What's preventing more green space?

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Over the past 20 odd articles we’ve discussed the benefits of plants and green spaces. The numerous benefits (environmental, social, economic, health and wellbeing) provide a strong case for more plants and green spaces across New Zealand.

More and more school gardens and community gardens are popping up. Councils are starting to do more roadside plantings, revegetation projects, and stream bank plantings. But it’s nowhere near enough! So what are the barriers to more plants and green spaces?

Research by 202020 vision has identified a number of issues. As expected funding and investment is at the heart of the issue. Likewise a lack of knowledge and skills is a further barrier, as is the climate and environment. Breaking through to the policy makers and planners is tough but it’s something a united and determined community can drive.

Sighting a lack of funding and investment is an easy out, but there’s more to it than that… Decision-making is key. When development decisions are made, plants and trees are rarely top of mind. This is because the business case for green space is not well known, despite being well documented. Limited funding mechanisms often means limited funding. So, why not offer tax breaks as done in European countries? And once funding is secured there’s the issue of maintenance costs. So who foots the bill?

To address these concerns we need to focus on knowledge and skills. A well-designed green space gets used more, which creates greater demand for green space. Councils and Government are focused on return on investment, so we need to develop ways to measure the benefits of plants and green spaces. What it boils down to is… The more people who understand open space planning and ‘place-making’ principles, the better.

It’s easy to take aim at policy makers and planners, but rather than berate them let’s help them. Collaboration is paramount to create meaningful discussion across the country. Jargon busting is an absolute must. Contradictory language and policies can hinder progress.

If we’re truly committed to more plants and green spaces the community needs to drive a culture of participation and advocacy. People love tress and plants… until they have to sweep up the leaves. Doing your part to maintain green spaces makes them more inviting.  We also need to work together as a community to encourage people to value green spaces. The first step is to get people actively using them. From consumption comes enjoyment.

When planners put development first at all costs, everyone looses. So we need to unite and spread the message that greenlife really does matter. When the public start demanding more green spaces Councils, developers and the Government will listen!


First published in Kiwi Gardener issue 423. Written by NGINZ. Reproduced with permission of Kiwi Gardener.