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How transport infrastructure is shaping our rural areas

A focus on transport infrastructure across the Auckland region has broad implications for greenfield areas and housing development. Bayleys Auckland general manager lifestyle, Raymond Mountfort identifies key projects and how they’re set to reshape lifestyle communities.

From Huapai in Auckland’s Northwest, a view towards Kumeū would once have afforded rolling hillside, orchards and the grapevines of Auckland’s premier wine-producing region. Today, what has been a largely horticultural area is rapidly developing into a new suburban hub, raising demand for transport options with flow-on effects for its neighbouring communities.

More and more, sprawling lifestyle properties are becoming neighbourhoods of eighth-acre homes, particularly with a new local government emphasis on actively planning for the next 30 years’ worth of population growth.

Compass points across the region have been identified for development, which, for existing landowners, presents a significant opportunity for value capture.

In the Northwest, the corridor between Westgate and Whenuapai is a critical growth node for the Supercity reflected in planned works for large-scale transport projects, including a proposal for a Rapid Transit Corridor (RTC).

The suggested RTC path includes faster connections from Kumeū-Huapai to high-demand destinations, including Westgate and the city centre.

It also proposes a connection from the new Westgate interchange to access the North Shore Rapid Transit Network (RTN), and integration with existing use plans to expand the Kumeū town centre and establish a new local centre at Huapai.

This and projects like it across the Northwest have been in the works for the better part of a decade, with the confidence of planned projects escalating land values, but progress is slow given financial squabbles and bureaucracy. The new government, however, has pledged to leverage private-public partnership funding to invest in transport corridors for this high-growth area.

Planners expect we could finally see something tangible by 2033.

These services have been modelled on the Northern Expressway – a six-kilometre dedicated busway connecting Auckland’s North Shore with the city centre. The RTN was completed in 2009, becoming a shining example of the value of infrastructure investment, and the recipient of enigmatic Mayor Wayne Brown’s approval.

As growth occurred throughout the project, land demand and associated values also increased, with land within the range of the State Highway network and RTN commanding higher prices in line with development credentials.

Real estate investors have their ear to the ground for whispers of where high-value infrastructure projects are taking place. We continue to see intense demand for residential development land, particularly following the Council’s decision to adopt its Future Development Strategy (FDS) at the end of last year.

Councillors voted to withdraw zoning designations for approximately 4,800 hectares of land on the fringes of Auckland’s urban boundaries while pledging to prioritise infrastructure spend in areas where growth is already occurring.

In Auckland’s Southeast, the designated greenfield land earmarked for urban development, notably in areas like Takanini and Drury-Ōpaheke, has seen a reduction.

Conversely, the future outlook for the landscape around Mangere and Puhinui is poised for transformation, thanks to recent prioritisation for long-term infrastructure investment.
Neighbouring areas will reap the benefits here, as proliferation across Auckland’s southern corridor – being the northern gateway to the Golden Triangle economic hot zone – and the fortification of critical infrastructure increases development prospects and the likelihood of further intensification to accommodate population growth.

However, zoning roadblocks, particularly restrictions and changes to areas previously assigned Future Urban overlays, are positioned to increase land value in areas ‘where growth is already occurring’.

Recent analysis from the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission found in 2010, Auckland’s urban land values were just over two times higher than the value of adjacent rural land. By 2023, this ratio had risen to 4.4, reflecting the ‘halo effect’ of planned and delivered infrastructure.

In Drury, civil and earthworks have commenced on a new mixed-use town centre set to accommodate a forecast 60,000 new residents over the next three decades. This has seen landowners in nearby Runciman, Ramarama, and Ararimu buck trends during the recent housing downturn, with lifestyle blocks in steady demand, oftentimes amongst development entities.

Despite opportunities having been identified, residential construction levels have fallen eight percent from their 2022 peak, impacted by capacity constraints, building costs and higher interest rates – adding weight to the assumption we are once again headed for a period of underbuilding.

Central Government initiatives to increase housing supply include a $1 billion ‘Build for Growth’ proposal that would see regional councils earn $25,000 for every dwelling consented to above a five-year average. This financial lure means ‘skin in the game’ for councils to increase housing supply.

Our greenfields, and lifestyle communities are constantly evolving to meet the modern demands of population growth. Sections are getting smaller, and infrastructure-adjacent land continues to attract a price premium, creating opportunities for current landowners, and questions about density done well and the future of our region.

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