The first round of monitoring on progress in implementing the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol provides an evaluation by signatories of their experience and the level of success they have achieved. This indicates that healthy progress is being made. There is a high level of commitment in many organisations to building awareness and understanding of urban design and to producing good design outcomes. Some organisations are putting considerable effort into changing internal processes to facilitate better decision-making on urban design issues.
Although varying degrees of success are being achieved in implementing actions, and some actions need more time to produce results, many signatories are already seeing clear benefits emerging. While it is too early to see many visible design outcomes, respondents have reported an increasing profile for urban design and greater recognition of the benefits it can bring. Collaboration both within and between organisations involved in urban design projects is increasing and urban design is becoming more integrated across the different aspects of work that organisations are involved in.
Key factors identified as contributing to the success of actions are support from management and the inclusion of sufficient resources to implement the actions. Resources provided by the Ministry for the Environment have been helpful, but discussion and collaboration with other organisations is seen as more important. Some actions have encountered specific problems, but few signatories identified barriers to overall implementation.
However, continuing effort will be needed to build understanding of urban design further and to obtain more consistent levels of success. It is important for the Ministry for the Environment to continue to support the Protocol and its implementation so that signatories will maintain their commitment. The need to build the level of urban design skills across the country was highlighted in survey responses. Roles for the Ministry in this could include:
extending the range of resources available to assist signatories (particularly guidance at the technical design level, documentation of case studies, and compilation of research on the costs and benefits of particular approaches and the social and economic drivers of poor urban design)
encouraging universities to develop formal training opportunities for people working with urban design issues.
A continuing role for the Ministry in facilitating communication and collaboration between signatories would also be helpful. While the design champions’ network is generally seen as effective in promoting urban design, it may take some time before it has developed sufficiently to become self-sustaining. Until then, ongoing support and encouragement from the Ministry is important. Some attention should be given to ways of catering for the wide range of members (both geographically and across different sectors) to ensure champions remain engaged and effective.
There is currently no clear means of assessing whether the evaluation by signatories of their experience is consistent with perceptions of other people who have been involved with, or are affected by, the actions being implemented. There would be value in undertaking some further assessment of this, perhaps by way of detailed case studies. Some signatories have also indicated that they would like feedback from the Ministry on whether their action plans are “on the right track”.
As well as continuing support for signatories, there are opportunities for the Ministry for the Environment to take a lead in developing a more co-ordinated approach to urban design across government, and in promoting better integration of urban design into strategic policy frameworks.