Alistair Ray, Head of Urban Design, presented a re-run of his popular keynote speech for the Urbanism NZ Conference in Jasmax’s Auckland studio earlier this week. Minister of Housing and Urban Development and Transport Hon. Phil Twyford attended to listen to and comment on Al’s challenge: ‘What does NZ mean by ‘urban’ and is our current planning system achieving good urban outcomes?’
‘Challenging the NZ planning system’ was night one of a three part series. Session two will be presented by part one's MC, James Whetter, Principal and head of Jasmax's accommodation studio. Here's a roundout of James' top take aways from the evening.
A summary from Night One:
1) Do we Understand What ‘Urban’ Really Means?
New Zealand has zones that are classed as ‘urban’ – this definition of ‘urban’ is different for New Zealand to the rest of the world. New Zealand can, and should, aspire for this to be more than it currently is. New Zealand needs to shift its thinking on what good urban form really looks like in order to truly benefit from its well documented advantages.
2) Simplify the Planning Model
Our planning system layers risk and cost into the sector. How about a simplified model using key planning principles and clear assessment criteria? Trust our people to operate in a lesser confined planning system and support good urban development through clear, simple principles. Have flexibility, encourage diversity, and empower your local authorities to shape their communities according to their local environment. The country is currently presented with an unprecedented opportunity to shape a quality urban environment for decades to come.
3) Mixed-Use Development – High on the Agenda
In his address, Minister Twyford clearly demonstrated an understanding and passion for world-class mixed urban development. Painting a picture of an interconnected mixed-use urban village, he closed his anecdote with an overt mention of the Unitec site and the government’s vision and aspiration for the development. There’s a movement toward “density done well”.
4) Urban Development Authority – The Enabler
Talk of the proposed centralised Urban Development Authority taking shape is an encouraging sign of change for the enabling of development. It sounds like there’s momentum here, and begs the question of how the sector can be involved to influence and inform a new progressive system.
5) Commitment to Public Transport
The last question of the night was posed to Al: ‘What’s one thing you’d change about Auckland?’. His answer, in short, was “other than change the planning system”, it was delivering to Auckland’s public transport aspirations.