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NZ landscape architect honoured

One of NZ’s most distinguished landscape architects honoured with life membership

Neil Aitken, one of New Zealand’s most distinguished landscape architects, has been made life member of the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA). Life membership is rarely awarded by the institute. Aitken was the landscape architect for the habitat of Wellington Zoo’s new Nocturnal House.

Aitken was a foundation student of the Landscape Architectural School. His diploma dissertation was on designing relationships between the Christchurch Town Hall and Victoria Square.

His early work with the Ministry of Works included major re-vegetation projects on the West Coast highways, some of which had suffered significant structural damage in the 1968 Inangahua earthquake.

In 1975 he moved to Wellington to take up a position as the foundation chief landscape architect for the Housing Corporation of New Zealand, which had been established in1974.

He was influential in raising the profile, performance and management of landscape in state housing areas from Northland to Invercargill.

``Neil’s design skills, together with his ability to work with and gain the confidence of people from a wide range of disciplines from engineers to accountants, resulted in a vastly improved living environment for countless New Zealanders,’’ said NZILA president Di Lucas in making the announcement today.

``In private practice he has provided significant input into landscape work at many levels in the Wellington and Marlborough regions but particularly for the Wellington City and Greater Wellington Regional Councils.

``He has influenced developments throughout the lower North Island through tender evaluation and contract administration which has become his speciality.

``Few people have contributed as much, and as consistently, as Neil has to the professional arm of landscape architecture in New Zealand through the NZILA.’’

Aitken was a foundation member of the NZILA. During this time he represented the NZILA at a world congress and in 1986 he attended a conference in the USA, where, in his unassuming way, he fostered the profession’s international profile and status and spoke of New Zealand’s nuclear free status, receiving a standing ovation.

Ms Lucas said it was hard to imagine anyone who had come into contact with Aitken – professional colleagues, landscape contractors or allied professionals - who would not have been impressed by his steadfast professionalism, integrity and marvellous use of language.

``Small wonder then, that the executive of the NZILA saw fit to elevate him to the highest level of membership of the profession in New Zealand.’’

Aitken said today it was wonderful to receive the life membership award after being a member of the Institute since its inception in 1972.

``The main issue facing landscape architecture and landscape architects today is the continuing and cumulative impact of largely unrestrained development resulting in misuse and abuse pressures on the New Zealand landscape in spite of the best intentions of those who conceived of, and drafted the Resource Management Act.

``I am alarmed at the concerted pressure of the “business lobby” (in the broadest sense) wanting to make the amending legislation more “user friendly”. I feel that this will only be to the detriment of our landscape in biological, physical and human terms although in reality, the three can’t be separated.

``In most cases, when a landscape is lost to ill-considered development or land use – irrespective of its nature, scale and significance – it is lost forever,’’ Aitken said.

Copyright 2004 Word of Mouth Media NZ

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