The Auckland Spatial Plan contains a vast number of goals, objectives, broad thinking and so forth – but perhaps more importantly two key focuses: the city centre (to be implemented through the City Centre Master Plan) and the Southern Initiative. The Southern Initiative is described in the Strategic Direction section of the Auckland Plan:
Southern Auckland is a centre of economic activity with huge potential to contribute still further to NZ’s economy. At the same time it has many residents suffering significant social and economic disadvantage. Through collaboration with other agencies and existing initiatives, great progress can be made to meet skill shortages and address disadvantage through a place-based solution in an area of high social need.
The Southern Initiative includes the areas of 4 local boards: Mangere-Otahuhu, Otara-Papatoetoe, Manurewa and Papakura. This area is characterised by high population growth with large numbers of young people. Known as our gateway to New Zealand, this area has high employment opportunities, yet many local residents live with significant social and economic disadvantage and need. The magnitude and scale of under-achievement in education, high rates of unemployment and health inequalities make this an area for national attention. The prime focus is to strengthen children and families, and to support stable homes. As a matter of urgency, initiatives in this area will focus on early childhood learning – which also supports and upskills parents and guardians, raising educational achievement – and youth. Other initiatives will be staged over time with housing initiatives starting in Mangere.
The Southern Initiative will be championed at a mayoral level, working at the highest levels with central government. It will include a community development approach, support local leadership, and build policies on existing community strengths. Policies and maps that identify the sequencing, timing and the type of interventions to make this area successful are included in Chapter 1. Learnings and innovation will be shared across other areas of Auckland.
A number of key elements to the Southern Initiative are described in more detail in the “People” chapter of the Auckland Plan, and critically include a focus on improving public transport: I’m glad that improving public transport is seen as a critical part of making a real difference to the social and economic wellbeing of the part of Auckland that struggles the most. It has always seemed rather odd to me that the south and west of Auckland probably suffer from some of the worst public transport in the whole region when people living there would probably benefit most from having a good system, by reducing their reliance on the car and perhaps meaning families can get by on one car instead of two – with the saved money helping to pay the bills and put food on the table.
Because our public transport system is so focused on the CBD, ironically we end up in a situation where the southern part of Auckland isn’t benefitting from having so much employment located within the local area. Using the excellent Mapnificent tool, you can tell that employment areas in South Auckland are pretty poorly served by public transport. Compare the large industrial area around the Airport with Newmarket – the highlighted area showing what’s accessible by a 30 minute public transport trip: Things are similarly poor (although not quite so bad) in East Tamaki: Of course this only shows one aspect of what makes a good public transport system. You’ve also got to add in frequency and simplicity of routes – which generally I think is done badly in the south.
I will certainly be waiting with interest to see what “Significantly Improved Public Transport” actually means in terms of implementing the Southern Initiative.