Auckland ‘just completely changes’


Westgate - motorway

Auckland’s “economic power base” is set to shift as two massive developments – the $1.4b Waterview motorway connection and the multi-million dollar metropolitan expansion centred on Westgate – edge closer to completion.

Campbell Barbour, general manager of projects at New Zealand Retail Property Group (NZRPG), says both will be “real game-changers” and that Waterview in particular “just completely changes Auckland and will lead to a redistribution of the economic power base.”

He says the traditional model of a central business district (CBD) with retail centres like New Lynn, Glenfield and St Lukes positioned 10 to 20 kms away is ceding dominance to a new “ring” of metropolitan centres – in particular the big five of Albany, Newmarket, Sylvia Park, Manukau and Westgate, all of which have direct and easy access to motorways.

“In the future you may wake up in Mt Albert, say, on a Saturday morning and think ‘where can I find a Harvey Norman store a 10-15 minute drive time away?’. The answer will be you can turn right and drive to Manukau or turn left and go to Westgate.

“In the past Manukau or Westgate would probably not have been in the thinking of Mt Albert residents but that is what motorways do,” he says.

The motorway project will give Auckland an effective “ring road” around the city by connecting the south western and north western motorways, creating a continuous 48km stretch of road between Manukau and Albany; while the Westgate development will complete the big five metropolitan centres strategically located on the “ring”.

“Once finished,” he says “there will be a second way of driving through Auckland. Heading north it will be possible to turn off at Manukau and go all the way to Albany – why would you go through Spaghetti Junction to do that?”

As a result Barbour says, Westgate will no longer be considered to be “out west” but merely “along the road.”

“It is as much about the north of Auckland growing west as it is the about the west growing northwards. It is a joining of sensible dots, the connecting of the missing links, that’s why Westgate is such a compelling story, ” he says.

Barbour says the concept of a Westgate-style metropolitan centre is not unique in New Zealand. “In 1965 there were paddocks at Manukau, in the 1980s there were orchards in Albany. Both here and all over the world you can’t have huge populations without the live, work, play mix.

“What makes Westgate such a powerful cocktail is that it is not just about retail. It is a place that, yes, will be a shopping destination but also a place where people live, do business, where there are hospitality services and transport hubs.

“The Auckland Council is investing $30m in a new library at Westgate; overall they are putting $200m into the (Westgate Town Centre) project. They wouldn’t be doing that if it was only a shopping centre.”

The Waterview connection is due for completion next year. At Westgate 240,000 sq m of new retail space – including the Northwest Mall which opened last year – is already well progressed, while a large number of the planned 30,000 additional homes at Westgate and its surrounding areas are in the pipeline.

As a result new housing estates are springing up in throughout the north-west in areas like Whenuapai, Hobsonville, Riverhead and Kumeu/Huapai. In 10 to 30 years a population at least the size of Dunedin (population 123,000) is expected to be living in the district.
Barbour says north-west locals “understand there is huge change coming to our well-kept secret”. He says they are excited but also concerned that infrastructure like roading, schools and recreational facilities keep up with the rate of growth.

The MP for Upper Harbour (and Minister for Social Housing) Paula Bennett, describes the north-west transformation as “a model for how you do smart, modern, higher density development.”

“It’s no secret,” she says, “Auckland needs more houses and more intensive development more quickly than ever before. This development has put thought into how people want to live, how they travel, what they do for leisure; it is giving more people a chance at homeownership and Aucklanders should be really proud of what is going on out here.”

Bennett says the remarkable thing about the north-west is the sheer scale of growth.

“Over the next few decades a city the size of Dunedin will spring up in the area which is remarkable when you think about it. That’s tens of thousands of people living, working, raising families and relaxing in what I genuinely think is the jewel in the crown of Auckland.”