James Russell Element editor
It’s our very own version of the American Dream. A house on a quarter-acre section – OK, maybe in Auckland we’ll settle for a eighth of an acre – where we can dig our toes into the grass, grow a few lettuces, fire up the barbie.
It’s ingrained – the Maori had all the space they needed; the pakeha carved up the land here into bits the size of which their ancestors could have only dreamed.
The horrors of shoebox apartments thrown up in Auckland during the property boom only reinforced our addiction to low-density housing. But now that’s about to change. The 30-year Draft Auckland Plan is bold: 75 percent of residential development within the metropolitan urban limit, mostly along the rail corridors not yet built; a population of 2.4 million by 2030, with a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gases at the same time; 37 percent of trips to be non car-based during peak-hour traffic. It all means one thing: high-density housing. It will have to be done well, and sold to the people. And the Plan is the sales brochure. It speaks of well designed, family friendly, passive-solar oriented, high-density residential developments with green rooftops.
Outside, it outlines shared green spaces for each community of apartments, somewhere you might happily kick the ball with your children.
You’ll walk 100 metres to the train station, where you’ll wait only a few minutes before catching an electric train to the waterfront. Pedestrianised streets are everywhere. Even on streets where vehicles are allowed there are wide pavements, planted with trees, linking the parks in the city.
It’s an idyllic dream, but it also means getting people out of their cars. Here’s where the urban planners at Council have been getting crafty; they’re making it progressively more difficult to get about in your car – reclaiming roads for pavement space (Queen Street foot traffic has increased by almost a third since the upgrade), creating shared streets where the driver now warily enters, suddenly unsure of his King-of-the-Road authority.
At the same time drivers are being slowed down in the city, the council aims to ramp up public transport. A touch of stick, a bit of carrot. Steven Joyce needs only to consider what Auckland Council are doing to Hobson, Nelson, Quay, Fanshawe, High, Victoria and Queen Streets to see that if we don’t get trains coming out the other side of Britomart soon, we’ll all be rightly stuffed.
Congestion charges for cars may not be the best way either; take a look at the research on fast fees conducted by the New Zealand Council for Sustainable Development on page 25. They also found that to sustain economic growth for the next 30 years freight is going to have to increase by 75 percent. There’s little room for private vehicles in that scenario.
We’re stubborn buggers here in NZ, but if we can get our heads around quality apartment living and getting rid of the car, we’ll be right.