Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A plea for sanity on the Unitary Plan

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  • J Browning, in reply to Sacha,

    "....ask them, by all means"

    Have also spoken to Senior Managers, Elected Members, representatives from every division of Council all the way to the Mayor's office...and not one person could - or was willing - to explain how the Unitary Plan actually flowed from the Auckland Plan.

    Can you explain it?

    Auckland • Since May 2013 • 16 posts Report Reply

  • SteveL, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Thanks for your response - I agree. I think we're on the same side here - and probably have been all along.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2013 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to J Browning,

    explain how the Unitary Plan actually flowed from the Auckland Plan.

    Can you explain it?

    Sure. Legislation requires the two documents, and in short order. How much more "one flows to the other" explanation do you require? The deadlines for this were imposed by statute, courtesy of Rodney, not by Auckland Council. Are you particularly surprised that there's a disconnect given the statutory environment created and fostered by the current occupiers of the Treasury benches?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Where I live in southeastern downtown Beijing all green space is communal.

    Just had an interesting chat with a mate living in Beijing. He's an absolute Sinophile, but Beijing is his least favourite city. I don't know where exactly he is, but his description of the amenities of life where he is don't paint a particularly happy picture. The description was of a life lived virtually entirely in his apartment, which is in huge slab of similar things, but that itself is disconnected from anything around it. He seldom goes for an idle stroll, because there's just nothing to see or do within a ten minute walk. It's just miles and miles of apartment blocks. If he wants to go anywhere he has to drive (he doesn't know how to ride a bike). Curious, it's so contra to my mental image of China, but that's most formed around places like Hong Kong. So he's in a very densely populated area that somehow seems to have very little soul. How much of the city is like this?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to J Browning,

    Evidence – Melbourne CBD is an example close to home.

    Evidence of what? I lived there for years. I had a car, but I just didn’t use it for doing things in the city, that would be pointless and tedious. I either walked or caught trams, within the core area a few kilometers around the CBD. Outside of that, I’d probably use the car.

    Honestly, the CBD is the good part of Melbourne. I don’t miss the sprawling suburbs, that go on for up to 50 kilometers from the center. I do very much miss living in Carlton, in 3 story low-rise, getting up for breakfast at any one of 100 restaurants within a 3 minute walk, and the 10 minute tram trip in to work on Collins St, or a 5 minute walk to see my thesis supervisor, or do some waterpolo training at the club pool. I miss having a town that strolling around at night in was actually fun, that stuff was happening, and home was only 10 minutes walk away. Sure, I couldn’t park my car there easily, but I seldom needed to. The car was for the tackling of the horrendous suburban distances – you really needed a nice one because you were going to be stuck in it for hours.

    I will admit to feeling a sense of the horror of the grey city commuter grind the few times I was staying outside of the central area. Trains were excellent, got you there pretty fast, but really, you can’t put 20 kilometers each way behind you without it taking a substantial bite out of your life, no matter how good the infrastructure. This just wasn’t an issue in the dense low rise central zone. I periodically struggle with the sense of just how much of that I’ve lost by coming back to Auckland.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to J Browning,

    explain how the Unitary Plan actually flowed from the Auckland Plan

    Len Brown did a great concise job of that on Q&A this morning - 10 min clip.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to BenWilson,

    So he’s in a very densely populated area that somehow seems to have very little soul. How much of the city is like this?

    Sounds strange. I can imagine some of the farther flung housing developments being a bit like that, but mostly because they're too new to have developed any character or soul or community. I have seen an area on the southern edge of Daxing in the exurban south of Beijing that is a bit like that, but it's alongside a highway, has regular bus service, some local services (shops, schools, etc) and a large park and is 1km north of the Wild Animal Park (so if you're bored and can't be bothered going far, go play with the lions... um... well, it's a pretty cool park, anyway). Some of the farther flung developments along the old Beijing-Tianjin highway seem very similar, as does where my brother in law lives on the eastern edge of Yanjiao - he's got a big coal-fired power station over the road. But then again, there are at least basic local services, there is public transport, and it's not far to more exciting stuff. Where I lived in the heavy industrial western edge of Taiyuan about, umm, 12-ish years ago was kinda the opposite. It had stacks of character if you like coal, steam engines still being used industrially, steel foundries, and the like. The buses came once every half hour along the main road that was really just a long, thin gap between the buildings that felt like it hadn't been maintained since the Xinhai Revolution, but minibuses and illegal motorbike taxis filled the gaps, or I could walk through a slum for 10 minutes and then be in a slightly nicer residential area. There wasn't much in the way of shops or restaurants, let alone anything more interesting, but enough that I had all the necessities of life within a 5 minute wander. Certainly wasn't hard to get out and do stuff, anyways. I've certainly never seen anywhere in China where you've needed your own transport - everywhere I've been even a bicycle is just a little extra convenience. Out here in my wife's home village we have easy, convenient public transport - although this village is far from remote, and that certainly isn't the case in all of rural China. Still, all the rural areas I've seen have had public transport of some form or another nearish enough. We only got a car when my wife got pregnant. We don't need it, but it does make travelling with child a lot easier - especially getting to and from the village. Among other things, we didn't really like the idea of standing in the Chinese New Year rush home queue for the bus to Yanqing on the shady side of Deshengmen in mid winter trying to keep the wee one warm.

    China's cities seem to have a "love them or hate them" thing going. When I was in Tianjin half the expats I knew loved Tianjin, the other half wished they were in Beijing (I was the only one who did anything about that, though - the others just sat in Ali Baba's bar whingeing then jumped on the train out soon as they could on the weekend). Many of us in Beijing and Shanghai fall victim to the local rivalries - us Beijingers loathe Shanghai and Tianjin, the Shanghailanders swear Shanghai is paradise in earth and scorn the dusty, barren Northern Capital. But even so, Chinese cities tend to either have you falling in love with them or hating them, sometimes both. I remember one woman who said she loved Beijing, but couldn't cope with it for more than 6 months, it was just too intense. I feel a similar way about downtown Hong Kong - I can imagine me living on Lantau riding the ferry in to work in Central (perhaps living in the New Territories and commuting by MTR, but that's just nowhere near as cool as riding a ferry to work), but I don't think I could live in Kowloon or the north shore of Hong Kong Island.

    Anyway, my China experience has me contradictorally dreaming of having our own backyard for my wee one to run around in and swearing by the advantages of urban density. Suburban sprawl just doesn't seem to help build healthy, vibrant communities.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to BenWilson,

    Oh, just thought of Tiantongyuan, on the northern outskirts of Beijing. Apparently it's the world's largest subdivision. Anyways, it's huge. I've only ever passed through, but it looks ok if you can tolerate ridiculous rush hour traffic that even sees queues stretching hundreds of metres just to get in the subway station. To the south is suburban Beijing stretching in to the city, the other three sides are the usual semi-rural, semi-light industrial urban fringe. Doubt I'd enjoy living there, it looks like high-density gone malignant.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to BenWilson,

    He seldom goes for an idle stroll, because there's just nothing to see or do within a ten minute walk. It's just miles and miles of apartment blocks.

    This whole segregation of building use seems to be a hangover from Chairman Mao's day. Which is where mixed-use buildings, or "vertical villages" could come in.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5414 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I agree with elected Local Board member Julie Fairey's informed take on Council's communication failures.

    My sense is that the large level of interest, and the misleading approach taken by some, just was not anticipated by the team working on the draft, who are mostly planners and thus indulge in a fair bit of planner talk and thinking in the way they operate every day.

    I suspect they thought that the main audience for this first round would be planners and developers, and so much of the early comms was focused on that market, and assumed a certain knowledge of planner talk.

    That inadvertently created a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum. What filled it wasn’t always the best quality or even vaguely accurate.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    If the Billion dollars for the inner city rail link was used on infrastructure then the UP might just work.

    The Core Rail Link is infrastructure. And it’s for the entire region’s transport network, not just the “inner city”.

    Well, quite. Good grief.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Sounds strange. I can imagine some of the farther flung housing developments being a bit like that, but mostly because they’re too new to have developed any character or soul or community.

    It seems likely to me that's what he's dealing with. Also, he hates the climate, and that always colors one's perception. But his partner won't have a bar of his oft-repeated desire to move to, say, HK. She's from Beijing, it's her town, and she likes it. She's from an old army family, so I wonder if they've got a bit of a barracks mentality. The way he tells it, though, I think I'd rather live in an actual barracks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to BenWilson,

    Also, he hates the climate,

    Huh, yeah, Beijing's climate is hard to love, and I've heard people say they love Beijing despite the climate. But on the plus side, being in the north we get central heating. I remember the winter I spent in Changsha - I was fine because I'd just come from 4 1/2 years in scarfie flats in Dunedin, but my colleagues froze their arses off because of the lack of heating. HK's not bad, being on the coast, fairly similar to Auckland, I think, but it's summers get pretty hot. Yunnan - at least, the not really high altitude areas on the edge of the Tibetan plateau - seems to be the only part of China with a really decent climate.

    She’s from Beijing, it’s her town, and she likes it.

    It's a common enough attitude. I remember plenty of people out in Taiyuan telling me, "yeah, Taiyuan's a dump, but it's home, my family's here". Fair enough. For my wife and I, we only want to leave Beijing for our daughter's sake, really. Education, environment, healthcare are all much better in NZ.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    IMHO - The way Auckland is heading is to turn the inner city character suburbs into Soviet Style Sausage Apartment Blocks crammed together in mounds of leaky concrete and monocladded ghettos - there is not much that is done right..

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to DexterX,

    That can't happen under either the current or proposed rules.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Sacha,

    Just wait and see.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to DexterX,

    The way Auckland is heading is to turn the inner city character suburbs into Soviet Style Sausage Apartment Blocks crammed together in mounds of leaky concrete and monocladded ghettos – there is not much that is done right..

    It's got a fair way to go before it looks anything like that. Currently there's dozens of square kilometers ringing the city within a few km, of detached wooden houses. Much like the next 15 kilometers out. We're nowhere near some kind of horrible concrete jungle. Apartment blocks are few and far between.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to DexterX,

    Soviet Style Sausage Apartment Blocks

    SSSAB FTW!

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    I am late by a month or more - but I don't see that much is done right all over Auckland - on many levels - and as apartment blocks are commercial and not subject to the same rigours as residential construction - the incidence of failure is likely to be great (based on the recent and ongoing past).

    Worked all over Auckland today - and coming in on the North Western I just couldn't see how digging a series of holes in the CBD and putting inside of them a really, really, really expensive train set is going to solve Auckland's congestion.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report Reply

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