Appointing an urban design champion

Signatories to the Urban Design Protocol must appoint an urban design champion - someone influential who can promote and champion urban design. This page provides information on appointing an urban design champion. It explains why they are important, what they contribute and who should become a champion. It also provides links to resources for urban design champions.

What is an urban design champion?

As a signatory to the Urban Design Protocol you have committed to helping make the Protocol work in practice by setting out a series of actions. The only mandatory action is the appointment of an urban design champion within your organisation.

An urban design champion is a senior, influential person who can promote quality urban design in all areas of your organisation. They are critical in making New Zealand towns and cities more successful through increasing awareness and demonstrating the values of quality urban design.

Why urban design champions are important

Successful towns and cities do not just happen by chance. They require good planning based on a long-term vision and co-ordinated implementation.

To be successful, quality urban design needs to be an integral part of the everyday actions of your organisation, not just something reserved for visible, glossy, front page projects. The place of urban design within your organisation will need to be strengthened on all projects, with clear messages communicated to all relevant staff.

The urban design champion will provide the strong leadership needed to put and keep urban design on the agenda.

What urban design champions contribute

Your urban design champion should promote quality urban design within your organisation, and ensure urban design issues are considered in all relevant decisions. This could include:

  • identifying opportunities and encouraging proactive action to improve urban design outcomes
  • promoting the value of quality urban design, persuading and influencing key decision-makers
  • sharing knowledge and learning across the organisation and with other partners
  • helping build a common vision for the projects or programmes they are responsible for or how they see the quality of the urban environment improving through your organisation's actions
  • ensuring the urban design implications of any strategy, policy or project are considered at an early stage
  • developing a multi-disciplinary approach across professions, departments, teams or groups within your organisation
  • working jointly with other organisations and sectors to improve urban design outcomes
  • encouraging early and pro-active consultation on major urban projects
  • ensuring access to sufficient design skills within the organisation, including providing ongoing urban design training for all relevant staff
  • becoming a visible central point of contact both within and outside of the organisation
  • developing ways to encourage innovation and creativity within your organisation
  • developing 'partnering' approaches with other organisations.

Who should be an urban design champion?

Your urban design champion should be a senior and influential person within your organisation, someone with responsibility to oversee many of your organisation's key functions.
An urban design champion could be a:

  • local authority councillor
  • board member
  • chief executive
  • senior manager
  • principal consultant
  • head of department
  • chairperson or president.

It is not necessary for the urban design champion to have technical skills in urban design. However, they will need a reasonable understanding of built environment and urban issues, and be willing to learn. In addition they will need to be supported by urban design and other related professionals either inside or outside of your organisation.

An urban design champion needs to be:

  • passionate about achieving a quality urban environment
  • able to influence people to make urban design changes within your organisation
  • respected for their opinion
  • a good communicator with links inside and outside the organisation
  • able to call upon urban design technical and professional support from within or outside the organisation
  • prepared to promote the long term picture and develop an urban design vision within your organisation.

For the larger council or geographically spread organisations it may be necessary to have more than one urban design champion. For instance, a council may consider appointing a councillor and a senior manager as urban design champions. However, care should be taken not to dilute the role; rather consideration should be made on how multiple urban design champions can support and collaborate within an organisation.

Resources for urban design champions

Find out more

For more information on becoming an urban design champion email

NZ Urban Design Protocol