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A summary of the impact of

open spaces on health and wellbeing

He aha te mea nui o tenei ao
Maku e ki atu
He tangata, He tangata, He tangata
What is the greatest thing in the world?
I say to you,
It is people, it is people, it is people

Regional Public Health Information Paper - March 2010



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Citation Guide: Regional Public Health (2010): Healthy Open Spaces: A summary of the impact of
open spaces on health and wellbeing, Regional Public Health Information Paper March 2010, Lower

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....................................................................................... 7 Development of Open Spaces in Greater Wellington ................................................................................................................................................ 18 Children and Young People........... 9 Economic ................................Contents Introduction .......................................................................................................................................................................... 6 What are “Public Open Spaces”?....................................................................................................................................................... 20 Conclusion ............................................................................................................... 13 Mental wellbeing (Te taha hinengaro) ........................................................................................................ 9 Social ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 9 Open Space and Public Health ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 16 Low socio-economic communities......... 18 People with disabilities ................................................................................................................................................ 19 Planning for Healthy Open Spaces – an International Example ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 14 Open Space and Equity................................................................................................................................................... 22 3 .............. 12 Physical wellbeing (Te taha tinana)................................................................................................................................................................................. 12 Social wellbeing (Te taha whänau) ............................................................................ 5 Background ........................................................................................................... 8 Open Space and Local Government (the ‘four well-being’s’)............................................................................... 9 Cultural ........................................................................................................................ 11 Psychological/spiritual wellbeing (Te taha wairua)................................................................................................... 16 Mäori.............. 21 References ....... 9 Environmental............ 5 What makes urban open spaces healthy? ................................................................................................................

Health Impact Assessment of Greenspace . Scottish Natural Heritage. published by Greenspace Scotland. and Institute of Occupational Medicine (June 2008).A Guide. • Regional Public Health (May 2008) A literature review on the value to health and wellbeing of urban open spaces. Wellington 4 . Otago University School of Medicine. prepared under contract by Mary McIntyre and Flavia Prospero in the Department of Public Health. Greenspace Scotland.Acknowledgement A significant proportion of the source material for this document has been cited from the following two documents: • Health Scotland.

What makes urban open spaces healthy? Healthy urban open spaces: • are of high quality. and urban open are important for our wellbeing.Introduction This information paper outlines the connections It has long been recognised that open spaces between health and wellbeing. important expression of social and cultural 1 identity. readily accessible. access to the natural environment. and well connected to streets and amenities • are developed in partnership with the community • provide variety of function including opportunities for physical activity. public health practitioners and interact with their natural environment and community groups as we plan for sustainable provide habitats for wildlife. Very early urban spaces. it summarises the dwellers went to extraordinary lengths to build relationship between open space in relation to “natural” environments into their cities. They can also be an and healthy cities. abilities and socio-economic status • conserve and promote cultural heritage • build on natural features to inspire a deep connection to place • provide diverse habitats for appropriate species to enhance biodiversity • create safe and healthy places for connecting with others. urban planners health and wellbeing. play for children • respect and provide for a diverse range of cultures. early urban planners knew that open spaces economic. 5 . and environmental. This provide opportunities for a wide range of social paper aims to inform and support the work of interactions and pursuits that support community local and regional authorities. In addition. Those physical and mental health. ages. social and cultural wellbeing. recreation and mental relaxation. culturally appropriate. They allow people to and developers.

the development of green and open space in urban planning has not always occurred in conjunction with other aspects of urban planning. This is expected to increase. New Zealand has also urbanised rapidly.Background New Zealand's population is highly urbanised. 7 public health and community development. Because people who live in towns and cities have less access to the natural environment. 72 of every 100 New Zealand residents lived in one of New Zealand's 16 main urban 2 areas. in particular. biodiversity.000 from 1. the availability of urban and peri-urban open space and ‘green’ areas is an increasingly important part of a healthy urban environment. expected to account for 62 percent of New Zealand's population growth between 2006 and 2031. A key goal of both public health and local government planning must be to create and maintain quality open and green spaces that are relevant to and utilised by all sections of the community. Around 50% of the world’s population 4 live in urban centres. and especially green.93 3 million. in 1890 only 35% of our population lived in urban centres. This proportion is high by international standards. it is increasingly important to recognise how different features of cities affect 5 health and wellbeing and to plan accordingly. In spite of this. and will serve to safeguard health and wellbeing as the population in centres intensifies. with an increase of 560. In 2009. Current research shows that access to open. spaces improves people’s sense of wellbeing. Increasing urbanisation combined with local spatial planning policies of densification will result in more people living in residential 6 environments with fewer green resources. In a rapidly urbanising world. with the Auckland region. 6 . sustainable development.37 million to 1. There are recent signs of growing recognition that green space policies are an important part of urban planning.

but incorporates diverse Open spaces also include contaminated or aspects of our wider environment. including input from the health sector. Our regions’ open children’s play areas. and space network is not just about playgrounds. parks and reserves. • blue spaces such as the region’s waterways and harbours. waterways. parks. It also includes the open vistas and views that surround the 9 city. vacant land. gardens. can be developed into green spaces or parks.What are “Public Open Spaces”? 7 There is no single agreed definition of open within or adjoining an urban area’. countryside immediately adjoining a town. Open space is also often referred to by the narrower term ‘green space’. these strategies mainly focus on the open space networks managed by local. green corridors such as paths agreement however. For the purposes of this information paper we will use a broad understanding of open space. of urban public open space. that there are many types and rivers. cemeteries. and encompasses both public and private open space. city centres. structures and views. sports fields. This definition was also adopted by the Auckland Regional Growth Forum in the Auckland 9 Regional Open Space Strategy . playing fields. 7 . walkways. Undeveloped or poorly developed brown fields The working definition of open space given by are not considered to be quality open spaces the Wellington Regional Strategy “Open Spaces and can have a negative impact on health and i Working Group” is: wellbeing. Within this context. There is natural habitats. This includes space nationally or internationally. and other recreation areas. “Any area of land or body of water to which the 8 public has physical and/or visual access”. open space includes: • green spaces (or green field developments) such as regional and local parks and reserves. streets and transport corridors. • grey spaces such as civic squares. While this definition is very broad. often called “brown fields”. which neighbourhood streets. greenery. regional and national authorities and therefore traditionally focus on parks. reserves and waterways. Green spaces can be defined as ‘any vegetated land or water i This working group has been established to develop a Wellington Regional Open Space Strategy and action plan. It is comprised mainly of local and regional authorities and co-opted expertise. for example.

iv These design functions are three that are most relevant to iii e. people to become more physically active. Settler land was regional authorities. 3.iii These were originally intended to • provides environments that encourage create urban edges but as populations grew. 8 .14 and in Central Business Districts. remain under development pressure. expansion of built areas and a move to infill and multiple unit housing has created a new range of roles for the ii The following section was written in consultation with Regional Public Health’s Mäori Strategic Advisor.g.”iv development jumped over these edges. local councils manage sports grounds.an spaces managed by local councils is the 2800 important. more and purpose grass areas. The marae consisted playgrounds.500 hectares of bush (native. and in the adjacent regional parks in Wellington developing a network to connect up green and the Hutt Valley. While the regional their Mäori neighbours who lived in small council manages the regional parks and communal groups on marae surrounded by land reserves. owned by the whole tribe. the hills and valleys were covered in Management of parks and reserves in the dense native forest with a few strategically Greater Wellington is shared between the located Mäori settlements. When European settlers arrived in the early to mid 1800s. rather than enhancing New The New Zealand Urban Design Protocol13 Zealand’s natural heritage. territorial authorities and the apportioned to individual property owners. Protocol. unlike Department of Conservation. shared public space edged with hectares managed by Wellington City Council.12 form. green spaces on flat areas spaces.Development of Open Spaces in Greater Wellington Mäori have a long history of settlement of the original green spaces. This includes 2. There is remain in the greater Wellington region.11 Continued population growth. 200 hectares of general As settlers sought to tame the land. Public open spaces must address all of these Although large tracts of natural green space design functions to be of high quality.5 kilometres of maintained tracks.ii and healthy’ environment with benefits for mental and social wellbeing. recognition in Greater Wellington that there especially in the Town Belt of Wellington City needs to be greater integration of open spaces. An example of the types of open which is translated as a ‘place of encounter’) .600m2 of annual Early settlers placed a high value on green bedding. Napier. 100 hectares of sports turf. children’s play areas. exotic and mixed). urban parks and waterside of a central and sacred open space (marae ätea developments. this discussion. and 7 hectares of gardens and shrub space and the inclusion of nature into the urban areas. gardens. but focused on importing European plants and bird life. from a list of nine in the Urban Design Palmerston North. as well as providing a ‘pleasant as the mana whenua of the region. more forest was removed as the urban area 98. Many medium and larger New Zealand towns • provides formal and informal opportunities have established ‘green’/‘town’ belts or botanic for social and cultural interaction. 104 spread on to the hills and up the river valley. communal buildings. and private open space. These include providing a Greater Wellington region (Te Upoko o te Ika a space for outdoor recreation and sports Maui). urban open spaces • “facilitates green networks that link public often developed on the periphery of built areas. Rotorua. This paper acknowledges a number of iwi participation. Ashburton and Oamaru. in the main centres and Wanganui.10 In contrast to states that quality urban design: traditional Mäori settlements.

commonly called the “four values wellbeings”. helping to environmental exposures such as flooding. environmental and cultural wellbeing • Significant natural features raise real estate of communities’. noise. are therefore fundamental to the development There are also significant opportunities for civic and maintenance of healthy communities. including 17 benefits for economic wellbeing. economic. For example. particularly trees and large shrubs. In hazards and can support resilience of addition. represent the four major factors that influence 15 In New Zealand. These economic benefits The importance to wellbeing of personal enable communities to function and prosper. cool our cities. They also pollution. the 18 and processes. social 16 cultures. become more important as the local impacts of Economic climate change become more frequent and extreme. and natural landscapes have capital and healthy communities. Otari Native Botanic Garden. for example protect the earth’s outstanding natural features Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (Zealandia). green spaces can also support health (the wider determinants of health) and primary industries by increased biodiversity. outcomes of contact with nature. contributors to our regional (and national) Natural landscapes vegetation and waterways in economy urban areas. thus increasing social cohesion and our clean air and water. have on these four wellbeings. Open spaces bring measurable direct and flow- on economic benefits to local. connections with nature is common to all allowing them to build social cohesion. they create opportunities for community communities to hazards. environmental • Contact with nature can reduce the burden and cultural factors are the four cornerstones of of disease on the current health care the sustainability framework. They maintain and interact. This protection is likely to helping to promote active and healthy lifestyles. supporting local food section briefly describes the impact open spaces production and supply. air reduce crime and the fear of crime. and education and lifelong learning. regional and Cultural national economies. These Urban spaces have a special cultural included: significance to tangata whenua. Social Environmental The contribution our green spaces make to our Open spaces provide places for people to meet physical environment is immense. providing a sense of place and belonging intimately • Parks and nature tourism are significant connected to concepts of türangawaewae. also provide protection from environmental Matiu/Somes Island and our regional parks. They also system. promoting health and healing. 7 urban environments. Social. Our open and green spaces Botanic Gardens. store carbon. can designed spaces can promote a sense of place protect people from the harm of key and be a source of community pride. authorities are required to ‘promote the social. can provide Mäori with access to • Parks and associated tourism provide employment 9 . They provide opportunities for biodiversity. green participation in caring for the environment. local • Urban greening attracts new businesses. This or urban agriculture. and extremes of temperature in provide opportunities for physical activity. Well- space. A recent traditionally been sources of inspiration for review of literature undertaken by Deakin creative pursuits for all peoples throughout University summarised health and wellbeing history. consumers and tourists economic. enhance and protect social inclusion.Open Space and Local Government (the ‘four well-being’s’) Under the Local Government Act 2002.

mahinga kai (traditional food sources). Open spaces create opportunities for cultural interaction. 10 . and 19 protection of wahi tapu (sacred sites). or for communities to celebrate their own cultures. bringing people of different cultures together to celebrate community diversity.

Community and Spiritual Health and Wellbeing Social Economic Environmental Cultural o Protect community o Enhance economic o Protect biodiversity o Cultural identity safety development o Trees as pollution sinks o Conserve indigenous o Increase physical o Support primary o Environmental resource cultural landscapes activity industry management o Enhance creative o Promote social inclusion o Underpin tourism o Enhance carbon store inspiration o Enhance community o Enhance land values o Increase access to regeneration o Increase employment nature o Support education and opportunities lifelong learning o Encourage recreation and play o Promote social cohesion Open Spaces The physical. the connections Green spaces provide a place to be physically that are the most related to public health are: active. improve the with nature and spaces of cultural natural environment and support economic significance (cultural/spiritual wellbeing / te growth. environmental and cultural factors provide the pathways between quality open spaces and their impact on health and wellbeing as represented in Figure 1. 11 . Mental. A 2007 survey in Denmark indicated that 20 taha wairua ) access to a garden or green areas close to • Open spaces promoting social interaction homes is associated with less stress and a lower 21 and cohesion (social wellbeing / te taha likelihood of obesity. to participate in • Open spaces increasing people’s contact community and cultural activity. economic. environmental and cultural factors Physical. Figure 1: How quality open spaces impact on wellbeing through social. mental. to socialise with others. Of these. • Open spaces reducing stress and promoting environmental and economic connections relaxation (mental wellbeing / te taha 20 between open spaces and health and wellbeing hinengaro ) are discussed below. A Netherlands study 20 whänau ) found that the perceived general health of • Open spaces promoting physical activity people living in less built-up urban areas tended 20 (physical wellbeing / te taha tinana ) to be better and was strongly related to the 22 extent of green space. cultural. economic. Open Space and Public Health Social. social.

that is. youth. a 27 contact. a factor strongly For urban Mäori. They also 23 and access to heritage and cultural integrity. And increasingly. Therefore.” For iwi still living in of the park space and levels of pedestrian their own urbanised takiwa (district). Similarly. “The aspect of disconnected from their turangawaewae (‘a social capital that makes it a classic public good place to stand’). social providing a deep and inspirational sense of capital can be enhanced within a diverse society 24 community and landscape. A Chicago study resources). its environment is complex but vital to wellbeing. see around them and receptive to others. by having open space for common use. Open spaces. enhancing ‘social capital’. whenua as offering a tangible link back to both “Parks are considered community assets and tupuna (ancestors) and mahinga kai. People who feel secure in their identity. A agreed with Ngati Whatua o Orakei to revegetate study in England found that parks. a time when explore similar opportunities in their own shared 19 people are more likely to be open to what they landscapes”.” It provide places in low-income neighbourhoods incorporates many of the aspects of social and where people can experience a sense of mental wellbeing. and access to it cannot be place where one connects to place through a 26 restricted”. types of public spaces. that have negotiated revegetation of returned tribal levels of vegetation in common spaces predicted lands. in of public spaces 12 . especially places of cultural because they are recreating together and heritage. can enrich peoples’ lives. is important to tangata 28 integrate into a new society. and families who might a sense of communion with the environment. 25 community. Hoskins gives examples of where iwi found for urban public housing residents. a sense of place in the urban is its property of non-excludability. not be able to afford them elsewhere. benefits are available to all living within a Hoskins describes it as “a de facto sense of particular community. often 29 sharing a common space”. have been shown to be widely used taha wairua) and in different ways (perhaps because they are free). and other Takaparawhau (Bastion Point) cliff perimeter. but also of cultural identity.Psychological/spiritual wellbeing (Te particular. Another study found that participation remnant forested stream and gully system below in the local environment helped refugees Grafton cemetery. some of whom may be associated with good health. literature on environmental influences on health Social wellbeing (Te taha whänau) and wellbeing found that: Green spaces can enhance social interaction • the presence of greenery increases the use and cohesion among communities. The degree to which this occurs is knowledge and respect for another iwi’s strongly mediated by quality and safety aspects 19 connection to that place. were a means of bringing bringing it as much as possible to its former different communities together for informal natural character. income children. Residents of neighbourhoods with place is connected to both ‘rangitiratanga’. City parks. Te Waiparuru. greenery in common spaces are more likely to (control over one’s environment) and enjoy stronger social ties than those who live ‘kaitiakitanga’ (control over stewardship of surrounded by barren concrete. Public open spaces are ideal settings to promote especially their cultural identity. For example. They offer opportunities for described as incorporating “the experience of recreation and exercise to at-risk and low- mutually rewarding encounters between people. Auckland City Council 25 the formation of neighbourhood social ties. celebration that support communities’ sense of 30 A Health Council of the Netherlands review of cultural identity and belonging. Hoskins bring people in the surrounding areas to a challenges local governments in urban areas “to common place for leisure purposes. sense of accessibility. and help to make urban neighbourhoods Te taha wairua or spiritual wellbeing has been 7 more liveable. such as parks are providing opportunities for cultural parks. are more likely social cohesion and inclusion and thus for to report a complete sense of wellbeing.

park. as attributes such as attractiveness. integration of the elderly in a neighbourhood The aesthetic of the local environment. and size determine use. The social support that exists in the according to factors such as quality. access to healthy foods. enjoyable place to be physically active. accessibility of places to walk to (shops. The use significantly more likely to be physically inactive of open spaces to promote physical activity is an (10. the and their exposure to green common convenience of facilities for walking (footpaths. sports. 13 . However.6% provide a focus for neighbourhood activities. Advocates of community gardens say they increase residents’ Participation in physical activity in the Wellington sense of community ownership and stewardship. as well as increasing 35 31 purposes. affordable and spaces and physical activity. muscular more important predictors of open space use strength and the maintenance of mobility. and leisure. playground. has a positive impact on access. Active lifestyles depend. collective maintenance of shared community proximity and accessibility of open spaces. 33 attractiveness and safety as well as travel time Physical activity in turn. specific much upon environmental settings as upon amenities. with across the population. suitability. based on international cleaning up vacant lots. adults in Wellington participate in recommended 36 expose inner city youth to nature. cardio. was found for instance. physical activity outcome measures such as transport-related physical activity. promote healthy behaviours by of the relationship between access to public 39 providing an accessible. and composites Community gardens are an important means of of environmental attributes have all been found improving neighbourhoods and building to be associated with walking for particular community capacity. connect levels of physical activity compared with 29% 37 people from diverse cultures. Open spaces. and need to individual will. increasingly recognised as some of the was little evidence of an association between best ways to improve physical health and mental locational access to open space destinations 40 wellbeing. A recent New Zealand study examining Open spaces encourage walking and outdoor neighbourhood access to open space and the activities such as outdoor games. or open space were vascular disease and various cancers. and especially be measured to develop a better understanding green spaces. Measures should also differentiate mental wellbeing. The study indicated that recommend brisk walking and cycling as ways of factors other than locational access may be improving cardio-vascular fitness.• the presence and views of green common Walking is the most commonly reported physical 34 space correlates positively with social ties in activity in New Zealand. With respect to walking. as gardens can help to sustain healthy lifestyle well as by socio-economic and other factors. spaces. and relationship with physical activity found that there cycling. Most health advisory bodies and physical activity. and reduced risk of incorporate dimensions such as amenity osteoporosis (weight-bearing exercise only). reduced risk concluded that access measures should of Type II Diabetes. and build community evidence. increasing in recent decades leading to adolescents who reported no access to a safe increased risk of Type II diabetes.4%). The researchers other benefits including weight loss. The role of the a neighbourhood environment in shaping habitual behaviour • there is a positive link between the social patterns such as walking behaviour is important. tracks). reduce crime by in America ).3%) compared to teens with access to such 37 important part of addressing these conditions in settings (6. quality an urban setting. In an American study. level of traffic on roads. It changes. region is high by international standards (47. beach). this proportion is likely to vary 32 leaders. that Australian inner-city residents who lived close to a cycle trail used it Physical wellbeing (Te taha tinana) more and longer than those who lived beyond 38 Obesity and sedentary lifestyles have been that distance.

and 14 . of urban parks. the more people are Ulrich found Americans’ stress levels to be less 7 likely to use it. A number used for some form of physical activity. the more likely the green stimulation of the senses.Green Space Scotland’s overall assessment of depression alone will constitute one of the 42 the key influences whereby greenspace largest health problems worldwide. In addition. natural daylight. playing areas for team games and outdoor activity and exercise. but include: seating. As far back as 1979. the more identified two USA studies which found likely it is that the green space will be used. Multi-use – the wider the range of amenities The causal explanations for the impact of green (e. The promotes physical activity is as follows: psychological/emotional benefits from contact with nature are widely recognised as relieving 1. the global burden of disease changes over time.” 15% of the global burden of disease. the street network itself is One study found that the psychological benefits often used as proxy open space due to lack of parks ranked higher in importance than the of access to other public space. Projections suggest that by environments can not only help mitigate stress it the year 2020 mental health disorders will rise to 49 can also prevent it through aiding in recovery. a sense of being away. 7 experiences due to their ability to satisfy fascination. of studies have investigated the impact of green 3. Natural environments that are The World Bank and the World Health easily accessible offer an important resource for organisation estimate that mental health unwinding after periods of intense concentration disorders currently constitute 10% of the global and stress.g. 41 They also need to provide an peoples’ stress levels were reduced by the use environment where people feel safe. reduce 44 cycling through green space to and from anger/aggression and reduce fear. quiet garden with space on mental health vary. respectively that residents who lived in public According to Sallis et al. for example. picnic areas). areas – the greater the degree of urban scenes lacking natural elements tend to connectivity and links to residential and work against emotional wellbeing. Ulrich et al later found that used. Distance of residents from a green space – stress and tension and diminishing anxiety. Moreover. and disability particular. Ease of access – the more accessible in Exposure to open space. Attractiveness – the more diverse the flora they feel. Connectivity to residential and commercial urban scenes. the more likely green space is to be 7 7 and relaxation. of the green space. useable and well connected. independent of age. compared with 4. the less stressed 5. and green space in terms of routes and entrances. children’s play area. the more likely it is to be increasing sadness. A Swedish it all the more important for streets to be study found that the more time people spend in pleasant. 6. gender and socio- 46 and fauna found within the green space and economic status. is important in promoting restoration access. In contrast to nature scenery. the nearer the greenspace the more likely it 7 These benefits may become more prominent as is to be used regularly. after exposure to nature scenes. Green Space Scotland 4748 the less litter and graffiti there is. and reducing stress. a sense of Mental wellbeing (Te taha hinengaro) being part of a larger whole and compatibility 49 with nature. people walking and natural settings’ restore positive effects. This makes 45 recreational and social aspects. outdoor public green space. Parks are ideal for restorative people. parks are also more housing with exposure to nature (including both likely to stimulate activity if they are open space and views of trees) had greater aesthetically pleasing and have tree-lined capacity to cope with stress than those who lived walking paths rather than empty open in dwellings without nearby nature and that older space. significantly 43 commercial areas. and aesthetic 7 space is to be used by different kinds of experience. Size of the green space – the larger the size space on mental health. 2. 7 work. “experience in natural burden of disease.

Recovery from stress has also been shown to be faster and more complete when subjects were exposed to natural settings as opposed to either 44 pedestrian malls or traffic environments. 15 .

physical activity levels do admissions. In New Zealand. connected and short distance routes. The distribution and environments also have the lowest levels of 53 nature of these benefits vary significantly across health inequality related to income deprivation. have impact of open spaces on specific population access to a car. safety and aesthetics of open blood pressure etc. Green space is related to diseases. may be associated with a socioeconomic areas also have lower private 56 reduction in socio-economic inequalities in vehicle ownership rates and are more likely to 16 . low income ethnic Wellington survey tended to be Pakeha aged 51 minorities. more likely to be considerable regional variation in community gardens and neighbourhood proximity. provides more benefits highest groups of users in the Greater to low socio-economic groups. as in other countries. quality and access to open spaces.Open Space and Equity There is convincing evidence that the availability health. As socio. female heads of green space in the past year and 22% use parks 55 households and those with ‘no time for monthly or more often. only 27% of the most deprived inequalities between rich and poor are evident. national and 50 exercise’ Open space designed to provide international research suggests that there is safe. status. or live in close proximity to a groups. appropriateness and access. Low socio-economic communities In the Auckland region. While 41% of the better off economic status decreases. However. People living in low such as green spaces. In another survey 57% of people in These populations include children and the region had visited at least one park or other adolescents. In disease and some cancers e. The organising open space. thus income deprivation were taken as all-cause contributing to differences in the distribution of mortality and morbidity from circulatory health outcomes. This is most likely to be because those This section discusses the significance and particular groups are physically able. and more programmes or facilities which in turn affects health and wellbeing.) This means that healthy urban improved health regardless of socio-economic planning must include a focus on accessible.g. A New Zealand quality of life survey found that There is also good evidence that certain more than nine in ten Wellington. as poor-quality green space economic neighbourhoods. However the quantity and quality of green quality urban open spaces in low socio- space is important. (see Figure 2 below). older persons. across communities. Porirua and populations will derive greater benefits from Hutt residents find it easy or very easy to get to a quality open space and that certain open space local park or other green space in their city or 54 considerations will support these populations. the population due to mediating factors such as (Indicators of health inequalities related to quality. the better off (lower The association between socio-economic status deciles) have the best access to green spaces and health has been well documented. regional park. increasing Although a recent national study showed no levels of deprivation are associated with relationship between locational access to open increased death rates due to preventable space and physical activity across causes. obesity. increased avoidable hospital 40 neighbourhoods. space and streetscape also vary considerably Physical environments that promote good health. greening. communities have high access. One Scottish study has shown that of green spaces within urban areas benefits populations that are exposed to the greenest health and well being. high 52 addition quality. between 30 to 49 years with an income of over $50. health status communities have the highest access to green worsens across a population and health spaces. 7 can have a negative impact on health. and the elderly in particular. and increased risk factors for heart vary greatly across socio-economic groups. local area.000.

2006. more likely to have high levels of industrial pollution. and poor river water and Open space development such as sports fields air quality. derelict land. Marfell Park is situated in an area the fewest opportunities for community-level 37 with the highest deprivation score (NZDep 10) physical activity. green space in Scotland describes both the least can have a detrimental effect on the community. One NZ study in 1999. found that provides a centre or a heart to a community may 40% of those living in the most deprived socio- encourage greater usage and have more economic mesh blocks had hazardous sites in community relevance. with the residential area essentially turning its back on the open space. buried under racial/ethnic minorities are those most at risk of Marfell Park in New Plymouth near a children’s being sedentary and overweight. residential areas. but also have playground. Open space that development. led to grassy spaces in high-deprivation areas. and higher proportions of organo-phosphate insecticide. and are less likely to live near areas and larger parks is often on the edge of 7 of woodland. their area. deprived and most deprived areas in Scotland as Deprived communities are most likely to having high percentages of people living near a 17 . New Zealand research also shows a strong Although there may be high proximity. Areas of high deprivation are also higher deciles. rely on public transport and walking for access to ‘wildlife site’. A guide to health impact assessment of community involvement in their development. discovery in May 2009. But the most deprived areas are key services and amenities. and was built over a landfill site that previously Patterns of urban development in Scotland have accepted toxic waste. there may relationship between deprivation and still be high separation due to roads and other contaminated land or “brown fields” features of urban design. Population proportions by neighbourhood deprivation and green space accessibility in Auckland Source: Auckland Regional Public Health Service. compared to less than 10% of those in the most socio-economically advantaged A 2006 study on the health benefits of parks 57 areas. and limited areas. of drums of dioxin and higher poverty rates. State of Public Health in the Auckland Region. and high-quality green spaces in low-deprivation lack of investment in green spaces. A recent NZ example of this was the found that communities with lower incomes. Figure 2. Poorly designed and maintained open spaces.

cognitive thinking. lighting. a water feature. The use of open space for physical activity is Patterns of planning. Play also to Ngati Whatua o Orakei in the development of teaches children how to interact and cooperate the Viaduct Basin. unstructured physical activities. It discusses the active and less likely to be overweight. Hoskins lists the importance to Mäori activity is therefore highly important.experience some or all of these effects.g. development and particularly important for children and young maintenance of green spaces have meant that people. One of these paths. It states about safety can impact on their use. in a recent consultation on building amenities (e. Playing is learning. sustainable communities. Concerns concern can be discussed and resolved. excess weight in children is inactivity. This suggests that barriers was the expectation (from Councils) that public open spaces in high socio-economic Mäori land will remain undeveloped to provide neighbourhoods have more features that are 58 open space. 59 flexibility in zoning rules. reduce the potential for alienation from their offering opportunity for different types of surroundings. as it helps and living tangata whenua urban presence”.3%).5 Mäori times more likely to be obese.5 times more likely to be obese than For Mäori the urban landscape has important the general population. ensuring that the space with others. water and 12 Australian study found that public open spaces air. walking and cycling for residential development. and exercise has and tell some of their stories”. Hoskins also been shown to increase the brain’s capacity for stresses the significance of using intact tribal learning. It is these factors that Parks are ideal settings for children’s play contribute to the wellbeing of urban Mäori and because they are safe. establishment of a forum where resource safety and ease of use are also important management and policy issues of mutual aspects of open space for children. It has proven to be a critical 61 of elements and symbols of cultural significance element in a child’s future success.” in the least deprived neighbourhoods had more However. of seeing cultural histories reflected In addition. One of the major contributing factors to 60 while some people regularly use green spaces. Quality. signage. thus children develop muscle strength and 19 restoring a sense of place for tangata whenua. names for places. children’s play is fundamental to their in the urban environment that “allow for a visible development. In the not all communities or populations have New Zealand Health Survey 2006/07. Participants called for more likely to promote physical activity. Children’s “Nowhere is this more important than in the mobility is often limited to their immediate development of open space policy where Mäori surroundings and the constraints of their parents 60 interests are to maintain and restore the mauri or or guardians. Lack of access to quality green spaces due to lack of transport also affects the most deprived Children and Young People communities much more than the least deprived. coordination. natural and accessible. picnic tables and drink fountains). with Pacific girls and boys being 2. are more likely to be physically 7 relationship with the land. some Mäori expressed were more likely to have trees that provided frustration at the barriers to utilising Mäori land shade. “Parental perceptions rather than children’s perceptions of road safety had 18 . and He quotes the example of the use of a number reasoning abilities. such as parks recognises the importance of the mana whenua and playgrounds. and Mäori girls and boys 1. one in equitable access to high-quality open spaces. of maintaining the integrity of the land and waterways. Children’s access to cultural and environmental implications for quality open spaces for recreation and physical wellbeing. An life essence of the whenua (land). twelve children (aged 2 to 14 years) were obese (8. language. Children who Wellington City Council’s Open Space Strategy have access to safe green space. laying foundations for success in “begins to reflect their tangata whenua status school and the working world.

Planning well for the needs of people with disabilities will also improve access for older people. improving their opportunities for physical activity and social interaction. People with disabilities A well-designed urban environment has the potential to substantially improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. wheelchair accessible. and other groups with special access needs. including people with mobility and visual impairments (disabilities) and other special needs e. ramps rather than steps. 65 and include benches for resting.g. sufficiently wide pathways .stronger associations with children’s walking and cycling in the neighbourhood suggesting that parents influence and/or control these 62 behaviours”. “Both the type of neighbourhood and age moderate children’s perceptions of places where they could play and be physically active. Children’s perceptions of neighbourhood also change as they grow older.” Parks in New Zealand have the uniqueness of being reasonably safe and accessible as well as natural (including elements of nature such as trees and plants) and so have great capacity to provide relevant space for children’s and adolescents. Accessible Design or just Accessibility) to open space development would accommodate the widest range of potential users. this highlights the importance of providing developmentally appropriate opportunities for play and physical 63 activity in neighbourhoods.kept in good repair and well-lit. by providing opportunities for physical activity and for access to the natural environment. 19 . A Universal Design 64 approach (also called Inclusive Design. making it important to provide developmentally appropriate opportunities for play and physical activity in neighbourhoods.

and Feasibility. These included: ‘Regional mean that open spaces need to be identified. in all neighbourhoods can “a bold integrated Open Space Plan with reap the benefits of a multi-faceted open implementation strategies for Seattle’s space system. which will enhance future can. green It was led by Open Spaces Seattle 2100. and the need for quality open spaces for open space plans. beautiful Seattle while maximising urban sprawl policies of the twentieth century. including for public open spaces. • strive for ecological open spaces that allowing every part of the city to be viewed from restore ecological functions and promote multiple perspectives (the Green Futures aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity Charrette as part of Open Space Seattle 2100). planners. with participation by a very wide range focusing development into urban nodes that of environmentalists. architects. contain civic spaces. city plans. Connectivity/ turned into building sites or their quality Coherence. infrastructure” – bikeways. Ecological Function and Integrity. basing their ideas on existing and interests. as • create integrated. Stewardship’. readily predicted. figures. and protected. 20 . city developers walkable amenities and abundant public and open space advocates. Most cities the health and wellbeing of both our will face an increase in their populations that will cultural and natural environments. This need to be properly housed. Responsiveness. especially sustainability. Identity and compromised. a freeways. to avoid being Equity and Accessibility. Rootedness. climate disruption and other potential priority.” of city centres. Open spaces transit planning involved 300 people over two days. canopy cover University of Washington and the Urban Land • balance density and community by Institute. Flexibility and strong public participation in urban planning. The resulting The following example is a summarised planning recommendations from the charrette for planning model that was successful through its strong included: partnerships and community involvement. our economic. designers. natural drainage filtration. Beauty. and tree partnership between the City of Seattle. and are. artists. • provide democratic access to open space The exercise aimed to create: so that all people. with relevant vision of a regenerative green supporting infrastructure. Most local authorities infrastructure will strive to create a recognise the need to move away from the healthy. local identities. for health and wellbeing. Quality. Local people. collaboratively developed.Planning for Healthy Open Spaces – an International Example Pressures on the urban environment into the next hundred years. Eight principles given area. Integrated and Multi-functional. social and ecological 66 towards increased population density. academics. connected “green much as through its resultant open spaces plan. need to be involved in planning site conditions. predicted population their own environments. Development pressures guided the work. anticipated changes in modes of participation of local iwi/Mäori would be a transport. Charrette participants worked on eighteen including representation from all communities watershed areas. well planned. But there is an inherent tension The two-day ‘charrette’ was preceded by a year between needing to house more people in a of careful preparation and study. In New Zealand. natural hazard impacts. Many international case studies recommend Health and Safety.

as well as those related to the environment and the economy are important in commending to decision makers the significance of open spaces in shaping our communities now and in the future. areas with existing poor quality open space. Local. some lower socio economic areas. • Consider street greening initiatives and improvements to street connectivity. • Prioritise green and open space development within urban settings over space for vehicle parking for example. • Consider opportunities for rationalisation of land as a way to increase the number of open space destinations. pocket parks. Decision makers have opportunities to: • Maximise the use of existing space and use approaches that invest in community gardens. The promotion of health and social benefits.g. regional and central government play a key role in shaping this important community asset and Regional Public Health recognises the contribution that this makes to public health outcomes such as physically active lives. and multifunctional spaces designed for diverse communities. 21 . • Involve communities in the design of spaces making them culturally and locally relevant. roading design and traffic management that will increase the neighbourhoods’ walkability. • Focus on those areas most in need of open space improvements e. good mental health and cohesive and connected communities.Conclusion This paper has illustrated that the quality and type of open space provided within communities can have a significant and sustained impact on community health and wellbeing.

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