The current urban development strategies for the Hastings District Council and the Napier City Council have less than 10 years to run.  These authorities along with the HB Regional Council have committed to jointly develop the Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy (HPUDS). Full credit to them for working cooperatively on this important initiative. 

A strongly sustainable approach must form the underlying foundation to guide the review. This model recognises that the economy and our society are interdependent on each other, and that the environment’s capacity to provide the required resources and process our wastes is limited.

HPUDS is in effect the transition strategy, as we move from a huge dependence on fossil energy, to 2035 and beyond when these resources will be scarce and highly valued.

In their report Climate Futures – Responses to Climate Change in 2030, UK-based Forum for the Future present one scenario for New Zealand wherein by 2030 environmental refugees from Bangladesh and Pacific Islands make up 18% of the our population. During the same timeframe, sea level rises are likely to cause inundation in our coastal areas, water will have become a precious resource and likely a traded commodity, and climate change will be impacting on our rural land use with an increase in weeds, pests and diseases.

For this review to yield a comprehensive and meaningful long term sustainable development strategy, there will need to be some critical analysis done to address these and many other implicated issues to provide practical long-term solutions. Anything less would waste ratepayer’s precious money and enshrine the unsustainable “business as usual” approach.

As an agricultural-based economy, we are particularly vulnerable to a variable climate. Hawke’s Bay must adapt to climate change to ensure the viability and competitiveness of industries that depend on a stable, equable climate.

Strong sustainability is the prerequisite of any human development, whether social, economic or technological. It requires preserving the integrity of all ecological systems and enabling an ecosystem to recover from disturbance and re-establish its stability, diversity and resilience. Ethics, values and emerging ‘world views’ directly support strong sustainability because people know that they are integral with the ecological systems of the biosphere and therefore desire their integrity.

Here are five key challenges for the review team to consider:

1. Urban sprawl – The unchecked expansion of urban areas leads to inefficient resource use and the degradation of inner cities. Single-use developments, like the proposed regional sports park, are often isolated from transport networks, encouraging the use of private cars.

2. Land use allocation – The irreversible loss of flat, fertile, food growing land is not sustainable and the retention of prime horticultural land close to urban centres is essential for our continuing survival as a food growing region. The continued development of the Plains Zone will contribute to urban sprawl and increase transport and infrastructure problems

3. Green space – Green spaces are a vital element of sustainable cities, providing people with opportunities to rest, exercise, play and socialise. New green spaces need to be incorporated into development plans as a matter of course, while existing parks and other outdoor facilities could be better maintained and more fully integrated into community lifestyles.

4. Redeveloping industrial sites – Commercial sites need modern technological infrastructure as they are important elements of a sustainable city plan, providing work and services that support our local economy.

5. Sustainable construction – Sustainable construction methods are often perceived as costly luxuries. But new technical solutions abound, and their economic and environmental advantages need to be demonstrated on a large scale.

Planning for sustainability is complex because it involves accounting for the environment and social structures alongside economic factors, and should incorporate the views of local residents and businesses.

Local governments play an important role in all aspects of sustainable urban design – from the location and form of new dwellings, to the co-ordination and provision of social and physical infrastructure for new and existing communities. For years, they have been criticised for fulfilling these functions without regard to the long-term social or environmental outcomes. 

Local governments are beginning to emerge as leaders in a range of community building and sustainability initiatives throughout the world, and are now recognised as crucial players in achieving the new agenda of “sustainable human settlements”.  Let us all hope that our local authorities will lead us, through the Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy, to a strongly sustainable Hawke’s Bay community.

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