Making urban spaces more liveable

If your organisation is involved in some aspect of planning, designing, building, managing or influencing our towns and cities you can sign up to the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol. 

About the protocol

The New Zealand Urban Design Protocol is a voluntary commitment to specific urban design initiatives.

The design initiatives help our towns and cities become:

  • competitive places that thrive economically and facilitate creativity and innovation
  • liveable places that provide a choice of housing, work and lifestyle options
  • healthy environments that sustain people and nature
  • inclusive places that offer opportunities for all citizens
  • distinctive places that have a strong identity and sense of place
  • well-governed places that have a shared vision and sense of direction.

Design qualities - the seven Cs

The Protocol identifies seven essential design qualities that together create quality urban design:

  • Context - Seeing that buildings, places and spaces are part of the whole town or city.
  • Character - Reflecting and enhancing the distinctive character, heritage and identity of our urban environment.
  • Choice - Ensuring diversity and choice for people.
  • Connections - Enhancing how different networks link together for people.
  • Creativity - Encouraging innovative and imaginative solutions.
  • Custodianship - Ensuring design is environmentally sustainable, safe and healthy.
  • Collaboration - Communicating and sharing knowledge across sectors, professions and with communities.

Benefits of signing up

There are numerous benefits in becoming a signatory to the Protocol.

These include:

  • free subscription to the Urban Leader, a bi-monthly newsletter on New Zealand and international urban design information and trends
  • access to the package of resources to support implementation of the Protocol
  • being part of a national collaboration of urban design organisations.

How to sign up

If your organisation wishes to sign up to the Protocol you will need to write a letter to Ministry for the Environment confirming your organisation's commitment to the Protocol. This letter should be signed by someone authorised to represent your organisation on this matter.

The letter needs to include within it the following statement:

"I confirm that <<title of organisation>> will become a signatory to the Urban Design Protocol. <<title of organisation>> is committed to creating quality urban design and we recognise our role and responsibility in achieving this. We have appointed <<name>>, <<title>> as our urban design champion. Within three months of signing we will develop a set of actions to implement our commitment. We will provide action plan information during monitoring surveys carried out by the Ministry for the Environment. <<title of organisation>> is aware that your champion and other urban design contacts can receive an e-newsletter the Urban Leader on a monthly basis, which they can unsubscribe from at any time."

Letters should be addressed to:

New Zealand Urban Design Protocol
c/o Resource Management Directorate
Ministry for the Environment
PO Box 10362

If you need further information email

Commitments you need to make

All signatories are required to develop, monitor and report on a set of actions they will undertake to implement the Protocol. The web pages on action plan information provide answers to frequently asked questions, a set of resources including the Action Pack and Protocol monitoring information.

Becoming a signatory will require your organisation to:

  1. Appoint a Design Champion
  2. Select and implement a set of actions to demonstrate your commitment to the Protocol
  3. Provide action plan information, during monitoring surveys carried out by the Ministry for the Environment.

Appointing an urban design champion

Signatories to the Urban Design Protocol must appoint an urban design champion - someone influential who can promote and champion urban design. This page provides information on appointing an urban design champion. It explains why they are important, what they contribute and who should become a champion. It also provides links to resources for urban design champions.

What is an urban design champion?

As a signatory to the Urban Design Protocol you have committed to helping make the Protocol work in practice by setting out a series of actions. The only mandatory action is the appointment of an urban design champion within your organisation.

An urban design champion is a senior, influential person who can promote quality urban design in all areas of your organisation. They are critical in making New Zealand towns and cities more successful through increasing awareness and demonstrating the values of quality urban design.

Why urban design champions are important

Successful towns and cities do not just happen by chance. They require good planning based on a long-term vision and co-ordinated implementation.

To be successful, quality urban design needs to be an integral part of the everyday actions of your organisation, not just something reserved for visible, glossy, front page projects. The place of urban design within your organisation will need to be strengthened on all projects, with clear messages communicated to all relevant staff.

The urban design champion will provide the strong leadership needed to put and keep urban design on the agenda.

What urban design champions contribute

Your urban design champion should promote quality urban design within your organisation, and ensure urban design issues are considered in all relevant decisions. This could include:

  • identifying opportunities and encouraging proactive action to improve urban design outcomes
  • promoting the value of quality urban design, persuading and influencing key decision-makers
  • sharing knowledge and learning across the organisation and with other partners
  • helping build a common vision for the projects or programmes they are responsible for or how they see the quality of the urban environment improving through your organisation's actions
  • ensuring the urban design implications of any strategy, policy or project are considered at an early stage
  • developing a multi-disciplinary approach across professions, departments, teams or groups within your organisation
  • working jointly with other organisations and sectors to improve urban design outcomes
  • encouraging early and pro-active consultation on major urban projects
  • ensuring access to sufficient design skills within the organisation, including providing ongoing urban design training for all relevant staff
  • becoming a visible central point of contact both within and outside of the organisation
  • developing ways to encourage innovation and creativity within your organisation
  • developing 'partnering' approaches with other organisations.

Who should be an urban design champion?

Your urban design champion should be a senior and influential person within your organisation, someone with responsibility to oversee many of your organisation's key functions.

An urban design champion could be a:

  • local authority councillor
  • board member
  • chief executive
  • senior manager
  • principal consultant
  • head of department
  • chairperson or president.

It is not necessary for the urban design champion to have technical skills in urban design. However, they will need a reasonable understanding of built environment and urban issues, and be willing to learn. In addition they will need to be supported by urban design and other related professionals either inside or outside of your organisation.

An urban design champion needs to be:

  • passionate about achieving a quality urban environment
  • able to influence people to make urban design changes within your organisation
  • respected for their opinion
  • a good communicator with links inside and outside the organisation
  • able to call upon urban design technical and professional support from within or outside the organisation
  • prepared to promote the long term picture and develop an urban design vision within your organisation.

For the larger council or geographically spread organisations it may be necessary to have more than one urban design champion. For instance, a council may consider appointing a councillor and a senior manager as urban design champions. However, care should be taken not to dilute the role; rather consideration should be made on how multiple urban design champions can support and collaborate within an organisation.

Resources for urban design champions

Action pack - help with writing an action plan
Action plan review

For more information on becoming an urban design champion email


Action plans

What action plans are

Action plans are a set of actions prepared by a signatory organisation of the Urban Design Protocol demonstrating their commitment to creating quality urban design.

Each signatory will have different actions to suit their particular circumstances. Protocol signatory actions should be challenging, ambitious and updated on a regular basis.

A signatory organisation should submit an action plan within three months of signing up to the Protocol.

Mandatory actions

The only mandatory action for an Urban Design Protocol signatory organisation is to appoint an urban design champion, see Appointing an urban design champion. However, if you want to get the most out of being an Urban Design Protocol signatory then an action plan that is regularly updated is a very important and useful process.

The importance of action plans

Action plans specify the actions that a signatory organisation will complete as part of their commitment to the Urban Design Protocol, and the timeframe. The design and implementation of an urban design action plan is dependent on the nature and needs of the organisation.

How do I write up my action plan?

Action plans should be high level and depict how your organisation will reach its strategic urban design goals. Remember that urban design as defined in Protocol is very broad and your action plan should reflect this. Discussing your action plan within your organisation with other Protocol signatories and the Ministry creates robust and shared actions.

Your organisation needs to take ownership of the actions at multiple levels. It is therefore important to involve everyone including senior management and political members in the action plan discussions so that everyone owns the actions and resources can be committed to the implementation of your plan.

Consider actions that can:

  • have measurable outcomes
  • provide you with short and long-term wins
  • be part of the mission of your organisation and can develop urban design processes and projects into your everyday work programmes
  • be maintained and achieved with the resources of your organisation
  • be aligned with other reporting, reviews or monitoring functions of your organisation
  • break down silos in your organisation and build urban design expertise and capacity. The creation of quality urban design
  • requires collaboration across disciplines to succeed.

Supporting resources

There are a number of supporting resources available to help signatories write action plans:

The Action pack provides ideas on actions for each signatory group.

The Action Plan Template provides a format for recording your actions before submitting them to the Ministry for the Environment.

Download as a PDF [PDF 13 KB]

Download as a Microsoft Word document [23 KB]

Submitted action plans are held in a database

All actions received from Protocol signatories are held electronically and input into the Ministry for the Environment’s Action Plan Database. The Action Plan Database provides information on the type of action and a detailed description of the action. This information is then used for desktop monitoring. Previous action plans can be printed out for your signatory organisation on request.

Monitoring action plans

Action plan monitoring will occur on a regular basis. Detailed monitoring has occurred in 2006 and 2009 in the form of a survey of signatory organisations.

The New Zealand Urban Design Protocol Action Plan progress report 2006 provided baseline information on the implementation of the Protocol.

The Taking stock of the Urban Design Protocol and Action Plan monitoring 2009 and Technical report took place when the Protocol had 174 signatories and evaluated signatory action plans and carried out a wider evaluation of the Protocol programme.

Updating action plans

Action plans should be updated on a regular basis to make sure they are relevant to the signatory organisations policies, programmes and implementation projects. The Ministry will contact the signatory organisations to update their action plans to coincide with action plan monitoring.