Big plans for a small town with few cars

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Photo / Supplied.

Sunfield, in South Auckland, heralds a new way of life for Kiwis.

One of the most daring developments in New Zealand history – a small-car, solar-powered, eco-friendly facility of 5,000 homes on 221 hectares – is the first residential project to go through the new government-fueled, expedited consent process.

Located between Papakura and Takanini and designed by real estate developer Winton, Sunfield departs dramatically from traditional norms, with CEO Chris Meehan saying New Zealand will never meet emissions targets and embrace cleaner lifestyles without developments like Sunfield.

Its central tenet is that residents have the opportunity to live, work, and spend most of their time in a uniquely shaped society where eco-friendly living is a way of life, including breaking the deadlock. auto addiction. This is a first for New Zealand, with only a few similar projects scattered around the world – in Germany, the Netherlands and Abu Dhabi.

Meehan says, “The point of all of this and the reason we think we will need so many cars less is that we are trying to provide all the amenities that people will need – homes, jobs, education, healthcare, restaurants and bars, leisure areas, retail. , and refueling – on site.

“The design ensures that everything is a short walk or bike ride away. There will be few roads because there will be few cars – and that means not only lower costs, but a better quality of life with better air and safer, quieter neighborhoods. , more diverse, inclusive, economically healthy and not dependent on cars. “

The comprehensive plan for Sunfield, a community designed to enable ‘car-free’ living and which Winton says will be 20% cheaper than average house prices in Auckland, includes:

  • 5,000 housing units, or 4,400 individual housing units and three retirement villages of approximately 600 independent housing units and care suites.
  • 250,000 m² of employment, health and education buildings, contributing to the creation of permanent jobs for 11,000 people.
  • Renewable solar power grid for the community – which Meehan says should be able to supply nearly 100% of Sunfield’s electricity needs.
  • A fleet of Sunbus autonomous electric shuttles to meet internal transport needs and to link with Papakura train station
  • A city center of 4 ha.
  • Two schools.
  • Four retail centers located throughout the community.
  • 22.8 ha of green spaces, green links, parks and recreational reserves and ecological compensations.
  • Restoration and native planting of the main network of watercourses and wetlands.

Exploring Sunfield’s likely way of life gives an even better idea of ​​how this development will move away from New Zealand’s “normal” colonies.

Transportation is the most obvious – with only one in 10 households owning a car. The houses will be built without garages, driveways and roads, with the exception of the Sunfield Loop – the Sunfield “artery”, connecting the entire area.

Cars will be parked at several ‘mobility hubs’ around Sunfield, as will all visiting cars. One or more ridesharing companies will operate within Sunfield to meet the needs of anyone requiring external car travel. A shortage of other roads will mean not only a reduction in municipal tariffs, but also the possibility of designing a residential area where everything is within a 15-minute walk, including the 11,000 jobs they aim to create in the area.

The loop will also accommodate a fleet of autonomous Ohmio electric buses, called Sunbus – still certified in New Zealand but already operational overseas. The buses will be “flagged” by the app, with residents able to get in and out of the buses at their doorstep.

“There will be no bus stops as we know them,” says Meehan. “People will just use the app and be able to get off where they live – so there will be no problem getting home with the groceries, for example.”

Solar energy will also be evident; nearly every rooftop will be covered with solar cells which Meehan says will provide all – or nearly all – of the development’s energy needs, based on solar power modeling, stored in large batteries around Sunfield.

“When we look at developments of this magnitude, we always look 15 to 20 years away and assess how people will want to live then,” he says. “In Auckland there won’t be any main roads built – and the congestion on the roads we already have will mean people won’t want to be there anymore.

“That’s why we embraced the idea of ​​a residential area that provides almost everything people need, reducing the need to travel – and let’s face it, the best way to reduce the harmful effects of vehicles is to do without vehicles. We think the new New Zealand market is ready for this; people are already increasingly embracing environmental concerns.

“This is also what the government thinks, with its push for electric vehicles and the reduction of emissions. They have set very strong targets in terms of compliance with the Paris Agreement, but we will not get there. less than taking bold action like this. “

Winton is seeking development approval for Sunfield through the Urban Development Act (UDA), central government fast-track legislation designed to speed up large real estate developments. Meehan would like consent to be given within 3 months, with construction starting immediately thereafter. Winton funds all of Sunfield’s development and infrastructure.

“There is no doubt that the UDA was specifically created to expedite the zoning change, approval and delivery of a large-scale project like Sunfield,” said Meehan.

The units will be on one and two floors, facing the pedestrian paths. However, with reduced council rates due to less infrastructure normally provided by councils, significant energy savings and less costs associated with owning a car, the costs of living in Sunfield would be significantly. reduced.

“We’re ready to go,” Meehan says. “With the government’s fast-track consent, we can dramatically increase Auckland’s building stock and help New Zealand get back on track to meet its climate-related goals.”


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