Submission suggests city green growth capital
Submission as lodged at 3.42 pm today:
Q1 There will need to be five transformational shifts to make Auckland the world’s most liveable city. Do you agree or disagree with the five transformational shifts identified in the Draft Auckland Plan and why?
Q1.1 Dramatically accelerate the prospects of Auckland’s children and young people
Agree. Young people must feel necessary, not surplus to the needs of a materialistic city.
Q1.2 Strongly commit to environmental action and green growth
Agree. But this transformational shift should unapologetically be sharpened to acknowledge anthropogenic global warming. It should read: Strongly commit to climate action and green growth.
Q1.3 Move to outstanding public transport within one network
Agree. But the quest for an outstanding public transport network is futile and unaffordable unless the need for transport is stringently re-evaluated. The region’s transformational shift should involve minimising the need for physical transport. Move the work to the community, not the community to the work; move the goods to the community, not the community to the car-centric super and mega markets. Community is used here deliberately rather than home, because while it may suit some to work exclusively from home, it is generally healthier to share workspaces with others. Within walking or cycling distance, community offices would be used by workers from disparate organisations, but that otherwise shared a similar work ethic, and whose workers valued access to good coffee and stimulating conversation during work breaks.
Q1.4 Radically improve the quality of urban living
Agree. A key means of achieving this is through radically improved public access to an improved and extended network of regional parks—see Comments on Other Parts of All of the Above Plans, below.
Q1.5 Substantially raise living standards for all Aucklanders and focus on those most in need
Disagree and Agree. New Zealanders already on average enjoy a material standard of living far higher than that to which the vast majority of the Earth’s population can aspire, sustainably. Auckland Council’s contribution must be to improve the non-material services available to all Aucklanders—for example: Free access to swimming pools; free access and public transport to libraries, museums and regional parks—see Comments on Other Parts of All of the Above Plans, below. Rather than seeking to catch other cities up in respect to their material standard of living, Auckland Council should seek to make the region’s quality of life world-leading.
Ultimately, those most in need can best be helped by an equitable system of wealth and income redistribution, such as that advocated by Guthrie and Morgan, 2011. A significant proportion of the country’s needy reside in Auckland Council’s region. Likewise, a significant proportion of tax that is avoided by a regime that encourages investment in property rather than production, is avoided in its region. Consequently, it is imperative that the Auckland Council lobbies central government to radically rebuild the tax system.
Q2 The Auckland Plan contains a high-level development strategy to deliver a compact quality Auckland. Do you agree or disagree with this approach and why?
Agree. However the draft plan fails its own criteria in respect to Warkworth. As one of eight areas proposed to be prioritised for growth and development, the draft plan proposes a satellite town dependant upon the planned Pūhoi–Wellsford motorway. The sustainable and greenhouse-gas-responsible alternative is to develop park-and-ride at Warkworth. But because park-and-ride at Silverdale and Ōrewa are higher priorities, Warkworth should be removed from the list of eight proposed for development within the first three years of the life of the draft plan.
Q3 Two big initiatives have been identified to effect Auckland’s transformation on the world stage—City Centre and Southern Initiative. Do you agree or disagree with these two big initiatives?
City Centre Agree. But with qualifications made above—at Move to Outstanding Public Transport Within One Network.
Southern Initiative Agree. See suggestions above—at Substantially Raise Living Standards for All Aucklanders and Focus on Those Most in Need.
Q4 Do you agree or disagree with the priorities that have been identified for Auckland’s economic development and why?
Disagree. Growth for growth’s sake has brought the planet to the point where mass species extinctions are now inevitable. All growth now must be green growth, and the Auckland Plan must reflect this imperative.
Q5 Are there any other economic priorities that the council should focus on?
The network of regional parks are a major contributor to the region’s visitor industry. However, the network is currently car-centric and therefore is not as closely aligned to eco-tourism as it should be. Improving car-less access to, and through, parks should be included as an economic priority.
Q6 Do you agree or disagree with the general direction of the draft City Centre Masterplan and why?
Agree. However, green growth dictates that it is necessary to be smarter about minimising the need to access the city centre. The city centre should be reserved for quality activities and experiences, rather than the bulk and the routine. See suggestions above—at Move to Outstanding Public Transport Within One Network.
Q7 Will the actions in the masterplan make Auckland city centre a place you would feel proud of and why?
Potentially proud, if smart and green.
Q8 Do you agree or disagree with the general direction of the draft Waterfront Plan and why?
Disagree, in respect to plans for Queens Wharf. See next
Q9 Will the ideas and actions in the plan make Auckland’s waterfront a place you would feel proud of and why?
Mahurangi, historically, has strong ties with the wharf’s predecessor, Queen Street Wharf, as it was from there steamboat services ran to the harbour and to Warkworth. The Mahurangi and Auckland Anniversary regattas bookend Auckland Anniversary weekend, and from 2012 Queens Wharf will be a regatta focal point, with the wharf serving as one end of the start–finish line for most of races, including some of those that start in the Mahurangi Harbour. The Rugby World Cup has demonstrated the potential of the waterfront as a place that the nation can come together on special occasions. This will surely be the case when America’s Cup catamarans race in Auckland, and Queens Wharf becomes the premium waterfront vantage. Now that it has been regained, Queens Wharf must remain the city’s window to the Waitematā, with the cruise terminal established on, or replacing, Captain Cook Wharf, nicely book-ending the public open space.
Q10 Please give us your comments on other parts of all of the above plans
The following comments are in three sections: The first addresses the vision to make Auckland the most liveable city in the world. The second section concerns the regional parks, using the Mahurangi parks to illustrate the opportunity for the draft plan to better play to the region’s strengths. The third section concerns climate action.
For a richer region
That Aucklanders responded to with great enthusiasm to the Auckland Unleashed vision to make Auckland the most liveable city in the world is unsurprising, including because of the very generalised nature of the aspiration. Liveable, to many people, is being able to jump into their cars and swing unimpeded onto the nearest motorway. These are the people that the National-led government is determined to cater for ahead of those who prefer, or must rely on, public transport.
The Draft Auckland Plan needs a vision both more courageous and more specific. Two suggestions as to what the region could become:
- The global green growth capital
- The global climate action capital
Although history would record the vision overtly acknowledging climate as the more heroic, ‘green growth’ acknowledges that politics is the art of the possible.
Given the region’s rich natural endowments, the aspiration to achieve the richest quality of life is imminently achievable. In contrast, playing catch-up to become an economic powerhouse is to rely on the discredited dogma of economic trickle down.
Exploiting the region’s greatest asset
Regional parks encapsulate Aucklanders’ love for their region.
The Draft Auckland Plan should better reflect the aspirations of the region’s people for their network of large public open spaces. Glaringly, the mayor’s introduction makes not one mention the parks.
The parks network was consistently rated by residents as the recently subsumed Auckland Regional Council’s best work. Effectively, Auckland Council is the network’s new owner, and as such is legitimately perfectly positioned to capitalise on the regional council’s rich legacy. With a bold programme combining improved accessibility, new acquisitions and re-branding to more closely align the parks with Auckland Council, the parks network would form a popular and conspicuous flagship for the new governance structure.
Provided they are accessible by public transport, regional parks represent an imminently palatable and practicable means of redistributing wealth. At virtually no cost folk can spend a few hours—or days, where there is provision for camping—living like the wealthiest resident. And home might more reasonably be the higher-density living the draft plan calls for.
Mahurangi and Wenderholm exemplify the potential for regional park accessibility. The southern extent of the parkland, Waiwera, is the northern terminus of a public transport system serving nearly 1.5 million people. At present, few people walk the short distance to Wenderholm, much less continue to explore the balance of the parks’ 10 kilometres of contiguous coastline. For a very modest expenditure, the Pūhoi River could be crossed with a combination of boardwalk and a pivot bridge, effectively providing access the popular backpack camping sites at Te Muri and Mita Bay, and nearly 900 hectares of parkland.
Global green growth capital
Auckland Council is to be strongly commended for devoting an entire chapter of the Draft Auckland Plan to anthropogenic global warming. However, for a city concentrated on a low-lying isthmus that is facing possible multi-metre sea level rise this century, the draft plan takes an insufficiently precautionary position. The figure quoted of 0.8 metres is possibly derived from Vermeer and Rahmstorf’s (2009) revised 0.75–1.9 metres for the full range of the climate panel’s emissions scenarios. However, Hansen and Sato (2011) warn against such relatively comforting projections:
Sea level rise, despite its potential importance, is one of the least well-understood impacts of human-made climate change. The difficulty stems from the fact that ice sheet disintegration is a complex non-linear phenomenon that is inherently difficult to simulate, as well as from the absence of a good paleoclimate analogue for the rapidly increasing human-made climate forcing.
The paleoclimate record warns that multi-metre sea level rise can take place within decades. Whatever projections the plan quotes, they should be accompanied by both a source and a disclaimer, such as that by Hansen and Sato.
Because of the strong growth pressure on it, and because of the overarching imperative to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is entirely reasonable for Auckland Council to package the city’s response to global warming as green growth.
The primary climate impacts on the Mahurangi catchment are twofold: Extreme rainfall events and sea level rise. Of the two impacts, rainfall events are the more immediate, with most of the sediment being generated during these relatively rare events. Protecting the catchment’s most erosion-prone hillsides, and riparian margins, calls for about 240 million plants—a win-win as the trees draw down carbon dioxide. This scale of planting, however, is only achievable as part of a smart green-growth strategy. Part of that strategy is being pioneered in the Mahurangi already, in the form of the open-ground indigenous plant comparison trials. Longer term, sea level rise will bring accelerating rates of erosion to the harbour and adjacent coastline. The most cost-effective means of making the coastline more resilient is by planting site-appropriate species—for example, sand-binding grasses and pōhutukawa. Again, the scale of the planting required suggests the need for a green growth approach—crudely, planting in exchange for the creation of property titles.
The Mahurangi Action Plan 2010–2030 is an exemplar of holistic and affordable council–community integrated catchment management, and should feature explicitly in the Auckland Plan.
Elsewhere in the draft plan, Auckland Council cosies up to the government’s proposed $1.65 billion greenhouse gas emissions generating Pūhoi–Wellsford motorway. In light of the government’s determined opposition to greener transport options—to the inner city rail loop in particular—this attempt to meet the government halfway has clearly failed. The ill-founded support for the Pūhoi–Wellsford motorway should be withdrawn from the plan and replaced with support for the alternative well-canvassed, well-supported and imminently affordable safety upgrades.
Background of submitter The online Mahurangi Magazine was established in 2007 to support the Mahurangi Action Plan—the response of the Auckland Regional Council to 10-years of science indicating that the Mahurangi Harbour was exhibiting increasing signs of stress from an elevated sediment accumulation rate. In 1974, the editor was an inaugural committee member of Friends of the Mahurangi. Currently, the magazine receives about 4000 visits per month, and this submission endeavours to faithfully reflect the aspirations of a consensus of those readers.