Let’s listen to the future of Auckland
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.