The New Zealand Urban Design Protocol is the latest of in a series of initiatives which form part of the Government’s Sustainable Development Programme of Action. This Protocol is a voluntary commitment by central and local government, property developers and investors, design professionals, educational institutes and other groups to undertake specific urban design initiatives. Signatories to the protocol commit to providing plans of action to improve their urban design practice. It is intended that these actions will, together, make a significant difference to the quality of towns and cities across New Zealand.
In support of the Urban Design Protocol, the Government has begun a program to provide leadership through a suite of supporting resources and a program of action. These build the capacity of organisations to deliver quality urban design, provide guidance, raise community awareness, and ensure that the key messages of the Urban Design Protocol are firmly grasped and put into action. Resources include a raft of new guidance publications and supporting policy. Amongst these is “People + Places + Spaces: A Design Guide of Urban New Zealand” which is a detailed urban design reference document supporting signatories to the Urban Design Protocol.
Capacity building program
The Government has gone further than simply producing publications and has started a capacity building program to increase understanding of urban design objectives and practice. An urban design training curriculum was commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment following two trial urban design training workshops held in Auckland during 2004. These were funded from the proceeds of the highly successful “Urbanism Down Under” Conference held during 2003 in Auckland. (A second conference will be held this year from 18 to 20 August in Wellington. Make sure you don’t miss it as this has become one of the most informative conferences in this region).
During May 2005, the first of several two-day urban design training workshops was held in Queenstown. These training workshops will be held in each of the major towns and cities to reach as many people as possible. The workshops are open to anyone who has an interest in urban design, which has proved to be a useful way to broaden the base of signatories to the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol.
New Zealand’s progress stands in stark contrast to that of the Australian Federal Government. In Australia, the most urbanised nation on the planet, there is still no national urban policy. When will the message get through that we are losing ground and in danger of losing any competitive advantage to nations and cities that take urban quality seriously?