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Action plans and other programmes

The survey results presented in this section of the report identify signatories current attitudes and behaviours regarding their Action Plans, the key factors contributing or inhibiting the action plan’s success, and the extent to which organisations are applying the urban design principles.

Action Plans

This research reveals that for about half of all signatory organisations, the overall value of action plans have not been fully realised. For example, half of all respondents (53 percent) were in agreement that the urban design action plans were an effective mechanism for demonstrating their commitment to the Protocol, while about one in three (29 percent) did not agree that action plans were an effective mechanism.

Similarly, one in two (52 percent) were in agreement that undertaking their urban design action plans were of high value, while one in three (31 percent) did not agree.

Chart 10: Attitudes and behaviours regarding Action Plans

chart 10 attitudes and behaviours regarding action plans

Base: All respondents (n=126)

This chart shows the attitudes and behaviours regarding Action Plans. In response to undertaking action plans is of high value, 16 per cent strongly agreed, 36 per cent agreed. 25 per cent are neutral, 6 per cent disagreed. 4 per cent strongly disagreed, 4 per cent and 10 per cent respectively were unsure or did not answer. In response to Urban Design action plans are an effective mechanism, 10 per cent strongly agreed, 43 per cent agreed, -25 per cent were neutral, 4 per cent disagreed, 3 per cent strongly disagreed and 6 per cent and 9 per cent respectively were unsure or did not answer.

In line with this result, respondents were also asked to identify how many urban design work/programmes were completed by their organisation that were not included in their urban design action plan. A total of 70 respondents provided feedback.

As identified in Table 1 below, an average of 2.9 urban design work/programmes have been completed by each organisation that were not included in their urban design action plan. While this result highlights the fact that many signatory action plans require updating, it also suggests that urban design work/programmes are being conducted regardless of their inclusion in the urban design action plan or not.

Table 1: Urban design programmes NOT included in action plan (n=70)
Number of projects completed NOT included in action plans Statistic
Total 203
Minimum 0
Maximum 100
Mean 2.9
Mode 1

Success factors of Action Plans

Having identified respondents’ attitudes regarding urban design action plans, they were then asked to comment on their organisation’s best urban design action, and identify the main factors contributing to the action’s success. A total of 100 respondents provided feedback.

  • Education and awareness of urban design was mentioned by most respondents as the main factor contributing the action’s success.

    We are confident and comfortable enough in our skill base to expand our discussion with all our clients to talk the big picture urban design issues and in the context of the protocols.


    Promotion of [urban design] principles with clients can often effect a change in design with the decision makers (developers) and result in a positive change in the built environment.


    Best short term action is probably supporting urban design education through supporting things like the Urban Design Forum (providing free venues for events and sponsorship).


    As a company we hold weekly internal seminars in each of our offices. These sessions are used to keep us up to date with technical matters affecting our business. These sessions have been regularly used to promote and inform about urban design matters.


    Putting aside project work and outcomes, our most successful action re. The [urban design protocol] would be an enhanced participation in conferences and university lecturing to advance best-practice urban design debate. The main factors for success have been the development and mentoring of staff such that they can get involved competently and professionally rather than leaving it to the senior staff (who also get involved). This has helped share the burden and make it a viable, legitimate, and maintainable activity for the company to engage in.


    An action is to raise awareness about urban design initiatives, and my personal involvement in making presentations about a 'neighbourhood rating tool' is raising awareness across New Zealand.

  • Some respondents mentioned that having staff commitment was also a factor contributing to the action’s success.

    Our best action is the urban advocate working on 3 or 4 key development projects in the early phases, the advice we give across the organisation to engineers and planners, and the urban design guide.


    Enthusiasm from employees. This is probably unique to universities, as the researcher secures the money to conduct the study, therefore it is critical to have this initial interest from staff.


    Personal and professional commitment within our practice as a whole...


    The main factors were strong championship from the planning business and at highest management levels, supported by targeted recruitment.


    Desire to create excellent product that sells and enhances our brand.


    Senior management and political support leading to a mandate for the urban design champion to review and sign off all capital projects over 200K.

  • Having a degree of collaboration and involvement was also mentioned by some respondents as a factor contributing to the action’s success.

    Creating awareness in the client organisation and working alongside them to convince them and their funders of the value of urban design.


    Involvement in assisting a local Council to develop an urban design strategy.


    I feel the best action was the creation of 'case management' within the resource consent arena, best because it created a forum where people could work together from a range of disciplines to solve problems. Case management is where one person is responsible for managing and co-ordinating the views of the team, storm water, transport, wastewater etc. I believe this was successful as we were able to negotiate with one another so we could learn and appreciate what we were trying to achieve.


    Internal discussions with design professionals to raise awareness of urban design.


    Collaboration with other professions, NZPI and NZIA.


    Establishing strategic alliances with other like-minded urban design companies to offer a full spectrum of urban design services

  • Some respondents mentioned that having a multi-disciplinary approach to projects was a success factor.

    Main factors contributing to success were its multi-disciplinary approach and the means of structuring and presenting findings.


    Selection of a high quality team -at all levels and in all disciplines - from building designers to landscape designers, contractors, project management et al..

  • Having a change in thinking was also mentioned by some respondents as a factor contributing to the action’s success.

    A change in mindset: there is an increasing awareness about the importance of [urban design] within the company and specifically this has affected the way we strategically approach bidding for projects.


    The main factor we've changed is strongly encouraging accessibility and promoting good traffic flows, lessening use of rights of ways and cul-de-sacs, considering interaction between people and cars, rather than trying to separate them.


    Companywide there is a greater cognisance of urban design through many of the company's various disciplines and urban design [is seen] as being an area that is able to creatively yet efficiently and effectively add value to projects.

  • Influencing policy development, or having clear policies or guidelines was mentioned by some respondents as a success factor.

    Influencing healthy public policy, to make the healthy choice the easy choice. In this case open, connected, accessible, safe public space. Providing for sustainable and alternative forms of transport.


    Policy implementation through projects... large projects and the development of Project Urban and Landscape Design Frameworks.


    Developing policies for mixed use developments with master planning provides the opportunities to include the principles.


    Incorporation of urban design principles into our policy advocacy work is an important internal focus.


    We have specific documents and strategies in place that explain the need for improving urban design.

  • Some respondents mentioned that producing high quality work in general was a key factor contributing to the action’s success.

    We have found that producing high quality work is the best way of getting traction with internal and external clients.


    As our firm is an 'urban design' provider, we don't rely on the action plan - our approach is always delivering high quality urban design work.

Inhibitors of Action Plans and key learning’s

In contrast, respondents were then asked to comment on what their organisation found difficult, would consider changing, or lessons they learnt about this ‘best’ action. A total of 93 respondents provided feedback.

  • Most respondents commented that a lack of funding and resources was an area they found difficult, or would consider changing in relation to their ‘best’ action.

    There is still resistance on a costs and practicality basis to evolving designs further.


    Double the funds and timeframe of the initial estimate.


    More time spent on outcomes of quality urban design


    Need to ensure that the success of the action is not reliant on one person, especially if I was to leave the company in the future


    It takes lots of time and energy.


    Timelines are critical as expectation has been that funding would only be available for one financial year which restricted [which] could be addressed.


    The main difficulty I experienced was my workload, trying to manage a team, provide urban design input into resource consents, and keep working on our Action Plan was quite difficult.


    It takes time to put in place a formal process.


    Financial sign off for council projects is the only guarantee of securing better urban design outcomes when dealing with competing priorities across a large organisation.

  • Some respondents mentioned that limited education and awareness was an area they found difficult, or would consider changing in relation to their ‘best’ action.

    Difficult aspects: Engineers can quickly compromise a layout through ignorance of what is trying to be achieved.


    Better education and getting people to be more interactive with urban design requirements.


    Lack of a good understanding of how cities work is the major impediment to getting projects underway / accepted.


    Now that we have created our own reference booklet for successful urban design outcomes we are spending time upskilling the studio with the tools it offers. This takes time and continual effort which is difficult.


    Lack of understanding (and capability) in other (relevant) central government agencies.


    We will look to bring in some external presenters to further broaden our knowledge.

  • For other respondents, a lack of collaboration or involvement was an inhibiting factor.

    Recognising that other good design solutions [are] available, but team work and pooling of ideas is the way to produce a good solution.


    We would have liked to follow the strategy through into the implementation phase of urban design panel, district plan provisions etc, but found it difficult to get involved at that level without specialist expertise.


    There remain territorial boundaries among the professions.


    What would have been helpful would have been to [be] put in touch with other lone rangers in my area, so we could discuss how best to support urban design - it may have brought out other factors that I've not thought of doing.

  • Another area found challenging, or respondents would consider changing was the lack/limited ongoing commitment.

    The greatest issue we have regarding our actions is maintaining the culture and intellectual stimulus within the context of staff changes and pressure for business viability in these times of recession. We look forward to a period of calm where we can maintain development in research and development of our practice.


    Need for ongoing continuous improvement.


    Continuing effort is required to deliver the plan. Our lesson is the importance of ongoing commitment and effort to grow awareness and practice.


    Political leadership commitment to urban design is essential. As the influence of the Urban Design Panels has been acknowledged by the private sector, we are seeing a higher standard of urban design elements in proposed projects.


    [Organisation] has not as yet developed explicit corporate commitment/policy on urban design. This initiative was developed in isolation and lacked a clear and agreed strategic objective. It also lacked a clear process of formal endorsement...

  • Some respondents mentioned that a lack/limited change in thinking was an area they found difficult or would consider changing.

    The importance from senior management that it is not just lip-service, and an understanding from them that they will need to commit resources to the action.


    Despite widespread enthusiasm now for urban design & wanting to improve the future of the city, there are fundamental Council policies which restrict Council's ability to actually deliver. Council's over-arching financial strategy focuses on minimising debt which undermines Council's ability to literally 'put our money where our mouths are'. Conclusion: it is very important to lobby upon other policies of Council such as financial strategy in order to promote & realise urban design.


    It is still difficult to get some staff to see the value of urban design, that it has benefits and won't just add cost to a project.


    Building the culture of openness within the team.

  • For other respondents, legislation/policy restrictions were mentioned as an area they found challenging or would consider changing.

    We would make some provisions mandatory in the DP. Some developers will do the right thing only if it is required of them.


    Policy processes take time and can draw heavily on resources.


    Reluctance from territorial authorities to vary from their district plan requirements even when the Plans are sometimes at odds with sensible urban design outcomes. Our experience shows that clients should adhere to local authority district plan regulations as closely as possible unless they are prepared to invest large amounts of money and time.


    Until the RPS gets finalised we will not know what resistance there was to having urban design principles strongly incorporated into the RPS.

  • Maintaining strategic focus was also mentioned by some respondents as an area they found difficult or needed changing.

    Our lesson is to incorporate as far as possible our actions into our main work programme. So actions about policy advocacy, communications, capability building etc work best when they become our business as usual.


    The main lesson is to be strategic in selecting actions that are congruent with the mission of the organisation and that have sufficient momentum to be maintained.


    Ensuring that specialist staff commenting on particular issues take an organisation wide approach in ensuring that the full range of public health issues are brought to external decision makers attention..

  • Some respondents also mentioned that the general low levels expertise/relevance was an area found difficult, or needed changing.

    There is not a lot of urban design expertise in NZ ...


    Development of an urban design panel. While it had significant potential, the political requirement for non-payment of its members resulted in a lack of genuine urban designer practitioners volunteering. This was partly because of a limited supply of such practitioners and the demands being made on them. This meant that a well balanced panel could not be put into operation...

Applying the urban design principles

While there is mixed opinion regarding the overall effectiveness of action plans, the survey findings indicate the urban design concepts and/or principles themselves have a greater influence on quality urban design.

For example, three out of four respondents (77 percent) were in agreement that the urban design principles were applied in their work/projects. Similarly, more than two out of three respondents (70 percent) were in agreement that urban design concepts were influencing new policy development.

In line with the mixed opinions regarding the overall effectiveness of action plans, only half of all respondents (53 percent) agreed that their organisation was using or leveraging off the Protocol to achieve their projects, while a further one in three respondents (31 percent) claimed this was not the case.

Chart 11: Attitudes and behaviours regarding urban design principles

chart 11 attitudes and behaviours regarding urban design principles

Base: All respondents (n=126)

This chart shoes the attitudes and behaviours regarding urban design principles. In response to using or leveraging off the Protocol to achieve projects, 13 per cent strongly agreed, 40 per cent agreed, 27 per cent were neutral, 4 per cent disagreed, 2 per cent strongly disagreed and 4 per cent and 10 per cent respectively were unsure or did not answer.

In response to urban design concepts influencing new policy developments, 33 per cent strongly agreed, 37 per cent agreed, 11 per cent were neutral, 4 per cent disagreed, 2 per cent strongly disagreed and 4 per cent and 9 per cent respectively were unsure or did not answer.

In response to urban design principles being applied in work/projects, 35 per cent strongly agreed, 42 per cent agreed, 6 per cent were neutral, 3 per cent disagreed, 1 per cent strongly disagreed and 3 per cent and 10 per cent respectively were unsure or did not answer.

Building on this information, respondents were then asked to comment on how quality urban design was being integrated into their organisation. A total of 72 respondents provided feedback.

  • Some respondents mentioned that incorporating quality urban design into project designs was one method of how it was being integrated into their organisation.

    We innately use best practice urban design principles at the outset of a project design process.


    We are an urban design and architectural practice so our whole business/design is about quality urban design.


    Ideally we wish to have full control of a project. This includes us carrying out concept design, urban design, design documentation and contract administration. In this way we are involved from inception to completion of the building/development. We are able to introduce quality urban design into projects at an early stage.


    We have included in our written processes during the application process.


    We have an team of urban designers who seek and work on urban design projects and who provide inputs into projects where urban design has been requested by the client.


    Two projects were in their inception .. - these were based around 'place making'. Teams were being assembled ...and the project managers were tasked to co-ordinate the various projects while maintaining an overview of what the end product would look like.


    Regularly refer to the Urban Design Protocol and case studies.


    We have used the concepts of restorative design in a rural lifestyle development, resulting in a good understanding by the Council of what we are trying to achieve.


    [Urban design] principles and consideration come into all our projects from the very outset of the design debate; including subdivisions (including canal developments) through to low and medium rise built forms; commercial and residential etc.


    Linking the design with the impact on operational maintenance at the end and amending the design to facilitate ease of maintenance.


    The provision of connections (transportation linkages) and choices (mode/route) is part of our core transportation business. Almost all our projects will include consideration of these matters.


    Urban design principles are included into the written brief for a major design project e.g. in a medium density housing project.

  • For other respondents, the development of design frameworks, masterplans and guidelines was how quality urban design was being integrated into their organisation.

    Initiating and completing structure plans.


    In the last year [we] have produced urban design guidance material on road bridges, [pedestrian] bridges, noise wall and underpasses.


    An investment plan and a master plan about a decade ago about the social hub of the campus.


    I have been producing a master plan for a 670 residential housing development ... and have brought in a number of other consultants to help shape the form and nature of the development.


    Requirement to complete a design brief for all commercial areas upgrades, which then is the basis for the project brief developed by project services.


    Design guide for a new Suburban Centre in the north of the city.


    The masterplan was prepared taking into account best practice urban design considerations....

  • Producing best practice work was another method of how quality urban design was being integrated into signatory organisations.

    As noted above, it becomes business as usual in our policy advocacy, comms, and capability building work where there is a connection to urban design issues.


    Providing advice on quality urban design is not integrated into my work - it IS my work.


    As our firm is an 'urban design' provider, we don't rely on the action plan - our approach is always delivering high quality urban design work


    Our initial designs always are fully in keeping with urban design best practice.

  • Some respondents mentioned that having an evaluation of projects/processes was another method of how quality urban design was being integrated into their organisation.

    When carrying out Community street reviews, we incorporate questions and discussion about good urban design.


    Our company has a set of Responsible Network Deployment Guidelines, which include visual design criteria. We evaluate all designs on that basis, and so all of our projects consider those factors.


    all work is evaluated considering UD principles, most specifically reviewing street form and design for connectivity, character etc etc.


    All CBD Streetscape Projects are designed by external urban designers as the lead designers with 2nd tier supporting consultants. The design milestones are reviewed by council's internal urban design group.


    All capital works projects are required to undergo urban design panel review.

  • Some respondents also mentioned that having quality education was a method of how quality urban design being integrated.

    As a professional body our focus is on education and empowerment of members, together with recognition of excellence in the projects our members are involved in through our awards process.


    Mainly through the delivery of courses and the promotion of urban design principles.


    Providing ongoing training of staff and councillors to maintain and improve their understanding of urban design principles and their role in shaping and influencing urban design

  • For other respondents, incorporating quality urban design into their organisations policy was another example of how this was being integrated into their organisation.

    Is embedded in our policy.

    The policy is coming into place and there is a realisation that we need to do the best we can....

  • Some respondents also mentioned that the use of expertise was another example of how quality urban design was being integrated.

    Use of Technical Advisory Group


    The main thing is that there is cross-council approach and commitment.


    Ensure consultants are selected with relevant experience for the project at hand.


    Against this background, respondents were then asked to comment on how their organisation applies the principles of the Urban Design Protocol. A total of 68 respondents provided feedback.

  • Evaluating projects or processes was the most frequently mentioned method of how respondents’ organisations applied the principles of the Urban Design Protocol.

    The Protocol is used as a nationally recognised set of criteria against which to assess projects or processes...


    We often review/evaluate our work/others work using the 7Cs.


    The UDP is used a checklist at the end of key design phases.


    We carry out urban design assessments within the office in terms of the key urban design qualities identified in the Urban Design Protocol.


    It underpins the work our members do in this area. Is used to guide urban design analysis and assessment.


    Providing advice on proposals for both applicants and Councils, both at pre-application and application stage.


    We have used the principles of the UDP as a measure to illustrate and measure our work in hearings and Environment Court.


    The 7 C's are used as the base line for urban design panel assessment and reports.


    The documents and resources are used in the review of many of our projects.

  • Some respondents mentioned that incorporating the principles of the Protocol into design was an example of how their organisation applied the Protocol.

    The principles of the Urban Design Protocol are applied to all our proposed plan changes. This ensures the urban design implications of all development over which the Council has an influence are considered at the time of policy formation.


    Principles can be seen within the design briefs and design process developed as part of a project. But they are well illustrated in our guides (which have been recognised both regionally and other places in New Zealand has excellent examples).

  • Developing design frameworks or masterplans was mentioned by respondents as an example of how their organisation applied the principles of the Urban Design Protocol.

    Through the development of Urban and Landscape Design Frameworks on Large Projects.


    Acknowledging in design guidelines and vision statements for master plan developments and urban design issues in building projects.


    We draw upon and refer to the 7 C's when we are preparing design guides/policy/structure plans and assessing subdivision applications.


    Have developed guidelines in publications and also in structure plans.

  • Some respondents mentioned that general advocacy was an example of how their organisation applied the principles of the Urban Design Protocol.

    Inherent in Public health advocacy for increasing physical activity to decrease obesity. Working to create a physical environment that can then support healthy sustainable behaviour change.


    By raising the awareness of what is quality urban design within and outside Council...


    By advocating mixed use developments to create vibrant environments and reduce the need to travel long distances....

  • Some respondents also mentioned that incorporating the Protocol into policy was an example of applying the principles.

    Is embedded in our policy.


    In policy development; when providing advice to the sector.

  • Some respondents mentioned that collaborating with others was another example of how their organisation applies the Protocol.

    Within a joint venture partner [memorandum of understanding].


    Setting up a multi-disciplinary team at the beginning of a project.

  • For other respondents, providing training and development was an example of how their organisation applies the Protocol.

    Support in bringing global urban design practitioners to NZ to deliver courses and inspire ideas.


    Inviting speakers to talk to staff, Councillors and the public generally on Urban Design, setup and promotion of Urban Design Panel...

Within the context of asking respondents how their organisation applies the principles, respondents were also asked whether their organisation managed construction projects or tendered or evaluated tenders considering the urban design principles (refer Chart 12).

Two out of five respondents (40 percent) reported their organisation tendered/evaluated tenders considering the urban design principles, and two out of five respondents (41 percent) reported that their organisation managed construction projects using the urban design principles.

Chart 12: Percentage of organisations applying principles

chart 12 percentage of organisations applying principles

Base: Respondents from each signatory organisation (either as Champions or non-champions) (n=95)

This chart shows the percentage of organizations applying urban design principles. In response to tendered or evaluated tenders considering urban design principles, 40 per cent said yes, 32 per cent said no, 14 per cent were not sure and 15 per cent preferred not to say or had no answer. In response to managing construction projects using urban design principles, 41 per cent said yes, 33 per cent said no, 12 per cent were not sure and 15 per cent preferred not to say or had no answer.

Building on this information, respondents were then asked to provide examples on how their organisation tendered or evaluated tenders using the urban design principles. A total of 29 respondents provided feedback.

  • Some respondents commented on having a certain level of urban design expertise was an example of how their organisation tendered or evaluated tenders using the urban design principles.

    By weighting urban design input and expertise on projects.


    Urban designer is involved in the evaluation of tenders to ensure urban design principles are addressed.


    Being an urban design provider our firm has always taken into account these principles.


    When we tendered for our Transport Plan Change I spoke to a number of consultants about how they would approach such a project and what their views were on design and what expertise they had. This was an important consideration when awarding the project.


    [The] Square project upgrade. Strong weighting was placed on design capability, including urban design.

  • Seeking urban design specialists or collaborating with others was another example of how their organisation evaluated tenders using the urban design principles.

    Our designs are mostly standardised, but when we have a non standard design which requires a high quality urban design, we will use consultants which have a proven track record.


    A design experts’ panel was used to assess the urban design competition proposals ... and make recommendations.


    We brought in international [urban design] experts within our company to join the bid team.


    Delivery of our projects is carried out using fixed term partnering agreements for design and implementation.


    A joint venture partner has been required to address urban design principles.


    We are increasingly looking to include urban design specialists when we are building project teams.

  • Some respondents commented on having innovative approaches to achieve outcomes was an example of how their organisation tendered or evaluated tenders using the urban design principles.

    In a recent tender for Plan Change work, I stressed the importance of non-regulatory methods to give the area in question 'character'/ 'sense of place' - something which is not 'ensured' by regulation.


    Total innovation and urban design principles embodied in joint tender to [the] City Council for [the] foreshore redevelopment.


    We work together with Council and Contractors to see what alternatives can be achieved to the norm...

  • Incorporating the urban design principles, or considering the urban design principles in tenders was an example of how respondents tendered or evaluated tenders using the urban design principles.

    Selection of site and design for New Civic Offices incorporated a number of urban design criteria particularly in terms of the contribution and links to the city structure, the provision of public spaces, and the quality of design. End result is a development which will enhance the structure of the [city].


    Automatically incorporating urban design considerations into 'landscape'


    Respondents who reported managing construction projects were also asked to provide an example of how their organisation managed construction projects using urban design principles. A total 29 respondents provided feedback.

  • Some respondents mentioned that ensuring urban design principles are included in the design was an example of how their organisation tendered or managed construction projects using urban design principles.

    Implementation of our design ideas.


    The construction projects we manage have been designed by us and already have our urban design principles included.


    By ensuring planting and open space design provides sense of place and is integrated into the neighbourhood.


    Application at the beginning of the design process. These are then documented and are part of the building contract.


    By the time the construction is under way, the design principles have been set...

  • Using the urban design principles to review/measure success was another example of how respondent organisations tendered or managed construction projects using the principles.

    We will carry out creative reviews with other [urban design] members within the company ...to critique the [urban design] aspects of the construction process.


    I have developed a set of urban design principles for a particular project which were then used to inform the design and were ultimately used to measure the success of the built work.

  • Some respondents mentioned how their organisation ensures there is a qualified team/collaborating with others in order to tender/evaluate tenders using the urban design protocol.

    Build a qualified team for the task....Collaborate with specialists to create draft master plan vision...


    Having a skilled person who understands the urban design principles working at the contract administration level.


    Any project in our office is supervised by one of the three surveyor partners. Individually we have between 20 to 48 years of experience in both the design and construction of those designs and have the ability to fine tune things as they move along.

Key recommendations

In regards to signatory Action Plans, we recommend the Ministry:

  • Promotes the benefits and value (including leverage) signatory organisations receive from achieving Action Plans
  • Develops a strategy to assist signatories develop their own urban design guidance, and consider the development of tools and resources to aid signatories in this process
  • Reviews the Action Plan literature in order to provide more tailored support for signatories developing, and maintaining, their organisation’s Action Plans
  • Reviews the current administration of signatory Action Plans (including its database of signatory organisations) in order to make this a more efficient and effective process, and allows for greater communication between signatories and the Ministry in regards to ongoing monitoring of Action Plans.