Urban design professor Dushko Bogunovich has dissented from the Institute of Architects’ submission supporting intensification in the Auckland Council unitary plan.
In return, he’s been criticised for not providing his view within the institute’s process for formulating the submission – and he’s told the institute he’s made every effort through a wide range of public outlets to express his opinions.
Dr Bogunovich, associate professor of urban design at Unitec, said he didn’t oppose compact urbanism and believed Auckland needed more of it. But, he said, the unitary plan ratios of 70% greenfield development, 30% inside the rural:urban boundary (or 40% allowing for slippage), were unreal.
The ratio should be reversed, he said.
The institute’s own submission during the earlier feedback process, while not going as far as Dr Bogunovich, retains a questionmark over the practicality of the ratio, saying the council hasn’t completed its analysis to show the 70:30 ratio is possible.
Dr Bogunovich took issue with the Institute of Architects’ summary sentence in its proposal for a formal submission on the unitary plan – sent to members last week – because it seemed to endorse the ‘concept of quality compact city’ without any conditions. The formal submissions period closes on 28 February.
The sentence which has offended Dr Bogunovich reads: “In summary, the Auckland branch supports the concept of a quality compact city and the development of an enabling planning approach that is design-led, with the goal of a sustainable livable city which supports holistic growth.”
Dr Bogunovich responded: “If my reading of it is correct, this means the Institute of Architects endorses the idea that the quality compact city is the way to accommodate about 70% of all future growth of Auckland inside the present urban boundary.
“This idea is a complete nonsense, possibly one of the biggest nonsenses in the history of urban planning in New Zealand. Do we really want to support it?
“I have criticised this over-zealous approach to Auckland’s future on many occasions and have explained why. I am pretty sure history will show that I was right, at least to some extent. But even at this early stage, we have already seen why this cannot work.
“I am not against compact urbanism as such, and I do believe Auckland needs more of it. But about 30% of all future growth would be just about right. In other words, I could support an exactly reverse ratio – 30% of future growth by intensification, 70% by greenfield, satellite & upper North Island centres – as opposed to the council’s ideology-driven, no-evidence-whatsoever-based fantasy.
“The council’s vision is not only unrealistic – for a host of spatial, legal, financial, economic, cultural & political reasons – it is also unnecessary. If you want ‘the world’s most liveable’ – or even ‘most sustainable’ – city, it does not at all follow that this city should be built from now on in an overwhelmingly intensified manner. Certainly not Auckland, a very unusual city by many standards, even at world’s scale.
“But worse of all, the council’s 70% vision is dangerous: Auckland is one of the most exposed cities in the world to natural hazards. Add to this the growing global warming-associated uncertainty over weather systems, and put it on top Auckland’s tricky physical geography – you get one of the most vulnerable big cities on the planet. Why on Earth would you want to compact such a city and make it even more dependent on expensive, centralised urban infrastructure?
“It would be much wiser – and politically responsible – to see what advantage an already low-density, polycentric Auckland has, and then plan for its growth in a manner which prioritises resilience, not some second-hand, Eurocentric idea of what liveability is about.
“Again, I am uncomfortable with my institute supporting an urban planning vision which is not based on science but ideology, and cannot become a reality even if it was a good idea. Please reconsider the text.”
Dr Bogunovich went on to expand on his long-held views that an extended Auckland is banana-shaped (continuing from Whangarei to Hamilton & Tauranga), naturally fits into a linear design and should continue to have many centres.
“I think the Institute of Architects needs to distance itself from the council’s idea of force-feeding Auckland with European urbanism – especially now that climate change is starting to show-&-tell what it can do to cities at ‘interesting’ locations.
“We should endorse the quality compact city idea as one of a mix of spatial strategies how to make Auckland a better city, not the main one. Somebody has a funny idea that metro Auckland – one of the most dispersed & pronouncedly linear city-regions in the world – should, and could, look like central Copenhagen.
“Auckland should be a polycentric, predominantly low-density urban region, with many old & new satellites (about 100). It should be growing in co-ordination with the rest of the upper North Island (the ‘Whanga-Tane banana’ theory – to ease some of the pressure for growth.
“And the shape of greater Auckland should be – in fact already is – fundamentally linear, not ‘compact’. Both the central spine of that linear metropolitan area, and the many local centres east & west of the spine, contain plenty of opportunity for intensification and for the quality compact city concept. But not to the extent of cramming into them another 700,000 people!
This is the part I do not want my institute to stand behind. Because we will all look silly – and perhaps even reckless – sometime after 2020.”
The institute wanted to see the intensification analysis showing Auckland had the capacity to deliver 280,000 dwellings inside the rural:urban boundary (and 140,000 outside it over the next 30 years, providing for a million more residents at a ratio of 2.5:dwelling) before unitary plan was notified: “In the absence of that information, it is difficult to see the council has sufficient data to correctly determine zonings & zone boundaries. We submit that the council completes this study and makes it publicly available prior to formal notification of the unitary plan later this year.”
The institute also raised questions over the many constraints on intensification apparent in zoning maps, which were increased in the last week of council deliberations in August: “The study we have made of the planning maps included in the draft unitary plan indicates that there are many instances where scope for intensification has not been pursued and, to a lesser extent, instances where less intensity would have been preferable.
“The significance of not having taken opportunities for intensification is yet to be established because of the absence of the data that would confirm – within reasonable limits of certainty – that 280,000 dwellings could be accommodated within the existing metropolitan area within the required timeframe.
“We do, however, consider that the prudent policy with respect to the zoning maps at this stage would be to zone all the opportunities for intensification that seem reasonable. Not to do so risks sending a message to the community that there are significant areas of metropolitan Auckland that will not be subject to change that, indeed, may well have to change. Our analysis of a very limited number of locations has indicated that there may well be a very significant under-utilisation across the metropolitan area.
“This under-utilisation appears to fall into the following groupings:
- Inappropriately low provision for density around a town or metropolitan centre
- Land adjoining a public transport route not utilised for intensification
- Land adjacent to physical or visual amenity not utilised for intensification
- Land in market-attractive areas not utilised for intensification
- Planning map overlays effectively preclude intensification
- Largescale ‘rollover’ of low-density residential zones compromises intensification
- Inappropriately high provision for intensification around a town or metropolitan centre”
Attribution: Bogunovich correspondence, NZIA submissions.