Places that are attractive to live in tend to be sunny, dry and near water. Kerikeri River. Photo: Louise Thomas.
Building Better’s Supporting Success in Regional Settlements research team was out in force to deliver research results from Phase 1 at the Regional Studies Association of Australasia Conference, held this week in Christchurch. Led by Emeritus Professor Harvey Perkins, the team examined the lived and comparative experience of regional small-town New Zealand.
“Part of our mission is to interpret and support local efforts to make these places more attractive to live in, visit, work and do business. Identifying practical solutions for settlement regeneration success is a central goal.
“The research team is examining the broad contexts of regional settlements, their trajectories, and how residents are defining their situation and engaging in initiatives to improve their towns economically, socially, culturally, and environmentally. We are examining what initiatives work best as tools for regeneration and supporting the creation of a community of practice – sharing approaches to settlement development – incorporating private, public, and third-sector practitioners,” says Harvey.
The presentations from the team included Kate Preston, David Maré, Arthur Grimes, and Stuart Donovan’s work on the Amenities and the attractiveness of New Zealand cities.
“We want to articulate what characterises ‘better towns and cities’. Specifically, we analyse which factors attract people and firms – and hence jobs – to different settlements across New Zealand. We’ve found that places that are attractive to live in tend to be sunny, dry and near water – the sea or a lake. Since the mid-1990s, attractive places have also had relatively high shares of the workforce engaged in education and, to a lesser extent, health. Attractive places have high employment shares in the food, accommodation, arts and recreation service sectors; however, unlike for education and health, we find no evidence that quality of life is related to changes in the employment share for these sectors.
Also presenting were Deborah Levy, Raewyn Hills, Harvey Perkins, Mike Mackay, and Malcolm Campbell with their research project on Property-led regeneration: understanding and supporting small town commercial property development initiatives.
The team looked at Timaru and Ashburton, neighbouring towns in New Zealand’s South Island, focusing on the roles of private property developers in regeneration initiatives set in small regional settlements.
“The focus of our work is the ways local property entrepreneurs can be enabled to contribute to the regeneration of these second-tier settlements. The topic emerged serendipitously during our reading of local media and interviews with local authority planners and politicians, and property entrepreneurs interested in the provision of commercial, retail, and hotel premises. The latter are engaging passionately with town centre development projects, but are also reporting variable experiences dealing with the institutions that fund and regulate property development – particularly banks and local authority planning departments.
“Our unfolding analysis points to the importance of locally based and committed benevolent investors in getting any form of commercial property built in small towns but who typically have very little experience in the development of such property. We argue that in small towns there is a need to find ways of encouraging the efforts of these developers and valuing their commitment while at the same time ensuring the best possible environmental and service outcomes,” says Harvey.
Jonathan Kilgour presented on Sense of place, connectedness, belonging, mana whenua and ukaipōtanga as elements in the creation of better towns for Māori. Harvey Perkins, Mike Mackay, Malcolm Campbell, Deborah Levy, Raewyn Hills and Laura Dance reported on Tourism-led regeneration: The need for leadership and strategic thinking in small rural towns. Sean Connelly, Etienne Nel, Ann Pomeroy, and Michelle Thompson Fawcett presented on Harnessing the hinterland: Structural change and local response in rural and small-town New Zealand. Mike Mackay, Nick Taylor, Harvey Perkins, and Karen Johnston reported on Regeneration in the town of Oamaru. Etienne Nel, Sean Connelly and Sammy Bergen presented on Rediscovering the Regions: a new era of regional policy intervention in New Zealand and Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities Director Ruth Berry presented on the future strategy for the Challenge.