Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Keep on the grass

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Recently, I've come across some comments about a lack of green space in the inner city. I've never noticed such a lack, but that's because personally, if I want somewhere in the city to chill out, I'm more likely to do so in a café or on a bench in Cuba Mall. But I acknowledge that some people like to stretch out on the grass on a sunny day, so I asked the question: if you're in the central city, how far would you have to walk to find a public green space where you can lie down? So I put together this little map (if you click on it, it'll be a bit more legible):

The brightest green areas are the green spaces; these are surrounded by concentric rings at distances of 50m, 100m, and up to 300m from the greenery. Grey areas are more than 300m from the nearest piece of public grass. I've included new green spaces that are planned for Kumutoto and Waitangi Park on the waterfront, and I've also included Kensington Gardens, as although there's little hope of saving it from the 'bypass', there are other spaces planned in the vicinity.

What does this show? Far from being devoid of greenery, central Wellington is peppered with small green spaces. One area is lacking - southeast Te Aro (from Tory St to Cambridge Tce) and southern Mt Victoria - so I hope that the council is able to find a site here for a new public space. Otherwise, one is never more than 300m (about a 3-5 minute walk, depending upon street layout, terrain and traffic) from some green space.

My definition of "green space" is fairly strict: it has to actually be grass, rather than a planter with trees and flowers (so Cuba Mall, despite being a very pleasant public space, is out); and it can't be surrounded by busy roads (eliminating the traffic island between Kent and Cambridge Terraces). If you want a more substantial lawn, there's always Frank Kitts and Waitangi Parks, and the CBD is surrounded by a wide variety of public greenery and open spaces, from rose gardens and playing fields to sandy beaches and pine forests. In fact, according to the Big Cities Quality of Life report, Wellington City has 19.8ha of council-run green space for every 1000 people: more than any of the other eight largest cities in the country.

So, is there still cause for concern? It could be argued that as more people come to live in the central city, they will need more green space. Though I suspect that most people who choose an inner-city lifestyle would rather be shopping or drinking than sitting on a lawn (based upon a sample of one), it would indeed be wise to plan some new public spaces in southeast Te Aro, where many new apartments are being built. But perhaps we need to separate the two words in the cliché "green space" by recognising that the city itself can be full of greenery, and that hard surfaces (streets and squares) are often much more practical forms of public urban space.


At 9:22 am, August 09, 2005, Blogger Martha Craig said...

That is absolutely brilliant. I've always raved to people about London having an age old policy of nowhere being more than 10 minutes from a park, I didn't realise that old Welly was better (well, I knew it was BETTER, but not in that respect).

At 7:06 pm, August 09, 2005, Blogger bush whacker said...

mmm, yes, but.... Kent / Cambridge does rather stand out as a huge big grey ditch rather, doesn't it? and what exactly is the little green spot half way up a road on Mt Vic? and just WHERE do you get teh time to figure this all out?

But apart from that (and it is really REALLY useful and thankyou very much for doing it) it does show there is a complete lack of greem=nery around the Tory/ Vivian St area (which co-incidentally, is where i live...) and i've been badgering the Council to try to start a series of small urban parks, ie specifically designed places, that are well thought out and nice to be in, rather than just a little bit left over here or there, as they are proposing at the corner of Victoria and Ghuznee i think...

But also Glover Park is useless, just a waste of space, which is why no-one except the winos want to go there. It's just not a goodie. Whereas... Swan Lane car park is perfect for a park. Quite simply: perfect. Have a look next time you're there. Problem is, old curmudgeonly owner won't sell.

At 1:46 pm, August 10, 2005, Blogger Tom said...

Hi bush whacker,

I agree about Swan vs Glover: see my new post at http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=14289408&postID=112363541623713735

Kent/Cambridge has quite a bit of greenery down the middle, but I didn't think it fair to count it as accessible green space. The green spot in Mt Vic is the Elizabeth St play area: more for kids, but with a bit of lawn too.

I think there are opportunities for new spaces on current carparks and unofficial shortcuts between Jessie & Vivian and Vivian & Frederick, assuming the council is willing to buy the land. Also, there's a car yard on the corner of Pirie & Kent that we could do without...

Where do I get the time? I do a bit of mapping at work, so I have some data and GIS tools at hand, and I also have fun wandering around the city at weekends to do some "ground truthing".


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