Thursday, August 11, 2016

Housing it needs to go up, not out!!!

Housing is the political football at the moment and it would appear there is no easy solution.  From an agricultural perspective I hope everyone in Auckland and every other town and city in New Zealand remembers that our economy and our standard of living is still highly dependent on agriculture.

They need to be mindful of this fact because we simply can't keep subdividing agricultural land off to build more houses for more people in towns or cities to live in.   In almost all cases the taken land is our top producing land and the same land that drives our economy.

A topical example is Auckland's encroachment on Pukekohe and the surrounding area. This is arguably some of New Zealand's most productive country for various forms of horticulture and viticulture.  It's the same all over New Zealand -  good producing flat land on the outskirts of a town is subdivided off to build houses. This land is never recovered and rarely is the stoney hilly garbage country that produces little replaced by housing.

Even worse are lifestyle blocks with 20 acres sectioned off to build a house. The initial phrase of: "I can't wait to live in the country" soon tires and I believe something like 80-90 per cent of these lifestyle-yearning owners want out within two years mainly because they didn't realise the work required to look after 10 sheep, two goats and cattle beast. This work has to be done in the evenings or weekends because of the full time job they hold down. Worse, this land is almost always good productive land which is lost to farming for good.

What's the answer?  Quite simply we need to build upwards.  That's easy for me to say as a farmer living in wide open spaces, but it's the reality and I would point out that I am hopefully contributing on a productive economic basis to the economy to enjoy such a privilege.

We have to get beyond this quarter acre section mentality that New Zealanders have basically considered a right for many decades now.   Sure, compared with the rest of the world we have a low population density, but not many countries enjoy our standard of living because of our reliance on agriculture.   Accordingly, the subdivision of good productive land can't continue if we want to maintain our standard of living.  

The housing crisis needs to remedied by building decent apartment blocks with green areas and communal facilities. We need to build adjoining houses. We need to repopulate the centres of cities and live in the area you work so we can cut down the need for a car. We need good green areas and playgrounds for families. Again, this is not something that just applies to Auckland; it applies to every town and city in New Zealand.  Surely the repopulation of urban centres with most people living where they work will also help to alleviate the transport problems a city like Auckland, in particular, faces.  I am just stating the obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me how often the obvious seems to get overlooked in politics.

There are numerous examples around the world where cities have repopulated the centre of the city and built upwards in a tasteful manner.   It can be done in a classy way.  I recall in the last year a television programme about a major Canadian city that has done exactly this.

England is often criticised for all sorts of things by New Zealanders; but I was always impressed by how easy it was to access the country and see productive farming operations given its population. This was possible because of  their densely populated villages, towns and cities.   Adjoining houses with no lawns or little sections and apartment blocks made this possible, although granted they have some awful council estates.  A New Zealander would take the mickey out of these things when living there, but the reality is this is the sort of thing that has to happen in New Zealand now.