the world’s m In progress: most live­able city

A new is­land off Westhaven for Bo­hemian art and craft types. A re­dun­dant mo­tor­way ramp turned into a green path­way. Pedes­tri­an­i­sa­tion of Queen, Quay and Fan­shawe Streets. A tun­nel un­der the har­bour for both ve­hi­cles and trains. The Draft Auck­land plan is

Element - - Cover Story -

New Zealand’s largest city will be a vastly dif­fer­ent place un­der a se­ries of bold ini­tia­tives in the Auck­land Coun­cil’s first ma­jor plan­ning doc­u­ment. The Auck­land Plan is an at­tempt to pro­vide a blue­print for Auck­land in 2041, with an ex­pected pop­u­la­tion of 2.4m. About 23 per cent of cit­i­zens will be aged over 60 and there will be an in­creas­ing num­ber of cou­ples without chil­dren.

Re­leased in Septem­ber, the Plan is to be sub­ject to for­mal con­sul­ta­tion be­fore be­ing adopted early next year.

Some items have al­ready emerged, such as pedes­tri­an­i­sa­tion of our city’s main streets and Mayor Len Brown’s line-in-the-sand city rail loop. Even more strik­ing, how­ever, is the vi­sion of a two-stack tun­nel un­der the Waitem­ata Har­bour, rail un­der­neath road. Other projects in­clude pedes­trian boule­vards on Queen and Quay streets, a swim­ming pool on the end of Queens Wharf and a man-made is­land near Westhaven Ma­rina. El­e­ment mag­a­zine ques­tioned the mayor on the sweep­ing changes pro­posed in the Auck­land Plan and his in­ten­tions to drive growth of the sprawl­ing city back into the core of the re­gion by in­no­va­tions and in­cen­tives.

Firstly, we asked about the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Ur­ban Limit, an in­vis­i­ble line around the city, which has been re­peat­edly breached by pre­vi­ous coun­cils keen to develop rate­able green­fields.

“We’ll pretty much main­tain it,” he says. “But what we’re recog­nis­ing is that over the next 30 years we’ve got an­other mil­lion peo­ple coming at us. So not only have we com­mit­ted to that sense of a com­pact city and not overly al­low sprawl, but we are go­ing to have to pro­vide an­other 400,000 hous­ing units of dif­fer­ent types over the next 30 years.

“We’ve cal­cu­lated that we could prob­a­bly do 300,000 within the present ur­ban bound­ary.” El­e­ment mag­a­zine read­ers on­line re­cently voted ur­ban sprawl sec­ond only to traf­fic con­ges­tion as the most press­ing is­sue fac­ing the re­gion. Asked specif­i­cally if the in­ten­tion is to

ring-fence large parts of Auck­land, Mr Brown says: “Yes.

“We’re look­ing ba­si­cally to con­struct greater in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion, get a bit of height around some of our trans­port nodes.”

Asked if the Plan will use in­cen­tives or penal­ties to drive change, Mr Brown says he backs Auck­lan­ders to make the right choices once they are given the options.

“This gen­er­a­tion coming through now and those in their 30s and 40s mostly have trav­elled, mostly have done gap years, mostly have had their OE. They have lived in cities over­seas and like what they see, are used to liv­ing in apart­ments and ter­raced de­vel­op­ment – un­like me and my par­ents, who were raised in the quar­ter acre Kiwi par­adise - so they are look­ing for choice. So it’s not about wal­lop­ing them and forc­ing them into sit­u­a­tions. It’s about putting up options for them and al­low­ing them to make the choices they like.”

Like­wise, the Auck­land Plan fo­cuses on of­fer­ing more pub­lic trans­port rather than dis­cour­ag­ing cars. “We’re re­ally look­ing to lift pub­lic trans­port us­age more than re­duce car us­age. So train, bus, ferry, also walk­ing and cy­cling are crit­i­cal.”

The plan also aims for 37 per cent of trips to be non car-based at peak travel times over 30 years. Asked if this is re­al­is­tic, Mr Brown says, “Well, I’ve been ab­so­lutely stunned on the up­take of pub­lic trans­port us­age through this year in par­tic­u­lar. We’ve seen his­toric in­creases, 20-30 per cent in­creases in the Western rail line and on the North­ern busway. We’re even see­ing 10-12 per cent in­creases in our ferry ser­vice and we’re a long way from even fo­cus­ing on fer­ries.”

Mr Brown is hang­ing his hat on a tun­nel for the next har­bour cross­ing to the North Shore, de­spite a strong lobby group of ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers be­hind a Cen­ten­nial Bridge con­cept. “My pref­er­ence is the tun­nel.

“There is a much more com­pelling ar­gu­ment for the tun­nel. I am go­ing to make an assess­ment of global tun­nel trends, in par­tic­u­lar look­ing at China and what they are do­ing up there and they are op­er­at­ing off a 15m [drill] bit at this point of time in terms of their tun­nel­ing and that gives you the un­der and over op­tion – over the top, car and bus and truck trans­porta­tion; and un­der­neath, rail. We would be look­ing to go through from the Wyn­yard Quar­ter ba­si­cally tak­ing up from Vic­to­ria Park Tun­nel, go­ing through that Wyn­yard Quar­ter through to Onewa Rd, so it’s about a 3.5km tun­nel.”

Much of the dis­cus­sion within the Auck­land Plan cen­tres on re­duc­ing the city foot­print and, par­tic­u­larly, low­er­ing car­bon emis­sions to off­set global warm­ing. Mr Brown says he’s un­happy this win­ter to no­tice brown haze over south­ern parts of Auck­land, his home patch.

“Cities are lead­ing the globe in terms of bio-di­ver­sity and sustainability and you see that through the C40 City move­ment [a group of large cities com­mit­ted to tack­ling cli­mate change, cur­rently chaired by New York City Mayor Michael R Bloomberg]. So Auck­land should lead New Zealand by tak­ing a strong eco-city stance. Car­bon dis­charges are very much a fo­cus of this coun­cil. I want to re­duce car­bon dis­charges by 40 per cent over the next 20 years.

“Get­ting peo­ple into pub­lic trans­port, elec­tri­fy­ing our train net­work. That’s go­ing to be bril­liant and elec­tri­fy­ing our ve­hic­u­lar net­work. Peo­ple are look­ing to the green op­tion in cars and I want us to show some lead­er­ship in the coun­cil. There are elec­tric ve­hi­cles and great new tech­nol­ogy like the HaloIPT tech­nol­ogy coming out of Uniser­vices at Auck­land Univer­sity. I want us to trial that [with the HaloIPT tech­nol­ogy it is pos­si­ble to in­stall pads at traf­fic lights, mean­ing cars can charge while sta­tionery at the lights]. We need to make a stand and be com­mit­ted as a green city.”

Just as much as pub­lic trans­port, the plan fo­cuses on mak­ing Auck­land a place to tra­verse on foot. “I’m talk­ing about two se­ri­ous boule­vards in Auck­land: Quay St and Queen St. The world’s most live­able city, which is my as­pi­ra­tion for Auck­land, needs to be the world’s most walk­a­ble.”

Whether the Auck­land Plan be­comes an­other re­port of pipe dreams gath­er­ing dust amongst in­nu­mer­able oth­ers in the Auck­land ar­chives is, Mr Brown says, over to the cit­i­zens.

“It’s about Auck­land say­ing we agree [with] this plan and we are go­ing to make sure it hap­pens; we’re pre­pared to fund it, we’re go­ing to be in­no­va­tive around fund­ing it. I think that Auck­lan­ders are ab­so­lutely ready to buy into a sim­ple, clear vi­sion go­ing for­ward and to­gether we are go­ing to make this plan hap­pen.” The video of the El­e­ment mag­a­zine in­ter­view with Len Brown is avail­able on­line at el­e­ment­magazine.co.nz

by Ed­ward Rooney

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