It can be without doubt that Auckland is experiencing rapid change. 6 years ago I was interviewed by Andy Pickering, then editor of Pilot Magazine, who asked me what I thought the ‘future’ would hold. A lofty question, however at the time the media was relentlessly banging on about the ‘brain’ drain of Kiwis to Australia (which was raising the IQ of both countries) and to the rest of the world. It upset me. Why? Because I could see that the only way for New Zealand and Auckland to become more interesting, more open and more prosperous — would be for all of us to stop leaving and stay here.
My reaction to all this leaving, was a f*** you I’m staying. I’m staying right here, I’m going to keep engaging in the conversations and keep helping the clients I work with become more valuable, and to continue contributing to the business and cultural fabric not only of Auckland, but of New Zealand. After wandering the world, seeing New York and visiting London I had realised that all the raw materials were right here in New Zealand. Yes Melbourne is cultured and even Sydney is now too, but Australia is too hot and too racist for me, I like New Zealand — we’re still teenagers but growing up fast. It’s no wonder then that Auckland is experiencing growing pains and the teenagers are arguing with their parents as this city grows up.
Most Aucklanders have been following the new Unitary plan with interest. Those luckily enough to have brought into the market will have done well out of a property spike driven by a multitude of factors outside our control. But one relentless factor is that this town has been discovered. We have an endless stream of expats and new entrants who want to swap dreary London afternoons for something better back here on our fair shores and most of them end up in Auckland. Sure there are Auckland refugees who are selling up and moving to Papamoa or heading to the other regions of New Zealand and that’s a good thing too.
New Aucklanders are attracted by the change and opportunity. Where there are interesting people, there is energy, there is design, there is enthusiasm and there are jobs.
Drive to realise an idea or pursue a dollar are the fundamental principles that make great cities what they are. Auckland is on it’s way to be one of those cities. So this week it was disappointing to see the parents of Auckland had shouted down their children and convinced the Auckland Council to revisit it’s Unitary Plan (which is a plan for change). They don’t really want any development that doesn’t suit them in their leafy suburbs.Their argument that the process is undemocratic is spurious. If they’ve ever been to any great cities they should no that change stops for no one. Perhaps Papamoa is more appealing, because rest assured the Auckland of tomorrow doesn’t have time for those can’t stand change.
The Aucklanders of tomorrow need somewhere to sleep.
As this city continues to suck in those that want to do something interesting it’ll need to provide somewhere for them to live. What’s wrong with an apartment, a terrace house and other forms of low rise development? Have any of the parents of East Auckland ever visited Melbourne, London or New York? It’s plainly crazy that we shouldn’t just get on with it. Of course there were the forgotten years of the 1990’s when design sense left the city and a succession of shiny shoes obliterated the parts of the Auckland CBD with awful developments that still make our eyes bleed. However those parents of the East shouldn’t throw pebbles, anyone who can see will note there are blights in their backyard too.
Design is always about change. It’s very meaning is to take an existing situation and change to a preferred one. Of course this process is riddled with anxiety, it’s a scary place to not always know, but there has to be trust in the process to find out. It appears on face value that Auckland Council has spent a vast amount of money, pulled in experts and negotiated its way to where we are now. It also appears that the Council has been busy beautifying the city and encouraging development that is sensitive to design, putting the ghastly nineties behind it. I’m excited to see what will happen next in our little city by the sea. Looking at the cranes in the sky, the cycle ways, the developments in train all around Auckland, the future is uncovering itself. It’s not that scary.