Diggers to the rescue!
Diggers to the rescue!

PoliticsJuly 11, 2024

Journey to the centre of the Earth: My bold plan to dig deep and solve the housing crisis

Diggers to the rescue!
Diggers to the rescue!

Gabi Lardies presents a radical proposal to develop her backyard with thousands of underground shoeboxes.

Housing minister Chris Bishop has been like a cat with granny’s netted curtains recently. He keeps unveiling plan after plan to alleviate the housing crisis. Things he’s shredded with his clawed paws of late include resource consents for granny flats, first home grants, minimum floor areas and balcony requirements. He’s taken steps to encourage cities to expand up and out by clawing at “unnecessary planning barriers”. There’s just one direction he’s forgotten about – downwards.

As a protracted court case between the YMCA and Auckland Council recently reminded us, and much to the annoyance of Auckland mayor Wayne Brown, here in New Zealand, property legally extends beyond the surface into what lies underneath – all the way to the molten hot centre of the Earth. That means every property is 6,400km deep, and I guess because the Earth is a sphere, they’re extremely tall inverted pyramids. That’s a lot of real estate that so far has been reserved predominantly for worms – and I have some of it. When I was househunting last year, I had only the most expensive feature on my wish list – a garden (aka land). I did not realise when I bought my garden that what lies below the overgrown grass and half-buried rubble, old pipes, mysterious glass bottles, an old door handle, and a large appliance that could be a fridge or a washing machine, is all mine. Kilometres and kilometres of untapped real estate potential. 

Photo of worm on some grass
It’s time for worms to hand over their dirt keys. (Photo: Karolina Kaboompics/Pexels).

I have 400 square metres of surface land. My existing house and concrete pad carpark is on about 70 metres of it, and I don’t want to dig them up, so that leaves us with 330 metres. By the time we get around to actually doing stuff, minimum floor areas and balcony requirements will be abolished, and building and resource consents may even be a thing of the past if Bishop continues on his roll. I still think people will want their underground bunkers to be at least 30 square metres. At this specification we can fit 10 apartments on each layer – leaving 30 metres for lifts and hallways and stuff. 

The centre of the Earth, where my property legally extends to, lies 6,400 kilometres beneath our feet, but Google says the deepest it has ever been possible to drill is about 10 kilometres. I would like the people living in my backyard to have lovely high-vaulted ceilings – about three-and-a-half metres high. I don’t want them harassing each other with high heels so let’s calculate having half a metre between floors and ceilings for insulation and such – making each layer four metres. That gives us 2,500 layers of 10 apartments, allowing us to house at least 25,000 people. 

In an ideal world I’d put some people up on the surface too. But despite being a five-minute walk from an arterial road with lots of buses, 15 minutes’ walk from a train station and 30 minutes’ walk from Queen Street,  it’s going to be very hard to build anything visible from the street unless it looks like a villa. My house is in a special character area, one of those well-connected central parts of the city that rich people have managed to wrangle the council into keeping as is, so they can live convenient and picturesque lives. Please don’t judge me for living in Grey Lynn. No one else turned up to the auction so we got it for cheaper than many places in “affordable” suburbs. If it helps, a Grey Lynn-born and bred “person” once told me it’s not “proper” Grey Lynn, because it’s too close to the motorway. And anyway, the underground units will be available to purchase off plan soon, so you could live here too.

Now, I know humans are not worms and have different needs, like sunlight and for their homes not to get flooded. I think there should be shafts running downwards that can take some sun and also act as drainage pipes. There’ll be an engineer (Wayne Brown?) who can figure out the details. Once that’s all done it might actually be safer down there than on the surface, and occupants could consider themselves preppers or vaulties. But it’s a long way for light to travel down and shafts are not very scenic. We will need smart windows, UV lights and vitamin D tablets – it should still be cheaper than buying more land in central Auckland.

Over the next decade it is forecast that Auckland will grow by 200,000 people. I am therefore looking for expressions of interest from other property owners interested in helping alleviate the housing crisis and probably making heaps of money at the same time. 

Chris Bishop is gonna love this. I can’t wait to write a report for $238 a word – just for this article I’d be banking $207,774. This would hire a digger for ages.

Keep going!