Council gets Serious About Urban Design


Auckland Council is increasing the emphasis on urban design. After decades of councils allowing dodgy looking apartment blocks , it’s about time and part of the new sign of good things to come.

Today Auckland Council has confirmed its promise to elevate urban design across all its activities with the appointment of urban design champions on each of its 21 Local Boards.

Meeting for the first time together this week the champions were addressed by London planning and regeneration expert Dr Richard Simmons, former chief executive of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which advised the UK government on architecture, urban design and public space.

Local board champions are the idea of Ludo Campbell-Reid, the city’s urban design champion and the head of the council’s environmental strategy and policy department. Urban design champions will contribute to the drive toward creating the world’s most liveable city. This network of design champions will be supported by the built environment unit of the department, led by Tim Watts. Mr Campbell-Reid set up a similar network in London, which brought together 33 champions across the city’s boroughs to lift the quality of design in London.

Councillor Cameron Brewer, the council’s political urban design champion, and chair of the planning and urban design forum, said the timing was perfect for the Local Board champions to take on their advocacy role.

“The city’s on a high with the likes of the opening of the Wynyard Quarter, the stunningly redeveloped Auckland art gallery and the innovative shared spaces across the city – not to mention Rugby World Cup,” he said.

“We have to build on that success and, from 20 September, the public will have an opportunity to give feedback on four critical draft plans for our city – the draft 30-year Auckland Plan, the exciting city centre master plan and waterfront plans and the region’s economic development strategy.  “The local board champions can show leadership in explaining how all these fit together and the importance good urban design will have on the continuing success of our city.”

Mr Campbell-Reid said that having an urban design champion on each of the local boards will assist local decision making and bring added expertise to discussions.  The champions would receive training and become part of a network meeting regularly to hear about best practice and to learn from each other.   “It will bring urban design principles to grassroots’ Auckland and keep design top of mind,” he added.

The Art Gallery is a sign of the new Auckland

Mr Brewer said that the local champions would be able to acknowledge excellence by nominating awards to businesses, developers or community groups that invest in great urban design.

Ludo has helped bring us wonderful Shared Spaces like Elliott St

“Aucklanders are placing increasing importance on good urban design.  Our network of champions will ensure people’s aspirations for a better built environment are reflected across the region.”

North Wharf: At last a waterfront to explore

The local board champions are:

Albert-Eden, Helga Arlington

Franklin, Magan Ranchhod

Great Barrier, Richard Somerville-Ryan

Henderson-Massey, Assid Corban

Hibiscus and Bays, David Cooper

Howick, David Collings

Kaipatiki, Lindsay Waugh

Mangere-Otahuhu, Lydia Sosene

Manurewa, Colleen Brown

Maungakiekie-Tamaki, Simon Randall

Orakei, Mark Thomas

Otara-Papataoetoe, Tunumafono Fa’amoe

Papakura, Graham Purdy

Puketepapa, Nigel Turnbull
Rodney, Brenda Steele
Takapuna-Devonport, Chris Darby
Upper Harbour, Margaret Miles
Waiheke, Faye Storer
Waitakere, Mark Brickell
Waitemata, Christopher Dempsey (great choice!)
Whau, Duncan MacDonald




  1. Ingolfson says:

    The problem is that no one can agree what good urban design is. But if you place people (particularly in pedestrian and cyclist mode) higher up the priority list, that wouldn’t be a bad start.

  2. Matt L says:

    Sounds like a good idea in general but I have some concerns about the ones in my area (I don’t know to much about the rest)

    Assid Corban - is over 85 years old, can’t we get someone a bit more in touch with the community and modern practices

    Mark Brickell - is on the Waitakere local board but doesn’t even live in the area (lives in rural part of Swanson). What’s more he is now the leader of leader for C&R so this is most likely a political appointment.

  3. Mark says:

    @Ingolfson - I think that’s a key issue - many think it’s good architecture, rather than the private/public interface.

    I’m not sure appointing politicians/lay people is the best solution. Even the urban design panel struggled. Ludo has done some great things, but most started with the CBD ratepayers agreeing to $120m increase in rates over 12 years to fund queen st / shared space etc.

    So almost all of what we see is about direct control of the $ - new Wynyard / Art Gallery / even Britomart which cost ratepayers to get a masterplan.

    So really we need the tools to move this beyond council projects. The urban design panel was supposed to be a mediator between council staff and devlopers architects. Architects didn’t like a council planner with a couple of years experience commenting on their baby.

    not sure I’ve heard a good solution to this yet… you get a better design shop/office block out in the town centres….

  4. frankie_crisp says:

    One of the main problems is in the decision making process. No matter how many ‘design champions’ you have, if the council can’t decline resource consents that have poor quality design then the continued proliferation of ugly apartments, boring houses and inadequate public realm is going to continue.

    The government needs to amend the RMA to make urban design and architecture a key issue of consideration. The new National Policy Statement on Urban Form may go some way to address this. As will the new Unitary Plan - if it has enough teeth to allow Council to decline poor development.

    Once the industry realises that only good design will get approved then the bar will be raised and the standard of the built form in Auckland will be improved.

    These are the real issues. Design Champions sounds nice, but I don’t think they will achieve much.

  5. Geoff Houtman says:

    Matt L- I hear what you’re saying. Some Local Boards are terrible. Luckily in Grey Lynn we have the Waitemata Local Board who are big fans of the good urban design. And Chris Dempsey is our “Hero”.
    Now if we can just make sure Heritage context is taken into account (in Heritage neighbourhoods at least).


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