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2 Attributes of successful towns and cities

Successful towns and cities are increasingly being recognised as vital to the health of our national economy. Success does not happen by chance but as a result of good planning based on a long-term vision and co-ordinated implementation.

This section identifies six essential attributes that successful towns and cities share. Drawing on the Sustainable Development Programme of Action, they incorporate economic, environmental, social and cultural factors. It is the combination of all these attributes that leads to success.

Quality urban design is an important contributing factor to all six attributes. Well-designed urban spaces, places, buildings and networks are essential building blocks upon which many other attributes of successful towns and cities are built.

Successful towns and cities are:

Competitive, thriving, creative and innovative

Successful towns and cities are competitive centres and economic hubs for New Zealand. They provide platforms for growth, especially in advanced business services, creative industries, hi-tech industries, and as centres of learning and innovation.

Competitive and thriving towns and cities attract dynamic and innovative knowledge workers, entrepreneurs and companies. They appeal to talented people because they offer a high quality of life, effective transport systems, high environmental quality, good leisure and recreation opportunities, thriving cultural centres, arts and historic heritage, and a distinctive cultural identity.

Creativity is a hallmark of successful towns and cities. Creative towns and cities facilitate new ways of thinking and innovative ways of solving problems. They foster new partnerships and support centres of learning. Creative cities have a strong identity, a rich cultural life and are well connected regionally and internationally. They have a culture of innovation and they invest in people. Creative cities connected to global markets are a primary source of innovation, technological development and wealth creation in modern economies.


Successful towns and cities provide a high quality of life where people choose to live and work. They provide attractive living environments, they offer good leisure and recreational opportunities, and they support a thriving cultural life.

Liveable places provide choices in housing, work, transport and lifestyle opportunities. They are easy to move around, with accessible services and a variety of integrated transport options that include walking and cycling. Their public spaces are accessible, well used and safe. Liveable places are healthy places to live, and they have low levels of crime.

Photo: George Street, Dunedin.

Photo: Tauranga waterfront. Photo courtesy of Tauranga City Council.

Environmentally responsible

Successful towns and cities maintain, celebrate and add to their best environmental attributes. They recognise the role that landscape and the natural environment play in making their urban areas great places to live and work, and they value the contribution they make to their identity, liveability and quality of life. They enhance these qualities by maintaining and sometimes recreating natural networks throughout their urban areas, and by designing new buildings, transport services and infrastructure that meet the highest standards of sustainable design and construction.

Environmentally responsible towns and cities manage resources to take account of the needs of present and future generations. Growth and economic development is sympathetic to the natural environment and cultural heritage and minimises the city's environmental footprint. Environmentally responsible towns and cities constantly seek ways to minimise adverse impacts on human health and natural and cultural systems, including air quality and water quality. They minimise waste production, energy and water use, and maximise the efficiency of land use and infrastructure.

Photo: Rewarewa Footbridge, Waitakere City.

Photo: Northwood, Christchurch.

Successful towns and cities have:

Opportunities for all

Successful towns and cities accommodate all citizens and offer opportunities for young and old, people on low incomes and people with disabilities. The benefits of urban life are widely shared. They provide access to jobs, affordable homes, services and community facilities. Successful towns and cities are inclusive societies that respect and celebrate diversity and care for the disadvantaged. They build a strong sense of community, and encourage people to participate in making decisions that affect them. A successful town or city is equitable and everyone feels a sense of ownership, which is reflected in their safe and dynamic public spaces.

Distinctive identity

Successful towns and cities have a strong and locally distinctive identity that builds on the unique strengths and characteristics of each place and the cultural identity of New Zealand. They reflect our heritage and culture in their built form, in the landscape, and in the way spaces are organised and used. Successful towns and cities reflect our increasingly diverse ethnic mix, including all people who have made New Zealand their home - indigenous Maori, Europeans, Pacific Islanders, and Asians. Recognising and promoting a town's or city's identity encourages diversity of cultural expression through design that recognises distinctive use of space, form and materials. It fosters local pride, civic engagement and confidence, and it stimulates innovation, creativity and economic opportunities.

Photo: The Strand, Tauranga. Photo courtesy of Tauranga City Council.

Photo: MLC Building and Protoplasm (sculpture), Wellington. Photo courtesy of Wellington City Council.

Shared vision and good governance

A successful town or city has a clear sense of direction and a widely shared vision. There is genuine engagement with communities and leadership at many levels. Creative ideas are encouraged and freely exchanged between people and government.

In a successful town or city, local governance is effective, efficient and confident. Leaders are prepared to take risks to deliver the best outcomes, but priorities and trade-offs are made explicit, and the benefits and costs of decisions are understood. Decision-makers think holistically and creatively, and they learn from mistakes. They work in partnership with businesses, iwi and other local communities to reach shared goals.

Photo: Newmarket Futures Workshop. Photo courtesy of Auckland City Council.

Photo: Northern Growth Management Framework, community consultation, Wellington. Photo courtesy of Wellington City Council.