With today’s decision by the Auckland Council Governing Body to sign off on the Unitary Plan, we have as a city taken a significant step forward in preparing for the city’s future.Read More
Addressing the issues around housing in New Zealand, particularly in Auckland, is going to require a multi-pronged approach. It seems clear that we are facing a lack of a sufficient supply of suitable housing for our population, let alone for the further people that make up our projected growth over the next 30 years. There are several different trends that appear to be influencing supply, with none of them being the singular cause behind our problems.
I personally advocate for the government itself to properly get back into the business of building and repairing houses for social (welfare) housing, and for state housing (sold to or rented by regular citizens), thereby increasing supply and directing it to the people that need it the most. Such houses should be suitable for a range of lifestyle options, from low to high density. All should be of good quality and readily maintainable construction however. Intervention should be taken in the form of regulation that improves tenant protection, disincentivises speculative investment, and restores housing to a fundamental social resource rather than a speculative commodity.
Looking at the Auckland situation, rural urban boundaries should be maintained in order to prevent tragedies of the commons via piecemeal development. The council could instead look to model Auckland as one might hope for it to look in 50 years time, and then use that model to plan the development of new town centres, commercial zones, and housing developments. High-density living options should be promoted, but in a strategic manner that does not require the sacrifice of our leafy suburbs and the amenities to be had from present-day Auckland. If central government is not motivated to build houses, the TA might instead get into the business of building genuinely affordable homes for its citizens.
We are living in an age of information and technology unlike any other in history, and the pace of change and creation of new knowledge is so great that it can be hard to comprehend. I believe that hand-in-hand with these advances we need to develop and distribute tools so that everyone has the ability to benefit from the knowledge. Software and technologies such as Wikipedia, Google Maps, Kickstarter, 3D printing, augmented reality and social media have all shown the benefits of connecting people and sharing information, and we will only see more of this in coming years.
I believe that Auckland needs to embrace this technology and do so for the benefit of its citizens, with an eye to what may be coming over the horizon. Rather than taking a reactionary stance when it comes to new developments, we can foster ones that will build our local economy and build cohesion amongst our communities, and prepare procedures and future-proof our infrastructure for others that may pose risks to us if left to develop unchecked. The Council itself must embrace new technology and new ways of thinking about old problems, which should help to reduce operating costs relative to the overall level of service it can deliver. Useful too would be finding a way to realistically make legislation, council policies, and democratic processes more straightforward and easy for the public to engage with and learn what is going on in their city.
For all that I would have us embrace to the future, however, I urge us not to forget our history and the wisdom of past generations. Too many of our respected elders, whether they are our war veterans, artisans of disappearing crafts, or figures of the community, live disconnected from their families and their communities. Not only should we seek to use these new technologies to help them and reconnect with them, but we can record their wisdom so that it can be passed down for future generations to come.
Our city is home to many talented people with great potential, young and old, of many different backgrounds. Too often we see talents wasted or under-appreciated, and people not given opportunities to use those talents to the benefit of themselves and others. As the saying goes, 'a rising tide lifts all ships', and I'd like to see us place value in everything: from arts and culture to research and development. I also want to see people find passion in what they do and fulfill the integral roles in our economy and our society, and intend to seek out ways in which Auckland Council can improve the form of our city and the delivery of its services to achieve this end.
I want to ensure that we have a resilient and productive community in Auckland, with a good mix of primary, secondary and tertiary sector industries linked into the rest of the country's economy. Ensuring a sustainable primary sector, and a robust local secondary sector means more jobs for our people, and this in turn will support our existing tertiary professions that are our most vulnerable in the event of crises. To me it is about looking beyond any one individual, and seeing the bigger picture, the long-term plan. We want every generation, now and after us, to have good quality of life, and this will require preparedness and cooperation.
Many factors will influence this intent, but fundamentally it will come down to our people of Auckland coming together as a community. Auckland Council has a network of community centres and programmes, and many other parts of its operations that work with our communities directly. Led by our local boards, these branches of the Council can connect people together and foster learning, cooperation and prosperity.
Just as we shape the environment, so too does the environment shape us. If we create a city for ourselves that requires great lengths to do the things that would keep us healthy and safe, then we will have to struggle to do so. Good planning in a city allows people to live comfortable and enjoyable lives, but also live healthy lives without it having needing to struggle. A liveable city is more than just better public transport and a roof over your head - those should be a given. It is a city in which people have space of their own, and a wide variety of public spaces where they can feel at peace.
I want to ensure that we think well into the future about how we want our society to look. If we need to house a million more people, let’s make sure we aren’t sacrificing our quality of life and those of subsequent generations to do so. Let's make sure we have planned where we need to lay down our roads, rails, walking and cycling routes well in advance, so that we don't have to demolish people’s homes when we realise we need to expand our networks. We need to ensure that we are not sacrificing the most productive soils and the most economical sites for houses and entertainment, because a society needs sensible and productive industries in order to function. Our city needs to know where it is likely to develop and make good plans for that, not just make it up as we go along.
Given how plentiful a country New Zealand is with regard to its produce and its fresh water, all of us should be able to benefit from these resources. Community and home gardens, farmers markets, and even direct to your door fresh produce are capable of improving the well-being of our people. Taking steps to maintain clean waterways and air quality will also help ensure the health of our people, now and in generations to come.
One only needs to look at what is going on elsewhere in the world to be immediately thankful that we live in Auckland and benefit from many of the great qualities it has to offer. We should not be complacent though, as change is always occurring, and we need to be prepared for what the future might bring so that we don't lose what we value about our home city. Everyone from elected officials, to regular citizens, and those of all ages and backgrounds need to take the time to hear out the perspectives of others and work through their disagreements with as little acrimony as possible. Whether it is between council and the public, or different groups of citizens, it can only benefit us to do away with 'us versus them' attitudes.
I want to see our city be a place where citizens and visitors can feel safe and empowered to wander our city parks and streets at all times of the day and night without fear of harm. I want to see shop owners, our community workers, and indeed all our people to feel free of the threat of violence, physical especially, but mental as well. I hope to see people able to put their faith and trust in their fellow citizens that serve them as staff at the Council, and those staff empowered to engage more proactively and positively with their communities.
While I do not want people to be afraid of our environment, we need to remain prepared to deal with crises as they emerge. Our region is subject to many natural and man-made hazards, and I fully support not only a robust and well-prepared civil defence operation capability at Auckland Council, but a strong network of all the emergency services, lifelines utilities, and community support groups that underpin the ability of us to come together and overcome any challenges that are thrown at us.