Thursday, December 5, 2013

Auckland needs more apartments and shopping malls? Head out, south and to the rest of NZ!

The reports in the NZ Herald that Auckland is destined to keep growing, probably at the expense of the rest of NZ (my words) is indeed worrying. That we may need many more new shopping malls and huge apartment buildings because more and more Aucklanders will move into the central city means more congestion and quite frankly a life-style that seems a bit different to what we know and love in NZ. Perhaps it is that Auckland is catching up with the rest of the world and that ‘inner –city dwelling’ is the way of the future. Perhaps it will mean that people do not have to commute so much and maybe it will be safer to walk Auckland’s streets at night, with the advent of more people and light around in those hours when ‘bad things happen.’ So, is it all bad that Auckland will suck up what Christchurch leaves over from their rebuild or will tradespeople and other skilled employees turn their eyes back to Auckland?
I don’t know how it will all pan out but we should be concerned that Auckland as the power engine of NZ (Don’t tell the farmers I said that!) will continue to take the focus from the regions? Do we really want just a few cities in New Zealand to be the vibrant sectors of our economy while the remainder of New Zealand becomes a ‘quaint’ middle-earth reality? Do we let Auckland become the ‘Shanghai of New Zealand,’ whereby each year thousands of Aucklanders return to their roots in the provinces? Of course some of those ‘provinces’ will be offshore, as a significant proportion of Aucklanders hail from overseas.
Maybe Auckland will find a balance that is right for New Zealand, but not without planning from central Government, in the form of some sort of incentivising people to live outside the behemoth that Auckland is becoming.
There is of course another trend that will emerge as a serious factor; that of an undersupply of skilled workers in the building and allied industries. Where are all these workers going to come from? We are not training enough in New Zealand as young people seek out employment they see as more exciting, ignoring the fact that they could have well-paid jobs in that sector. We will need to bring these skills in from elsewhere, hence the inflow from many countries; a large number of whom will want to settle in---you guessed it---Auckland! How do we avoid this tendency; one that just acerbates an already unbalanced situation?
We must offer incentives for people to settle elsewhere; yes even the ‘subsidy’  word should be heard or some sort of ‘bonding,’ much like teachers had many years ago. What is the point of allowing thousands of people into NZ only to have them add to the top-heavy population of Auckland?
Maybe we could use the ‘S’ (SUBSIDY!) word for New Zealanders. Offer free training for ‘trades people’ in NZ, attracting applicants from domicile NZers and Residents. The provinces could well do with a ‘shot in the arm’, re diversity and the ‘excitement’ that cultural enrichment brings.
I don’t want to rain on Auckland’s vibrancy but would it not be better for all of New Zealand if we retain a bit more of balance as to where people live. I am not advocating some sort of paternalistic ‘control, but for the good of New Zealand as a whole, let’s out some effort into nurturing other areas of our wonderful country. We will all be the winners. Would it not be wonderful seeing our smaller towns and cities having populations that support the services that they now need to travel great distances to receive? That can only come with more people living in those areas. For those in the rural areas who want to retain their solitary existences; well you can still do that. Maybe I shall join you!