West Town Belt – Study from 1973

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In this post, [my words are in square brackets], the bold type is my emphasis, and p refers to page number. The main text comes from:

‘HAMILTON CENTRAL AREA’– (HCC Library REF-S-711.5522099334-AND)

A Planning Design Study By James A. Anderson, M.A. (Hons), Dip. Ed.

Presented towards the requirements of the Royal Australian Planning Institute Examination – June 1973

Open Space Potential – p7

The central area of Hamilton has three assets as regards open space, each of which has great potential for recreational development and improving the aesthetic character of the city. These are the riverbank known as ‘Hamilton Parade’, the Town Belt, and Garden Place.

Figure 7

p8. The Town Belt is also a priceless asset, and its ‘erosion’ by uses other than open space or recreation is to be regretted. The future use of this belt needs careful planning if what remains of it is to continue to serve the people of the city as the founders intended when it was set aside in 1879.

p12. (9) Figure 7 shows that much of the Town Belt has been eroded for purposes other than recreation, or is leased to sporting organisations which effectively exclude the general public from their areas except when competitive events take place. Little land is therefore left for casual use by the public. A close examination of future policies towards the use of this Town Belt land is needed.

p27. The Town Belt has been seriously depleted since 1879 when it was laid out (see Figure 7). A large part of the southern area has been subdivided for residences, two schools have located on it, the City Council has taken one section for a workshop and depot and another, by the river, for a water treatment plant, now obsolete, and large areas have been leased to sports organisations, thereby effectively denying access to the public for much of the time. Seddon Park, the city’s major cricket ground, Rugby Park, the premier rugby ground, the Hamilton Squash Club’s premises and a tennis club are the main areas concerned here. These areas are fenced off and although theoretically the public can use them, in practice they are excluded except for the times when matches are played. Thus, Hinemoa Park, the Lake, and small patches elsewhere are the only areas of open space remaining for passive use or visual relief.

p28 – It is very important, therefore, to preserve what is left of the Town Belt as open space. This includes recovering areas such as the City Council Depot and former Waterworks sites. The continued use of certain areas for active sport would seem desirable, although further buildings such as the Squash Club’s facility, especially since this is a club with necessarily restricted membership, should be prohibited. Major sporting grounds such as Seddon Park and Rugby Park provide entertainment on a regional scale for important matches and their location here can therefore be justified in terms of the number of people they serve. However, attention must be given to providing adequate off-street parking in their vicinity [*]. An increased use of school facilities by the community could help to bring the areas taken for schools back into public use. [* what does “adequate” off-street parking mean? Presently 8 to 10% of usable land within the West Town belt is used for parking, and we might ask “what is too much parking?”

Aesthetic Factors:

p28. The Town Belt must be consolidated to serve its function as an ‘edge’ to the inner city, providing ‘visual relief’ from built-up areas on either side. In order to create the sense of a ‘core’ to the city, high rise development within the central city should be confined to a relatively small area.

p38. Objectives:

(iv) Areas eroded from the Town Belt over the years for Municipal uses must be returned to open space uses. [Include bowling green]


(iv) Major sporting grounds are an acceptable use on Town Belt land since they provide an amenity for large numbers of the public on the occasion of major sporting events. However, the provision of adequate off-street parking must be ensured. [What is adequate parking? NZTA report 374 ‘Comparisons of NZ and UK trips and parking rates’ tells us ‘meaningful comparative analysis of sports fields … is not possible’ p66.  Is car-parking within the Town Belt area already eroding useable space for recreation?]

(v) No further Town Belt land should be allocated to clubs with restricted membership, particularly if it involves the erection of buildings.

p71. The Town Belt should continue to serve a dual function of providing major sporting facilities and areas for passive recreation and visual relief. To this end, further building on it should be restricted and areas held for municipal purposes returned to open space. It will thus serve as a frame for the central city. 

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Dwelling minimum size

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Is New Zealand’s housing crisis about lack of entry-level housing? Are parts of Hamilton’s Operative District Plan (ODP) about political distaste for entry-level housing? This post looks at rules 4.4.12 (page 27) and 4.6.4 (page 36).

I will start with the absolute minimum living conditions by referencing a Submission from the New Zealand ‘Human Rights Commission’ To: Justice Committee. Page 11‘The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s basic guidance requires 6m² of living space for a single-occupancy cell, and 4m² of living space per prisoner in a multiple-occupancy cell. This excludes the space for sanitary facilities. A single-occupancy cell should measure 6m² plus the space required for a sanitary annexe (usually 1m² to 2m²).’

What we do not want is living conditions worse than prison conditions. Here, NZ Treasury and Corrections reviewed Spring Hill and other prison facilities. ‘A single Cell single 7.6m2 to 8.6m2 and a double 10.6m2 – 14.7m2 (page 18). The double is close to torture, based on the European reference (6+4+1=11m2). But there is a bit more to prisons than just cells. It is important to note that “the recidivism rate is believed to be related to the success of the programmes that are implemented. It is the needs of these programmes that will determine the requirements for space and facilities in the prison design”. Page 18 of the link gives supporting measurements. The photo below is not prison accommodation; it is an illustration of ‘Space Box studio units’. Hundreds of them are being used around The Netherlands.

“The Space Box is equipped to operate as a compact house in its entirety…[it] consists of kitchen, shower and bathroom, all equipped in an area of ​​18 m2 or 22 m2”. So what justifies Hamilton’s 35m2 minimum studio size?

IKEA also offers 22m2 and 25m2 Studio examples. But back to Holland, where Delft University of Technology (ref 1) designed low-income housing for the South African government’s ‘Reconstruction and Development Programme’ (RDP). This is a 30m2  one-bedroom unit and below IKEA offers a 35m2 version. So what justifies Hamilton’s 45m2 minimum one bedroom size?

The New Zealand Initiative report: ‘Priced Out’ gives an example of what happens when there is an over-supply of entry-level dwellings (Page18) (my emphasis).

“The sale of education to foreigners after changes to the Immigration Act in 1986 saw many small high-rise units – some as small as 28 square metres – built near universities and language institutes. Auckland’s inner-city resident population increased by 500% to more than 17,000 between 1991 and 2006. At the end of 2005, The New Zealand Herald estimated that as many as 9,000 inner-city apartments had been constructed in central Auckland, some of them now empty because several language institutes were in financial trouble.”

The ODP rule on minimum floor area was not in Hamilton’s last-century Town Planning rule books; it has nothing to do with the RMA. Is it about politicians’ desires for other people to think like they do? The problem is that New Zealand does have a housing crisis because of an undersupply of entry-level housing. The outcome of limiting the supply of entry-level dwellings is that the entry-level dwellings become like prisons, where you have no choices.

Ref 1 – The Architecture annual 2001-2002, Delft University of Technology Research into possibilities of energy-saving construction. page 105-107

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