Auckland set to solve key problems

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 14:32 19/02/2014
Fairfax NZ

Auckland Mayor Len Brown announces five key areas to develop Auckland at this morning's State of the City speech.

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Auckland is on its way to improved economic growth and solving its housing and transport problems, Mayor Len Brown says.

To achieve an annual growth rate of between 5 per cent and 6 per cent Auckland would need to shift to an export-focused economy to take advantage of faster-growing overseas economies, he said in his state of the city speech this morning.

He told the 70 people attending the Greater East Tamaki Business Association breakfast that Auckland Council's chief economist, Geoff Cooper, believed New Zealand's largest city had the best economic outlook in seven years.

Auckland's economic growth this year was projected to be about 3.5 per cent, up from 2.8 per cent last year. Building was up almost 25 per cent compared to a year ago, and consents for the 2014 financial year were set to double the number issued in 2011.

HOUSING

Auckland has suffered a squeeze in housing supply, leading to rising house prices.

Brown said the council's new housing plans meant consents could be approved faster to ramp up the pace of house and apartment construction.

During boom times Auckland built a lot of houses, but during a bust it barely built any, he said.

The costs of materials for building houses in Auckland were as much as double those in Australia.

There were 22 special housing areas in Auckland, with more than 15,000 new housing units for the city.

There would soon be a mix of homes available across a range of prices depending on where people were looking to buy, Brown said.

For example, the central development in the middle of Manukau had units available for between $218,000 and $350,000, he said.

INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT

Brown said Auckland's growth rate would be determined by the national growth rate unless it shifted its focus to exports.

An international development office would offer opportunities for domestic and overseas investment in large Auckland and council-controlled organisations.

The service would then be offered to owners of other large projects, such as NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), universities and the private sector.

The city needed to attract international investment on a much bigger scale than it had in the past and actively promote itself to the international migrant market, Brown said.

TRANSPORT

"Auckland has suffered from decades of underinvestment in public transport and a lack of joined-up planning," Brown said.

The council and the Government were also committed to dealing with Auckland's traffic congestion.

The focus would be on the East-West link, the main freighting link across the city, and the early completion of the second harbour crossing, he said.

NZTA and the council were also working on a plan to unblock Tip Top corner and the Takanini interchange.

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