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Traditional thinking holds Kiwis back

15 September 2008

Traditional thinking holds Kiwis back

Kiwis have great potential to improve their health, lifestyle, socialisation and community feel – but first they need to change their traditional thinking, says visiting transport expert Gil Penalosa.

Gil helped build more than 200 parks and opened 91kms of car-free city roads on Sundays, in Bogotá, Columbia. He says moving away from traditional transport works wonders.

“Opening up the roads for pedestrians and cyclists, significantly changed the way the 7 million people of Bogotá interacted and socialised,” says Gil.

“And this is something that could easily be done in New Zealand. It just requires a bit of forward thinking and breaking in tradition.

“Widening roads and adding lanes will never solve congestion problems. We need to look at this from a different perspective.

“In Bogotá, we got 1.5m people coming out onto the streets to walk, run, skate and bike every Sunday,” he says.

“The impact of this simple change was immense. People developed a strong sense of community, they became proud of the city. It’s amazing how a simple transport solution had such a positive effect. I’ve helped other cities – like New York - move towards this change. It is something that could easily be done in New Zealand.”

Gil is one of several high profile recreation professionals presenting this week at the 2008 International Federation of Park and Recreation Administration Asia Pacific Congress in Christchurch.

The congress, which runs from Tuesday 16 – Thursday 18 September, is being hosted by the New Zealand Recreation Association and Christchurch City Council.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker officially opens the congress this evening [Monday 15 September] with a formal mayoral reception.

Around 300 people, from more 15 different countries, are attending the congress. This is just the second time New Zealand has hosted this three-yearly event.

This year’s congress theme is Making Connections – Make a Difference and focus is the role of parks and recreation connecting people and places.

Other guest speakers include:

Steve Coleman was honoured by the President of the United States for transforming Malcolm X Park from Washington’s single most violent national park into one of its safest.

Melissa Clark Reynolds is one of a select group of people personally trained by Al Gore to present his views on the revealing documentary ‘An inconvenient truth’.

Daniel Boulens helped France’s second biggest city, Lyon, win a United Nations’ LivCom Gold Award for sustainability.

Zhao Shiwei of Beijing Botantical Garden will talk about Beijing’s Olympic experience and how it kept the games ‘green’.

Jeanette Fich Jespersen from KOMPAN Play Institute is an expert in play-sustained child development, and will reveal research findings about the facilities and places that best work for youth.

Some delegates will take part in a post-congress tour taking in some of New Zealand’s most famous and breathtaking sights including: Arthur’s Pass, Fox Glacier, Lake Matheson, Haast, Lake Wanaka and Arrowtown.

To find out more about the congress, and for a full biography about each speaker please visit


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