Heritage vs car culture

Napier central, Tiffen Park entrance

Napier. A great architectural legacy and the idea that heritage presents a value to the city, to be safeguarded (see Napier City Vision 2015). And in the middle of that, the ongoing complicated love-story with cars.

It reminded me of Wellington’s beautiful Fire Central, also in the central area, at the crossroads of the active Courtenay Place and the seafront, but cut off by endless lanes of traffic. It makes me also think of virtually all town centres in New Zealand, where historic buildings are disfigured by shrill footpath roofing, floor-to-ceiling advertisements and signs on the footpath, yelling at you “2 dollars!” or selling you any kind of service.

Now imagine these amazing buildings in an environment that encourages walking and sojourning, and that puts them in evidence, making them participate in the public space. I think that their value, as assets. would skyrocket. I also bet that vast majorities would support that new status quo. From a transport planning perspective, this would support the cities’ efforts to increase liveability and reduce reliance on cars. I hope councils go in that direction.

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