Future proof our cities
Anuja Nadkarni looks at the revolution making cities better places to live.
With New Zealand’s urban centres set to swell, growing populations further burdening the country’s infrastructure and climate change exposing cities to impending natural disasters, future proofing has become more important than ever before.
At Auckland University of Technology, ethics and sustainability professor Marjo Lips-Wiersma said the answer was creating sustainable cities which took into account social, environmental and economic impacts.
‘‘New Zealand is almost there but needs more advancement to speed up. With its size, and small population it’s totally possible. There’s no reason why New Zealand can’t be the front runner for sustainable cities,’’ LipsWiersma said.
Last year for the first time, solar and wind power was cheaper than fossil fuels according to a report by the World Economic Forum.
Lips-Wiersma said an ideal sustainable city would accommodate dense housing, be resilient to natural disasters and have features such as proximity to quality schooling and access to green space.
Ecostore’s founder Malcolm Rands has been working on creating Bumpspace, funded from his charity Fairground Foundation, for the past two decades and was hoping to bring his vision to life this year.
The plan was to build a new and improved eco-village starting with 40 new three-storey houses that were designed to foster a sense of community, close to central Auckland. The village would likely be within walking distance of a train station, to encourage travel by public transport.
Last year the world’s most sustainable city was Hong Kong, because of its well connected transport systems reducing environmental impact by reducing the usage of cars.
Switzerland’s Zurich has previously topped the list for a strong public transport system, many of its businesses investing in renewable energies and increasing public awareness of environmental issues.
Rands said medium-density living space was the future of housing in New Zealand, similar to what many other overpopulated cities had already done in European countries. If the project was successful, the foundation would share its intellectual property rights with any developer that was looking to replicate it, he said.
Rands said businesses needed to think about contributing towards creating a society that was cared for in the future.
‘‘In 10 years time, if you’re not fundamentally embedded in sustainability, you won’t be in business. It’s that strong.’’
Rands said regeneration also went alongside sustainability.
‘‘Sustainability has changed business a lot, moving towards the triple bottom line. It’s not just looking after the planet but it’s also looking after people.
‘‘Let’s make the place better than we found it, rather than not worse.’’
Aecom, a multinational engineering company, has been helping Wellington strategise its resilience plan to handle the crippling impact of a big earthquake.
Aecom’s sustainability and resilience associate director Marta Karlik-Neale said being sustainable was crucial for the survival of big corporates, even if it was just using their knowledge to collaborate. She said features included electric vehicles powering homes in case of a power outage; green infrastructure that enabled heavy rainfall to pool excess water into storage; and installing solar panels. The 30-point plan also required new homes to have emergency water tanks and to be earthquake-proof.
Wellington City Council’s chief resilience officer Mike Mendonca said the capital’s resilience plan was an opportunity to improve the city for future generations and would only be possible with help from the business sector.
Lips-Wiersmasaid said it was up to the business sector to find affordable and innovative ways to make New Zealand on par with the world-leading cities in sustainability.
Tips for future proofing New Zealand
- Volunteer to help maintain or revitalise green spaces.
- Do a carbon audit of your workplace and look for ways to reduce your business’s greenhouse emissions.
- Survey employees for more efficient transport options, such as car-pooling systems.
"In 10 years time, if you're not fundamentally embedded in sustainability, you won't be in business." Malcolm Rands