Kāpiti Airport. The lungs of our region, some might say. A land asset so integral to the region's growth that the thought of replacing it has stirred much emotion amongst residents, business advocates and community leaders alike.
The Civic Centre. The Wellington School of Architecture. Sky City and the Sky Tower. These are a few of the many significant and iconic buildings and spaces designed by architect Gordon Moller. But his latest work, related to cultural community spaces and the 600 medium-density houses being built in the heart of Ōtaki, place him in exceptional stead to discuss the challenges and opportunities of low-cost housing, the urbanisation of Aotearoa New Zealand, and how to design spaces that enable you to reimagine the potential of a place.
“People need a variety of housing. But what has become difficult, with building material supply issues and increasing inflation, is that the cost of building is a challenge for many. Houses have become less affordable and people are changing their perceptions around what they need to live a well-balanced life. This is the urbanisation of Aotearoa New Zealand.
New Zealand has such a great climate and environment, and housing should respect this and facilitate a relationship between inside and outside. We want individuality, but we don’t need something bigger than the budget. There is an opportunity for this on the Kāpiti Coast.
The Council has defined substantial growth for our region, and to satisfy all of these needs I have touched on, we have an opportunity with Kāpiti Airport.
I made a submission to the Council about a concept of creating new housing whilst retaining a fully operational airport on the existing land. I believe that through clever design, we can have both.
We went through the process of understanding the operational needs of the airport and looking at the residual land. The west zone toward the beach could achieve 1000-3500 houses, depending on density and design, subject to a community co-creation process. The area to the south could be a high-tech or innovative hub, connecting and enhancing the existing commercial Kāpiti landings. We need to think carefully about the environment we seek to create.
For example, what we are designing at the Ōtaki Racecourse for The Wellington Company is about recognising the nature and character of the site.
We’re using the peripheral land around the edges, so the next generation who live there can enjoy this open space, through careful analysis of the ecology, water management, the environment, and respect for the racecourse and its heritage.
We want to create living areas and subtly urbanise the available space, to create a realisation and reimagination of its resources.
I grew up in Lower Hutt and I recall Paraparaumu Beach and Waikanae Beach for their unique environments. We now live at Te Horo. I remember Kāpiti as it was. The beach, the small township, the long Kāpiti Road, and the main highway fish and chip shop. Many buildings that have been built since, and much of the commercial development on Kāpiti Road, together with the urban intensification, have compromised the original character and sense of space.
It could have been a lot different, and the open space of the airport is one element that can keep our region from being just another suburban environment. I see this land as the lungs of Paraparaumu.
When one thinks of townships and cities, then what are the attributes that come to mind? For example, the essence of Wellington is the harbour and hills, and the spaces and suburbs created. The natural qualities and the urban development give you a sense of place. The town belt does a brilliant job of articulating and punctuating the centre of our capital city.
The driving feature of the Kāpiti Coast are the Tararuas and their relationship to the beach, Kāpiti Island and the Tasman Sea, but urban development has compromised these relationships. It is what it is, but covering the open space of the airport with anonymous housing is a mistake. It is possible to both retain the airport as well as achieve much needed housing. Advancing technology of air travel, avionics, electric aircraft, together with the current review that the Central Government is carrying out on provincial airports, provides a primer to a new and better way for the region.
We know that we can make the airport fully operational and achieve medium density housing with clever design. We can achieve an environment with good urban community qualities and an innovation hub that is complementary to our region's future needs, and that is financially viable.
We will never get this opportunity again, once the open space of the airport has gone. It is imperative to retain as much as we can, because the environment of climate change makes all land precious. Let’s deliver a contemporary environment that our community needs.”
Important dates for our region:
● Friday 16 September - voting for local councillor candidates opens.
● 12 pm Saturday 8 October - voting for local councillor candidates closes.