Auckland scored below average in an international study on sustainable living.
The Global Healthy and Sustainable City study, published by the Lancet Global Health journal, compared 25 cities in 19 countries.
Researchers from over 30 universities have used standardized methods to assess political parameters, urban design and transport in Maiduguri, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Baltimore, Phoenix, Seattle, Hong Kong, Chennai, Bangkok, Hanoi, Graz, Ghent, Bern, Olomouc, Cologne, Odense, Barcelona, Valencia, Vic, Belfast, Lisbon, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Tāmaki Makaurau.
They used indicators such as population density, street connectivity, and proximity to public transport and food, to assess the health-promoting nature and sustainability of each city, and identify inequities in access. .
Together, they were able to identify urban design and transportation thresholds that would increase active transportation and promote health.
The study shows that only one in five neighborhoods in Tāmaki Makaurau meet the thresholds of street density and connectivity to meet the World Health Organization’s targets for increasing physical activity.
While most residents have open public spaces within 500 meters of their homes, that drops to two-thirds with access to larger parks.
And if there are enough bus stops, the frequency of services is low, which discourages the use of public transport.
Erica Hinckson, professor of physical activity and the environment at AUT and co-author of the study, said that although there are enough bus stops, the number of services is low, which discourages use of public transport.
“We need to make more routes available and more frequent so that ultimately people change their behavior if the modes of transport available to them were easy, convenient and safe.”
Only 56% of Auckland residents have access to bus stops with regular services.
Hinckson said the city needs to look at how it designs new developments to put more emphasis on amenities and services.
“It’s not just about housing, it’s about making sure we have amenities, services and parks.”
She said that while most cities aspire to be healthy and sustainable, many lack measurable targets to achieve those aspirations.
The researchers also developed tools that can be used by other cities to assess and track their progress towards health and sustainability.
“These new indicators can provide policy direction for cities looking to reinvent themselves after the Covid-19 pandemic,” Hinckson said.
“Healthy and sustainable cities have never been more important or urgent. Covid-19 has highlighted the vulnerability of our cities, and the risk of climate change is increasingly evident. The need for policy reform is essential and this research shows what is needed.”