We’ve all heard about Auckland Mayor Len Brown’s vision for Auckland—to make it the most liveable city in the world. A bold goal, and with the population of Auckland expected to grow by around 640,000 people between 2010 and 2040, it’ll be a delicate one at that. The rather large Auckland or “Spatial” Plan discussion document published by Brown last week explores ways to guide Auckland’s growth and new development in the next 20-30 years, in a way that makes the “most liveable city” goal attainable.
The document is broken up into the following five five key areas of focus and proposed discussion where public feedback is sought: people and quality of life, people and economy, people and environment, people and place, and people and infrastructure. The people and place category in particular raises some points that might be foremost in people’s thoughts when it comes to our built assets and heritage.
“Not only have we lost many of our heritage buildings but also the ones that have replaced them too often lack architectural quality, fail to respond to context and/or are not designed to be sustainable and adaptable,” acknowledges the document.
Achieving better buildings can be achieved through a number of ways inlcuding minimum performance standards like the greening of buildings, something the document says can be “a point of competitive advantage for employers wanting to attract staff who value working in green buildings”.
The document goes on to suggest design quality should be focused on prominent buildings and development in the city. That point seems an obvious one, even if it hasn’t been a strong focus in the past. So, how exactly does the document propose “quality design” be ensured and the architectural quality bar be raised?
Well, there’s the use of design competitions, design awards and rewarding resource consent proposals that show creativity and a commitment to delivering better buildings.
“Requiring Resource Consent applicants to produce a design statement as part of their application is a proven way to promote design that is responsive to the particular context in which it is proposed,” says the document.
It also suggests new design guides or pattern books from the Council to help in the development of new medium density building typologies that will respond to current urban living and working requirements.
Focusing specifically on heritage, the document acknowledges the Council hasn’t got it right on previous occasions, saying management and guardianship has been “hampered by a lack of information and understanding, development pressures, and a regulatory framework that is fragmented and does not provide real incentives for property owners to retain heritage and invest in heritage protection”.
To try and amend its patchy heritage history, going forward the document outlines the following ideas:
- We will take a broad view of heritage and recognise that it is more than lists of places and things, and that it can change over time and that it is an essential part of a growing vibrant city;
- We will have no further loss of heritage by knowing what it is, where it is and by having a range of tools and methods to protect it;
- We will recognise the importance of Maori heritage and cultural values in the Auckland landscape.
The document states “Auckland Council has agreed to develop a Heritage Plan which will enable Council and the community to take a proactive approach to the protection of built and cultural heritage. It will include consideration of the Council’s role in”:
- Systematically identifying and recording heritage values;
- Conducting heritage research and investigations;
- Applying a regulatory framework including the processing of development consents;
- Potentially establishing a heritage panel to provide advice on consent applications and other proposals that would affect heritage;
- Providing incentives for heritage protection;
- Providing custodianship of a wide range of heritage resources;
- Advocating for heritage and a providing of expert advice;
- Involving internal and external stakeholders in the management of heritage;
- Finding alternative sources of funding for heritage protection.
But it’s quick to point out a distinction between ‘heritage’ versus ‘character’ needs to be made.
“The Heritage Plan will need to be clear on how the character of the neighbourhoods is defined and what level of regulation or other forms of intervention are needed to encourage retention of character.”
Rounding of this particular section of the Auckland Plan, the Council seeks feedback on the following questions:
- What aspects of Auckland’s built environment, or the way it is managed, would you most like to see changed and how?
- Should Council apply the same level of protection to character neighbourhoods as it does to unique and scare heritage items?
- What could Council do to help owners of properties in character neighbourhoods retain and enhance their buildings and properties?
And have a look at this video to see where Auckland is headed when it comes to key stats and demographics.