It was inspiring to hear Professor Simon Kingham talk on this subject at the 2016 Rod Donald Memorial Lecture.
He quoted statistics from Charles Montgomery’s “Happy City” which show that personal connections and trust can make you happy and healthy. Having one friend or family member to confide in has the same effect on life satisfaction as a tripling of income.
Wellbeing is higher if you use active or public transport rather than driving. Simon emphasised that if you have to get in your car, it’s not local. This shift from local is something many of us in Christchurch experienced when local facilities, e.g. shops and jobs, disappeared after the earthquakes and we needed to drive when we’d been used to walking.
Simon stressed the value of ‘bumping spaces’ such as riverside seats or a book fridge, as well as ‘gathering spaces’ such as a community cottage, shops, and cafes. Green (and blue) spaces are essential.
Simon installed a basketball hoop on the street frontage of his home to encourage people to “bump” there. I live beside an empty grassed section where a group of youths regularly play cricket.
After the earthquakes the Christchurch City Council had some great plans for re-creating our communities, but CERA changed many of these. An obstacle to creating sustainable urban communities is the fact that Government departments often don’t share information or values, e.g. the Department of Education appears not to recognise the importance of schools as community hubs.
If you’d like to hear this lecture it will shortly be available as a podcast from PlainsFM.
“We have the opportunity
to rebuild our community.”