Aucklands population to continue to grow strongly

Late last week Statistics NZ released their latest regional population projections from 2013 through to 2043. It once again highlights just how much growth is expected to occur in Auckland with them projecting roughly an extra 500,000 to 900,000 people in the region within 30 years – that’s a 36-63% increase on what we have today.

All 16 regional council areas are projected to increase in population between now and 2028, Statistics New Zealand said today.

“The short-term trend partly reflects the current high level of arrivals into New Zealand, and the current low level of departures,” population statistics manager Vina Cullum said.

“However, population growth will slow in the longer term as our population continues to age. This will see the number of deaths increase relative to births. Also, net migration (arrivals minus departures) exceeded 50,000 in 2014 and is unlikely to remain at that level.”

Auckland will continue to be New Zealand’s fastest growing region, and account for three-fifths of the country’s population growth between 2013 and 2043. From an estimated population of 1.5 million in 2014, Auckland is projected to reach 2 million in the early 2030s. That means out of every 100 people in New Zealand, 34 currently live in Auckland, but this will increase to 37 in 2028 and 40 in 2043.

Natural increase (births minus deaths) is projected to account for three-fifths of Auckland’s growth, and net migration the remaining two-fifths.

Of New Zealand’s 67 territorial authority areas, 51 are projected to have more people in 2028 than in 2013. However, only 30 are projected to have more people in 2043 than in 2028.

The fastest population growth between 2013 and 2043 is expected in Selwyn and Queenstown-Lakes districts, up an average of 2.2 and 1.8 percent a year, respectively.

The projections are not predictions, but an indication of the size and composition of the future population. Statistics NZ produces low, medium, and high growth projections for every local area every 2–3 years to assist planning by communities, local councils, and government.

You can see the annual projected growth for each region below. As you can see the growth Auckland is leaps and bounds ahead of anywhere else and the only region to even come close is Canterbury and only if it sees the high projection outcome.

Annual Population Change 2

Of course when you look at the change on an actual number basis Auckland’s expected growth is even more extreme. This is based off the medium projection. Due to most regions being a fairly similar size it can be hard to tell them apart. In Canterbury, the vast majority of projected growth will happen in the Christchurch City Council area or in the two surrounding districts – Selwyn and Waimakariri. I think that is going to make it increasingly important for the region to start looking at some rapid transit options – unless it wants to follow Auckland’s mistakes.

NZ Regional Population Projections 2013-2043

Another way to show the level of growth in Auckland in particular is below. This is the projected cumulative growth from 2013 to 2043 for Auckland and the rest of the country. Auckland grows by over 730,000 people while the rest of the country by only around 460,000 – of which about 80% is in Christchurch, Wellington, the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

Auckland vs Rest of NZ growth - 2013-2043

Every time the issue of Auckland’s strong growth comes up many people highlight the challenges it adds, in particular the cost of new infrastructure and housing however I feel it’s also worth remembering that it presents a lot of opportunities too. Instead of trying to cap the city’s growth like some have suggested in the past we should embrace it as that will not only make the city stronger but also help make the country as a whole stronger.

One question people often have is how realistic these projections are and how past projections turned out. As it happens Auckland tends to track slightly ahead head of the medium projection. Here’s what was predicted to occur from 2001 – 2026 – the blue area represents the range of low, medium and high growth projections.

 

Auckland Population Project - 2001 - 2

Stats NZ have also made predictions within Auckland down the local board level and in many ways this provides a more interesting and useful look at how the city is changing. Like we see nationally, there are expected to be some areas that grow much stronger than others and one of those is the Waitemata Local Board area which covers the city centre and inner suburbs. Population in the area is expected to almost double from 2013 around 81,000 to 152,500 which if it occurs would make the Waitemata Local board area have the third largest of any board in Auckland.

In addition to the City Centre the local boards that are likely to see a lot of greenfield development are also high on the list.

Auckland Annual Population Change 2

I won’t publish a graph of the actual projection numbers as it’s simply too messy to read easily. Some of the

Photo of the day – O’Connell Before and After

The other day Patrick posted a number of pictures looking at shared spaces around the city with a number looking at O’Connell St. Our friend oh.yes.melbourne dug through his old photos and was able to match up them to ones he had taken of from almost the exact same locations. The results are below.

O'Connell Before and After 1

O'Connell Before and After 2

O'Connell Before and After 3

O'Connell Before and After 4

O'Connell Before and After 5

Such a huge improvement and as Patrick’s photo’s show, the change has helped bring life to what was once a fairly avoided street

Auckland from above

Here are a few photos taken above Auckland from a scenic helicopter flight. Apologies that these aren’t up to Patrick’s usual standard as they were taken through the window on a phone.

First up Pt Chevalier and Mt Eden, classic dense but leafy street grids of villas and bungalows. In the second shot Eden Park stadium stands out as something peculiar, while the streetcar shopping strip heritage of Dominion Rd is clearly visible behind.

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Next the city centre. Note the severance of the Northwestern Motorway and Ian McKinnon Dr in the first shot, and the comparatively low impact that the Southern Motorway has on the Newmarket side.

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Here we have the domain, tantalisingly close to the City Centre, but with the motorway in between stretching the distance.

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And of course the waterfront, showing Auckland finally embracing our greatest asset. I do wonder what happens once the great job on the Viaduct and Wynyard is finished. Will we turn east to do Quay Park justice, or will the container port send attentions elsewhere?

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And to finish, the North Shore, new and old. First picture is the ‘industrial’ estate at Rosedale near the heliport. A good chunk of this is actually simple offices and retailing, with the rest warehousing. Textbook road widths, setbacks and car-only accessibility… and they wonder why Apollo Dr gets so congested in the morning. The second shot is Devonport, dense, walkable, lovely and well loved… and completely impossible to replicate today. Lake Rd also gets congested, but at least you can take the ferry or walk to the shops. When did our planning regime go so wrong?

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Downtown Shared Streets: Complete the Network

Polemic:

The existing central city Shared Streets are clearly an overwhelming success, particularly on the east side where they are starting to form a coherent network. The most recent addition, O’Connell St, has the advantage of connecting to the long-pedestrianised Vulcan Lane. In fact it appears that the reverse might be more accurate: the newly vibrant O’Connell St looks like it is dragging life and trade up into the top half of Vulcan, the part that has long been much quieter than the section between High and Queen.

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From O’Connell towards the top of Vulcan Lane

 

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O’Connell

To the north the Fort Lane/Fort St/Jean Batten Pl network has been completely transformative; drawing a new flow of people up from the Bus, Train, and Ferry Stations and new attractions of Britomart – only for the Shortland St/High St traffic barrier to interrupt this natural movement.

Jean Batten

Jean Batten

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Lower Shortland

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High St through to Fort Lane

However the novelty of the Shared Streets in a city that has spent half a century building itself on an auto-priority model is still too much for some drivers, and getting it through to this group that it’s time to change away from an expectation of a parking space right outside their destination in the central city still requires work. This is true especially as this expectation is already illusory, and simply leads to pointless circling hoping for that dream parking space: a poor outcome multiplied.

To really reinforce that these key city streets are not appropriate for the same level of private vehicle access as suburban ones, in my view, it is necessary is to spread the typology further, and to join it up into a natural network of Shared and Pedestrian-only streets of high civility. My hunch is that the ‘network effect’, where the value of a thing is multiplied by its connection to more of its kind, the sum being more powerful than the parts, is just as applicable here as in say a Transit system or a road network. This is hardly surprising as even though the driver may experience these streets as a restriction, to that same person once out of their vehicle, they are a liberation. Therefore the understanding of this being an especially privileged place for people will be reinforced through its completeness; and it will both attract more pedestrians and encourage those over-optimistic drivers to just park a little sooner and join the walkers.  As of course the only way to enter the buildings on these Victorian streets and to shop, consult, or socialise is on foot, as a pedestrian.  So here I’m co-opting the motorway boosters’ slogan: It’s time to complete the network.

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O’Connell St

This observation is all the more powerful when we consider that the beginning is the hardest time for these places: the small number of scattered examples have to live in a world still totally drenched in vehicles, where drivers are used to virtually complete access to any horizontal surface as a matter of course, and with a natural right to dominate all other uses. Join these these examples up and watch their success multiply off the scale.

Programme:

First a simple tweak: To optimise the functionality of  the new O’Connell St Shared Street, all that is probably needed is a reversal of the one way flow on Courthouse Lane to uphill, and make the western section of Chancery St one way towards Courthouse Lane. This maintains the same vehicle access to the street network here for deliveries and the Metropolis Building, while no longer pouring vehicles into the top of O’Connell St which simply incentivises its use as a rat run. Additionally, the planned pedestrianisation of the little Freyberg Pl Shared Space can’t come soon enough.

Clearly now High St is overdue to be added to the existing Shared Street network [see images to follow]. With that then comes the obvious move to join up these Shared Streets with Jean Batten and Fort St by adding lower Shortland St from just below Fields Lane to Queen St to the network. Currently lower Shortland St is part of the unnecessary Queen St rat-run for far too many vehicles, in particular private vehicles; in other words, drivers with no destination on these busy streets but rather using this very core of our city – our busiest and most valuable pedestrian streets – as a vehicle short cut.

Vehicle dodgeball on lower Shortland and High

Vehicle dodgeball on lower Shortland and High

And to really make all this work, Centre City Integration must grasp the moment and remove general traffic on Queen St from Customs St to Wellesley St. Leaving it for pedestrians and Transit, just like Bourke St in Melbourne. As is promised to us in the City Centre Master Plan with this seductive image:

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Queen St, City Centre Master Plan

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Bourke St, Melbourne

But do we really have to wait for Light Rail for this to happen, can’t it work with buses first? In fact if we’re going to be digging up some part of the street for the tracks wouldn’t it make sense to get the traffic out first? Certainly the City Link would operate much more efficiently, and imagine the improvements to cross town traffic and pedestrians through the removal of those turning cycles at each intersection?  It would probably in fact improve East/West traffic flow on Customs, Victoria, Wellesley, and Mayoral. The few vehicle entrances on Shortland St are all at the top of the hill and there should be no encouragement for drivers using these to go down the hill to enter the Queen St valley street network. And the best way to achieve this is simply to remove Queen St from the general traffic network. There is, after all, not a single vehicle entrance off this spine, only pedestrian ones. It will still be needed for Transit and delivery and emergency access; but no private car ever needs to be there.

The control [specified times?] of delivery and trade vehicles [too easy for these to get general parking wavers- even without specific projects] and the rights of taxis are  interesting issues in which I can see value of various positions. But one thing I think is absolutely obvious; the rights of the private car user to these streets is the lowest priority because they are the source of least benefit and the greatest dis-benefit. It is their numbers that squeeze out people, delay service and emergency vehicles, and occupy valuable space that otherwise can be better used for transactions both economic and social.

There are literally dozens of parking buildings just away from these streets up either side of the valley and the richest abundance of public transport options anywhere in the entire nation. Furthermore very few fridges are sold here, and indeed any purchase that is bulkier than a book, a frock, or a belly-full can surely be delivered. Most transactions appear to be inter-human, and many sales consumed on the spot, or at least are not much more difficult to carry than a suit or a pair of shoes.

Like the other recent improvements to our city – better train, bus, and ferry services, and new cycleways – these Shared Spaces will only continue to improve, to add more value, as their improvements are embedded and extended. Or, to express this idea negatively, the Shared Streets will never be more traffic afflicted and compromised than they are now, while they are more surrounded by auto-priority ones. The same as the core Rapid Transit network will only continue to improve as more services and connections with other layers of the system develop. The Network Effect.

Shared and pedestrianised streets now, left, and a complete network, right.

Shared and pedestrianised streets now, left, and a complete network, right.

Now that looks like a real shoppers’ and diners’ paradise; an actual Heart of the City, a zone that can be marketed as having a real point of difference from either suburban big box retail or the motorised strips of Newmarket and Ponsonby. But still, those notoriously conservative creatures, retailers, probably won’t get it till it’s done.

O’Connell v High, Feb 2015:

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Earlier posts on High St:

On the Victoria Street end; how to deal with the parking building traffic.

On some retailers’ determination that their only customers are cars.

The great intensive street pattern of the area so damaged in the 1980s and the previous debate about O’Connell St.

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Selling Skypath is simple, make it easy

This is a guest post from Ryan Mearns of Generation Zero

On Wednesday the 14th of January just over 5,000 people received an email asking them to submit in support of the resource consent for Skypath using a quick submission form. The form asked them to submit on the resource consent, a relatively benign step in the process before construction that is usually dominated by lengthy supporting documents from the submitter. The form asked, as you probably know if you filled it out, to write your reason for supporting Skypath and how it expanded your transport choices.

Building slowly 1,000 people made a submission within the first 12 hours, after 24 hours it had reached 2000, and after a week and a half it ended at over 11,000. The enthusiasm for the project and the sheer glee at which some expressed at the easy process draws into frame some important questions; why did it get so big, is it possible replicate and how should Council change what it does to engage this number of people on a more regular basis in complex planning decisions.

Skypath Gen Zero submissions

At it’s most basic level the overwhelming feedback was that Council’s form for submitting required such a high level of engagement in the project it turned many people off. Where to find application numbers and submission details requires you to plunge deep into the supporting documentation, Council has already turned away 90% of people that would submit on the project. In the past this complexity has also meant submissions have been discounted for other resource consents, like with the high profile case of the pohutukawa trees on Great North Road.

Simplifying the process with a quick submission form was always going elicit a much larger response from the public. But beyond this there are some interesting insights into the networked nature of local decision making and the communication of the consents process that add more weight to a questioning of how Council deals with the public and how community groups engage their supporters in Council processes.

One important aspect that definitely needs to be held at the front of most people’s mind is the way in which the consent process was framed. A simple consent process was turned into “the last hurdle before construction” and had 5 simple reasons why people should submit on the project. This isn’t revolutionary stuff but a clear explanation of the project built a story of the project that people could relate too and added a sense of urgency. A clear question of “why do you support it” and “how does it expand your transport choices” gave people a way to make the project personal to them, allowing people to express their own personal desires for Auckland.

The other aspect that allowed more than 11,000 people to submit on the project was the network of people telling their friends. On Facebook alone the page received over 11,000 likes, comments and shares. It shows how connected Aucklanders are, and with about 400 submissions coming from expats in 42 countries around the world, the project has global appeal.

So what can it teach us? It shows that if you simplify the process and give people a compelling reason to submit on a project that may directly affect them, people get pretty passionate and want to share it with their friends. For Councils sake this means customising and personalising their consent process in the future if they want to attract a similar number of submitters.

Council was very flexible with the Skypath quick submission form, which made it easy, as it took down their server at one point with the amount of emails coming in. They were very happy to support. This does reflect a point worth raising as Skypath had turned into a political discussion, as most projects do. This can make it hard for Council.

It just exemplifies the importance of community groups using their networks to push a particular decision one way or another. This is good for local democracy, deepening the level of participation people have with their community. But without a good technology background many in the community might find it hard to go to the level that we were able to by creating a quick submit form. An option that Council might consider is a specific form-builder for community groups to use that can be customised for their needs that allows them to create an easy quick submit form for resource consents.

There are many more lessons to be brought out, and it’s already good to see Council sharpening up their process using shapeauckland to take submissions on the long term plan.

Sunday reading 1 February 2015

Every week we read more than we can write about on the blog. To avoid letting good commentary and research fall by the wayside, we’re going to publish weekly excerpts from what we’ve been reading.

Lloyd Alter, “The whole city of Florence can fit in one Atlanta cloverleaf“, Treehugger. This picture is worth a thousand words – Florence is a city of around 380,000 people:

florence vs atlanta

I have thought that Jim Kunstler was being his usual over-the-top self when he called the American suburban experiment “the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.” But when you compare that photo of Atlanta to Florence, you can see that he was right.

Andrew Geddis, “How high can you go?“, Pundit

David Farrar, unsurprisingly, welcomed Nick Smith’s announcement of proposed changes, albeit with a caveat:

The question will be whether they will do enough. The greater weight to property rights and prioritisation of housing affordability look the most promising.

Right – people should be able to use their land as they see fit and loosing the market will create new housing supply to meet demand and thus make houses “more affordable” (more on what that might mean in a moment). Bog-standard orthodox, small-l liberal reasoning.

So, for example, if you look at the MOTU Consulting report that Nick Smith released as evidence of the need to change the RMA (more on this report in a moment), you’ll see that it estimates that “Building Height Limits” add some $18,000 – $32,000 to the cost of new apartments. So, remove the restrictions on how high developers can build on their land (as well as other constraints on building design) and you’ll get more and cheaper apartments, which is what John Key says first home buyers should now be considering instead of “proper” houses. Hooray!

But this is where things start to get a bit weird. Because under the proposed Unitary Plan for Auckland first released back in 2013, a document that was created under the auspices of the dreaded RMA, restrictions on building heights were going to be (marginally) relaxed in various parts of Auckland to allow more high-density housing to be built. What a good thing to have happen, right?

Jarrett Walker, “Basics: should I vote for a transit tax?“, Human Transit:

.  In growing urban areas, transit needs grow faster than tax revenues.

This problem is mathematically inevitable.

As cities grow, and especially as they grow denser, the need for transit generally rises faster than population, at least in the range of densities that is common in North America.  This is completely obvious if you think about it, and I stepped through it in more detail in Chapter 10 of Human Transit.  In brief: Suppose a particular square mile of the city doubles in population.  Transit demand would double because there are twice as many people for whom transit is competing.  But independently of that, if density is higher, each person is likely to find transit more useful, because (a) density creates more disincentives to driving and car ownership while (b) density makes it easier for transit agencies to provide abundant and useful service.   Those two separate impacts of density on transit, multiplied together, mean that transit demand is rising faster than population. […]

So if the city is growing denser, transit needs are growing faster than transit revenues.  This is nobody’s fault.  It’s a mathematical fact about the geometry of transit and density.

Alan Davies, “Future transport: What can we learn from New Zealand?“, Crikey

There are a number of things Australian urban policy makers and managers could learn from the New Zealand Ministry of Transport’s Future Demand project, which addresses the question of how the nation’s transport system should evolve to support mobility in the future.

Importantly, Future Transport recognises that the decline in travel in developed countries over the last ten years, particularly by car, is extraordinarily important and puts it front and centre as the key issue; it’s supported by a number of specialist technical reports.

Stacey Kirk, “Cycleway plan drops into a lower gear“, Stuff:

The Government is ignoring official advice and opting to spend less than half what was recommended to improve urban cycleways.

Ministerial briefings and a draft Cabinet paper, prepared for former transport minister Gerry Brownlee, show the Ministry of Transport advised spending $450 million to develop urban cycleways to a level that would be safe and convenient for commuters and children riding to school.

Of the $450m, $260m spread over five years would have been funded by the Government, with local councils picking up a $70m tab, and the remainder coming from the Land Transport Fund. […]

Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the Government was missing a prime opportunity.

“It’s a little bit difficult to understand why they aren’t taking the advice that they are being given because, in the context of the entire transport budget, it’s actually a very small amount of money and it has enormous benefits.”

This article also has some great stats on Wellington’s current cycling boom:

The census showed commuter cyclists had increased by 16 per cent since 2006. In Wellington, between 2007 and 2012, the number of cyclists counted during peak hours grew by 40 per cent.

New Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller is pushing the idea of a road tunnel under the Kaimai’s.

A vehicle tunnel under the Kaimai Range needs to be considered with the same weight as a second harbour crossing in Auckland was given, Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller says.

Mr Muller revealed his plan to about 35 people at yesterday’s Welcome Bay community breakfast. He later told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend it was a top priority during his first term in parliament and promised to work with the NZ Transport Agency to investigate the feasibility of the idea.

“I’ve always had a strong belief that Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty will form part of the economic horsepower part of the country, which is Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.”

Mr Muller said the tunnel would be a huge driver of economic growth in the area and hoped he would see it come to fruition in his lifetime.

We’ve talked about this idea before as it’s something the trucking lobby bring up from time to time. About the only comparison that can be made between the project and an additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing is that it would make the AWHC’s BCR of 0.3 look fantastic. NZTA data shows that on average only around 9300 people use SH29 over the Kaimai’s and is likely just one of the reasons the NZTA say it doesn’t make sense.

Eric Jaffe: The Remarkable Turnaround of Atlanta Public Transit, CityLab

So Parker, who’d overseen transit agencies in San Antonio and Charlotte, drew up a rescue plan. MARTA would cut unfilled positions but retain existing staff and launch a transit-oriented development program. He brought more work in-house: the agency developed a real-time transit information system itself for $50,000, he says, while outside firms wanted more than $1 million. And he convinced Wall Street to upgrade the agency’s credit rating.

Then he reinvested the savings. MARTA increased service and high-frequency hours, upgraded its bus fleet to natural gas, and—most importantly in Parker’s eyes—kept fares flat. As of October 2014 ridership was up for the year. In November, Clayton County voters overwhelmingly approved a penny sales tax to join the MARTA network, the first expansion since the agency formed in 1971.

Charles V. Bagli: Times Square’s Crushing Success Raises Questions About Its Future, New York Times

The Crossroads of the World has never been more popular. And that is becoming a problem.

More people than ever are packing into Times Square — from across the world, the country and the rest of New York City.

Eager to dip into such a bounty of wallets, international retailers are jostling for space, paying rents that are second only to Fifth Avenue. Pulsing, color-splashed digital billboards have grown from the size of basketball courts to football-field proportions. Attendance at Broadway shows topped 13 million last year for the first time.

Photo of the day: Dots

Some more images from Isabella Cawthorn of some temporary place making on Bond St in Wellington. A bit of paint, some large pots, some fake grass and an old shipping container can really transform an old piece of asphalt.

Bond St Dots

Bond St Placemaking

Celebrating Auckland’s Transformation

Auckland has come a long way in recent years when it comes to the city and waterfront more interesting and people oriented. This was highlighted beautifully on the weekend as tens of thousands every day flocked to the waterfront to celebrate Auckland’s 175th birthday. From Captain Cook Wharf through to the Wynyard Quarter the place was buzzing with people once again proving that people respond when we make spaces for people.

Queen St Temporary Space - Ludo

Photo from Ludo Campbell-Reid

And it isn’t just Aucklanders noticing the redevelopment of the city. This piece a week ago titled Revamped Auckland waterfront inspires from The Press in Christchurch highlights the transformation that Auckland is making:

The girl sits inside what looks like a ventilation shaft, her very own stainless-steel cocoon, legs dangling over the side. Families with pushchairs, a woman walking her dog, cyclists, tourists, and locals stroll past. All look relaxed and carefree.

As they wander the length of the old pier, there’s plenty to grab their attention: Colourful metal cylinders, sculptures shaped like crabs, fish, whales, octopuses, and seahorses. Children splash through a pool underneath a gigantic metal sculpture that looks like it could be an intergalactic TV aerial. Teenagers shoot basketball hoops. Shoppers browse through treasures in market stalls.

Shipping containers have been turned into information booths; old warehouses have become restaurants and cafes. We join the throng for a leisurely and surprisingly affordable lunch.

Welcome to the Wynyard Quarter, part of Auckland’s burgeoning transformation of its previously neglected waterfront. Starting in 2011, this bold and imaginative, development has proved hugely successful. If you are heading to the City of Sails, go – you’ll love it.

We didn’t find getting around Auckland without a car too hard. We stayed on the North Shore. To reach the Wynyard Quarter, we used the Northern Express, a bus service that has is own motorway lane and bus stations. It couldn’t have been easier. We found Aucklanders more courteous to pedestrians than Christchurch drivers.

Public transportation makes a mockery of the calls for more car-parking in Christchurch. Without car parks, the city will fail, say those with a vested interest in developing their central city private businesses – for which they would love a dollop of public money.

Go to other cities and you won’t find car-parking easy either. If you can, you take the bus or train – or bike – instead.

Future cities will be nothing like the old ones. We need to be more flexible, and if that means tweaking or even radically changing former plans, let’s get on with it.

Hell even the few comments are fairly positive and it’s not like Cantabrians are known for their positive views on Auckland. This one in particular is good.

Wynyard Quarter is an amazing place to visit. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been revising my long held opinion of Auckland as a bleak soulless wasteland. Auckland’s inner city is now full of vibrancy and character again.

Wynyard Busy

North Wharf was certainly busy with people enjoying the space

What’s often forgotten is that some of the city’s most impressive transformations have only really been completed for less than 5 years. This includes Wynyard Quarter, the shared spaces and much of the Britomart Precinct.

And then there was this fantastic piece from Jack Tame in the Herald a few days ago:

Imagine describing Auckland to a foreigner who’d never heard her name. A sub-tropical climate with 1.5 million people; suburbs freckled by volcanic nipples, each so perfectly coned and green you’d swear it was just clever landscaping; a city with two impressive harbours, two impressive and different coasts; a city where rich, poor, suburban or central, most people are only ever a few minutes from the sea.

You’d likely explain to your foreign friend that Auckland is the Pacific capital, a city rich with Maori and Polynesian culture. There may be more Pacific Island people here than in all the islands combined and the blend and diversity of Aucklanders is unlike anywhere else on Earth.

We’re spoilt. Auckland is an almighty playground, geographic and cultural. But as the city flourishes and booms it will take planning not to balls it all up. Our city must intensify. It’s unsustainable to sprawl our way to Hamilton, and naive to think that every Aucklander needs to live on a quarter-acre block.

We’re making progress. Britomart and Wynyard Quarter are perfect examples of good public space and will always be embraced.

But high-quality, high-density living options and public transport are essential in ensuring Auckland remains a great place to live.

I’ve long said that Auckland has one of the best natural settings in the world, one that many cities could only dream about. If we can continue down the path we’re on we have a chance to make our urban environment just as wonderful.

Auckland’s 175th Birthday

This weekend is Auckland’s 175th birthday and there’s a lot on (click image for a larger version)

Auckland Anniversary Weekend

As you can see Lower Queen St outside Britomart has been closed and it appears that already people are flocking to use it.

Making this permanent is the longer term plan for the area after the CRL is finished so it’s great to see it effectively trialled. Also why can’t we close roads like Queen St and put out chairs and beanbags more often. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to do every weekend.

Lower Queen St

Photo of the Day – Shared Space instructions

From reader Isabella Cawthorn in Wellington, some instructions on using shared spaces.