Looking at Developing a 21st Century Auckland – Series – Surburbia

Looking at Developing a 21st Century Auckland – Series #1

Wars are won and lost in Suburbia


Auckland is about to begin on a massive city building phase. From 2010-2013 the City was going through the amalgamation phase with the creation of the Super City and Auckland Council. Time was spent bedding down the Council and the bureaucracy while a lot of time (as the Councillors and Local Boards would attest to) writing the big Auckland and Unitary Plans.

But now from 2013 we have moved into the City Building Phase. Yes the Unitary Plan still needs to become operative (around 2016) however, the foundations via the Area Plans and various transport plans for the City Building Phase can begin right now.

The catch is with this City Building Phase we have two paths Auckland can go down. We either continue the same path we have been going down since the 1950’s, or we go down a new path that is bold and does bring us out of auto-dependency and into the 21st Century.


Just a note: auto-dependency is not a choice – it is an enslavement from lack of choice. Cities should aim for auto-choice; where one is not overtly penalised by wanting and taking a choice between car, active or mass transit. Auckland does not currently provide that auto-choice as the City is an auto-dependent city. In simple terms how can you have choice when that dependency eliminates all and any other options.


As I mentioned in my previous post “Coming Up – Looking at Developing a 21st Century Auckland” I will be referring to Brent Toderian’s recent presentation he gave in Auckland. You can see the PDF version HERE and the video presentation HERE.


Wars are won and lost in Suburbia

While Brent did mention about City Building in regards to CBD’s I want go outside of that well versed topic and look at where the war is won or lost: suburbia. Again for your benefit this post I will be referring from pages 16 to 40 of the PDF version or from 47:30mins to 55:00mins of the video presentation (links are above).

The tendency at the moment with Council and its Planners (as well as some “activists”) is that a lot of time (and money) had been flooded into Auckland CBD and the Waterfront. That is nice but exposes the City as a whole as the rest of the City (suburbia (and also Rural)) towards “neglect”.


Quoting Brent Toderian:

“The Goal: A complete downtown (sustainable, resilient, lively, healthy and vibrant,); and a COMPLETE City!”

I need not remind Council that there is the general feeling amongst the wider populace that there is the perception too much “attention” has gone to the CBD and Waterfront.

Thus a complete city is a city planned, designed and built for both its CBD heart and its suburbia body (Rural are the oxygen, food and water supplies for the city). This slide from Brent shows the levels needed in City Building to build a complete city:


Although I would adapt it slightly to the (South) Auckland context – starting at the bottom;

  • Site: House, Commercial, or Industrial building
  • Community: Papakura
  • City-wide: South Auckland
  • Regional: Auckland

Another way of adapting it to the Auckland context would be:

  • Site: My home – located in Papakura, South Auckland, Auckland (these are all social identifiers)
  • Community Hub: Papakura Town Centre
  • South Auckland Hub: Manukau City Centre (a (Super) Metropolitan Centre)
  • Auckland Hub: The Central Business District

If I was to adapt this across Auckland to different areas your “City Wide” would be split into:

  • South(ern) Auckland
  • Isthmus/West Auckland
  • North Shore/Rodney

Note it was not designed to be moulded along the old pre Super City legacy Council boundaries and areas.


The CBD is now left behind and we are heading in suburbia – in particular Southern Auckland. Remember “battles will be won or lost in the suburbs” and Southern Auckland (everything south of Portage Road – Otahuhu and Tamaki Estuary) holds roughly 38% of Auckland’s population currently. To win the ‘War” on “Developing a 21st Century Auckland” with the suburbs of Southern Auckland attention on City Building needs to look at the entire area. Especially and I mean especially as “South Auckland – The Rising Jewel in Auckland’s Crown” is under way.

Now we know Area Plans are coming in this current term of Council under a compressed time frame (for more on Area Plans check this Auckland Council Link HERE ). These Area Plans will essentially guide the “City Building” to a set area within Auckland. Thus these Area Plans is the prime time to get the final foundation down before physical City Build will commence and run for the next 30 years.


As I am focusing on Southern Auckland lets take a look at how I would run City Building in Southern Auckland first. We know Manukau City Centre is the recognised beating heart of Southern Auckland and is readily identified by the southern populous as such. We also know pre Super City says Manukau was designed and built to be an auto-friendly, auto-dependent, independent City Centre to the main Auckland CBD. However, things have changed significantly since Manukau was born and the planning needs to change with it.

While Manukau is no longer an independent city centre post 2010 amalgamation it is still recognised (although at second tier level) as a smaller CBD by the local population. I have written extensively on Manukau as such and also presented to Auckland Council on  Manukau as a Super Metropolitan Centre. You can read up on the PDF version of that presentation (also used in my Unitary Plan initial feedback) HERE.

Still if you listen to Brent Toderian speaking about the war being won or lost in the suburbs (pages 16 to 40 of the PDF version or from 47:30mins to 55:00mins of the video presentation) attention focused on our Metropolitan Centres. Although as I mentioned before Brent was implying Manukau in that seven minute segment and the group I sat with also concurred as well.


In my next post using Brent’s material as well as my own to draw up a recommended strategy for Manukau’s 21st Century development and how that should be undertaken.

Once Manukau is under way we move to the next City Building Phase which is developing Botany and Papakura Metropolitan Centres (I am focusing on the South here) before working on the respective Town Centres. The logic I am using of starting at the top with the Super and normal Metropolitan Centres then working down towards the town centres before finally hitting suburbia en-mass is that our Metro Centres act has anchor points to the populations they serve along economic and social lines. If you do the smaller town centres and suburbs first before the larger anchor points (Metro Centres) then the risk is being run of not only ad-hoc development but what is the goal or focus – there is simply none.

With Manukau City Centre as the anchor point you have a dual economic and social focus in play when developing wider Southern Auckland. Economically Manukau is flanked and supported by heavy industry in: Wiri, Highbrook, the Airport, East Tamaki, Takanini, Drury and Glenbrook as well as the rural sector in the deep south. You also have the Botany and Papakura Metropolitan Centres while “smaller” still serve  large areas respectively. Finally you have the Town and Local Centres that serve the more immediate areas and their communities. At the end of the day they are part of the cogs of the machine that are rallied around a central nexus point – Manukau. And Manukau is the larger cog that turns and supports the main Auckland nexus point – the CBD.

Population wise there is a strong Maori, Pasifika, Indian and Asian mix as well as Europoean. So urban design of Manukau followed by the rest should cater to the needs of those demographics accordingly rather than the pro-Euro-Centric style Auckland has been doing since 1950. This piece from a speech Brent gave yesterday is rather apt:

Better public engagement needs a broader general dialogue on city-making, rather than waiting until you have a plan or project to discuss.


So before we even BEGIN looking at drawing up Area Plans for Manukau and the South then going out to consult on them – which is too late, Council needs to have that general dialogue with the South first to see what the “natives” would like to see in their centres and suburbs. After that dialogue (notice dialogue not MONOlogue) then the Area Plans can be drawn up in partnership with the population. Which brings me to Brent’s next two points:

Successful engagement isnt necessarily indicated by the absence of controversy. The toughest city-making subjects can be the most important.

Good public engagement is less of a checklist, more of a culture. Tone & respect can be more important than the specific tools & techniques.

Heck Council have a tonne to learn here.


There is still plenty to cover in “Looking at Developing a 21st Century Auckland” and I have not even begun to scratch the surface yet. My next post will look at specifically developing Manukau into the 21st Century and ways it can be done. After that I will start looking at Botany and Papakura before moving into the wider Southern Auckland area.

I leave you though with this slide from Brent’s presentation last week on a large-scale urban renewal project that is planned in Brentwood Town Centre, Burnaby, Vancouver:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/181328881/Brent-Toderian-Presentation-At-Auckland-Aotea-Centre#page=29 Reference and Credit to  Toderian Urban Works
Reference and Credit to Toderian Urban Works


Click to open larger map


The before picture remind you of this closer to home?

Manukau City Centre Area
Manukau City Centre Area

We have our work cut out folks – we really do

Credit and References to Brent Toderian and Toderian Urban Works.