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4 Making it happen

The Urban Design Protocol is more than just a statement of the importance of quality urban design. It seeks to make a real difference to the quality of New Zealand's towns and cities through concerted action by all stakeholders. Making it happen requires action by the signatories to the Urban Design Protocol, leadership from central government, the development of resources to support its implementation, and raising awareness across New Zealand of the value of quality urban design.

Signatories to the Urban Design Protocol

The leading signatories to this Urban Design Protocol come from a wide range of organisations spanning central government, local government, the private sector, educational institutes, professional bodies and other sector groups. They represent many of our major towns and cities, infrastructure providers, decision-makers and influencers. Each of these organisations has made a commitment to create quality urban design through their own actions. By setting an example for others to follow, they will make a real difference to the quality of our urban areas.

To maximise the impact of this Urban Design Protocol, we need to increase the number of signatories over time. We are aiming for commitment from all local governments, including those that represent our smaller towns, from all relevant government departments and crown entities, and from all sector groups involved in the design of our towns and cities. Getting this commitment will require a concerted effort across New Zealand to raise awareness of the importance of urban design, and the example set by the leading signatories will be instrumental in achieving this.

A register will be kept of all signatories to the Urban Design Protocol, and will be updated regularly.

Benefits of being a signatory

Becoming a signatory to the Urban Design Protocol signifies an organisation's commitment to continuous improvement of its urban areas, and recognises its role in helping set an example for others in their sector.

Signatory organisations will have exclusive access to the 'Design Champions Network', providing a valuable forum for sharing information and experiences in developing policy and actions on urban design issues. Nominated design champions will be able to attend training sessions and workshops and meet high level representatives from both their own sector and other sectors. Signatories also have access to the package of resources developed to support the Urban Design Protocol, to help them develop and implement their action programmes.

Signatory organisations will be eligible for special categories of award within the overall 'National Urban Design Awards' for relevant programmes, projects and developments. Signatories will also be given preference in future funding or support programmes developed as part of the Protocol implementation package.

Actions by signatories

Signatories commit to putting the Urban Design Protocol into effect by developing, monitoring and reporting on a set of actions specific to their organisation. Over time these actions will change the way our towns and cities are managed, and will ensure that the commitment to quality urban design is carried out throughout the work of each organisation.

The 'Action Pack' provides examples of actions an organisation might take to implement the Urban Design Protocol. Ideas are provided for local government, central government, developers and investors, and other organisations. Actions can be targeted across all aspects of an organisation's activities, from strategy development to decision-making to research and staff training. The ideas are grouped in categories, including:

  • championing urban design and raising awareness
  • developing strategy and policy
  • planning futures
  • being a good client
  • making decisions
  • exchanging information and research
  • integrating management
  • building capacity.

Signatory organisations select their chosen actions and report them to the Ministry for the Environment within six months of the date of signing up to the Urban Design Protocol. The choice of actions is at the discretion of the signatory organisation, however they are expected to be challenging and ambitious. The Ministry for the Environment will prepare and keep up-to-date a publicly available list of actions.

There is only one mandatory action: each signatory must appoint a 'Design Champion' - someone influential at a senior level who can promote and champion urban design, and who can challenge existing approaches throughout the organisation.

Monitoring and reporting

As part of their commitment to the Urban Design Protocol, signatories monitor and report on the implementation of their specific set of actions. They will develop a monitoring plan and submit this to Ministry for the Environment alongside their set of actions. The plan will outline how the implementation and outcomes of the actions will be monitored and reported. Guidance on how and what to monitor will be provided.

Each signatory will be required to submit a report to the Ministry for the Environment on the implementation of their set of actions. The first report back will be 31 August 2006, and thereafter every two years. These reports will be collated into a national report on the implementation of the Protocol and progress in achieving quality urban design in New Zealand. This will track:

  • implementation of Urban Design Protocol actions across New Zealand
  • lessons learnt from implementing the Urban Design Protocol actions
  • awareness of urban design
  • significant changes to urban design processes
  • demonstrable urban design outcomes.


The Urban Design Protocol will be reviewed after a period of two years to determine if it has contributed to improving the quality of urban design, and to ensure that it is still relevant and targeted appropriately. The monitoring programme forms an important part of this review. As part of the review process, all signatory organisations will be asked to renew their commitments. An organisation may be removed from the register if, after two years, they have not made adequate progress in implementing their set of actions, and have not met their commitment to quality urban design.

Leadership by central government

The Government recognises its role in providing leadership to improve the quality of urban design across New Zealand. It supports the Urban Design Protocol and will ensure that central government departments and relevant crown entities become signatories and participate fully in its implementation.

The Government has developed a suite of supporting resources and a programme of action to support the Urban Design Protocol. These aim to build capacity and knowledge across all sectors, providing further guidance, raising community awareness, and ensuring that the important messages of the Urban Design Protocol are firmly embedded and put into action.

(a) Supporting resources

A number of resources have been developed to help signatories and other key decision-makers with realising the vision of the Urban Design Protocol. They are relevant to public and private sector organisations, professionals in all the design disciplines (eg, planning, engineering, architecture, landscape architecture and surveying), as well as other sector and community groups.

  • Urban Design Toolkit - the toolkit provides a compendium of tools and techniques that can be used to create quality urban design. It includes a set of common terms to describe the tools and processes, outlines their purpose, advantages and disadvantages, gives examples of where in New Zealand they have been used, and provides links to further information. The tools are linked to common categories of work to make finding information easy.
  • Urban Design Case Studies - the case studies provide 16 examples of built developments that demonstrate some of the urban design qualities outlined in the Urban Design Protocol. They come from a range of locations and land uses throughout New Zealand. Each case study is analysed against the Urban Design Protocol's seven Cs, the benefits that urban design has added, and the lessons learnt from the design process. The case studies demonstrate the practical application of urban design principles in New Zealand, the resulting benefits, and areas where improvements could be made. Over time, new case studies will be added to this database, including those carried out by signatories as part of their programme of actions.
  • Urban Design Value Case - the value case presents a rationale and evidence for the link between quality urban design and economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits. It demonstrates the value that urban design adds at the site and city-wide scales. Qualitative and quantitative examples and scenarios show the contribution that good urban design makes to successful towns and cities. It is particularly relevant to property investors and developers and to key decision-makers.
  • Summary of Urban Design Research - this database summarises current New Zealand research on urban design and issues related to the form and function of urban environments. Decision-makers can use it to find relevant research to help them develop programmes, policies and actions. It includes research being undertaken by central and local government, tertiary education institutions, private consultants and other service providers. This summary will be updated annually.

(b) Programme of action

THEME: Championing Urban Design and Raising Awareness

As part of its commitment to the Urban Design Protocol the Government will undertake the following initiatives:

  • National Urban Design Awards: National awards for quality urban design developments, projects and programmes. To be developed in conjunction with professional institutes and the Property Council.
  • Year of the Built Environment 2005: 2005 has been declared the 'Year of the Built Environment', and there will be a co-ordinated programme of events to raise community awareness of built environment issues and how they affect people's lives. This is being undertaken in conjunction with the New Zealand Institute of Architects and a steering group of other organisations.

THEME: Developing Strategy and Policy

  • National Policy Statement: Actively investigating whether a national policy statement on urban design could provide guidance to councils making decisions under the RMA. A work programme for developing national policy statements will be determined in early 2005.

THEME: Being a Good Client

  • Best Practice Urban Design Guidelines (government departments): Guidelines on how government departments can ensure that their direct development activities achieve quality urban design.

THEME: Exchanging Information and Research

  • Urban Design Research: Working with research funders to revise target outcomes for urban-related research as part of investment strategy reviews.

THEME: Integrating Management

  • Government Precinct Demonstration Project: Development of a framework plan and implementation programme for a 'Government Precinct' in Thorndon, Wellington. This will be developed in conjunction with the Wellington City Council as an urban design demonstration project under the Urban Design Protocol.

THEME: Building Capacity

  • Urban Design Champions Programme: A programme to provide shared learning and networking across sectors for design champions identified by signatories to the Urban Design Protocol.
  • Continuing Professional Development Training: A programme of urban design continuing professional development training for architects, planners, landscape architects, engineers and surveyors.

(c) Further initiatives to be investigated

In addition to this programme, the Government (in conjunction with key partners) will investigate the feasibility and suitability of other initiatives to increase the take-up and delivery of quality urban design. Many of these were proposed in feedback on the draft Urban Design Protocol. The implementation of these further initiatives would be subject to resources being available.

  • National Urban Design Guidelines: Developing national guidance on achieving and assessing the quality of urban design in the development and re-development of urban areas, possibly including performance criteria and best practice tools and techniques. This could become a pivotal resource to help decision-makers, particularly those involved in Resource Management Act decisions, and would be especially useful where more detailed local guidelines are not available.
  • New Zealand Centre of Urban Design Excellence: Creating a national centre of excellence in urban design to promote good practice, co-ordinate and disseminate research and develop training and skills. This could start as a virtual centre and might grow into a physical resource. It could be developed as a collaborative venture between several partners.
  • National Urban Design Advisory Panel: Forming a national advisory panel to provide advice and comment on development proposals. The panel could comprise design professionals and representatives from the property sector. It could provide voluntary advice on projects of national importance and projects undertaken by government departments. This could be particularly helpful for smaller local governments who are facing major development pressures.
  • Urban Design Initiatives Fund: Creating a funding pool to provide matched funding for urban design projects and programmes undertaken by local government, professional bodies, sector and community groups. This could accelerate the uptake of urban design across New Zealand.
  • Capacity Support for Local Government: Forming a pool of urban design experts to be made available to smaller local governments to support the development of agreed urban design projects and initiatives. This could provide access to expert skills not otherwise available for resourcing or locational reasons. It might also help address the critical shortage of skilled urban design resources in New Zealand through providing flexible part-time work attractive to retired or non-working professionals.
  • Addressing Skills Shortages: Addressing the current shortage of professionals with skills in urban design and urban management through a programme to identify skills shortages, and work with other agencies (eg, tertiary education institutes, the New Zealand Immigration Service and professional institutes) to find solutions to address them.

(d) Urban affairs

The Government, led by the Ministry for the Environment, is also preparing a Statement of Urban Affairs Priorities that will define the focus of the urban affairs portfolio and identify the Government's priorities for further action. Improving the quality of urban design is likely to be one of the initial priorities of this programme. Some of the initiatives suggested as part of the feedback on the draft Urban Design Protocol, but which fall outside the scope of urban design, will be considered in the wider context of urban affairs.