How cities need to change to adapt to climate change

A veteran town planning expert says the property industry will have to undergo massive changes in a decade and a half if the latest projections on climate change are to be met.

Tuesday, November 30th 2021

Elizabeth Aitken Rose says buyers, sellers and brokers will have to get used to lots more apartments and town houses and in many cases will have to say goodbye to the single family home.

This is an interpretation of Climate Change advice to the Government from the Ministry for the Environment which was released last week. 

This advice said there would have to be an increase in cycling by 340% and an increase in the use of public transport of 210% by 2035.

This would be needed if New Zealand was to meet targets for emissions reductions proposed by the Climate Change Commission and due for a decision by the Government before the end of the year. 

But Aitken Rose said this could just not be achieved in many cities, especially Auckland, the way they are being built now.

She's a senior lecturer in architecture and planning at University of Auckland.

She argues New Zealand cities would have to be far more densely built to get any significant increase in public transport and cycling. Current practice can even make it worse, with sprawling housing estates sometimes being built on greenfield sites, with the transport system figured out afterwards.

She says to meet the goals set out for the Government, this would have to change. There would be far more intensification. But not everyone would have to live in apartments, and she cites what she calls an attractive development overseas: the perimeter block.

“You build out from the pavement and have an inner courtyard – you have your houses on the street and you have concentrated common area of green and recreation in the middle area of the block.”

There have been some developments like this already, such as Sanctum in Wellington. And there are other developments that take a different path to mixing density with community amenities, such as Auckland's Hobsonville development.

But Aitken Rose says some further intensification will be needed, and there are already signs that the era of the single family home will start to fade, except in heritage areas or other places where special reasons apply.

She says reforms to the Resource Management Act will start this process already and any significant rise in public transport or cycling would require the process to be intensified.


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