Creating New Zealand’s largest new town at Flat Bush in Manukau City presented the council with the opportunity to use an integrated approach to create a city that is a better place to live, work and play.
Flat Bush is the last significant ‘greenfields’ area in Manukau City. It covers approximately 1,700 hectares in the southeastern part of Manukau City (see Figure 1) and is the largest new town identified in the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy.
Currently, there are approximately 10,000 residents in Flat Bush, all of whom have arrived in the past 5 years. It is estimated that the population will reach 40,000 by 2020.
Flat Bush recently won a gold award in the ‘Sustainable built project’ category at the International Liveable Communities Awards held in London in December 2007. This significant global award was the culmination of over 10 years’ work and recognised the efforts made to plan for the future with this new community.
Greenfinger networks defined the structure
Council began comprehensive planning for the Flat Bush area in 1997. A 3-day community workshop identified the fundamental principles for development of the area, which were ultimately incorporated into the District Plan.
One of the key features identified in the workshop was the desire to protect and enhance the remnant native bush and natural creek systems that characterised this upper catchment area. As a result, approximately 27% of the area will never be built on. This percentage is considerably higher than typical suburban developments, where 10–15% open space is the norm.
These ‘greenfinger’ networks (see Figure 2) form the backbone for the urban structure and are an integral part of making Flat Bush more sustainable. Almost everyone living in Flat Bush will be within a 5-minute walk of the nearest greenfinger. Greenfingers provide important open space amenities to offset the higher residential densities and serve an important stormwater management and ecological function. The eventual result will be a four-fold increase in native bush throughout the catchment.
The landscape impact of the greenfingers is a powerful defining element that contributes to a special sense of place and is often referred to as ‘the lungs of Flat Bush’.
The importance of the public realm
The public realm is the essence of any great city. It consists of the streets, parks and spaces between buildings that shape how we view, use and experience our city on a daily basis. A great public realm is crucial to encourage alternatives to car travel and to develop inspirational cities and towns. Dr Seuss captures the importance of the public realm in his book Oh, the places you’ll go!: ‘You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there”… And you may not find any you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course you’ll head straight out of town.’
If we want people to walk, cycle or catch a bus, the public realm must support these functions (see Figure 3). It must not be focused solely on car travel.
Improving the public realm at Flat Bush
Specific initiatives in Flat Bush to improve the public realm include limiting front fences to 900 mm and restricting the position and percentage of garaging at the fronts of houses. These promote informal surveillance of the street by residents, increasing safety.
There are also rules to ensure that subdivision block patterns provide well-connected streets that maximise choices for movement by a number of modes. Cycle lanes are also provided on main roads.
Greenfinger corridors are lined by one-sided ‘park edge’ roads so that houses and people moving up and down these streets overlook the green space. This makes it safer and further enhances walking and cycling (see Figure 4).
If the greenfingers are the lungs of Flat Bush, the proposed town centre will be its heart. Although not yet built, the 18 hectare town centre will be adjacent to the 92 hectare Barry Curtis Park and will be much more than just a shopping centre (see Figure 5).
Based around a traditional ‘mainstreet’ concept, the town centre’s location on the eastern side of the Barry Curtis Park provides a focal point around which it can develop. It is intended that the town centre will contain a diverse range of activities including residential, retail, office, community, cultural and recreational activities, all within a compact pedestrian-friendly environment. All roads may lead to Rome, but in Flat Bush, all greenfingers lead to the town centre and provide easy access for great walking and cycling opportunities.
Manukau City Council, as the landowner of the town centre, is in a unique position to promote a vibrant mixed use town centre. The council has transferred the town centre land to Tomorrow’s Manukau Properties Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Manukau City Council. They are responsible for facilitating the development of this vibrant town centre and have recently signed a development agreement with Melview Developments for its design and completion.
Further information can be found at www.manukau.govt.nz/flatbush.
Articles are correct at the time of publication but may have since become outdated.