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$9M in funding for resilient urban futures research

Friday 24 August 2012

$9M in funding for resilient urban futures research

What development path should New Zealand’s cities take to ensure that maximum environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits can be gained? This question is the focus of a newly funded collaborative research project representing the first major attempt to get to grips with an issue critical to our nation’s future.

The University of Otago-led project, “Resilient Urban Futures”, has been awarded more than $9 million in funding over four years through the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment 2012 science investment round announced yesterday.

The project research team, headed by the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities, links five universities (Otago, Victoria, Auckland, Massey and Canterbury), NIWA and the Motu Public Policy Research Group, with end-users from 14 local councils, central government, iwi groups, developers and community groups.

Centre Director Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman says that the researchers will explore which of several possible urban futures in the new green economy will be most resilient, liveable and competitive.

“This is a question which so far has not been seriously addressed in this country and given 87% of our population lives in cities and towns, it is crucial for the future of New Zealand to get the answer right,” Professor Howden-Chapman says.

The research will involve six cities; Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Kapiti, Wellington and Christchurch, and will compare the broad costs and benefits and qualities of two possible urban development paths. The first path emphasises more compact development within existing urban areas while the other focuses on further ‘greenfield’ development on the outskirts of cities.

The researchers will extend their geographically-based models to integrate environmental impacts on air and water with other outcomes of urban developments. These outcomes include different land-use, housing and transport patterns, and varying co-benefits for people’s health and welfare.

They will also analyse the possible efficiencies of local and inter-city infrastructure, in particular impacts of ultra-fast broadband, and transport links between the ports of Auckland, Tauranga and Whangarei, and the proposed inland port at Hamilton.

The important roles of iwi with Treaty settlement resources in urban development, finance and governance of such infrastructure will also be explored through working closely with a number of iwi groups, Professor Howden-Chapman says.

“Overall, this research will deliver New Zealand’s first comprehensive framework for considering urban futures – one that accounts for cities as complex systems and is informed by case studies – to enable government, developers and iwi to have a clear idea of the broad future consequences of different urban investment decisions.”

The project is one of three University of Otago-led research contracts funded in the Ministry’s 2012 science investment round. The other two projects involve looking at energy uses in New Zealand’s homes, small businesses and the transport sector to see how they can become more energy efficient; and developing infant formula that mimics the effect of human milk in enriching the bacterial collection in baby bowels with bifidobacteria. Otago researchers gained $13.2 million in the round.


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