To an outsider, New Zealand appears to have everything. Beautiful beaches, a perfect climate, some of the world’s most stunning landscapes, a young female Prime Minister, and a booming economy.
On the surface, New Zealand might be just three small islands in the South Pacific, but it packs a punch. Immigration statistics over the last few years is evidence to this.
A simple stroll through Auckland’s CBD will show you there’s a lot going on. Two mega projects for a start; one that will totally reshape the commercial landscape of the Britomart area, the other; a $850m multi-use mega project at the beating heart of Auckland city – the NZICC at Auckland Sky Tower.
Around the corner on Customs Street the world’s largest construction company, China State Construction, is building a 56-story luxury residential high rise which is set to be the 2nd largest building in NZ.
A Tale Of Two Cities
A recent trip to Singapore has led me to draw parallels between the two countries. There are many beyond that of them both being part of the Commonwealth.
Singapore’s meteoric economic rise launched a landscape of towering architecture in the compact city-state, but as the metropolis continues to grow, urban planners are weaving nature throughout.
Singapore calls itself the “Garden City”. Green building practices have been mandatory for every construction contractor in the city since 2008.
A bicycle ride through the streets of Singapore works as a total juxtaposition to that of Auckland. The air is clean and the streets are spotless. Trees and gardens are rooted in buildings and cascade over the streets. Homelessness is below 1% and 90% of people own their own home. It is also ranked the second safest city in the world to live in.
To put their efforts into perspective, Auckland is home to 1.4 million people within 1,086 km² of land, while Singapore is home to a population of 5.6 million within just 719.9 km².
The Dark Side To Auckland’s Economic Boom
In 2017 Stuff reported that New Zealand experienced a reported burglary every 7 minutes. There are approximately 24,000 homeless people living on the streets in Auckland right now, and the situation is worsening.
Take a quick walk around the CBD and you’ll easily spot dozens of homeless people, many of whom are comatose as a result of smoking synthetic drugs. It’s horrifying.
There’s a problem in Auckland and unless the thinking changes, it won’t go away. 50 years ago, Singapore was filled with slums and choked with congestion. Rivers had become open sewers and people struggled to find decent employment. Land was limited and, almost most surprisingly, there were no natural resources. In the short span of 50 years, Singapore has built a clean, modern city with a diversified economy and reliable infrastructure.
Auckland Looking To The Future
It’s simply not acceptable for Auckland to continue to grow without thinking about sustainability or updating its building practices. Many within the industry consider current H&S standards and construction methodologies to be around 10-15 years behind that of other global cities.
Tower cranes in Auckland are at an unprecedented high, with over 80 cranes scattered across the cityscape. The majority of those buildings will be built without a Green Star rating.
The Green Star rating is awarded to buildings that work to create a healthy place for people and minimise their environmental footprint. Of the many projects currently under construction in Auckland, very few if not any have considered natural resources in the design of the building. Gardens, green areas, ponds and areas for tree-scape should all factor in to the design.
There’s Still Hope
It’s great that Auckland is experiencing a construction boom, but sustainable urban planning must be brought up to date and developed into something similar to that of Singapore. Rich in wildlife and biodiversity, Singapore has planted over three million trees. Recently I saw one solitary person protesting against the destruction of over 30 trees in the Auckland CBD.
Singapore is planting the future, while Auckland is tearing it down.
It doesn’t have to be like this. There’s still time to use this budding economy and strong migration to reinvent what Auckland could be. It’s not about becoming another Singapore, but lessons can be taken from a society that does so many things right.
I hope that one day I walk through an Auckland rich in culture, nature, diversity and wildlife. A country that gets this right will be a wealthy country in more ways than one.