28 March 2018
The Urban Design Forum supports the main thrust of the Plan, particularly the ongoing commitment to compact, efficient and well-designed patterns of growth and development.
We further support the integration of economic and social issues into the Auckland Plan, but note the danger in this holistic approach is that the Plan loses focus on the spatial and physical aspects of planning. It seems that, in part, the Plan is merely documenting current spatial initiatives rather than setting a clear strategic direction for implementation in the post-Unitary Plan era.
So the first main question is: What is the big idea driving Auckland into the future?
The broad-brush provisions of the Unitary Plan (which are necessarily so, given the RMA framework within which it has to operate) need an overlay which sets out the specific spatial vision for the city.
Ideally, this will be simple and graphically accessible city diagram that can be zoomed into to reveal the layers of detail at regional and neighbourhood level. The diagram at “Development Strategy – Future Auckland - Overall Strategy Map” is perhaps the closest to this, but it would require more layers of detail to realise this idea.
This comment should not be dismissed as just a designer’s wish, of perhaps only academic interest to a few. The legibility of the city is an important factor in the engagement of people in the life of their city, and many cities are proud to have simple, memorable diagrams that can become icons for those cities. Often these are based on the cities’ public transport maps, and the map at “Transport and access outcome- Direction 1 - Map showing Auckland’s future strategic transport network” shows interesting potential in this regard.
[The references to parts of the draft plan as above are made very difficult by the lack of chapter, page, table or map numbering ]
The second main question is: What’s happened to the emphasis on quality in the ‘quality compact city’ vision?
There is a statement about ‘embedding good design in all development’ in the page ‘Our development strategy – future Auckland - How Auckland will grow and change’, but that’s the only substantial reference we could find. This is a but a shadow of the 2012 Plan’s emphasis on ‘ a renewed focus on good design’ and its requirement for a design-led approach throughout (pg 247-250).
Given how far we’ve come with the Auckland Design Office, the Auckland Design Manual and the various design review processes active around Auckland, there should be more emphasis on the value of urban design. The simple idea is that as communities become more intensified, the need for better design increases. This needs to be explicit in the Plan, as it was previously.
We question the selection of Westgate as the primary western node. It may be that this is a good idea, but we note the lack of any analysis that has led to this conclusion. There is no rapid transit service linking it to the city centre (as there is for Albany and Manukau). At present it appears to be a very large shopping centre, where Auckland Council has no land-holding, so designating it to be the key centre in the west is a very large gift to the current landowners. It implies a large investment in public transport and other community facilities in the near future, but is there a will to do this?
Similarly, we note the very large development planned for Drury South. Where are the community development plans and the public transport provisions in the Plan?
In general, the subdued presence of public transport planning in the document is disappointing.
The welcomed growth in public transport use since the 2012 Plan is barely keeping pace with population growth. The annual public transport trips taken by the average Aucklander is not increasing at anything like the rate that will be necessary to avoid high levels of road congestion, with the associated loss of productivity and liveability.
How does the Plan advance the objective of an integrated public transport and land-use policy?
And finally, we suggest a re-statement of the desirability of residential density being near high amenity. This was a key debate in the preparation of the earlier Plan. It was not followed through into the Unitary Plan, where lobby groups were able to water down provisions for density in many such areas. In general, higher density ended up being provided for in the less market-attractive neighbourhoods. We consider the principle of residential density in relation to amenity needs to be clearly re-stated in order to guide future amendments to the Unitary plan.
Should the primary purpose of the current re-fresh of the Auckland Plan be to spur debate at a high level about how the Unitary Plan could be improved?
I’ll be pleased to answer any queries.
Tel 029 285 3449