28 Aug 2018

Auckland held back in ranking by public transport, affordability

3:41 pm on 28 August 2018

Auckland has been ranked 13th among 24 international cities for how prepared it is for the future.

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Photo: 123RF

The global assessment, by consultancy firm WSP, scored Auckland highly when it came to green spaces, technology and design for better urban living.

Patrick Reynolds, who wrote on urbanism for the Greater Auckland website, said Auckland scored highest in the survey for planning - which recognised the value of what the city has said it would do.

This showed the benefit of having the priorities of local and central government aligned, and funded, Mr Reynolds said.

"Things like the light rail and the Sky Path, these are now funded, they're not just on a list or on a plan somewhere," he said.

"We've gone right to the top of the queue for our forward-thining and what we plan to turn into."

But the report found problems with housing affordability, public transport, and water treatment and distribution.

"As with most growing cities, Auckland is navigating through some legacies, including a highway and land-use system that leads most commuters to use private vehicles, and challenges surrounding housing affordability," the report said.

Mr Reynolds said it was "distressing" Auckland scored just five out 10 for water treatment and distribution - behind cities like Beijing and New York.

"It's a fail on our part, what it says is that we tend to coast, we've always coasted on the stuff that God did, the harbours, the fact that it rains a lot, that we have generally an empty country, so we flatter ourselves that we're ahead of the game there, but we're really not," he said.

"Really difficult cities like Beijing and New York have had to do an enormous amount of work on using and re-using water and they've done so in sophisticated ways."

Because of strong population growth, the report said the Auckland Plan 2050 identifies the need to improve housing availability through several directions, including a quality urban form, accelerating the construction of homes and the provision of quality public spaces.

The report acknowledged that while public transport use had tripled since the 1990s, overall demand for travel is outstripping capacity gains.

"A further boost in public transport provision is needed," it said.

But it said work was underway to address those issues, including the building of the City Rail Link and other transport planning initiatives.

Congestion also had an impact on the freight industry and the efficient movement of goods and services.

The report said travel delays and poor reliability create substantial costs to businesses, that are ultimately borne by everyone.

"The key challenge will be to limit the growth in congestion on the freight network, particularly at peak times, and to improve the efficiency of connections to major freight hubs."

The city's wastewater and stormwater infrastructure - which has ben in the spotlight during recent summer storms - also needed attention, given the growing population.

WSP Opus New Zealand managing director Ian Blair said the issues highlighted by the report were well-recognised and work was underway to address them.

"Politicians and local government are working together with organisations such as Auckland Transport and other planning organisations across Auckland to face into those challenges."

Mr Blair said Auckland's challenges weren't unqiue around the world either.

But he said some cities have better planned for future population growth, although Auckland was getting better at this.

Seattle, Copenhagen and Stockholm took out the top three spots. Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne were all ranked behind Auckland.

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