Society and GNS Science — joined forces to produce an alternative approach, which combined seismic risk, construction standard and the number of people using the building. The results ranged from a “red zone” for unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings in busy areas and high earthquake risk zones to a “green zone” for post-2004 buildings and most single and double storey timber buildings, especially those in low risk areas.

The joint working group added two specific suggestions. One was a stay of execution for unreinforced masonry buildings if their owners tied back all dangerous outside parts, such as parapets and chimneys (the main cause of the 43 deaths in the Canterbury earthquakes involving URM buildings). The second was a waiver for all other types of single and double storey buildings — such as timber — as it appeared that none had collapsed in an earthquake since 1931.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith told the Weekend Herald he agreed in broad terms with both these ideas but would not adopt the group’s risk measurement system because it left too much room for debate.

“This is an area where we need some degree of legal certainty and while I accept the argument that a 34 per cent standard is not as sophisticated a regulatory tool, sometimes you need to draw some arbitrary lines.”

He acknowledged the loss of tenants and plunging valuations of many heritage buildings. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in the property market around these older buildings and it is important that … we get the work underway for the assessment and the upgrading of these buildings.”

Dr Smith, an engineer whose PhD examined impact of earthquakes on landslides, was also sceptical of arguments based on the estimated frequency of major earthquakes.

“We’ve got good seismic records for New Zealand for about 40 years. How you make a judgment about what’s a 1-in-500 or 1-in-1000-year event is pretty tricky when your seismic record is quite short.”

Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend, who is based in Auckland, says the city is in “an almost complete state of denial” about seismic liability.

“The hard reality is there were a series of catastrophic earthquakes in Christchurch, a lot of people were killed. Everyone ‘knew’ earthquakes didn’t happen in Christchurch and we were all worried about Wellington — and we got it wrong.

“It might be several millennia before a serious earthquake happens in Auckland, but it might be Friday this week.”

Townsend is campaigning for tax breaks to ease the financial pain for landlords but generally supports the bill, which he says is only reducing the timeframe for work that had to be done anyway.

His main gripe is with Auckland Council’s blanket heritage protection codes for pre-1944 buildings across whole suburbs, which he says will massively increase the cost of earthquake strengthening to at least 67 per cent NBS and could mean predictions of a $10 billion cost blowout prove correct.

Wellington-based AllChurches Bureau chairman Don Baskerville, who represents major Protestant churches on property issues, says many churches like the Baptist Tabernacle could be in for some painful discussions with councils.

“It may be in some cases we’ll have to say to the local council, ‘You love this building so much, you own it’.”

He warns that the arguments against the bill may sound logical but engineering experts don’t bear the ultimate moral responsibility if a serious earthquake occurs.

“It’s the owners of the building that have to turn to the families of the people who die when the building has collapsed and say sorry.”


  • The Herald
  • Andrew Laxon
  • Photo: Sarah Ivey

Plans for 18,000 fast-track Auckland homes

The announcement of 41 new “special housing areas” across Auckland will allow 18,000 new homes to be fast-tracked.

As part of the plans, parts of Great North Rd, Otahuhu, Flat Bush, New Lynn, Northcote, Albany East and Takanini have been earmarked as strategic areas for large-scale development.

auckland_housing_development_map_1_2_3_4_E1The announcement by Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Housing Minister Nick Smith detailed the third, and biggest, tranche of new housing areas identified under last year’s Auckland Housing Accord.

The accord provides for the creation of areas where consents will be streamlined and fast-tracked. But the plans are raising concern in areas from Takapuna to Newmarket, as residents realise their streets will change dramatically.

Dr Smith and Mr Brown made their announcement at 11 Akepiro St, Mt Eden, a site to be developed into 18 units by Ockham Residential, whose developments include The Isaac and Turing apartment buildings in Grey Lynn.

Dr Smith predicted the first places would be ready by the end of this year.

“Not all of the SHA’s [Special Housing Areas] will deliver all of the housing within the three-year term of the accord – some projects may take up to 10 years to complete. That is why the council and Government will continue to work on many more SHA’s, with the next tranche planned for August,” Dr Smith said.

Mr Brown said the latest batch of SHA’s included seven strategic areas identified as having good transport links and access to other infrastructure.

“These are larger areas where we don’t yet have developers with proposals, but where we are signalling to the market that we want to encourage growth. “In addition, many of the SHA’s announced today are significantly larger than those in the first two tranches, and include 34 direct requests from private landowners or developers as well as extensions to three existing SHA’s,” he said.

Twenty-two areas, with the capacity for 15,500 homes, have already been announced.

The new areas are still subject to Cabinet approval and a recommendation to the Governor-General.

The latest announcement has upset some North Shore politicians who say the areas will suffer from intensification.

Jan O’Connor of the Devonport Takapuna Local Board and Grant Gillon, Lorene Pigg and John Gillon of the neighbouring Kaipatiki Local Board said they were appalled by the plans. “The Northcote Special Housing Area is of particular concern, as there are known to be severe stormwater and flooding issues which make this area unsuitable for intensification in this way,” the leaders said.

A council Housing Project Office spokeswoman said a stormwater project to resolve the flooding through Northcote town centre would be brought forward and having the area designated an SHA would accelerate completion.


  • Anne Gibson
  • NZ Herald



New subdivision for Hornby


A plan to build about 275 ‘‘affordable’’ homes on an 11.5-hectare site in Hornby will help fill a gap in the Christchurch housing market, Housing Minister Nick Smith says…

For more follow the link below;


Auckland Council backs home construction plan

The Auckland Council has unanimously backed the Housing Accord with the Government to fast track the construction of 39,000 new homes over three years.

The agreement notifies or effectively puts Auckland’s proposed new Unitary Plan in place, allowing new housing developments to gain consents more quickly.


“We can now get on with the actions agreed in the Housing Accord – unlocking new land for development and fast-tracking the build of more affordable homes in Auckland,” Auckland Mayor Len Brown said.

Today’s decision by the council follows the passing of the Government’s Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act last week. The Act allows for the establishment of special housing areas with a streamlined consent process.

“The next step will be to identify the first batch of Special Housing Areas that will contribute to the 39,000 extra homes provided for under the Accord over the next three years,” Housing Minister Nick Smith said.

“My ambition is to provide sufficient Special Housing Areas by Christmas to accommodate an additional 5000 homes.”


  • Adam Bennett
  • NZ Herald

700 Housing NZ homes by 2015

new house

The Government will be keeping a ‘‘blowtorch’’ on Housing New Zealand to ensure 700 new homes are built in Christchurch by 2015…

For more follow the link below;


Housing agreement could trigger $20 billion boom


An Auckland Housing Accord will push through an extra 40,000 home consents over three years which its backers say will quickly increase the supply and affordability of housing in the country’s biggest city.

The accord would override housing restrictions put in place by Auckland’s former councils.

The legislation will be introduced in this year’s Budget and will create special housing areas. The Auckland Council and the Government had initially been on different pages when it came to residential development in Auckland, but the deal signals some agreement has been reached.

New developments of more than 50 dwellings will be able to be approved in six months compared to the average of three years.

Areas would be selected by the council once the consultation on the draft unitary plan was completed.

At least one area is likely to be near Hobsonville, where affordable housing developments are already under way.

The areas would need to be within the 30-year rural boundary proposed in the unitary plan. They would also need to be in ‘‘discrete’’ geographic area, according to briefing documents.

Mayor Len Brown said there were other areas in Helensville, Pukekohe and Takanini which would be suitable.

Housing Minister Nick Smith said the city needed ‘‘to grow both up and out’’.

He said it allowed the least contentious parts of the unitary plan homes to be built.

‘‘It is good news for Auckland families wanting access to more affordable houses to buy and rent. It’s a stretch, but it’s achievable.’’

The deal will also allow parts of the council’s unitary plan to come into effect.

Auckland is projected to grow by a million people over the next 30 years, but at present just 50 new homes are being completed a week, or 2600 a year – a fraction of the 13,000 new homes needed each year to keep up with growth.

The plan sets out to build more than 400,000 new homes in Auckland over the next 30 years, both through urban intensification and by building in rural areas.

The three-year accord sets a target of 9000 extra houses consented in the first year, 13,000 in the second and 17,000 in the third.

Smith said it represented $20 billion in building projects.

On average, only 3600 homes have been consented annually for the past four years.

Brown said too many families struggled to find quality affordable housing. Affordable housing in Auckland would be between $200,000 and $550,000, he said.

Short of putting up ‘‘barbed wire’’ and telling people not to have babies, Auckland was going to grow, he said. ‘‘We can’t have Los Angeles-type sprawl,’’ he said.

The accord is subject to council agreement and legislation being passed by Parliament.


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