Access, development and infrastructure

2016 CEO Eric Pyle for web landscape

14/10/2016 11:55am

The effort required to retrofit access into some of our urban and rural spaces suggests we have not got access policy right in the past. In future, access must be considered as part of our country's infrastructure, writes NZWAC chief executive Eric Pyle.

Infrastructure is frequently discussed in New Zealand at the moment. Roads are being built and railways invested in – at least around urban areas. And we are also talking about tourism infrastructure as we see a rapid growth in tourism arrivals.

In my view, access to the outdoors needs to be considered as part of New Zealand’s infrastructure. In urban areas we need to ensure that access is considered as part of new developments.

For example, Auckland Council and community groups are retrofitting cycling and walking access into the city. It is not cheap. But what if cycling and walking had been built into Auckland from the get go? What if we didn’t have to build a ‘SkyPath’ on the Harbour Bridge because it had been designed as part of the bridge infrastructure? What if a network of north-south and east-west walking and cycling trails were part of the pattern of the city?

And what if access was considered alongside tourism infrastructure in our tourist hotspot areas?

The effort required to retrofit our urban areas would suggest we have not got our access policy right in the past. Similarly the pressure we see on access in some of our rural areas would also indicate that we have not got access policy right when it comes to tourism.

Are we doing any better now? I would suggest that we are seeing some positive initiatives. The cycleways initiatives are going gang-busters. The outdoor access created around the MacKays to Peka Peka expressway is great. But we have some considerable distance to go.

Access should be a consideration as part of many other major infrastructure projects, such as the Puhoi to Wellsford Motorway, and reflected in our national policies for infrastructure, water and other relevant policy areas. Access should also be a serious consideration in urban planning and design. Proactive approaches should be debated and taught in universities in New Zealand. And access must be considered as an integral part of our planning for tourism infrastructure.

Policy does matter. Access should play a prominent part in the policy agenda in New Zealand, both in the urban and rural context. We must, for example, plan for access to the outdoors as we plan new roads and new subdivisions. We need to plan for access as an integral part of urban development planning – access as a key part of urban form. We must also plan for access as we plan for a substantial increase in tourist numbers in the next five or so years.

We do know for sure that if we continue with the same approach as we have had in the past we will get similar outcomes. Retrofitting access into the urban form is expensive and can be a source of conflict in communities. Access needs to be included in the tourism development agenda. Access needs to be an integral part of the debate in both urban and rural development and infrastructure. We can and need to do better in terms of creating and retaining access to the outdoors.

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