Building Better Research Areas

In order to deliver housing suitable for all, BBHTC has identified that a widespread shift needs to occur on four fronts. These are urban wellbeing; Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua (Māori housing); affordable housing; and supporting regions to thrive. This is reflected in our four research areas for the second phase of the BBHTC:

1. Homes and Spaces for generations
2. Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua
3. Thriving Regions – He Pā Harakeke
4. Urban Wellbeing – Ngā Kāinga Ora

The National Science Challenge is focusing on delivering the evidence base for each of these four essentials.

The following sections describe in brief the research programmes and how they will contribute to Challenge objectives.


Homes and spaces for generations asks how homes and the spaces that work for people can be delivered for all communities and generations, now and into the future.

Research in this space is focused on how homes and neighbourhoods can work not only for the generations that currently use them but provide for future generations. Housing stock in many parts of Aotearoa New Zealand is not performing well in terms of quality of buildings, housing functionality over people’s life cycles, and housing costs in relation to incomes. The amenities, connectivity, accessibility, and security of neighbourhoods vary significantly. They are typically dominated by the private car, impose significant transport costs on low and moderate income households, and exclude those unable to drive or access car ownership.

Towns and cities continue to be predominantly low density and sprawl into greenfields, a tendency that exacerbates car dependency, loss of fertile soils and productive landscapes, and the costs and risks associated with infrastructure in environments vulnerable to adverse natural events. To date, intensified spaces and housing typologies have failed to deliver affordable, functional housing.

BBHTC research has explored a range of dynamics and determinants associated with those problems. It has highlighted that the shape of new-built homes and spaces reflect decisions and interactions between a range of financial actors, housing providers, the development, building and construction industries, and a web of regulatory and planning activities. The decisions of those actors do not necessarily reflect the needs of changing and diverse individuals, families, and households that use dwellings and neighbourhoods. Indeed, as homes become primarily treated as a vehicle for realising returns, use-values such as liveability, functionality, and reasonable entry and living costs become less pressing imperatives. The amenities and management of neighbourhoods also become shaped by, and shape, the real estate values of the dwellings located in them.

The burden of misalignments between people’s needs, available housing and the amenities of neighbourhoods falls disproportionately on Māori, Pacific communities, people with disabilities, children and older people. Evidence in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas suggests that current dynamics reinforce housing classes and inequalities. They fuel concentrations of neglect, dereliction and under-provision in some neighbourhoods while, ironically, at the same time making them vulnerable to regentrification and displacement of vulnerable people and communities. At the core of this is a lack of affordable housing.

Affordable housing is functional housing that meets the needs of diverse households with low to moderate incomes at a price that enables them to meet other essential living costs, meet an acceptable standard of living, and promotes independent living and economic and social participation.



The Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua Strategic Research Area recognises the dual and complex nature of Māori identities and the many communities we build our lives in. Simply all Māori by whakapapa originate from a specific place, rohe, marae, kāinga but are more likely now to live at their Kāinga Rua in a city. Many Māori may consider their Kāinga Tahi being the city now and their Kāinga Rua their marae.

The research area will deliver solutions for how we collaboratively finance, design, and build developments, with buy-in from multiple stakeholders, to overcome discriminatory policy and legislative barriers, to actively support Māori aspirations for long-term, affordable, and healthy housing that meets the needs of their communities. We also focus on Māori wellbeing and housing for those whānau who are homeless.

Under the Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua strategic research area, there are five projects for Phase 2 of the Challenge:

  • UIKI – Urban intergenerational Kāinga Innovations
  • Kaumātua and intergenerational housing needs
  • Growing Papakāinga into the Future
  • Huaki – Uncovering the numbers to Empower Māori
  • Poipoia Te Kākano Kia Puāwai


The Thriving Regions programme uses the whakataukī Hutia te rito o te harakeke, kei whea te komako e ko? as a guiding statement and metaphor for our communities, settlements, localities, and regions. The pā harakeke represents our places, spaces, and conditions that enable our communities to collectively endure and thrive as well and vibrant places, and equally focuses on the shoots of the flax as the centre of that collective. Thus, our metaphor sets the image of how the whānau and the community are the rito that sustain the vibrancy of the collective region. There are two administrative components of the programme, one in the North Island and one in the South Island.

North Island: The Thriving Regions North programme is specifically focused on Māori perspectives of regional regeneration. The research is concerned with both the aspirations of tangata whenua/ mana whenua groups for regional, local, and settlement regeneration and revitalisation; as well as the vulnerability of Māori communities given disproportionate social, economic, cultural, and environmental impacts on communities. We are looking at the relationships between regeneration aspirations, regional planning, Māori design, and community outcomes; and Covid-19 recovery and related social, cultural, and economic impacts through a range of regional data, regional development activities, and Kaupapa Māori case studies.

Our key research questions are:

  • What are the emergent, diverse, and interacting factors re-shaping “regional” New Zealand and how are they impacting Māori?
  • How does mātauranga Māori inform innovative regional recovery, regeneration, and housing supply and demand?
  • What are the structural, legislative, and regulatory impediments to and requirements for the recovery and development of thriving regions for Māori?

South Island: The Thriving Regions – He Pā Harakeke South Island research programme comprises a set of integrated case studies of settlements and communities that are attempting to create positive futures for themselves. Researchers are working directly with community stakeholders as they navigate change, determine their own aspirations, confront impediments to wellbeing, and search for solutions to local problems and enact sustainable future pathways. The aim of the programme is to reveal what practical approaches are most effective at creating real-world change in different community, settlement, and regional settings, and document examples where residents, local governments, community groups, and businesses have collaborated to create change. These experiences will be shared with and applied in other settlements and regions across Aotearoa New Zealand to help generate positive social change.



Huritanga mo te mauri-ora: regenerative system change for holistic urban wellbeing in an era of ecological emergency – circular, carbon-storing, connected, ecological cities

In a time of ecological emergency and pandemic disruption, this research programme explores how urban communities can activate and accelerate change for holistic urban wellbeing and regeneration. We emphasise system-wide urban transformation focusing on the uptake of regenerative ecological infrastructures, connected community systems, and circular eco-economies for living, carbon-storing connected cities.

We work with a holistic notion of wellbeing that includes the social, cultural, and ecological. Our mahi is guided by Māori understandings of mauri ora as the vitality of all life or socio-cultural-ecological thriving. Here wellbeing is dependent on a vital connected ‘life-field’. Our current context of ecological emergency and socio-cultural crises makes a focus on holistic urban wellbeing particularly necessary and relevant.

Regenerating ecological systems is vital to the enmeshed challenges of climate change, the current extinction crises, and concurrent pollution crises all registering in contemporary cities. Social and ecological connection improves human wellbeing in a range of ways. How can cities respond to these diverse and interlinked urban wellbeing needs and leverage co-benefits and wellbeing synergies?

We aim to activate urban wellbeing through a connective “mauri mesh model” for interlinked wellbeing; thriving wellbeing in ecological environments; in human-made systems, technologies and materials; and in public health and happiness. We focus on how cities can become more ecologically and socio-culturally connected to enhance holistic urban wellbeing, the meshed wellbeing of whānau and whenua, people and ‘place.’ We emphasise key transitions towards ecological regeneration, carbon-zero energy, and a circular bio-economy in a context of socio-cultural justice and equity.