Urban design and the planning system in Aotearoa-New Zealand: Disjuncture or convergence

Marilyn Higgins

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper evaluates New Zealand's innovative urban design initiatives and the effectiveness of planning policy and processes in achieving design quality. A literature review explores the country's unique cultural, legislative and environmental context, including the Resource Management Act (RMA), internationally trumpeted for its recognition of sustainability aims in the early 1990s. Interviews with 50 key stakeholders drawn from a wide range of interests probe the impact of planning policy and its implementation, Maori perspectives and barriers to good design. The country's colonial heritage prioritising individual property rights and the RMA's emphasis on bio-physical effects have worked against a strong urban design tradition within public policy. However, examples are given of recent initiatives at both national and local levels that are raising awareness and encouraging improvement of planning processes and the quality of outcomes. Key determinants for good urban design outcomes are statutory plans and their implementation through resource consents, wider capacity building and challenging traditional mindsets. Maori perspectives, which chime with contemporary sustainability debates, represent a major opportunity for retaining national identity. While highlighting issues unique to New Zealand, the paper provides insights into issues shared with other countries, adding to comparative literature studying the interface between urban design and planning. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-21
    Number of pages21
    JournalUrban Design International
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


    • Maori
    • New Zealand
    • Planning
    • Urban design


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