Archive | Auckland future

The bermese question, stage 2 – inducing change

The bermese question arose in Auckland when the new super-city Auckland Council, seeking to provide equal services to all parts of a region previously divided into 7 council areas, decided not to mow the berms anywhere as a measure to save $3 million/year.

A certain amount of outrage followed on behalf of those losing a service. Those who hadn’t had their berms mowed before carried on minding them.

In my street, I laid a small section of footpath years ago, which was removed when a hump in the road was lowered. There’s a footpath on the other side of the street, which I don’t use because of its nature: it’s more a series of vehicle access points with the surface angled for motorists’ convenience, and a flat section of pavement in between. Theoretically it’s designed for pedestrians, but actually it isn’t.

There are a few women pushing prams in my neighbourhood at the moment and they use the footpath on the steep road to the beach – travelling the easier, flat road surface would be dangerous. Of course, vehicles are quite often parked on the footpath to reduce the chance of being rammed on the roadway, though sometimes a footpath strip is left (but too narrow for those prams). The pram pushers can bump down on to the road, or put 2 wheels on the grass verge, to pass, but that’s alright because they don’t come this way too often, do they! Their kids will grow up soon and they won’t need the pram.

Several threads prompted this story, some brewing in the back of my mind for a while, others arising just this week.

I’d been pondering ways the council spends money which it might easily save, how equalisation can go either way (more service for those who had less, or less for those who had more, and how rural areas tend to lose out automatically on most of this service stuff), but also questions of traffic safety, the potential for greater savings, how and at what cost environmental or travel improvements might be introduced, and also the degree of acceptance of greater input from residents.

The easiest answer to all these questions is ‘No’ (exclamation mark optional). Once you get beyond that and exercise the brain, numerous options present themselves.

The US Dissent magazine’s website carried a story in December about a 4-year-old boy, AJ Newman, killed in 2010 when he followed his older sister from a narrow concrete median strip into a gap in traffic on a 5-lane highway. She saw the gap; he didn’t have one.

Their mother, with 3 children and an armful of groceries, was crossing from a bus stop to their apartment. The mother was charged with vehicular homicide because she had chosen not to walk about 500m to the nearest pedestrian crossing and 500m back along the other side of the road. After a national outcry the judge reversed the conviction which would have seen her go to jail, but she still copped a $US200 fine for jaywalking.

The Dissent article is about far more than the difficulties of a mother on foot, traversing changes in attitude to car v pedestrian over the last century, and engineering changes over the years which put pedestrians at further disadvantage.

It’s no accident that Auckland happens to be a world leader in reversing some of that advantage, showing how “shared streets” can accommodate vehicles & pedestrians in the same space. Some of these streets are “rat runs” for drivers trying to bypass slow points such as traffic lights, but I find I want to dawdle in front of these aggressive, rushing drivers while I’m happy to make way for motorists respecting the greater care needed in the shared environment.

This reversal – along with more frequent traffic-light phasing for pedestrians in the city centre and an array of street furniture which adds some relax to the city bustle – is part of the tweaking to give downtown Auckland a much friendlier feel, led by Auckland Council design office general manager Ludo Campbell-Reid (that’s a new title – he came to Auckland in 2006 as the former city council’s urban design group manager & design champion, after 2 years as Urban Design London’s chief executive).

Some of the changes are far more than tweaking – the shared streets don’t provide for parking, Queen St’s footpaths have been widened and foliage introduced, a crosstown greenway is to come, lanes will appear to give access through the middle of large blocks and, with all these changes, the retail & hospitality pictures are also changing.

Those changes, so far, have been in the city centre. A number of them would have been harder to introduce in suburban centres immediately but, as the altered cbd experience becomes accepted – that customers haven’t been driven away by the reduction in streetparking – there will be demand for similar revitalisation in suburban centres too.

None of that is going to change life for the lady pushing a pram along suburban side streets. However, there is opportunity for change, brought by the council’s greater cost awareness after a year of trying to hasten a construction start for the city rail link while simultaneously cutting the budgets of its local boards for a wide range of community projects.

Imagine, for instance, if the council went far beyond its decision to stop mowing streetside berms and decided to stop maintaining such wide sealed strips of roadway. Instead of 3-4 lanes’ width of sidestreet roadway, 1-2 might be converted at least partially to allow street trees maintained by residents, perhaps one lane for parking, leaving one lane for travelling – more slowly, giving way to oncoming traffic, and giving way to the lady with the pram.

Think how much onstreet parking costs – not just the price you pay to use it, but to have it there in the first place, and to maintain it.

In the main business districts onstreet parking is metered. Malls, which encourage greater vehicle use, provide free parking (which is paid for by the tenants and thus, indirectly, by their customers). Suburban streetparking is also free (paid for through rates and thus, indirectly, by property owners).

In all cases, somebody pays to provide the parking, but only those cbd meters are an overt charging mechanism. Think back to your suburban street: do we need that much of a parking lot? If the answer is ‘Yes’, is there a way to reduce the need? Can we travel differently? If we can’t travel differently because no alternative is available, how could an alternative be made available?

If you think these questions are entirely avoidable because you drive from your garage to work quite quickly, and you have a basement parking space provided at the office, and the little woman (this is a conscious put-down of the person whose need for a vehicle is likely to be greater) does the shopping in her own vehicle, which she also uses to cart the kids around to school, and to football practice, and to music lessons, think again.

The lady with the pram who grows up to become family courier might need her vehicle, but is the one parked in the office basement needed? Does that parking space have a potentially better use? If you & others got to your jobs by other means, how much less roadspace would we need? If you park in the road outside your suburban office or warehouse job, what has it cost (somebody) to provide the roadspace to get you there, and the parking space for the day?

I’ve been pondering these questions for my own purposes, but also as property & urban strategy issues.

Questions for my own purposes:

  • The road to the motorway is jammed at peak periods
  • The motorway is jammed for longer periods than ever before – the peaks are longer, start earlier (now before dawn) and traffic is heavier between peaks
  • CBD parking is more expensive – up 50% in one hit last year
  • Bus & ferry travel are partial alternatives – or maybe road travel becomes the partial alternative
  • What is the most efficient use of time – paying attention in stationary or slow-moving traffic is tiring; can I use that time to read or write en route?
  • If I use partial alternatives, how do I travel at non-commute times?

In the wider perspective, I am as much a part of the problem as the driver beside me on the motorway, and it’s been this way ever since the influx of vastly cheaper Japanese car imports in the 1980s changed the whole economy. From a tentative shift to becoming 2-car families, we’ve upgraded these vehicles to become our suitcases, our wardrobes, our private music boxes, our personal valet service. And, of course, we’ve made them bigger.

It’s a marvellous luxury for a very high proportion of a city’s residents to be able to travel everywhere in their personal carriages, but at no stage over the 30 years that this society-transforming lifestyle change has been under way have I seen comparisons that put this transformation & alternatives in full context.

It’s one thing to compare the cost of building a kilometre of road against the estimate for a tunnel beneath the central city, but it’s something else to compare the costs of motorway congestion, local road congestion, access connections (as in getting to a bus, needing more than one bus or connecting to a ferry), parking & vehicle ownership costs versus fares, development costs & values from intensifying use around central hubs, or the costs & values & savings from developing more intensively locally.

These are the kinds of information which might have been usefully fed into our knowledge base if we had not been so focused on doing one thing and ignoring alternatives. Even for the costs & benefits of developing the city rail link, much of the costing has been presented as if it would only be a transport route (and only a transport route connecting 3-4 stations), it would not be a transport route linked to any altered urban context, and it would not be a catalyst for any change.

The council funding propositions, out to public consultation this year, amount to penalties, and to greater penalties for greater use. Major users will be most affected, and they will try to pass the cost on. Are inflationary penalties the best way to fund infrastructure?

All of these questions are connected – these are just a selection:

  • from building a rail tunnel to how much tar we need to park on in suburbia
  • to how safely & easily the lady with the pram can make her way down a suburban pavement, or across an arterial route designed solely for the use of the motorised
  • from the cost savings of not using public money to mow berms to the potential gain in private value of spending personal time to beautify neighbourhoods’ public spaces
  • to the cost of building city office & apartment towers with or without parking.

Apart from ‘No!’ as the answer, alternatives include differences in how or where public money is spent, different options and very different costs for private development, the potential for access changes to induce provision of & demand for different buildings.

This story doesn’t stretch to the numbers – that’s something to work on, some of it within my capacity but mostly requiring others’ input.

But to give you an idea of a starting point, New Zealand spends $18 billion/year on vehicles, parts & fuel. We do that without considering whether the infrastructure we use those vehicles on is the best option. We just do it.

This story is about re-examining options, fully.

What I’ve written about above is within the bounds of current technology. It’s good to jolt thinking beyond that, as former Auckland City councillor Richard Simpson invariably does from his role as chief executive & executive director of the Spatial Industries Business Association Queensland.

In his latest news item he’s written about intelligent transformation, and intelligent transport systems: “Intelligent transportation, smart cities, integrative epidemiology, building information modelling, precision agriculture, robotics, big data analytics are all fusing & innovating inside this spatial primordial soup.”

While a councillor, Dr Simpson wanted to bring the International Society for Digital Earth to Auckland – not just for a conference but to make the city its base. The organisation held its 2006 summit in Auckland and 2012 summit in Wellington.

The Australian ITS summit & national electronic tolling conference (12-14 May 2015, Melbourne, on the theme of implementing connected mobility) is expected to attract 400 top national & international transport & technology policymakers, business leaders, innovators & investors.

Some of the topics illustrate how far we have to travel to get beyond our stunted thinking, which has stopped at the costs of a tunnel or a road – topics such as co-operative & automated vehicles, smart cities & new urban mobility, public & multi-modal transport, local government issues & initiatives, future freight and road pricing.

Links: Auckland Council, shared spaces
Dissent article, Injustice at the intersection
Spatial industry innovation key to intelligent transportation futures
Australian ITS summit & national electronic tolling conference, 2015

Attribution: Observations, Auckland Council website, Dissent magazine, SIBA.

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Auckland vision springs to life

Published 31 January 2011

The new Auckland Council’s future vision committee takes off tomorrow with an ambitious proposal to start transforming the city centre.

And it will be the city centre – not the central business district – after proposals to extend the central area to take in the Ponsonby ridge across to the Parnell ridge.

Also part of the international city centre masterplan:

The waterfront masterplan will be done in concert with the city centre planThe city centre rail link will form an integral part of the masterplanIt will be public transport-led, andParts of the motorway ring road will be covered.

The council will issue an initial ideas document in March, a draft city centre masterplan in June following consultation. The council would adopt the final masterplan at the same time as it adopts the Auckland Plan – including the new spatial plan – at the end of the year.

The initial ideas document, to be issued in March for key stakeholder & community engagement as part of the wider Auckland Plan consultation process, will comprise a draft vision statement, set of strategic objectives, list of transformational ideas and a series of related questions. The Waitemata Local Board and the CBD Board will be consulted on the initial ideas document before its launch.

The transport segment of the 20-year masterplan – to be done by the Auckland Transport council-controlled organisation in concert with the council – is ambitious. It includes the rail loop, light rail corridors & links, a cycleway over the harbour bridge, second harbour crossing, 2-waying of Hobson & Nelson Sts, a transport hub on Wellesley St, ‘boulevarding’ of Quay St and more pedestrian improvements for Queen St.

The masterplan authors were cbd transformation team leader Simon Lough and built environment manager Tim Watts. Regional & local planning manager Penny Pirrit reviewed it, environmental strategy & policy manager Ludo Campbell- Reid authorised it and chief planning officer Roger Blakeley approved it.

The report to the future vision committee seeks its approval for the approach & actions for preparing a vision-led 20-year masterplan, including initial thoughts on the strategic objectives & key projects.

The planning team said: “This work will support the wider strategic direction for the region and ensure that the city centre plays a pivotal role in delivering the mayor’s vision of Auckland becoming the world’s most

liveable city.

“The city centre masterplan is to be developed for a geographical area that comprises one international city centre serving all of Auckland. The final extent of the masterplan area is to be determined through the masterplanning process, but could encompass an area beyond the central business district, as proposed in the Royal Commission report on Auckland governance in March 2009).

“Regardless of the study area boundary, the term cbd is to be dropped in favour of city centre, which better reflects the multifaceted nature of the urban core.

“The waterfront masterplan currently being prepared by the Auckland Waterfront Development Agency Ltd on behalf of the council, and proposals for the city centre rail link being led by Auckland Council & Auckland Transport, will form integral parts of the city centre masterplan. It is intended that all of these workstreams be coproduced by the council, waterfront development agency & Auckland Transport.

“The final city centre masterplan will become the guiding document for future planning & investment decisions of both council & key stakeholders. The document will include:

a vision statementstrategic objectivesoutcomes & key performance indicatorsstrategic planstransformational projects & actions, anda delivery plan.

“It will also be supported by a number of technical papers that will provide the full rationale for the proposals contained within the main document.”

The idea is that the masterplan “include a strong & compelling vision & strategy for the city centre with a programme of transformational projects & actions identified under a number of strategic objectives. The city centre will be broken into a number of quarters & urban centre ‘villages’, with the future role, function & form of each identified. Preparation of this guiding document will build on the existing knowledge base, strategies, proposals & the many recent transformational projects.”

It will present a draft vision statement for the international city centre based on mayor Len Brown’s vision of creating the world’s most liveable & beautiful city, “ie, a powerhouse economy, an eco-city, an accessible public transport-led city and strong & cohesive communities. It will also seek to capture how an international city centre can help deliver on the strategic place-based directions being developed through the Auckland spatial plan.

“The vision will frame a number of strategic objectives building on those identified in recent work, specifically the Jan Gehl Architects public life survey in 2010, with a series of project ideas & related consultation questions identified under each. Initial thoughts are that these may comprise 3 core objectives:

a well connected city centre – a city centre in touch with the surroundings and benefiting from a 21st-century public transport system, with a high quality network of connections and a distinct street hierarchya waterfront city centre – a vibrant & inviting waterfront as a key amenity capable of attracting people to invest, live, work & visit, and changing the image of the city as a whole, anda lively and desirable city centre – a city centre with a diverse range of uses & opportunities, an extraordinary urban environment with world-class streets & spaces that serve to make it one of the world’s premier business locations & destination for visitors & Aucklanders alike.

Potential ‘well connected’ projects include:

enhanced ferry systema city centre rail linklight rail corridors/linksdedicated walkways & cycleways (including a cycleway over the harbour bridge)major public transport hub on Wellesley Stchanges to Hobson & Nelson Sts (eg, 2-waying)location & type for second harbour crossingbus, rail & light rail connections between the city villages, the inner quarters & wider cityan airport-city centre rail link.

Potential waterfront city centre projects include:

key waterfront sites for public buildings, public spaces & mixed-use quartersfuture direction of port developmentcontinuous waterfront edge esplanadea series of waterfront plazaslocation/s for cruise terminal(s)‘boulevarding’ of Quay Stfree mooring options & facilities to support public recreation or commuter boating.

Potential ‘lively & desirable’ projects include:

a city centre divided into quarters & connected urban ‘villages’ (Grafton, Parnell, Ponsonby/Three Lamps, Newton)location/s for a convention centrepedestrian malling of some street areascovering of sections of the motorway ring road with useful public space & mixed-use activity opportunitiesfurther pedestrian improvements to Queen Stimproved/new parkland & plazaslocations for child-focused play opportunitiesprimary retail district centered along Queen Stshared spaces (between vehicles & pedestrians)building intensification in locations to support business growthconservation areas to protect heritage new destination uses, including a downtown Chinatown, andgeneral development opportunities.

“Key stakeholders will be engaged in workshops with the masterplanning team. Others will be invited to review & make comment on the initial ideas. Where practicable, the masterplan work will link directly with the overall Auckland Plan engagement process. The Waitemata Local Board and the CBD Board will be consulted on the initial ideas document prior to its launch. From this stakeholder engagement and further concurrent analysis of existing, refreshed & new research data, a draft city centre masterplan will be developed.”

The authors said the successful masterplan would be:

visionary: it will raise aspirations and provide a vehicle for consensus building, strategic decision-making & implementationflexible & enduring: it will provide a framework capable of evolving over time in response to changing circumstances while still holding true to the overall vision & objectivesplace-specific: it will consider the city centre as a network of interdependent quarters, exploring the future role, function & form of eachdeliverable: it will be grounded in commercial reality and take into account likely implementation & delivery routesresponsive: it will be the result of a participatory process, providing all the stakeholders with the means of expressing their needs & prioritiesintegrated: it will relate to the planning policy framework, while allowing new uses & market opportunities to exploit the full development potential of the city centre.

The masterplan team said a governance structure to oversee the development of all of the interrelated work streams – the council’s own masterplanning, the waterfront plan being prepared by the Auckland Waterfront Development Agency, the rail link being led by Auckland Transport – was being developed to ensure continuity and avoid duplication of effort.

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Attribution: Council committee agenda, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Mayor says council will co-ordinate citywide any-graffiti campaign

Published 7 January 2011

Auckland mayor Len Brown said yesterday the new council would co-ordinate a citywide campaign against graffiti vandalism.

He said the council would consolidate a number of contracts inherited from former councils to ensure a consistent approach to graffiti vandalism eradication & enforcement services.

A variety of trusts & private contractors hold these contracts and their work is complimented by local volunteers who undertake regular “paint-outs” in their neighbourhoods. Mr Brown said groups & individuals frequently “adopt a spot” to ensure fences, bus shelters and the like are free of graffiti.

The 3-pronged co-ordination plan – eradication, enforcement & education – comes as work continues on cleaning up the Yates Building on Albert St, one of the cbd’s worst graffiti eyesores.

“We are defining what our communities will put up with as acceptable behaviour across Auckland. I want to acknowledge the work that many people in the community are already doing in this area. It is now time to unite and take the message across Auckland that we will not put up with graffiti vandalism. The economies of scale in dealing with the issue across Auckland mean that value for money can be assured.

“Auckland Council will work with local boards, key stakeholders & the community to ensure its policy for dealing with graffiti vandalism is effective.”

Earlier story:

4 December 2010: Mayor announces agreement to tidy up ex-Yates building as scheduling litigation continues

 

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Attribution: Company release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Council produces buskers’ rulebook

Published 5 March 2007


Auckland City Council’s arts, culture & recreation committee approved a draft policy today to encourage diverse, high-quality street performance in Auckland’s public spaces.


Committee chairman Penny Sefuiva said this new approach would go a long way to increasing the enjoyment factor for some and mitigating the issues for others: “Good street performance is a sign of a healthy & animated city, so we have looked carefully at how other international cities encourage & manage this sort of activity. This draft policy is a positive start towards reflecting a unique city, alive with Auckland’s talented & creative people performing in appropriate public spaces.


“I hope that by clarifying expectations through a specific policy, we can build an environment that attracts & encourages a range of street-level activity to take place.”


The council will develop a street-performance guidebook to help performers, residents, retailers & all cbd users to understand the expected code of conduct required to perform in the city. Cllr Sefuiva said performers would be expected to comply with some basic criteria to help balance the creative needs with everyday activity of the public & city businesses.


It will help direct performers to appropriate locations for particular activities, such as special sites identified for pavement art. It will also provide tips for performers wanting to make the most of their performance. It’s proposed that performers agree to the code of conduct to receive a free 12-month licence to perform in the city.


A date hasn’t yet been set for the draft street performance policy to be released for public consultation.


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 

Attribution: Council release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Caughey motion lifts subdivision benchmark

Published 20 February 2007


Auckland City Council’s planning fixtures committee supported Cllr Christine Caughey today in a push for sound & sustainable land subdivision principles.


Cllr Caughey’s proposal will lift demands on developers up a notch – to a quality level which, you could argue, many have demonstrated an unwillingness to pursue.


Cllr Caughey said: “The sustainable development of the resources of the district relies upon the careful use of the existing landholdings in the city. The future subdivision of these landholdings is fundamental to the ongoing creation of a sustainable city and all proposals for subdivision need to reflect sound principles relating to the use of landforms & the landscape, urban design, infrastructure, heritage & ecology.


“Accordingly, reports by officers on subdivision applications should evidence that sound resource management principles have been embraced by such proposals and that, where resource consent is granted, the environmental outcomes so produced will advance the relevant objectives & policies of the district plan and the imperatives of sustainable development.”


In her motion, Cllr Caughey asked that Auckland City Environments’ group manager report back to the committee “on any initiatives being taken to ensure that the processing & reporting on applications for subdivision consent are in accordance with the council’s goals of organisational improvement.”


Cllr Caughey said the proposal arose from concerns she’d had over a long period.


Committee chairman Faye Storer commented: “It makes sense,” and the committee endorsed the motion without further comment.


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 

Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Council introduces anti-graffiti web page

Published 20 June 2006


Auckland City Council has created a web page where residents can report graffiti damage to their property.



“Graffiti vandalism (tagging) is a community issue which can lower property values and encourage more vandalism & other types of crime. It suggests that the neighbourhood doesn’t care and isn’t able to cope with the problem. Tagging left intact attracts more tagging,” the page’s introduction says.


Graffiti prevention officer Rob Shields said information provided by residents would help community initiatives such as eradication, prevention & education.


He said the council’s programme of zero tolerance to graffiti vandalism had removed graffiti from 91,000 sites since its inception in 2000. Almost 8000 sites were cleaned in the first 3 months of 2006.


“A zero tolerance attitude, including high vigilance towards removing tagging, sending photos to our database and holding vandals accountable for their offending are all measures that deter the perpetrators. The easier it is for people to get involved in our programme, the more effective we can be in combating graffiti vandalism. Aucklanders are now starting to feel empowered and can see the value of joining our anti-graffiti strategy,” he said.


Photos can be emailed to [email protected] and added to the graffiti-tracker database, so evidence can be recorded and trends in graffiti type, frequency & location can be monitored.


Public safety & community order committee chairman Graeme Mulholland said: “We don’t see graffiti as an art form. We see it as wilful damage and therefore a crime. We want the community’s assistance to keep to our goal of zero tolerance.”


Website: Auckland City Council graffiti page


 


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].


 


Attribution: Council release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Councillors report on lessons for Auckland

Published 19 February 2006


When you go to a conference, you might get around to reporting back to your company on the value of the event. More likely, you’ll put the papers on a shelf (or a circular repository), remember the good times, forget the speeches and get on with life.



When people in public office go to conferences, they sometimes feel obliged to file a report, albeit brief.


Back in September 2005, Auckland City councillors Glenda Fryer (chairman of the planning & regulatory committee) & Faye Storer (chairman of the planning fixtures committee), both members of the council’s environment, heritage & urban form committee, went to conferences in the US, Canada & Europe and undertook visits outside the conferences programmes.


When they got back they wanted to tell someone and their report wasn’t just a couple of lines. They:


came up with a narrative & illustrations
discussed issues
set out ideas in an appendix
listed key initiatives they recommended for further investigation by their own council.

Then they went in search of someone to present their report to, and found it isn’t easy. Their report dated 14 November was first intended for the council’s urban strategy & governance committee’s eyes & ears, but didn’t make it on the agenda. In February it got to the environment, heritage & urban form committee, where councillors thought some aspects of the report were worth considering in other forums, such as the committees on arts, public art & transport.


After the presentation, councillors voted for a briefing on the duo’s report, Lessons for Auckland, before the next council meeting (scheduled for next Thursday, 23 February).


The committee was also told by acting city planning group manager Penny Pirrit the mayor had just given the go-ahead for a debate on urban design in the city to be held in the town hall in June. That debate, or a subsequent public gathering, seems an ideal opportunity for the 2 councillors’ ideas to be presented to a wider audience.


Meetings of city councils & their committees attract tiny audiences – if any members of the public attend. Media attention is usually brief, low or non-existent. Debates & presentations on urban design also naturally attract a narrowly focused audience because the avenues for distributing information about such events are usually through industry networks.


More investigation approved


Lessons for Auckland isn’t on the council’s website as an attachment to the 3 February committee meeting. But the report is important, first because of the 2 councillors’ positions of considerable influence, secondly so you know how they think & what they see as priorities, third for the ideas they’ve collected.


Recommendations adopted by the environment, heritage & urban form committee were for more investigations, including development of cost estimates, on:

an integrated programme aimed at making the council “an exemplar in the development & deployment of initiatives that minimise the impact of its operation on the natural environment
establishing or supporting an office of sustainable development in Auckland, or partnering an existing organisation such as Beacon, or other councils, pursuing this agenda
establishing a community walking programme, and
options for reducing the extent of billboard advertising.

Cllrs Fryer & Storer attended the Rail Volution conference in Salt Lake City, then a conference on sustainable planning & development hosted by the Wessex Institute of Technology. They also spoke to councillors & staff in San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver & Amsterdam.


Their 3 key lessons:

Urban governments are spending less on preparing & approving detailed policy; instead they’re clarifying general direction & policies and focusing resources on consistent projects & activities
Councils are leading change by example
Light-handed regulation alone is inadequate.

The next section of this article elaborates on those 3 points.


Jewels in the dust: A focus on projects

Urban governments are spending less on preparing & approving detailed policy; instead they’re clarifying general direction & policies and focusing resources on consistent projects & activities:

Portland City Council, for example, has identified priority actions where it can make a difference under a general global warming policy. These actions include:

an office & associated programmes dedicated to promoting sustainable or green buildings as part of their consent process
a dedicated programme promoting extensive community walking, and
a programme of tree-planting with specific targets.

San Francisco has a programme to promote alternative energy in powering public transit and is trialling fuel cells. It’s also piloting the concept of multi-lane boulevards as an alternative to motorways.


The municipal government of Amsterdam is building projects of a high quality under a policy to promote good quality urban design, establishing new standards and enhancing the skill of the city’s construction industry.


“In almost all cases, these projects are carried on in partnership with other agencies. Funding of the Portland community walking project is drawn from health & life insurance agencies, for example, and the fuel cell projects in San Francisco involve local universities.”


Council as exemplar


Mayors are leading a number of councils to change behaviour to show how the community can put initiatives into practice that are consistent with council priorities.


Councils in Chicago & Salt Lake City have implemented a range of programmes, including:

energy conservation by sensitive building design, right-sizing the organisation’s vehicle fleet & parking provision, switching the remaining fleet to alternative fuels
deploying sustainable or green building principles on all council projects, including onsite stormwater management
changing the nature of construction & maintenance contracts to promote local & smallscale entrepreneurs.

Light-handed regulation alone is inadequate


“The principles of new urbanism are increasingly being deployed to mnage urban growth throughout much of North America, Europe & Australia. These principles focus on creating a more compact city developed to a greater density, an emphasis on quality design, especially with respect to the public realm, and a shift toward transit meeting an increased share of the demand for mobility.


“These principles also underpin much of the Auckland regional growth strategy & Auckland City’s own urban development strategy.


“It is increasingly clear that reliance on light-handed regulation, such as our district plan provisions or building bylaws, to achieve these principles is inadequate. A range of tools is necessary, all working together to reinforce an agreed direction. These tools include co-ordinated investment in major utilities, especially urban transport, as well as greater intervention that enables developments of a particular type to be required. This may be associated with land ownership or more heavy-handed regulations.”


In Amsterdam all city land is ultimately owned by the municipal government. In Portland, local legislation enables a municipal development corporation to pursue eminent domain (the US debate on that issue continues) and buy land for development. In Vancouver, the council can combine greater regulatory powers with greater flexibility to require particular building designs – to ensure every apartment in the cbd retains a view of the harbour, for example.


In addition, a host of innovative financing packages have been developed, some of which use pricing to encourage desired forms of urban development.


Cllrs Storer & Fryer recommended 4 key initiatives for further investigation by appropriate council committees:

Auckland City Council, community leader in sustainable development
office of sustainable development
community walking, and
signage reduction options.

The next section of this article elaborates on these 4 points.


Auckland City Council, community leader in sustainable development


They considered the council should position itself as “an exemplar in the development & deployment of initiatives that minimise the impact of its operation on the natural environment.”


Overseas examples highlighted the desirability of focusing on improving a few key areas at a time. They suggested areas for improvement might include:

reducing fossil-fuel consumption by right-sizing the vehicle fleet, greater use of vehicle sharing, using means other than cars for short trips and introducing alternatively powered vehicles into the council fleet
reducing electricity consumption by deploying low-energy technology, reducing requirements for building cooling & heating through appropriate design
deploying green building design principles in all buildings built or funded by the council.

They said the council had a number of initiatives under way to reduce energy use & waste: “Together with new ideas, these should be reviewed and a limited selection made upon which to focus & promote for a defined period.”


Office of sustainable development


The Portland Office of Sustainable Development’s range of services includes:

facilitating design workshops to improve a building’s environmental performance
providing professional design skills
reviewing new sustainable building technology as it applies to planning & building codes
providing technical information on sustainable building practices
promoting & marketing sustainable building practices
reviewing & assessing buildings with respect to national standards.

Cllr Fryer said it was “a bit like our urban design panel”, it was voluntary and “it has made a lot of difference to the types of buildings going up in Portland.


“The option of a joint office operating as a shared service with other local authorities across the Auckland region should be considered.”


Community walking


Walking school buses had been a notable success in reducing private vehicle use for short trips as well as promoting greater levels of exercise & fitness among children. “Community walking extends this concept beyond schoolchildren.”


In Portland a co-ordinator works with households & communities, participants get promotional packs that include pedometers and can participate in a variety of promotions. A single facilitator has established 300 groups in Portland in a year.


The Auckland council has had initial discussions on this with the Auckland District Health Board.


Signage reduction options


The 2 councillors have weighed in heartily against all non-complying signage in Auckland, frequently recommend smaller signs or reducing their number and have been strong supporters of having illegal signs removed.


“The city centres of those cities in North America visited by the team are largely free of outdoor advertising hoardings & signage. Portland’s sign code, adopted in 1996, generally capped the number of outdoor signs, established billboard-free zones, limited the size of signage and banned active or video billboards. Other cities, including San Francisco, have adopted an approach based on precincts where signage is severely limited in some areas and encouraged in others.”


Other input


Cllr Neil Abel, chairman of the council’s works & services committee, said the council “probably has an opportunity, even now, of upgrading the library & art gallery, for example, tanks on the roofs.”


He said the works committee was trying to advance a package for residents on solar energy, insulation & rainwater tanks, while the Government had an insulation retrofit programme in association with ASB Bank. The proposal on water tanks was at a formative stage but might be achieved without a directing cost to the council.


Cllr Penny Sefuiva said Waitakere City Council had been working on the idea of an office of sustainable development for a long time.


Acting group city planning manager Penny Pirrit said a paper on design incentives would be produced by June, and the council was working with the Auckland Regional Council, Waitakere & the Government on getting a standard for urban sustainability by 2008.


If you want to comment on this story, write to the BD Central Discussion forum or send an email to [email protected].


 


Attribution: Committee debate, agenda, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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Council creates web tool to study city’s future

Published 19 January 2006


Auckland City Council has redesigned economic & transport sections of its website, launching a tool that illustrates where growth & change are occurring and how the city is managing its effects.



The tool, entitled Auckland‘s future, uses flash technology to provide a single point of access to information about where & how the city will grow.


The city’s population is expected to increase by 141,000 between 2001-21, largely due to births over deaths, and the council has a policy of working to develop sustainable communities.


Deputy mayor Bruce Hucker, who chairs the urban strategy & governance committee, said of the new website tool: “The biggest technical hurdle that we had to overcome was providing a highly graphical multimedia tool to home internet users who generally rely on dial-up connections.


“A special feature of the site is that the movie presentation & other photographic images are designed to start playing almost instantly while the remainder of the movie & images continue to download in the background. We have achieved this by using Macromedia Flash web technology, which is used to deliver multimedia content to millions of potential web users.”


The site introduces the viewer to information about growth in Auckland City through a “movie” of a growing city, but without the long download times that might be expected with this kind of technology.


The animated tool allows web-savvy visitors to choose the council area they’re interested in – transport, community, city development, environment or economy. They can then select projects, illustrated as red dots or “jaffas”, which are located geographically on a rotatable map. Links from the “jaffas” take the user through to specific pages of the existing council & project partner websites.


Different viewing orientations of the map of the Auckland isthmus help provide a sense of location for those unfamiliar with specific areas.


The tool is a means of staying on top of the variety of projects in which the council & partner organisations, such as Transit NZ & Watercare, are involved and which contribute to harnessing the benefits of the growth expected across the isthmus over the next 25 years.


For example, visitors to the site can find out more about the council’s liveable community plans or how the council is working with the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) & Transit to connect people & places throughout the region.


Website: Auckland‘s future


 


If you want to comment on this story, write to the BD Central Discussion forum or send an email to [email protected].


 


Attribution: Press release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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