Today: a guest writer:

I’m writing this guest post about a proposed housing development in Upper Hutt, (so not quite Wellington, but we’re still part of the Wellington region, right : ). For those still struggling to find the relevance to this blog, remember this post? (“Upper Hutt State of Mind” song).

Now this new development of some 1800 houses is being put forward by the Upper Hutt City Council as a major area for “urban” growth. The area in question is in Maymorn; for those who are wondering it’s in a rural valley directly east of the upper Hutt Valley, and currently has lifestyle blocks and smallish farms. Shown here:

Now this is where I try and make sense of this push for growth on this patch of farmland. First of all access to public transport. Fortunately there is already a railway station at Maymorn, so that’s a good thing right? The problem is that its part of the Wairarapa line, so it gets a total of 5 trains each way a day… That might be ok if I’m commuting into the city from the Rapa every day, but not so much if I’m living in a supposedly urban area and I want to do activities that mostly happen where everyone else is, i.e. Upper Hutt and Wellington.

The next issue is one of topography, something that Wellingtonians know so well. The problem is that topography makes certain modes of transport difficult, but we’re told the opposite will happen in this development:
“A priority at Maymorn is to encourage reduced vehicle dependency by providing good access to and encouraging the use of public transport, walking and cycling.”
You can encourage walking and cycling as much as you like but when you’re faced with the start of a windy hill (shown below) to directly get to Upper Hutt’s CBD, most people will be heading back home for the car keys.

But most of these issues I could live with, because we’re being sold a fantastical vision by the Council. A green nirvana that has all the buzz words – sustainable, green growth, energy efficiency. “Development at Maymorn will minimise use of limited resources such as land, power, fuel and water. Best practice sustainable water practices will be implemented and housing will be sited and designed to maximise energy efficiency.”

They almost started to get me excited, but then I took this photograph of one of the current developments in Upper Hutt. On all of those houses shown below it’s hard to make out any solar hotwater heating systems, any solar panels or even any rainwater tanks?? North is towards the right-hand border of the photo, and I really wouldn’t want to guess how many of those houses have been designed with regards to where North is (where the sun is).. But I would guess not very many. You see in this new world of the Kardashians, and the GC on tv, even the building industry leaves their brains at the door. The basics are bypassed, like that if you design a house with the sun in mind, you get free heat and light for the day. So I’m starting to think that a sudden shift to a green building philosophy at Maymorn is looking decidedly shaky, and I was just starting to get excited about a green utopia.

There is a fairly easy answer to the question of where is best for Upper Hutt to grow in the future. Its in an area where there are already schools, libraries, dairies, shops, trains, buses, all waiting to be used. The place is called Upper Hutt, and its not too hard to find fresh flat green land to build on that’s within the valley.

I’m not anti-development by any means, as my job depends on the building trade. But I’m just not into stupid development. There is simply no good reason to isolate potentially 4,000 new residents by herding them into a cow paddock, and in doing so limit their aspiration of being the best Hutt bogans they can be. This strategy will almost certainly make them car dependent while fuel prices continue to rise, segregate them from the rest of the community and all of its services, and waste loads more unnecessary money on new infrastructure that has to be run all the way out into the wop-wops.

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