At the crack of dawn this morning (5.20am), I chatted with NewstalkZB’s Kate Hawkesby about the urban growth of the provinces and whether “intensification” is inevitable. She was concerned that we’d lose the charm and character of our rural areas as a result.

She’s right to be concerned. If we continue to design urban spaces in the same way we have been — car-oriented, single-use — our provinces and productive land will be swallowed up by American-style suburban sprawl. That’s not designing for people and it’s not at all why people move to the provinces.

Instead, we need to think creatively about how we design our communities. The government must lose the archaic obsession for single-use land zoning in our centres and the mentality that one size (the quarter-acre section) fits all.

Instead, we should design our communities properly. Design our cities for the next generation: we want to be connected and be able to meet friends at the local pub or park. Design our cities for the baby boomers who don’t want to move into some managed isolation type retirement village in the middle of nowhere; instead, put them in the downtown so they can babysit grandkids or go aqua jogging at the pool. Design mixed-use centres so that we can live, play, and work within walking or biking distance, so we can spend time on things or with people whose company we enjoy.

If we do this well, we can return to the provincial charm. It is not about turning our provinces into high-rise concrete jungles; it’s about bringing people back into the heart of the community. In doing so, we benefit our local economy, address the housing and climate crises, and lead healthier lives. Leave the quarter-acre section to the people who want it – give the rest of us choice.