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Creating peri-urban magic
One of the definitions of peri is a graceful, lovely Persian fairy. The definition of urban, within New Zealand at least, refers to the high-profile Kiwi fantasy actor (and former Shortland Street star) Karl Urban. So something that is peri-urban is fleeting and beautiful, a key part of our local mythology but also hard to believe it exists in real life.
More mundanely, peri-urban areas are those semi-rural areas that live on the fringe of a city or town. They have a close economic and cultural relationship to their neighbouring city. In fact, they are often governed by the city’s local authority - but they also live hidden in the fringes.
Growing populations and expanding cities create interesting planning challenges for them.
Our northern cities of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga are rapidly pushing peri-urban areas outwards. Or subsuming them. Farms are subdivided and turned into new suburbs. New residents move in, bringing with them the need for new facilities – schools, shops, paths and community resources.
One of the things peri-urban areas need most when this happens is well-thought-out long-term planning. From our perspective, that means putting in a network of walkways, cycleways and tracks that connect people in these new homes to all the facilities around them, and to other neighbouring suburbs and the encroaching city.
If done well, good public access can be fantastical, magical, and local – our definition of peri-urban. But it can also be real, tangible, and meaningful to the local people who benefit.
We must get this right before the peri-urban areas convert to suburban ones. Because retrofitting good public accessways after a suburb goes in is both less effective and more expensive.
The Commission has the expertise to help our peri-urban areas develop good public access for their growing populations. Currently, we are working with communities to the north and south of Auckland designing a network of trails that will ensure those communities are connected by more than just cars and motorways.
To the north, in and around Matakana, we are working in partnership with Auckland Council, the Matakana Coast Trail Trust, Ngāti Manuhiri, the Department of Conservation and the NZ Transport Agency to create a network of trails on the northern boundary of Auckland – from Pūhoi to Pākiri.
The local community has a vision for how it wants things to be; in 20 years’ time, once there are tens of thousands of people living in the area, every child should be able to walk, cycle or even horse-ride to school, without having to travel on a road. We’re using our expertise to help make that vision a reality.
To the south, we worked with the Waikato District Council, the Waikato Regional Council, and the Franklin Local Board of Auckland Council to create a report that describes how to ignore the artificial boundaries between the Auckland and Waikato regions.
The report identifies needs for routes that would create a network of largely off-road tracks and trails for walking, cycling and, where appropriate, horse riding. These routes will connect communities, towns and natural amenities.
Our plan in coming years is to work with local authorities and local communities to make sure their peri-urban areas are fantastic places with magical public access.