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Auckland: Urban Environmental Ethics at the Edge of the City: The Creation of Ethical Citizens for Auckland’s “Blue Backyard” (2018-2021)

More than 3700 km of coastline characterize the port city of Auckland – the 'Water City of the South Pacific' – and its 1.6 million inhabitants. Aucklanders have a long and rich relationship with the Hauraki Gulf in particular, but in recent years reports of significant overfishing, pollution, sedimentation, and habitat loss have increasingly clouded this relationship. The (environmental) problems are likely to intensify in the coming years, when population growth for the Auckland region is predicted to reach 2.5 million inhabitants in 2041.

Against this background, a group of experts coordinated the four-year participatory planning process "Sea Change - Tai Timu Tai Pari" for the Hauraki Gulf which resulted in the 2016 marine spatial plan and report of the same name. The plan’s aim is to create a healthy, attractive, and more economically productive gulf, for which it proposes not only a spatial planning approach, but also a new governance structure and code of conduct, backed by ethical statements and claims. It plans to connect future generations to the marine environment, and thus sets to work making urban ethical citizens for the ocean. At the same time the plan can be read as a re-mapping of the city. The report maps the city of Auckland in terms of its effects upon its edge environment, thus taking a view of the city from the water. It maps the land areas that drain into the marine area, visualizing ‘city’ and ‘backyard’ as integrated and in need of a responsible ethics of care.

The ethical statements, debates, and discourses around the Hauraki Gulf and Sea Change are the focus of the research. The project aims to identify the ethical ocean citizens of a livable city, the ethical planning discourses that constitute them, the ethics of the planning professionals at work, and the contestation of this new constellation of urban ethics in Auckland, relating urban ethics with political ecology. To do this we will track the relevant planning processes and decision-making, conduct interviews with experts and planners, analyze the ethical discourses in texts and media, and conduct several case studies of ‘lived’ urban ethics at the blue edge of the city.