Ben Ross: Transforming and unlocking our town centres

Panuku Development Auckland has got approval from Auckland Council to 'transform' the Manukau city centre.
Panuku Development Auckland

Panuku Development Auckland has got approval from Auckland Council to 'transform' the Manukau city centre.

OPINION: Transform Manukau and Unlock Papatoetoe, these names might not stand out straight away but none-the-less they are crucial projects in southern Auckland.

Back when I was a kid in the 1990's and a teen in the early 2000's, I use to remember going to Old Papatoetoe whether it was going to the New World, the local butcher or to Robin Garlic Pharmacy (now Papatoetoe City Centre Pharmacy). While late night Thursdays were trips to Manukau City Centre and the mall. Today in 2017, with my own young family, we visit the library and other local stores in Papakura Metropolitan Centre while still making semi-regular trips to Manukau City Centre visiting the larger stores, the movies or the increasing variety of eating places around.

However, not much has changed with those places since I was a teen over a decade ago. Yes, Manukau got a new cinema but for the rest, it along with Papatoetoe and Papakura have really not changed, they have stood still as kids become adults with their own families and they have different tastes and expectations to their parents before them.

Enter Transform Manukau and Unlock Papatoetoe.

Auckland Council through its property arm Panuku Development Auckland ( is charged with urban regeneration projects across Auckland varying in scale:

Panuku will 'Transform' locations by creating change through urban regeneration. Panuku will lead the transformation of select parts of our region; working alongside others and using our custodianship of land and planning expertise. Transform Manukau is one example

Panuku will also 'Unlock' development potential for others. By acting as a facilitator; using relationships to break down barriers and influence others, including our council family, to create development opportunities. e.g. (Old) Papatoetoe Mall upgrade. 

A 'Support' role where Panuku will ensure council is making the most of what it already has. Intensification is a key driver in the Auckland Plan. Panuku will support housing demands by enabling development of council-owned land. E.g. Link Crescent, Whanagaraoa.

So with the South we have Transform Manukau and Unlock (Old) Papatoetoe as the two larger urban regeneration projects underway (see the Panuku link above for more on the two projects). Panuku work with the respective Local Boards and community stakeholders to both engage and inform the plans and current projects underway per the mandate set by Council in 2016.

As a stakeholder, I was engaged informally by Panuku to bounce ideas around when the High Level Project Plan and the Framework Plan were set for Transform Manukau. I can say the Plans for Transform Manukau are not just about public squares and some flash new buildings but rather how the people interact with Manukau City Centre and how Manukau connects up as the heart of a booming southern Auckland. 'Manukau – The Meeting Place of the South' was what was coined and will be a running theme for Manukau.

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In the end, thirty year plans for Manukau and Papatoetoe were created in collaboration with the community. These plans are now being executed and the first tangible results can be seen with construction underway in both Old Papatoetoe and Manukau City Centre. Better transit and cycling access, upgraded public spaces, wider variety of retail and hospitality spaces, able to walk around the place without having to worry about being run over no matter your age.

End result? Two Transformed and Unlocked 21st Century Centres our kids will come to enjoy as we did in our time.

The ultimate question becomes where are the Transform and Unlock plans are for Manurewa and Papakura? Something seems off if the Manukau Ward can get itself together but Manurewa-Papakura Ward cannot in terms of getting its centres 'Transformed' and 'Unlocked'.

 - Stuff

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