The New Zealand Infrastructure Commission Te Waihanga says plans to allow greater height limits for buildings in our major cities and to speed up the implementation of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development are encouraging moves that can help make better use of New Zealand’s infrastructure.
Te Waihanga included recommendations for similar steps in the draft New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy it recently provided to the Minister for Infrastructure and which was published on its website last week(external link).
Te Waihanga Strategy General Manager Geoff Cooper says that allowing greater height limits in existing urban areas will improve the ability to use existing infrastructure and, in some cases, reduce the need for costly infrastructure entirely by allowing more homes in places that are close to major employment areas.
"The draft New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy found that New Zealand’s infrastructure needs are too big to simply build our way out of them, and we need to be smarter in getting greater use of the infrastructure we already have and building cities in a way that reduces infrastructure costs," says Cooper.
"Today’s announcements are a win-win for our infrastructure. When we allow for greater density around existing infrastructure, we reduce the need for the extra roads that would be necessary if we were to continue regulating for low-density in our major cities.
"There will be a need to be flexible in planning for infrastructure, as the areas where it is needed may change. However, the evidence suggests that density can actually lower aggregate infrastructure costs. This is because it leads to more people living in areas where water pipes can be shorter or where transport burdens are lighter. Allowing greater density also means that in many instances, high infrastructure costs can be spread over more households, reducing the burden for residents.
"We can also leverage policies like this to reduce the carbon emissions arising from long commutes into major employment areas, reducing our carbon footprint and embodied carbon from infrastructure."
Te Waihanga provided the draft Infrastructure Strategy to the Minister for Infrastructure in September. Following feedback from the Minister, Te Waihanga will finalise the infrastructure Strategy for release early next year. Once finalised, the Government will consider and respond to the recommendations and advice in the Strategy.