The Kiwi Dream: A big house, a quarter acre plot, Rugby on Sundays and fresh milk from the local dairy farmer.
A Third of New Zealand lives in the Auckland “Super City”. In fact the majority of the country’s economic output comes from just three cities. 72% of the population lives in a “Main Urban Area” (of over 30,000 people).
Yet, like much of the English World, New Zealand sees itself as a country of rural dwellers. There is certainly reasons to want to live in a rural area – plentiful space, cheap housing, no noisy neighbours and no angry ones when you are making the noise. I do not want to pick on anyone in particular, but I’ll use the comments on a Transport Blog article to illustrate my point.
I think to most kiwis, bigger and more expensive means a declining city. Sustainable growth, or stable living (no growth), with affordable housing, means prosper.
Government needs to revitalise the provincial economy or NZ will no longer be a “going concern”; just a top-heavy Auckland with the countryside full of bed and breakfasts owned by James Cameron
People *do* want to live there, if there [in rural areas] is sufficient economic activity for them
Are you saying we just let the market rule? If so, fine, but I doubt your liberartian ethics actually stand up to further tests
Interestingly these comments can be framed in economic terms.
Wants are goods or services that are not necessary but that we desire or wish for.
Values a set of shared wants within a region or globally.
I propose that we can simply look at things as they stand now, and derive what the values of a region are. Purportedly New Zealanders value open space, ball games and big houses. That does not hold up to our litmus test though. As reported above, most of New Zealanders have chosen to forgo big houses, large and open (private) spaces in exchange for the vitality of a denser area.
It is not like there is a critical shortage of open land in New Zealand – you can easily buy a dozen or so hectares with a big house for below Auckland’s average house price. Rather, people do not want to live there.
When you have multiple wants, you must make a choice as to the prioritization of your wants. It seems that while New Zealanders might want the rural lifestyle they have decided to choose the urban lifestyle over it. This is where so many commentators make a mistake, they confuse wants for demand. Demand is when you not only have the want for something, but also the ability (and the willingness to expend that ability) to obtain it.
There is little demand to live in rural areas (only 20% of Kiwis live in rural areas, and most of them in “rural centers”), why? I propose that generally Kiwis value the advantages of an urban area above the disadvantages.
The results are disastrous, because we so firmly ignore the demand for urban areas Kiwis are left in a tough spot. Zoning regulations lock us into low density development, making it very expensive to live in our biggest cities. This artificially discourages cities (because urban living is artificially expensive), which makes our economy artificially inefficient. More importantly (to me at least), is the things people will do to access the city in face of these regulations: adults sharing bunkbeds, families sleeping in tents and teenagers camping in the bush.
You will note one thing about all those examples. They are result of when laws (designed to prevent density) come up against demand (demand to live in a busy place).
Rural land is cheap. If we wanted to live like that so much we would in an instant. We see only the opposite – Auckland and New Zealand’s big cities continue to grow, even as they become incredibly expensive. This is a phenomena experienced all around the world – rural dwellers migrate to cities.