The brave new world of Auckland's waterfront

By Andy Kenworthy

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Cities: The strip of land at the junction between Auckland City and the sparkling Waitemata Harbour is one of the most frequented parts of the country by locals and tourists alike. With the launch of Waterfront Auckland's Sustainable Development Framework it will become the eco benchmark against which other developments can be measured.

Auckland's urban shoreline has already undergone a startling transformation in the last few years, from relatively rundown post-industrial area to vibrant event venue and business centre looking to attract the most forward-thinking business activity in the country.

The latest report from Waterfront Auckland suggests this is just the beginning. The Sustainability Development Framework sets this area apart as the location to take the lead in sustainable urban transformation and renewal in New Zealand's largest city, and lays out how this will happen. It is the result of discussions with sustainability industry experts and collaboration with organisations including The New Zealand Green Building Council and Auckland Council.

The report states: "Waterfront Auckland envisages that the transformation of the waterfront will demonstrate the benefits of sustainable development in environmental, social, cultural and economic terms. Pushing the boundaries of sustainable design and development will stimulate innovation and ensure the Auckland waterfront will be a vibrant, attractive and interesting place to live, work and visit."

The vision is an ambitious one. This is not just a project to 'restore' or 'revitalise' this area so that it can become an expansion of Auckland Central Business-as-usual District, it is aimed at a complete transformation.

John Dalzell, chief executive of Waterfront Auckland, says: "Sustainability isn't just integral to what we are doing, it is absolutely essential. What has to be understood is the fundamental elements of what we are dealing with: land and water, so designing in empathy with land and water is paramount.

"It may sound poetic, but in all our design work we need to embody the spirit of that connection between land and water.

"What we're talking about here is a genuine push to create New Zealand's most sustainable precinct. This is not all aspirations and ideal world stuff; this is tangible standards and targets that our development partners must adhere to."

He adds that the leading sustainability experts in science, architecture and urban design already assume that standards are the pre-requisite for discussing work in the area.

The redevelopment is projected to extend over 30 years, directly supporting 20,000 new full-time jobs and contributing towards a further 20,000 jobs across the region. With an additional $285 million to be invested in public space and infrastructure, and aiming to attract around a billion dollars' worth of private investment, the waterfront is set to feature a blend of residential, commercial and mixed use development. By 2040 this redevelopment is forecast to contribute $4.29 billion to Auckland's economy.

Dalzell believes the most visible and tangible changes in the next few years will be around Wynyard Quarter. After the successful redevelopment of Jellicoe Street in time for the Rugby World Cup in 2011 this will serve as a model starting point for other areas around the precinct.

"In 10 years time we would hope to have a thriving diverse community that is a major contributor from a business point of view and that we are proud to show visitors," he said.

Waterfront Auckland also considers that the idea of restorative development that could actually have a positive impact on the surrounding environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions also consistent with the Maori resource management principle of kaitiakitanga, as the Maori world view requires a strong reciprocal relationship where more is given back to the environment than taken.

Who runs Auckland's waterfront?
??The Auckland Waterfront Development Agency, also known as Waterfront Auckland, is responsible for around 45 hectares of waterfront property, including Wynyard Wharf and the land north of Pakenham Street at Wynyard Quarter, Westhaven Marina and Queens Wharf, on behalf of Auckland Council and the ratepayers and public of Auckland.

High-performance green buildings
A news standard is being developed for new buildings on Auckland's Waterfront. For example ASB's new 21,000sq m head office, housing about 1,000 staff, incorporates a light reflector tunnel to enhance natural light and reduce lighting needs, a metallic sunscreen ?to reduce heat build up and air conditioning requirements and a rainwater harvesting system. Westpac and NZI have also invested in green buildings in the area.

Waterfront Auckland is looking to make buildings like this ?the standard for the area, setting the bar for sustainable building across the whole of New Zealand. To do this it is making it a requirement for all office buildings to achieve the 5 Green Star rating as independently assessed by the New Zealand Green Building Council that the ASB building has.

It is also requiring that all residential building in the Waterfront achieve a 7 Homestar rating as a minimum, like Stu Shelby and Erika Whittome's home featured in the ?last edition of Element.

It will also be expected that all buildings will reuse rainwater for toilet flushing, laundry and irrigation, a measure that could reduce water consumption across the Waterfront by an estimated 13 per cent.

Renewable energy
Waterfront Auckland is proposing to create New Zealand's installation of electricity generating solar photovoltaic panels, covering up to 75 per cent of the Waterfront's roof space and generating up to 30 per cent of the area's electricity.

Sustainable transport
With its central location so near to ferry, bus and train terminals a target has already been set that 70 per cent of peak time trips to the Wynyard Quarter part of the Waterfront should be by walking, cycling or public transport. To encourage this, the planners will keep the number of parking bays relatively low, promote car sharing schemes and car-pooling.

It is estimated that there is potential for up to nine per cent of Wynyard Quarter residents to car share but this will also be promoted in partnership with the larger businesses, which can pass this message on to their staff and fleet managers in the new buildings.

Exemplar projects
The vision for the Waterfront is that as well as a thriving business and residential precinct it will act as a showcase for some of the best innovations in sustainable thinking now available. Community gardens, resource recovery centres, educational opportunities, public art projects and shared toolshed/workshop spaces will be explored as means to promote community engagement, sustainable behaviour and healthy lifestyles.

Adaptation to change
By the late 21st century New Zealand is expected to be at least 2°C warmer on average compared with 1990 and Auckland is expected to have an additional 40-60 days per year where temperatures exceed 25°C.

Lower average rainfall patterns, more drought conditions, and more extreme weather events with more frequent heavy rainfall events and coastal storm inundation are predicted for Auckland. Recent research has recommended that long term planning should also take account of accelerated sea level rise of up to 1.5m by 2100 and 1.85m by 2115.

The pay-off
Taken together, the innovations put forward by Waterfront Auckland have been estimated to achieve resource use:
8% less greenhouse gas emissions
44% less grid electricity consumption
62% less peak electricity demand
54% less water demand
42% less stormwater discharge
81% less private vehicle travel
54% less household operating costs.

Like what you see? For weekly Element news sign up to our newsletter.
We're also on facebook and Twitter.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 27 Nov 2014 00:21:49 Processing Time: 560ms