Wellington is New Zealand's most walkable city, study says

3:59 pm on 18 October 2022
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Wellington - can't be beaten on a good day. Photo: 123rf

Wellington is New Zealand's most walkable city, new research says.

A University of Canterbury paper titled "The x-minute city" found that in Wellington, 35 percent of residents lived within a 10-minute walk of all amenities, and the average time for any Wellingtonian to walk to all amenities was 14 minutes.

The average time for Aucklanders to walk to all amenities was 18 minutes, with 15 percent of residents within a 10-minute walk of all amenities, and in Christchurch it was 20 minutes to get to all amenities, with only 11 percent of residents able to find all amenities within a 10-minute walk of where they lived.

In Nelson, the average to reach all amenities was 26 minutes, in Waikanae 33 minutes, and in Dunedin 29 minutes.

Researchers studied the 500 largest cities in the United States, and 42 urban areas in New Zealand.

University of Canterbury civil systems engineering lecturer Tom Logan said new housing developments were not always established near amenities or near public transport to move people without cars.

It all came back to "density done well", where everything people needed was within their neighbourhood, including shopping centres, green space, entertainment, schools and workplaces, Dr Logan said.

He believed city design had not improved with time.

In the United States older areas tended to be denser and more walkable, with more laneways and mixed-use neighbourhoods. Nowadays, cities were designed around cars.

Logan said New Zealand still mostly adhered to single-use zoning - one place for houses, another place for shops, another area for work places - which necessitated a lot of movement between them, mostly in private cars.

Wellington's geography meant it was constrained in how far it could sprawl outwards, so it had densified by necessity.

Christchurch had been presented with an opportunity for redesign after the 2011 earthquake, but more commonly amenities were retrofitted.

In Barcelona, city planners were developing "superblocks", where ring roads around the outside of neighbourhoods were kept for cars while the inner roads were made for walking and biking.

"They're seeing a massive reduction in mortality and stress from noise," Logan said.

The uptake of electric vehicles alone would not be enough for cities to hit the government's emissions targets, he said.

But making cities walkable had "so many more co-benefits".

"I think electric cars run the risk of saying we don't need to change," he said. "They are a critical part of the solution, but not the only part of the solution."

Check out the statistics showing how walkable your city is, here.

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