GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Your Vegetables Just Became More Expensive


A decision to build 34,500 houses at Pukekohe and Drury over the land where we grow much of our winter vegetables reflects the callous disregard our narrow minded neoliberal politicians have for future generations.

The drive to make money and encourage debt creation has blinded us to the many creative possibilities of how we could solve our housing crisis without fostering the single story home ownership model that encourages city creep and concrete to be poured over the land where we grow our food.

We need our cities to grow up, not out.

How much inner city land, for example, is given over to car sales yards ? Cleverly designed 5 story car sales buildings could stack these business above each other releasing 4/5ths of the land given over to stationary cars . Come to that, free buses would reduce the need for many cars in the city.

We could hold architectural competitions to design family friendly 4 and 5 story inner city housing along lines of existing infrastructure and we could encourage multiple ways of financing folk into affordable accommodation such as long term leasing ,cooperative mortgages and government guaranteed low interest rent- to- own schemes for inner city living .

But no.

Let’s spread over the land which has some of the best soil in our country and where frosts are so rare that New Zealanders are assured of fresh vegetables in the winter.
And let’s fly our vegetables in from Australia adding to our climate problems and making us pay more for our food on which our neoliberal government will collect more GST.


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Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. The health disbenefits of this sort of thing can be calculated. I wonder if that’s been done?

  2. That’s all right, Phil Goff, has promised to protect the best growing areas. In reality there seems to be no plan to protect these areas. The council may have been told it risks legal action from land bankers denied their profits. The thing a lot of commentators on this issue don’t seem to get is that there is no alternative area to move these crops to. The climate and the soils are not replicated to any extent in other areas of New Zealand.
    It would be sad but not surprising if we as a nation lost the ability to feed ourselves as we have lost so much else over the past thirty years. It is shocking to look at the populations of our other major cities. Think about how big you think they are and then check the numbers. Should we be moving development to those centres? Would we be better to establish satellite centres 50-60km out of Auckland with good rail links? Perhaps we need to look at the need for mass immigration? Is it adding value other than creating a boom in the construction and home appliance sector? We seem to have lost the ability to think strategically outside of lining the pockets of those with most to gain from the status quo.

    • Great comment Alan. I feel that with the anti farming sentiment that’s so prevalent currently councils are happy to push the boundaries literally. There’s people to be housed and money to be made. Why would we worry about a little thing like preserving the best land to feed us. I mean we can buy food from countries that have abused their own land far worse than us and aren’t to worried about the quality or safety of the food they export to us, so we may as well do that. In my opinion city councillors in general have no great love of the land. It’s not their brief which is to develop it. And that doesn’t include growing vegetables. We’re just collectively dumb.

  3. The reason apartments don’t work in NZ is NOT because people don’t want them, it is because the government and council have allowed them to be designed to not to last very long, their amenity built out easily (aka another apartment wall built 1 cm away) and be a rout for body corp and leasehold fees, and therefore have become too risky for many people to invest in or live in, even if they want to.

    Until someone in the left stop the pavlov dogs manta about build up, not out, without actually doing some analysis of what happens when people buy those apartments (aka they go broke or spend their lives worrying about the next 10% body corporation rise each year or the hundred thousands they need to put in for the remedial work) they are working on the wrong thing to lobby governments on.

    Apartments are considered so risky by banks you tend to need a 30-50% deposit to buy them, which is why they are pretty much the domain of cash rich foreign students and foreign investors. But within 10 years probably those people will be shunning them as they are forced to pay over more and more money when things go wrong, or just because they are allowed to keep increasing fees 10% year on year.

    Some of the best parts of Auckland are effected, Princess Wharf for example the leasehold fees are exorbitant and people are constantly caught out in other areas too, like Cornwall park. while body corp fees increasing well over the cost of inflation and management routs are common.

    There are no easy solutions in NZ for housing because the left have an ideal without much understanding of all the routs going on in the construction and development industry and blather on about building up without understanding it aint that easy.

    If you sink you savings into a leasehold property or freehold apartment, within a decade you will probably regret if you are on a limited income, as probably a large percentage will need remedial work within a decade, it takes ages because of all the people who don’t or can’t pay with all the legal implications that creates, and sometimes people are even left with no accomodation while they have to pay hundreds of thousands in fees for remedial work while also paying their mortgage on a place they can’t stay in for a year or more if ever. (With all the dodgy concrete and steel, who knows if some will even be able to be remediated, judging by Sydney and their structural problems).

    • I looked at the wording of the legals around body corporates and who gets onto the decision-making group, and found that there is an option to have all people represented and that can he put in the documents at the beginning so as to prevent the little hitlers and the userers getting control. I havn’t got the info at hand just now but point out that the speculators who build these things haven’t got people’s wellbeing at heart and are unlikely to choose this option for the legals they go with and present to the prospective buyers. We have read of the problems that can occur which appear to be limitless.

      • There are multiple issues, there Greywarbler, because even if you get everyone involved if the building has been built wrong, then a certain percentage will not be able to afford or even agree a way forward.

        Not only that, maintenance for high-rises are significantly higher than other types of buildings, from cleaning the building to running the lifts. So there is an ongoing premium to living in an apartment because a lot of maintenance home owners do themselves they can’t do within a high rise and if one thing goes wrong then it can easily extend to other apartments, aka a flood, contamination or a fire.

        In a natural or other disaster there are also major issues to reconstructing high rises and the time frames are significantly longer with more people affected than lower height housing.

        One important thing to consider is our housing shortages and constant erosion of city limits are on the back of the governments desire to rapidly increase NZ’s population from the past decade.

        So the important question is, does NZ want to have millions and millions more people, or do we want to be a social democracy with a high level of clean, green space and free education and health care, like Scandinavia.

        Having a nation of petrol attendants and cafes and satellite families and foreign retiree’s paying little to zero taxes here, while growing NZ carbon footprint, with no real high paid industry to speak of here, is great for banks, finance and supermarkets (like removing the ability to have locally grown food aka removal of food production at Pukekohe and Drury) but not so good for most of society living in the country.

  4. Unlike other cities NZ also does not allow enough natural percentages of land to be around the cities. It like other cities has allowed to much reliance on trucks to deliver all goods.

    In addition tourist $$$ being reduced as our cities become gridlocked and unattractive as tourists start staying away.

    Cities like London have 40% parks and natural public spaces.

    Paris has parks covering more than three thousand hectares and containing more than 250,000 trees.

    One reason that London also has decent levels of natural space is they learnt during the 2nd world war they need land for food production.

    Any sort of truck strikes now bring modern cities to their knees as they run out of food and fuel within days.

    Factories close, supermarkets empty and jets run out of fuel as truckers’ strike bites

    In Brazil, a truckers’ strike brings Latin America’s largest economy to a halt

    UK food industry looks to avoid shortages in no-deal Brexit

    We spend a fortune on defence, but probably you can control NZ just by investing in trucking firms as well as sell off the food production. The food production part has already has already mostly happened with most of NZ major agriculture firms now being owned by overseas interests.

    • OIA was supposed to stop strategic assets being sold off. OIA is a laughing stock if that was the intention.

  5. And finally we have to look at the types of houses we are building in these places that seem to be more like large spec houses that gridlock up the cities, than anything that a person can afford on an average wage.

    (start at 4 mins) because it shows the types of houses that are being built, and there are a lot of them and who they are built for in areas where there is not a lot of public transport around Auckland, so seemed more designed as ‘investment only’ or “satellite family investment” housing which there is a surplus of.

    This has now meant there are multiple shortages in Auckland from affordable housing, builders, workers as people are invested in doing things for profits not function, and locals leave cities for affordability reasons (and the same then happens where they move too, aka we have a displacement situation doing on) and the replacement people are often from overseas and retired, students or families and are not qualified to be able to work in many areas of the economy, so Auckland turned into a Ponzi and the tail end of that, is that the bubble is now deflating leaving non functional housing and societies in its wake.

  6. Look, we DO NOT NEED these homes. We need the housing we already have to be affordable which is clearly isn’t, and to utilize the property that is sitting vacant. If this stupid development goes ahead I predict
    – the developer will go under within the next 2-3 years
    – the construction will stop midway through creating an unsightly mess for years to come
    – the locals will deeply regret and resent the development as it will undermine property prices when they are already falling (expect 40%+ drops from the peak as lending drys up and buyers disappear)

    How can I be so sure? I follow DFA on Youtube. Here’s the latest (this one has an Aussie focus, but same issues here)

    Stupid councils, greedy banks and false media narratives. Gah!

    • @Z
      ” Why does this country insist on trashing it’s natural resources?”
      Because to do otherwise would, by its very nature, expose a stack of intergenerational swindles a mile high. ( For you doubting millenials that’s 1.6 km.)
      There’re 4.7 mil of us lot.
      Our rich and fertile AO/NZ Land area= 25 thousand sq km bigger than the UK.
      Canterbury alone @ 45 thousand sq km has 660,000 people while Holland at the same area can carry 17 million people.
      That written.
      Learn to grow your own. Now. Today. With no small amount of urgency.
      Dig over some soil, dig in some organic fertiliser. I.e. Seaweed, sheep, cow ( dry is best.) and chicken shit. NOT horse shit tho. You might get Tetanus.
      I put cow shit in a hesian sack and soak that in a 200 L drum of water. Leave for a few weeks/months. A great concentrated liquid fertiliser for plants in pots.
      Now. Don’t fuck around. Find some soil, dig it over, grow something edible.
      “A bacteria that lives in soil, dust and manure, particularly horse manure. Infection occurs when the bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin. … Generally, if symptoms appear very quickly, the infection is severe. Tetanus is not transmitted from person to person.Sep 30, 2014”

  7. I agree with you, but is it negligence or sabotage? Our poverty is easily converted into their leverage, their unequal power, this could be a deliberate ploy to transition from loan sharks and landlords to tycoon food merchants? You only have to consider people like Bob Jones who advocate becoming much more like Singapore… I mean, what? These types of people would have us living on a prison asteroid with zero rights, making widgets while they ship food about. Absolute power. That blind eye they turn to the issue, it still knows what it’s not seeing, deliberately in my opinion. Why we continue to persevere recognizing so called authorities who don’t deserve any authority at all is completely beyond me. It’s irrational and unreasonable and reprehensible

  8. You know I remember in 1970 at Intermediate school we read and worked on an article in a school journal that was all about the problems being caused by urban sprawl.
    Nearly 50 years ago and the problem was recognized even then!
    And what have we learned?
    That is the story of this country.
    We won’t do shit whilst there is something that can be exploited and we can make money from.

  9. Reading the bump on this issue its easy to see that a very narrow path of thinking is based on immediate human wants, good cheap food and housing.

    There is much more to sucessful community than those.

    But there is the Earth and all we enjoy from the balance provided by a diverse environment. That critical and essential aspect of life is being damaged by the narrow market driven demolition of our wider environment, the fellow species of macro biota right through to the many species of wild life whose spaces we take as we wipe them out. Bird and insect life has been decimated in NZ. The majority of Wetlands destroyed and now we are killing of the streams and waterways, diverting rainfall and ground water to irrigating soil that was not evolved for irrigation and taking water away from streams and aquifers essential for wild life.
    Biocides used for growing crops pollute ground water and kill off micro organisms essential to that soil. Similarly the use of fertiliser destroys fertility of soil over time.
    The shape of viable communities includes food supply close at hand. work close at hand, minimal transport and certainly not fossil fuels dependent, minimal waste and certainly not cars. Buildings using cement and imported materials are damaging to the environment.
    A complete rethink of how we meet our needs to survive includes environmental restoration, care and reshaping how we use natural resources without depleting or damaging them.

    Market talk on housing and food supply clashing just demonstrated how primitive our mainstream thinking is.

    We need extensive wilderness to balance our cradle of life.
    The neurosis of modern living is driving us nuts.

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