new auckland

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What Auckland Needs Now

As the country's only global city and our main link to the world, Auckland has a range of challenges and needs that are distinct from the rest of New Zealand. High population growth and decades of underinvestment in public infrastructure demand new ways of thinking for creating a city that works, thrives and continues to attract investment and skills.

Newsroom's New Auckland section focuses on that future - on the challenges and solutions for our demographics, physical and social infrastructure, and communities. Leading professional services and consultancy firm Beca has become a supporter of Newsroom to help the New Auckland section highlight these issues and debate the city's successful development.

Here, we asked seven of Beca's experts and Auckland market leaders "What does Auckland need now to be successful in future?"

Sustainable places 

Stuart Bowden, Principal – Urban Design and Landscape Architecture

Auckland’s “green infrastructure”, our vegetation and environmental systems, and the value it adds to our cities, is an often overlooked or outright ignored element of Auckland’s urban planning and design.

Huge swathes of Auckland’s urban space - approximately 40-50 percent - is being inefficiently reserved for vehicles; the machines themselves, their parking, their roads; and their need to access every part of our built environment.

Like a doctor looking at symptoms of a disease rather than the cause, we often focus on the problems associated with cars, such as safety, pollution, noise and time wasted in traffic jams, but we don’t often focus on the sheer space cars take up.

If we want our people and environments to be happy and healthy, if we want to reap the proven positive benefits to wellbeing and community connectedness, then we need to invest in connected green infrastructure and open space, both urban and suburban.

Auckland has huge potential, with stunning regional parks, wondrous and wild (at least when it comes to the West Coast) beaches, and a sub-tropical climate suited to greenery.

We need to focus back on the natural ecosystem and environment that surrounds us, and treat our green infrastructure as a central pillar upon which to peg all other urban planning, management and design.

Creating and nurturing communities

Ceri Bain, Market Director – Urban Transformation

As Auckland's population continues to grow, the demand for safe, healthy and affordable housing is only going to keep growing.

With no fundamental outside influences or change to reduce this demand looking likely, what does need to change is our mindset on supply.

We need a real cultural shift in the way Aucklanders live – to think up, and not just out. Gone are the days of the quarter-acre dream, particularly near town centres, and high frequency transport routes.

This means a focus on apartment-style, community-based living, with investment in our local spaces to bring back the “communal” in community, and make them engaging, vibrant and connected places to live.

Sustainable, environmentally friendly and socially engaging builds (learning from past mistakes, and the poorly designed builds from the 1990s and 2000s) need to become the new normal.

Affordable housing needs to be driven not just by the likes of KiwiBuild and social housing initiatives. We need serious government-led disruption of land banking, development of disconnected and underutilised Crown land, and refinement of regulatory costs and delays that pass straight to the end-user.

With all due respect to nimby naysayers out there, our heritage should and can be cherished and retained in higher density typologies – just look at the terraced houses of Darlinghurst and Paddington in the inner eastern suburbs of Sydney.

Transforming transport

Tracey Ryan, Business Director - Clients and Markets

Auckland’s diverse and often disconnected communities need an agile, reliable and affordable transport network, for people to quickly and safely connect with one another and get around their city.

The ways that people are choosing to get around their city are evolving as new and fun innovations come to market and more multi-modal choices become available.

We are seeing more and more options and incentives for people to get out of their cars and onto buses, bikes, scooters and other modes of transport.

People are also more conscious of climate change, and the impact their chosen mode of transport is having on the environment.

However, there is still a way to go to connect all these systems, and more accessible community transport hubs should be encouraged.

We need to embrace innovative and sustainable developments in technology, and we also need to consider our transport network as part of an integrated city ecosystem – and not think of it in isolation from land use planning and development.

We must put customers at the heart of decision-making, to understand the customer experience, optimise end-to-end journeys, and build greater efficiencies across the system.

We are already seeing steps forward in this direction, such as from Auckland Transport’s ‘Customer Central’ innovation hub; what we need is to really embed this way of thinking in Auckland’s infrastructure planning to create a future we can be truly proud of.

Safe and healthy water

Rob Burchell, Business Director - Major Projects

As Auckland grows we need a more sustainable approach to water, and serious re-evaluation of how and where water is collected, and how waste water is disposed of.

Right now, the way Auckland's system is structured means we routinely get about 90 percent of our drinkable water supplies from reservoirs and 10 percent from the Waikato River.

We plan, design and execute water infrastructure around historical and predicted rainfall. As climate change marches on at an unprecedented pace, we need to start looking at other solutions.

This must include discussion about 're-claimed water' and how to offset the need for potable water for things like watering the lawn, flushing, washing the car and clothes.

The solution could be right in our backyards. We have some very large infrastructure that already carries our wastewater and storm water and treats it at state-of-the-art facilities - and these are located a lot closer than the traditional water supplies of the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges, or the Waikato River.

If we continue to think with a centralised infrastructure mindset, we are faced with the compounding impacts of more water reservoirs, more large pipes and pump stations, and larger, more energy hungry treatment plants to keep up with growing population peak demands.

All this construction and larger, longer conveyance systems also means more global greenhouse gas emissions and carbon consumption.

Sharing data

Alex Fullerton, Technical Director GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Specialist

Information sharing and accessibility between public sector organisations and private business partners needs to be improved.

There is an enormous wealth of rich data out there, but it often sits siloed at the level of a small project or even a single development. If it were made accessible across the city's organisations and industry professionals, there would be excellent opportunities to improve the quality and efficiency of decision-making.

It is about the wider view, having access to all the fragments of information and piecing them together.

A lot of thinking needs to go into how that information gets used, but it would be invaluable in helping to identify opportunities for the city. It could help the creation of a 'digital twin' of all the data on existing and planned infrastructure.

That gives the ability to test different scenarios of growth for Auckland and understand the various impacts and streamline decision making.

Accelerating technologies in sensors and with the Internet of Things will provide opportunities for crowd sourcing data, allowing the public to meaningfully engage and contribute to decisions affecting their communities.

Vision for cycling

Matt Wheeler, Business Director – Asset Advisory 

With much talk of design-led thinking, technological solutions and a rethink of large infrastructure projects, I think it’s important we don’t lose sight of what makes a city liveable, fun and appealing for residents and visitors alike.

Similar to many other Kiwis, I’ve lived and worked overseas, and have realised that great liveable cities have excellent options and attitudes towards cyclists.

In Edinburgh I was fortunate to be part of a project to extend a network of cycleways along old tramways, with a strong focus on minimising interaction with traffic.

The Dutch exclude motorised vehicles from inner city Utrecht, and even define two kinds of cyclist: “wierenner” which means sporty cyclist, and “fietser”, which just means ‘someone on a bike’.

Closer to home are the Christchurch Accessible Cities Project, and the recently-announced Get Wellington Moving programme, both of which feature significant provision for cyclists and other non-motorised transport.

This physical separation and planning for safe cycleway integration is essential, with recently published DHB data showing cycling-related hospital admissions rose about 17 percent each year between 2012 and 2016.

In Auckland, AT is progressing our network of cycle paths as part of a vision for wider connectivity across what is currently a disparate range of piecemeal paths. However, budget for this important work is constantly in jeopardy and under pressure.

It’s vital to continue to be visionary, be brave with protecting budgets and engage closely with the community as plans evolve.

Our city must continue to prioritise investment in infrastructure that enables interconnected and safe routes. Please no more painted lines only. A network where everyone can ride safely will be a huge boost in our aspiration to become a great liveable city.

Leadership and collaboration

Rupert Hodson, Northern Region Manager (and champion of all things Auckland)

Auckland’s challenges and frustrations may feel unique in our local Aotearoa context, yet we can also learn a lot from how other global cities have responded to their own growth pressures.

Expanding and transforming cities the world over face similar growth stress; whether on their infrastructure, utilities, housing, amenities and communities. However, global cities are also all very different; in their urban form, scale and environments, and various legislative, policy and investment frameworks.

From our own work and engagement in different parts of the globe, we’ve seen how many of the world’s most successful cities have evolved in their responses to growth.

The common determining factors of success? Powerful, consistent and collaborative vision, underpinned by strong urban leadership and working together to make it a reality.

This vision must be aspirational, and show a picture of the future, take us somewhere, and reflect the views and hearts of the people who call the city home.

Vision on its own isn’t good enough. It must be supported and championed by strong and local leadership, and used to guide council and government agency planning, investment and decision making.

Strong urban leadership is not just confined to local government either, but extends to government agencies, private sector professionals, business and community leaders, mana whenua and residents - all largely championing a vision for the city in a consistent and aligned way.

We’re all in this together, and we need to work together to amplify our response and truly champion our city’s growth.

Beca is sponsor of Newsroom's New Auckland section.

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