Weekly column by Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan
There he was sitting by himself having a quiet cuppa at Coastlands' Robert Harris Cafe. There is something comforting about a celebrity just hanging out doing normal life. It helps centre a feeling of localism. Especially so when it's someone like well-known actor Cohen Holloway. Our local resident, a totally unpretentious and super friendly dude, won a Qantas Award for the 2009 TV drama Until Proven Innocent and starred in Boy. Other notable roles in Find Me A Māori Bride and Good For Nothing and the list goes on including his talent as an all-round comic.
Late last week, at a hui on food security, organised by KCDC and Regional Public Health, I learnt of the term "hyperlocal". The Covid-19 lockdown and the reality of a potential failure of the linear food supply chains via supermarkets had turbo-charged public awareness of the need to have food sources close to communities supported by a local distribution network.
Well before the pandemic, Regional Health had been advocating for community access to affordable, fresh and nutritious food especially for children in high deprivation communities. The wider hyperlocal definition revolves around well defined communities with its primary focus directed toward the concerns of the people in that community. The food security hui, attended by a number of community garden and organic farming representatives and activists, recognised that local neighbourhood food production and supply networks also needed to be supported by planning and funding decisions at district, city and regional levels.
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This brings me to an interesting opinion piece published on Stuff on Monday by chief economist at think tank The New Zealand Initiative, Eric Crampton. He argues that urban land use planning systems that load councils with the costs of urban growth while letting councils decide new housing can be built are a recipe for failure. Letting councils veto growth because they bear the costs of urban growth but command only a small share of the benefits is a recipe for a housing disaster, he adds.
His solution is an alternative to the increased centralisation being advocated by government to remove the obstacle of Nimbyism. The British think tank called Policy Exchange says that instead of pushing decision making up to more central government levels it should be pushed down to street level neighbourhoods.
With street plans only able to proceed with a super majority of residents, achieved only through consensus building. "A street shifting from low-intensity bungalows to a more European-style set of apartments would see a phenomenal increase in property values," he claims adding that land values would go up while cost of housing would drop. Supporting infrastructure for such intensification would be funded through a value-uplift charge. I don't have the space to outline all his points. It's refreshing to see a thinker offering an alternative to the increasing trend towards greater centralisation.
We are in the midst of some radical changes. The Government's national policy statement on urban development has seen the Wellington region predict that particular legislation by developing the Wellington regional growth framework. And the parallel creation of a Wellington Regional Leadership Committee to manage the implementation of the growth framework.
In a previous column I touched on the need for a Minister for Wellington to help sort the historical problems that have caused the infrastructure problems faced by Wellington. My core argument was that Wellington, as the nation's capital city and seat of the New Zealand's Government, has a special status. That the inefficiencies of the city becomes the inefficiencies of the Government because they share the same tight geographical territory. That the city should be the country's showcase to the global international community. Kāpiti has a strategic stake in the welfare of Wellington City as more than 4000 of our residents commute to work in that city. In fact, every council in the region is joined at the hip to Wellington City.
The creation of the Wellington Regional Leadership Committee is another way of locking in central government buy-in into the Wellington City problem. The joint committee is designed to include three central government ministers. The committee will manage and make decisions on the regional growth framework.
This framework includes the creation of a regional spatial plan. Add this to the impending three waters reform and the creation of regional asset-owning and management organisations. And again, add that to the impending changes to the RMA where Environment Minister David Parker has signalled the creation of a combined regional plan. While the Government is lining up its ducks in a centralised row as part of its urban growth strategy we need to think how we can nurture the hyperlocal to give life and soul to our communities and neighbourhoods.