Parks and Gardens Land Purchases – Long term planning

In Lewis Mumford’s book The Culture of Cities (1938), he wrote: “When the Crown planned Regent’s Park in London the park itself was appreciated as a device for increasing the ground values of the neighbouring properties held by the Crown” (p. 111). Looking back at past Hamilton City Council long term plans (LTPs), we can see a number of recent large increases in spending that had not been budgeted for in earlier plans. The 2006-16 LTP explains the increase in the Parks and Gardens budget as “…strategic land purchases to provide recreational open space in the city’s new areas. All purchases will be funded by development contributions” (p. 26). If we look at ‘housing’ on the Reserve Bank’s inflation calculator it shows that housing costs increased by 88% between 2000 to 2006. The 1999-19 LTP had budgeted $400k for the year 2006 for land purchases, while in the 2006-16 LTP it was $17,756k, a 4000% increase. Hamilton’s population was 116,604 in 2001; it increased to 129,591 in 2006, representing an 11% increase.

In hindsight, we can see that when council underfunds land purchases for growth the cost of the catch-up is high. It is correct that “All purchases will be funded by development contributions” (2006-16 p.26) but the council has allowed a few land owners to dictate the timing for growth to the point that land values are out of reach for people new to the home ownership market.

Land purchases are more than “increasing the ground values of the neighbouring properties” (Mumford), and new storm water management is no longer about the wholesale piping of streams and uncontrolled discharges to rivers and lakes. A good example is the floodway planned in Rotokauri. This extension, coming from Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park through to Lake Rotokauri, has the potential to equal Hamilton Garden visitor numbers.

Strategic Growth Committee 20 Aug 2020 p98

The graph below shows spending for the past decade and predicted spending in the next decade; even though spending on land purchases looks ad hoc, the average house price and spending are not too far off parallel. “All purchases will be funded by development contributions”, which will be added to the price of new housing. The key line to focus on is the dotted wage inflation line: can the money come from future hard-working wage earners without making them slaves to a mortgage they can never repay?

Average House price is from Lodge Real Estate

The cost of a house is the outcome of council limiting land available, and the number of suppliers. “In the 1960s, 10% (278ha) of Hamilton city was zoned Residential High Density … The latest District Plan has it down to 2% (208ha)” and as Colin Jones (on behalf of Commercial & Industrial Consultants Ltd) notes in his submission to the Annual Plan 2020/21, Pages 3 & 25 of his attachment, “The concentrated landownership is of serious concern in that only 16 property owners control all the development ready land in Hamilton while in Christchurch, there are approximately 600. This has enabled some developers in Hamilton to achieve monopoly profits”.

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