Over The Gate with Richard Davison
10 August 2023
He's a man with the plan – many of them in fact!
Eke Panuku Priority Location Director- South, Richard Davison, is right ‘at home’ in Franklin, taking a leading role in housing and town centre developments, especially in Pukekohe.
Where are you from originally and how familiar are you with Franklin?
I grew up in Zimbabwe and moved to Auckland to study in my 20s. I live in Auckland City, but I’ve been actively involved in work in Franklin for more than a decade, leading the Pukekohe Area Plan, The Unitary Plan future Urban Zone and all the Special Housing areas in the area. This has given me a unique insight and I’m passionate about ensuring that it retains its mana.
What drew you towards urban design as a profession?
I was always interested in form, design and building from a young age, which I’m sure is partly due to my mother’s influence (she is an urban planner). I studied as an architect and over the course of my career have been lucky to be in roles that have allowed me to expand further into urban design, planning and development. I have been managing urban regeneration programmes for the past six years or so. In some ways it’s like being the conductor of an orchestra; I love bringing people together, contributing to building the city in which I live and ensuring it’ll continue to be a great place for my kids in the future.
Eke Panuku Priority Location Director - South, Richard Davison
Is Eke Panuku involved in developing growing land?
Eke Panuku ensures development happens where it makes the most sense, improving existing town centres, not where land is most productive for agriculture. Development outside town centres is not within our scope. We encourage development in brownfield areas – sites that have been built on previously.
Overall, what is Eke Panuku doing for local town centres? How about Pukekohe in particular?
We make sure public spaces in the heart of Auckland’s communities are robust and able to support future growth naturally occurring in these places. Our efforts are laser focused on neighbourhoods with massive future potential. It’s about repurposing ineffective or tired sites so that we don’t have to build out into spaces that should be retained for future generations. We focus on improvements for locals, including playgrounds, laneways and even murals and events.
In Pukekohe alone there are 27 council-owned properties approved for potential redevelopment. Guided by the Pukekohe Masterplan, we will sell these sites to developers, who are hopefully local or have local roots, working with them to make sure they offer amenities Pukekohe needs. It’s important developments contribute to the wider plans for Pukekohe and add value for everyone who lives there.
Is town centre development (especially in Pukekohe) ensuring there are plenty of local jobs?
Absolutely. A great example is our recent sale of the former council building on Manukau Road, which will be developed into a new medical centre [estimated completion of stage one by Jan 2026]. As well as bolstering local healthcare options, it will provide more local jobs. Franklin is seeing considerable investment from businesses, such as Fisher & Paykel Healthcare’s plans in Karaka, and substantial investment at Drury Crossing. This complements the region’s well-established rural businesses.
Our work in town centres is intended to provide more places for local businesses and services, along with opportunities for workers to find a job closer to home. We also focus on activities and events, safer connections for people, upgraded shop frontages, improved parking facilities, upgrading character buildings and many other benefits over time. These projects are not being rushed through; they are complex and overlapping and will take many years to unfold.
Is enough being done to ensure infrastructure (especially transport) is in place where and when it’s needed to support residential growth?
Delivering infrastructure to support growth is a key part of what Auckland Council does. It might feel, sometimes, that things take forever to get done, but there’s an enormous, collaborative effort to dot the ‘is’ and cross the ‘ts’ crossed from the start and we’re doing things in a coordinated way. With great transport connections, South Auckland is the gateway to and from Auckland.
You were also involved in the Paerata Rise development - a success story?
I was part of a large, council-wide team. Created as part of government response to the supply and affordability of housing, it is a well-designed and considered development progressing in stages. However, it was challenging given its distance from established town centres, utilities and services. From an urban regeneration and sustainable point of view, it makes more sense to improve town centres that already exist rather than develop from scratch.
Due to their commercial and industrial zones, will the Drury developments provide more jobs locally than Paerata Rise, for example?
As I am not involved in these developments, I can’t comment specifically. However, urban design principles and master planning allows for balance and sustainability in the creation of new communities.
If you could grow any plant or raise any animal (real or imagined), what and why?
I’ve been a regular visitor to the Pukekohe Show so, perhaps it’s time for me to consider entering a pet lamb or a calf – my kids would love that!
If you could be Minister of Housing for one day, what would you do first and why?
Considering the recent weather events, I would prioritise stormwater, to ensure people have warm, dry, quiet and safe housing.
If you could invite any three people to dinner (living or dead), who and why?
I’d need to invite four – all of my grandparents. I miss them, would love for my children to meet them and to share my stories of New Zealand with them.
Article & photo courtesy of Rural Living magazine (Times Media) – see www.ruralliving.co.nz.
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