Buses and lotteries, making city changes the simple way..the Curitiba way

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Neil Henderson

I attended the Celebrate Swanson candidate invite the other night and  afterward found myself talking to Cr Vanessa Neeson outside. We were expanding on some of the thoughts thrown up by candidates responses to the burning question of the night. How would we personally ensure that Waitakeres unique identity is retained within the new Auckland Super City.

It begs another question of course… just what is the Waitakere identity? We were all pretty much unanimous in that it had an awful lot to do with the ranges and the wild coast and all that  natural environment but there was also universal agreement that it was probably more to do with our people; what we might call the Westie character.  Some candidates even suggested that we had absolutely nothing to worry about with the Super City because some how ,perhaps miraculously, via force of exerting our sheer Westieness  perhaps, it would all work out fine in the end. I guess I’M not too sure about that sort of optimism but it did make me wonder just what  it is that constitutes our core Westieness, that thing we might perhaps  ideally flog off in half litre bottles and market wholesale to the rest of the Region.

Vanessa provided the answer; Jamie Lerner and a Brazilian city called Curitiba.

Jamie Lerner  who got to be mayor of this city ,in a way that surprised every one because he sort of turned up  just a few days before the  polling day ,ended up devising many of Curitiba’s innovative, inexpensive solutions to big city problems. For instance, in the early days of the public transit system, to increase its funding and encourage ridership, he made a special city lottery, valuing bus fare as lottery tickets.

Now think about that for a second. Every time you get on a bus (or maybe a train) you buy a lottery ticket. Sounds too simplistic?

I was sitting in a meeting this afternoon at Ecomatters Environment Trust  and we were talking about how we could expand on the great work that has been done with Project Twin Streams  but this time focus on the Whau catchment, especially around the Avondale stream. It was pointed out to us that some how we needed to slow storm water down.  Storm water causes flooding and it gets to be a huge problem every once in a while because  we have so many impermeable surfaces in our urban areas. The Avondale stream is a bad flood place by the way.The water just runs straight into the streams and the streams  cant cope so they flood. 1971 for instance, was a very bad flood year .Its like that .You never know when its going to strike. Solving this sort of stuff is going to be expensive and usually there is talk about buying houses,  piping and ponding and a whole range of  hard and soft engineering options like bigger pipes or plantings and  storm gardens. These take up a lot of space and space out there is pretty limited .No one wants to give up that space cheaply. Then we have all the issues about water. The Super City is all about water. Who is going to control it? Who is going to own it? How much is it going to cost us? Its pretty scary and very confusing. They are even talking about how we are going to need to get all this water from the Waikato river and how much its going to have to cost to do this. Sounds clunky? Sounds so drearily familiar? Too right.

It was at this point that a bit of Westieness kicked in. It helped that Mark Essex ,an engineer who was assisting us in this process, was brought up near Green bay (Foothills of Titirangi as the real estate agents like to say). He said that over seventy percent of our water use does not need to come from the town supply. In other words, it doesnt need to be good enough to drink. If we, each and every one of us, were to catch as much of that rain water that comes down in the winter as we could, we could put it through our toilets and our washing machines  and pretty soon we wouldnt need to be talking about the new pipeline from the Waikato river. As for the  rain water we couldn’t hang on to… if we drained it away on our properties via these new fangled  soakholes they are looking at, soakholes that are rather like  the old septic tanks we used to have, well there would be no need to spend all those vast amounts of ratepayers money on sophisticated engineering devises to mitigate all that storm water, way down in the catchment some where.

How much would it cost to set this sort of thing up in a whole bunch of houses? Who knows? But I can guess that maybe it just might end up cheaper ….   but Nahhh… seems too simplistic….

I’m thinking that Jamie Lerner  might just be the Brazillian equivalent to a Westie. He has some pretty left field ideas and he seems to have been able to make them work, and fast, in the face of the usual bureaucratic grunge.

It seems to me that this left field innovation is actually at the core of our Westieness and this is  the thing,over and above every thing else ,that  we need to protect and retain. Mind you we might need to get a bit belligerent to do so.

So why not set up a lottery to get people on buses? Why not set up a special, extremely watchable local soap opera that only screens on the evening train? Why not set up a  single suburb with efficient rain water catchment  – just to see how it all goes? Why not mirror the WCC Green Network  but think of cyclists instead of woodpigeons? This is what we have, what we have to give, the Westieness that is in us. And this is what we, as Future West would try to champion for you in this new super city. So do give us a vote wont you?

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