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Urban leader - A newsletter for urban design champions

Issue no. INFO 629 | 17 October 2011


Welcome. This regular newsletter contains interesting information to help you champion good urban design in New Zealand.

In this issue we have:

Urban Design Protocol now has 185 Signatories

A big welcome to the latest signatory:
Waikato District Council

Signatory news

Local government

Auckland Council is transforming its city streets into shared spaces.  Darby St, Elliott St, Lorne St, and Fort St in the central city, along with Totara Ave West in New Lynn now provide for cars and people to share the area.  Initial monitoring of Darby St shows an increase in pedestrians, fewer cars and lower vehicle speeds.

Queenstown Lakes District Council is forming a consultation working group to  discuss the provision of affordable housing in the district further. This collaborative process will include the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust, appellants to Plan Change 24 (Affordable Housing) and other stakeholders.

Taupo District Council has recently notified a series of plan changes for the Taupo Town Centre, Taupo and Centennial Industrial, Residential and Spa Road, designed to start the implementation of the Taupo Urban Commercial and Industrial Structure Plan.  The plan changes include amendments to the Taupo Town Centre, residential and industrial environments. 

Meanwhile Wanganui District Council’s District Plan Review (‘Shaping Wanganui’) continues with a review of the residential provisions including a series of open days for the public. 

The Canterbury earthquakes have shown that strong and resilient communities are those where people know each other.  In recognition of this Wellington City Council has launched the Community Preparedness Grant for community projects that encourage neighbours to get to know each other.

Canterbury signatory news

Christchurch Council continues the massive job of earthquake recovery through its Suburban Centres programme – a series of master plans for commercial centres damaged by the earthquakes.  Currently they are seeking community input into the Ferry Road/Main Road corridor work programme.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister has recently announced the final agreement between the alliance of parties that will rebuild damaged infrastructure.  The alliance includes signatories New Zealand Transport Agency, Christchurch City Council, along with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Agency (CERA), and contractors Fulton Hogan, Fletcher Construction, McConnell Dowell, Downer Construction, and City Care.

Greening the Rubble is a community project in Christchurch creating temporary public parks and gardens on sites of demolished buildings until the owners are ready to redevelop.  A number of signatory organisations are involved including Christchurch City Council, New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects, Living Streets Aotearoa, and Lincoln University.

Consultant and sector group news

Colin Buchanan and Partners Ltd, a transport planning, planning, urban design and economics consultancy, has recently merged with signatory organisation Sinclair Knight Merz.

A new BRANZ initiative is which provides a technical resource on renovating houses from different eras.  To date these include villas, bungalows, art deco, 1940s to 1960s, and 1970s.  Information includes details for each housing era on site layout and form, history, along with plenty of images.

Central Government news

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commissions Interim Report has been released containing recommendations on rebuilding and repair work that forms part of the recovery from the Canterbury earthquakes. The report recommends urgent action on aspects of current building design practice, both in Christchurch and elsewhere, to make some buildings’ elements (particularly stairs and floors in multi-storey buildings) more resilient. The Commission is also of the view that immediate action is necessary to strengthen parts of unreinforced masonry buildings that could fail, causing injury or loss of life, in earthquakes that are less severe than the Canterbury earthquakes.  The final report will include further recommendations and the lessons to be learned from the catastrophic failures of the CTV and PGC buildings.

The Ministry for the Environment has released its latest Resource Management Act (RMA) two yearly survey of local authorities.  The survey includes questions about key aspects of RMA implementation such as numbers and types of resource consent applications, time taken to process applications, good practice, and numbers and types of plan changes and variations.

The Ministry of Transport has released Connecting New Zealand: a summary of the Government’s broad policy direction for the transport sector over the next decade.  It brings together a number of policy decisions and guidance documents produced over the last two years including the National Infrastructure Plan, the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport Funding, the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Policy, the KiwiRail Turnaround Plan, and the Safer Journeys Strategy.

The NZ Transport Agency has applied for designation and resource consents for the Transmission Gully section of the Wellington Northern Corridor. As well as the roading proposal, Porirua City Council and Transpower NZ Ltd have lodged applications for two link roads and for relocating some transmission towers respectively. The applications are being processed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and will be referred to a Board of Inquiry.

Upcoming urban design event

Urban Design: The Art of Memorable Places is a two day workshop for people who want to understand how different aspects of the urban realm combine to make great and memorable places.  Auckland 21-22 November 2011 and Wellington 28-29 November 2011.

Useful links and current information


  • This photo essay depicts how laneways and alleyways around the world have been transformed into vital, vibrant parts of the urban landscape.  Includes examples from Seattle, San Francisco, Melbourne, and Vancouver.
  • Roads, motorways, railways, intensive agriculture and urban developments are breaking up Europe’s landscapes into ever smaller pieces according to a new report from the European Environment Agency and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment.  Landscape Fragmentation in Europe illustrates how areas of land are split into smaller and smaller parcels until they are unable to support high levels of biodiversity.
  • Are skyscrapers the answer to denser cities? Or are they are form of outdated urbanism that should be retired?  This commentary summarises the debate over energy efficiency and the necessity of tall towers in an ever increasing urbanised world.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its liveability ranking of 140 cities from around the world.  Melbourne topped the list for the first time, ousting Vancouver.  Interestingly the report found that the best scoring cities tended to be mid-sized in wealthier countries with relatively low population densities.

United States

  • Lower Manhattan, near the former World Trade Centre, is experiencing a ‘residential renaissance’ with an influx of young professional parents attracted to the now family friendly area.  The recovery story isn’t so positive in parts of New Orleans with Lower Ninth Ward, hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina still remaining desolate. While Austin, Texas is ranked the top city for young people to wait out the recession due to a low cost of living, ways to make money, and a ‘youth friendly vibe’. 
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology has launched the Urban Network Analysis, an open-source software that calculates how a cities’ spatial layout affects the way people will live in it.  And if you want to know where the centre of a city is, an urban art project uses ‘life’ size Google red markers erected in the exact spots Google maps determines the city centre is.
  • For decades American families fled the denser urban grid form of older city areas for newer neighbourhoods.  Now an American researcher argues against the cul de sac as they make people drive more, make people less safe, keep people disconnected from each other, and may even make people less healthy.

Website of the month

Want to report an issue on the street to the council but not sure how to go about it? Out and about and see something that needs fixing? Check out The website records your issue (be it a hole in the footpath, faulty street lighting, broken glass on a cycleway or graffiti), works out which council area you are in, then sends a request to the councils to fix it up. There’s even an application for your mobile phone!

Podcast of the month

See budding New Zealand film makers in action. This site features the NZTA school students’ road safety campaign winners.

We want your news items

Do you have news that you would like reported in the next Urban Leader? We welcome your stories, and would like to receive more information from Protocol signatories. Email us at

Submitted articles may be edited by the Ministry for the Environment.


Last updated: 1 February 2013