GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Imagination required for transformation of housing.


Yes we have to increase our housing supply but we don’t have to do it by spreading our cities outwards and building over our best arable land.

Otherwise we will be importing more of our food in the future instead of growing it ourselves and our already high cost of living will go up impacting even more on those who already struggle to get by.

Part of the solution is to build up in our cities not out but that means finding ways families can live better lives in our cities.

Pictured in my post today is an apartment complex in Turin at 25 Verde. I interviewed the architect Luciano Pia for my documentary Who Owns New Zealand Now? (See the link in my previous post the interview is near the end of that doco)

Whether you like the look of this particualr building or not my point is we need to have more imaginative solutions to how we can live in our cities.

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. Quite right that we need to stop covering agricultural land with concrete and asphalt, Bryan. But cities are doomed to becoming centres of starvation and disease in the coming world anyway -a world in which oil ceases to be available for the production and distribution of food, and a world in which electricity ceases to be available for pumping water and sewage etc. because it now takes oil to keep the electricity system running.

    Humanity went past the point of no return with respect to population around 1850, and has been living on borrowed time and readily-available fossil fuels ever since. Gobbling up resources and generating ever-greater quantities of pollutants has a price. And we’re about to pay it.

    Fossil fuels are still readily available but won’t be for much longer. The crunch comes in the period 2025 to 2030.

    No one (other than a miniscule minority of the populace) even thinks about energy, and most assume it will be there whenever they need it, forever -a kind of fairytale delusion promoted by economists and politicians. And the corporate media, of course.

    The meltdown of the Ponzi global financial system could well bring most people’s current living arrangements to a halt before the geological factors do.

    ‘Even as the ship was going down, economists remained convinced that once the price was high enough someone would fix the hole in the hull.’

  2. We cannot build more hi rise accommodation near Auckland CBD because we don’t have the sewer infrastructure to cope with it. There is already sewerage overflowing into the Waitemata and Manukau harbours, so any increase in flow will result in an environmental disaster.

    The Central Interceptor project was initiated by the old Auckland Council when John Banks was mayor, but this project will only be complete in 2025 because mayors Brown and Goff misdirected funds into the CRL instead (budgeted at 2 billion and now heading to 8 billion)

    • NZ is just implementing the same Thatcher polices that have destroyed Britain. Selling public land (council & state land) to developers for a song and then renting them back (or subsidising those renting them back) while also paying middle men to ‘build affordable’ houses which strangely never plays out…

      “The turbo-charged speculative development along the river has its origins in an unlikely place. It was the socialist mayor of London Ken Livingstone who first designated this part of the capital as one of his 28 “opportunity areas” in the 2004 London Plan, along with places such as King’s Cross, Elephant and Castle, the Greenwich peninsula and Paddington. The strategy was for a Robin Hood model of regeneration: a tidal wave of foreign investment would be actively encouraged, and tall buildings welcomed, in the belief that a large bounty could be creamed off for the public good. The target was for half of the housing to be affordable. If developers couldn’t meet this target, they would have to produce a financial viability assessment to prove why it wasn’t possible.

      But it didn’t quite go according to plan. Rather than being an exception, viability became used as a regular get-out clause. Each time, it was a similar story: having paid so much for the land, and expecting costly construction fees, while forecasting low sales prices, the developers could make it look like they simply wouldn’t have any money left to pay for affordable housing. Meanwhile, the viability assessment allowed their 20% profit margin to be safely preserved.

      In 2012, just as the plan for the VNEB area was being drawn up in City Hall, the Conservative-led coalition government accelerated this trend by placing viability at the very core of national planning policy: the ability of the developer to make a profit would trump everything else. They then watered down the definition of “affordable” housing to mean up to 80% of market rate – hardly affordable for many in London. With David Cameron in No 10, Boris Johnson in City Hall, Wandsworth council’s former leader Edward Lister as Johnson’s deputy mayor for planning, and Ravi Govindia at Wandsworth town hall, the VNEB opportunity area became the ultimate testing ground for this mighty engine of deregulation, a developer free-for-all where anything would go.”

      In 1996, the Ministry of Defence decided to sell off its housing stock. The financier Guy Hands bought it up in a deal that would make his investors billions – and have catastrophic consequences for both the military and the taxpayer

      The rich vs the very, very rich: the Wentworth golf club rebellion

  3. We have approx. 5 million people in a country the approx. size of Italy and the UK that have over 12 times the population. It is patently absurd to continue dribbling on about condensing our population into small apartment-type living when we don’t have to. There is plenty of land outside of Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga however this requires a generational shift in regards how we fit more people into NZ and 20-30 billion dollars of seed capital infrastructure from central government. Don’t hold your breath as they would rather spend 10b on a walking track across Auckland Harbour……

    • There is plenty of land, but also we don’t have the infrastructure to cope with building out. If we keep the development condensed the infrastructure cost will be reduced. Note that we are billions underspent on infrastructure already in NZ. Anyway to keep this bill down would be great.

    • Can you please explain why you think we need to fit more people in. Do we really have to continue with the lunacy of the ever growing population ponzi?

  4. Before we even start that question – another question is, are we going to prioritise new housing to those already living in NZ that have housing issues, or are the proposed new houses going to the next million migrants coming to NZ shores who seem to have a lot more money to outspend the Kiwis (migrating is not cheap and the world’s middle class and rich buying dual citizenship is growing)?

    Nothing much has changed in NZ for immigration, so like the previous decade the same amount of new migrants(1 million, possibly more) will come if the government policy stays the same and does not halt it.

    Every day there are multiple stories of migrants who are angry that they can’t get to NZ fast enough and vitriolic about the slow times they have to wait to be NZ citizens which they feel a sense of entitlement that they should be NZ citizens faster and any investigations are an affront to their rights to be here.

    It is not just housing that is at breaking point in NZ with our demand led issues.

    New Zealand hospitals in crisis after ‘biggest January, February on record’

    Roads, water, air, sea and land pollution and so forth are all under immense stress.

    The lefties do not suggest we prioritise to those who are already in NZ who are facing hardship to be helped into housing first.

    Note ‘new apartments’ are not subject to the bright line test of 10 years and also are not subject to the overseas investment rules. So billions of tax dollars are going into subsiding developers for new builds that are still allowed to be sold to overseas buyers and no bright line test applies for capital gain tax on sale.

    Does that sound like solving the housing crisis?

    And roads just don’t work anymore, neither do the trains.

  5. Agree with Andrew that adding more and more housing into our cities which are already overloaded with every
    type of problem is a shit idea. We have a country that is practically 1 big farm. So much open space outside our towns and cities just about all used for farming. What a big waste of space. We don’t need so much dairy farming. We as a country need to use some of this land for housing. Culture shift required in NZ.

  6. A very simple solution would have been for the government to give housing NZ the 3 billion to build state houses for NZ’s poor instead of the private developers…. I can’t hear any peeps from the lefties advocating for this easy solution though.

    Nothing stops NZ citizens and permanent residents leaving NZ but still being allowed to hand onto property.

    Government could have also put property taxes on absentee property owners aka if someone is living out of NZ for more than 2 years or has property vacant for more than 2 years then they have to pay a wealth tax on it…. etc That is harder for in-force than something like a stamp duty might at least bring in some tax money on gains while being near impossible to evade.

    Also commercial property is one of the worst offenders during Covid and all the crisis with development aka (city loop). But because commercial property is often owned by large corporations in OZ and Singapore our government allows them to rip business off (which is the NZ tax payers being ripped off as business claim these costs back on their taxes).

    Not a peep on commercial property rent freezes, no tax on interest payments, stamp duty etc!!!!

    Big Business ripping off small business and consumers, rules in NZ!

    • SaveNZ: “…the government to give housing NZ the 3 billion to build state houses for NZ’s poor instead of the private developers…. I can’t hear any peeps from the lefties advocating for this easy solution though.”

      You’ll get no disagreement from this lefty. My view is that successive governments have dropped the ball on the provision of state housing. Neoliberal thinking has been a key reason for this, though that didn’t apply before Rogernomics, when the rate of state house building had begun to decrease.

      Governments need to accept that it’s their responsibility to provide housing for citizens. The private sector cannot – and ought not to be expected to – do it all.

      The current government needs to pick up that ball again, and resume the task of building state houses. Take a leaf out of Austria’s or Germany’s book.

      Will it do this? Lord: was that a pig that just went overhead?

  7. Running public infrastructure on the neo liberal model, and sold off assets=obvious positives like rain water collection and solar energy are actually discouraged, and in some cases people penalised!

    Crazy shit when business comes first, which was always the point of the Supercity.

    Notwithstanding all that, there are better construction options, and living arrangements possible now. What about making public housing tenancies transferable by agreement between tenants-for study, work or vacation?

  8. One of the characteristics of the neoliberal mindset for the political and administrative classes is that imagination bypass surgery is necessary. It’s probably one of the only operations where a scalpel isn’t necessary. It just comes naturally when its victims are told how individually and truly exceptional they are.
    In the early stages of the phenomenon, it mostly affected old white culturally Western muddle class blokes (often very ugly ones at that).
    However, given the feminist and various other minority interests and agendas as they strive for recognition, it appears that they – some, at least, are succumbing to the same evolutionary processes that got most of those old white muddle class blokes that got them where they are today.

  9. Sounds like the neoliberals/woke dreams of NZ supported by government policy that will create the same business ‘Mecca’ for the religious and neoliberal right.
    The making of a megacity: how Dhaka transformed in 50 years of Bangladesh

    “Dhaka reflects the trajectory of Bangladesh in the 50 years since independence, on 26 March 1971. At that time it was a small city of a million souls in a poor and underdeveloped nation, after decades of Pakistani neglect.

    Now Dhaka is a megacity, an economic hub that has grown chaotically – outwards and upwards – to absorb the 20 million people who live there, with 400,000 arriving each year. Many have migrated with dreams of economic opportunities they cannot find elsewhere.”

    “Residential buildings keep getting higher with no regard for planning laws. There is little space between buildings, electricity cables are slung low in a tangled mess and the sewage system, which is still cleaned manually, is routinely overloaded by heavy rains.

    Dhaka’s air quality routinely ranks among the worst in the world and the roads are so congested that traffic has slowed to almost walking speeds of 4 mph, down from 13 mph a decade ago.”

    “Hossain says that while industry has thrived, there is been a lack of comprehensive strategy to support the city’s residents. Corruption has made things worse, leaving the powerful able to exploit laws or, in the case of the Keraniganj suburbs, buy up land for affordable housing projects then sell them at prices beyond the reach of ordinary workers.”

    “Today his business is thriving and there are opportunities that exist nowhere else in the country. But he is worried the city is becoming an intolerable place to live.”

  10. Protecting our farms and water supply is particularly important this year due to the coming global food supply shortage.

    • (Apologies if this seems off-topic @ B.B. It’s just that I think there needs to be less people in the cities and more people going back to the land while taking high-tech and culture with them. I imagine sophisticated, thriving communities who work to the seasons growing, manufacturing and marketing as a common entity and interlinked with electric transport systems. Isn’t it a shame that the road transport industry successfully lobbied the gubbimint of the day to pull up our taxes paid for rail infrastructure? )

      There you are @ Z. At the bottom and making sense.
      Not sitting on Auckland’s frilly little roof tops chattering about the sea views as they shit in their own nests, but at the foundations of reality.
      The real reason why no one talks about the urgent and vital nature of our largely family owned agrarian infrastructure is because to do so would be to spot light how important [it] and they are. And that’s the last thing any foreign corporate pirate wants AO/NZ farmers to see in themselves. As vitally important and essential on virtually all levels. Otherwise the game would be up, chumps.
      Just recently there was a rally of Southland farmers trying to draw attention to the problems of new legislation with regard to water usage. They drove their tractors defiantly through their town of Gore in a display of defiant solidarity and I took cold comfort from the fact that rnz and the news media generally took little interest in their rebellious acts.
      We can’t have the beastly fama come to understand just how important they are to our very survival on many levels or they just might kick up a fuss when the four foreign owned bankster scum come along and take their faams awf them. Now? Be a dahling and pass the blue vein hypocrisy cheese and cow flesh sandwiches sweeties? I’m feeling a little peckish…? Had to walk alllll the way from the Ferrari to the wine cellar again while the helipad and elevator’s being put in. Such a disturbance to our modest Herne Bay lifestyle and yes dahlings… having the deep tissue therapy. Couldn’t function without it and Frederique, our Masseur is soooooooooo good with his hands. Said no family farmer.
      The deepest, darkest problem that farmers must come to understand is a simple one, yet isn’t.
      ( How do I put this without babbling on for pages…? )
      Farmers? You’re being played. You’re being played for chumps and as a Southland farmer, believe me, I know chumpishness when I see it.
      The national party are the most heinous and dangerous players. Ever since the natzo party formed from the sludge at the bottom of the dung barge of 1920’s Auckland’s little empires, farmers have been manipulated and exploited by increasingly well educated gaslighters. And in an indirect way, so have the rest of us. We’re all entirely reliant on our farmers. If one doesn’t like that last sentence then that’s fine. You could argue otherwise? Good for you. We’re an open minded and progressive country so if you want to prove yourself to be annoyingly ignorant then you go for it. Give it your all.
      Old Labour ( This ‘new’ labour is really a national 2.0 designed to confuse and deflect.) should have been the farmer’s party in reality. Farmers are dependant on their down stream service industries and those industries are dependant upon the farmer. A coalescence of both worlds would have seen a Finland level of happiness, a Skandi standard of living and zero useless billionaires slithering off with our money.
      We must remember? There are a hand full of people who’re entirely dependant on farmers struggling under the current status quo where by farmers can’t win for losing at a game where the rules are made by others which are changed daily leaving farmers looking like careless arseholes while those rules-of-the-game-changers rake in the money.
      Someone wrote once : Was it Frank McCourt? “After a full belly, all is poetry”?

  11. When are we gonna see the headline, Imagination required for transformation in reducing the size of the human population?

    • This is elephant in the room, and the solution to this elephant in the room is not for the human race to push the elephants on the savannahs to extinction due to our inability or refusal to acknowledge that we are destroying the planet by sheer weight of numbers.

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