Assessing the Health and Wellbeing Impacts of Urban Planning in Avondale: A New Zealand Case Study

Article excerpt

Abstract

Health impact assessment at the policy level is a new development in New Zealand. This paper evaluates the approach and impact of one of New Zealand's first HIAs to use a "wider determinants of health" approach. The HIA was undertaken on the draft Avondale Future Framework, a non-statutory planning document to guide development and manage growth within the suburb of Avondale in Auckland City. The approach described in this paper was based on standard HIA methodologies, using a New Zealand tool. Strong partnerships and close working relationships between the HIA practitioner and the proposal development team were vital to the success of this HIA. Its modest budget reflects the excellent value of HIA for informing decisions to promote and protect wellbeing and public health, as demonstrated by 33 of the 35 HIA recommendations being accepted by Auckland City Council. Overall, the study showed that HIA is a useful tool for assessing the policy-level impacts that might arise from local government proposals.

INTRODUCTION

Health impact assessment (HIA) at the policy level is a new development in New Zealand. This paper reports on the approach and impact of one of New Zealand's first HIAs to use a "wider determinants of health" approach, (2) with the intention of helping future decision makers decide whether to invest in HIA. This article was informed by textual analysis of HIA reports, minutes of meetings, observation, and discussions with key informants. The case study shows that both the process and the short-term impacts of the HIA were valuable for all involved.

THE AVONDALE FUTURE FRAMEWORK

The Auckland region in New Zealand is undergoing rapid population growth, with the population projected to increase by 600,000 people, to reach two million, by the year 2050. This level of growth will place pressure on the health and wellbeing of communities, existing services and the natural and physical environment. To facilitate growth in a sustainable manner the regional and local councils have developed and adopted the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy (Auckland City Council 2003). Under its obligations within this strategy, Auckland City Council has developed future frameworks for 14 growth centres identified in the city. The key themes are to provide for more intensive living environments in town centres that have good access to public transport, open space and employment opportunities.

Avondale was identified as a priority one area of change in Auckland City Council's growth management strategy. (The growth management strategy is the council's response to the wider Auckland Regional Growth Strategy, which seeks to achieve a compact, urban city.) The draft Avondale's Future Framework is a non-statutory planning document, which provides a framework to guide development and manage growth within Avondale (Auckland City Council 2005). The development of this framework has been prioritised because Avondale is experiencing growth pressures in its commercial and residential sectors.

A draft of the framework (also known as a Liveable Community Plan at the time) was prepared in 2000 (Auckland City Council 2000), and focused on providing capacity for intensification. The Council decided to reappraise the document and to take a community development approach to the development of the framework. This involved going back to the Avondale community (with the objective of listening to the "quiet voices" such as youth, Chinese migrants and Polynesian women) and resulted in a revised version of the framework (Auckland City Council 2005). This was the version that went out for public consultation and that was the focus of the HIA. The key theme of this approach, driven by the Community Development team of Auckland City Council, was openness to new ways of working with the community and developing policy. These included the use of translators with the Chinese community and using artists to undertake consultation. …