Journal article

Do denser urban areas save on infrastructure?: Evidence from New Zealand territorial authorities

Urban planning Infrastructure Local government Roads Water supply New Zealand
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The purpose of this research was to examine the link between density and the costs of providing infrastructure in New Zealand. There is a need for research to provide planners and local authorities with an evidence base for shaping development to be economically efficient as well as socially and environmentally sustainable.

Compact (dense) urban form presents an alternative to the sprawling city development that characterises many younger cities around the world. Sprawl is low-density, car-oriented, dispersed or leapfrog development, typically with segregated land uses (Litman, 2015). Compactness is argued to be an important component of sustainable urban form, other elements of which include destination accessibility, design of street networks, diversity (mix) of land use, density of intersections (connectivity), and distance to destinations by walking and cycling (Ewing and Cervero, 2010). Benefits of sustainable urban form and design, it is claimed, can extend to energy saving, emission reduction, more available green space and even improved community interaction (Jabareen, 2006; Joffe and Smith, 2016; Litman, 2012; Talen, 1999). For example, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (2014) argues that: ‘more compact, more connected city forms allow significantly greater energy efficiency and lower emissions per unit of economic activity’ (p.41). Other literature reinforces the significance of the potential economic, environmental and social gains (Creutzig et al., 2015; Ewing et al., 2011; Holman et al., 2015; OECD, 2012).

The findings have backing within the international literature, and have relevance to local government in New Zealand. They provide significant evidence to local government planners that compact urban form is likely to be more economically efficient than dispersed development.

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