Links to the 'collaboration' component of the seven Cs (Urban Design Protocol).

What is integrated decision-making?

Integration between and within organisations involved in urban design is needed at a policy, planning and implementation level to achieve high quality urban design. Integrated decision-making may not only enhance the value of urban design, but actually enable it to happen in the first place.

Key findings

An integrated approach to urban design decision-making can:

  • allow more opportunities for greater numbers of people to benefit from urban design, over a longer term and at a larger scale
  • by working with complementary economic, social and environmental policies, allow urban design to produce the greatest possible benefits.

Overview of the research

Integrated decision-making - The Harbour View development in Auckland incorporating quality urban design and providing value gains for the developer and residents.Just as the individual elements of urban design work best in combination, urban design decisions are most effective when they result from integrated policies, objectives and values of many parties.

The market alone does not always cater to the urban design needs of the public. In the case of residential developments, developers may be primarily interested in meeting the needs of those who can afford to live there, raising issues of equity and a lack of diversity. However, there are many examples of local authorities working with private developers to ensure a residential development offers wider community benefits (such as reserves and attractive landscaping) and a greater range of housing types and prices.

Studies show the importance of ensuring urban design policies and initiatives are consistent between adjoining local authorities. When urban design initiatives are geographically isolated, they may not generate as many benefits as they could. Integration within each local authority is also important, so that different departments' objectives and concepts of value are met. In particular, there is a need for urban design policy to be supported by complementary economic and social policies: economic incentives, for example, may provide further encouragement for people to switch from private cars to private transport.

Research also shows the importance of ensuring urban design reflects the local context. For example, New Zealand city dwellers may reject a level of urban density that would be perfectly acceptable in some Asian and European cities. Local conditions and values need to be taken into account when making decisions about urban design: simply adopting a programme that has been successful elsewhere may not deliver benefits locally.

Harbour View, a 370-unit residential development in Waitakere City, is a good example of a council working closely with private developers to create a development that offers benefits - both social and environmental - that the market did not consider valuable.

When compared with another nearby development, Harbour View's design features have clearly generated value gains. The units did cost more to design, and the reserve contribution was around three times as much as required, representing an opportunity cost. Nevertheless, gains to developers have been seen in distinctly higher values and faster sales. There is also wider community support for the environmental benefits of the development's conservation of wetlands and green space, with the foreshore reserve viewed as a significant local asset.

Ministry for the Environment, 2005, and other sources


"Regional coalitions can co-ordinate growth, streamline regulations for infill development, preserve open space and resources, and encourage compact growth in areas where services can be supplied efficiently."

Hollis, 1998


"The providers do have a great deal of technical knowledge that users don't have yet depend on; and users have a great wealth of experience and knowledge that the providers could use to do a better job."

Kernohan et al, 1992