Dense planners should think outside the box

Dense planners should think outside the box

Summary: The powers that be seem hell bent on getting us all to live in the city in little terraces or apartments.


The powers that be seem hell bent on getting us all to live in the city in little terraces or apartments.

But, thanks to the benefits of Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB), it does not have to be that way.

The new Auckland Council is drawing up a 30-year district plan, and council planners are keen on dense and intensive development.

The extra 800,000 people expected to live in Auckland by 2050 will be fitted pretty much within current boundaries, so goodbye to so many lovely gardens.

It seems that the planners and developers have similar ambitions in Sydney, where I read of plans for intensive development in Ku-Ring-Gai.

But, as I noted a year back, have we accounted for UFB in our urban planning?

It won't just be a matter of telecommuting affecting plans for rail links and motorways, but also the shape of our cities.

In recent decades, New Zealand has seen a drift from the provinces to large cities like Auckland, mainly due to better job prospects.

However, this has made Auckland extremely crowded and expensive, just like many a large Australian metro area.

People just might find that the costs of living in Auckland are no longer worth it, especially if the extra pay is not enough to compensate for loss of quality of life, never mind if you want that garden that the planners are so keen to use on housing.

Employers, too, will soon realise that if you can get people working from home in the exurbs for a bit less, or they can have branch offices in cheaper, neighbouring towns and cities, then why be in the city centre?

Thus, one of the main impacts of UFB could well be on the shape of our towns and cities.

It may well be that Auckland no longer needs to grow like it has been or is expected to.

Instead, there could be faster growth in neighbouring towns and rural areas.

Perhaps it is no accident that some of the first places in Australia to enjoy the National Broadband Network (NBN) are Tamworth and Tasmania, showing how fast broadband can revitalise regional economies.

In recent years, as a freelancer, I have always lived outside the CBD, typically in a neighbouring seaside suburb and once in a country town more than three hours away. The only inconvenience was missing that face-to-face contact, something solved by regular trips into the city.

Thanks to the internet, I have also been able to work from the other side of the world.

We've heard all the stories about telecommuting, and they will turn out to be true.

Thanks to high-speed broadband, we won't need to be in the city. We can pretty much work from anywhere!

As Auckland City seeks submissions for its district plan, perhaps I'd better tell them.

"Don't build any city terraces for me! Open up the backblocks. I want a house and garden!"

Furthermore, the neighbouring Waikato and Northland regional councils had also better be warned.

"Expect an influx of internet-enabled JAFAs (Just Another Flippin' Aucklander) seeking the good life!"

Topics: Australia, New Zealand

Darren Greenwood

About Darren Greenwood

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.

Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

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  • You have some very good points in your article. Building the infrastructure for workers to work remotely from home or away from the office can only benefit everyone who is currently suffering from being stuck in an expensive metro life.

    I feel as though I must share my limited experience with working remotely and dealing with other remote workers. Working remotely from home or some other location outside of the office is good when you know exactly what needs to be done and you need to concentrate deeply without distractions to get the job done, and/or be onsite at a remote location to do your work. Some of my best work as been when I've been holed up in my room in a deep trance and in the zone without anyone to snap me out of it.

    However if you need to work in a group or maintain regular contact with colleagues, or are stuck on a problem that is driving you crazy, nothing beats going over to someone else's desk and having a discussion with a whiteboard or just chatting with workmates at lunch or break. My company has found that people who work remotely from home too much tend to become out-of-touch with what's happening at the office, get stuck more easily with problems that could be solved by more regular and face-to-face communication, and don't make themselves as available when critical decisions need to be made, which is a hindrance to productivity.

    I work with co-workers remotely, and it is a big time saver to ask someone nearby to look over my shoulder and give me feedback on my work vs. having to set up a video conference/remote desktop session/etc, adjusting your pc/laptop/tablet/phone screen and going through the endless communications saga with phrases such as, "can you hear me now", "can you see my screen?", "something's wrong, let me reconnect"... etc. Sometimes it can take most of my morning to communicate with a co-worker remotely, mainly due to all of this extra communication overhead.

    Ideally some of us would like to become hermits living far away on exotic islands or mountains while maintaining a superior work ethic through remote work, but I highly doubt that will happen. Maybe one day I'll be surprised... but until then I'll continue to rub shoulders with the geniuses in their apartments and stay in the loop :).
  • Thank you Fuzzyanalysis
    Your comments are also very valid.
    I do miss the social contact of workmates too, it is not just a matter of wanting them to check or advise you on your work.
    I made an effort to pop down to the old office once a week, if I could.
    darren Greenwood-3f868