James Rus­sell El­e­ment editor

Element - - Contents -

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.

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