Karaka BioSphere Reserve

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Dustyn O’Leary James Haining Brendan Clemens Kevin Zhu

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A new Auckland growth strategy that sets the standard for high quality urban living while promoting ecological, economic and social resilience. By Dustyn O'Leary, James Haining, Brendan Clemens and Kevin Zhu.

Transcript of Karaka BioSphere Reserve

Page 1: Karaka BioSphere Reserve

Karaka Bio-Sphere Reserve

Dustyn O’LearyJames HainingBrendan ClemensKevin Zhu

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ContentsContext Task overview 3 Auckland Region 4 Karaka Region 5Land Suitability Analysis Abiotic Factors and Biotic Factors 6-9Development Constraints 10Ecological Opportunities 11 Development Plan 12 Bio-sphere Reserves 13-14 Intergrating Ecology and Density 15 Ecological and Social Connections 16Development Densities High Density 17 Medium Density 18 Agricultural Land 18A New Karaka 19Conclusion and References 20

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Auckland Urban Growth

Current projections for population growth in Auckland City indicate that another 1 million people could be living in the area within the next 30 years. The Auckland Council has recognised that in order to house, em-ploy and feed this increasing population, new methods of development must be found in order for Auckland to become “the world’s most live-able city.” (Auckland Plan, 2012).

Task Overview

In response to the issues facing Auckland in meeting the needs of a growing population, our task was to take the first steps in designing a new development that will tackle our current predicament. The allocated site is located in Karaka - on the southern outskirts of the wider Auck-land area.

We then proceeded to analyse the main landscape factors, elements, processes and patterns with recognition of the landscape’s character and current agricultural use.

From this analysis we were able to identify areas in which settlement growth would be best located. This was followed by the implementation of sound logic to illustrate how the development should be shaped as well as applying ecological design principals and concepts in order to enhance the ecological performance of the site.

The main aim was to investigate the possibilities of an alternative model of urban development outside of the current urban limits. The focus will be on the ecological performance and ‘livability’ of the proposed devel-opments.

Development of a growth strategy plan was also important in showing a wide range of issues that will be present.

Our Approach

From our analysis and research we found the best aim is to plan this area of growth under the concept of a Biosphere Re-serve. This will help to retain the rural feel of Karaka, develop

high ecological performance and create housing for a relatively large number of people within a small part of the Auckland re-


The development will be designed to create an environment that encourages mental and physical integration with the native

ecology throughout the landscape and all the land use activi-ties. Therefore there will be an emphasis put on ecological res-

toration and ecosystem integration in the development plan.

Context - Task Overview

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Auckland Region Rural Character Map


Auckland City and Main Suburbs

Context - Auckland Region

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Karaka Character Analysis

Manukau HarbourThe landscape of Karaka is characterised by the range of natural forces which have shaped its form. Karaka’s landscape boasts gently rolling hills, which flatten out near the coast to become mangrove wetlands and estuary mudflats.

The bigger expanses of open land speak of decades of agricultur-al use and have a strong rural character typical of New Zealand’s agricultural landscapes. The vista speaks of hard soil and love of the land from successive generations but is mainly void of native vegetation. Exotic species are infrequent but can be found in the form of linear wind breaks.

The area has a dominant coastal character with ascetically pleasing views of the Manukau Harbour with a glimpse over the open farmland expanses. Landscapes further from the coastline have areas of denser development where lifestyle blocks have fragmented the larger farmlands and replaced them with networks of solid wooden fences and an increased frequency of informally patterned exotic vegetation.

Karaka East and West - Development Area

Karaka West

Karaka East

Context - Karaka Region

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Soil Quality- Within the site boundaries the soil quality is relatively uni-form, with a good level of fertility across the majority of both the eastern and western sections.- Therefore, the development’s agricultural landscapes can be situated almost anywhere across the site and still maintain and high level of productivity.

Native Vegetation- There is little or no significant areas of native vegetation within the Karaka area, with only a small patch of indigenous forest found in the southern-most area of Karaka West. - However, there is a dominance of mangrove communities in the coastal areas which help catch erosion wrought sedi-ments in the estuary.

Land Suitability Analysis - Biotic Factors

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HydrologyCoastline and Estuary- Karaka East and West both have significant coastal areas which determine the character of the landscape and has a large impact upon the climate of the area.- Because of the development of the site, we need to consider the possible effect of factors such as sea level rise, storm surges and sa-linity.- Therefore any residential developments will need to be set back from the coastal areas in order to allow for sea level fluctuations or flooding from storm surges.- Also, any re-vegetation of the coastline will need to be done with salt resistant species to ensure the success of any ecological restora-tion.- The eastern and western sections of Karaka are separated by a long, thin estuary dominated by mangroves.

Catchments- Karaka has several different catchment areas, a few of which cross over the boundary given for the site development. This means that for any storm/waste water (or other runoff) treatment and manage-ment plan is to be successful it will need to extend to the whole catch-ment basin, not just the areas within the development boundary.

Rivers- Currently, most of the watercourses in Karaka run through farm-land and are subject to agricultural run-off and stock impacts. - There are multiple rivers in a single catchment area, all of which flow either into the Karaka estuary or directly into Manukau Harbour.

Land Suitability Analysis - Biotic & Abiotic Factors

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RoadsCurrent Property Boundaires

Roads and Cadastral Boundaries Karaka Collective- Currently, there is only one main road entrance into Karaka that comes from Papakura and runs along the site boundary in the south-east.- The majority of the land is owned by a dozen family groups that joined together to make the Karaka Collective. This community group has submitted on the proposal for developing Karaka and expressed their desire for the development to be based upon ‘settling lightly on the land’ concept that is ‘at the forefront of sustainability internationally’ (Karaka Collective, 2012).- This collective is also in support of a new bridgeway connecting the new development to the north through Weymouth.- Their overall objective for the development is to ‘build a strong and resilient community’ that can ‘sustain itself from the local area where possible’ and has ‘a clear sense of identity and a powerful place based connection’

Fig. 4 Analytical Context - Karaka Collec-tive Submission (2012).

Land Suitability Analysis - Biotic & Abiotic Factors

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- Karaka’s topography is dominated by gentle rolling hills which are easy to build upon.- However, within the site there are a few areas where the gradient of the land exceeds a 15 degrees angle in which would therefore not be desirable for development.


- When considering the best places to build new housing the direction of the slope that is to be developed must also be consid-ered.- North facing slopes are the best as they get sun for the major-ity of the day, giving potential homes on these slopes a more de-sirable and healthier environment.- South facing slopes are associated with colder homes that only get sun during the middle of the day and are therefore less desirable for building on.

Land Suitability Analysis - Biotic & Abiotic Factors

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0 810 1,620 2,430 3,240405Meters

Development Options§

LegendDevelopment Opportunties

Development Contraints

Site Boundary


Development Constraints- From our analysis of the abiotic and biotic factors that have shaped Karaka and in considering how these factors may influence the location and form of the proposed development, we were able to determine the areas where development would be inappropriate or undesirable.- These areas include necessary constraints such as: - 100m buffers from the coastline - 50m buffers on waterways - Slopes over 15 degrees in gradient - South facing slopes - Areas of existing native vegetation - 10m roadway buffer zones.

Other factors that we also considered in relation to how the devel-opment should be shaped included: - The location of new roading or transport centres. - How will the new development perform within the wider ecological network. - How many people will be housed here over the next 50 years. - Where residents would work, receive education and rec- reate. - How to create a precedent for sustainable and resilient development in Auckland City which sets a new standard for a high quality living in a high density situation.

Development Constraints

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Development constraints become ecological opportunities.The constraints and other issues explored by the contextual and land suit-ability analysis can be approached as positive factors rather than negative constraints by considering how the areas which should not be developed could be otherwise utilised to achieve ecological goals and create high quality, resilient living in Karaka. For example:

- Areas where there is a high concentration of south facing aspects and/or slopes over 15 degrees are to be retired from development, re-vegetated and become ecological reserves for public use.- River banks and areas with complex catchments are to be extensively ecologically buffered to a minimum of 50m on either side of the existing wa-ter pathways. This will help to reduce land erosion (and therefore sedimen-tation in the lower waterways) and allow greater room for any future chang-es in water flow direction or fluctuations in river levels.- All coastal areas, 100m from the high tide line are also to be retired from the development. This will help protect the development from the threat of sea level rise and provide full public access to the coastline. Some larger areas close to the harbour are to become open public space to help retain the character of these areas: as viewed from the development and areas across the water.- All existing roads will be ecologically buffered to 10m on either side to reduce the visual and noise impact of car transport on the nearby residents. - Existing roads will be retained and the southern link road will enter the development through a ‘green gateway’. This will present the development as an ecologically driven design and indicate to both residents and visitors that you are entering an area with high stewardship values.

Transport - A new bridge link from Weymouth will be constructed with additional railway and cycleway linkages.- This new connection will terminate in a central transport hub located close to the commercial/retail area and will be central to the high density development zone.

Karaka Development PlanEcological Opportunities

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Three-dimensional mapping helps to convey how the different densiies of the development will fit together on the site and also help to iden-tify each of the seperate elements of the design. Both these maps show the breakdown of the site into retired land, high density, medium density and agricultural land and how these different area will fit together in three-dimensions.

3D Development Area Plans Seperate Elements Combined Elements

Commercial Centre

High Density

Medium Density

Agricultural Land

Retired Land

Base Map

High Density

Medium Density

Agricultural Land

Ecological Reserves/Public Space

Combined Densities and Ecological Areas

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In recognising how opportunities to restore the ecological health of Karaka can contribute to the quality and resilience of the proposed community, an approach that encourages a high level of integration between the local ecology and Karaka residents is needed in order to achieve the goal of creating “the most liveable city in the world.” - (Auckland Plan, 2012).

- This goal introduced us to the concept of a Bio-sphere Reserve Plan, which seeks to treat the entire area as a single system and therefore pro-mote integration of natural systems and human development across the whole landscape.- We also propose that each residential block and each catchment area should have its own community storm water plan and ecological treatment system at a range of scales. This will help instil stewardship values and encourage knowledge and value of local ecosystem services.- This approach aims to reduce the negative effects of a typical high density development by reducing horizontal concentration and replac-ing it with an increase in vertical concentration. In the development over 50% of the total Karaka area will not be built on, creating a wealth of space for recreation, education and ecological performance that will raise the quality of living for residents and start building a higher degree of re-silience in the immediate (and wider) environments.- In this design we must also acknowledge that each new resident will have an ecological footprint that exceeds the sustaining ability of the de-velopment. However we argue that by having a higher density of people than has previously been typical of Auckland subdivisions we are retain-ing more space elsewhere in the development and in the wider region for other land uses, such as agriculture or native forest, which could help offset these impacts. - Additional to this, we have proposed that instead of having low density lifestyle blocks in the development, there will be large areas of land allocated solely to agricultural production and thus providing direct resource support to the high and medium density developments. This could take the form of farmers markets or other local produce stores.

Karaka Bio-sphere Reserve Ecological Opportunities

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A Biosphere Reserve is an approach to conservation that aims to balance human resource use with healthy and protected ecosystems. These types of reserves are unique as they are designed to reach beyond habitat preservation or resource conservation and create a physical and conceptual integration of humans and nature. The three main goals of this type of reserve are conservation of biodiversity, research and monitoring of ecosystem health, and promotion of sustainable development. With this type of development it is important to note that you do not have to have a single area, your are able to divided the land chosen for development into separate ‘islands’ consisting of the three separate zones.

By establishing this sequence of zones, a biosphere reserve protects the core area and edges from unsustainable resource harvesting and environmental damage. At the same time hu-mans can meet their resource needs, and local populations get educated in sustainable practices to extend habitat and re-source conservation into the future.

To achieve these goals the biosphere reserve is divided into three separate zones.Core area: Each biosphere reserve has at its centre a core area that is protected from resource harvesting or development. Research scientists may monitor the core area to measure the overall health and biodiversity of the ecosystems.Buffer zone: Surrounding the core area is the buffer zone, which is a region where scientists and others practice research, education and ecological tourism with the goal of encouraging people to value the habitat conservation at the core and in their immediate environment.Transition zone: Beyond the buffer zone is the transition zone, where you find sustainable development and human settlements. In this zone, humans may harvest resources by using sustainable practices.

New Zealand currently has no Bio-sphere Reserves but does have about 33% of its land area as protected natural or cultural landscapes. However this does create a focus on separating natural areas from human dominated land-scapes and therefore in order to meet the rest of the world on integrated conservation and development, New Zea-land needs to get on board with the idea of creating a Bio-sphere Reserve.

World Map of Bio-sphere Reserves

Bio-sphere Reserves Ecological Opportunities

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This three-dinemsional map shows how all the development elements, from high density through to agricultural land, are integrsted into the biosphere reserve plan. Under this approach all the area within the development will have ecological value and be a part of the system as a whole. This will be achieved through the use of ecosys-tem services, such as living roofs, in the residential zones and an integration of eco-logical and production goals in the agricul-tural areas.

Core and Buffer Zones

Transition Zones

High Density

Medium Density

Agricultural Land

Integrating Ecology and Density

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Puhinui Park

Ambury Farm Park

Waitakere Ranges

Waikowhai Park

Awaroa Park

Totora Park

Margan’s Bush

Murphy’s Scenic Bush Reserve

Rangitoto Island

Browns IslandMotuihe Island

Waiheke Island Parks

Ponui Island

Clevedon’s Scenic Reserve

Western Springs ParkKepa Bush Reserve

Mission Bay ParkAuckland Domain

Oakley Creek Reserve

Hunua Ranges

Karaka Bio-sphere Reserve and Wider AucklandThe Karaka Bio-sphere Reserve will create an essential, and currently missing, link between large ecological habitats on the west and east coasts. Currently in Auckland large ecological reserves like the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges are not highly connected as an ecological network due to the bulk of Auckland City suburbs not supporting a sufficient number of habitat patches or providing high quality matrix that connect the landscape ecologically.

Our vision also includes increasing the level of so-cial connectivity of Auck-land and the proposed Karaka development by incorporating a new major rail link through to Karaka and possibly con-tinuing out towards the Southwest in the future.

Karaka, as a Bio-sphere Reserve, would not only be a large stepping stone for native birds and a good seed source in the Auckland Region but could also encourage the integration of native ecol-ogy back into other sub-urbs, thus increasing the quality of the landscape mosaic as a whole.

Existing Railways

New Rail Link

Ecological and Social Connections

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High DensityAprox. area proposed for high density development = 2,456,528m2 = 245 hectaresProposed high density housing:• Spacious apartments with 3-4 bedroom at a total floor area of 150m2-180m2 per unit. (Auckland Plan minimum is 30m2 per person). • 3 stories minimum per building footprint (6 stories max in commercial zone).With this living model we propose that:• 200 hectares of land area in the high density section is to be developed as apartment blocks of 8-14 units per level (between 24 and 42 units per block).• Each block will have a central courtyard to provide multiple views of green space and serve as a com-munity gardening resource and general private space for apartment holders. • The ground floor footprint of each apartment unit (2 additional stories on top) is to be allocated a mini-mum area of 490m2. This will allow for compliance with the Auckland Plan’s parking and access require-ments and help to provide a spacious feel, and thus a high quality living standard, to the development. • Therefore each apartment block of 24-42 units will have an allocated lot area between 0.9 acres - 1.7acres.

• The additional 45 hectares in the proposed high density area will be allocated into roading, road buffer zones and commercial/transport orientated public spaces.• Bigger apartment blocks will be located nearest to the transport hub and commercial centre with smaller blocks on the edges of the proposed transition zone and some integrated into the buffer areas.• We also propose that there be a nonlinear (or irregular) pattern to the layout of the high density development and that some of the smaller, outlying blocks could be integrated into the buffer zone of the reserve where necessary. This will help to create a range of spatial experiences within the landscape and prevent the development from becoming too uniform or predictable in its form/design.

Using this model we determined an approximate number of people that could live in this area:• 200 hectares / 490m2 = 4128 apartment block lots• 4128 lots x 3 people per unit x 3 stories minimum = 37, 157 peo-ple

Development Densities

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Commercial/Retail AreaThis section is located close to the main transport hub in the high density section. We proposed that in this area the apartment size could be extended to a max 6 stories to allow for commercial/ retail /hospitality businesses to operate on the lower levels and retain residential dwellings on the upper floors.

Medium Density Aprox. area proposed for medium density development = 1,474,937m2 = 365 acresWe propose that 65 acres be set aside for roadways or access. Aprox. 485 lots ranged between 2000m2 and 3000m2Assuming an average of 3 people per lot = 1940 people.

Total Population projection for all densities = approximately 40,000 people.

Agricultural LandThe remaining land in the north and south east areas will be developed as community owned agricultural land and farmed by local residents to provide resource support to the higher density development. This will also help to retain the open, agricultural character of the landscape that gives this area and its residents a unique identity.



Section ACore Area Buffer Zone Transition Area Buffer Zone

Development Densities

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Possible Aerial Projection

Due to the nature of this proposal we were reluctant to provide a density comparison from another city as we believe this could give an incorrect impression of how we envision Karaka to look under our plan. Therefore we created this aerial projection which aims to give a

basic view of how the new development would be laid out and function within the landscape. The informal pattern and variation in the size and shape of the apartment blocks breaks up the linear lines so typical of human development and integrates the buildings back into the

naturally informal landscape setting. By placing the building sites on the ridges and re vegetating the valleys and coastal edges the natural costal character of the area is retained, the catchments and individual waterways are protected and erosion levels are reduced.

A New Karaka

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A Bio-sphere reserve in Karaka will create many benefits ecologically, economically and socially. The land in the Karaka area becomes more valuable as ecosystem services and efficient public transport makes living in the area more economically viable. Higher levels of environ-mental education and a wider understanding of the local ecology and how this ecology fits back into the wider context and Auckland’s Net-works.

The creation of a Bio-sphere reserve within the Karaka site will help to give the development a strong sense of community and identity. It will also avoid creating another typical western city suburban model that has been “copy and pasted” onto new subdivisions for too long and lacks any sense of local identity or an integration with the local ecol-ogy. The Bio-sphere reserve will encourage its residents to think about the bigger picture and help them to perceive of their role in the larger system and its networks.

The bio-sphere reserve serves as a connection between the east and west coasts of the Auckland Region, that are currently separated by the City’s urban sprawl, not only ecologically but socially as well. The new transport links proposed will connect people physically with the wider area and therefore reconnecting the are as a whole.

Bio-sphere reserves are a conceptual approach as much as a physi-cal layout. It is a perception of ones relationship with their environ-ment through a range of systems and scales. In this way of every day people to can come to better understand their local ecology and social responsibility towards the environment, economy and culture.-


UNESCO - BioSphere Reserves


Karaka Collective


Image References

All photos by Brendan Clemens and Dustyn O’Leary