Tuesday, March 21, 2017

City of Sails – and farms

One of the things about Auckland that many people don’t know, or know well enough, is that most of Auckland is actually rural or semi-rural. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, home to a quarter of the nation’s population, the centre of business and commerce, and yet much of its area is actually basically rural.

The Auckland Plan puts this well:
Most of Auckland is rural. Our large rural areas host diverse economies and activities, and include stunning landscapes and coastal areas: the West Coast; Hunua and Waitākere ranges; the Kaipara, Manukau, Mahurangi and Whangateau harbours; Gulf Islands; and numerous regional parks. Here rural people make their living and urban Aucklanders can connect with nature. There is enormous variety in terrain, land uses and settlement patterns across 384,000 hectares of land, which comprise over 70% of Auckland’s landmass, and are contained by over 3,700 km of coastline. These areas are integral to Auckland’s unique character, and vital to its economy and its people.
As that passage suggests, different parts of rural Auckland have different characteristics. The southernmost parts of Auckland, south of the Manukau Harbour, are often farmland, sometimes used for dairy or sheep, but also for market gardens, which are relatively small farms growing cash crops, chiefly vegetables and fruits. I heard on the news the other day that most of New Zealand’s land that’s suitable for such crop farming is in the area south of Auckland, and yet that same area is under great pressure for new housing as the rising price of housing in Auckland is pushing people farther and farther out.

This is a legitimate concern, and Auckland Council—and also central government in Wellington—will have to be careful to preserve productive farmland, even as they open more land for housing. It’s a delegate balance to achieve, but it’s important.

In the meantime, it would be kind of nice if more people—including more New Zealanders—understood how rural Auckland’s land area actually is. It’s kind of interesting in itself, but if people in other parts of New Zealand understood that, they might be less hostile to helping Auckland solve the many problems caused by the city’s explosive growth.

In the meantime, it’s fun exploring more of the rural Auckland, and I’ll be talking more about that.

The photo above is of farmland visible from the new AmeriNZ World Headquarters. That bare earth will soon be a new housing development, with a mix of various types and sizes of homes. This is a prime example of the issue.

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