On Wednesday the latest and one of the best Auckland Conversations took place with the renowned Gil Penalosa in Auckland and talking about creating vibrant and healthy cities. It’s something I think all current or aspiring politicians should watch.

The talk was full of energy and passion for improving cities for all residents regardless of age, wealth or social status. He focuses on the need to improve out public spaces to improve the health and livability of cities and that includes the single biggest source of publicly owned space in cities, our streets. To do that it also requires we deal effectively with the CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) and how we need to stand up to the civic cadavers who resurrect themselves every few years to oppose change.

How can we create vibrant and healthy cities for everyone, regardless of age or social status? What is the role of streets – the largest public space in any city? How can parks improve the quality of life that attracts and retains people to their communities?

Gil answers these questions while also explaining a simple and effective principle for inclusive city building: ensuring the safety and joy of children and older adults (from 8 year olds to 80 year olds) are at the forefront of every decision we make in our cities. Drawing on his experience as Commissioner of Parks and Recreation in Bogota, Gil presents some of the now widely celebrated approaches to urban regeneration through investments in parks and public spaces. Gil also draws upon examples from cities around the world which demonstrate the power of parks and public space in making lives happier, communities better, and economies stronger.

and if you want an audio only version,

Did you go or have you watched the talk, if so what did you think.

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  1. I went to the same presentation in Wellington the day before. Gil Penalosa was definitely inspiring and full of energy. However as with many of these things, I suspect that the audience was largely on-board already and it was a case of preaching to the converted. The need is to get the car-dependency advocates to hear such speakers, though it may well be that they deliberately keep away from such occasions because they do not want their philosophies challenged and have no intention of changing.

    Gil’s talk was powerful but also humorous and full of poignant quips. One that aptly sums up the absurdity of continuing to prioritise cars over people when the outcomes are so demonstrably undesirable:

    “Common Sense – The least common of the senses” !

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