30.10.2017 : Hugh Leersnyder

Planning for our future

At a time when the construction industry is booming, the fate of the environment is looming. Pressure for housing, improved infrastructure, and more dependable travel times is seeing land development occurring at an increasing rate.

But at what cost to the environment?

As Auckland continues to grow and develop, land continues to be stripped of vegetation for the construction of subdivisions, roads, and other developments. Land disturbing activities that expose bare earth can significantly increase the generation and discharge of elevated levels of sediment and other contaminants.

Without adequate planning and controls, it’s the environment that suffers the consequence, with sediment ending up in our water bodies and eventually making its way into the coastal environment. This impacts water quality, leading to reduced clarity and subsequent degradation of benthic habitats, aquatic wildlife, and the wider food chain and ecosystem.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Greater awareness and understanding across the construction industry, in addition to a stronger legislative framework and enforcement action, are improving our environmental management practices on construction sites.

Auckland Council has taken a lead on these issues, engaging Beca and SouthernSkies to update the existing Guideline for Land Disturbing Activities in the Auckland Region (otherwise known as TP90) with the latest in best practice and procedures. The new guideline, now known as GD05, is evolutionary, building on the knowledge and practices of TP90. Through innovation and industry collaboration, it holds great potential for better environmental opportunities and outcomes.

However, without correct understanding and education, the successful implementation and use of the guideline is limited. A full understanding of all factors contributing to our environment is key.

Considerations for land development

When it comes to developing our natural environment, it’s important to consider all four ‘wellbeings’; not just the natural environment, but also the social, economic and cultural environments. Often it can be difficult to navigate these, and understand where the bottom lines exist. In my experience, specialists often have a narrow focus, and provide advice based on one of these wellbeings alone.

With consideration to land development, there are many factors to consider. The effect of polluted waters extends far beyond the physical environment. Degraded waters also have implications for human health, with many rivers and streams identified as unsuitable for swimming or drinking. Not only does this polluted water make us sick, it’s also becoming increasingly costly to treat.

A key concern of Mana Whenua is the effect on the mauri of water through the pollution of streams, rivers, catchments and harbours. Degradation of water quality can affect the ability for customary harvest and manaaki due to depletion of, or in some cases the absence of, traditional mahinga kai resources.

The key to getting the most out of GD05 is in having a full understanding of the broader picture – how these wellbeings interact and therefore how to use the guide to manage the bottom lines for your project.

This is when it can be beneficial to call in an environmental broker. We work with clients to help them navigate the various factors influencing their project. Through close relationships with regulatory organisations and our interactions with a wide range of specialists, such as SouthernSkies, we take a holistic approach to managing environmental issues and seeking outcomes which benefit not only the natural environment, but the social, cultural and economic environments too.  

Through our industry relationships, 97 years of experience, and our strong, yet broad understanding of the world our clients operate in everyday, we create better outcomes for our clients, our community and our environment.

If you want to see how we can help you navigate this multidimensional landscape, and make things happen, get in touch.

About the Author

Hugh Leersnyder

Technical Director - Environments

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