The fabric of our cities is changing rapidly in response to ongoing population growth. What will the impact be on places like our lawns and vegetable gardens, roadside berms, neighbourhood parks, riparian strips, patches of bush, school fields, golf courses and civic gardens?

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has investigated the ongoing changes to our urban green space and the environmental services these spaces provide. Temperature regulation, stormwater management, air filtration and habitat provision don’t just benefit individuals, they benefit everyone around them. They can be considered a form of infrastructure every bit as important as pipes and roads. 

This report also presents new data on how public and private green spaces in Auckland, Hamilton and Greater Wellington have evolved over the decades. It found New Zealand cities are currently well-endowed with green space, though some suburbs are greener than others.

But the data show that urban green space has been declining over time. Between 1980 and 2016, green space per person fell by at least 30% in Auckland, and at least 20% in Hamilton. Nearly all of this loss occurred on private residential land.

The report found two main factors have driven this trend. The first is infill development – the conversion of yards and sections into houses and driveways in existing urban areas. The second is a shift towards larger houses on smaller sections in new subdivisions. These trends were already playing out before recent government moves to promote further intensification.

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