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AUCKLAND ISSUES

by Kevin Moore

 

Annual Plan Co-ordinator
Manukau City Council
Private Bag
Manukau City

10 May 2003

 

I note that citizens are invited to comment on the direction that Manukau City has been heading and to make suggestions as to where it should be heading. Having extended this invitation, I wonder if the city council able to accept a few truths about the direction in which it has been heading?

Contrary to all the media hype and self-congratulation that we are subjected to, it is very clear to environmentally aware and thinking people that over the past decade or so Manukau City Council has been leading the city in entirely the wrong direction - down a path toward unsustainability and dysfunction.

What basis is there for a statement like that? We need only to examine a few issues to realise how far off track the City Council has been.

 

Commercial and housing developments

Ten years ago the large tract of land between Howick and Manukau was productive farmland. Although records of the exact productivity of this land have probably been lost, it certainly produced large quantities of strawberries and other crops and provided grazing for numerous kinds of livestock, especially cattle. It would be a fair assumption that a portion of the cattle supplied milk for export or domestic consumption. The region also supported a wide range of wildlife, including many native species. The region supported activities that were more or less infinitely sustainable, i.e. they were the kinds of activities that have been engaged in here in New Zealand and elsewhere for many hundreds of years; there is every reason to believe that they could have been continued more or less indefinitely.

However, over the past ten years we have witnessed this region being rapidly transformed into one of the worst ghettos of unsustainable development in New Zealand. Fly-by-night developers have been encouraged to construct hundreds, perhaps even thousands of dysfunctional buildings that have not only been designed and constructed with no regard to thermal and environmental efficiency, but have also been constructed of shoddy materials, using poor construction techniques. If current reports on the state of these buildings are accurate, we can expect many of these buildings to require either major reconstruction or total demolition before they collapse. Those that are not demolished or upgraded will require unnecessarily large quantities of energy over their lifetime because of the total lack of thought when they were constructed. The city council has been party to this idiotic ‘development’.

It is very clear that whoever has been responsible for the ravaging of the land between Howick and Manukau has been locked into 1980s thinking and has failed to notice that the world has changed significantly since that time. In line with the retrograde thinking of the City Council, shoddy commercial developments have been encouraged. Huge tracts of land have been levelled and tar sealed to provide monstrous parking areas. What were pleasant country roads a few years ago have been converted into race tracks [can we be surprised that the hoon element in our society uses these race tracks for racing?] and where these race tracks intersect, mammoth dysfunctional junctions have been constructed, incorporating huge numbers of traffic lights. The effect of all this has been to create massive noise, air and water pollution problems where there were previously none and to congest the whole region with traffic. Such has been the chaotic ‘planning’ that large numbers of vehicles remain stationary for long periods of time with their engines ticking over, causing large quantities of noxious gases to be emitted. Apart from the immediate effects of causing respiratory irritation, these fumes are linked with long-term ill health such as cancer and the much greater problem of global warming.

It would be timely to note that no provision whatsoever was made for cyclists in this grand scheme and they are expected to risk their lives on the race tracks or share the footpath with pedestrians, neither of which is at all satisfactory.

The overall effect of all this so called development has been to convert a region that was sustainable in the long term into one that is utterly unsustainable -the classic concrete jungle. Indeed, some of the more recent constructions have taken on the appearance of the kind of construction that is considered normal in some of the more squalid cities in Asia.

Quite clearly the City Council had given no regard whatsoever to long term issues such as global warming, climate change, air pollution, loss of biodiversity etc., let alone much more practical short-term issues of water and electricity shortages or traffic congestion; the extra 40,000 people who live in this region have been provided with no proper transport system at all and whilst a large number of roads have been constructed in the area, no additional links to the motorway systems have been completed. The result of this has been to create massive bottlenecks along existing routes, such as Pakuranga Road, Ti Rakau Drive etc. A wonderful opportunity to do something innovative has been squandered, presumably expediency ruled; the much-heralded Te Irangi Drive is certainly one of the most dysfunctional through routes in the region, with a succession of traffic lights that causes frequent stopping and starting of vehicles -the additional fuel consumption and global warming due to this road alone must be quite phenomenal. And of course the sad fact is that even if additional links to the motorway system are constructed, these will simply have the effect of transferring the congestion problem to another location.

It has been estimated that around 300 people die every year in Auckland as a result of air pollution from motor vehicles. The construction of an entire sub-city that is dependent on motor vehicle access can be assumed to have added to this figure by several score, so we might say that the city council has been in the business of promoting ill health and death - a rather different perspective from what the public relations people would have us believe us I am sure.

Although some businesses in the region may at first sight appear to be productive, when scrutinised closely, they are invariably consumptive -consumers of resources, consumers of energy and consumers of the environment. In summary, we can say that the City Council has replaced community that was productive and sustainable with a community that is excessively consumptive and unsustainable. Hardly progress by any sane measure.

 

Obesity, diabetes, arterial disease and asthma and other health problems

In line with the dysfunctional thinking of the city planners, numerous fast food outlets have been encouraged to set up business in the Botany area. The majority of these incorporate drive-through service. I draw the City Councils attention to the fact that there is an epidemic of obesity in New Zealand; the proportion of obese adults in the community has risen dramatically from around 5% to over 30% and is projected to exceed 50% within a few years; the proportion of children suffering from obesity has risen even more alarmingly. There is a very close association between increased urbanisation and respiratory diseases such as asthma, so increased urbanisation will undoubtedly result in increased incidence of this disease. The health consequences of current trends hardly bear thinking about, as the incidence of debilitating and potentially fatal diseases skyrocket. Major contributors to obesity are junk food and lack of exercise -driving to the junk food purveyor and not even having to move from the seat of the vehicle is the epitome of dysfunction and yet this is exactly the kind of development the City has encouraged. We can anticipate a major increase in both the number and acuteness of health problems as a direct consequence of the dysfunctional thinking of the City Council. In many regions of the world, there has been a strong link between excessive urbanisation and deaths from heat exhaustion. Concrete and tar sealed regions overheat rapidly compared to regions that have natural vegetation. Continued infill development and excessive urbanisation can be expected to increase the incidence of all heat related conditions and if the worst projections for global warming eventuate, urban regions could become virtually uninhabitable, but for ubiquitous air conditioning (which of course would require even more energy and would result in even more global warming).

 

Parks and sports facilities

The district of Pakuranga is perhaps fortunate in having a large area of green space for recreation, but where are the footpaths and cycle tracks? Where are the roller blade tracks? I must comment that I found it particularly disconcerting that when I wrote to the council some time ago suggesting that additional paths be provided and that these should be of a smoother construction in order to make the park more user friendly and encourage use of the park I was informed that there was no money available for such facilities.

Of course in the Botany-Chapel Road district, despite the huge number of additional dwellings constructed already and planned for the future, there has been no major parkland equivalent to Lloyd Elsmore Park set aside. Despite the obvious benefits to the community of having ready access to swimming pools and other such facilities, none have been constructed; thus the existing facilities come under more and more pressure. (I do note the upgrade of the Pakuranga Pool, but also not that large numbers of people will be expected to travel by car to reach it -adding to the congestion and pollution problems already mentioned and necessitating the covering of yet another area of grass with tar seal).

 

Wildlife

As already noted, the effect of development on wildlife has been generally devastating, with complete extermination being the norm. Should any pockets of wildlife remain in the small regions that have not been covered in concrete or tar, the species in question will be hard pressed to survive long term, since the pockets are isolated ‘islands’ with no corridors of communication with other ‘islands’. Whilst many bird species can cope with this situation, the effect on ground-based species will probably be annihilating.

 

Energy consumption and the looming energy crisis

There is no question that total worldwide oil production will begin to decline in the near future. My own projection of decline, commencing around 2010 - 2012 (‘Burn Baby Burn’) has recently been publicly confirmed (The War for Oil, TV One). Please note that the anticipated decline in oil production is just 6-8 years away; one has to wonder what plans Manukau City has to do to cope with this imminent crisis. All the evidence suggests that the City Council is completely unaware of any looming energy crisis and is committed to even more highway construction and even more dependence on private motor vehicles: it would be particularly ironic if these idiotic plans were to be completed just about the time that they become obsolete! Yet that appears to be exactly what is likely to happen!

Should any council member be deluded into thinking that hydrogen powered cars will be available in large numbers in the future, I can provide all the evidence necessary to dispel such delusions. Certainly hydrogen is a clean burning fuel that has none of the emission problems associated with hydrocarbon based fuels, but use of hydrogen is not the problem; the problems are the manufacture and storage of hydrogen and despite 40 years of research and development, we are have made little headway on either of these issues, especially that of production of hydrogen. (In essence, to produce hydrogen in large quantities would require vast quantities of electricity that simply will not be available -the current electrical generation system cannot even cope with current demand, let alone the increase in production that conversion of water to hydrogen would require).

 

The myths of GDP and population growth

There is a widely held belief that increasing GDP generates a rising standard of living and this myth is perpetuated on an almost daily basis by the media, so it is perhaps hardly surprising that the city council has bought into the myth, yet in reality the reverse is true (beyond a certain point, increasing GDP equates to a lowering of standard of living) and there is much evidence to support this. The arguments are complex, but in simple terms GDP takes no account of environmental damage or social damage and simply records superficial monetary values that are calculated in a rather arbitrary manner. Negative factors, such as loss of social amenity, long term loss of soil fertility, the build up of health problems or loss of security are either ignored completely or are assigned completely inappropriate positive values, when in practice they should be assigned negative values. The result of this is to create an illusion that progress is being made when in fact none is.

If we examine the economy of Japan, we see that a large population with high degree of industrialisation and technological innovation and a large savings base does not create a thriving economy -Japan has been ‘going down’ for over a decade and the rate of decline has been increasing. Whilst there may be short term spurts of confidence, as the Japanese government institutes various reforms or rescue packages, there is no evidence to suggest that the decline will reverse. Over the past 15 years the Nikkei Index has fallen from 40,000, to 20,000 to 10,000 and currently stands at around 8,000. Over the past five years Germany (once thought of as an extremely successful economy) has ‘developed’ into the same type of economy, were rising unemployment, increasing ill health and an aging population are coupled with falling production and lack of confidence to create a general climate of despair.

Just how silly the whole development argument is can be readily seen when we examine a country such as Taiwan. Fifty years ago Taiwan had a largely agricultural economy. Over a period of thirty or forty years it developed a highly industrialised economy, which included much hi-tech industry, as well as metallurgical and oil-based industries. Two notable effects took place over this period -the population increased dramatically and the environment suffered just as dramatically; indeed over that period the environment suffered almost irreparable damage (ranging from gross air and water pollution to a massive build-up of toxins in the soil). Although the GDP increased significantly almost every year, the quality of life declined. Indeed it could easily be argued that the social and environmental problems increased every year because the GDP increased every year. What is particularly important is that the economy peaked in 2001 and has been declining (some would say collapsing) ever since. The 25 years of excellent GDP growth offered no long term security whatsoever and created a legacy of overcrowding and pollution that the current declining economy is unable to remedy. Now the Taiwanese population is suffering the effects of a declining economy [such as lack of job security, falling property values, factory closure etc.] whilst having to suffer the effects of a ruined environment. Whilst climate this may generate a substantial market for health remedies, and stress counselling, the long term prognosis is poor. Moreover, as with most other nations, the Taiwanese are almost completely unprepared for the looming energy crisis; there is every reason to believe that their problems will get worse, rather than better.

Large numbers of economies have virtually ‘disappeared off the charts’ over the past five years or so -Argentina, Zimbabwe, the Solomon Islands being notable examples. Apparently strong economies, such as those of Britain or Norway, have in reality ,been boosted by short term one-off windfalls, such as North Sea oil (which has already peaked in production and is in decline) and face uncertain futures.

Even the US, which has the largest economy in the world, is not immune to these effects and an analysis of its economy reveals that it has been going down since 2000 i.e. prior to any the terrorist attacks of September 2001. Much vaunted recoveries since then have proven to be rather short term and there is every reason to believe that the US will continue to flounder or decline in the long term.

Should there be any doubt about the statements made in this submission, I can assure the reader that all facts and figures are readily verifiable from reputable and easily accessible sources, many of which can be located in a few seconds on the Internet. (I can supply details, should these be required).

I trust that the above discussion has given the city council some insight into what is happening in the real world and trust that the city council does not adopt a head in the sand approach to the future, trusting in outdated theories that have no basis in the twenty first century. I believe now is a good time to question just where the city has been heading and to adopt some new strategies for the future before it is too late.

 

Vision or reaction?

The major questions that need to be addressed are:

Does the Manukau City Council have a vision for the future, or is it simply an organisation that reacts to pressure; do those sectors of society that make the most noise determine policy? Is the need to pander to the business sector the driving force behind policy, so that decisions are made on an ad hoc basis, with no real regard for the long term consequences or does the Manukau City Council have a vision for the future? If it does have a vision for the future, what is that vision and is at all realistic?

 

The way ahead

Terms such as ‘working toward a better future’, ‘progress’, ‘moving ahead’ ‘the next stage of development etc. may sound positive and encouraging, but if the direction is wrong then they do not indicate progress at all and in reality indicate a form of going backwards. Unfortunately over the past twenty years we have seen far too much short term thinking, whereby the only agenda has been to generate short term (usually financial) gain, with little of no regard to the future. Short term gain has usually been accompanied by long term loss and in many cases the long term loss far outweighed the short term gain. True progress requires decision-making and planning that generate long term gains.

 

Proposal

The key to any kind of sustainable future generations to come is education. Failure to educate about these issues and address the major issues now will result in a very grim future indeed for a major portion of the world’s population. It is crucial that young people be exposed to a wide range of constructive and sustainable concepts that encompass care for the environment, efficient use of energy, sustainable energy production, the recycling of and careful use resources, as well as an awareness of matters such as ozone depletion, and global warming. The effect of climate change, sea level change, depletion of water tables etc. are likely to impact dramatically on the lives of the next generation and an awareness of their causes and how to deal with them will become crucial. A populace that is ignorant or ill-informed possibly make good choices for the future.

I propose the setting up on an environment park that combines the best aspects of the Ceres environment site in Melbourne and the Earth Balance site in Northumberland. Both these sites are concerned with developing and promoting long term sustainability and are excellent models for Manukau to follow. Educational aspects and ‘hands on’ sustainable projects can be incorporated with facilities for intellectually handicapped, physically handicapped or even at risk adolescents. The benefits to the city of establishing such an environment park would be incalculable but a few of the more obvious benefits can be summarised as follows

  1. School groups of all ages could visit to learn about wind power, solar heating, solar electric projects, sustainable farming techniques, soil and water conservation etc. Working examples of windmills, solar heaters etc would be available for students to examine and educational material would explain the working of the device.

  2. ESL students visit to learn about the above and to extend their language studies

  3. Tertiary students could be provided with hands on experience and possibly could be provided with research facilities for sustainability studies.

  4. Community groups could be provided with venues to carry out socially beneficial projects. In particular manual skills such as carving, reed weaving etc. would fit in well with the sustainable living concept.

  5. A fishing lake could provide a recreational activity that would generate income via fishing licences.

  6. A children’s zoo could introduce children to animals that they are unlikely to have contact with by other means.

  7. A boutique brewery or winery that uses traditional production methods could be incorporated -site lease and wine sales could offset costs.

  8. Have-a-go activities such as wool spinning, wood carving etc. could be incorporated as an education centre. The possibilities are almost endless, provided the concept of using New Zealand resources in a sustainable manner is adhered to.

  9. Organically grown produce could be sold, generating funds for development or running costs.

  10. Once the park becomes established and functioning it is likely to attract many (possibly thousands) of overseas visitors and will raise both the prestige and the profile of Manukau City immensely.

This list is neither definitive nor exhaustive. I do not propose to go into great detail at this stage regarding the requirements for this environment park, other than to point out that a flattish area of land of maybe 4-20 hectares would be suitable and to point out that the site would be, as much as possible, pollution-free and would therefore there would be no internal combustion engines on site. Clearly council support would be required if this project were to have a good chance of succeeding. The exact financial arrangements could be worked out at a later stage, but a community trust with private sponsorship is an appropriate starting point.

At this stage I simply require an opportunity for hearing with the aim of obtaining an approval of the concept.

I am available to answer questions or supply further details as necessary.

Yours sincerely,
Kevin Moore
Environmental Consultant and Educator.

kevin_enviro@hotmail.com

 


 

LETTER TO BARRY CURTIS

by Kevin Moore — June 2004

 

The Mayor of Manukau
Manukau City Council
Private Bag 76917
Manukau
15th June 200

 

Dear Sir,

Your reputation

It is my sad duty to inform you that at a meeting on the 25th of May, attended by a large number of councillors, irrefutable evidence was presented that Manukau City faces a series of catastrophes, none of which it is prepared for: no counter arguments were presented. Indeed there are none. It therefore follows that the city faces terminal collapse [probably commencing 2007/8, though no certainty can be established regarding the exact date]. Contrary to your own opinion of yourself and the policies you have promoted over recent years, there is much evidenced you have been on completely the wrong track and there is now a very large and rapidly growing group of people who recognise the totally dysfunctional nature of the policies adopted by the council under your leadership and the immense damage that has been done to the city of Manukau as a result. Indeed, in case you were unaware of the fact, Manukau City is now features on an internationally accessed website as an example of a ‘How Not to Do It City’.

Were this not bad enough for your ego, it follows of course that the collapse you have been instrumental in promoting will cause massive disruption to people’s lives. There appears to be a kind of inevitability about this situation, because I understand from the councillors present at the meeting that some kind of ‘reign of terror’ has been established, whereby dissident opinion is not tolerated and the ‘race to drive the city off the edge of the cliff’ will continue as long as you are mayor.

It therefore follows of course that you will be remembered not for creating a great city, a city to be proud of, but will be remembered as the mayor who destroyed Manukau City and prevented the city from having any opportunity for long term survival

I am sorry that it has been necessary to inform you of this bad news, but I believe it is better that you should be aware of this situation sooner, rather than later.

Yours sincerely,

 

Kevin Moore
Environmental Consultant and Educator