Back in 1970, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens put out a song, and it went a little something like this:
I know we’ve come a long way,
We’re changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?
I live in the CBD, and my considered response to this rhetorical question is: where indeed? To my knowledge, there are just three playgrounds in the central city: one at Myers Park, one at Wynyard Quarter and another nearby at Victoria Park (let me know if I’m missing any). And, as we were all reminded recently, Myers Park is not without its problems.
Despite some great public spaces in the CBD, there are not many places where your kids can have a slide or a swing. The CBD is just not very family-friendly, and outside of events like the Santa Parade, children are actually quite a rare sight. The situation is improving – Wynyard Quarter and Britomart have revitalised the waterfront area, and there seem to be more families wandering around the bottom of town. Even so, we’ve got a very long way to go, if the CBD’s population is going to double in the next 30 years and if those people aren’t just going to be more students and DINKs (double income, no kids). So come on, Auckland Council, let’s get a few more playgrounds around the central city. How about, for starters, one in the Vector Arena/ Quay Park area, and one midtown – maybe Freyberg Square, where there’s already a Pumpkin Patch store?
Here’s what the CBD’s population currently looks like:
Of course, there’s a big bulge in the 20s – not surprising, with the universities and nightlife. There are also a lot more CBD residents in the early-30s range; after that, people seem to get the heck out of dodge and go and procreate somewhere else.
If you look at the under-14 population, it’s interesting that there are a few young kids in the 0-4 age bracket, and almost none at school age (5-14). I wonder why this might be?
According to the Ministry of Education’s Directory of Schools, there are more than 2,500 schools in New Zealand. That’s about one for every 1,800 people in New Zealand.
The Auckland CBD, with a resident population of 22,000 people – to say nothing of its working population of 90,000 – has just four schools: ACG Senior College, ACG New Zealand International College, Mindalive, and Kadimah. There are no state primary schools in the CBD (Kadimah is an integrated school, with a Jewish emphasis) and most central city residents have to take their kids to school in inner-city suburbs: Parnell or Freemans Bay. This reinforces car dependency, because it’s pretty hard to get your kids to those schools any other way except by car.
There are billions of dollars invested in the CBD, with plenty of public and civic facilities of regional importance. It’s strange that you can do just about anything in the central city, except take your kids to school there.
If the central city is going to grow, central government is going to have to come to the party, with school facilities. This won’t be cheap – high land costs and a lack of outdoor space for physical education will see to that – but it’s a necessary step.