Deja vu moment as Elected Representatives realise human element missing from planning
Reading the following statement from Auckland Council below it seems our Councillors and for that matter our Planners seemed to have missed a rather big element in planning for Auckland’s growth. That very human element as the blog has covered since its inception in 2011 as well as my submissions to Council being the human element (or rather Human Geography).
Maybe a Human Environment Strategy is needed to work alongside the Natural Environment Strategy Unit to help sort out the social response needed for Auckland’s growth. Like the Natural Environment Strategy Unit the Human Environment Strategy Unit would:
- develop robust problem definitions
- design strategic policy projects and analytical frameworks
- identify and assess options
- undertake cost-benefit analysis
- draft advice and present evidence in support of that advice
- communicate advice to a range of audiences, including political and public audiences
- ensure that strategy developed by and for the Council flows through into action
- evaluate the outcomes of projects and programmes
(that came from the description for the Natural Environment Strategy Unit (that can be easily translated into this Human Environment Strategy Unit)
If Council or any consultancies are looking to create and run such a Human Environment Strategy Unit feel free to contact me, I’ll forward my credentials to you.
To the matter at hand
From Auckland Council:
Social response needed to Auckland’s growth
The social impact of intensification was the theme of the Auckland Council Community Development and Safety Committee meeting today, held at Te Oro community centre in Glen Innes.
Clr John Watson, who chaired today’s meeting, urges developers and urban designers to make social connectedness a baseline requirement in all planning.
“If we really are to create the world’s most liveable city then everyone from the person drawing up the blueprints to the person giving the rubber stamp needs to understand, genuinely and completely, how people will use a space once it is built.
“That means thinking broader than a residential dwelling – it means adding new amenities, adding transport links, and adding places for people to ‘live’ outside of the four walls of their home.”
Alex Johnston, Deputy Chair of the Youth Advisory Panel and Russell Rigby, Deputy Chair of the Seniors Advisory Panel gave a joint presentation sharing bookend views on intensification from both ends of the age spectrum.
Johnston says, “If we look back at 1950’s New Zealand, and particularly Auckland, we were embracing the idea of suburban subdivisions as a retreat from the more crowded city, and Auckland has continued to build these sorts of suburbs since then.
“From a social perspective the traditional suburb can create issues of social isolation and social disconnection, and this is true across the age spectrum.
“The golden bullet for intensification is finding that balance between living space and social space – places that help us moderate our interactions with people without having to retreat entirely,” he says.
“If done well, people will naturally develop a sense of community and trust in that community, which will in turn lead to a sense of belonging, pride and ownership.”
Rigby visualises a future city where an elderly person can downsize into an affordable apartment in the community they lived in their whole life, without needing to move away to the less expensive fringes of the region.
“We also need to think about the in-between places as we intensify; the bench in a neighbourhood street, the safe and easily traversed walkway, the rooftop garden or courtyard in an apartment block, the shared driveway in a row of townhouses – all the places where people can meet and socially interact with each other,” he says.
“This is the key to developing accessible and age-friendly cities.”
Natalie Allen, a PhD student at Auckland University presented on her thesis titled ‘Quality of urban life and intensification: understanding housing choices, trade-offs and the role of urban amenities’.
Allen says, “Urban amenities are incredibly important in mitigating any negative social impacts of intensification because the accessibility of them to residents directly relates to neighbourhood satisfaction; how happy people are living in their neighborhoods.”
“We can’t lose sight of how people actually use their surroundings, and how they want to use them. This is particularly relevant to council planners, developers, urban designers and architects – essentially anyone involved in the built form.”
I would love to know where Councillor Watson has been but a lot has been going on whether it be the Auckland Design Manual, this blog and other Auckland blogs writing on the matter and even people like Design Champion Ludo Campbell-Reid constantly emphasising the human element is very well needed in urban design. All that said the Unitary Plan is lacking human element material and seems to miss the connection on human space and interaction that shapes physical form rather than physical form shaping it (referring to urban form here).
If you want two recent examples of the human element or Human Geography I am going to link and past two #TransformManukau pieces from here below.
The human element is missing from Manukau
In the previous post of this series (#TransformManukau – The Context. Part 7 of the Manukau City Centre – The Transform Series) I looked at the context leading up to where we are today with Manukau, and Transform Manukau led by Panuku Development Auckland.
As we know Manukau has economic clout in Auckland and a lot of potential to be The Thriving Heart and Soul of the South (the vision from the High Level Project Plan):
But as we also know with Manukau it sits in a value trough compared to the surrounding residential areas acting like a monolith. The monlith is big structures but lacking the local and people element. To make things a bit more complex in Transform we also have the case where: Human Geography Element Still Lacking in Council and Auckland in which I concluded there: “In short? We are great with the Physical Geography stuff (the tangible stuff we can use our five senses on) but like Transform Manukau (and as that series is fleshing out) Council and its CCO’s lack the capabilities in clearly articulating the Human Geography side – the people side. Without the Human Geography side and Human Geographers assisting Council articulating that Human Geography side (and story) then all we get is Auckland being one big monolith!”
Now Panuku realises that yes they are great with the Physical Geography side but it will certainly be interesting dealing with the Human Geography side. That said the person who I had met up with at Panuku for the story on Manukau articulated the Human Geography side extremely well. What it can come down to now is people and bloggers like myself to help articulate that human side of the Manukau story and generate feedback to help better Manukau (and the South).
Improving the Quality of Life of the People
Panuku have created eight goals for Transform Manukau. Those eight goals being:
Notice how all eight goals look at improving the quality of life for the people whether directly (green spaces, and connectivity between Manukau and the South) or indirectly through economic and social initiatives, and increasing economic participation in Manukau City Centre.
So how do we improve the quality of life for the people of the South through Transform Manukau? We do this in a two prong fashion:
- Having the communities in the front seat driving the implementation of Transform Manukau (rather than being led by the Council)
- Bringing the Local to Manukau
1) Having the communities in the front seat driving the implementation of Transform Manukau (rather than being led by the Council)
This is Goal 8 of Panuku and one of my main advocacy points to Council and Panuku (for the last five years) in having the community in the front seat driving the implementation of Transform Manukau. Note I have said implementation rather than “planning.” This is because Manukau has been planned to death and the community is getting consultation fatigue from it (simply put they switch off). What the community wants, what I would like to see and what Panuku wants to do is to get cracking – to implement these plans and get the ball finally rolling on Transform Manukau.
With communities (and that includes the business community) in the front seat of the Transform Manukau program the program itself would be adaptive to the needs of the Southern Auckland area (including Manukau) through a collaborative and empowerment regime rather than back seat passengers that has been a regular occurrence with another particular Council Controlled Organisation.
With the community in the front seat driving Transform Manukau part two becomes easier to realise.
2) Bringing the Local to Manukau
One thing Panuku made very clear in their sit down is that Manukau is great with the regional stuff like the mall, large format retail, Rainbows End, the police HQ and the courts. But what is missing in Manukau is the local stuff that would make people want to stay, linger, socialise or even live in Manukau rather than this 9-5 transactional economy Manukau currently has.
As I quoted above we are great at the physical stuff (and often that is where the regional stuff is often placed) but we are lagging in the human stuff (where the local would sit) that humanises a centre especially a Metropolitan Centre.
So what is the local stuff needed to humanise the Metropolitan Centre that is Manukau City Centre (and its surrounds)? Well a critical mass of a permanent population base (whether it be apartments in Manukau City Centre itself or terraced housing in the residential estates south of Manukau City Centre) would be a good start as that critical mass attracts commercial development (viability) and further investment from the public sector (Council and Government). The commercial development especially if things like bars, cafes, and small format retail would give people a reason to stay, linger, socialise, and attract more people to live and work in Manukau.
A risk though in driving for that critical mass of a permanent residential population in Manukau is that the new residential population decide to go elsewhere to socialise and even work resulting in Manukau still losing out as a 9-5 transactional economy.
The question is though what goes first to attract people to Manukau in order to build that critical mass and bring that Local (the people) to Manukau? Do we go with the physical stuff first like big apartment blocks or even more offices followed by open spaces or do we go open spaces first THEN the apartment blocks and offices? If I put my Cities Skylines hat on we go open spaces first then the apartments and offices.
The reason for going for the open spaces first is two-fold:
- Increase the quality of the area already to existing users
- Make the area more attractive to new residents and workers
There is also a third reason being cheaper to lay down first rather than retrofit later on when the developments are completed.
Good open spaces right off the bat before the development for new residents and workers also gives reason for existing users of Manukau to socialise, linger and even purchase more services and goods. This in turn through Economics 101 acts as the catalyst to more wanting to come to the area in both living, shopping, working, and selling those goods and services. But remember the aim is to bring the local (the people) to Manukau.
Large format retail form good regional anchors and have a place in Manukau given Manukau is the regional hub for half a million people. But the encouragement is also needed on small format retail including hospitality to give the people inclusionary feel of a and in a large Centre (Manukau can be rather isolating to a person or a group of people). And to do this we need to understand both the people already coming to Manukau like myself and those already in Manukau like the businesses in order so that we can be good active front seat drivers to Transform Manukau (rather than a passenger steering out the window bored silly).
How to get the Local going and having the communities in the front seat driving the implementation of Transform Manukau
I will go project specific with the Davies Avenue axis in the next post. In the meantime and I raised the idea for Panuku to actively consider (and they are) of placing an easy to access community office in Manukau where the public and businesses can walk in, check out what Transform Manukau is, get information on Transform Manukau and give ideas on Transform Manukau. This community office would be the front-of-house interaction point between Panuku and the South.
The community office would also be the ‘vessel’ or catalysis allowing the people to be in that front seat helping to drive Transform Manukau. The catch is to get it a budget line from Council to make it happen (if Council is serious about being people first).
There is certainly more that can be done in articulating the Human Geography side of the Transform Manukau story. This post is not designed to be the be-all end-all exhaustive list of what to do. But rather a chapter in the ongoing articulation of Transform Manukau and how Transform Manukau can improve the quality of life for the people of the South.
Ronwood Avenue to Cavendish Drive sector proves challenging
The section of Manukau City Centre that spans from Ronwood Avenue up through Cavendish Drive and Ryan Place (otherwise known as Ronwood in the Panuku map) would be the more difficult area to redevelop as part of Transform Manukau. This is due to most of the land in the sector is in private ownership as well as stricter planning rules such as the flight path. Still despite the restrictions and Cavendish Drive being a main thoroughfare linking Botany and the Airport opportunities do present themselves for the private sector wanting to join the Transform Manukau program.
The southern flank of the Ronwood sector sits on Ronwood Avenue and was covered in an earlier post on turning Ronwood Avenue into a main street. Moving further north there have been plans for a lane way and medium density development along an access way that runs between The Warehouse and ASB and goes up through to between Pak n Save and the large box stores on Ronwood Avenue. That lane way could be another Fort Street in the City Centre that is a shared space with a mix of restaurants, commercial outlets and either office or apartments above. Given the Ronwood sector is a long-term project such a lane way project could be done after the Central Heart and Westfield areas are done so as not to spread resources and customers too thin until Manukau has reestablished itself as a thriving second City Centre (or large Metropolitan Centre).
Moving further north we face the High Airport Noise Area from the flight path restricting most residential developments unless serious sound proofing is done. Cavendish Drive is also a main arterial so again that restricts apartments as well due to pollution levels. But that does not stop large format retail and other outlet type stores reestablishing themselves in the area. Office space could establish themselves in the area as well. But the connections for pedestrians and cyclists certainly needs to be better in the area to link it up with other areas of Manukau City Centre. This is especially between Sharkey Street and the Great South Road area of the Ronwood sector (so right half) which has a high pedestrian count owing to AUT at one end, the mall and public transport interchange at the other. The area also has a high number of food outlets as well as the Pak n Save which attract a lot of pedestrians.
Lack of Hospitality
South Auckland does lack causal and fine dining establishments to serve its population of 500,000. So while we can establish a hospitality scene along Amersham Way where existing eateries are (fast food is located along the Great South Road between Ronwood Avenue and Cavendish Drive) further establishments of other hospitality scenes to serve a population of 900,000 by 2042 will be needed. Cue the Ronwood lane way that would connect up to the fast food outlets on the Great South Road. The lane way would be developed through the life of Transform Manukau as Manukau itself continues to reestablish itself. The idea is to slowly bring in new hospitality establishments as the population base grows in Manukau rather than a big surge at the beginning effectively signing their death warrant from go.
As you can also see the lane way with its extensions stitch up the different areas of Manukau from Ronwood Avenue (the main street), the mall, Davies Avenue, the Supa Centre, Hayman Park and Cavendish Drive.
Again as noted above the Ronwood sector is in the long-term plans given most of the land is privately held. But that should not us line up master planning to allow the development of the Ronwood lane way and associated redevelopments around it as the southern end of Transform Manukau begins and begins to attract new people to the area. We are short on causal and fine dining here in the South and the Ronwood lane way could very well fill that spot.
But in any case I don’t like Councillors grandstanding to a situation well-known and that needs to be addressed more than words in a statement from those said Councillors.