Archives for posts with tag: urban sprawl

Patrick Reynolds over at Transportblog has a post looking at two ads for development property in Auckland and Christchurch. It’s short so I’ll repost the whole thing:

For those interested in the divergence of development patterns in New Zealand cities it is hard not to be struck by this page in the weekend’s real estate section. Auckland is still growing out, but it is also growing up. Christchurch not so much, just out. Time will tell which model better suits the demands of this century. This also clearly illustrates how Auckland is an exception in NZ in more ways than just its size:

I was thinking about Christchurch’s sprawl issues over the weekend. We had an opportunity to restrict the sprawl of the city across the plains, but that horse has well and truly bolted. That horse now lives in Rolleston, commutes to work in Addington, and drops the kids at school in Riccarton on the way. And unless the government actively steps in to proactively encourage residential development in the CBD, I can’t see any end to this short-term urban planning.

Front page of the Press this morning is a story about the government wanting to put more people in the CBD of Christchurch:

The Government wants 20,000 residents living in Christchurch’s inner city – and is formulating a plan to achieve it.

Thing is, before the quakes the council had a goal of 30,000 people living in the CBD – though the reality was that there were around 7000-8000 (though no one quite knows how many). The usual measure for the “central city” is the Four Aves – so most of these people live / lived in two strips; between Salisbury St and Bealey Ave in the North, and Barbadoes and Fitzgerald to the East.

While I applaud this happening, I think it’s pretty silly that the Government’s target of 20,000 is actually less ‘aspirational’ than the council’s pre-quake target. I personally think that we should be aiming to have far more people living in the CBD – 100,000? 250,000? The redesign of the Christchurch CBD is our chance to re-shape the way New Zealanders live in the 21st century; we cannot continue to expand endlessly across the plains, lest we find ourselves in a situation like Auckland has. 100,000 people living within the four aves would not be a particularly remarkable density on an international level – but New Zealand is so tied to an unsustainable “1/4 acre dream” that I doubt that this will ever be considered. At least not now. Maybe when it’s too late.

Time magazine have published an excerpt from an upcoming book about the fall of suburbia in America:

In 2011, for the first time in nearly a hundred years, the rate of urban population growth outpaced suburban growth, reversing a trend that held steady for every decade since the invention of the automobile. In several metropolitan areas, building activity that was once concentrated in the suburban fringe has now shifted to what planners call the “urban core,” while demand for large single-family homes that characterize our modern suburbs is dwindling.

Now I know that this isn’t the first time such ideas have been discussed – but the discussion seems to have eluded Christchurch. The immediate demand for rehousing people displaced from the east seems to only be possible by spreading west and north across the plains, into the endless suburbia that America is starting to pull-back from.

On Monday, I went and saw a lecture from Dr Susan Krumdieck, on her plan for a new, dense Riccarton. Some of her talks are up on her Youtube channel – though the one from Monday isn’t yet. She argues for an intensification of housing, and has selected Riccarton as an example. While I think it’s a great idea, I’m not sure how it’s going to happen. I’d suggest situating the project in the CBD – say, where the stadium is meant to go – rather than bulldozing a suburb to rebuild a new one. 

As a child of the baby-booming middle class, I like to spend some of my holidays in places like Stewart Island. This is what I did last week. I went there for a crash course in “things that white people like: NZ edition”, which included bush walks (especially in the rain, wind and or mud), looking for and appreciating rare native birds (saddleback, yellowhead, muttonbird), calling them by their Maori names (Tieke, Mohua, Titi). Another favourite holiday activity is sitting around reading books from the odd collection that are in the bookshelf of the overpriced holiday home you’re renting. After finishing Nigel Spivey’s “How Art Made the World” (light stuff) I found Bruce Ansley’s “Gods and Little Fishes”. I found it a very enjoyable read.

Ansley writes or wrote for the Listener, and wrote another book on spending a year on a canal boat in France, so definitely has the worried, aging boomer market down pat. This book is a memoir of his life growing up in the East Christchurch suburb of New Brighton, and it lovingly details his upbringing and relationship with the community there. I have only spent a small amount of time in Brighton myself, but even this limited experience was enough for me to see that the rows of unoccupied and dilapidated buildings told a story. This is that story, and it is well told and very prescient for our city right now.

While it does trace the rise and fall of some of the prominent buildings – including the pier – what makes Ansley’s story so vivid are the characters who live in and around them. He conveys a real sense of community, one that there was only gasps of when I was growing up in the 80’s, and that you would have a hard time tracking down anywhere in Christchurch now, especially in our newer exurbs. How many people nowadays could name their butcher, grocer, tailor. How many people could even access those sort of services without getting in a car or on a bus?

This memoir may be selective and nostalgic, but I don’t doubt that it is by and large, an accurate portrayal of a mid-20th century suburb with real community. And what has happened to that community now? People still live there, sure, but the state of the businesses around there shows that the community aspect has changed. Our city isn’t designed for community anymore – and we have a chance to change that. Once the streets have been cleaned and the houses put back together, New Brighton should offer some important lessons to the people who make the decisions about Christchurch. I am not suggesting that we necessarily throw away all we have learnt in the last 50 – 60 years about urban planning, but if someone can point me towards a better portrait of a better community in this country’s urban history, then I would like to see it.