Message from the Director

    Kia ora koutou

    Welcome to the final Building Better Homes Towns and Cities: Ko ngā wā kaingā hei whakamahorahora National Science Challenge (BBHTC) newsletter for 2020, and what a year it has been. The impacts of COVID-19 have been felt by us all. Lockdown gave us insights into our homes, local neighbourhoods and communities, what works and what could be improved. The impacts of COVID-19 will, unfortunately, not leave us with 2020. As we move into 2021, many will remain separated from family and whanau, and the number of people in our communities who are homeless, or in precarious or transitional housing will remain unacceptably high and likely to grow.

    Lockdown also highlighted the importance of social contact and the impacts of loneliness and social isolation. The thread that connects the research highlighted in this newsletter is community. From understanding what attracts young graduates to places, to older people’s experiences of COVID-19 and Oamaru’s Safer Waitaki project, a whole of community project with a focus on community safety, health and wellbeing. While research delivers recommendations for organisations, institutions and governments, research also reminds us of the power of manaakitanga, kotahitanga and individual actions that help to build wellbeing in individuals and communities and reduce loneliness and social isolation. Something as simple as a smile, a kind word, letting someone go before you in a queue, a wave as you go past neighbours, or sharing surplus baking are all easy to do. If baking takes your fancy, the newsletter includes a link to a social enterprise initiative which will lift your baking to a new level launched by our kaumatua and kuia research partners at Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust.

    Meri Kirihimete me te Hape Nū Ia
    Ruth Berry
    BBHTC Director

    Building solutions for people with dementia

    Almost 70% of people living with dementia continue to do so in their own homes, rather than in residential care, despite this, research about building design solutions has primarily focused on residential care.

    Building Better Homes and Spaces researchers have recently published two literature reviews examining research related to dementia-friendly housing design. They identify the housing issues for those living with dementia and the gaps around the existing research.

    Lead researcher Dr Bev James said housing poses a challenge for many people with dementia, since cognitive impairments can hinder their ability to engage with and adapt to their living environment.

    “Ideally, housing should address and adapt to their changing needs. In the review we focussed on building design elements that address entrance and exit solutions; self-navigation; day-to-day self-management and independence; enjoyment and ambience of the home; and the mitigation of behavioural issues that might lead to institutionalisation.”

    Searching for community wellbeing in Oamaru

    Regions around New Zealand are striving to create positive futures. To do so, the issues that need to be considered are wide and varying and include the future of work in rural areas and provincial towns, the supply of workers, demographic changes, and the supply of suitable housing and social services.

    The Building Better Thriving Regions research team has recently published results from their Oamaru case study for the Waitaki Housing Task Force. Their report is to help guide an informed district housing strategy for the district as well as providing ongoing research of interest to other regional programmes.

    Lead researcher Dr Nick Taylor says for community groups to establish a strategic approach to housing anywhere in New Zealand, the first step is to gather sufficient information on the population, housing need, areas and locations, and potential responses.

    A rejuvenated waterfront in Oamaru contributes to the area's prosperity and wellbeing. Photo: Mike Mackay, AgResearch.

    Defining functional labour market geography

    Building Better Thriving Regions researchers Dr Dave Maré and Ben Davies have been delving into the nitty gritty of how to define the geography of interactions between employers and employees, and have recently published a methodology on how to define ‘functional labour market areas’.

    Dave, a senior research fellow at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, says defining the geography of a functional labour market is important for analysing spatial patterns of economic activity. “Traditionally, we might use administrative labour market areas, but these types of boundaries don’t necessarily capture the actual interactions that are going on within these populations, for example, the effects of commuting networks to deliver workers.”

    Administrative labour market areas don’t necessarily capture the effects of commuting networks to deliver workers to firms. Photo: Craig Boudreaux, Unsplash.

    Older people’s housing experiences: COVID-19 response

    Older people’s homes provide safety, security, and wellbeing - ideally with care and support to assist ageing in place. During the COVID-19 pandemic response at levels 3 (restrictions) and 4 (lockdown), the home-based bubble became the first line of protection and defence against the virus and was crucial to people’s ability to physically distance, quarantine, or isolate.

    During this time, the home’s ability to support older people was especially critical with issues such as food security and accessing home-based care services being tested. A new research bulletin by Building Better researcher Dr Bev James from the Homes and Spaces for Generations team draws out key issues from interviews with fifteen community organisations and housing providers in eight locations throughout the country providing essential services during the COVID-19 lockdown.

    Some community organisations have developed new ways of communicating with seniors and expanded existing channels in response to the limitations observed during the COVID-19 response. Photo: Nick Karvounis, UnSplash.

    Close to home: Why we need social housing more than ever

    What: Stuff Close to home news item, article by Nelson reporter Samantha Gee

    In the last 30 years, New Zealand’s population has grown by 1.2 million and around 90,000 homes have been built by the Government, local councils and community housing providers. Samantha Gee reports on the growing demand for social housing.

    The article includes an interview with Building Better Homes and Spaces researcher Dr Kay Saville-Smith.

    Photo: Errol Haarhoff, BBHTC.

    The price of Airbnb

    The impact on long-term rental availability in Waitaki
    Airbnb short-term rental accommodations have been sprouting like weeds in response to regional initiatives attracting people to New Zealand’s Deep South. This includes both in and around the town of Oamaru and in the small towns and villages up the Waitaki Valley that benefit from the flow of visitors by road and bicycle from the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail.

    The trail, running from the base of iconic Aoraki Mt Cook to the world’s Steam Punk capital, Oamaru, prior to COVID-19 travel restrictions was fast becoming a tourism hotspot. Picked by Frommer’s Travel Guides as one of the world’s top 16 attractions, the dramatic natural landscapes and ready sightings of some of New Zealand’s rarest wildlife were turning into an economic boon for the Waitaki Valley, with businesses springing up along the trail to support burgeoning visitor numbers.

    Airbnb growth in Waitaki, from July 2018 to July 2019, saw the number of short-term rentals rise from 263 to 322. An increase in Airbnb accommodation reduces the number of long-term rentals available, resulting in rental price increases. Photo: Mike Mackay, AgResearch.

    Kaumātua launch Māori-designed cookie cutters

    The Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust (RKCT), a research partner of Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities, has been investigating social enterprise initiatives that kaumātua and kuia in the village at Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) can launch to support not only their own 'he kāinga pai rawa' journeys and quality of life, but also strenthen their ties with the wider community and support the ongoing hauora and wellbeing of the village community.

    At the end of November the Trust launched three Kuki Reka Kani (Māori-designed cookie cutters), lovingly named and inspired by its kaumātua, at its facility in Frankton, Hamilton.

    RCKT chairperson, Owen Purcell says the enterprising kaumātua are extremely proud to celebrate a product they not only inspired but helped shape – in the form of pāua (abalone), pikorua (single twist), and kete (basket).

    “I’m certain they’ll now want to do much more in the innovation area, and our job at Rauawaawa is to create an environment which supports them to do just that,” he says.

    Social impacts of cycle trails on small towns and settlements

    Prior to the Covid-19 lockdowns, Building Better researchers Dr Mike Mackay, Dr Nick Taylor, and Emeritus Prof Harvey Perkins assessed the impacts of the South Island’s Alps to Ocean (A2O) cycle-trail. The study focussed on the sustainability of tourist trails and how associated tourism initiatives were working together to improve the economic, social, and environmental performance of the town of Oamaru and settlements in the Waitaki Valley.

    Positive outcomes are expected for local business and employment, along with an enhanced recreational environment and heritage protection. Importantly, the initiative has received funding from central government and has the involvement of the Waitaki District Council.

    The A2O is a 300km, mostly off-road, cycle trail that descends from the base of Aoraki Mt Cook in the national park, through several small settlements located in the Waitaki Valley, before reaching the regional town of Oamaru on the Pacific coast. Photo: Mike Mackay, AgResearch.

    Drivers of urban development in New Zealand

    New research by Stuart Donovan, Dr Arthur Grimes, and Dr David Maré uses census data to reveal the drivers that influence urban development in New Zealand. The modelling looks at data from 132 New Zealand towns and cities over a 37-year period. It highlights the relationship between local amenities that benefit firms and/or benefit residents, availability of wages and jobs, and the cost and supply of housing.

    “Consistent with what we find in many countries around the world, New Zealand firms are attracted to locate in our larger cities,” says Arthur, a Senior Fellow at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research and a Building Better Thriving Regions Principal Investigator.

    “In contrast, it seems that residents are attracted to smaller places: as cities grow, factors such as increased congestion make the larger cities less appealing to residents.”

    The cost of building new housing rises as population increases in a city. Photo: Chris Gray on Unsplash.

    Where do bright young things settle after graduation?

    A highly-educated population is one of the key drivers of local growth and prosperity. One of the main challenges facing non-metropolitan regions is the attraction and retention of tertiary educated graduates.

    Local decision-makers wish to attract and retain young qualified people, but what are the specific drivers that encourage graduates to settle in a particular place? What are the chances of students returning upon graduation? Is there potential to attract other graduates to the area?

    Graduates from all fields of study other than agriculture are attracted to locate in places that have high overall quality of business, which tend to be the large cities. High quality of life is also an attractor for some students but its impact is more diffuse than is the pull of income opportunities.

    New publications

    The Building Better research library continues to grow at pace on our website. New publications uploaded since the last newsletter include:

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