Canterbury Passenger Rail Workshop #3 – Rundown

On Monday night we had Canterbury Passenger Rail Workshop #3. It really was just a workshop for the hardcore – it unfortunately coincided with extreme weather conditions, so kudos to the 25 or so hardy souls still willing/able to come out.

We began with Glen presenting us an Avengers:Endgame inspired roadmap showing what material we have covered in these workshops, and where we intend to go from here.


It explained how we have covered a real mix of topics to date, and the challenge now is to pull them all together into some sort of coherent plan of action.

We then recapped the problems that we ranked at the previous workshop.


And then moved onto discussing and then weighting the objectives. People were asked “how important is each of these objectives?” and to apportion 100 points across the 6 objectives. The end result was this:


It showed the top four of improved wellbeing for society, improved outcomes for the environment, better access and better/more eficient use of space, standing out quite a long way above the bottom two of more reliable travel times and better perception/experience of public transport.

There was some really good discussion around the objectives themselves – a few key points were:

  • People said it was hard to weight them when some objectives seem quite high level while others are more in the details.
  • People said some objectives were very broad and hard to know what specifically they meant.
  • For example when we say we want to achieve more reliable travel times, is this just for public transport users? Or for all road users? Should we prioritise more productive trips like freight and business over recreational trips? And is it just more reliable travel times or faster travel times as well? Or should it be more of a comparative measure like “public transport having quicker travel times than cars”? Lots of great questions debated…

Next Mark Fraser of the Hobsonville Land Company spoke to us about the work he’s been doing building a community of high-quality, vibrant, well-connected, affordable homes in northwest Auckland. There are a whole heap of extremely valuable lessons in this experiment for the whole country.


He spoke about the initial doubt that Aucklanders’ would want to buy higher-density homes, and how that proved to be unfounded. He spoke about lots of little experiments they tried to see what people wanted and what they didn’t. This included things like using different stud heights on different houses, designing some units with flexibility to use their ground floor to run a business out of, trying to see “how small is too small?” by building the tiniest house they physically could (it was still snapped up), building some units with garages and some without, and a whole pile of other little tests. Impressively, he made a point of living in the development while all this was going on, even living in several different unit types, so has a deep personal understanding about the pros and cons of each different type. Capture.PNG

He also made the point that a lot of this isn’t actually new stuff, we are really just relearning lessons that we used to know 50-100 years ago, but have forgotten in recent decades. He demonstrated this by showing examples of older Auckland homes, that have a lot of similarities with what they are building in Hobsonville.


The full presentation here goes into more detail.

I know I wasn’t the only one who was blown away by the work they’ve been doing there, and I’d definitely recommend trying to have a chat to Mark in person if you are involved in anything to do with housing and trying to build better residential typologies.

Housing type has a massive impact on travel patterns. At the moment Christchurch is almost exclusivey low-density sprawl, which results in almost all our travel being via car. Sprawl is extraordinarily difficult to service efficiently with walking, cycling and public transport networks. If we want Christchurch to be a cleaner, more sustainable, more affordable, more efficient, and healthier city, then it is critical to begin shifting Christchurch’s housing stock away from auto-dependent suburbia, towards development patterns that are able to be efficiently serviced by public transport, walking and cycling. We need to learn the lessons of Hobsonville and apply them down here.

Finally I wrapped things up by explaining what work is going on in parallel to these workshops in the business case universe – the business cases that have been completed, the business cases that are currently being progressed, and the business cases that are yet to come. I then tried to explain how we see our workshops complementing these business cases, by attempting to expand the conversation and drag it into the political realm.

The presentation slides are here for anyone interested.

Thanks for everyone who came. The next workshop will be at the same venue, 6:00pm Monday 27 May. Further details to follow soon!


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