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Urban Design Task Force hands city “get tough” msg

MEDIA RELEASE
31 May 2005


Urban Design Task Force hands city a “get tough” message


Calls for radical changes to the way Auckland goes about the future design of the city have been welcomed by Mayor Dick Hubbard after a no holds barred report from his Mayoral Task Force on Urban Design was released today.

The task force calls for a “Just say No!” approach to bad design and urges Auckland City Council and the wider development community to work together to turn Auckland into an attractive world-class city.

The task force was appointed by the mayor in response to growing public anxiety at what Aucklanders see springing up in the central city and their neighbourhoods. After two months of deliberation, members – who represent key influencers in the development industry – have called for major change to the way the city manages urban design.

Released today, the report “Designing Auckland: A springboard for action” calls for a “design-led transformation” of a city that has stunning aspects but has been marred by many wasted opportunities.

“The evidence suggests that much of Auckland city’s recent development – in both the central city and suburbs – does not measure up. It is the product of a laissez faire approach to design and the public realm. Inadequate planning and Building Act controls have provided a framework for poor quality development,” it says.

The report identifies “essential measures for immediate impact and actions to sustain change” under the headings:
create memorable places and spaces
only the best will do – tilt the playing field toward good development
be bold – say “No!” to bad design
be clear about the big picture
bring in champions to accelerate change
rebuild a “can-do” design-led council organisation
fast track changes to outmoded rules and processes.

Under each of these headings, the report lists changes to achieve improved urban design, identifies the partners involved and sets a timeframe for delivery.

The mayor said he was a delighted with the quality and honesty of the report.

“Today we put a stake in the ground and say enough is enough – enough of the appalling developments we have seen springing up around the city.

“It’s time everyone involved in producing poor quality developments was put on notice. We live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s not too late. We have a chance to get it right. Today is the first step in getting it right.”

The Deputy Mayor of Auckland, Councillor Bruce Hucker, who chaired the task force, said the report challenges the council and the whole design and development industry to build a better city.

“As the report says: decisive action is overdue; we must all do better, starting now.”

Task force member Mr Patrick Fountein, chair of the Property Council of New Zealand’s urban strategy committee, said the task force has taken a holistic view leading to a range of actions to improve the urban design landscape for future generations.

“The property development community needs to take responsibility for ‘building better cities’. The property council is taking the lead to ensure all developers ‘raise the bar’ and ensure they have urban design as a key objective, if they wish to obtain future resource consents in Auckland City,” he said.

Mr Gordon Moller, president of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, another task force signatory, said the institute strongly supported the report as it advances the process to a better urban design environment for Auckland.

“Design shapes our world and the recognition of the needs of the city – it’s people and context – will ensure better results.”

Key actions to be implemented immediately or within the first year include:
council to appoint urban design manager to lead change
investigate a scoring system to assess merits of all developments
reject developments with low urban design scores
give highest quality developments an obstacle-free run through regulatory process
council and University of Auckland to fund a chair in urban design with time dedicated to design champion role
introduce stronger controls through plan changes
advocate for changes to the Building Act and implement council/industry proposed recommendations on minimum apartment sizes and standards
make key routes of the city memorable for good quality buildings and people-friendly places
strengthen role of existing Urban Design Panel
make City’s chief executive and general managers accountable for quality urban design and cultural change in their performance contracts
launch a series of town hall forums to publicly debate issues and solutions
identify examples of good urban design and celebrate best as “Mayoral Awards”.

The task force report will be reviewed by the 13 June meeting of the Urban Strategy and Governance Committee of Auckland City Council and then by the Combined Committees meeting on 23 June with costings for actions requiring budget.

For more information visit website: www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/urbandesign

Ends

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