It's time to build future-focused towns and cities

Dan Lowe
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The recent weather events in New Zealand have left a trail of destruction, affecting both businesses and homeowners alike. Despite the magnitude of the damage, there are some massive opportunities left in their wake, particularly if we learn from history and what Cantabrians have achieved since tragedy struck their region.

Insurance pay-outs will create much needed stimulus
While the initial cost of the damage is staggering, insurance proceeds will help to spur economic activity at a time when work is drying up. This is especially true for the contractors who will be tasked with the repair and reconstruction of damaged buildings, roads and other infrastructure.

Questions are now being asked about who will carry out the work – is there enough labour? The answer is – all are welcome. I anticipate a significant migration of construction businesses and tradies occurring to help with the increased demand, in fact, one of our clients grew a successful construction firm in Christchurch after the earthquakes, and they’re now looking to expand operations in Auckland.

The increased demand for services will result in job creation and an uptick in economic activity. This, in turn, will have a ripple effect in other sectors such as construction materials, transportation, and retail.

A prime opportunity to create innovative, future focussed cities
The next big opportunity is how we work with these key industry players to ensure the rebuild effort will improve infrastructure, and most importantly, produce sustainable outcomes to help deal with the impact of climate change.

This is a chance for New Zealand to make investments in new technologies, materials, and building practices that will make the country more resilient to future weather events.

For example, consideration could be given to the development of low impact development (LID) stormwater management systems. LID systems aim to mimic the natural hydrology of an area by using techniques like permeable pavements, green roofs, and rain gardens to slow and filter runoff before it reaches the stormwater system. These innovative approaches can improve water quality, reduce the risk of flooding, and create attractive green spaces in urban areas.

And in terms of our urban areas, we need to stop taking short cuts by turning rural land into homes miles away from the central city, and build better cities for our modern lifestyles supported by more contemporary public transport systems.

When Christchurch was devastated by the earthquakes, this prompted a review of urban planning and the city has since made significant changes to its zoning and building methods to reduce the risk of damage from future earthquakes – and in just over ten short years Christchurch has emerged as an innovative and resilient city. Auckland needs to adopt similar practices to ensure new developments are better prepared for future natural disasters.

With determination, hard work, and some clever thinking, we can emerge from this tragedy even stronger and more resilient. Everyone from regulators, businesses, homeowners and the construction sector has a role to play here, otherwise, how many more natural disasters need to happen before we all take meaningful action?