Home' Greymouth Star : May 20th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
Hobsonville Point project is
now the largest single housing
development in Australasia and
its model of master-planned
and medium density housing
is set to be rolled out across
other chunks of Housing New
Zealand land in Auckland in the coming months
The Government announced this week that the
Hobsonville Land Company (now renamed HLC)
would organise the bulk of its Crown Building
Project, which aims to build 20,600 new homes for
private buyers over the next decade.
HLC is already in charge of the redevelopment of
Housing NZ sites in Northcote and Mount Roskill
that will transform 640 State houses into thousands
So I went out the former air base in west Auckland
before that announcement this month to find out
why the Government has confidence in the model
and plans to use it to ramp up house building across
Driving into and around the 167ha Hobsonville
Point project was like nothing I had seen anywhere
else in New Zealand. Hectare upon hectare of new
and attractive apartments, town houses and stand-
alone homes being built at a furious rate.
Everywhere I looked, there was machinery clearing
space for roads and buildings, and a plethora of
building sites in various stages of completion. Amid
all the scaffolding and security fences, scores of
trades people decked out in high-visibility gear and
hard hats swarmed over the sites.
All of this was happening next to an already large
and occupied residential area, complete with shops,
cafes, a primary school and fresh parkland and
Unlike a large privately run development less than
a kilometre away, there were no empty sections
waiting for houses or fields of land-banked grass.
There were very few of the usual stand-alone 250
square metre homes on 800 square metre sections
built by one man and his dog and a utility vehicle.
Hobsonville’s houses are tightly knit and a
masterplan is clearly being rolled out by large scale
This is a vision of a new type of house building
industry, one that is concentrated and delivers at
scale, rather than the dispersed and inefficient
collection of small building firms that were made
that way by successive booms and busts.
HLC and its development and construction
partners have already built and sold 1000 homes and
are on course to reach 5000 homes within the next
five years. The Hobsonville development is headed
for an annual build rate of over 500, which is unlike
any other New Zealand has seen and the level of
Government involvement is at a new larger scale for
a housing project.
So how did it come about and where does it go
The Hobsonville Project was actually launched
under the previous Clark Labour Government in
2005, but struggled to get off the ground through
the finance company collapses, the global financial
crisis and the house building bust that happened in
Auckland from 2008 to 2010.
It is hard to believe now, but house prices were
actually falling through 2008 and 2009 in Auckland
and few thought there was a major housing shortage
that needed fixing.
By late 2011 it was clear to the Government that
extra housing supply was needed and Hobsonville
had a broad plan in place, although it needed a
$250 million lump of capital to build the under-
pinning infrastructure of earthworks, roads and
pipes. The green light was given to ramp up the plan
and stump up that capital in a way it could be repaid
Chris Aiken was then employed as the Hobsonville
Land Company ’s chief executive in early 2012 and
he has been the driving force ever since as the scale
of the project has been progressively increased.
The current Government initially planned in 2012
to build 2500 homes on the site, but that was
increased to 3500 in 2015 and to 4500 last year.
A further 500 homes will be built on the adjacent
Panuku Airfields site.
“ We thought we had a bicycle light coming at
us down the tunnel, but it was actually a steam
engine,”Aiken is no typical bureaucrat.
A former technology industry executive with a
couple of decades experience in private property
development, Aiken and his board were given the
freedom to ramp up developments in tandem with
privately owned developers and builders and make
more than 20% of the homes affordable, as long as
the overall project was commercially viable.
He drove me around the site over a couple of hours
to explain how the master-planning worked, and
how HLC was working with partners such as AV
Jennings, Fletcher Building, Willis Bond, Jalcon and
Nearing the end of his career, Aiken is passionate
about leaving behind a legacy of thousands of houses
in a community people that want to live in and
that is more affordable than the very large and very
expensive stand-alone houses that have typically
been built elsewhere Auckland. He does not want to
cut any corners on design or create any eyesores that
future generations will not want to live in.
“ We’re unashamed about driving in the quality. It’s
about building a community,” he told me. “ You have
to be a good ancestor.”
He described what faced the Hobsonville project
in his early years as it became clear that Auckland’s
population was growing very fast at the same time as
housing supply was not.
Aiken sees Hobsonville’s master planned approach
to medium density housing and the combination of
more affordable homes being built in tandem with
more expensive houses as the key to its success.
Aiken said just over 20% of the houses built at
Hobsonville were classed as affordable at below
$650,000, with around 80% of the total being sold
for less than the median for Auckland ($905,000 in
He was particularly concerned to help fill the gap
for new homes just above the affordable category,
but for less than the $1m-plus level that most new
homes sell for elsewhere in Auckland.
“That ’s the piece that ’s missing. It’s the missing
middle,” he said.
Aiken is keen on the car manufacturing analogy,
referring to building ‘Corollas’ for the missing
middle, and that building well designed and
attractive Corollas will not devalue the larger and
more expensive ‘Lexus’ homes built elsewhere at
This mix of Corollas and Lexuses is the key
to Hobsonville’s economic model. The profits
from the Lexuses and high end Camrys help
keep the Corollas more affordable and ensure
the Government doesn’t have to subsidise the
development. Aiken also thinks the mix of affordable
and more expensive homes makes Hobsonville a
more attractive place for all its residents and helps
protect values, hence the focus on urban design and
high quality landscaping and parklands.
He points the various different types of medium
density ‘typologies’ as the way to go.
“It doesn’t have to look like Coronation Street,” he
It is certainly worked so far with houses selling
quickly. The ferry that travels to the CBD from the
wharf at Hobsonville Point is now full every day.
So why not more affordable?
The major criticism levelled at Hobsonville is that
not enough of the houses being built are at the level
classed as affordable below $650,000. Hobsonville’s
current price list does include homes for less than
that, particularly in the Axis type of apartments,
but many more are being sold in the range from
$650,000 to $1.1m.
Labour Housing Spokesman Phil Twyford
criticised the Government ’s announcement for
lacking ambition and cited the experience at
Hobsonville, which is the Government ’s model and
is also at the lower end of the Government ’s 20
to 50% affordable target for the Crown Building
“National took a billion dollar slice of publicly
owned real estate at Hobsonville and have essentially
sold it into private ownership. It’s been a brilliant
success in terms of design and commercially, but
what ’s the public good benefit there?” Twyford said.
Labour wants to take the master-planning and
mixed lessons from Hobsonville and multiply them
across Auckland, but with a much larger share of
“Our model is large urban development projects,
master-planned by a master planning agency like the
Hobsonville Land Company and with development
companies that would be set up by our affordable
housing authority,” he said.
“The model is for large master-planned, mixed
use and mixed income developments. Imagine
Hobsonville with a much bigger share of state and
community housing, and a bigger share of affordable
Labour is planning to build 50,000 Kiwibuild
homes in Auckland in similarly mixed income and
mixed use developments that also include private
Twyford talks of doing 10 to 15 developments
of the size of Hobsonville or the Tamaki
The Government argues Labour’s plans are
not commercially viable and would require large
In response to the criticism about not enough
of Hobsonville’s homes being affordable, Aiken
preferred to focus on the wider group of homes in
the “missing middle,” and that 80% of the homes are
being “price designed” by HLC in tandem with the
developers and builders.
The Axis homes are also sold in a ballot, with half
guaranteed to be sold to first home buyers and the
rest to owner-occupiers who must guarantee they
will stay for at least two years.
HLC also has the power to force the sale of an
Axis home that was bought by a rental property
investor pretending to be an owner occupier.
Aiken said that had been done three times out of
the 200 sold through the ballot.
8 - Saturday, May 20, 2017
The Ministry of Social
Development (MSD) paid little more
than lip-ser vice to privacy before
going ahead with a portal to collect
sensitive client information, it has
It was revealed last month that an
IT system set up to allow providers to
submit data contained a gaping hole
that allowed them to view folders
other than their own.
While only 10 providers had
uploaded information, the invite had
been extended to 136. The system was
quickly shut down as a furious Social
Development Minister Anne Tolley
ordered a review.
The portal was intended to play a
key part in the Government ’s data-
driven social investment policy.
MSD had announced measures
requiring NGOs to hand over the
sensitive information about their
clients, or face the possibility of
having their funding cut.
The discovery marked a bad week
for MSD; the following day the
Privacy Commissioner released a
scathing report into MSD’s demands
for client data.
He was critical of a lack of analysis
of the impact of the policy and the
vagueness of how the data would
be used, while lambasting the use
of spreadsheets which did not have
robust privacy protection.
In a somewhat cynical move MSD
released the latest independent review
at 3.30pm on Tuesday, a day when
many journalists were distracted
with the Government ’s housing
Tolley received the report last week
and has been considering it.
Undertaken by former Deloitte
chairman Murray Jack, it found the
the initial problem was essentially
human error, with the wrong
permissions allocated on the shared
workplace system (SWS) used by
providers to upload their data;
after the problem was discovered,
MSD accidentally deleted their own
permission from the system and had
to ask Datacom to restore it;
once restored, it was discovered
all users had been granted access and
the system was pulled;
not enough attention was paid
to privacy during the project, and an
impact assessment was completed
MSD failed to draw on
experience from within its own ranks
and from other agencies;
and staff were covering dual roles
while working on the transitions
of Child Youth and Family to the
Ministry for Vulnerable Children
Oranga Tamariki, adding additional
pressure while they juggled two jobs.
Jack noted that privacy needed to be
considered early in projects like this,
something that had not happened
The process had also lacked
thoroughness, as the temporary
system that was being used was
familiar, leading to complacency.
“ We believe there was insufficient
rigour in the process that led to SWS
being implemented as the temporary
“ Because it was an existing
platform, already in use for a range
of other initiatives, this decision
was not treated in the way ‘go-live’
decisions are generally made and
This breach is not the first time
MSD has been caught with its
privacy pants around its ankles.
In 2012 a review was ordered after
a serious problem was revealed with
its public kiosks in Work and Income
offices, which could be used to access
detailed private information.
At the time MSD assured the
public it took its privacy seriously, but
refused Newsroom an inter view to
talk about its latest mis-step.
In a statement, chief executive
Brendon Boyle said there were some
“ useful lessons” to be taken from the
“ MSD and the Ministry for
Vulnerable Children, Oranga
Tamariki will take the lessons learned
from this independent review and
ensure they are applied throughout
“The protection of client data is a
Boyle confirmed an employment
investigation based on the issues
identified in the report was ongoing.
Tolley was more forthcoming in her
statement, saying she was extremely
disappointed in what had happened
considering MSD’s track record.
“I have made it clear to the chief
executive that I expect these lessons
will be taken on board.”
Privacy Commissioner John
Edwards said while the review
addressed the portal issue, it did not
have the remit to look at the client
level data policy which needed to be
“ What it does show is the risk
of going too fast with this type of
thing,” he said.
Can any Government really build thousands of quality
houses in Auckland quickly at a price first-home buyers
can afford to buy? BERNARD HICKEY of Newsroom
looks at whether the Hobsonville Point project has
already done it, and whether the model can be replicated
across Auckland by either National or Labour.
Hobsonville Point project.
MSD caught with its privacy pants down
An independent report has highlighted yet another litany of IT errors by MSD in protecting people’s privacy. Why can the ministry
not learn from its mistakes? asks SHANE COWLISHAW of Newsroom.
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