Koanga (spring) might be just around the corner but a stormy winter is hanging on with both hands across the motu this week.
Header image this week from a New Yorker cover by Jean-Jacques Sempé.
The week in Greater Auckland
Monday’s post was about Parliament’s announcement of an inquiry into the future of inter-regional passenger rail.
On Tuesday, we covered Auckland Council’s excellent piece of strategic planning work that is the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway.
On Wednesday, Matt wrote about the new Sustainable Public Transport Framework, which is set to replace the Public Transport Operating Model.
Yesterday, a guest post by Ella Kay explained Germany’s €9 public transport ticket and what it’s like to take a peak summer trip using it.
Council approves the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway
In a full-day meeting devoted entirely to debating the TERP today, Council voted 17-4 in favour of adopting the plan. There was serious enthusiasm in the room, and praise for the council staff who presented the document. Phil Goff’s speech included these words (transcribed):
We have a window of opportunity but it’s closing rapidly. We know we have to act now. And this TERP is the pathway to convert our plan into the action that we need, to meet our commitments, our responsibility, and to show leadership.We are elected to show leadership and we need to do that. It’s not good saying other places cause more emissions […] we know ours are the fifth highest per person in the world […] we have an obligation to act. To the rest of the world, to our own community, most of all to our kids.
Climate activists are feeling both hopeful and empowered by the TERP. All Aboard’s Zoe Brentnall spoke about the plan on Radio new Zealand earlier in the week.
…the group was among the first to hail the “fast, fair, and affordable” plan to reduce emissions by 65 percent over the coming eight years.
Auckland’s Mayoral candidates had more of a mixed response to the plan, as reported by Todd Niall, who reached out to just about every candidate on the list to find out what they were thinking. Efeso Collins, the only candidate who’s also currently in Council, voted in support of the plan. Wayne Brown appeared not to have read the TERP yet, and Viv Beck described it as ‘virtue signalling’.
The centre-right endorsed candidate Viv Beck on Tuesday morning said she wanted more time to read the document, and by the end of the day described the plan as “virtue signalling”. If elected, she would put in place “a practical, credible plan to bring down emissions”.
Sir Bob Harvey on what Auckland could become
Former Waitakere City mayor Sir Bob Harvey hits all of Tāmaki Makaurau’s most pressing issues in this lovely essay about looking forward, being ambitious, and creating a powerful vision for the future of the city.
With amalgamation sorted, Unitary Plan and all, it’s time to activate a unified vision. This is the electric century, our chance to become a truly multi-modal city. Hard to believe it’s half a century since I worked on concepts for light rail with Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, a mayor of astonishing vision. He knew that we’d led the world in public transport usage, and we could do it again.
It’s exciting to see the City Rail Link nearing completion, delivering on Robbie’s promise. So what’s next? For one thing, this is the age of bikes, and especially electric bikes. When I cycled from town to Piha as a relatively fit teenager, it took me most of the day. Now, with a battery on your bike, anyone can fly from one side of the city to the other, a joy that should be available to everyone.
Greater Wellington Regional Council’s approves Aotearoa-first binding emissions target
GWRC is the first regional council in NZ to set a binding emissions target, after it unanimously voted in favour of its new Regional Policy Statement. The proposed changes to the regional plan are focused on reducing transport emissions, among other changes to protect freshwater systems and ecology. But its biggest impact will be to reduce car-dependent sprawl.
Under the new plan, developers wanting to build a 200-house subdivision on the outskirts of the region would have to demonstrate no increase to emissions – whether through the building of the houses or by creating heavy car dependency among its residents – before being granted consents.
Hamilton’s climate action plan approved
Thursday was a big day for climate action in local councils. Yesterday, Hamilton City Councillors unanimously approved a new climate change action strategy. The strategy, named Our Climate Future: Te Pae Tawhiti o Kirikiriroa, sets out climate emission reduction targets and a vision for the future of Hamilton as a thriving, low-carbon city.
“Let’s make the next three years the years of delivery,” said councillor Sarah Thomson, deputy chair of the environment committee, speaking in support of the strategy. Visibly emotional, she drew attention to a child in the audience, saying : “This is the reason we are doing this.”
Life in the Quarter-hour paradise
Started by Wellington-based urbanists Oliver Bruce and Isabella Cawthorn, Quarter-hour Paradise are a cool new advocacy group talking about the benefits of life in a fifteen-minute city. Or as they call it, a quarter-hour paradise (a name which Greater Aucklander Jolisa is given credit for on the website’s ‘who we are’ page!)
Quarter-hour paradise [idiom; New Zealand:] a vibrant urban community where residents have everything they need within a 15-minute walk, scoot or bike from their warm, affordable home.
Come explore different dimensions of the #quarterhourparadise with us! This week: #neighbourhoodsforlife! Great when you're a kid, great when you're old. No need to wait to start living til you've got a car (or stop living when you can't drive anymore). #aginginplace pic.twitter.com/YRgkJIyEIZ
— Quarter-hour Paradise (@15minParadise) August 11, 2022
Bret McKenzie’s driving less
Some weeks, it feels like we’re seeing modeshift everywhere. This interview with Conchord and ‘Muppet Man’, musician Bret McKenzie, begins with his ambitions to reduce his transport emissions.
Bret McKenzie – Academy Award-winning Muppet man – is an environmentally friendly chap.
He has cycled through torrential rain from his house near Wellington Zoo into the city arriving sopping wet to talk about his new solo album and tour. In the interests of the planet he cycles more, drives less.
The week in flooding bursts its banks
The week in flooding is very much not over yet. It’s been a shockingly wet day, well, everywhere. As Radio NZ reported on Thursday evening:
As an extreme ‘atmospheric river’ continues to dump rain across most of New Zealand, a State of Emergency has been declared in Nelson-Tasman and the West Coast regions. Northland is also affected by flooding. Here’s what you need to know.
The West Coast of Te Wai Pounamu has once again been drenched and is bracing for a second front of heavy rain. Meanwhile, in Nelson-Tasman, residents faced flooding the likes of which they’d never seen before.
Residents on this street in Atawhai which has been completely destroyed have been rescuing eels and fish from the flood waters, hoping to avoid a localised extinction event.
Truly hellish scene in Atawhai, shared by someone on FB just now. pic.twitter.com/Q8CGTTnnWX
— Naomi Arnold (@naomiarnold) August 17, 2022
And the Maitai river swelled beyond recognition.
People that have lived here for 20 years haven’t seen the river like this before. pic.twitter.com/rID7GylriZ
— Aloha Kate Davis ( the red on the bed ) (@kateinthebay) August 17, 2022
The week in heatwaves gets its own headline
While we’re facing floods here, heatwaves are leading to fires and drought in parts of the northern hemisphere that aren’t used to such sustained heat.
— Ross Lydall (@RossLydall) August 15, 2022
The news from last week’s roundup is still news: Europe’s major rivers have never run so low, slow or warm.
With no significant rainfall recorded for almost two months across western, central and southern Europe and none forecast in the near future, meteorologists say the drought could become the continent’s worst in more than 500 years.
And the unusually dry conditions could continue for the next few months, increasing the risk of drought throughout the continent.
One strange side effect of the heatwaves is what’s been revealed on river and lake beds that are usually deep underwater. The remains of from WWII wrecks, to flooded towns and ancient ruins have emerged.
In Rome, meanwhile, drought sapped the River Tiber and unveiled a bridge that’s thought to have been built during Emperor Nero’s rule. This summer’s extremely hot and dry conditions in Italy forced the government to declare a state of emergency in July.
In Los Angeles, more lanes are apparently the solution
Transport planning is having an identity crisis, and there’s lots of change to work through yet. A visibly frustrated op-ed at the LA Times asks why the Los Angeles County’s transportation department is adding 363 miles of new highway alongside its plan to build 100 miles of new rail.
Yes, you read that right — we are spending tens of billions of dollars to make climate change and traffic worse. The expansion of highways will do far more harm than the expansion of mass transit will avert.
As a region, our day of reckoning is here, and we need to ask ourselves some key questions. Why do we continue to widen highways when we know that such projects never solve traffic, and in fact induce more people to drive? When will the use of taxpayer dollars match our stated climate goals?
Understanding parking excesses
Are you a parking nerd yet? If not, this article at The Conversation will turn you into one. It’s a deep-dive into the state of public and private parking in Melbourne, drawing on data from around the world to understand patterns of parking use.
It’s harder to come by data on how parking space is used. Comparing 2016 Census data on total car ownership (36,951) in the City of Melbourne to residential parking spaces (49,500) suggests there are 12,549 surplus residential car parking spaces – a 25% vacancy. Another study surveying eight inner Melbourne apartment buildings found car parks were between 30% and 40% empty.
Which reminded us of this gem…
On Thu 18/8/2022 at 1:00 PM I have 281 unused parking spaces. I am 67% empty. pic.twitter.com/M2loMUY1Ld
— Toka Puia (Takapuna) Carpark (@tokapuiacarpark) August 18, 2022
Denver’s plan to shift transport investment to sustainable modes
Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton… and now Denver, Colorado, caught our eye for its new plan focused on reducing transport emissions. Next month, the Denver Regional Council of Governments will vote on a new long-term transport plan that aligns with the state’s emissions reduction goals.
The new plan would ax planned expansions of Interstate 25 and C-470 and cut or minimize similar widenings on smaller roads across the region. It would also move $900 million away from road expansions to fund climate-friendly transportation projects, including projects that would overhaul busy streets to help public buses move faster.
Brussels lands its low traffic centre
This week was a big week for Brussels: on Tuesday, its new mobility plan came into effect. A low-traffic circulation plan changes the way vehicles can move around Brussels, dividing the city centre up into a collection of traffic cells. The plan is the result of a ‘green wave’ of politicians elected in 2018 with a focus on environment and safety issues.
“If you look at the numbers, only 20 to 25 percent of the people who live or come to work here use cars,” [Bart Dhondt, the city’s alderman for mobility] said. “Most of our traffic comes from people driving through to other places so we’re sending them out of the city center.”
“The objective of all of this is to create more space for people to live, for kids to play, for residents to be able to walk and cycle safely,” he added.
From today, a new circulation plan comes into effect in the center of Brussels. Through-traffic by car will be discouraged and there'll be more space for pedestrians, cyclists and residents. It's an important step, we're curious to see the results & hear about your impressions! pic.twitter.com/oJrh2Aijhc
— Heroes for Zero – Brussels (@HeroesforZero) August 16, 2022
Celebrating the invention of the bicycle
In a book review on The Economist of Jody Rosen’s Two Wheels Good, the writer points out that the bicycle is –
…the most popular form of transport ever known to humankind except for its own two feet. For that is what the bicycle is. More are manufactured each year in China alone than automobiles are made worldwide. Globally, almost half of households own a bicycle, far more than have a car. As Mr Rosen argues, “the cities and towns we inhabit, our economies, our laws are designed for cars; we hop between continents on airplanes. Yet we live on a bicycle planet.”
And it’s clips like this one which show us just how easily our streets and cities could become bicycle places once again.
One of the busiest bike intersections in the world, just up the street from the entrance to the biggest bike parking facility in the world. Imagine if instead of those bikes & buses, everyone was moving in cars. In Utrecht, Netherlands. HT @Sustainable2050 pic.twitter.com/k8k1orHEYG
— Brent Toderian (@BrentToderian) August 18, 2022
Drum’n’bass on a bike rolls through Dublin
With thousands of fans in tow, DJ Dom Whiting cruised along the River Liffey in Dublin last weekend. Bikes, a crowd, a summer’s day – what’s not to love?
— Alan D (@AlanDub13) August 15, 2022
Tribute to a chronicler of bicycles
We’ll leave you with this lovely eulogy to the French cartoonist and illustrator Jean-jacques Sempé, who may be best known outside France for his many New Yorker cover illustrations. One of Sempé’s recurring themes was the bicycle.
Bikes are everywhere in Sempé’s work. Sometimes they are used to narrative effect, like when he shows the evolution of commuting from a single house, from bicycle to car and back again. But often they are just there to be ridden, in hundreds, if not thousands, of sketches of smiling people on bikes having a good time, presumably shirking their boring jobs to go for a ride. The Prime Minister of France shared one such image to commemorate his death; the mayor of Paris recently used another one as her Christmas card.
Stay warm, dry and afloat this weekend! A tērā wiki.