A Tale of Two Cities

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One of the hottest conversation topics in pubs and cafes in 2016 is what the future holds for large cities.

The concept of the city is in a state of flux as rising house prices, public transport and sustainability combine to muddy the waters. We know things are changing but not necessarily how or why. There are fewer places in the world where this is more prevalent than London and New Zealand.

In an effort to make sense of this, Kiwi Greens UK teamed up with the New Zealand Planning Institute for the first of our “There and Here” events – a series bringing together experts from New Zealand and the UK to compare how the two societies tackle complex policy issues.
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A wonderful crowd of around 40 people heard from two members of the London Branch of the New Zealand Planning Institute, who talked about what London and cities in NZ could learn from each other.

Take Auckland – 43,000 people per year move there and the council’s target is to build 39,000 homes in the next three years to help tackle “generation rent”.

London, by comparison, is growing by 135,000 each year and has designated Opportunity Areas for housing to help relieve the pressure on the average person to be able to rent, let alone buy.

Affordability was definitely a hot topic!

So what did our planners suggest?  It was put forward that for Auckland to remain a quality and sustainable city under this rapid growth, there’s a need to increase public and active transport along with a shift in mindset to accept denser living. In Auckland, 77 per cent of journeys are made by car, with public transport and cycling combining for just five per cent.

In contrast, more than half of Londoners use public transport, walking or bicycle to get about.

There was also much to say on the Christchurch rebuild, where the Government-led recovery is being transitioned over to local groups this year.  It drew comparisons with the regeneration of Battersea Power Station, as both are examples of areas that are in the process of transition.

There is a lot these cities can teach the other.  So if you’re reading this Sadiq Khan and Lianne Dalziel, take note:

From London to Christchurch:
  • Consideration of “placemaking” before planning consent:  ensures high quality design and places for people. Use planning conditions to secure commitments to parks, community spaces and public realm.
  • Supplementary Planning Guidance:  providing specific guidance rather than overarching blueprints.
  • Sustainable building: Using BREEAM assessments.
From Christchurch to London:
  • People power: consulting with the public to help inform the shape of developments (this resulted in the Margaret Mahy playground)
  • Temporary regeneration during a long development and construction phase: Gap Filler activates spaces for temporary, creative, people-centred purposes. It innovates and empowers citizens in a community.

Wei Yang who sponsored the event also gave her insights on city planning on an international level, having just returned from an international planning conference.  She questioned the absence of technology in planning when it pervades so many other industries to provide sustainable outcomes. She also championed green spaces as one of the most important facets in modern city planning.

A big thumbs up to KarmaCola for providing their fair trade fizz, and to Wei Yang & Partners for sponsoring the event so  thirsty Kiwis could catch up with old friends and new.   Thanks also to our trusty volunteer bakers who ensure our events are always well stocked with afghans, ANZAC biscuits and lamingtons!

We are hoping to hold another event at the end of summer to compare and contrast another topic that our two countries face.  Don’t miss out on our events – like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter or subscribe to this blog to be kept in the loop.

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