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Wellington City welcomes urban design protocol

26 August 2004

Wellington City welcomes urban design protocol

The Government's new draft urban design protocol is a 'timely arrival' in Wellington as the city undergoes a building boom.

That's according to Wellington City Council's Director of Urban Strategy, Dr Stephen Rainbow, who says the Council's town planners and urban designers are "thrilled to see formal recognition of urban design at the national level.

"It is acknowledgement that urban design isn't something ephemeral - but that it has genuine economic, environmental and community benefits."

The draft protocol was launched earlier this month by Environment Minister Marian Hobbs, who is also Minister with Responsibility for Urban Affairs. The protocol aims to improve the quality of New Zealand's urban environment.

The protocol was developed by the Ministry for the Environment and an urban design advisory group of central and local government representatives, private developers, professionals and educational institutes. It is now available for consultation - submissions close on 30 September.

Dr Rainbow says Wellington's CBD, particularly Te Aro, is the focus of major building development - either under way or on the drawing board - that is already significantly changing the face of the city.

"We have developers unveiling new plans virtually every week. Our staff are working closely with them to ensure their projects contribute positively to the look and feel of the city.

"But it is genuinely good to have the backing of Central Government in terms of what we are trying to achieve. Our staff are routinely exposed to pressure from both the development sector and from people who oppose development and this protocol gives important central government acknowledgment of the kinds of urban design approaches that Wellington City has pioneered and which it continues to rely on to produce high quality design of building and public spaces.

"Sometimes we are accused of being out of step with other local authorities over our urban design decisions - both by developers and by opponents."

Dr Rainbow says Wellington City Council has long championed investment in top-quality urban design as a means of kick-starting or supporting the transformation of parts of the city - or, indeed, ensuring important parts of the city retain their character.

The Council's Urban Strategy Unit has brought together some of the country's best town planners, architects, urban designers and heritage experts. "They not only produce memorable public spaces but they also work with private developers to ensure the cityscape continues to be transformed in a creative, innovative, way."

"Hopefully the protocol will help raise awareness both locally and nationally about the importance of good urban design - it would be a vote of confidence for our staff."

Dr Rainbow is especially glad the protocol will be incorporated into the decision-making of government departments and crown entities. "The Government obviously has a major presence in Wellington - in other words they have a significant ability to influence the look and image of the Capital. We look forward to working with the Government and being guided by the protocol in a practical sense."

A copy of the draft protocol and an electronic feedback form is available on the Ministry for the Environment website: www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/urban/draft-protocol-aug04/index.html

ENDS

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