Dense planners should think outside the box

The powers that be seem hell bent on getting us all to live in the city in little terraces or apartments.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

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!"

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