The Auckland Housing Accord between the Government and Council signaled a new intention to move ahead with urban regeneration at pace. Whilst the Accord has been a catalyst for a renewed energy within the private sector, it has also created an opportunity for progressive thinking and action within neighbourhoods across Auckland as public and private sectors explore new partnerships to deliver outcomes for communities.
Over the last two to three years, every developer now calls itself an “urban regeneration” entity. I don’t blame them. The Government and Auckland Council established the Tamaki Redevelopment Company (TRC) in East Auckland as one; both Wellington and Christchurch city councils are reviewing how urban renewal or regeneration structures might support its social housing obligations; and the Waterfront Auckland now regards itself as a regeneration company. So why the change? Regeneration or renewal is more than just housing. Rather than focus exclusively on bricks and mortar, it seeks to focus on the neighbourhoods in which these houses stand.
Take the TRC’s first neighbourhood regeneration project. OK, 230 new houses over 3-5 years. But when it was launched back in August, Minister Dr Nick Smith and Mayor Len Brown also launched a new Early Childhood Education (ECE) centre at the Glenbrae Primary School site for up to 60 kids, a refurbished old DOC building which had been left vacant for many years and had become the centre of anti-social behaviour, and vacant sites which will become 32 new Housing NZ homes. They also celebrated how the local college students were also part of the construction through work experience.
Building in greenfield sites is vastly different from brownfields. The latter has increased risks with the well established neighbourhoods, residents and diversity of cultures. The approach that I developed and led for the TRC was called “The Neighbourhood Approach”. It is centred on the principle “resident comes first.” This is realised by providing residents ways to affect their neighbourhoods future; while eliminating the uncertainty and confusion that comes with the lack of on-going engagement. Community leaders from other parts of Tamaki (and across the country) might have a view but it is the resident within that ‘hood’ who knows the challenges they face and how they can contribute to their city. It is also recognises that neighbourhoods are unique in their needs and aspirations.
Urban regeneration is complex. It means the different arms of local and central government working in coordination and in partnership with the local community and the private sector. It also means the continuation and strengthening of a company’s social license to operate in that community. The neighbourhood approach therefore provides ballast to what most companies wish for the most – a well engaged and agile organisation which is responsive to the needs of its residents or customers.
Peter Fa’afiu is an experienced executive and governance practitioner who developed the neighbourhood approach for the TRC. He is a co-founder of Navigator Limited.