A Tale of Two Cities

December 11, 2015

Auckland Design Office

Christchurch and Auckland Urban Design Panel leaders have been exchanging ideas on how to do things better.

“The concept of a ‘network approach’ is a strong one. Networks generally relate to people. So when Rachael Annan from the Christchurch Urban Design Panel and Lisa Dunshea from the Auckland Urban Design Panel met recently, they knew they would get some good thinking going”. 


Lisa (left) and Rachael (right) on a bike tour of recent Christchurch central city projects, with the recently completed Christchurch Bus interchange in the background. Lisa Dunshea is urban design programme leader at Auckland Council and Rachael Annan facilitates the Christchurch City Council Urban Design Panel.


What both of these cities have in common is the demand for building, whether it is infrastructure, new offices, retail, residential, new streetscapes or public spaces.

The ability to utilise an independent design ‘peer review’ early in the project process, pays benefits, not only to the developer, but ultimately to the betterment of the future users of the building / public spaces that result. Urban Design Panel review also provides developers with increased certainty, in the opportunity to address design related matters before lodging resource consent. This can notably speed up the consenting process.

Urban Design Panels are not new, they have been around for 12 years in Auckland and 7 years in Christchurch.

While the two Panels are constituted in different ways, both are broadly similar with minor operational differences. So with this in mind, there are plenty of common areas where learnings and efficiencies can be shared. This includes:

  • People – drawing on the expertise of highly experienced professional Panel members who represent the supporting Professional Institutes;
  • Process - resource Panel processes appropriately, ensure consistency with best practice and advice; processes need to be agile and responsive to development needs and areas where demand is at its greatest and provide leadership and management of these processes;
  • Timing and ‘adding value’ to the project – pre-application stage is where the most ‘value add’ is gained. Early stage design review enables efficient integration of Panel recommendations, so get in early;
  • Communication – engage, listen and share best practice to stakeholders and developers. They are the people delivering; and
  • Data is king – record, analyse and document trends to ensure what we do is ‘fit for purpose’.

The Urban Design Panel network can be a subtle voice that leads new ways of thinking. Sharing lessons and new ways of doing things ‘tales between two cities’ is not new, but it is worth remembering and can provide mutually beneficial outcomes.

We need to demand the best from developers and developers need to demand the best from Design Review Panels. It is a partnership process that relies on trust and quality.

For more information on the Auckland Urban Design Panel go to: ADM – Design Thinking AUDP

For more information on the Christchurch Urban Design Panel go to: CCC – Urban Design Panel

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