When a lot of one’s time and energy is going into a particular transport issue, it’s easy to forget that the proposed Basin Reserve flyover, or the Kapiti Expressway, or whatever other specific project the Government is trying to foist on us is just one part of their overall plan to build motorways up and down the country.

Auckland academic Jaqs Clarke (see credit note below) has recently come back from overseas with a new perspective on the Government’s motorway plans, which she discusses in her article

Beyond Autopia: the high social cost of New Zealand’s road building programme

I recommend that you read it in full, but in summary, she starts by saying

After ten months in an urban laboratoire in Paris on a post-doc residency I returned to Auckland recently, to realise that the city of my home and imagination has been most busily morphing into a belated version of sci-fi Autopia.

and goes on discuss Auckland in detail – but this paragraph suggests that the NZTA leopard doesn’t change its spots when moving from one city to another:

In Auckland in 2014 we might not be parking flying saucers, but the journey through these smoothing corridors, that propel us from A-to-B, are as close to flying as one gets at ground level. Nothing could be further from the sensory overload and teeming humanity of the streets of Paris, than the Autopia that is belatedly materialising in the Auckland landscape. Seduced by these cruise control fantasy zones, the lack of clutter not to mention pedestrians, the seconds-savings of our journey, we now move across landscapes that have lost all reference points, as the visual field is cleansed of messiness by concrete fresco walls and sound-barriers set against monocultures of New Zealand native plants.

Turning to Wellington, she writes:

Moving south the brave citizens of Wellington are currently attempting to place limits upon the architects of Autopia’s offering of a flyover. A flyover is an Autopian architectural typology that regards the landscape underneath it as clutter. A flyover lifts us from the forces of gravity and allows us to hover unimpeded, even temporarily.

and goes on to discuss how the natural flow point at the Basin Reserve has been repurposed – a problem that a flyover would only exacerbate.

She concludes:

The most resilient cities of the 21st century are not Autopian. The most resilient cities do not privilege cars, but sustain a complexity of urban values, are built upon a positive urban dynamism in which intimate pathways are given as much consideration as those of national significance. As New Zealanders we deserve our cities to be designed around best practice resilience models, not throwbacks to an era of fantasy and delusion.

Unfortunately, the current Government and the NZTA still have their heads firmly fixed in that era of fantasy and delusion. But the coming General Election offers an opportunity to change that.

About the author: Jaqs Clarke (PhD) is an urban theorist and writer. She completed her PhD in the Philosophy of Architecture at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Auckland in 2012. She recently returned from a post-doc residency in the urban laboratoire AMP at Ecole Nationale d’Architecture Paris La Villette . She currently has a short term research position at the University of Auckland and is completing her first book. Amphibious: six liquid metaphors for a 21st century creative imagination. Other writings can be found on her blog:  http://ecologyurbanismculture.wordpress.com

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