Slow News Day. We Have the Bigger Picture to Focus On

Auckland does deserve better…

 

…Than what the NZ Herald (again) dished up yesterday in regards to the Local Government Elections in 2016 – specifically around Mayor.

We are two years out from the next round of Local Elections and we currently have the Central Elections happening in September and this is the best the Herald could pull this morning:

Bets on for Auckland mayoral race

By John Weekes 4:15 AM Sunday Apr 13, 2014

TV personality among names of possible candidates thrown into hat

Place your bets – celebrities and politicians are among the likeliest to take the Auckland mayoral chains from Len Brown next time around.

One of the new names cast into the mix is television host Paul Henry.

Scandal-plagued Auckland Mayor Len Brown has two years left in the hot seat and is eligible to stand again. But talk about who might take over from him has swirled since his affair with Bevan Chuang was revealed.

National Party MP Maurice Williamson and former Labour Party leader Phil Goff are cited as potential contenders.

Goff would not rule out an attempt, but said he wanted to be a minister in the next government and win re-election as a Mt Roskill MP.

“I keep hearing this rumour from all sorts of places,” Goff said.

“I think it originates with the National Party and suspect it might be being put around mischievously.”

  • The Unitary Plan which comes out for further submissions next month. After that we are off to the Hearings
  • Long Term Plan for the 2015-2025 cycle (The LTP being the Master Budget Document)
  • The Integrated Transport Program again for the 2015-2025 cycle, although as the name suggests it spells out the transport strategy for the City (cue Congestion Free Network)
  • Area Plans which are under way bit by bit
  • Local Board Plans which are under way and have just gone through a feedback round
  • SkyPath, the City Rail Link, and the East-West Link no doubt will keep debates and news cycles going as well as these three projects make whatever progress they do
  • And with the City Transformational Unit having its eye on Manukau City Centre it seems we will be up for workshops and feedback rounds as we did for the City Centre Master Plan (CBD) three years ago

And of course apart from the Area and Local Board Plans you will be curious on what else is going on in your local area as well with things like parks, local centres, community centres, and probably that cursed pothole in the road Auckland Transport has not fixed yet like the one on Porchester Road in Papakura…

 

So plenty of things to keep our minds and grumbles going for the next two years before we make up our minds again on who will be mayor.

 

Focus on the Big Picture

 

 

While we are taking a breather from the Unitary Plan I took some reflections back on Auckland and the focus on breaking from the status-quo since the 1960’s and bringing forward change for the 21st Century. Ironically the Herald delivered this morning a nice piece about the disconnectivity around our environment – especially our water. It is ironic as in looking at focusing on the big picture I had nearly forgotten about the natural environment as we look at trying to get our planning and human environment “stewardship” back on track. So thank you Orsman for your article (and a good one too might I add) for the reminding this Geographer of our physical environment stewardship as well.

The Orsman’s piece is at the bottom of the post but the overall question is: Is Auckland is totally unfocused on the big picture right now and are now either ground down on the little issues or we have the bureaucracy (the CCO’s) in silo mode again?

 

The answer is: yes

Not focusing on the big picture is what has haunted Auckland since the 1950’s in the development of the City. Until the creation of the Super City in 2010 (which in by means is no-way perfect) our City development AND environmental (physical and human) stewardship was fragmented worse than what your computer’s hard drive might be if you have not “defragged” it in over a year 😛 . The consequences of this fragmentation is evident with our waterways polluted, our traffic being the bane of our daily lives, and our urban development disjointed to such an extent it harms the “efficiencies” of our economy. The reason behind the Super City was to unify everything up and lead with one Governing Body, one bureaucracy, one plan all around a vision set by the mayor – The World’s Most Liveable City.

The only problem is as Orsman puts it in a nutshell:

The report highlights a lack of leadership on stormwater, fragmentation, underperformance and the issue being out of kilter with Mayor Len Brown’s vision of making Auckland the world’s most liveable city.”

 

That quote can be very easily extended right across the entire Council organisation and departments. That said I am not going to lay the blame at all of the departments nor every member of the Governing Body however, there is a real onus here to step up and get things back in kilter with the Mayor’s vision.

So why do we need to focus back on the big picture stuff here. There was a good example on one of Councillor Cathy Casey’s Facebook posts this morning with someone asking a Avondale to be priority as the Auckland Development Committee goes through the motions of “spatial priorities” this morning. However, Councillor Casey’s post was in friends mode and in abiding by a policy I have here in the blog I do not copy over non “public” posts without prior permission first. Now I would request Councillor Casey and the rest of the Committee to be not bring Avondale up the priority list at all. Brutal I know but there are some reasons why.

Rejuvenating Avondale can be done under an Area Plan which the respective Local Board drives (well should be). If Avondale was given a high spatial priority there is a chance it could go out of kilter with wider regional development programs and we get stuck back at square one (or at worse we just wasted money on a project that was out of kilter to the rest of Auckland’s development). In my opinion as a Geographer the spatial priorities program in the Auckland Development Committee this morning is the perfect opportunity to refocus back on the big picture – the regional picture.

 

We have the vision from the Mayor so now we line everything else back up under it with remembering we have an extra million people coming to Auckland over the next 30-40 years. The urban zoning needs to line up with the transport infrastructure provisions, which needs to line up with the water (fresh, waste and storm) infrastructure provisions, which needs to line up with social and civic infrastructure (parks, libraries, community halls etc.) provisions, which needs to line up with residential centres, which needs to line up with employment hubs (commercial and industrial), which needs to line up with physical environment provisions, which need to line up with Central Government infrastructure provisions. And yes these were not placed in specific order either but the point being is that we need all those provisions lined up in the Spatial Priorities workshop this morning or Auckland will be facing real trouble.

 

Dividing Auckland up into three sub regions allows to focus on the big regional picture more easily
Dividing Auckland up into three sub regions allows to focus on the big regional picture more easily

 

Lets use Southern Auckland as an example in getting everything lined up properly.

 

Situation: One million more people coming and they need to be housed somewhere with the foundations laid down for employment centres so they have work.

Relevance to Auckland: Southern Auckland has the largest area of Future Urban Zoning laid down in the Unitary Plan (so opportunity for Greenfield developments) as well as opportunity for wide scale Brownfield development (intensification) as well. Southern Auckland also has the Manukau City Centre as its major commercial hub. Auckland International Airport, and both the Wiri and East Tamaki industrial complexes for employment centres. The main CBD is around 30-80mins away to the north. Southern Auckland already houses 38% of Auckland’s population and this is due to reach 45% by 2040 unless the Isthmus intensifies more than what is proposed under the current Proposed Unitary Plan.

Southern Rural Urban Boundary with Future urban zones in yellow
Southern Rural Urban Boundary with Future urban zones in yellow

 

What Southern Auckland already has going for it:

  • Large population base
  • Two industrial complexes with a third in the planning pipeline
  • The Manukau Harbour in the west and the Tamaki Strait in the east
  • Rural land
  • Hunua Ranges (which also has some of the city’s fresh water dams)
  • Manukau City Centre
  • Transport links such as State Highways 1 and 20, the North Island Main Trunk Line (rail), Port of Auckland’s Wiri Inland Port, and Auckland International Airport

Risk: That the Future Urban Zone in the south (between Drury and Pukekohe) develops in an uncontrolled fashion that is also out of kilter with Brownfield developments in existing Auckland

Consequences: Several and all have major consequences for not only Southern Auckland but wider Auckland as well

Looking at some of the consequences

Urban Design: Risk of cookie-cutter low density sprawling residential development seen commonly in Auckland between 1991 and now.

Employment: Our industrial complexes and the Manukau City Centre have not developed as quickly as the residential areas resulting in lack of jobs for the new residents. This has a knock on effect for both the Auckland and national economy.

Transport: While all the local streets are provided for Auckland Transport and NZTA have not been able to provide the transport infrastructure necessary for both the new residential developments and wider area. So further congestion on the motorway, roads, buses and even trains until AT and NZTA have caught up. What is worse is that public transport investment lags behind urban development. So we might not have the rail stations at Paerata and Drury to allow people to catch a train in the first place. Coupled with most likely no bus stops (or no buses for those stops) the new residents are forced to drive further adding to road congestion. To couple this up with employment centres, if people are forced to commute long distance owing to nearby employment centres either not keeping up or simply not being there at all then your traffic congestion is amplified.

Fresh Water: Can the existing main trunk fresh water lines take the added pressure from the new developments or will we need new ones which by no means are cheap. If we need new ones then get them down preferably ahead of time with enough capacity for 60 years worth of growth.

Storm Water: Where will it go and can any existing storm water infrastructure take the increased load before flooding occurs.

Sewerage: Can existing infrastructure like the aging and at capacity Southern Interceptor handle the increased volumes from the new developments once they were connected up to the existing system. Or do we get the risk of constant overflows in the Manukau Harbour every time it rains just as the Waitemata gets at the moment. Would the new developments mean Watercare speeds up the proposed water-water treatment plant planned for the Drury area to assist the main plant at Mangere. Does Watercare need to replace the Southern Interceptor as well. Questions that need to be asked, money to be put aside when we start new developments en-mass.

Social Infrastructure: Do we have enough parks, libraries and community halls? Where would the new ones go? Do the existing ones need upgrading? Also is Central Government being fast enough with upgrading existing schools as well as building new ones (the answer is no at the moment). Our schools might not be able to handle the growth if Central Government is not on the same page as we are…

Town Centres: Are our existing Town Centres up to scratch or in need of a make over as more people come into the area. While our Town Centres would come under Area Plans and be left with the Local Boards to deal with, at a regional level an eye will need to be kept on them to make sure the appropriate resources are there ready when the upgrades begin. Otherwise you run the risk of a run down and tired Town Centre that attracts no one let alone new residents/businesses and the people thus go else where (and killing off the local economy as a result).

 

That list is no means exhaustive but it does give some of the indication of what happens if we are NOT focused on the big picture. The consequences of in this example allowing the Southern Auckland Future Urban Zones to develop in an uncoordinated thus uncontrolled fashion has wider consequences right across Auckland. Whether that be congestion, lack of employment, or physical pollution in our water-ways and surrounding environment. We need to stop focusing on the little things and stop thinking in silo mentality – unless you really want things out of kilter and to suffer the consequences like Bernard Orsman pointed out in the NZ Herald this morning.

 

To do this would sound obvious but it all boils down to leadership and change. Leadership from both the Governing Body AND the bureaucracy to kick-start the change – the City will do the rest. However, I know the Status Quo is a rather large lump that is not easily moved and resists change pretty much every-step of the way. It will be no easy task moving this lump but not trying in the first place is not acceptable to Auckland here and now – and in the future. It will a slow rolling maul (if I was to take a punt) to get the wheels of change (and progress moving). So the question is – are you ready because WE DO DESERVE BETTER.

 

The NZ Herald article mentioned: Auckland must clean up act on water – report

 

One thought on “Slow News Day. We Have the Bigger Picture to Focus On

  1. We must be aware Ben, that the Herald has an ax to grind. Len is the Mayor, not John. Everything they write about the super city must be viewed through that filter.

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