Let’s lis­ten to the fu­ture of Auck­land

Central Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - DAVID SHEARER, MP

I can’t re­mem­ber a more im­por­tant elec­tion for Auck­land than the one com­ing up this year.

Auck­land faces se­ri­ous chal­lenges: soar­ing house prices chang­ing the whole fab­ric of the city, a retro trans­port sys­tem strug­gling un­der the in­creas­ing pres­sure of 700 new cars a week, and vo­cal op­po­si­tion to the Uni­tary Plan. In re­sponse, we need high qual­ity, high-en­ergy lead­er­ship. At the mo­ment, it’s com­ing from our young peo­ple. They’ve shown ev­ery­one else up in terms of hav­ing ideas and vi­sion for our city. Gen­er­a­tion Zero – run by smart Auck­lan­ders in their 20s and 30s – re­ally pushed the plan for a pedes­trian and cy­cle path on the har­bour bridge, saw it through to coun­cil ap­proval, and now we’ll be able to walk from one side of our mag­nif­i­cent har­bour to the other. It was young peo­ple who ar­tic­u­lated the need for higher-den­sity hous­ing at the Uni­tary Plan’s In­de­pen­dent Hear­ings Panel in Fe­bru­ary. They’ve stepped up, and good on them – they’re the ones be­ing priced out of their own city, and they’re go­ing to live the long­est with Auck­land’s cur­rent plan­ning de­ci­sions. Peo­ple who say Auck­land should grow at its pe­riph­ery and some­how we’ll all drive to work along clogged mo­tor­ways just don’t get it. With more peo­ple set to live cen­trally, let’s make bet­ter use of the nat­u­ral fea­tures we al­ready have, and em­pha­sise our vol­canic cones, wa­ter­ways and har­bours through world-class de­sign. In my neigh­bour­hood I’ve ad­vo­cated a wide green-belt and cy­cle­way from Mt Owairaka, through Cham­ber­lain Park and West­ern Springs to the vol­canic lava flow at Me­ola Reef: an en­vi­ron­men­tal trea­sure Auck­lan­ders could en­joy, on foot or bike, from one end to the other. I have re­ceived great feed­back, the bulk of it from young Auck­lan­ders. They want af­ford­able apart­ments near work, en­ter­tain­ment, parks and pub­lic trans­port. They’re call­ing for a Euro­pean­qual­ity cy­cle net­work, sleek pub­lic trans­port, and in­vest­ment in our parks, ecolo­gies and streams.

Oth­ers have ex­pressed fears about high den­sity. I be­lieve that’s a re­sult of de­sign mis­takes Auck­land has made in the past. Yet at times our city has ex­celled. I re­mem­ber the gov­ern­ment apart­ments be­ing built at the bot­tom of Beres­ford St in Free­man’s Bay. They were writ­ten off as noth­ing spe­cial. But his­tory has shown they were ahead of their time: com­pact, af­ford­able, built with invit­ing shared spa­ces and solid ma­te­ri­als.Half a cen­tury later they are more pop­u­lar than ever. Ac­tu­ally too pop­u­lar: the young fam­i­lies they were de­signed for have mostly been priced out now. We need a whole lot more of them.

So, this year’s elec­tion will be crit­i­cal. Some politi­cians are out there lis­ten­ing and oth­ers aren’t. De­ci­sions made by the peo­ple we elect now will de­ter­mine the way Auck­land looks and func­tions for gen­er­a­tions to come.

My and your ques­tion to ev­ery can­di­date should be ‘‘what’s your vi­sion for Auck­land?’’ and if their an­swer ex­cites you, vote for them.

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