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Photo of the Day: Our Beautifully Constrained City

Sometimes something as simple as looking at things from a fresh angle can help clarify an issue. Here is a wonderful image from the International Space Station that really should help people understand the profoundly real geographical constraints that bind Auckland. Beautiful blue water and rugged green ranges:

AKL from space

Anyone who claims Auckland can have or does have the same pattern as Houston, or Atlanta, or London [like MP Judith Collins did recently], needs to go back to Geography 101. The physical geography of a city’s site is always the first determinant of its urban form. Technology, culture, wealth, history and infrastructure are all important, but still secondary, to those first facts of the place and its climate. And as we try to shape it; it shapes us too.

Doesn’t the privilege of seeing our city from this distance reinforce the responsibility to take greater care with what we do build, and to leave as much of the remaining wilder parts of this limited land in as unmolested a condition as possible?

40 comments to Photo of the Day: Our Beautifully Constrained City

  • It is an amazing photo in which you can pick out some distinguishing features.

    Just looking at urban form I can see: City Centre, Manukau City Centre, the four of the five big heavy industrial complexes (Southdown-Onehunga-Otahuhu-Mt Wellington, Highbrook-East Tamaki, Wiri and the Airport), Wairau Valley, State Highways 1 and 20, the Southern and Eastern Lines and even the Lincoln Road corridor

    Quite fascinating seeing Auckland like this

  • harminder

    Great picture and very sensible comment. But, isn’t the photo upside down?

    • mfwic

      There is no “up” in space.

    • Martin B

      No, it’s the right way up, it’s just all maps are upside down. I don’t know who arbitrarily decided the North should be the ‘top’ of the world as there is nothing to actually reference this against. As the post states, look at things from a different perspective.

    • Lloyd

      Astronomical atlases usually have the south pole of a planet at the top because if you look through simple optics, the image is inverted.

  • kelvin

    Auckland don’t have the capacity to sprawl more.

    • Matthew W

      You could argue the opposite. To get to where we are now, we have had to push past the constraints of the Isthmus: the two harbours, the Tamaki River and the ranges. However the city limits now sit on two broad fronts of habitable land.

      • Sailor Boy

        Have you ever been to the edge of Auckland?

        • Matthew W

          And further still! Its a lovely cycle from Albany through Dairy Flat, Coatsville onto Kumeu or Kaukapakapa. Helensville has a great golf course and the pub at Riverhead is worth the trip.

      • Sailor Boy

        I’d like to know how you propose that we build on the steep hills immediately North of Albany and the vast flood plain that is Dairy Flat/Redvale

        • Matthew W

          The usual methods – look to the north shore for a variety of methods of dealing with hilly terrain. Stay out of the 100 year flood limits, or earthwork, limit imprervious areas, include attenuation in stormwater design. Nothing we cant handle.

          I dont have any particular designs on the area if that is what you were asking for – I am no Corbusier.

          • Not so fast there M Jeanneret-Gris, the source of the city’s fresh water and the only processing plant for sewage is on the south of the city. Up is going to be a lot cheaper than out in the north, though of course we aren’t good at properly apportioning those costs. That crazy expensive sprawl will probably be subsidised by us city dwellers as usual….

          • Sailor Boy

            We do actually have a sewage plant in Rosedale. Cost will still be extortionate to extend the lines and pump back though.

          • Matthew W

            Ill tell you what is extortionate – the work required to stop the old inner west suburbs from polluting the harbour every time it rains because of their combined sewers. Large diameter tunnels etc etc. Those of us with seperated systems will probably be subsidising that :). I would be the first to complain about subsidised development, with you there.

          • Matthew W

            Yes indeed we do have Rosedale. And of course Watercare’s strategy is actually to pump sewerage NORTH to Rosedale, because the Waitakere council in sorting out its own sewerage needs.

  • Matthew W

    I suppose it’s constrained by the edge of the photo.

  • David Lupton

    I’m not quite sure what you are trying to say. Are you saying that the city is naturally constrained – in which case presumably we don’t need the artificial constraint of an urban growth boundary? Or is it that you want people to be prevented from building in the hills. If you take a slightly wider view (use Google earth) you can see that there is plenty of relatively flat land to the North and South as well as the rugged ranges.

    • Pretty clear what I said: Auckland is not on a flat plain. It cannot just radiate outwards in all directions. North and South there is certainly land, however that land also has its own constraints; south much of it is swampy or highly productive agriculturally, north it is often steep and with no convenient water supply. And neither yet have the necessary infrastructure. And because of the harbours and hills east and west, these places are much further from the centre [and each other], than they would be for a city of Auckland’s size without these natural constraints. Also that there is a great deal of misinformation about Auckland’s current form and location from people with agendas and half-formed views.

      Additionally, my second point is that in my view, the destruction of these more distant natural or agricultural places comes with huge costs [including transportation ones], and ones I view as much more expensive than simply building upwards on the urban area we already use.

      • David Lupton

        No. You presented a photo which you claimed showed that Auckland was naturally constrained and you poured scorn on people who believed Auckland could expand saying that it was geography 101. But now you are saying that the reason Auckland cannot expand is the cost and because you don’t want “destruction of distant natural or agricultural places”. So clearly you don’t think Auckland is naturally constrained at all – it is cost not geography that is the constraint. If that is the case, let’s make sure residents face the true costs, and then let them make the decision whether to go out or up. Either way we do not need urban growth limits.

        • As I said; Auckland is naturally constrained, and it is, and yes if you can’t grasp that from the image above then not even a decade of Geo 101 will help you. And yes of course that means what land it can expand to [I did not claim AKL is an island!] will come with very real financial constraints as a consequence of the lack of nearby easy to serve empty real estate. That further elucidation is indeed in the comment above. AKL remains entirely unlike Houston or Atlanta; it is not on some flat boundless plain.

    • Sailor Boy

      That we are naturally constrained so people will be all forced to travel on narrow corridors. And as autophiles everywhere tell us public transport only works if lots of people move along a corridor.

  • Sam

    This photo had had some filters added over it. Here is the same photo straight from the camera: http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/DatabaseImages/ESC/large/ISS045/ISS045-E-33576.JPG

    • I can assure you there is no such thing as a photograph that isn’t processed in some way. All images express a point of view, are a reduction or enhancement of the world in some way. There is no objective image.

      • Patrick – really?

        If you count cropping, rotating and developing as “processed”, then fine, but all three of those things aren’t really processed.

        Not really eh?

        • I do know what I’m talking about here, this for once is my actual day job. And yes every image is processed or optimised. There is no such thing as an objective image. Analogue or digital. A raw digital file, which is what Sam linked to is no more pure than one with the contrast cranked [which is what the image up top is, technically not ‘filtered’].

          • I agree changing the contrast is processing. My point is photos can be taken unprocessed, digital- click print, analogue click, develop stock standard, print.

            Unless you mean every image is processed by the shooter choosing when to hit the button and how to frame the shot. But that’s timing and composition, not processing…

  • Harriet

    I think what this map shows is how great Auckland is set up for heavy, light & metro rail, look at those beautiful narrow corridors you couldn’t tbh ask for much better.

    Is it time to embrace our future as the Stockholm of the southern hemisphere.

    1. A metro known as the longest art gallery in the world.
    2. MTR running the Metro.
    3. Continuing investment in PT
    4. Congesting Pricing

    When do we start 🙂

    • When we get a PM as modern as Malcolm Turnbull….?

      Stockholm: Hell yeah. But I’d be happy with any of the Scandinavian capitals as role models… http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/jul/10/helsinki-shared-public-transport-plan-car-ownership-pointless

      • Harriet

        Turnbull is good, has already approved Gold Coast LRT Stage two which will link Stage one to the heavy rail & major bus interchange to Brisbane in time for the Commonwealth Games, but I feel he is only one bad decision away from being being taken out in a coup which seems to be a big problem in Australia these days. In the old days only the Labor Party had factionalism its seems that now it has no ends.

        Shorten has released his plan which includes a lot of PT, and is keen to work with Turnbull which could be the beginning of real bi-partisan results. This could be great as Labor was always pro PT but was useless in ever actually doing anything more than plans, cancellations and then more plans which then get cancelled NSW cough NSW cough. While Liberals usually built stuff but it was always roads, so with this shift we could see real movement like in NSW with O’ Farrell then after his scandle Baird building LRT extension to Dulwich Hill, Sydney Metro Northwest, Sydney Metro City & Southwest, CBD LRT & the start of Paramatta/Western Suburbs LRT I think they are going with Parramatta to Sydney Olympic Park and Strathfield/Burwood rather than Parramatta to Castle Hill via Old Northern Road I think the latter was a better option in face, but I think private developers want help fund the former in exchange of being able to develop the old industrial unused wasteland of that area. I mean the area actually includes the old James Hardie Asbestos Factory.

      • Harriet

        The question is will we see Turnbull back Cross River Rail in Brisbane, Melbourne Metro & Perth Metro to the Airport which are the top PT projects I believe looking for funding.

        Australia does need to do better on something I think Auckland is doing well which is the simple things. Australia is much further behind I believe on unlocking the power of Smart Cards with the exception of zero fares if you use x times, Integrated Ticking, Integrating the Buses, Ferries, Trains & LRT & I don’t think they will have anything close to our PTOM’s tbh.

        Sorry wouldn’t all fit in one comment.

        • And NSW is pushing ahead with the vast Westconnex fuckup. A true disaster of retrograde proportions.

          • Harriet

            Patrick

            NSW is proceeding with it for the same reason as Wellington is with Transmission Gully. If the Federal/Central Government wants to throw a whole bunch of money at you for something you usually can’t say no because voters do love them the free pork. As Melbourne learnt the hard way with Abbott taking the money off them when the voters had an election on the issue of cancelling their motorway and replacing it with a Metro project.

            I’m most keen to see the Paramatta LRT in action due to it going to be the first time Australia uses Value Capture for PT.

  • Sanctuary

    Couldn’t we build a dam across the mouth of the Manakau and just pump it out like the Dutch would?

    • Pretty sure the Dutch would at least be eyeing the Mangere inlet as nascent real estate rather than as just somewhere to put a motorway.

    • Stephen Davis

      Auckland is a city which has already reclaimed loads of land much closer to the city centre – and we use it for storing used cars and empty shipping containers. I think we’ve got a way to go before we need to start thinking about reclaiming an entire harbour!

    • mfwic

      The Dutch dont do that anymore. Rather than build a polder in the Zuiderzee they dammed it to prevent flooding and created a fresh water lake instead IJsselmeer.

  • russell familton

    Auckland is very vulnerable to climate change. A meter increase in water levels will put the city at risk.
    We must use more public transport and greatly increase the number of solar panels on our roofs.

  • RJ

    Sadly the people that originally settled in Auckland did not think of building in flat areas. If they did it would be easier to plan a city out. Take Japan as an example. might be a mountainous country but the early settlers built on flat land where possible and now they have world class public transport

  • mfwic

    Interesting how commercial areas look white and residential look grey. It must be the composite colour you get from all of our choices of roof colour.

    • Bruce

      There was a paper done by some scientist about this ( I don’t remember where sorry). He proposed that all buildings should have their roof painted white (when building or being repainted etc). There is something along the lines of 3% of land around the world that is urban area so if a house/building etc took up a conservative 1/3 of this on average then that is about 1%. As we all know white reflects light and doesn’t heat up like darker surfaces. The scientist proposed that this would have an impact on reducing global warming (both directly and indirectly from cooler urban areas requiring less air conditioning).
      I suppose by the same logic if vehicles also had white roofs and if roads weren’t black.

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