Suburbs: What Are Their Relationships within a City?

New paper suggests suburbs have more complex and beneficial relationships than urbanites might let on?


I am currently reading Suburban Urbanites from UCLPress which looks differently at the role and place of suburbia. Traditionally the city region has been looked at three distinct subsets through a one-dimensional in their relationship to each other lens. Those subsets being:

  • City (urban) – usually defined as the City Centre and immediate surrounds
  • Suburbs – everything else urban beyond the City Centre and its immediate surrounds
  • Rural – speaks for itself


Suburbia as far as some urbanites are concerns is a place of chaos and undefined mass:

Suburban urbanites: Suburbs as chaos? Source:
Suburban urbanites: Suburbs as chaos?


However, as the above extract shows the binary between city (urban) and suburbia is one of failure to look at how the suburb and the city are so interlinked and so interdependent of each other. In short one does not survive without the other.


Something I will be fleshing out as I go deeper into the book as it is extremely relevant to my own work/advocacy through the Unitary Plan (and subsequent documents) is the role of the suburban centre:

The role of the suburban centre
The role of the suburban centre


The text serves a warning to urbanite critics of suburbia yet as we know with Auckland the suburbs of the South and West wield the most power when we elect a mayor every three years while if you add parts of the rural north (ironically), combined they wield the most power around the Auckland Council Governing Body (usually). However, while South, West and Rodney might wield the most power in elections that power is convoluted for the time being in day-to-day matters if one is to believe that the urban Isthmus receives the most “attention” to Council investment.

However, this next extract provides a very deep question we need to ask ourselves:

Suburb relationships
Suburb relationships


The question being (that ties in the above paragraph): Is Auckland Council, its planning and those who associate with its planning see Auckland’s suburbs in a solely bi-lateral relationship with the main City Centre?


Is our suburbs situated in a network of relationships with other places?


If you look at the Auckland and Unitary Plans I can argue that Council, its planners and most of those who associate with its planning believe in the former; the bi-lateral relationship with the City Centre. Often known to those who promote a mono-core City geography.



I firmly believe like greater Sydney with its Sydney Plan that Auckland operates with a dual-core and the suburbs forming a network of relationships around both cores (City Centre and Manukau City Centre) and those other places such as our five heavy industrial complexes (Onehunga-Southdown-Mt Wellington-Otahuhu, Airport, Wiri, Highbrook-East Tamaki and soon Drury South). Thus my planning advocacy as an Urban Geographer will differ from others owing to my belief in that networked relationship rather than that bi-lateral relationship.


That network of relationships brings me back to the second extract with focuses on the suburban centres and their diversity from them. For the sake of simplicity those suburban centres I have narrowed down to the following:

  • Manukau City Centre (a proposed Super Metropolitan Centre)
  • The other Metropolitan Centres (including Albany for this exercise)
  • Town Centres
  • Heavy Industrial Complexes as listed above


Given that I said earlier as Council amongst others sees suburbia and its centres in a bi-lateral relationship with the main City Centre rather than a networked relationship with others I wonder if Council is truly dedicating time to the heterogeneous nature of our suburbs or does Council through its planning see as some urbanites do see suburbia as chaotic undefined mass that is either shunned or needs to be boxed in.


As I have blogged before Southern Auckland commutes usually within itself and rallies around Manukau City Centre rather than the City Centre itself:


But up until we know what Panuku Development Auckland is up to our planning processes have been more geared on this bi-lateral relationship between the South and the main City Centre rather than as I argue the South having a relationship of networks to other places. Those other places include the main City Centre as well as and primarily Manukau City Centre, the industrial complexes, rural Southern Auckland and the northern Waikato.


I am going to let you ponder over those extracts from Suburban Urbanites. In the meantime though below was my evidence to the Unitary Plan on why I created the Super Metropolitan Centre:


Future-development-for-manukau-city-centre Source: Auckland Transport
Source: Auckland Transport
Proposed Manukau Areas updated
Proposed Manukau Areas updated