MarketTown Alignment with the Auckland Plan
The Auckland Plan lists 13 qualities that it deems important. How aligned is the MarketTown with the Plan?
The Auckland Plan writes: "Auckland’s time has come. We have a widely-shared vision to be the world’s most liveable city." But what exactly is a liveable city? Is it a set of OECD statistics, or is it people's day-to-day life experience? We suggest it is the latter. We also suggest that this liveability is attainable through a set of design parameters that enable people to connect with each other on a day-to-day basis.
Consider this by Christopher Alexander, author of A Pattern Language, who writes "Cars give people wonderful freedom and increase their opportunities. But they also destroy the environment, to an extent so drastic that they kill all social life."
In order to make Auckland the most liveable, we propose building car-free local communities where all day-to-day activity is within walking distance. When one has to drive many kilometres to work, the community ceases to be a community - it becomes a dormitory. People do not encounter each other because they are not there. Children are driven to schools; they lose the role models of adults all around; they don't learn how to become participating citizens. If we are to create livable cities, we need to create places where people live... where they are physically present before work, during work, after work and where they get to work by walking.
On this page, we take the 13 areas of focus set out in the Auckland plan and discuss them within the context of the MarketTown. We suggest that the MarketTown development pattern is more aligned with the Plan's goals than hi-rise apartments, terraced and infill housing, and SHA areas solely devoted to more housing. We propose that to make Auckland liveable, it needs to consider the design elements below (click to expand each).
People work together, care for, nurture and support each other when they live in face-to-face communities of about 250 to 750 people. At this optimal size, people know each other and are known. Conflict resolution is face-to-face, and when someone falls, someone else picks them up. At that size, when people are in the community 24/7 they have a very low tolerance for crime, delinquency and bullying.
In the MarketTown context, this optimally-sized community is called a village.
The town is made up of about 20 such side-by-side villages - on average about 500 people in each. Because the villagers have a hand in planning their future village, each one develops its own, very different character. Within the village, there will some form of common attraction - a theme, a quality, a set of values, perhaps a nationality or language. Over time, that character will evolve.
The next village will have a different character because the people in it are different. But the same quality that the Council seeks - to care for, nurture and support each other - can be expected to continue because of the size and the fact that the village is car-free with most people working locally. When communities are blown apart by cars that caring cannot happen. As Christopher Alexander writes: "Cars give people wonderful freedom and increase their opportunities. But they also destroy the environment, to an extent so dramatic that they kill all social life
In this pedestrian town in Italy, people encounter each other without an appointment. Note the eye contact between the woman and the baby. That is how children learn. Children are hard-wired to be social and to be in the company of adults. It works best when they are face-to-face.
The MarketTown has alignment with the Maori version of the Treaty. In order to appreciate it, let us explore the Treaty as a living document.
It is an interesting exercise to actually read the Maori version of the Treaty, especially the part where the Queen guarantees certain rights.
While she guarantees them to the Chiefs and Tribes, for some rarely discussed reason, she also guaranteed them ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani (to all the people of New Zealand). A full reading of the Maori version makes it clear this meant every one of us, not just Maori and accordingly it appears so in Sir Hugh Kawharu's translation on government websites. What would happen if we welcomed this overlooked phrase in the Treaty, inviting all the people of New Zealand to share in these values that Maori held, and hold, so dear?
What are they? If we can stay out of the politics of it, these were fundamental principles that the rangatira told Busby and Williams they valued above all. But they were not solely Maori values. They are human values as articulated by Maori:
- Tino Rangatiratanga is translated by Sir Hugh Kawharu as chieftainship, which is a way in which people take care of their own affairs. But as with many words in Te Reo Maori, the Maori word is more nuanced. It was the late Bishop Vercoe who pointed out to us that ranga is a word for weaving, tira is a word for choir and tanga is a word that refers to people within the context of a community. Thus, the leadership principle, Bishop Vercoe explained, is about weaving the people into the harmony of a choir... and anyone watching a highly skilled rangatira conducting a hui will see how such personal, face-to-face leadership works. It is harmony-based, not fear-or-ego-based.
While the Auckland Council is called local government, its very size has created a vacuum in local leadership. No matter how talented its staff, no matter how well educated or committed, they cannot sort out local matters. There is a deep need in all societies to sort out their own affairs. It was articulated in the Treaty and happily, it was guaranteed to All the People of New Zealand. It's not local government, but local governance. It's not about law, but about protocols to enable local people to sort out their own affairs. This vacuum can be filled without a new layer of government under the Local Government Act. Using the Companies Act, private communities can incorporate on private land and agree how they will manage their own affairs. They can harvest their own water, process their waste water, generate their own solar energy, and run their own economy so they do not need to commute on council roads or drive to shops, schools and entertainment. Sure, they will use roads for deliveries and occasional travel, but the LTSA figure of 9 trips per day per household (36,000 per day for 4,000 households) will not apply. They can sort out their own issues, take care of their own, and ask far less of the host territorial authority. The powers to do so already exist under the Companies Act, and if exercised are a win-win for everyone.
In the treaty, there are three primary objects of that local governance. In other words, three areas where the local community deems it important to manage their own affairs:
- Whenua: Wenua (whenua) is roughly translated as land and also is the word for placenta. No coincidence there. Whenua is a worldview that regards land not as a commodity to be exploited, but as essential to life as the placenta is to the foetus. In the RMA, the purpose statement speaks about safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems. We would be wise to learn from our elders of this land, nga tangata whenua, that the protection of land, air, water, soil and ecosystems is always local. Those who live on it and by it, are the best guardians of it.
The MarketTown purchases land both for its urban core and its greenbelt. The greenbelt is intended both to prevent cross-boundary conflicts, but also to enable its people to get outdoors and have a real experience of Nature. Urban dwellers are increasingly losing touch with land and we rely on scientists to tell us when the planet is in crisis. The MarketTown intentionally seeks to have a lighter footprint on the environment, and to enable its people to connect with it. The MarketTown will have a cemetery. It is designed so that generations may begin to identify with their home. This is especially a need for pakeha New Zealanders who in many cases have lost their connection to land and home. For previous generations, home was England, even those born and raised here. Even today, many New Zealanders will shift house, moving from town to town, with a love of the land, but not a connection to it. The MarketTown offers the ability to grow permanent roots; to become people of the land.
- Kainga: The common locality of Maori was the village - a cohesive social unit in which people know each other, support each other and in doing so enable individuals and families to meet their needs and pursue their aspirations. That social structure is fundamental to human nature, and we find people are healthier - both physically and mentally - when they live in such communities. People are by Nature social. We compete and we cooperate. As we develop sophisticated societies, we specialise and trade our specialties. This is done within common locality, and it is far more than today's bedroom community, living in a house where we spend more time looking at TV or a computer than connecting with others. We are poorer as a society for this deficit. We need kainga.
The MarketTown is a car-free town made of villages. It acknowledges the importance of what Maori call Kainga in supporting a healthy community. The values it supports are aligned with those values of kainga as articulated in the Treaty
- Taonga: While pre-colonial Maori society did not use the medium of money, today we do. Taonga katoa, however, is not money. Money is a medium, but in itself it only has value because people accept it in exchange for goods or services. Taonga is wealth creation and wealth preservation, with a very broad definition of wealth - including lore, art, language, and all that is valued by a people. It is our "values". In the process of forming communities, the question of what is Taonga becomes an important part of the public discourse.
The MarketTown invests in it people, in its culture and in things that create wealth. It uses money to pay for artist guild halls and to build an industrial park. It enables people to create the wealth and the wellbeing that makes a town strong and vibrant.
As can be seen by this discussion, there are two ways to look at the Treaty. One determines who has Maori blood, who can recite their tribal identity and ancestry, and then accords treaty rights to them as agreed to by the Queen in 1840.
The other acknowledges that something remarkable happened in the long history of British Common Law... in New Zealand it married a very different tradition: law married lore to create a new nation. As we struggle with the reparations, the sins and crimes of previous generations, we realise the Maori version of the treaty has a promise for anyone in Nu Tirani (New Zealand) who embraces it. It is not a message of treaty claims, but of treaty potential.
Imagine an Aotearoa / New Zealand where communities are structured in ways that their people take care of their own, where they respect the life-giving capacity of the planet, where they live in face-to-face communities with a high level of human connection, and where they possess and understand true wealth. Whether by accident or intent, in the Maori version of the treaty, those words are there. They may be the way to build the world's most liveable city.
In traditional societies, the artists, musicians, the craft-makers, bards and other members of the creative class were supported. They were fed, clothed, given shelter and honoured for their work. Today, in our monetised society, we give the creative class lip service, but the pay is poor. They wait tables, drive taxis or do whatever they can to pay the bills so they can pursue their art. While some European nations provide economic support for their creative class, this depends on a high-tax policy.
The MarketTown came up with another approach. It borrows the original principle that the arts require support, but it embedded it in a way that it is paid for at the onset so the artists can focus on their art.
As part of the overhead, each village gets an artist guild hall, for say, 25 artists. The capital cost of the building, and small residential units for the artists is paid for out of the same overhead as the roads and water systems. Each hall has a number of overnight rental accommodations to generate funds to pay for ongoing costs, such as lights and heat. The artists do not pay rent, but are expected to do their art - to make the same sort of creative contribution that their ancestors did when they lived in tribal cultures. This makes the MarketTown more culturally enriched, more diverse as a society and it enhances its role as a visitor attraction.
History is made in the present and honoured in the future. Improving quality of life, reinforcing our sense of place and identity – and provide a legacy for future generations is something we can do today. But it does not come by accident. It requires intent.
The MarketTown will be new, but it has studied carefully what makes a place wonderful. Because it is that wonderfulness that future generations treasure. Shopping malls are torn down and no one mourns. Few tourists travel to suburbs to see the architecture. What is it about the wonderful places of the world that we so treasured? For the most part, it is not the patina of age, but the fact that the people who built the place intended to live there and pass it on to their descendants. They decisions were not purely based on ROI (return on investment).
The MarketTown enables people and communities to make the important decisions that will, in a few generations, make it a historic treasure.
In this photo you see two towns that have almost matching scale buildings, but the one in Spain looks authentic, with character. The one in California looks fake. Why? Because the California developer hired a designer but wanted to save money by ordering all the doors and windows from the same mass-production factory. They faked the appearance. Also, note the impact of the pedestrian plaza versus the motor-vehicle street. It changes the core character of the sense of place.
The MarketTown notes that the best sport is the sport played, not passively watched.
It is important to set aside land for recreation and sport. At the same time, it is important to be able to select land that will not produce cross-boundary conflicts.
Accordingly, the in-principle design of a MarketTown has a 100-hectare urban core surrounded by an equal amount of Greenbelt that includes sports fields, festival fields, equestrian grounds as well as reserves where people can walk, but Nature is primary.
This investment is part of the overhead the same as streets and water pipes. The sports fields will be for everyone, but during the school day, the schools get priority. The festival fields will be multi-purpose, celebrating the seasons on week, a farmers market the next, and parking for visitors when there is a large MarketTown event.
We recently heard a new term "free-range children". It's not a new idea, it never used to have a word, because it was normal. While formal sport is entertaining, there also is a place for a grassy hill and cardboard - and inventive children having fun. Home made horse races on the beach can be as much fun as a day on the racetrack.
New Zealand's number one export is milk. It's top imports are petroleum and cars. Imagine what would happen if NZ needed less petrol and fewer cars because it greatly reduced the need for day-to-day driving.
Traditionally, this nation suffered from the tyranny of distance, but with fibre-optic broadband anywhere in the world can be everywhere else at the same time. From an economic perspective it changes everything, and most importantly, it means the time of villages and towns has come once again. Businesses no longer need to concentrate in cities to be near their customers, suppliers, professionals and competitors. They can select location based on quality-of-life considerations. It is this new revolution, the technology revolution that makes the MarketTown concept economically feasible.
In Auckland's hot real estate market, higher-quality, lower-priced homes in a socially and culturally enriched community would sell out rapidly. However, it would be a mistake to sell first-come/first-serve. Instead, the MarketTown will focus on attracting head-of-household jobs. In this way, the people who will work locally will be the first eligible to buy or rent a home.
- This takes commuters off the road, removing thousands of cars from Auckland's highways.
- It keeps the villages alive and active during the day.
- It supports the cafes and restaurants during the work day.
- It provides children whose classrooms are on the plaza with working-adult role models.
- It provides more cohesion for families, who may all walk home for lunch or meet at the affordable village cafe.
To make this happen, the MarketTown uses mixed-use micro-zoning. Mixed use means workplaces in the villages, larger office buildings in the town centre and blue collar jobs in the walk-to industrial park. Microzoning means that the plazas have businesses with high foot traffic, whereas secondary pedestrian streets would have home offices with few visitors during the workday.
The other significant point of difference is how the price of homes is structured. As a prototype, an 80/10/10 pricing structure is used. 80% is the total cost - land, building, common investments. Then the purchase price includes a mandatory 20% in lieu of the social enterprise taking profits.
Half (10%) goes into a Legacy Fund that is used to provide financing and venture capital for the SME businesses that move into the MarketTown. Estimated as a fund of about $200 million, this enables those SME businesses to be more competitive. In addition to financing, the Legacy Fund employs top talent that assists those SME businesses to grow and become more profitable. In this way, private enterprise of individual businesses find that New Zealand, and in particular, the MarketTown enables them to be more successful. They can provide more jobs, so that the MarketTown achieves a target of zero unemployment and finds that all its citizens can enjoy a living wage or better.
The other 10% of the prototype project is used to start second generation projects elsewhere in NZ and overseas. This money comes back to the first MarketTown later on. We highlight the word "prototype" to make a distinction between a social enterprise and the subsequent projects built by mainstream developers. Once the first MarketTown is built in Auckland, it is hoped that the Council will include it as a permitted model that developers can build. They will set their own pricing and policies, but will find that it becomes a low-risk project that should have strong Council support.
But a light environmental footprint is so much more than native trees, plants and animals. It begins with how we physically build our communities. Do we use materials that are toxic, or that have a heavy environmental footprint? How long do we design our buildings to last? The NZ standard calls for 50 years. When one visits the old world one finds buildings that are hundreds, even thousands of years old, still in use. Setting a 175 year standard is good start. Then design those buildings to use less energy, but also to be future proofed.
Of course, the heaviest footprint the average Aucklander has is climbing into their car to accomplish the mundane chores of daily life. On a windless day standing on western Waiheke Island, one sees a brown layer that grows over Auckland. It's tailpipe exhaust. And that is only the visible layer. To lighten our footprint, move day-to-day destinations so they are within walking distance. Eliminate the need to drive rather than penalise drivers with higher road costs.
The reinvestment fund that generates about $200 million then means that this model can be spread worldwide. The press will talk about the Auckand model - the place where it began. There are in fact many good ideas for environmentally sustainable projects around the world, but all face the same problem. They do not generate money to replicate and they do not focus on making it easy for mainstream developers to adopt the development pattern.
This is a crucial point of difference with the Auckland MarketTown. It is mainstream, conservative, with a self-replicating funding plan, and totally committed to solving the many challenges facing humanity, including doing its part to reduce global carbon emissions.
This is the front line in the war between rural and urban in Auckland in 2015. Single-family dwellings packed tighter together built far from jobs, shops and activities. Driving is essential, the only way to get around. As more houses go in, congestion will get worse. As LA has discovered, no matter how many roads you build, congestion gets worse.
Auckland has a limitation. It is surrounded by water, which means only so much land can be developed before it looks like Los Angeles. The Rural Urban Boundary may be more like a battle line where the rural keeps retreating over the years, until there is little rural left, except the public reserves. The MarketTown offers two very practical solutions to this challenge, but one may seem counter-intuitive.
The best location for a MarketTown is in the middle of a rural area, not part of the urban. This is because the MarketTown is based on the old rural market towns that anchored the surrounding farmland. The MarketTown has the capacity to sign long-term contracts with the surrounding farms to provide an ongoing supply of local food. It has a market of 10,000 mouths to feed, every day, forever. In order to ensure the permanence of that rural land, it can be structured so that it purchases the development rights of the farms to guarantee its food supply. At present, much of the rural land in the Auckland region is poorly used. The MarketTown will be bringing in soil science, especially related to biochar and terra preta soil science to restore the life-giving capacity of the topsoil. It will invest in the soil to upgrade the food producing capability - more flavourful and healthier foods.
The other benefit of the MarketTown, which may or may not appeal to Auckland, is its replication quality. Does it make sense to pack a million more people into Auckland when many other parts of New Zealand are struggling economicall and socially - seeing their towns empty out because there are no jobs, no opportunity? A MarketTown is an economic engine. It creates wealth that it spends in the surrounding region. Yet it is designed to be economically self-supporting so that it is not dependent on the regional economy for its economic health. Part of the Auckland solution may be for Auckland to develop the MarketTown model and then replicate it in other regions that would welcome it. Spread the population growth out more evenly.
The Council's Priority 1 is "Realise Quality, Compact Urban Environments". The MarketTown is precisely that, indeed more than what the Council can otherwise expect. The quality will be exceptional, the density is based on the timeless old Europe towns. It should be noted that for hundreds, if not thousands of years, such compact design has worked. This is important. Other designs, like tenements, become slums. We fear that terraced housing more resembles tenements than towns. Compact yes, community no.
The Council's Priority 2 demands "Good Design in All Development". It's great to call for good design in an urban environment, but how can the Council do it? The problem lies in aligning the goal with the practice. What is proposed will produce reports and professional statements that the design is good. But what makes a good design? During the research phase, this issue was carefully studied. Why are the old places in the world, often more wonderful than those built in our lifetime? The answer turned out to be in how decision-making was made. As noted elsewhere in this website, when the people who will live with the effects make the decisions, they decide on more than resale value, especially if they are making a long-term or multi-generational commitment to live there.
Thus, it becomes important to restructure the development process, and this is something the Council can do. It is in the interest of the developer to presell. It substantially lowers the risk. If the Council introduces a presell process of decision-making and the extra cost of quality design details comes not from the developer but the end buyer, there is no obstacle to enhancing quality design. The MarketTown Dynamic Engagement process is specifically set up to do this, and to enable the Council to lead in pursuing its priorities.
Auckland's Priority 3: Create Enduring Neighbourhoods, Centres and Business Areas is what MarketTowns is all about. We call the neighbourhoods Villages. We call the centres plazas, and each village gets one. We do not divide the business areas however. In traditional towns people worked locally. They only began to set aside business areas when the Industrial Revolution made a lot of business noxious, noisy, smoky and even toxic. Then offices needed a whole room full of typists and another of book keepers. All of that is now history. The reasons to separate business areas from residential neighbourhoods are historic, and they continue more out of habit than reflection.
Housing prices in Auckland are out of control, and quality compared to other first-world nations is at the low end of the scale. There are many reasons why, and the job of the MarketTown is to identify and address each one.
Land Prices: We propose an unusual PPP with the Council. In order to get land prices under control, the Council and the MarketTown will work together to identify sufficient land (preferably about 200 hectares with 50% greenbelt) that is zoned at a farm price. The MarketTown will agree to purchase the land at the farm price and not apply a capital gain once it is rezoned. In other words, if the land costs $40 million and 4,000 units are built, the raw land charge for each house will be $10,000. This will take hundreds of thousands of dollars off the price.
Building Systems: New Zealand's building construction methods are peculiar to say the least. Described as bespoke, the word conjures up images of Savile Row tailors, when, in fact, the construction methods are inefficient, costly, slow and problematic. The Germans have developed far more advanced systems that build far better buildings in much shorter periods of time that will last longer, are much more beautiful and cost less. In essence, they are built as modules in factories taking days to manufacture and hours to erect on site. These can substantially cut the cost of buildings, yet offer much longer-lasting and more flexible designs.
Affordable Housing and Workplaces: The prototype MarketTown will be built by a Social Enterprise, meaning it will introduce a formula for pricing based on its cost and then hammer on the costs. It expects that once built there will be substantial capital gains because of the desirability of the finished product. It may put in place certain measures to encourage long-term ownership rather than speculation (which is counterproductive), but it also sees the need for permanently affordable housing in order to support a complete community. It proposes to accomplish this through a scheme called parallel market housing (click on the link to read more).
Build for seven generations: The engineering standard for a building in NZ is 50 years. This is the standard one would expect for an immature nation, a new nation before it begins to understand its own permanence. In older civilisations, they began with short-term buildings but eventually worked out that communities last for many generations even as each generation of decision-makers dies. The MarketTown design is based on mature planning, but using advanced computer design/build technology to make the buildings both cost-effective and long lasting. The engineering standard should be closer to 175 years.
- Design for a Magnitude 9 earthquake. Design the buildings in which the structural units are 3-D modules, not 2D panels.
- Build non-combustible and sprinkled so fire safety is prevention. Use non-toxic traditional, proven bulk materials, simple but beautiful.
- Design for drought, for flood, for category 5 cyclones & tornados, for a global population explosion. Design for a more hostile climate, but provide for a better life.
- Construct the buildings in factories using 3D printing in modules that go up in hours on site. If the scientists are right, and catastrophic sea level rise occurs, the whole town can be elevated or moved to higher ground.
In the RMA, this is called, "the foreseeable needs of future generations. It is done by intent. It is done by design.
Why can't we build like this? This Italian design is not complicated, but it is so human-scaled. On the ground floor, shops and cafes. They are protected from the elements by an upper floor living space for the residences above. The absence of cars makes it enjoyable to sit outside and watch the world go by.
Auckland has designated certain areas as SHA, but the developers are not building. The problem is insufficient roads, and the Watercare water and wastewater pipes are not servicing the property. We ask one of those obvious questions: Why, in the 21st century are we still looking to 20th century solutions?
- Let's start with roads. Put in fibre optic broadband and focus on discouraging commuting, be it by car, bus, ferry or rail.
- Water and waste water: Harvest rainwater from rooftops (best solution is to build rooftop glasshouses that also grow food and capture solar energy)
- Store that water locally. Do not put in pipes to a central treatment plant.
- Implement advanced water reuse systems to cut the average household use to about 20% of what Aucklanders use.
- Install multiple pipes to each house so that waste water is captured and segregated for different processing systems
- Do not build a sewage treatment plant. Instead build a surplus resource processing system that cascades water use and generates biofuel and fertiliser
- If the MarketTown is too far from Auckland Airport, build a commuter air strip (no GA flights only commuter)
- Tie into the national electric grid but contract to be an electrical supplier through the use of solar panels
- Store the town-supply power in Vanadium batteries. Lower the cost of electricity and thermal heat
- In the event the Alpine Fault takes out some of the hydroelectric dams, the MarketTown will not be affected
The advances in technology world-wide are phenomenal, the costs are competitive but municipal governments are slow on the uptake. Why? Because municipal decision-makers tend to be risk aversive. If it works, don't change it. The MarketTown comes from a different perspective. It has a clean slate opportunity. It can put in the best systems. Further, this breaks the developer bottleneck. If the systems installed are paid for by the buyers, then the developer does not need to wait for Watercare to work through its priority list to provide pipes.
This is a sewage treatment plant in New England USA. It is located directly behind businesses on the main commercial street, and in front of natural wetlands. The bioremediation system is housed in a 22 x 12 m glasshouse. The plant treats 20,000 litres of sewage per day and has an upper limit of 27,000 litres. Waste is treated to secondary potable standards through natural wetland processes, using no chemicals. The resulting effluent could be used to irrigate plants, flush toilets, or be discharged to the surrounding wetlands. The operator says that if they were to build it today, they would not purify the water to potable standard them discharge it but rather first extract its caloric value to make biofuel.
The MarketTown proposes a mixed-use, walking home range. Place the school classrooms on the plazas so children walk to work and have adult role models as part of their education. Enable businesses to open small enterprises in the villages, or occupy 4-story office buildings in the town centre. Build the industrial park within walking distance. Do all of this, and you take about 6,000 cars off the road. It is very hard to get accurate statistics in Auckland, but in America, this would cut driving by a quarter million miles a day.