2018 Urbanism NZ Conference 14-15 May

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Heidi North

Following the government's recent announcement for a 10 year investment plan to get Auckland moving again, there couldn't be a better time for urban designers and city planners to get together to talk about how to shape New Zealand cities for the future.

Urban design is a critical contributor to developing competitive and distinctive cities, those cities with the x factor that provide quality living for the inhabitants and attract both business investment and tourists. Urban design strategies have transformed New Zealand cities over the last 10 years, notably on both Auckland’s and Wellington’s waterfront and Christchurch CBD post-earthquake rebuild.

But given its vital importance to our economy and well-being, why is urban design such an under-discussed issue in New Zealand?

Head of Urban Design at Jasmax, Alistair Ray, wants to change that. He is one of the Urban Design Forum's committee driving the two-day conference happening in Wellington.

The theme of the 2018 Urbanism NZ conference 14-15th May is ‘Joining the Dots’, so named because the conference is addressing the lack of a cohesive design strategy or shared vision across the professions that contribute to urban design outcomes in New Zealand’s major centres.

Alistair Ray says: “We don’t have an Institute of Urban Designers in New Zealand, like Engineers and Architects do. It’s a vital conversation for New Zealand but the last time there was a forum for a national discussion like this was in 2005.”

Clearly things have changed rapidly since then, and with the government’s recently announced commitment to spending $28 billion on Auckland’s rapid transport network over the next decade, Alistair believes now is the crucial time to get it right.

“The key is to stay agile and forward-thinking. New Zealand is a relatively young nation, and only recently has our urban population reached a point where we can implement some of the advantages of good urbanism.

“Auckland in particular, is at a critical juncture. We are looking toward a future enabled by public transport. Projects I am involved in at Jasmax, such as the City Rail Link, light rail to the airport and electrification to Pukekohe will be game-changers for the city. But it’s not just Auckland. New Zealand is at the point where, as a nation, we must be on the same page with our approach to the design of our towns and cities. Now is the time for cohesive, collaborative strategic planning and big picture thinking.”

Find more information about the conference and how to register here.

Read the story here in NZILA, 'It's time to talk about urban design.'

Read Alistair's opinion piece as guest writer for The Spinoff, 'Light Rail is a really big deal: it can transform Auckland' here.

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