Robert Nairn




To deal with Auckland’s housing crisis Special Housing Areas (SHA’s) have been earmarked throughout a predominantly large expanse of green field sites across rural South Auckland. One of the real issues with this fast track legislative and development process, is that previously the development of such areas has been conducted in an unsustainable manner. Lacking nearly any form of social or environmental benefit to a wider context. This project was an investigation into how a proposed Special Housing Area, located on the urban fringe of South Auckland could act as a key role model for a new form of sustainable development that Auckland could adopt. 

This project focuses on 28 hectares of Papakura’s ex-golf course, designated for the development of 350 dwellings. The geographical location of the site between the foothills of the Hunua Ranges to the east and upper stretches of the Manakau Harbour to the west, creates a large expanse of low lying land known as the Drury Floodplains. Up to 75% of the site destined for development is located within this Floodplain, including an intersecting large scale stream system. It in a state that is currently unsuitable for development. Experimentation with on-site hydrological management through a natural approach, compared to conventional methods of channelling water through man made interventions was explored in the initial investigations. The driving concept behind the formation of the design was to re-shape the land prior to that of its construction of a golf course and simply create a weaving catchment system based on the structure of a natural stream tributary as found in nature. With reference to existing low lying contours, the arteries of this native vegetated catchment extend and intersect through the lowest points of the site where several water retention ponds occur, holding and filtrating water before its return to the stream. An extent of board walks and timber platforms have been integrated throughout the wetland for passive use which integrates with the residential development.  The geographical location of the site and this naturalising approach to the land ties back to the site, acting as a connecting ‘green finger’ into the lower stream system that flows from the Hunua Ranges into the upper basin of the Manakau Harbour.

When it came to development options, a Dutch form of architecture has been adopted for the dwellings that fulfils a European style and simplistic form. A mix of both single dwelling and joined terraced housing has been proposed featuring off grid living options such as photovoltaic solar cells for electricity, in-ground tanks for rain water collection and large skylight windows on the roof to maximise natural lighting. This form of European architecture and sustainable living alternatives has been heavily featured across numerous cities throughout Holland, Germany, Denmark and Austria in small and large scale developments since the mid 90’s. Current Auckland City trends such as decentralised methods of development that are not dependent on the city ‘s gridded infrastructure provide an opportunity to explore this.

Development options along with closely knit road and pathway networks have been integrated into the site around the natural catchment system, where all land has been re-shaped to allow the natural catchment of water. Where it is generally the case that landscapes are designed and constructed to fit around the existing built urban form this project seeks to fit the built urban form around the landscape. This project highlights the importance of how landscapes can act as an underlying system for beneficial social growth while also serving as an environmental node to the wider context.