Auckland is now one of the largest (and most rapidly growing) urban areas in Australasia however 200 years ago it was nothing more than a modest collection of businesses and homes clustered around the bays and ports of Waitemata Harbour.
As Auckland continues to strengthen its position as a prominent Australiasian hub, its evolution is fostering a centre that’s rich in commerce and trade whilst accommodating to a healthy tourism industry.
The rate in which Auckland is developing shows no signs of slowing and for this reason The Urban Developer sat down with Craig Davidson, Regional Managing Director of AECOM New Zealand, to discuss the current factors shaping Aucklands future.
Medium projections from Statistics NZ suggest that Auckland will hit 2 million people by 2033, after hitting 1 million as recently as 1996.
This puts pressure on all aspects of the Auckland market – from housing, to infrastructure. As a society, we are increasingly aware of the pressures the environment is under, so as a whole, we have a better understanding of appropriate ways to interact with the natural world – we know rubbish can’t just be dumped anywhere and that water is a precious commodity that needs to be conserved.
Each year, more beaches around suburban and central Auckland are designated off-limits for swimming, due to pollution from animal and human waste. Solutions are being developed, however, to mitigate the impact on the environment.
Watercare Central Interceptor, a proposed new wastewater tunnel that would connect to the existing combined sewer and stormwater networks in order to divert flows and overflows into the tunnel. Encouraging recycling and driving waste minimisation by reducing rubbish bin sizes are working examples of demand management. The tunnel will be approximately 13 kilometres long and will lie between 22 and 110 metres below the surface. It will cross the Manukau Harbour at a depth of approximately 30 metres below the seabed. Along the proposed route it will connect to the existing trunk sewer network to divert flows and overflows into the tunnel.
Much of Auckland’s infrastructure is reaching a critical point in its lifecycle where steps must be taken to ensure the city is appropriately serviced in the years to come.
Alongside building new assets, optimisation of the existing infrastructure is a key mechanism to get greater efficiency out of what we have. It’s an ongoing process – one in which we as a city must understand what we have, what we need – and will need in the future – and finding the funds to make these changes.
The increasing creation and use of 3D digital models of new and existing infrastructure provides infrastructure owners greater understanding of their assets, optimising maintenance and repairs programmes and ultimately decreasing the whole of life cost of the assets. In the example below Auckland Airport have used these kinds of 3D modelling techniques to illustrate their expansion.
As part of a shift globally in awareness of the world around us and how we are impacted by it, the Auckland market is increasingly aware of the need for resilience in our amenities and assets, and ensuring that we have the ability to respond to disruptions, whatever may be the cause.
The three key areas of resilience are technical disruption, natural disasters, and the more insidious progress of climate change. Organisations are responding through investment in resilient infrastructure.
The Auckland Plan, as determined by Auckland Council includes specific provisions for “building systems that are resilient and robust and can adapt to sudden shocks, new technologies and longer-term shifts.”- which in turn affects the infrastructure projects in the works.
Auckland is up there with the likes of Sydney, Hong Kong and Vancouver when it comes to unaffordable housing. The average Auckland house value topped NZD1 million last year.
Different organisations, both businesses and government bodies, are bringing solutions to the table – from new developments to proposed rezoning of areas to allow for high density builds. Demand is far outstripping demand, with media coverage at every turn.
New mixed-tenure developments at Hobsonville Point are being built. Organisations like Auckland Community Housing Providers Network are developing solutions to re-purpose existing state housing stock with new buildings that make more efficient use of prime locations.
There is a growing expectation today from locals around the importance of amenities and placemaking. In order to stand out on the global stage and attract talent that enriches our city – and to retain those who already live here – it is vital that Auckland has public destinations that people get excited about.
Progress is already being made in this area – and more are in the works. These take place largely because of the expectations of people in the city – or those looking at coming here.
The entire Britomart precinct, transformed from bus stops and concrete into a fairy-lit destination for shoppers and people looking for a bean bag to take a break from walking in the city. Tank Farm redevelopment – now Wynyard Quarter and both a recreational and business hub.
Available funding rarely increases at the same rate as population growth, and as such, funding of necessary new infrastructure projects can may come from several different places. User pays options, including council rates and specific usage charges; centralised government funding; offshore funding such as private-public partnerships (PPPs).
The decision for any one project comes down to timeframes around the payback and the amount of debt asset owners can carry on their balance sheet. Innovation in funding models is a growing area of interest. Conversations are developing around Value Capture, though the concept is still quite unknown to many. Government and Council-funded projects often causing property values to skyrocket– and it’s appropriate to look at how to tap into those benefits.
There are also opportunities for flexible usage charges – such as charging users to use a new asset during peak hours, but not charging those travelling off-peak.
Auckland Council paid for development of new amenities in the Fort Street area in the CBD, transforming the area from a seedy part of down to a bustling, popular, pedestrian-friendly space – causing increases in property prices.
Photo Courtesy of Ludo Campbell-ReidDigital Enablement
Digital is driving efficiency. New systems allow greater understanding of assets, allowing the whole of life cost to come down.
Systems like BIM (building information modelling) can be used on structures and horizontal infrastructure alike to provide a precise image of what is there – meaning a trench can be dug in precisely the right location without impacting other pipes in the vicinity. In the past, engineers would design a road and the storm-water, gas, etc. piping, and a contractor would build in the general same area as the design stated – but wouldn’t necessarily update the drawings. BIM allows precision – future-proofing the asset.
An example of the kinds of software and digital modelling optimising infrastructure
is the Regional Managing Director and leads the AECOM team in New Zealand. Craig has had the opportunity to work across New Zealand, the United States and the Middle East. He's now compiled this experience into shaping the direction of the New Zealand business as AECOM move into an ever-changing, innovation-fuelled future.