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Hobbs: Launch Of The NZ Urban Design Protocol

8 March 2005 Speech Notes

Hon Marian Hobbs - Launch Of The NZ Urban Design Protocol, Wellington City Art Gallery, Tuesday March 8, 10.45am

Your Royal Highness, Mayor Kerry Prendergast, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is wonderful to see so many organisations represented here today at the launch of the Urban Design Protocol. A particular welcome to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales – we are delighted, sir that you are able to visit our country and join us today, especially given your strong interest in urban design issues.

New Zealand is renowned for its breathtaking scenery and natural beauty. But, today up to 87% of New Zealanders live in our towns and cities. Wouldn't it be great if New Zealand were also known for its creative, stimulating and successfully designed towns and cities?

To achieve this, requires a journey; and all great journeys start with a first step. Take hopscotch, the theme used in the design of all our publications and communications about the Protocol. When we first learn to play this game, it seems complicated, remembering which square to avoid, how to turn and complete the sequence. Soon, however, we play it naturally without thinking about the rules. That is how I hope the Protocol will develop – it will become second nature to all planners and architects.

The Protocol being launched today results from a genuinely collaborative effort by individuals and organisations representing central and local government, the design professions, property developers, builders and users. The initiative for the protocol goes back to John Sinclair and fellow architects approaching our Prime Minister, wanting some leadership on this issue of urban design. As a result, Helen gave me the new portfolio of Urban Affairs along with the brief to get things moving. And it was with your combined skills and determination that we have produced the Protocol we have today.

This morning’s event is all about taking that first step in formalising New Zealand’s ongoing commitment to quality urban design. Today we congratulate the 80 organisations that have signed up to implement the Protocol in their work across New Zealand. You have committed to looking forward and striving towards successful urban places that are alive, vibrant, and thriving.

Strong leadership will be required within your organisations to achieve the goals of the Protocol because the sign-up is only the beginning. All signatories will appoint Urban Design Champions who will be key in your organisations’ drive for quality urban design. These champions will be the centre of the network that will lead the important “learning by doing and sharing” that will be the essence of the Protocol’s effectiveness.

As a government, we are determined to lead by example in many areas. One such involves a partnership with Wellington City Council. We will be establishing a Government Precinct in Thorndon, Wellington, centred on government buildings. This will be a collaborative urban design demonstration project.

Some might say quality urban design is too expensive and not achievable with our small population. I say, look around you to see what is possible. This space – the City Gallery Wellington – was once a single purpose civic library. Now it is part of a mixed-use precinct in the heart of Wellington city and an exciting landmark to the arts. It’s a great example of how a quality and robust building can be adapted and changed with the needs of a growing urban centre. And I could wax lyrical about how the life of the Civic Square outside has grown. This Art Gallery, Civic square, Library, Town Hall is all about connections and creativity and collaboration.

To celebrate achievements in the buildings, spaces, places and structures in which New Zealanders live, work and play, 2005 has been declared the Year of the Built Environment. This is an opportunity for all New Zealanders to learn about, and recognise the contribution the quality of our built environment makes to our quality of life. There is so much happening this year, ranging from many national conferences, the centenary of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust through to the involvement of the community in activities such as guided heritage walks.

We are only at the beginning of our journey to achieving high quality urban design. It has taken a great deal of effort and hard work to get where we are today. I particularly want to thank the Urban Design Advisory Group, who provided their expertise and enthusiasm to the development of the Protocol, the urban team at the Ministry for the Environment, led so well by Lindsay Gow and the Wellington City Council for helping with logistics for this launch, and of course you, the key players - the signatories, whose commitment will realise the Urban Design Protocol.

The New Zealand Urban Design Protocol is not a one-off step; it is the beginning of a long-term commitment by all of us to creating quality urban design throughout our towns and cities. I look forward to working with you in this exciting endeavour. Thank-you.


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