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Move made to put urban design on Government’s agenda

Wednesday 13 June – Urbanism New Zealand 2018

Last month’s national Urbanism New Zealand conference – the first event of its type and size since 2005 – has given rise to a statement paper calling for the establishment of a national urban design committee.

Conference spokesperson Gerald Blunt says the purpose of the committee would be to help shape a “national programme of making better places through design”.

Blunt says a post-conference workshop took what was learnt at the Urbanism New Zealand event, attended by more than 200 people, and distilled that into the main problems that have been produced by poor planning and urban management over many years in New Zealand.

“Collectively the workshop delegates believe that New Zealand’s ability to develop resilient towns and cities, to a world-leading standard, is dependent on good urban design to generate positive effects for the natural environment, the economy and public health.”

The delegates are pitching a five-point proposal to the Government, accompanied by a process for urgently engaging with Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford and government officials on options for taking the proposal forward.

The proposal is seeking to put in place:

An improved and fully aligned policy framework to address urban matters.
A national policy statement on Urban Form (Urban Design) to be incorporated within the RMA.
A national design review process to include monitoring of critical and sensitive projects and programmes such as Kiwibuild.
Better evidence-based decision making backed by measurements of value.
A coherent, integrated and ambitious design response to climate change.
“This proposal could not be more timely given the newly announced Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the planning that will be going into creating a more robust network of supporting mechanisms around the new Ministry to make it a success,” says Blunt.

“We believe that having a recognised national urban design committee will provide a badly needed avenue in New Zealand for providing independent advocacy, policy and governance advice to central government and local authorities.

“We believe such a committee would fill the gap of acting as a technical advisory group to relevant ministers and the public. It would not be a development agency, but it could eventually evolve into something similar to the UK’s Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment”.

The problems facing New Zealand’s cities and towns outlined in the Statement On New Zealand Urbanism paper include:

Unaffordability causing multigenerational impacts on housing, health and productivity
Insufficient spatial planning to respond to environmental shocks, growth pressures, economic changes and energy shortages
Inefficient public transport systems
Overly complex and legalistic planning systems

ends

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