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Best practice urban design in local government

30 June 2008

Best practice urban design in local government

Environment Minister Trevor Mallard's speech to the Urban Design Symposium, Circa Theatre, Wellington

Thank you for the invitation to open the Urban Design Symposium this morning – the second symposium that's been held for urban design protocol champions and urban designers.

Welcome to everyone here today, and a special welcome to today’s keynote speaker from England, Mr Phil Jones. Phil’s expertise on and insights into championing urban design and transport will I am sure support future work in this field in New Zealand.

The meeting of minds and gathering of ideas about urban design is an important and timely exercise.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this area – but like any citizen or local, I believe the issue of what my neighbourhood and community looks and feels like and how environmentally friendly it is – is very important.

It is an issue that can grip local communities, and can cause anguish in neighbourhoods confronted by developers and urban design planners, if it's not done right.

On a personal level, it was great to see in my own electorate that Hutt City Council and Upper Hutt Council have both signed up to the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol.

And on that point, welcome to David Ogden Mayor of Hutt City and Wayne Guppy Mayor of Upper Hutt.

The launch of the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol in March 2005 marked the beginning of our government's explicit support for quality urban design – working in partnership with local communities throughout New Zealand.

The protocol is an excellent example of how we can raise awareness and improve the importance of quality urban design for our towns and cities.

It is heartening to see that from small beginnings the protocol now has 158 signatories –including 21 central government agencies, 37 local government organisations, 10 developers, 61 consultancies, 7 professional institutes, 7 education institutes and 15 sector organisations. This includes all major metro councils, the majority of councils in growth areas, the Property Council of New Zealand, and the major design and planning institutes.

Congratulations to you all – I hope you do your bit to encourage others to join up as the protocol is a great network that enables you to be kept informed of the most up to date national and international urban design issues on a monthly basis.

We also have a set of tools and resources to help signatories – and more of this later.

Under the protocol, the signatory organisation prepares an action plan that defines what that organisation has committed to do, to improve the quality of the built environment. The only mandatory action of a signatory is the appointment of an urban design champion – an influential person at a senior level in the organisation who can promote and champion quality urban design as well as challenging existing approaches.

I think I am probably speaking here to the converted when I pose the question – why is urban design important?

Our patterns of urban development in New Zealand have been questioned for a number of years. Many of our towns and cities are characterised by sprawling settlement patterns that promote reliance on the private car that in turn increase our carbon emissions.

We need to rethink our approach to planning and the built environment as we face the many challenges of future growth and development in our towns and cities. We must work together to achieve towns and cites that are economically prosperous, attractive for people to live in, and respond to increasing environmental pressures.

Sustainable development is what the focus should be.

Central government is working to address many of these challenges in the areas of transport, energy, housing sustainability and urban design.

I know that many of the Protocol signatories are the main drivers in designing and redesigning our towns and cities.

You will be seeing this afternoon some of the more interesting developments in Wellington including the new Meridian Building and the impressive mixed use development of Chews Lane.

I am sure these developments will stimulate ideas and debate for future built environment designs in New Zealand.

As part of the Ministry for the Environment’s Urban Design Protocol work, it is a now a pleasure to launch the second volume of urban design case studies.

These nine case studies are aimed at people working in and with local government and provide best practice examples of best practice urban design strategies, plans guidelines and examples of development projects throughout New Zealand.

We have case studies here from the councils of Kapiti Coast, North Shore, Wellington City, Hamilton City, Greater Christchurch, and a Housing New Zealand Corporation case study.

The first set of case studies published in 2005 demonstrated urban design qualities outlined in the protocol.

For this latest volume, local government case studies were targeted after the results of the 2006 "Survey of Local Government Authorities Urban Design Capabilities" which highlighted the need to build skills and capacity in urban design within and across local government.

The case studies are interesting and varied. I would encourage you to read them and pass them around to others in your organisation.

As well as the hard copy publication, they are also available by going to

In addition to the release of the Urban Design Case Studies, I would like to take this opportunity to update you on discussions around a possible National Policy Statement on Urban Design that is intended to provide guidance to help local councils improve the quality of design in urban environments.

The Ministry for the Environment will shortly be writing to relevant iwi authorities, individuals and organisations seeking comment and feedback on the potential scope of a National Policy Statement on Urban Design as a first step in the process of its development. I anticipate that many here today will be invited to participate and I would encourage you to do so.

Your active participation will certainly clarify the issues that could be addressed within a national policy statement on urban design and clarify if indeed such a statement is needed. It will also help to inform the nature and extent of the policy response required to achieve better quality urban design in New Zealand.

In closing, I applaud the connected and collaborative nature of your urban design work. It is your important contribution that is making our urban environment more attractive, sustainable and liveable.

Thank you


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