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Aidan Bennett is the Publisher of Channel Magazine and Managing Director of parent company Benefitz. This is his monthly Channel Mag column.
It’s a hot topic… but here goes anyway. As a city we are asking big questions around what our housing will look like in the future as we are challenged by a growing population. I’ve been thinking about it and doing some enjoyable research!
During September and October we spent three weeks in Europe. During my time in some of the big cities it dawned on me just how different the living arrangements are in these cities than is the case in Auckland. We went to some big and interesting cities, including Berlin, Krakow (Poland), Vienna, Madrid and Barcelona.
In these cities I would estimate that 80% of the people live in apartments. It is a way of life that has existed for a long time. Centuries I would think. For many it is all they know.
It got me thinking, why? Like us, these countries all have plenty of land. But they are mostly built up rather than out.
The answer, I am presuming, is that these older cities were developed before modern transport (the motor vehicle) which meant they were naturally built up for convenience. Along the way they have all developed strong public transport systems – mostly underground trains, some trams etc. – that make getting around pretty easy. As a result, by my observation, it looked like they had everything at their fingertips.
By contrast, with New Zealand’s development essentially being in the last 100 years (maybe 50 years?) it has been developed with motor vehicles in abundance. In Auckland we’ve spread out and we’ve become used to going everywhere in our motor vehicles. Due to this we haven’t invested seriously in public transport on the basis that the car and a few buses and trains was all we needed.
This made it easy for politicians of days gone by. They haven’t had to make big decisions around serious investment in the infrastructure we need for a future that is going to include a lot more people in our little slice of paradise. And those people are coming in droves!
My conclusion from my trip is that we need to find a happy medium between what we have now and how they live in these European cities. I am not advocating a total shift to apartment living. There are clearly some downsides to a total emphasis on living on top of one another.
What I would suggest, however, is that our current city planners are pretty much on the right track. Their move to provide for more intensity is spot on. But this must be managed well and it is great that there are no shortage of people ensuring they are doing this. It’s called democracy.
What we must not do is lose sight of the need to have all the amenities that go hand in hand with this intensity. Amenities that have evolved over a long long time in these cities of Europe. I am talking about public transport. I am talking about public parks. I am talking about other important lifestyle amenities that will mean this change to some intensity enhances our city.
My belief is that this will result in many of our issues being solved. Living in the city will remain reasonably affordable. It will be easier to get around if we encourage people to get out of their cars and on to good public transport or to use the new cycle and walk ways that are being, and will be, developed.
This is a challenge we are facing right here on the Shore. Not the least is how do we cater for our kids and their kids and ensure that they can stay local. Some answers are in what I have outlined.
My feeling is that the older sector are resisting this change. By older I mean those in my age-group (50 plus) that have been brought up when there were less people around and are happy to stick with the status quo. Unfortunately the status quo won’t work for the future.
My challenge to you is to think about the future we want for city. For our kids and their kids. Travel does make you think!
Have a great November!
Channel Magazine: Issuu 60 November 2015