Eyes West

West Auckland’s investment and development credentials have skyrocketed on the back of zoning and infrastructural changes, and commercial and industrial property is thriving.

Total Property - Issue 6 2021

Subscribe to receive our editorial and insights

From Te Atatu to Helensville, West and Northwest Auckland has transcended its largely-rural roots to become one of Auckland’s most active and progressive property quadrants.

Once surrounded by orchards and vineyards, Lincoln Road is now a key urban highway peppered with takeaway outlets and commercial development. New Lynn has shrugged off its Crown Lynn crockery mantle to become an evolving metropolitan centre, while former airbase land at Hobsonville is unrecognisable as residential intensification has forged a new (flight) path.

Big names are circling for data centre property out west, and the area has been dubbed “screen heartland” as New Zealand’s film and television industry has seen it as a ticket to success.

Auckland Transport says the Northwest Transformation is the largest urbanisation project in New Zealand. It includes a new town centre at Westgate, a new village centre and employment park at Hobsonville, a residential community, commercial amenities and marine industry precinct at Hobsonville Point and the projected expansion of Whenuapai and Kumeu.

With Hobsonville Point past the half-way mark of 4,500 homes due by 2024, and Auckland Council saying that in the next 30 years the population of the future urban areas of Red Hills and Whenuapai will grow from 4,000 to over 40,000 – it’s no surprise that investment dollars are chasing opportunities out west.

Infrastructural upgrades and further planned improvements, plus rezoning of large tracts of land, have opened the door to development.

Westgate Town Centre has been progressively developed by New Zealand Retail Property Group over the last 20 years and has paved the way for phenomenal residential, retail, commercial, and industrial growth in the area.

All eyes are on the 3.3-hectare Westgate site between Harvey Norman and Mitre 10 Mega, where the under-construction circa-$100 million Costco development is on track to open next year.

Costco’s commitment to the site is a game changer for Westgate and the broader northwest market according to Brendan Graves, sales manager Bayleys Northwest and Kumeu.

He says the “Costco effect” is palpable and the impending arrival of the membership-only big box retailer is validating the growth and investment in the area generally.

“The fact that the world's second-largest bricks and mortar retailer after Walmart picked Westgate for its foray into the New Zealand market shows that the fundamentals of this area stack up.

“The long-run in-depth research, data modelling and planning that goes into a development like this speaks volumes for the credentials that the northwest market can offer to proactive businesses.”

Development tends to beget development, with the various property sectors intersecting in Auckland’s west.

“Initially, it was the availability of land in the west/northwest quadrant that drove new residential development then, once that fly wheel was spinning, commercial and industrial development followed,” says Graves.

“Migration of businesses to West Auckland is tangibly taking pressure off the North Shore market which is at capacity and hamstrung for further expansion to a large extent, and this shows the inter-relationship of greater Auckland and the forces at play.”

Graves cites the Western ring route – connecting Auckland’s northwest to the North Shore, CBD and to South Auckland via the Waterview tunnel – as a great enabler.

“Good arterial access and streamlined traffic networks have opened up the area significantly, however, infrastructural challenges remain in the wider West Auckland catchment and these will only be compounded by future growth dynamics.

“This is particularly evident with the bottlenecks we are seeing around Kumeu and the long tails for commuter traffic during peak times.”

Graves said on the back of higher density housing in key western precincts, the demand for commercial and industrial property has escalated and development pipelines are barely scratching the surface.

“There has been a faster uptake than expected of new-build stock, mainly fuelled by new occupants moving into West Auckland as saturation point was reached elsewhere in the super city,” he says.

“Investors from outside of Auckland have tended to focus on the proven, more-traditional precincts like South Auckland and the North Shore, hence out west we are seeing innovative projects being undertaken by mainly local investment and development entities.”

Graves says the acute shortage of industrial-zoned land and undeveloped commercial sites in West Auckland is putting pressure on occupiers and landlords, and, with much of the current supply tightly held by a few key players, there’s a frustrating wait ahead for zoning and plan changes to open up further land.

More commercial development, particularly more quality office buildings, would benefit West Auckland’s investment profile but most importantly, says Graves, would reduce load on motorway infrastructure – especially during peak times.

“Ideally, we’d see more locals working local, rather than commuting into the CBD,” he says.

“In my view, the reason more of the larger-scale corporates haven’t yet embraced the northwest as a viable ‘spoke’ in the workplace wheel is due to the lack of quality and efficient office stock to lease.

“We need only look at Albany in the north and Sylvia Park in the south to see how these core and flex office models can work successfully and hopefully, options will increase in the northwest soon.”

Graves believes Hobsonville Point has set the bar for future precinct development in the country with master planner Kāinga Ora leading the way with higher density living supported by a high level of community amenity.

“The whole urban living equation has had a rethink at Hobsonville Point, with developers happy to pay a premium for the confidence and controls in place to ensure a quality finished product for all.”

Significant property development is also underway in the satellite areas of Whenuapai, Kumeu and Riverhead.

Commercial units are available for medical, retail, hospitality, office and commercial service operators in Whenuapai Town Centre, as the residential populations expands with more than 1,000 new house lots being developed.

Kumeu Central will deliver 300 residential units and multiple commercial and retail opportunities within a mixed-use precinct, reflecting Council’s identification of the wider area as one of Auckland’s key growth nodes.

Listed entity rates West Auckland

Best-known for its Sylvia Park development, New Zealand's largest listed diversified property company Kiwi Property Group has a strong presence in the northwest – owning the Westgate Lifestyle precinct, and LynnMall, in the growing town centre of New Lynn.

Westgate Lifestyle forms part of the Westgate Town Centre development, providing 28 large format retail stores with 25,604 square metres of net lettable space.

LynnMall was New Zealand’s first suburban shopping centre, opening in 1963, and purchased by Kiwi in 2010. It now has a net lettable area of 37,689 with nearly 140 tenants.

Kane Goulden, senior leasing manager with Kiwi Property Group, said LynnMall has the potential to become a thriving mixed-use community, enabled by excellent transport connectivity and all-encompassing Metropolitan Centre zoning.

“We developed The Brickworks dining precinct there in 2015, comprising seven dining options plus an eight-screen Reading Cinema, and adding 4,700 square metres to the centre’s footprint,” he says.

“LynnMall is very well-connected to public transport being adjacent to the train station and the New Lynn Transport Hub and when the city rail link opens up, the journey between LynnMall and the CBD will be less than 30 minutes.”

Goulden says Kiwi Property targets prominent mixed-use properties in locations favoured by the Auckland Unitary Plan, and in Metropolitan Centre-zoned areas with positive growth prospects.

“New Lynn is a major urban growth node and, like Sylvia Park, development to a height of 72 metres is allowed at LynnMall.

“This will allow for intensification with mixed-use developments, incorporating office and residential to complement the high level of retail amenity that LynnMall already provides.

“While COVID-19 impacts are still being assessed, we note occupiers moving from a centralised model within the CBD to hub and spoke locations with flexible work models.

“Occupiers are increasingly looking to provide a varied range of workplace solutions whether by process, technology or location and we intend reflecting this trend at LynnMall – as we have done with ANZ Raranga in Kiwi’s Sylvia Park mixed-use precinct.

“We see demand for a high quality office product within LynnMall to service West Auckland, complemented by a comprehensive retail, food and beverage offering and well-connected public transport,” he explains.

The build-to-rent residential sector is also on Kiwi’s radar with Goulden saying it’s currently designing a mixed-use tower for LynnMall which would include retail, office space and build-to-rent apartments.

Download full article (PDF)   

Read more market insights from Total Property

Subscribe to receive the latest commercial news and insights from Bayleys Total Property