Managing Floods in Auckland: The Solutions

Auckland’s growth and development have put massive pressure on its infrastructure, particularly regarding managing waterways and preventing floods. 

The three waterways policy is likely aimed at addressing these challenges and ensuring the city’s housing market remains sustainable, especially in the high-density, high-growth suburbs of West Auckland

The effects of recent cyclones and floods on the city’s infrastructure and housing market are the focus of this post. We will discuss the council’s role, different soil types, building techniques, and alternative home models like Earthships that have been presented as ways to address these issues.

Join us as we delve into the future of sustainable housing in Auckland and the efforts to lessen the suffering caused by natural calamities in the city.

Navigating the Waters: Addressing Auckland’s Water Infrastructure Issues

The problems with Auckland’s water pipes include water contamination from landslides, heavy rainfall and damage to the infrastructure from these weather events. The city’s water and wastewater infrastructure have also struggled with intermittent water supply issues.

The Three-Waterway Policy is designed to reform the delivery and management of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater services in New Zealand. The policy seeks to improve the infrastructure, ensure safe and sustainable water services, and increase investment. Still, the focus has been on whether co-governance is a good idea. 

The policy’s implementation involves the creation of large water entities to take over functions from councils and improve the delivery of water services.

Alternative funding solutions to infrastructure projects such as drainage and water treatment include public-private partnerships, grants and loans from government agencies, and innovative financing solutions such as green bonds.

New Zealand water management councils currently work to manage and maintain the country’s water infrastructure, but the Three-Waterway Policy seeks to improve the delivery and management of these services.

To repair flood damage in a city with inadequate drainage, the town can consider implementing improved drainage systems, such as rain gardens and green roofs, to reduce runoff and prevent future damage.

Newshub. (2023, February 1). What Auckland flooding damage looks like from helicopter | Newshub [Video]. YouTube.

The city can also consider implementing a resilient infrastructure plan to ensure its water and drainage systems are equipped to handle future weather events.

Protecting from Floods: Balancing Growth and Safety

Floods and cyclones have become a significant threat to cities such as Auckland, with the frequency and severity of these weather-related events rising due to climate change. Building in high-risk flood zones also increases the risk of flooding, leading to property damage and loss of life.

Local governments have a crucial role in protecting communities from floods by developing flood risk management plans and implementing measures such as improving drainage systems and building resilient infrastructure.

While balancing the need for economic growth with community safety, addressing drainage problems caused by intensification is crucial to avoid future costs.

The Florida Keys have taken steps to mitigate the threat of flooding, including risk analysis and mapping and promoting flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

A multi-faceted approach is needed to manage flood risks and protect communities effectively. By learning from global best practices, local governments can improve their flood risk management plans and reduce the risk of flooding and its consequences.

The Vital Importance of Auckland’s Urban Drainage System

Benefits of a Robust Drainage System

  • Prevents environmental damage and health hazards: A well-functioning drainage system helps prevent water pollution, reduces the risk of disease transmission, and minimises the impact of flooding.
  • Supports urban growth and development: A robust drainage system enables the growth and expansion of cities and the development of new infrastructure and buildings.
  • Protects property values: A sound drainage system helps prevent damage to homes and buildings, which helps maintain or increase property values.
  • Promotes public safety: A functioning drainage system reduces the risk of flooding and other water-related hazards, which helps to keep the public safe and secure.

Drainage for a Resilient Auckland

Auckland, one of New Zealand’s largest cities with over 1.6 million people. Auckland requires a robust drainage system to withstand frequent heavy rainfall, floods, and cyclones. A well-designed system must prioritise sustainability and accommodate future growth. 

The local climate and topography determine the size and type of system needed to prevent flooding. Using sustainable materials, such as permeable paving, reduces water pollution and the impact of rainfall. 

Planning for the city’s growth, including expanding roads and buildings, ensures the system can accommodate increased water flow and prevent future flooding.

Basic infrastructure, such as drainage and roading, should be prioritised over bikeways, stadiums, and museums for the safety and well-being of Auckland’s residents.

Designing Long-Term Drainage Improvements

  • Climate and topography play a significant role in drainage system design.
  • Use sustainable materials to reduce the risk of flooding and pollution.
  • Plan for future growth, including infrastructure expansion.
  • The success of the system depends on continuous monitoring and servicing.

Auckland’s Drainage Blueprint: Expert Advice  

Civil engineers: Leading civil engineers recommend that cities invest in a well-designed drainage system that handles the local climate and topography. This includes using sustainable, long-lasting materials and planning for future growth.

Plumbing specialists recommend regular maintenance and inspections of the drainage system to ensure it continues functioning properly. This includes removing debris, fixing any leaks or cracks, and checking the condition of the pipes and other components.

The city council and infrastructure specialists can help ensure Auckland’s long-term health and prosperity by investing in a well-designed, sustainable, and well-maintained urban drainage system.

Sustainable Home Drainage System

Building sustainably can have long-term benefits and prevent unforeseen problems. Experts in building and drainage should prioritise investing in stable structures and systems. Consideration should be given to both on-grid and off-grid drainage system design and maintenance. 

Key factors to keep in mind include the following:



Off-grid Systems:


  • Experts in building and drainage must play a part in ensuring new houses have functional drainage systems. 
  • Plan for the long term when installing a drainage system in your home. 

In conclusion, a sustainable home drainage system should prioritise using nature-based solutions and regular maintenance while considering off-grid systems’ costs and specific requirements. 

Sustainable Housing & Soil: Cutting Flood Risks

Sustainable housing addresses population increase, urbanisation, slums, poverty, climate change, and economic uncertainty by promoting environmental conservation, economic development, quality of life, and social equality.

However, the removal of topsoil causes soil erosion, degrades the land, reduces fertility, and increases flood hazards. Construction methods that minimise soil erosion and flood damage are vital.

Reducing Soil Erosion:

Sustainable housing construction can help reduce soil erosion by using environmentally friendly materials and promoting conservation practices. For example, using cover crops can increase soil organic matter and fertility, reduce erosion, improve soil structure, encourage water infiltration, and limit pest and disease outbreaks.

Optimal Construction Practices in Reducing Flood Risks:

Optimal construction practices are crucial in reducing the impact of floods and soil erosion. For example, planting trees and implementing green infrastructure practices like rain gardens can help mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce the risk of soil erosion. 

Good agricultural practices (GAP) can also help optimise business operations while minimising production costs and environmental impact.

Soils in Auckland, New Zealand:

Auckland is prone to soil erosion due to weak, clay-rich soils and steep slopes, which can lead to landslides and increased flooding risks. To address these challenges, it is crucial to implement sustainable housing practices and optimal construction practices that can help reduce the impact of soil erosion and floods.

Living in New Zealand: The Potential of Earthships

An Earthship is a sustainable solar home made of natural and recycled materials, designed to meet six basic human needs: heating and cooling, solar and wind electricity, water harvesting, contained sewage treatment, building with natural and recycled materials, and food production. 

Developed by American architect Michael Reynolds in the late 20th century, Earthships have been built in various parts of the globe, including the United States, Australia, France, and New Mexico.

In New Zealand, Earthships could solve the housing crisis and environmental issues. With a growing population and limited resources, Earthships offer a sustainable, low-impact housing option incorporating renewable energy and waste management systems.

To guarantee successful Earthship construction in New Zealand, the involvement of professionals such as architects and engineers is crucial. They can ensure that the structure meets the country’s building codes and regulations and that the Earthship is equipped with the necessary systems to handle New Zealand’s climate and environment.

Global Earthship examples include the Earthship Biotecture in Taos, New Mexico, which serves as a visitor centre and educational tour site, the Waybee in the Greater World Community, and the Earthship Ironbank in South Australia. 

These homes demonstrate the potential for sustainable living and the feasibility of constructing Earthships in different parts of the world.

Efficient Waste Management in Earthships

Earthships provide a unique solution to the age-old problem of human waste management. Their innovative system processes and recycles sewage on-site, relying on renewable energy and ecological principles.

The closed-loop system separates solid and liquid waste and uses gravity to move it through filters and treatment chambers. The treated waste is then used to nourish plants in the food garden. Toilets are flushed with treated greywater, which is clean, clear, and odourless.

Architects and engineers ensure the system is safe and sustainable, meeting local building codes and regulations. Earthships’ waste management system is designed to be sustainable, utilising natural resources and reducing waste.

This closed-loop system is essential to sustainable living as it reduces waste’s adverse effects on the environment and conserves resources. Expert input from engineers and environmental specialists is necessary to implement safe and efficient waste management systems in Earthships, reducing resource consumption and environmental damage.

Eco-Friendly Living with Earthship Design Principles

Earthships are unique, sustainable homes utilising natural and recycled materials for efficient, self-sufficient living. These homes are built with six fundamental design principles that make them weather-proof and energy-efficient.

  • Indirect Solar Heating and Cooling
  • Development of Thermal and Mass Structures
  • Power from the Wind and Sun
  • Water Harvesting for On-Site Wastewater Treatment
  • Building with Sustainable and Repurposed Materials
  • Earthship incline for heat storage

By adhering to these design principles, Earthships can regulate temperature, collect and store water, and generate power, all while reducing waste. The homes are often built with recycled materials such as packed earth-filled tires and utilise a rain and snowmelt collection system for water.

Architects and engineers are crucial in ensuring that Earthships are constructed correctly. These professionals guide construction materials, layout, and operation, ensuring that waste management systems are secure and functional.

In conclusion, Earthships are a great example of sustainable living and the importance of utilising environmentally sustainable components. The design principles behind these homes help reduce waste, increase energy efficiency, and promote self-sufficiency.

Green Housing Takes the Lead

Sustainable housing is gaining popularity in Auckland, New Zealand, as the city aims to reduce its carbon footprint. The Auckland Unitary Plan, which allows for new dwellings near public transit, is a step towards higher-density housing and a greater variety of housing alternatives. Meanwhile, the recent catastrophic flood in Auckland has led to calls for a reassessment of the city’s home construction plans.

The government aims to promote Zero Net Energy Houses in Japan by 2030. Leading home builder Sekisui House is at the forefront of sustainable eco-homes, incorporating energy-efficient LED lighting, thermal insulation, and air conditioning.

Sustainable construction firms worldwide, including Patagonia Sur, Natura Building Systems, Katerra, LivingHomes, and Green Magic Homes, are leading the way for a greener future. These companies use low-carbon technology, energy-efficient design, and sustainable materials to build eco-friendly homes.

Green tech firms such as AECOM, HDR Planet, and Aurora Solar are positively impacting sustainable construction. Companies are encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint and engage with suppliers to improve their environmental and social performance. The UK government supported green tech businesses with a £40m venture capital fund in 2018.


In conclusion, the challenges faced by Auckland in managing its waterways and preventing floods are a “drain” on our resources. Still, with the proposed Three-Waterway Policy and the local government’s efforts in flood risk management, we’re headed in the “stream” lined direction. 

A robust drainage system is a must for a “flowing” future, reducing environmental damage, supporting urban growth, protecting property values, and promoting public safety.

The innovative concept of Earthships as a sustainable housing solution is a “green” light for the future. With companies such as Patagonia Sur, Natura Building Systems, and AECOM paving the way, the popularity of sustainable housing is “growing” more potent every day.

So, let’s make a splash in solving these challenges and create a safer and more sustainable future for Auckland and its residents. 

Let’s “dive” into finding fun and creative solutions to the housing crisis, intensification, and drainage issues. Thank you for “taking the swim” with us and your continued support of this vital cause.

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