Auckland Council released its Auckland Plan 2050 earlier this year, consultation has closed and we get the final version in August. This is an update on the 2012 Plan that set the path for the Unitary Plan, and that 2012 document required a review in 2018.
The Council claims to have streamlined this plan where they are focused on the key challenges of high population growth, environmental degradation, and shared prosperity for all.
The result of the review and feedback has been to identify six outcomes for Auckland. One outcome is around housing and this obviously gets plenty of airtime, but population growth also puts pressure on every type of asset like Sports fields and Playgrounds so we have looked at the “belonging and participating” outcome. At its heart, this is the plan for councils involvement in Arts and Culture, Sport and Recreation, Parks and Open Spaces.
It’s great that Council sees participation in these areas as a key outcome for Auckland over the next 30 years, but there’s often a gulf between vision and reality. As a high-profile example, the Auckland Art Gallery suffered budget cuts every year from 2012-2017, going from $12 million to $6.9 million – although this will now lift by another $2 million a year. Even so, a record 520,000 people passed through its doors in the last year. Council state they want to build a ‘flourishing” creative economy, but even with the best will in the world, this needs to be supported by funding. There’s always a tension between aspirations and financial constraints – in Auckland, with its sizeable debt burden, that tension is even stronger.
The Sport and Recreation plan also talks a lot about improving participation but given the 2050 plan is a spatial plan document the key here is the 27 regional parks, 4000 local parks (of which 224 are dedicated to sport) and 800 winter sports fields, the 860 playgrounds and 42 public pools that council operates and maintains. This may seem like a lot of facilities but under our current population these are under pressure let alone when we are set to add another 740,000 people in 30 years, that’s 25,000 every year.
It’s great to talk about making these Public spaces safe, accessible and to channel investment into deprived communities, but protecting these assets and enabling more use is going to be key in keeping Auckland a highly livable city as it grows.
To give an example we have around 140,000 kids aged 2-10 which is going to increase by around 4500 every year. 860 playgrounds may sound like a lot but currently, that’s only 1 playground for 160 kids aged 2-10 at present and by 2050 that’s going to increase to 230 kids per playground unless we build a lot of playgrounds.
By comparison, Australia’s Gold Coast has a total population of only 600,000 but has 700 council playgrounds, almost the same number as Auckland, for only 50,000 kids. That’s 1 playground for every 73 kids, and for everyone who has holidayed on the Coast with kids, the supply, convenience and uncrowded nature of these playgrounds are noticeable and much appreciated.
Clearly, this means spending more money on these key parts of our neighbourhoods but collectively we all complain about our rates. Ironically Auckland has one of the lowest property rate costs in the world amongst comparable cities. Part of the problem is that most people don’t realise this; another part is it’s hard for the public to understand where the rates money goes; and another part is that sometimes the money isn’t spent well. As a result, Aucklanders’ satisfaction with the council is low, and trust levels are low as well.
A clear vision, shared with the public, can go a long way, as does getting and listening to good advice from experts focused on results, not rhetoric.
The 2050 plan has too much rhetoric and spin. Finding facts, understanding the assets, their use and the future investment plan for these assets is next to impossible, but surely is essential in a Spatial Plan to guide the next 30 years. It’s important for us all to participate and demand more clarity, focus and results from our councils so that we get the cities we deserve.
The 2018 Interior Awards received over 100 entries for projects from across the country. Through a tough deliberation, the judges chose 26 projects and three emerging design professionals to present to both a live jury and streamed online audience during May. The winners will be announced this Thursday night at St Matthews in the City.
RCG are proud to have been selected as a finalist with our work for Maori Television and look forward to celebrating with the other finalists on Thursday night!
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