Urbanism NZ Conference

Dr Rebecca Kiddle, Senior Lecturer School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University and researcher in the Give us space BBHTC’s research project, discusses The Death and Life of great Aotearoa New Zealand Cities: Values and Justice in the Urban Realm. Photo: Victoria University of Wellington.

The 2018 Urbanism New Zealand Conference held in Wellington in mid May was two days of high-quality content shared by expert speakers discussing the urban environment as a whole system of complex processes. There were a significant number of researchers from the National Science Challenge: Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities, both as participants and speakers.

Dr Rebecca Kiddle discussed The Death and Life of Great Aotearoa New Zealand Cities: Values and Justice in the Urban Realm. This presentation acknowledged the history and importance of the Treaty of Waitangi, how the Treaty principles are upheld, and the responsibility of practitioners to think about how their work takes on the role of the urbanist, as an advocate to support justice and equity. Several key points arose from this presentation, which set the scene for the Conference, identifying the importance of identity and indigenous values embedded within the urban fabric.

Dr Lee Beattie presented on What role does Urban Design Guidelines play in enhancing the quality of the built environment? On the second day he was also a part of the Panel discussing a collaborative approach to improving design quality through design review panels: past, present and future. As a rotating Chair of the Auckland Council’s Urban Design Panel, it provided some great insight into the work he does, and how it can be adopted across different platforms to improve better design outcomes. His presentation also included the research work he is doing based in Hobsonville with Professor Errol Haarhoff, leader of the Shaping Places Strategic Research Area.

Professor Haarhoff shared his research on Living at Density in Hobsonville: Enhancing Liveability through Urbanism and Public Amenity. Hobsonville was a case study mentioned throughout the Conference, so it provided the opportunity to extend this conversation across the range of practitioners working in this environment.

Dr Mirjam Schindler and Dr Rita Dionisio-McHugh presented their research on Challenges and Potentials of the Use of Geospatial Tools for Evidence-Based Decision-Making in New Zealand’s Cities from the perspective of spatial tools developed within the Challenge to support local stakeholders in decision-making on where and how to regenerate urban areas. The team’s research highlighted the benefits of being able to use information-rich planning support tools to tackle urban challenges with alternatives to the ‘business as usual’ and advocated for a more open approach towards information sharing and the use of planning tools. The conference enabled meaningful networking with local authorities and other stakeholders, which is vital for the implementation of the research project.

Professor Karen Witten and Dr Hamish Mackie were involved in a panel presentation Te Ara Mua Future Streets – A participatory community study for walking, cycling and local identity. Key aspects to support this work encourages the need for a national conversation about healthy streets, better communication and engagement throughout the process and how scaling up capability and capacity to match the urban challenges.

Jacqueline Paul and Jade Kake discussed their research on Evaluating the Application of Māori Design Principles to Urban Regeneration Projects. There was a significant discussion on the importance of indigenous values and traditional approaches to design and it became apparent that many non-Māori genuinely wanted to know how they can build a better understanding of this space and its processes. The paper that Paul and Kake authored enables educational support by offering tools and frameworks for practitioners to learn from.

At the conference, several key themes contributed to a wider discussion. With such a high presence of Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities Challenge researchers, it was great opportunity to share work with those involved in urban policy and design, and to raise the profile of the Challenge. It was noted by many that there is a need for more collaborative opportunities, to use the research from the Challenge to inform better design outcomes.

Additionally, it is difficult to build the capacity and capability of Māori design with such a low representation of Māori working in the built environment. However, the Conference and others like it provide opportunities for sharing traditional Māori knowledge, Mātauranga Māori, and Kaupapa Māori Research with non-Māori practitioners who are willing to create a paradigm shift within urbanism. This is our point of difference as a country on a global scale – let’s continue to celebrate that by ensuring that we see our faces in our places.

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Date posted: 28 June 2018