Residents’ perceptions of Talbot Park

By - , Build 122

Resident involvement was valuable in making the Talbot Park community renewal project a success, but more could have been done to ensure people understood the implications of low-impact design.

1-bedroom accessible units.
Walk-up units at Talbot Park.
A starblock of units.
A large family home at Talbot Park.
Atrium 2-bedroom accessible apartments.

Talbot Park, a 5-hectare state housing neighbourhood in Auckland’s Glen Innes, was the site of a community renewal project between 2002 and 2007. Badly in need of an upgrade, Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC) sought to improve living conditions for residents and demonstrate sustainable urban design.

Glen Innes rates in the highest level of deprivation in the country, so many people expressed concern that higher density housing would result in high-rise horrors and future slums. Housing New Zealand therefore sought to rebuild a safer community by working with local government and the existing community.

Flagship for urban renewal

Contrary to pessimistic expectations, Talbot Park has become widely acknowledged as a flagship for sustainable community-based approaches to urban renewal (see Build 100 June/July 2007, pages 41–43). Residents’ involvement at the design phase created locally appropriate plans and strengthened links between existing community groups.

A wide variety of housing types, from small apartment blocks for single residents to a large 8-bedroom house for an extended family, were built to suit the community’s diverse needs.

Low-impact design included rainwater tanks, permeable paving, rain gardens and extensive low-maintenance plantings to increase on-site water management. Solar water heating to supplement electrical water heating cylinders was also trialled. Passive surveillance was ensured using the principles of crime prevention through environmental design.

Walk-up units at Talbot Park.

Talbot Park case study

The Talbot Park case study began in 2006 with a group of six ‘starblock’ residents. Interviews with 14 residents followed between February and July 2008. These residents had all been living in their new or renovated homes for about a year. Interviews and on-going interaction with project staff and within the broader Glen Innes community were also undertaken.

Residents feel happy and secure

Interviewees were happy in their new homes, and found Talbot Park a good place to live. Housing New Zealand reported in 2008 that, as a result of the project, tenancy turnover dropped from 50% to 4% per year and there was a waiting list of keen prospective tenants.

Glen Innes residents went from being highly skeptical about the renewal during the planning stages to ‘watching with interest’ during construction. Once the project was completed, perceptions changed to very positive. One person who expected the worst even conceded, ‘I’ve had to eat my words. It’s beautiful, I’m very impressed… It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to take pride in themselves and their living conditions.’

Residents perceived an intimate link between a sense of safety and their health and wellbeing. They generally liked the close proximity of neighbours as this made them feel safe and part of a community, as did the passive surveillance enabled by the principles of crime prevention through environmental design.

Homes were considered secure, warm and light, with adequate soundproofing between units. Outdoor balconies and small gardens were well designed to provide private outdoor areas without the work and cost of caring for a full section – an important consideration for people on low incomes.

Participatory design and top-down management

Housing New Zealand involved residents and community organisations in the design process. For example, residents requested that the homes not look like state houses. To accommodate this, housing designs from six different architectural firms were used.

A community development worker was employed on site during the establishment phase to build community connectivity and encourage engagement in community affairs. However, when it came to managing the neighbourhood, Housing New Zealand carefully screened prospective tenants and imposed strict rules for behaviour.

Despite some grumblings, residents generally supported this approach, and it was an example of the kind of support people needed to manage themselves well in this context.

Although the combination of participatory design, community development and intensive tenancy management may sound contradictory, all of these factors have been crucial to the project’s success.

Experiencing low-impact design

Residents liked the look and feel of the place – rain gardens and extensive landscaping have been important aspects of this – but most interviewees had limited knowledge of the range and purpose of the low-impact design approaches. For example, participants thought rain tanks were for water conservation only and were unaware of their benefits for retaining stormwater.

Local residents, iwi and conservation and recreational groups were consulted about sustainable urban design in the early stages. As a result, some issues raised by these groups (such as enhancing security and amenity, traffic calming and treating stormwater to protect the local receiving environment) were integrated into design solutions.

A starblock of units.

Information gap identified

Despite the successful consultations, residents did not feel well enough informed about the purpose and operational requirements of low-impact devices.

This highlights the need to:

  • build knowledge about the drivers for lowimpact design and medium-density housing
  • generate interest in urban environmental issues
  • enhance the performance of devices.

Success leads to further research

Going from a place with high resident turnover to a place with a waiting list, Talbot Park is a success on many fronts. These residents’ views are indicative of the positive effect for both social and environmental sustainability of local people participating in decisions about developing their neighbourhood.

Landcare Research is now working on a programme to improve urban resilience. Its focus is on community resilience and the integration of low-impact urban design, streetscapes and multiple voices in making decisions about urban development and redevelopment.

1-bedroom accessible units.
A large family home at Talbot Park.
Atrium 2-bedroom accessible apartments.

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Articles are correct at the time of publication but may have since become outdated.

1-bedroom accessible units.
Walk-up units at Talbot Park.
A starblock of units.
A large family home at Talbot Park.
Atrium 2-bedroom accessible apartments.

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