Urban Village judge and British television presenter Kevin McCloud has urged Christchurch to seize the opportunity to create a sustainable city that will be a true vision for the future.

The star of the television series Grand Designs said in an open letter to the city, “My hope is that you, the people who live in and love Christchurch, are able to find the voice to explore and drive through the best possible ideas.

And, in so doing, perhaps it’ll be possible to convey to the world a story and a setting for one of the most exciting urban design projects of the 21st century.”

Kevin knows first hand the benefits of creating sustainable housing. He established a sustainable housing development company called Hab (Happiness Architecture Beauty) and, in partnership with housing group GreenSquare, developed The Triangle, a high-quality sustainable 42 home development under the name Haboakus.

The Triangle transformed a former caravan park, offering environmentally sustainable and affordable housing.

Draft Christchurch Transport image kindly supplied by the Christchurch City Council

Draft Christchurch Transport image kindly supplied by the Christchurch City Council

He’s urging Christchurch residents to push for a sustainable city focused on One Planet Living (OPL) where principles as diverse as health, happiness, culture, and community are all taken into consideration.

One Planet Living is an acceptable, proven and westernised set of guiding principles towards sustainability and the London Olympics adopted it into its sustainability strategy, he says.

“I recently read Tāone Tupu Ora, a New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities publication edited by Keriata Stuart and Michelle Thompson-Fawcett. This book brings together themes of indigenous knowledge, Māori urban design principles, micro-urbanism, the development of Māori land, papakāinga and puts together a case for why and how mātauranga Māori (traditional knowledge) can be part of better urban development.

“I was struck at the similarity in approach of the Māori urban design principles for papakāinga development and some of the principles of One Planet Living.

“The table of Māori principles has the potential to amplify and enrich that process of consultation and I believe it could form a matrix for Canterbury’s public consultation processes that might lead projects towards OPL objectives or something even richer: a sustainability roadmap unique to Christchurch.

He is also keen to see more use of trams in the Central Recovery Plan. “Christchurch is a flat city in which bicycle use could be revolutionary. Car clubs, car sharing, bike clubs and electric bike clubs might become the norm.

“The river might not simply become a bike and pedestrian route, but also a busy piece of waterway infrastructure bringing food into the city and removing its waste out to the surrounding productive landscape,” he says.

The German city of Freiburg is a good example of what can be done. It has produced its own Charter for Sustainable Urbanism which sets out 12 principles for ‘sustainable urbanism’, drawing together ideas of diversity, tolerance, walkability, good public transport, high quality design and more.

Beacon Pathway chief executive Nick Collins fully agrees with Kevin that Christchurch has a unique opportunity to position itself at the forefront of excellent urban development.

“Christchurch can show the world how to design and build a vibrant city with good quality medium density housing mixed in with other uses. With houses and neighbourhoods which are resource efficient, make the most of renewable energy, reuse water and are healthy and comfortable for residents and adaptable into the future.”

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