No one is operating from a ‘business as usual’ model anymore. Bedrooms have been converted to offices by day, and businesses have quickly adopted new systems in order to be agile during this incredibly surreal time. Many, many have lost jobs, and the economy is taking a hit. Whilst some small businesses may weather this storm and open their doors again, they may not endure the following months as spending is influenced by tighter personal budgets and decreased household incomes. It’s truly a scary and uncertain time for many, and when things are uncertain, there are lots of questions that are being asked. Ultimately though, we’re wondering what will our future bring?
In preparation for a post-COVID economic stimulus, and in the pursuit of job-creation, Auckland Council’s Governing Body, along with Central Government are assessing what are called ‘shovel ready projects’ to launch into once we’re out of lock down. There was some debate around how we best prioritise these potential projects, with some Councillor’s leaning on job opportunity as the primary driver, whilst others counter they should respond to the environment and be designed for the future, not be projects designed for yesterday or today, but for tomorrow. The final set of criteria to assist project rating was resolved by the Emergency Committee as below:
In addition we supported the inclusion of two regional programmes for consideration as ‘shovel-ready’: a programme of sports field development and a local tracks programme.
It has long been held that ‘disruption’ leads to innovation. We saw it following the Christchurch Earthquakes where a horrendous natural disaster created opportunity for communities to strengthen, for urban design to flourish, be experimental and future-focused, where gaps were filled and neglected areas were beautified and activated. What has emerged in Christchurch is a far more dynamic city, home to incredibly empowered and engaged communities that have taken the opportunity to collaboratively redesign what they want to see in their neighbourhoods. Without disruption the landscape for reinvention would simply not have been there.
So too in our city (and the rest of NZ) will we see the opportunity to prepare our place for the future. Things don’t happen quickly, this is widely understood, but our decisions now, more than ever, must consider what we want our place to look like for future generations. Our decisions need to honour the environment and respond to the climate emergency, we must create a more equitable and liveable city where urban design is in harmony with the natural environment, rather than in opposition to it.
We need to be encouraging more active modes of transport; literally leaving the car behind in preference of connected cycleways, wider footpaths that are safe and accessible and can accommodate micro-mobility, strollers and wheelchairs (and our new need for greater personal space!). Public transport needs to be electric and clean, integrated and efficient. We need to be pushing for a sustainable city model where we grow up, not out, where commercial areas are pedestrianized and localized, so more of us can live and work in the same part of the city. Future buildings should employ regenerative design principals, not focusing solely on sustainability (or nothing at all – our BAU model!); we should see a large uptake on the incorporation of green roofs and skins, thermal efficiency and what should eventuate are inspiring places for work and education.
Town centres need civic squares that offer opportunity to connect, engage and be creative; and the design of civic space should reflect our cultural narratives and uniqueness, as well as meet our need for art creation and appreciation. Town centres and transport infrastructure should be well-lit and safe for use and barriers to access should be removed.
Let’s be leaders in this space, just as we were in our response to this pandemic, and take it as an opportunity to build a city that stands the test of time.
Elected member of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board for the 2019-2022 Election Term.