Viewshafts: Auckland’s billion-dollar handbrake?

  • New research reveals the cost of the viewshaft protecting a single view of Mt Eden is over $1bn
  • Each motorist on the Harbour Bridge would need to pay $14k to offset the cost
  • A small rotation of the viewshaft alignment could reduce the net cost by 40%

A single viewshaft in Auckland protecting views of Mt Eden for motorists crossing the Harbour Bridge costs the city more than one billion dollars, according to ground breaking research released today.

The study, titled City With A Billion Dollar View, by Geoff Cooper, Director, Economics at PwC and Kabira Namit, a consultant at the World Bank, analyses the impact of viewshafts, which are used extensively in Auckland’s Unitary Plan to protect views of volcanic cones. More than half of all private land in Auckland’s CBD is constrained by three viewshafts.

“Viewshafts play a vital role in preserving our iconic views, but we need to have an honest conversation about them and the trade-offs when it comes to affordable housing and employment opportunities for future Aucklanders”, says Mr Cooper.

“Until now, there has been minimal understanding of the economic impact of viewshaft policy and very little consideration given to their cost. This research changes that.”

“Planning policies which constrain New Zealand’s most productive employment area should carry national significance and be subject to robust scrutiny. If Auckland’s CBD is to be internationally competitive and provide affordable options for homeownership and renters, new infrastructure is not enough – the city needs room to grow.”

The research focuses on the viewshaft protecting the view of Mount Eden for motorists approaching the Harbour Bridge[1], which was found to limit the development of approximately 1.7 million square metres of land, at a conservative net cost of $1.4 billion.

The cost is equivalent to 16% of the total private land value of the city centre, raising costs for homeowners, renters and businesses. According to the research, each car crossing the Harbour Bridge would need to pay $14,498 to offset the cost.

Cooper says the policy around viewshafts could be optimised which would provide a middle path for city planners that reduce the cost while preserving views.

“One option is to rotate the viewshaft by 4.5 degrees, taking advantage of a southward turn in the south bound motorway approaching the Harbour Bridge, so motorists can enjoy the view for a similar period of time, while reducing the cost by approximately 40%.

“Good urban design and planning is a challenging task and a fine balance, but it can be improved through quality information and analytics. Optimising our viewshaft framework could improve the competitiveness of Auckland, help address affordability and ensure the protection of our treasured volcanic cones”

City With A Billion Dollar View, by Geoff Cooper, Director, Economics at PwC and Kabira Namit, consultant at the World Bank, will be published in New Zealand Economic Papers in October 2018.