This article is one in a series on the Start project (Sustaining the Auckland region together – see links at the foot of the page). To comment, click on The new BD Central Forum. If you want to contribute a more detailed article, either in response or advancing a topic, email [email protected].
Published 6 February 2007
The technology paper in the regional Start project argues against the globalisation section on the subject of size. It also raises some fundamental issues:
of commercial building
of home requirements
of how to adapt our present urban design to quite different future needs
of how to ensure the lifestyle advantages in the region’s promotion continue to exist, and
through these other questions, how Auckland deals with the sprawl versus compact city issue.
The draft sustainability framework for Start (Sustaining the Auckland region together) was presented to the Auckland Regional Growth Forum in December and will go out for public submissions in March-April, with an intended July completion for the final document.
One point in the Start workshop paper on globalisation was that, “â€¦..while it (Auckland) may be able to compete in some areas, its small population size & geographical isolation will ensure it never becomes a mega city or a particularly significant player within the global economy.”
However a key message on technology was: “A mega-trend transforming cities is the shift in emphasis from historic economies of scale (where costs fall because the scale of output is increased) to economies of scope (where costs fall because of synergies between complementary activities or because the overhead is spread across a number of activities).
“The implication of this is that cities no longer need to be big to be competitive. Increasingly the key to success appears to lie in developing clusters & complexes of productive activity, and human organisation: creativity & advanced technical systems are also essential elements to thisâ€¦..
“In Auckland, the changes wrought by the adoption of a variety of technological innovations & social changes have meant that the traditional centre (or cbd) is no longer the dominant centre for retailing, warehousing, transport, commerce, health, education or cultural activities.
“While the cbd remains the focus of financial & business services activity, the Auckland region has been emphasising development in nodes across the city that has the potential to greatly improve the resilience of the city’s economy. Development is now polycentric.
The technology section then posed a number of questions, including:
If an ecologically more benign future is an important objective for Auckland, how do we incorporate technological innovation to achieve this, recognising, too, the need to remain flexible in the face of unpredictable change?
How do we focus on localised solutions for communities & business? What technologies are likely to become available to enable us to overcome problems and how can we best take advantage of them?
How does city management enhance technological innovation?
How can economic clusters, value chains & complexes be developed & encouraged through city planning?
Concepts of multiple communities & multiple citizenship arise as ITC connects & divides individuals. How should Auckland maximise benefits and overcome divisions?
What are the technology sets that will drive Auckland’s economic performance in the next century and what are its key competitive advantages?
New technologies change the way society developsâ€¦.. What is the likelihood of greater social exclusion & division as a result of the digitalisation of society as technological haves & have-nots emerge?
Transport & land-use challenges
Among challenges, this paper looked at the intimate connection between transport & land use and the role declining fossil-fuel use will play: “Is there a danger that the Auckland city-region holds a false belief in â€˜natural survivability’ & â€˜innovative capacity’ to deal with a threatening situation?
“Is the current strategy for increasing urban density going to solve Auckland’s urban problems, including transportation, if the structure of our city has largely been determined by the use of automobiles and these may possibly be less ubiquitous in the future?
“If changing the level of mobility affects accessibility, how will this reshape the city? How do we focus on localised solutions to transport needs for communities & business? What technologies are likely to become available, if any, to enable us to overcome these problems and how flexible must we be to take advantage of them?”
The technology paper also looked at infrastructure services: “Urban development is also dependent on the availability of water/sewerage/drainage services. However Auckland has been largely unresponsive to technological change in that industry.
“While a localised â€˜water-friendly’ environment can easily be imagined with current technologies (eg, natural hydrological features, local drainage & water supply systems, urban artificial wetlands) and has been adopted in â€˜trial’ & city-fringe projects, will path dependency, sunk costs & an abundant water supply (piped from the Waikato River) prevent widespread introduction of these technologies?
“Because the form of development has been affected by the existing technology employed in providing water, sewerage & drainage services, will any new approaches need to involve the right â€˜pricing’ of these services so we are led to seek technological innovation more quickly & broadly?
“How does our strategy for a more compact city (with presumably more hard surfaces) sit alongside options for local water-friendly environments?”
The technology paper also examined 3 areas of significance for the property industry:
one relating to manufacturing & retailing, and moving on to issues of urban & building design
social change, the home-commute position for households where all adults work
ecological challenges, including a sideways look at sprawl versus compact.
Manufacturing & retail
“The sector approach to industrial development adopted by the growth & innovation framework (of Trade NZ) suggests that the future of local manufacturing and manufacturing location (eg, in Auckland) needs to take into account not only comparative productivity & efficiency between local firms & overseas competitors, but also the relationship between local retailers & manufacturers).
“Will a weak link between these industries result in a â€˜tourist-led’ form of retailing and urban restructuring with more limited local employment opportunities? Can a stronger local link be formed between retailing & local manufacturing to promote a more dynamic form of urban development, when the retailing oligopolies are based in Australia?
“How will future technological changes in retailing impact on Auckland’s urban space, social & economic relations? What is Auckland’s understanding of the role of retail in our economy and its spatial demands? What strategies are in place to address the role of retailing in Auckland’s future â€“ including its future in manufacturing?”
Finally, on another aspect of commercial property (and also probably residential), the technology paper said: “In the past the form of urban development was significantly affected by our understanding of how materials behaved and by the stage of development of construction materials. However, technological constraints on the size of buildings are now insignificant. Advances in our capacity to analyse & design buildings and in the 3 major construction materials (steel, concrete & glass) mean we can now build virtually any kind of building of any scale anywhere we want â€“ the constraints are more likely to be social, economic, environmental & aesthetic.
“The role of design of our urban space has only recently become an issue of significance. If there are virtually no constraints on how we construct the built environment, how do we maximise social, economic, environmental & aesthetic outcomes in terms of design?”
Social change section highlights fundamental issues
On this aspect, the paper says one of the main choices people have made as living standards have risen “has been to consume more urban space and to make themselves more comfortable”. The paper then raises discussion points on homes, leisure & demographic change, highlighting some fundamental issues:
“This (people making themselves more comfortable) has traditionally been in the form of larger, better equipped dwellings and control over private space â€“ that is, gardens. Another choice has been to spend more time on leisure & other non-work activities. A very high proportion of this increased private time has been spent in home-based activities.
“As increased proportions of people take early retirement and live longer (through improved medical technology), can we expect them to spend more time in & around their homes and to want private urban space in which to spend that time? Or will we see a trend toward apartment living and less private space in cities and consequently the demand for more public space?
“That is, will people want more public space for their passive & active recreation as well as their cultural & social activities, such as increasing demand for golfcourses & a wide variety of sports grounds as well as demand for promenade space & centres such as the Viaduct Harbour?”
The paper also put a different spin on demographic issues, which tend to relate to age, perhaps ethnicity, household size & location: “Demographically, family size is shrinking, people are marrying later (if at all) and having fewer children, while more women remain in the workforce. The social changes have occurred through family-planning technology and tend to change the demand for transport services. For example, now that 2 members of many households work, minimisation of the journey to work in length or time will frequently produce a different result from the period when only one person worked â€“ typically in a central city locationâ€¦..
“The net effect of these forces, resulting from technological change and changing social behaviours, is that we have seen â€“ and are continuing to experience â€“ major stress in the nature of relationships between transport & and use. How might technology be utilised to reduce this stress, particularly in reshaping our social & economic activities?”
From Vancouver’s CitiesPLUS the Start paper says technological innovation is a key component to a strategy of sustainability and that, while past technology waves enabled cities to grow their footprints, the new technologies of 1980-2000 & 2030-50 would need to do the opposite. It raises some technological goals then relates back to the shift from scale to scope:
“One of the major obstacles in achieving any transformational change is what historians call path dependency. That is, the decisions, practices, activities & investments that were made yesterday and how they affect today’s choices, which in turn affect those open to us in the future.
“The very site chosen when Auckland was first established, the location of the centre and the subdivision pattern, including access space or roads, have had a profound influence on the way the city has developed. The inherited buildings, houses & formal spaces or the infrastructure, which constitutes the skeleton of the city, also influence its development & shape options open to it, even when the activities carried out in the buildings differ from those for which they were originally built (eg, international education).
“While some current technologies are not sufficiently advanced to allow society to progress to a sustainable level, others are but are not being implemented. Key technology goals for a sustainable city include:
maximising the substitution of information flows for energy flows
maximising the use of local materials & sustainable energy sources through the application of nano- & bio-technologies
using waste flows for free energy
adopting technologies which use energy far more efficiently (such as fuel cells)
adopting technologies which enable distributed systems, such as ICT
adopting new economic development paradigms & the new social paradigms (self-organising & participatory, rather than hierarchical), and
moving towards more localised solutions.”
For Auckland particularly, the paper poses the question: “If, looking to the future, one of the city’s key competitive advantages is indeed its natural attributes & its ability to offer a high quality work/play balance, then it needs to demonstrate clearly the high value it places on its inherited taonga.
“It needs to ask: What are the features of a clean/green built environment and how should these be incorporated further in Auckland?”
The role of systems
On systems, the paper says: “Harnessing economies of scope (synergies among large numbers of people) will be the main challenge for organising the city of the future. Distributed, networked systems will become much more important for manufacturing, utilities & governance. In terms of governance, how do Auckland’s current governance arrangements sit alongside the trend to distributed, networked systems?
“With increasing economies of scope & ICT, cities of the future will likely carry out more functions in a distributed rather than centralised fashion. Replacing current economies of scale with economies of scope will likely lead, over time, to the replacement of centralised & largescale systems, and utility corridors will be smaller and perhaps even non-existent.
“Increasing economies of scope & ICT also lead to more complex & redundant systems to create more secure & flexible cities. This implies that cities will not need to be big to be competitive & attractive, but human organisation & creativity and advanced technical systems will be critical to success.
“It will be possible for manufacturing & utilities to be very smallscale activities with minimal impacts on neighbouring activities. Mixed use will become more commonplace & attractive.
“And quite possibly towering over all these questions are issues relating to Auckland’s & indeed New Zealand’s future integration with & into the Australian economy.
“Recognition of the dynamic nature of land uses and their relationship with one another, and the demand for infrastructure services, should lead us to question reliance on physical determinist notions of static relationships. We should try to use the inherent dynamism in Auckland for planning for, and providing, these infrastructure services â€“ for dealing with the unpredictable.”
5 February 2007: Global ambitions of Start project under siege
21 January 2007: Start project: What it’s about
Attribution: Start workshops papers, story written by Bob Dey for this website.
This article is one in a series on the Start project. To comment, click on The new BD Central Forum. If you want to contribute a more detailed article, either in response or advancing a topic, email [email protected].