Great things can happen when the community comes together to create a vision for their neighbourhood. In Birkenhead, a group of passionate residents have led the development of a 30-year neighbourhood plan. It operates under the Birkenhead Residents Association.
Considering aspects such as streetscape, sunlight, heritage, built environment, pedestrian access, natural environment, facilities and public spaces, the plan includes Birkenhead Town Centre (or éHighbury), Chelsea Refinery and reserve, Chatswood commercial area, War Memorial Park, Hinemoa St shops and cafés, and Birkenhead Wharf and surrounding areas.
Earlier this year, the group set out to find out what people who lived, worked and visited the area liked, didn’t like and what they thought was missing.
What we did:
• Kicked off community discussion with a facilitated workshop (March 2017), attended by more than 70 people.
• Researched the broader community - 800-900 people - via door knocking, fliers, street interviews, email (BNP of 320), social media (Facebook regular community of 360, Neighbourly Birkenhead (reach of 1750), wider neighbours (8760).
• Had information-seeking discussions with public sector organisations and community groups.
• Summarised key themes into planning principles for action.
The overwhelming response was that people loved and wanted to preserve many of the unique features of the area: the views, its environment, its character and the community feel. Suggestions for improvement included improving connection and flow such as walkability and support for all modes of transport (public transport, vehicles and bicycles). In addition, there was a strong desire to have streetscape and landscapes that reflect and enhance the existing natural environment through good design and to create more places where people could enjoy the views.
We used these concepts as the basis for developing ideas on how the built structure of Birkenhead town centre and beyond could evolve. Talented and experienced planners, architects and designers worked together to prepare a draft plan that was shared at a community drop-in in early September. These have also been displayed at the Birkenhead Library and online.
Once the feedback has been incorporated, the final plan will be shared with other public sector partners and interested parties. We want them all to appreciate what the community wants, and reflect that in their plans.
The group is working to ensure that the community aspirations are taken on board by Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and developers. We acknowledge the ongoing support from Kaipatiki Local Board, the Birkenhead Town Centre Association and the North Shore councillors.
The group is also engaging with property, landowners and developers to build on the vision and to help to create an exciting future for the Birkenhead area.
In the meantime, there are a number of community-led opportunities and initiatives that the group aims to start to implement from next year.
The draft plan can be viewed through the Birkenhead Residents Association website at www.bra.org.nz
Or contact us at BirkenheadPlanning@gmail.com for further information or to get involved.