Ian Henderson




Treaty settlements in Aotearoa New Zealand have not only changed the economic base of Māori groups, but have also provided a catalyst for social, political, cultural and environmentalchange. The post-settlement period is already proving to be more complex, dynamic and relational than previously. Emergence is often perceived to be most applicable to landscape and the environment. Reading cultural dynamics as emergent might be useful in the inevitableindigenous/non-indigenous encounters in this new environment in the future.

The chiefs Waikato and Hongi Hika with missionary Thomas Kendall in England, oil painting by James Barry, 1820 (18).

The chiefs Waikato and Hongi Hika with missionary Thomas Kendall in England, oil painting by James Barry, 1820 (18).



In his comprehensive text on the theory, historical evolution and application of open systems, non-linearity, complexity and emergence, Emergence in Landscape Architecture, Rod Barnett writes: 

Emergence in landscape architecture takes place in, and partly enables, multiple forms of existence. Non-material features such as concepts, information and desires will have causal effects in the material world of forces and particles, fish and insects, which means these non-material events are accorded an ontological reality. Such immaterial features include human mental structures and events like conceptual schemes, plans, intentions and emotions, as well as socially constructed elements such as games and commodity prices. In effect, landscape architecture requires an emergentist pluralism (1).

This paper explores an aspect of this pluralism in the emergent encounters in the indigenous/non-indigenous environment in Aotearoa New Zealand. It argues that this relationship is dynamic, not static, and that the new post settlement environment creates a great variety of different social, economic, political and even environmental influences. It further suggests that these circumstances will have a range of significant impacts on the non-indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

This paper is not intended to be an overview of the indigenous/non-indigenous relationship, but to interrogate its nature in terms of emergence. In addition this isa personal account, that of a descendent of settler New Zealanders. I quote a number of personal sources, including contributors to a Landscape Architecture class at Unitec, Landscape of Aotearoa. If my interpretations seem inaccurate I apologise. I am reminded of anthropologist, Joan Metge’s experience of delivering talks on Māori for a local audience in Kaitaia. One local Māori said afterwards: “we recognise ourselves in what you say, though we would have put it differently” (2).

At a recent Indigenous Content in Education Symposium in Adelaide (ICES 2015) (3)  Glenn Wood from Griffith University said to me that a perception from that side of the Tasman is that New Zealand is in a process of ‘indigenising’. Putting such hyperbole aside, there is a perception that this country is more progressive than others in the area of relationship with its indigenous peoples and is undergoing considerable change as a result. So, what can be said of the current state of the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous in Aotearoa New Zealand? And further to that, what might be surmised to involve the future of this relationship?



I use the term indigenous/non-indigenous as a more precise, and hopefully more meaningful, term than bicultural, which has gained many indeterminant and vague meanings. What is meant by indigenous?  This is not as straightforward as a simple binary response. Indigeneity is becoming a more complex notion, involving a complex set of identities. Many of us Aotearoans are directly connected to both worlds. A significant number of people, possibly almost as many people as identify as Māori, have genealogies (whakapapa) which include both indigenous and settler origins. Others, like myself, lie ‘between’ both groups, in something that could be described as a pivotal position: my ancestors (tīpuna) are Scottish and English; my descendants are Māori.

Indigeneity itself is too simplistic to be described as a singular entity or type in Aotearoa New Zealand. Although Pākehā have often, at least in the past, considered Māori as one people, Māori generally tend to identify more as members of iwi or hapu or iwi and hapu. Again there are also Māori who do not do so, especially those who have lived in cities away from marae of origin for generations, or who have loose or only partial connections to such groups or places. This might also apply, in yet another permutation, to those who have lived all or most of their lives overseas. 

If the definition of the term indigeneity in reference to Māori is this complex and fragile, it makes for a very wide range of potential associations, situations, backgrounds, attitudes, interests, approaches, desires, needs, etc. Any assumptions have little or no validity. 

Then what does non-indigeneity embrace as a term? It too is more complex than merely ‘other’ to indigenous. The other to Māori has usually been termed Pākehā. This term usually refers to a certain racial or cultural category perception, usually European New Zealander, perhaps initially as defined by Māori, and quite commonly more specifically British European. Pākehā itself as a term no longer comfortably describes a very large number of non-Māori living in this country, if it ever did. Auckland alone hasmore than 200 ethnic groups according to a New Zealand Herald article last year (4).  Among Pākehā or others of many generations in New Zealand, some consider themselves to be indigenous, most likely with some disapproval from most Māori, especially as the term tangata whenua has significant resonance and particular associations of identity and indigeneity. 

Tangata whenua: from a Māori perspective this is much more than New Zealandness. It relates to a particular place for a particular group: an iwi or hapu rohe (territory). Natalie Robertson has described the nuances and complexities of the group and this place of belonging (5).  When outside her iwi territory she identified herself by her iwi and the accorded landscape features of mountain (maunga), river (awa) and sea (moana). When within the rohe of her iwi, she identified with a more local group (hapu) and its identifying landscape. This concept of tangata whenua provides Aotearoa New Zealand with its own very particular kind of indigeneity. For Māori the term tauiwi possibly represents best those of us who are non-Māori or non-indigenous as a whole. 



In 1840, whether they knew it or not, Māori signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi (te Tiriti o Waitangi) were ceding sovereignty to the British Crown. From this date European settlers, mostly British at the time, began to move to the most far-flung British colony, already settled and occupied by groups originally from East Polynesia, whether they were aware of this extant occupation when they left home or not, and whether they chose to acknowledge this fact or not, once they had arrived. This colony has undergone many changes over the last 175 years, predominantly in the model of European colonies emerging into post-colonial states. It could be said that these were islands of Southern Polynesia that now form a nation state in the manner of a Westminster democracy. During much of the these years Māori struggled to retain their land, speak their language, maintain control over their culture, and reverse some of the most pernicious consequences of being colonised. This was largely invisible to the Pākehā world until 1970s. This struggle has been well documented in Dr Ranginui Walker’s Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End (6).  Some of this struggle was pan Māori, some iwi or hapu based, and some competitive, as with the claims to the Māori Land Court. Part of the struggle involved an attempt to procure redress for land lost and Treaty violations by the Crown (7).

Throughout 19th and early half of 20th centuries, wars to resist land sales, confiscations (raupatu), the compulsory conversion of land tenure from customary communal ownership to individual title through the Native Land Court, set up in1865 (8), the long drawn out processes of this court to prove ownership rights (which often forced Māori to camp for weeks at a time where the court was held), and appropriations of land under the Public Works Lands Act 1864, left Māori communities in turbulence and dislocation, often ultimately permanently. All the while, European settlers were staking land claims, ‘breaking in’ land, establishing thriving communities and creating the institutions of a nation state, which would afford peace, safety, stability and prosperity. As Richard Hill has summarised:

With a huge array of controls available, and supported by almost all Pākehā, the state sought to undermine and eventually destroy both Māori collective politico-social organisations and indigenous cultural identity and distinctiveness: this is what the ‘greater good’ required (9).

Some minor settlements to redress the violations of the Treaty by the Crown began in 1920s mainly over confiscated lands (raupatu). The process of facilitating a more thorough compensation process began in earnest with the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975. This was to address thegrievances associated with these violations, and provide evidence for redress. Giselle Byrnes, who was once a researcher with the Waitangi tribunal has criticised the tribunal for remaking history (10). Nevertheless, the Waitangi Tribunal has demonstrated the significant scope and scale of Treaty breaches and injustices to substantiate the settlement process. It should be stated that Byrnes is a supporter of the Waitangi Tribunal process. Her argument is with the veracity of the evidence in terms of the accuracy of the historical record, and the judgement of nineteenth century actions in late twentieth century terms. 



Most, but not all, iwi and hapu have reached a Treaty settlement with the Crown, or are in negotiation to do so. The settlements began with a fisheries quota in 1989, followed by the Sealords deal in 1992, both of which were pan-Maori in nature, then Waikato in 1995 and Ngai Tahu in 1996. It is now 20 years since these first settlements were agreed upon. For iwi entities there were some teething issues in the first few years in the new governance and business environment, which received some press. What did not were the slow, clumsy, negligent or resistant responses from the non-indigenous bodies, whether government, local government, media or business. It is perhaps the latter which responded most readily when they saw the investment opportunities in the assets held. As a consequence, the first two iwi with settlements, Waikato Tainui and Ngai Tahu, now have assets worth a billion dollars each. Last of all has been the public, though this is understandable given the poor quality of knowledge, historical or cultural, that this public is exposed to or avails itself of.    

It should be noted that the government set the ground rules for the settlement process, especially over the nature of Post Settlement Governance Entities (PSGEs), required of iwi for the settlement agreements and packages to proceed (11). Despite one party to what are termed ‘partnerships’ coming to the negotiating table with pre-negotiating terms, most iwi have acknowledged the current political reality and agreed to take part. Even though the settlements mostly constitute less than 1% of the value of the assets lost through no or little fault of theirs, iwi know this will provide an asset base with which they can start over again.



So these settlements are a new condition for PSGEs and their iwi/hapu. Some have had 20 years to adapt, others have yet to conclude Treaty settlements and receive monies or land or both, and make decisions on the use of their new assets. There is great responsibility in achieving a balance between the protection of their new assets, welfare for their member constituents, and guardianship (kaitiaki) of their lands, waterways and other taonga. Commentary in the media is sometimes focussed on why more is not being done by these iwi authorities to address the health, welfare or living standards of their members. Why would iwi and hapu not take their responsibilities seriously? It can only be patronising for tauiwi or anyone else to say how any one group (iwi or hapu) should use this resource. Afterall, both Crown and non-Māori were willing to strip their assets and leave them in poverty as a people. It could be argued that such a challenge could have some validity if the returned assets were in reasonable proportion to what had been taken. 

Are these settlements full and final as the Crown claim? Given that the assets received to date constitute less than 1% of the total confiscated or acquired through the deliberate destruction of communal ownership, it might not be surprising that King Tuheitia has made public a claim over land beyond Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) on behalf of Waikato Tainui. The fact that it appears to infringe on other iwi claims is perhaps an unfortunate by-product of the settlement process. It is likely that the settlement process is one that will cause greater competition than has been the case over the last century or so of more or less pan Maori collaboration in the struggle to attend to the grievances.

A new governance structure has emerged in the post settlement period for co-management of assets. This has applied to land, waterways and islands which were once owned by the Crown or local bodies and managed by government ministries, such as the Department of Conservation, or regional authority entities. An example of this is Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority, the co-management group made up of representatives of Auckland City and 13 Auckland iwi. Co-management is likely to require a stronger presence of Māori land (whenua) values, such as mana whenua (authority over and responsibility for land) and kaitiaki (guardianship), but likely to also extend to management tools such as rahui (temporary restriction). 

This concept – rahui – is one of the management tools which is aligned with care for the environment (kaitiaki). It is symptomatic of a conservation ethic: when resources are under threat for a variety of reasons, controls are exercised on that resource. This is in contrast to the preservationist ethic which is the guiding principle of the Department of Conservation. The preservationist ethic, designed toprotect the remaining small representative intact ecological patches, is a logical response to the wholesale conversion of New Zealand’s environment to pastoral agricultural and exotic forestry production. Sonny Tau’s recent harvesting or purchase of kereru may not have been a prudent way to alert us to the dichotomy of these 2 approaches (12). Nonetheless, prudency would dictate that it is a dichotomy about which we must have meaningful conversations.

To what extent are we willing to engage in these conversations? To what extent are we willing to consider the indigenous position on matters? In Auckland (Tamaki Makaurau) the new Unitary Plan has invoked a resource consent notification requirement for a number of sites of interest to tangata whenua. Two of these occur on Paritai Drive, causing the residents to take the matter to court recently (13). A resource consent application for further site development might be considered a small price to pay for living on land that had been gifted by this tangata whenua.



While it is likely that a majority of non-indigenous New Zealanders are now in accordance with the principle of settlements to redress the wrongs done to Maori over the last century and a half, these recent examples of issues in the public spotlight indicate that there is considerable misunderstanding of te ao Maori (Maori world view) still and that there continues to be resistance to a shared approach to issues. Post-settlement has delivered a newly emergent cultural environment, and the great variety of permutations of these settlements and the contingent iwi circumstances provide for enormous diversity. It would be useful for non-indigenous New Zealanders to gain at least a passing familiarity with the current situation. New sets of causal effects will make it even more complex. Our country is small and we live cheek by jowl. Increasingly the hybridity of our indigneity is becoming more complex and more inclusive – those who will be able to whakapapa to a Maori ancestor are likely to form a majority at some future stage (14). So it probably behoves all of us to consider the potential identity of our descendants. John Roughan said in a New Zealand Herald article recently:

“A treaty-based shared state, which ours has to be, may be better if it can satisfy the need of indigenous minorities for the ethnic pride, cultural security and national identity that the majority enjoys. That is the New Zealand project” (15). 

There is no doubt this project is a long term one, but judging by its present state, its shape is morphing quite rapidly. We should also recognise the possibility that any of us might find our particular identities - indigenous, non-indigenous or any hybrid - in the minority.

Discomfort is often a condition of post-colonial societies, as it is also of emergent conditions if our expectations are of stasis. In the recently released documentary film The Price of Peace (16) on the police invasion of Tuhoe and the trial of the group known as the ‘Urewera Four’, Tame Iti and his co-accused claimed they were engaging in learning traditional iwi knowledge, while the Crown charged them with terrorist activities. The defense lawyer, speaking after the trial said: “[We have] two strong cultures in this country and the two cultures don’t talk easily together.” Even the website of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage has this to say: “If Māori and Pākehā had at times talked past one another, in the late 20th century they were at least facing the issues. People in New Zealand should only worry if the talking ends” (17). We will have divergent opinions and robust debate, but it would be useful if both are informed. Ideally the New Zealand project has us all engaged in action as well as talk. We are all on this waka together. Like all emergent conditions there will be swells, storms, doldrums, and the need to change tack. It will be better if we all man the sheets or paddle in unison, rather than fight over the steering. And far better in the waka than out.


(1) Barnett, R. (2013). Emergence in Landscape Architecture. London, UK: Routledge. p. 203. 

(2) Metge, J. (1976). The Maoris of New Zealand: Rautahi. London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. xi.  


(4) Tapaleao, V. Auckland now more diverse than London in New Zealand Herald, March 4, 2014.

(5) Natalie Robertson, a senior lecturer at AUT, in a lecture to Landscape of Aotearoa class at Unitec, July 24, 2015. 

(6) Walker, R. (2004). Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End. Auckland, NZ: Penguin. 

(7) For a representative example of the nature of land loss, see a brief summary of the Waitangi Tribunal report on the land alienation at Orakei, Auckland from Ngati Whatua o Orakei:

(8) For a brief history of extinguishment of native title and the Native Land Court, see Stokes, E. (2002). Contesting resources: Maori, Pakeha, and a tenurial revolution in Pawson, E. & Brooking, T. (Eds.). Environmental Histories of New Zealand. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press. pp.35-51.

(9) Hill, R. (2009). Maori and State Policy. In G. Byrnes (Ed.), The New Oxford History of New Zealand. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 516.

(10) Byrnes, G. (2004). The Waitangi Tribunal and New Zealand History. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.  

(11) Haylee Putaranui, a lawyer in the Māori Legal Group, Te Waka Ture, with Chapman Tripp, in a lecture to the Landscape of Aotearoa class at Unitec, September 25, 2015. 

(12) Editorial, ‘Illegal taking of kereru likely to stir public anger’ in New Zealand Herald, June 27, 2015. Retrieved from:

(13) Cumming, G. ‘Paritai Drive residents fighting Maori heritage designation moves’ in New Zealand Herald, July 18, 2015. Retrieved from:

(14) See: Future Maori population - summary of latest trends, Statistics New Zealand, Tatauranga Aotearoa. Retrieved from:

(15) Roughan, J. ‘Whyte lacking a Maori viewpoint’ in New Zealand Herald, August 2, 2014.

(16) Webby, K. (dir.) (2015). The Price of Peace. 

(17) The Treaty debated, New Zealand History. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved from:


(18) The chiefs Waikato and Hongi Hika with missionary Thomas Kendall in England, oil painting by James Barry, 1820. National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref:G-618). James Barry -

A New Peri-Urban Agricultural System for Auckland

Shoujun Chen & Nikolay Popov




With population growth predicted for Auckland, there will be a rise in the food production required to feed the city (1). Auckland is already the country’s largest customer of food markets, but the fossil fuel based agricultural system in Auckland is still vulnerable to urban growth and climate change. In order to provide sustainable future for our next generation, the emergence of peri-urban agriculture provides opportunities to improve the city’s food resilience and develop local food system in Auckland. This article will survey various planning concepts for peri-urban agriculture development and evaluate their applicability on a specific site - Special Housing Areas (SHAs) in Belmont.

Figure 1: Peri-urban areas in Pukekohe (33)

Figure 1: Peri-urban areas in Pukekohe (33)


New Zealand is known worldwide for its primary industries. Auckland is the heart of the country’s food processing industry (2). In the last few decades, the rapidly expanding population in Auckland has accelerated the demand for housing development, which led to urban sprawl. As a result, an increased number of small scale horticulture, viticulture and orchard enterprises have been converted to housing, industry and commercial use (3). Due to the rapid displacement of agriculture, Auckland has lost 8.3 percent of its most productive soil resources (4).

Peri-urban agriculture refers to “production units close to town, which operates intensive semi- or fully commercial farms to grow vegetable and other crops” (5). In Auckland, the peri-urban agriculture is present in the periphery of current urban areas, which are located between the build-up areas and Rural Urban Boundary such as Kumeu, Belmont and Hingala. The emergence of peri-urban agriculture is usually regarded as a premium in Auckland’s food system because most of the land devoted to agriculture is located in rural areas (6). However, with increasing levels of climate change and loss of soil from urbanisation, New Zealand’s agricultural industry suffers unprecedented challenges (7). This paper will argue that to be a sustainable food system, a new peri- urban agricultural system should be created in Auckland region. 



Auckland has a vision to transform a fossil fuel-dependent, high energy-using and waste society to a sustainable low carbon city (8). However, based on the data from Acres (9), only around 1%, or 124,000 ha out of the 12,500,000ha of productive agriculture land is certified organic in New Zealand. Most of the land still involves fossil fuel dependent mechanisation and the extensive use of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. As a result, over 3000 tons of pesticides are used in industrialised agricultural system every year and most of them are well known to cause cancer and birth defects (10). Furthermore, according to the data from New Zealand Organic Market Report (11), almost 92% of New Zealand grown produce is exported to overseas markets. The distance food travels from farms to consumers (also called Food Miles) intensifies the usage of fossil fuels, traffic congestion and climate change. 

An economically strong agriculture may be able to limit the loss of land to urban growth but industrialised farming, especially adjacent to urban areas seems very vulnerable to urban sprawl. The loss of investment and the demand for settlements in peri-urban areas intensifies the tendency to subdivide agricultural land for residential and commercial land uses that will not be beneficial to local sustainable development (12). On the other hand, in the last 10 years, the rise in popularity of farmers markets and ‘buying locals’ has brought a growing public awareness of the social, environmental and economic impacts of the local food system. Farmers markets have emerged as an alternative option for distribution and retail in New Zealand. There are now over fifty farmers markets operating around the country, with an estimated $30 million worth of produce sold through them annually. This has led to a small number of direct marketing initiatives, which have been established by small to medium scale organic growers in urban and peri-urban areas (13). Therefore, the local food system has been accorded a stronger vitality and a sustainable future. 

It is clear that the existing agricultural models have not been able to meet the demand for a sustainable low carbon development in Auckland (14). However, the success of farmer markets, government supports and fertile soil provide a particular opportunity to redefine the role of peri-urban agriculture in the culture, economy and ecology of Auckland. So, how can we enable agriculture to adapt to these huge opportunities and challenges in peri-urban areas and if the urban growth is unavoidable, how can we built a sustainable connection between agriculture and expanding urban settlement? 



Historically, farming in cities is not a new phenomenon. The direct connection between food production and residents in city plays an important part in human history. Before the advent of the railroad, rapid urbanisation and industrial agriculture, the main food resource in the city was from the local rural areas. In modern society, many planners believe that the country and the city are completely separate entities, and the idea of a rural land use such as farming in an urban area seems laughable. In developed countries, as the value of land for agricultural use decreases, the value for urban development increases and the local growers are gradually replaced by global food suppliers (15). Large-scale urban and peri-urban agriculture have disappeared in the last century as food production has moved to intensive industrial agriculture and farmland is consumed for urbanisation.



In contemporary urban planning there two types of approaches that try to prevent urban sprawl. The ones that try to limit urban sprawl and preserve agricultural land alone, and the ones which attempt to adapt to urban sprawl and create agricultural land within urban development. 

The first of the main approaches is the concept of ‘Green Belt’. This planning concept was invented by Ebenezer Howard in the early twentieth century (16). Rowe defines Green Belt as “a swath of land around a city which is protected from development and construction” (17). Land uses in Green Belt range from farmland and parkland to the construction of urban wetland. Due to the strong adaptability of the Green Belt concept; it has been applied into limiting urban growth in many cities with various degrees of success. Vitoria-Gasteiz is one of the cities that applied Green Belts in order to limit its growth. With the unprecedented expansion, Vitoria-Gasteiz met a series of hazard, such as energy waste, air pollution from transport and the loss of vegetation in peri-urban areas from the demand of industry,housing and infrastructure. As a response, government built a green belt around the city. This green belt, as a buffer zone between urban and rural areas, was supposed to limit urban sprawl and protect the vegetation around the city (18). However, the agricultural land use in this Green Belt did not succeed and was replaced by golf courses, schools, sport fields and public utilities. This was probably due to residents need recreational space rather than productive farmland. 

Figure 2: The Green Belt of Vitoria-Gasteiz (34)

Figure 2: The Green Belt of Vitoria-Gasteiz (34)

The second planning concept is called ‘Green Wedges’ and consists of preservation regimes of green corridors that penetrate deep into the city. This concept is advocated by Andres Duany (19). Duany argues that productive landscape can be regarded as an essential element of urban infrastructure, just like transport and water supply systems in the city (20). Unlike the Green Belts, the Green Wedges would be more adaptable to site-specific needs and work with urban development. The general idea is that city and agricultural land uses will become integrated, the direct connection between food production and consumption will be rebuilt and as a result the residents would want to protect the land voluntarily (21).

It is clear that although Green Belts are able to protect natural resources and slow urban sprawl, the demand for housing and open spaces still exist and protecting land does not mean saving farmland (22).  The main function of the Green Belt is to separate rural and urban areas, but a sustainable local food system cannot be built without the integration of agriculture and people’s daily life. The residents of peri-urban Auckland have weak relationships with small-scale food production then peri- urban land will be easily lost to development. On the other hand, sustainable agriculture is “an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long term” (23). The purpose of Green Wedges is to strengthen the connection between the agricultural elements and a city’s environment, society and economy and save the farmland from urban growth. The specific demand of peri-urban agricultural system is to balance the relationship between housing development and food production. As a result, Green Wedge model is a better application that contributes to a sustainable future in peri-urban areas.



‘Permaculture’ was proposed by Bill Mollison in the middle 1970’s, and refers to “Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision local” (24).  The permaculture system not only minimises energy requirements, but also establishes a low requirement for maintenance because it is self-fertilizing, self-watering, self-mulching, self-pollinating, self-healing and highly resistant to pests. The Permaculture principle has been widely used in Green Wedges, which includes allotments, city farms and community gardens, school and private gardens, eco-village farms and urban-rural interactions (25).

According to Semenov’s research (26), Cuba drastically changed its industrial agricultural system applying permaculture principles and became self-sufficient in the past twenty years. After the collapse of the Soviet Block in 1989, Cuba lost 75% of its petrol supply and 78% of its chemical supply, which limited the use of industrial farming equipment, and broke the distribution chain that was needed to deliver food to the markets. As a result, the Cuban government applied permaculture principles to rebuild the relationship between farming activities and people lives. They believed that food production infrastructure could be woven into the residents’ lives, with interventions that range in size from backyard organic gardens to large peri-urban farms. By the year 2000, urban agriculture in Havana covered 12% of the city’s land, provided 70% of city residents’ vegetable requirement with the local residents. He claims that Havana has become an exemplary model of sustainable agriculture, a precedent that demonstrates both the opportunities and challenges for the transference of urban and peri-urban agriculture to other regions. 

In summary, permaculture theory can provide a good solution for the integration of nature, people and agriculture if integrated with Green Wedge Model. If the relationship between people and agriculture takes an important role in maintaining and developing local food system in peri-urban areas, a feasible approach could be to create a farming-centred residential areas based on permaculture principles.

To evaluate the applicability of Green Wedges and permaculture principle, Special Housing Areas (SHAs) in Belmont was selected from because of its long farm history and uniquely productive soils. Belmont is located at the west side of Pukekohe, which produces a significant proportion of fruits and vegetables for Auckland and Hamilton (27). In addition to this, Auckland Council intends to make Pukekohe a satellite town that can accommodate 50,000 dwellings, majority of which on productive soils. Special Housing Areas is one of Auckland Council strategies to build more affordable and accessible housing within Rural-Urban Boundary. That means Belmont is in the process of having a large amount of its land re-zoned for housing development (28). The loss of farmland will result in the city having to import food from other regions, and will inevitably mean unsustainable food price and resources for Auckland's. As a result, the SHAs in Belmont provide an opportunity to explore ways to integrate peri urban agriculture and residential development. 



How could we build a sustainable local food system? Following the permaculture concept, it is necessary to understand and analyse needs and resources in local food system. There is a need to calculate the balance between daily food requirements and the area that can provide the same amount of food. (29) According to Barber (30), the total food energy requirement per person in New Zealand is 5.8GJ per year, and vegetables contribute 10 percent of total energy of the average household. In addition, food productivity for vegetables per square meter of garden plot per year is 0.007GJ. So if it is possible to calculate the energy demand for Belmont, we could know the way to organise the land resources between productive landscape and settlements in the community. Based on the plan from Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Auckland Order (31), 720 new dwellings will be built within 90 hectare of Belmont’s SHAs. After calculating the population and food energy requirement, it is clear that at least 17.9 hectare of the land within the site need to be protected for creating a sustainable local food system.

In 2004, the South Australian Government planned to transform Lochiel Park in suburban Campbelltown into a compact housing development set within natural parklands, which aimed to improve the connections, integration and relationships between the natural and built environment. The building development was restricted to 4.25ha within the 15ha site, which almost doubled the housing density from the Adelaide average of 13 dwellings per hectare. Meanwhile, the rest of land included over 10 hectares of open spaces urban forest, wetlands and a variety of recreational areas which provided education, ecological and visual amenity. The food forest and allotments in Lochiel Park were the heart of the community because they were the places where community can be outside, engage with nature, and socialised as they raised their own food and sustained their lives. Lochiel Park showed the benefits of compact urban development where greater emphasis was placed on creating a more dynamic and higher quality public and food producing space, which facilitated more frequent interaction with neighbours and the creation of a community rather than just a collection of houses (32).

Based on experience from Lochiel Park, the building areas in Belmont’s SHAs could be restricted to 30.6 hectare within 90 hectare site, which double the housing density from Belmont average of 13 dwellings per hectare. And the rest of land will include over 40 ha of open space for recreation, education and biodiversity, which aim to build a strong relationship between nature and residents. Therefore, it is possible to build a sustainable agricultural system with compact housing development in SHAs of Belmont. 



In summary, the existence of agricultural system in Auckland is suffering huge challenges from urban growth and climate change, peri-urban agriculture will certainly play a more important role in Auckland food system. In order to build a sustainable food system, it is necessary to transform fossil fuel based agricultural system into a locally-based, sustainable model which emphasises the connections between agriculture and residents. With the help of Green wedge model and permaculture principle, a farming-centred residential development will harmonise with peripheral urban growth and lead to a new agricultural revolution. A further study will focus on how to make the local food system integrates with the local society, ecology and economy in SHAs of Belmont.


(1) Auckland City Council. (2015). The Auckland plan. Auckland. New Zealand: Author

(2) Solely, C. (2013). An investor’s guide to the New Zealand food & beverage industry 2013.New Zealand. Ministry of Business innovation
&Employment. Retrieved from stors_guide_2013.pdf

(3) The Department of the Lands and Survey Wellington. (1977). Peri-Urban agriculture in the context of regional development. Wellington, New Zealand: Author

(4) Allison, O. (2014). Urban sprawl threaten food basket. Retrieved from food-basket

(5) Komirenko, Z. (2008). Urban and peri-uban agriculture in Kyiv (Ukraine): ”Crisis induced strategy” versus recreational resource. Retrieved from

(6) Acres, B. (2010). Opportunities for food systems planning in New Zealand. (Master’s thesis). The University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Retrieved from 0MPlan%20Thesis.pdf?sequence=1

(7) Auckland City Council. (2014). Low carbon Auckland. Auckland. New Zealand: Author

(8) Auckland City Council. (2014). 

(9) Acres, B. (2010).

(10) Cooper, M., Manhire, J., Dann, C., Reider, R., Morris, M., & Rosin, C. (2012) New Zealand organic market report 2012. Organics Aotearoa New Zealand. Retrieved from full%20report%202012.pdf

(11) Cooper, & Manhire, et al. (2012).

(12) Piorr, A., Ravetz, J., & Tosics, I. (2012). Peri-urbanization Europe towards European policies to sustain urban-rural futures. Copenhagen: LIFE Coordinator of PLURE. Retrieved from

(13) Acres, B. (2010).

(14) Auckland City Council. (2014).

(15) Semenov, M. (2011). From garden city donut to an integrated landscape; an analysis of the garden city movement’s Influence on urban and peri-urban farming. Retrieved from donut

(16) Rowe, J. E. (2012). Greenbelts. Journal of Urban Policy and Research, 30(1), 77-79. DOI:10.1080/08111146.2012.654757

(17) Rowe, J.E. (2012). 

(18) Aguado, I., Barrutia, J.M., & Echebarria, C. (2013). The green belt of Vitoria-Gasteiz. A successful practice for sustainable urban planning. Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles, 61(1), 181-193. Retrieved from

(19) Arbury, J. (2005). From urban sprawl to compact city: an analysis of urban growth management in Auckland (Doctoral dissertation). The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from content/uploads/2011/05/thesis.pdf

(20) Arbury, J. (2005).

(21) Lepine, M., Scott, J., & Leung, E. (2004). Earth Care, People Care, Fair Shares: Rural and Urban Permaculture in the Context of Danish Society. (Doctoral dissertation). The Royal Agricultural and Veterinary University, Danish. Retrieved from re_in_the_Context_of_Danish_Society.pdf

(22) Arbury, J. (2005).

(23) Government Printing Office. (1990). Food, agriculture, conservation and trade act of 1990. Washington, DC, USA. Retrieved from and-trade-act-of-1990

(24) Holmgren, D. (2002). Essential of permaculture. Retrieved from content/uploads/2013/02/Essence_of_Pc_EN.pdf

(25) Lepine, & Scott, et al. (2004).

(26) Semenov, M. (2011). 

(27) Franklin Local Board. (2014). Pukekohe area plan. Retrieved from reaplans/Documents/pukekoheareaplan.pdf

(28) Allison, O. (2014).

(29) Holmgren, D. (2002).

(30) Lepine, & Scott, et al. (2004).

(31) Mateparae, J. (2013). Housing accords and special housing areas (Auckland) order 2013. Retrieved from 6.html

(32) Renew SA. (2014). RSA Corporate brochure Lochiel Park. Retrieved from


Figure 1: (33) Auckland City Council. (2015). The Auckland plan. Auckland. New Zealand: Author

Figure 2: (34) Holly, H. (2012). Gearing up for the 2012 landscape urban forum. Retrieved from

What is Bottom-Up Design?

Fiona Ting & Peter Griffiths




There is a substantial body of research that points to energy descent (1,2,3,4,5). In lieu of this, other significantly different forces could drive a number of changes to current thinking in landscape architecture. Examples of these include local food production, community-driven design, and localised wastewater management.  While most landscape practice continues to be implemented through top-down process, for example, council driven city projects such as the shared space upgrades to Fort Street in Auckland, in general the theory on this subject suggests bottom-up design as an alternative approach that could address this emerging future in ways more relevant to end users (6). While landscape architects have begun to grapple with these issues, for example, Chris Reed of Stoss and James Corner of Field Operations, there seems to be a ‘gap’ between theory and practice in the discipline. Through a research by design process a number of principles that describe characteristics of bottom up design have been discovered.  These are explained in the text and conclusions are drawn with regard to their possible use in landscape practice.




Over the past three decades there has been a shift in understandings of ecological systems, and consequently, the paradigm in which landscape architecture is understood (7). Sometimes referred to as the new ecology, this new paradigm has emerged from an array of interrelating fields such as systems theory, complexity science, ecological science and the humanities. In landscape and ecological theory it is noted that ecological systems are complex, open, non-linear and exhibit emergent or bottom-up behaviour. While landscape theory has adopted this new understanding of complex systems, in particular the concept of emergence, what this means for landscape practice is much less widely understood.

Emergence is a characteristic of complex systems and can be described as the result of a system and its many interacting parts self-organising to produce novel and unpredictable behaviour, which can “have the effect of either transforming it or producing some completely new system” (8). Another way of framing emergent behaviour is ‘bottom-up’. If complex systems evolve by emergent adaptations, it could be argued that the best bet for intervening in a system is by leveraging this bottom-up behaviour.



The landscape theory suggests a real enthusiasm and drive for bottom-up design methods, with some emphasising the need for implementation (9) and learning by interacting directly in the system. As Jane Woolf writes, “Though design professionals and scholars have made a wide range of interesting proposals that capitalise on landscapes’ fluctuating tendencies, there has been much less conversation about the challenge of implementing such ideas” (10). Facing a chicken/egg scenario, designers want to know how to ‘do’ bottom-up design before doing it, however perhaps the best way to learn a practice is by doing (11). As a response, the author has investigated what a bottom-up design method is, what its implications are and how to do it, using a research by design process elucidating findings by iteration, experimentation and doing through drawing.



In this section, it is argued that there are a number of reasons underlying the ‘gap’ between landscape theory and practice, which are explained using five overlapping frameworks for understanding bottom-up design in landscape architecture.  The purpose of these frameworks is to challenge landscape architects and designers to critically question and understand the assumptions and context they work from and within. These frameworks are:

  • Complex vs. Complicated Systems;
  • Top-down Thinking, Bottom-up Action;
  • Reform, Revolution and Emergent
  • Social Design; and
  • Agency of the Designer 



While landscape theory has adopted complex systems as a way of understanding the landscape, there is little acknowledgement of other types of systems that behave in vastly different ways, and enable a more thorough understanding of complexity as comparison. The Cynefin framework (12) is an incredibly clear conceptualisation of the different types of systems, which include complex, complicated, simple and chaotic systems. Each of these exhibits different behaviour, and necessitates a different practice for effectively interacting with the system. A complex system, for example, cannot be fully understood and relationships between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect. This means designers must interact directly in or probe the system, learning and responding as you go. A complicated challenge by comparison, as Zaid Hassan emphasises, is one in which “the problem and the solution are clearly defined… confusing adaptive, or complex challenges with technical [or complicated] challenges is a classic error” (13).

The design projects that follow on from the landscape theory on bottom-up design often fall into this trap of treating the landscape as a complicated phenomenon that can be understood and controlled, rather than a complex system that can only ever be influenced and directed. A planning approach to design regularly mistakes emergent behaviour for complicated ‘problems’ to be ‘fixed’ with more policy, planning or prediction. In actuality, emergent behaviour is an unavoidable characteristic of complex systems, and it is more dangerous to ignore this reality or try to predict or prevent this behaviour than to respond to it as it arises (14).



The framework of ‘top-down thinking, bottom-up action’, a restatement of ‘think global, act local’ in systems terms (15), provides another way of understanding this gap between theory and practice. Top down thinking is characterised by an ability to step back and view a system as a whole, prioritising connections rather than breaking the system down into smaller and smaller components in order to understand it. When combined with top-down thinking, bottom-up action is not acting without context; it is based on an understanding of the whole and utilising ‘leverage points’, where small-scale changes can influence the larger systems in which they are a part. 

While landscape architects have a long history of top-down thinking, the framework within which the profession practices, and the viability of many if not most landscape architectural projects is firmly rooted in top-down action for “validity, funding and implementation”. (16) Top-down action that relies on governmental or corporate buy-in and funding is inherently compromised, and the road from planning to implementation is long and full of surprise dead-ends. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that even when large-scale actions are achieved, such as policy change or large conservation projects, these actions can have limited effects or equally large-scale, unintended and problematic consequences on the system as a whole (17,18,19). This limitation is expanded on further in the following section.



The Reform-Revolution-Emergent framework offers a useful conceptualisation for understanding how designers and landscape architects engage in complex socio-ecological systems or landscapes. When framed in this way, it becomes easy to recognise that landscape architecture as a method for societal transformation typically engages in complex systems by trying to ‘Reform’ the status quo – be it through public policy or through the upgrading of an existing streetscape.

The emergent approach to social transformation is analogous to bottom-up action. Where there is scepticism from top-down governmental and funding bodies (and some landscape architects themselves) around trying a new methodology, especially one that is rooted in experimentation and relinquishing control, bottom-up movements such as tactical urbanism and social innovation (20) are dedicated to using experimentation to create new parallel ways of practice. As Buckminster Fuller famously said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”. (21)  While landscape practice is mostly concerned with the reform of existing systems (such as transport, green infrastructure and public space), deep change in this context comes slowly, if at all. The Reform-Revolution-Emergent framework firmly places emergent and bottom-up action as the most effective way to bring about systemic change.



The landscape theory around emergence and bottom-up design speaks at length in relation to ecological systems, referencing biological concepts and natural processes such as succession (22)  and morphogenesis (23). Some literature extends and applies this understanding to social systems, and points to the need for a bottom-up approach which accounts for social processes in landscapes, rather than just ecological. However there has been distinctly less engagement with bottom-up design in highly urban and social contexts, both in theory and practice. This is reflected in the projects that have engaged with bottom up design, particularly at a large scale, which have been more successful when concerned with ecological processes. (24) On the other hand there are projects that may have fully intended to engage in urban challenges in a bottom-up manner but lacked the social design tools for successful implementation. Such projects range from the local and current, such as Kai Auckland (25), and the international and past, such as the Koolhaas/OMA Downsview Park proposal Tree City (26).

Typically, the social processes which landscape practice has engaged with have been those that are outward and visible manifestations of an already-built urban realm. These include, how people use space (most often this refers to recreationally but can include a “wide range of social and cultural functions, from annual festivals to casual encounters” (27), how people and vehicles move through space, and how long people stay in the space. However, the emergent and bottom-up processes that contribute to urban space are also those deeply concerned with the creation of place, not just the use of it. Participatory design has perhaps emerged in recent times to address this niche.

Designers under the broad movement of Tactical Urbanism have perhaps had the most success in employing bottom-up participatory design in the urban realm, however this has often been limited to a small scale, such as the block or the street. Conversely, where top-down organisations have co-opted the incremental method of bottom-up design for large-scale projects, the final outcome is generally business-as-usual. This can be exhibited by the permanent redesign for the trial-based pedestrianisation of Times Square, New York, which has just concluded its $55 million reconstruction.  

The framework of social design offers a more focussed and ambitious lens for understanding how designers might engage with the more fundamental social processes which create landscapes.



The frameworks of Complex vs. Complicated Systems; Top-down Thinking, Bottom-up Action; Reform, Revolution and Emergent; and Social Design all contribute to a metanarrative about the level of agency a designer holds. It goes beyond the willingness of the designer to let go of what the built outcome might look like, or to ‘compromise’ their expertise by enabling community participation. From ideas of complexity to emergence to scale, all subvert the post-Enlightenment ideology of humans as historical change-agents (28). Confronting this paradigm requires accepting the limits of human design, and it is only then, paradoxically, that designers can wield bottom-up design as a tool for change.



Bottom up design can be explored through doing or drawing.  In order to do this one must first be concerned with the idea that the re-making of landscapes is entwined with the perception of where we live.  Every landscape has existing relationships embedded within it.  And every project has a set of, for want of a better word, criteria associated with it.  Doing and drawing require us, as designers, to configure these relationships with a projects criteria in some way.  The act of ‘doing’ this allows for unexpected events to occur. With an inquisitive, drawn (29), and designed focus, thoughtful and responsive landscapes may emerge that strengthen bonds between people and place.

A series of sites within the Mt Roskill suburb in Auckland, New Zealand are utilised as testing grounds for a bottom-up approach to the implementation of some existing community projects.  From this investigation, a set of principles has been formulated by the author which underpin bottom-up design.  It is important to note that, through design, the outcome of this project has been an interrogation of a bottom-up approach rather than a designed outcome, although this is a by-product of the research.



  • Bottom-up design occurs over time, with implementation and then feedback being key stages of the design process, not end goals
  • Bottom-up design thrives off change and uncertainty, working in partnership with forces that will inevitably shape a project in unpredictable ways
  • Bottom-up design is inclusive of the people directly affected by the challenges it is seeking to address
  • Bottom-up design is concerned with building social capital
  • Bottom-up design utilises the small scale
  • Bottom-up design is visionary
  • The following section will elaborate on each of these principles, referring to knowledge that has come out of fields such as landscape theory, complexity science, systems theory, ecological science and design theory



Bottom-up design occurs over time, with implementation and feedback being key stages of the design process, not end goals.

Designing with time is a little different from designing in space. The design thinker has to be comfortable moving along both of these axes” (30).

In recent times, understandings of design have coalesced around a concept that can be loosely described as iterative design. This can be observed in the rise of various overlapping design movements such as design-thinking, human-centred design, tactical urbanism, social labs, action-research, and research-by-design.

While some of these terms and movements have gained traction relatively recently, the process of iterative design itself is far from new. For millennia, communities have employed iterative design in shaping their world, with some fantastic urban realm examples having been charted by Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia in Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change (31). Beyond human communities, iterative and bottom-up design can be observed in ‘natural’ or non-human systems such as the ecological systems dealt with in landscape architecture.



Bottom-up design thrives off change and uncertainty, working in partnership with forces that will inevitably shape a project in unpredictable ways. 

There are no cheap tickets to mastery. You have to work at it, whether that means rigorously analysing a system or rigorously casting off your own paradigms and throwing yourself into the humility of Not Knowing. In the end, it seems that power has less to do with pushing leverage points than it does with strategically, profoundly, madly letting go” (32).

Where a planning-based approach views emergent behaviour as ‘problems’ to be ‘fixed’, a bottom-up design process feeds off change and uncertainty. As bottom-up design is a process, which occurs over time, the design outcomes therefore hold the capacity to respond, adapt and strengthen over time.

This process is facilitated by emergent ‘events’, which force the designer(s) to respond in ways that could not have been predicted before the event occurred. This general type of design process has been described as adaptive ecological design, adaptive management and designed experiments (33). Many if not most of these approaches are derived from resilience theory, either directly or indirectly (34).

To understand this using a landscape example of an emergent ‘event’: a flood (which is often utilised in explaining resilience theory). If a community garden experiences a flood event, damaging or destroying intensive garden beds, a bottom-up design process could respond in any number of ways. The community may choose to build raised bed structures in the affected areas to mitigate any future flooding. They may choose to reconfigure the garden beds using small cut and fill operations, moving the intensive garden beds to higher ground, and converting the affected area into informal infiltration areas, planting species adapted to wet conditions, such as banana or taro. The community may look further up the catchment where a swale could be implemented. Or there may be a need for storm water devices with larger holding capacity, which could require the community to look at responses at scale. This might include looking at the origin of the overland flow paths and responding at the source.

In a bottom-up design process, what the flood event facilitates is not a more robust design outcome, as this would mean a garden that resists future flooding to a high degree. It is not a more resilient design outcome, as this would translate to a garden that is capable of bouncing back to its original state after a flood. In a bottom-up design process, what actually happens is that the garden changes state and benefits from the flood event.



Bottom-up design is inclusive of the people directly affected by the challenges it is seeking to address.

The theory and practice of participatory design has gained traction in planning and design disciplines. This can be understood as an emergent response to the failing of urban planning and design practice to address social issues in an adequate manner. In particular, the planning-based approach generally does not take an inclusive approach in the design and implementation of solutions to urban challenges (35). Joi Ito states, “the only way these solutions work is when they’re developed in partnership with the people actually affected by these problems” (36). 

This has driven the need for a new practice that goes ‘beyond consultation’; one that recognises and values people as active participants in their urban and public realm.

In a normative civic project there is normally the need to engage in a consultation process; the designer is often required to ‘tick the box’ that shows that a consultation process has been undertaken. In a bottom-up approach this engagement between interested and affected parties is what drives design decisions. This attribute is described by Tim Brown who states that, “Society needs a new approach to innovation that aligns the needs of human beings and the natural world”.  “Design thinking which builds on the ways designers conceptualize their work, can provide that approach, and it is not limited to designers” (37).

To fulfil this principle of bottom-up design, social design skills such as communication, facilitation, mediation and organisational ability demand a place in the landscape architect’s toolbox. Designers perhaps need to learn to relinquish control of what the built outcome looks like, and instead focus energy and skills on how to seed, manage and measure the social processes by which the built outcomes are generated.



Bottom-up design is concerned with building social capital.

Adjacent to the participatory design movement, there has also been a rise in theory and understandings of social capital (38), and how this concept can influence and direct urban planning and design practice (39). There is a growing appreciation of the role social capital plays in all communities. While landscape architecture has a long history of exploring the connections between people and their places, social capital provides one of the most coherent frameworks for understanding the importance of community’s role in the creation of places.

In Understanding the Social Dimension of Sustainability, authors Dillard, Dujon and King describe the social aspect of sustainability, in part, as: “the processes that generate social health and well-being now and in the future” (40). They go on to explain, “the processes are both a means to, and an end of, social sustainability. Indeed, for the social aspect of sustainability in particular, processes may often be more important than outcomes” (41). 

This can be understood by using a landscape example of a project for social sustainability, such as a neighbourhood traffic calming project. A guerrilla traffic calming project achieved by a community engaged in a participatory design process (i.e. bottom-up design) may be far more socially sustainable than ‘best practice’ traffic calming measures designed and implemented from the top-down.

Social capital offers a way of qualifying the difference between these two processes, which both achieve a traffic calming outcome. One of these processes builds social capital, while the other does not. A bottom-up design process builds the capacity for community to work together, and in doing so reinforces the pattern for future projects to be accomplished in the same manner. This example makes clear that the process of building social capital is perhaps more important the traffic calming outcome itself.



Bottom-up design utilises the small scale.

There have been a number of theorists to discuss the role of scale in urbanism, though it is often viewed only through the lens of physical scale, and not organisational scale. Where New Urbanism critiques the vast scale produced by modernist planning, often referencing a loss of “human scale”(42), landscape urbanism seems to argue for a full immersion into the complex, large-scale ‘megaproject’ nature of our cities today, with the critique placed more on the false dichotomy of ‘landscape’ and ‘urbanism’ (43). While New Urbanism heavily attributes the scale of cities to the age of the automobile, both movements seem to be less concerned with the broader impact of the age of cheap energy on the scale and nature of today’s cities (44). Bottom-up design is concerned with the question: how will both the physical and organisational scale of cities adapt to a changing age of energy availability?



Bottom-up design is visionary.

It is accepted that large-scale, top-down projects will always face constraints. Most often the constraints restrict a project to operating within the current (business-as-usual) paradigm. This often results in a project perpetuating the current paradigm, rather than offering solutions which challenge the status quo. 

Such top-down projects may or may not begin with a strong vision, however it is without question that because they are dependent on governmental or corporate buy-in and funding they are inherently compromised, sometimes due to vested interests in maintaining the status quo. 

Rather than trying to implement a top-down solution that by its very nature must operate within the current business-as-usual constraints, bottom-up design starts with a vision – and takes adaptive, incremental but sure steps towards that vision. Bottom-up design is nimble and flexible enough to work on the fringe of what is currently acceptable and what will be the new norm as large scale forces continue to change around us.

Vision is a powerful and necessary element to bottom-up design. Donella Meadows, one the world’s foremost systems analysts, articulates,

In my experience that path is NEVER clear at first. It only reveals itself, step by step, as I walk along it. It often surprises me, because my computer and mental models are inadequate to the complexities and possibilities of the world. Holding to the vision and being flexible about the path is the only way to find the path.”



While the principles and the conclusions that follow read in a sequential manner, with each building off the one before it, in actuality there are innumerable accounts of overlapping, interconnecting and reinforcing; such is the nature of complexity. As the sections ‘An Emerging Practice’ and ‘Bottom-up Design in Landscape Architecture’ posited, the larger context within which landscape architecture operates is changing rapidly. It is important to note that the section ‘What is Bottom-up Design’ highlights just a few of the understandings and practices that have emerged to fill the new niches that are opening the way for a bottom-up approach. These include:

Designers need to interact directly in the complex systems in which they are trying to affect change. This means designing by doing, rather than by planning. Designers must again adopt iteration and experimentation as the primary means of designing in the urban realm, as it has historically existed up until the most recent 100 years of the planning paradigm. Designers need to discard assumptions and predictions about the landscapes they are working within, and instead adopt a learning-by-doing approach to finding things out about a landscape. These localized findings can inform further interaction and intervention in a landscape and it’s comprising and encompassing complex systems.

Within this process of iterative and experimental design that occurs over time, designers will need to work within a context of change and uncertainty, using this to their advantage. Rather than a robust practice which would merely cope in the face of uncertainty, and rather than a resilient practice which would only bounce back to a previous state after unexpected events, a bottom-up practice welcomes uncertainty into its toolbox. Any unexpected events must be treated as opportunities and in turn be interpreted as the emergent ‘existing landscape conditions’ which form the basis of the analysis phase that is so fundamental to landscape architecture practice. Beyond offering opportunities for learning about and reading a landscape, the opportunities for design are also expanded by uncertainty (not reduced, as a planning approach would interpret it). Rather than a practice that tries to ignore or prevent emergent behavior, bottom-up design enables unexpected events to become opportunities for coming together to learn, design, build social capital and grow stronger overall.

Designers need to engage in the social processes that create the urban realm, rather than those which are outward and visible manifestations of an already-built urban realm. This has to happen not necessarily at the policy level, but at the fundamental and most systemic level of behaviours, attitudes and values. This can be achieved by coming together and working with the people who are most affected by the urban challenges designers are trying to address.

Social capital is both a necessary ingredient for and a product of working in this inclusive, bottom-up manner. The building of social capital then becomes a primary goal for designers, with the resulting capital feeding back into future projects.

Social capital is built primarily at the peer-to-peer level, which points to a certain (small) scale of urbanism which designers need to engage with.

The small-scale character of bottom-up design both allows for and is a manifestation of a practice that pushes the boundaries of the status quo. A visionary, nimble, and flexible practice is one that will be able to navigate an emergent future, at the fringe of our current business-as-usual paradigm.


(1) Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse. London, UK: Penguin.

(2) Meadows, D., Meadows, D., Randers, J., & Behrens, W. (1972). The limits to growth. New York, NY: Universe Books.

(3) Greer, J. M. (2008). The long descent: A users guide to the end of the industrial age. British Columbia: New Society Publishers.

(4) Tainter, J. (1990). The Collapse of Complex Societies. London: Cambridge University Press.

(5) Post Carbon Institute. (2015, January 21). Our renewable future: Or, what I’ve learned in 12 years writing about energy. Retrieved from

(6) Smith, K., & Amidon, J. (2006) Ken Smith Landscape Architect Urban Projects, Princeton Architectural Press

(7) Reed, C., & Lister, N-M. (2014). Ecology and design: Parallel genealogies. Places Journal. Retrieved from

(8) Holmgren, D. (2002). Permaculture: Principles & pathways beyond sustainability. Victoria, Australia: Holmgren Design Services.

(9) Barnett, R. (2007). Review: “The Landscape Urbanism Reader” by Charles Waldheim (ed.), New York: Princeton Architectural Press (2006). Junctures, 8. Retrieved from

(10) Wolff, J. (2014). Cultural landscapes and dyanamic ecologies: lessons from New Orleans. In Reed, C. & Lister, N-M (Eds.), Projective Ecologies (pp. 184-203). New York, NY: Actar and Harvard Graduate School of Design.

(11) In the case of a landscape architectural investigation design thinking and testing is carried out through drawing

(12) Youtube. (2010). The Cynefin framework. Retrieved from

(13) Hassan, Z. (2014). The social labs revolution: New approaches to solving our most complex challenges. San Fransisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

(14) Taleb, N. (2007). The black swan: The impact of the highly improbable. New York: Random House

(15) Holmgren, D. (2002). Permaculture: Principles & pathways beyond sustainability. Victoria, Australia: Holmgren Design Services.

(16) Allan, J., & Marshall, G. (2013). Sustainability in the Public Realm. xsection Journal, 1(3), 14-17. 

(17) Meadows, D. H. (1999). Leverage points: Places to intervene in a system. Hartland, VT: The Sustainability Institute.

(18) The Conversation. (2011). Why tech fixes - even when they’re ‘green’ - can make matters worse. Retrieved from

(19) Grist. (2011). Jevons paradox: When doing more with less isn’t enough. Retrieved from

(20) Camponeschi, C. (2013). The enabling city: Placed-based creative problem-solving and the power of the everyday. Toronto, Canada: York University. Excerpt: “’Creative communities’ guru Ezio Manzini explains, the term refers to shifts in the way individuals or communities act to solve a problem and generate new opportunities. Here, then, innovation is intended as a catalyst for social change – a collaborative process through which citizens can be directly involved in shaping the way a project, policy, or service is created and delivered”.

(21) The Buckminster Fuller Institute. (n.d.). GreenWave. Retrieved from

(22) Desimini, J. (2013). Wild innovation: Stoss in Detroit. Scenario Journal, 3. Retrieved from

(23) Rod Barnett. (2013). The ten point guides to emergence. Retrieved from

(24) See the highly publicized projects such as Detroit Future City and Fresh Kills, by Chris Reed (Stoss LU) and James Corner (Field Operations), respectively.

(25) Kai Auckland is engaging Resilio Studio for its next phase, in order to address the challenge of the lack of traction it has gained as a ‘bottom-up movement’ facilitated by a top-down governmental organisation.

(26) Rod Barnett. (2013). The ten point guides to emergence. Retrieved from Here Barnett describes the main challenge with the Mau/Koolhaus Tree City proposal and the approach to bottom-up design that was taken, which ultimately led to its abandonment part-way through implementation

(27) Barnett, R. (2007). Review: “The Landscape Urbanism Reader” by Charles Waldheim (ed.), New York: Princeton Architectural Press (2006). Junctures, 8. Retrieved from

(28) Transition Milwaukee. (2014, January 17). Agency on demand? Holmgren, Hopkins, and the historical problem of agency. Retrieved from

(29) Drawing in this sense is different to a normative practice because its focus is on exploration rather than problem solving, e.g. a normative design process involves drawings that display information (survey, analysis, design) drawing in this sense is more diagrammatic and is used as a tool to gain information on how things work.

(30) Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: how design thinking transforms organisations and inspires innovation. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

(31) Lydon, M., & Garcia, L. (2015). Tactical urbanism: Short-term action for long-term change. Washington DC: Island Press.

(32) Meadows, D. H. (1999). Leverage points: Places to intervene in a system. Hartland, VT: The Sustainability Institute.

(33) Lister, N-M. (2007). Sustainable large parks: Ecological design or designer ecology? In J. Czerniak & G. Hargreaves (Eds.), Large Parks (pp. 31-51). New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press.

(34) Ibid.

(35) Ferguson, G., Dakers, A., & Gunn, I. (2003). Sustainable wastewater management: A handbook for smaller communities. Auckland, NZ: Ministry for the Environment [MFE]. This handbook for communities summarises low levels of community involvement are generally accounted for in a council-driven process.

(36) Hassan, Z. (2014). The social labs revolution: New approaches to solving our most complex challenges. San Fransisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

(37) Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: how design thinking transforms organisations and inspires innovation. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

(38) Harvard Kennedy School - Saguaro Seminar. (2014). About social capital. Retrieved from Refer for a short definition of social capital.

(39) Allan, P. & Bryant, M. (2011). Resilience as a framework for urbanism and recovery. Journal of Landscape Architecture, 6:2, 34-45. As one example, this article speaks to the relationship between social capital, resilience and recovery in the context of urbanism.

(40) Dillard, J., Dujon, V. & King, M. (2009). Understanding the Social Dimension of Sustainability. In Heinberg, R. & Lerch, D (Eds.). (2010). The post carbon reader: Managing the 21st century’s sustainability crises. Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media.

(41) Ibid.

(42) Congress for New Urbanism. (2015). Sustainable street principles. Transportation networks. Retrieved from

(43) Lister, N-M. (2010) Insurgent ecologies: (Re) claiming ground in landscape and urbanism. In M. Mostafavi & G. Doherty (Eds.), Ecological Urbanism (pp. 524-535) Zurich, Switzerland: Lars Müller Publishers.

(44) Resilience. (2014) Want to change the world? Read this first. Retrieved from

The emergence of a green network for a future regional Auckland

Xinxin Wang & Matthew Bradbury




This paper discusses how a green network for regional Auckland could emerge from a close study of both the ecological and social forces at work in contemporary New Zealand urbanism. The paper begins by reviewing the importance of a green network in the shaping of a regional city structure and maintaining the Auckland lifestyle. The authors develop a methodology based on two sets of criteria; environmental and social. Three case studies are developed, ranging in scale from the regional through to the local to test the design methodology. The paper concludes by suggesting that by guiding the emergence of a green network in the greater Auckland Region, the growing population will gain both a new enlarged public realm and ensure the continuation of the existing Auckland lifestyle.



Compared with other major cities in the world, Auckland has a unique urban-nature relationship and a high quality lifestyle. One of the most distinctive features of Auckland is the balanced interaction between the urban and natural environments, that is manifested as decentralised urban districts integrated with a large range of green parks. (1, 2) Another element of Auckland’s identity is the traditional kiwi lifestyle, characterised by separate dwellings with their own gardens. Although Auckland has some serious urban challenges to face, including high house prices and worsening traffic congestion, the current green network of parks provides Auckland's a high quality urban life with relatively limited crowding, minimal pollution (in comparison to many cities, especially in the Asia region), scenic beauty and easy access to outdoor spaces.

However, the increasing population and on-going urban expansion is challenging these advantages. Firstly, Auckland’s population is expected to grow significantly in the mid-term. According to the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan, the city’s population will grow from the current 1.4 million people to 2.4 million by 2040. (3) This will cause more pressure on both environmental and urban structures. Secondly, the continuing urbanisation process may continue to 2100. (4) This will mean that Auckland and its surrounding towns will keep growing after the current proposed Auckland Unitary Plan expires, which could potentially result in greater pressure on existing green spaces. These spaces are both public land such as parks and private land like farms and forestry. They are located both within the proposed RUB and outside, within the greater Auckland region. 

Recent research has shown that cities and towns in the upper North Island, from Whangarei to Hamilton and Tauranga, have been growing as strongly as Auckland. (5) These regional towns and cities are expanding, getting ever closer to the boundaries of the greater Auckland city. The existing green spaces that Auckland's value so much are coming under threat from this development. An example is the recent urban growth of Pokeno. Pokeno is now a burgeoning suburban town with large milk processing factory. The traditional green farmland of the north Waikato has been subsumed by the development of an Auckland suburb. The recent sale of a large farm in Wellsford for subdivision is another example of how the traditional green spaces of the Auckland landscape are changing northward as well as southward. Given this seemly inexorable development, there is a need to urgently preserve the fragmentary existing public green space and to plan to retain and conserve private green space in the greater Auckland region, while allowing for future urban development.



The research frames these issues within a review of recent international thinking on designing green networks from an environmental and social perspective. Three themes were reviewed around the research question; the regional city form, green networks and lifestyle urbanism. 



The concept of a regional city or city-region could be described as, “the presence of a core city linked by functional ties to a hinterland”. (6) The framework of a city-region is a network of different-sized settlements. A number of urban spaces surround and related to a bigger centre city, they are hierarchized by their size, related location, and distribution of functions. (7)

The development of city region is a process of decentralisation. Peter Hall describes how a population is decentralised from cities to their suburbs, and then moved outside to smaller towns. (8) During this process, cities play the core role within larger city region. With continuous development, smaller cities and towns are incorporated into even larger ‘mega-city regions’. (9) Within the city-region context, studies of individual cities or towns are not enough to understand regional urban forms or to plan regional urban futures. To achieve this goal a whole city region has to be studied. (10)



Worldwide design practices shows that a green network is an essential element in shaping regional urban forms, in terms of providing ecological sustainability and maintaining a resilient environmental structure.(11, 12, 13, 14) A green network is made of different kinds of green space; public and private, native and exotic and of different scales, from regional parks to tiny fragments within larger urban developments. Green space also plays a critical role in enhancing the quality of individual life, especially acting as a sub-centre divider, a development direction guide, as a retrofitting tool, and as green infrastructure.(15, 16, 17, 18) Moreover, the accessibility to public green spaces, both parks and beaches, is one of the three key elements of the kiwi lifestyle, that include relatively low urban density and mixed dwelling types.



Lifestyle refers to people’s urban life quality, which could include dwelling type, transport preference, green space accessibility and convenience of services. There is a lot of research that discuss the relationship between people’s lifestyles, urban planning, and the provision of green space. However, there is not much research discussing the relationship between lifestyles and a regional cities spatial form. 

The New Zealand lifestyle is widely praised and is a key attraction for overseas people. Bogunovich and Bradbury argue that Auckland's lifestyle will affect the development of a regional urban structure. They suggest that Auckland will become the “world’s lifestyle capital”. (19) Bogunovich and Bradbury connect the regional city phenomenon and lifestyle urbanism. (20) Based on the recognition of low-rise urban development pattern along SH1, they propose an alternative vision for Auckland 2040, a 100 kilometres linear conurbation. Their speculative development plan proposes a sustainable and resilient structure for Auckland’s regional growth. The project outlined in this paper acknowledges the linear city concept, and extends it further to a 230 kilometre long city beyond Auckland regional boundaries and the current planning time frames. 


To facilitate this research, a specific methodology was developed. Through site visits, mapping and analysis, two investigations were established to guide the following design work.

The first investigation, based on environmental criteria, explores how green networks can shape a regional city’s structure in both planning process and government policy. The investigation also provides measurements and specific design techniques for the development of a green network. In order to build an ecologically and socially effective green network, the research suggested that there is a need to not only maintain existing green spaces but also to create new green spaces. Strategies to increase the size of existing reserves and to encourage ecological linkages were explored to extend potential green spaces. (21, 22, 23)

The second investigation was based on developing social criteria through an investigation of an Auckland suburb; Remuera. Remuera, a traditional Auckland suburb, was chosen as an urban development model because of its low-density character and the easy and close connection of dwellings to green space. Based on an analysis of census data and maps of Remuera, three main conditions were identified; population density, dwelling types and green space accessibility. These conditions were used as ways to help a potential urban area to emerge in a future green belt. 

Data on the selected conditions was analysed and mapped through GIS (Geographic Information System) software, one of the most powerful tools for understanding complex landscape and urban conditions. (24)



How a green network might manifest at three scales; a regional Auckland, the Warkworth-Silverdale zone and the Puhoi village, was explored as case studies to test the research proposition.



The Regional Auckland study area covered Auckland, part of Northland, the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. The study particularly focusing on a 10km buffer zone along SH1. This is the area identified by Bogunovich and Bradbury as being the infrastructure spine of a new linear regional city. As well as the main transport corridor, this route also contains other essential infrastructural services; the national electrical grid, main gas pipes and potable water. Infrastructure drives contemporary urbanism, the location of these services again emphasises the inevitability of urban development along this corridor. With this urban growth also comes the desirability of an established green network of public spaces for the recreation of the new citizens and to impede the tendency for sprawl. The study found that existing green spaces along the corridor, including public conservation sites, native forests and water bodies, where limited and fragmented, it would be difficult to link them into a contiguous ecological network. However through a GIS analysis, a large number of private green spaces were recognized as having the potential for extending the existing public green network These areas are characterised as; exotic forests, steep land, flood plains and rivers and streams.  The research suggested that a regional green network could be established in the greater Auckland region by purchasing or encouraging the gifting of private land, and developing a revegetation process in conjunction with the repairing and regenerating the existing public green spaces. From Whangarei to Hamilton, six green networks were identified as buffers between future urban developments.



Because of the dual nature of the proposed green network, both as an ecological corridor and as a constraint on urban sprawl, the term green belt was introduced. The idea of the green belt, a park network around an urban settlement, is a well-known trope in 19th century urban planning. Six greenbelts are proposed, these would become a new green network along either side of the SH1. Five of the new greenbelts would be forest parks, and one would be a water park. Through a purchase and revegetation programme, the suggested green belts could expand to two or three times their current size. The largest proposed green belt would provide a green network from Warkworth to Silverdale, which would be nearly 15km along SH1. The shortest green belt would be made up of existing parks from Silverdale to Auckland, with a length of about 2.7km. The water green belt would be located from Tuakau to Huntly, including Lake Whangape, Lake Waikare and a small amount of forest. The location of the green belts are;

  • Green Belt A, Waipu Gorge Forest and the Bynderwyn Hills.
  • Green Belt B. Sunnybrook Reserve and the Dome Valley.
  • Green Belt C, Pohuehue Reserve and Nukumea Reserve.
  • Green Belt D. Coatsville Reserve and the Long Bay –Okura Marine Reserve.
  • Green Belt E. Lake Whangape and Lake Waikare.
  • Green Belt F. Taupiri Range and the Hakarimata Range.
  • (See the Green Network Plan for details)



From the regional green network analysis, a greenbelt in the Warkworth-Silverdale area was identified (see the Warkworth-Silverdale Greenbelt Plan for details). In addition to the green space criteria developed from the first case study, another set of green space design strategies were used to shape an ecologically effectively green network. The key strategies used in this case study include; buffering existing green spaces, re vegetating potential green spaces, planting existing river/road corridors, and rezoning land use 

The research suggested that through a carefully designed purchase process over 20 years, a public green space network could be built along the Puhoi Valley, located in the middle of the W/S greenbelt. This public park would be about 10 km long, adjacent to the Puhoi River and connecting the hinterland with the coast. Through the installation of camping grounds, walkways, recreation sites and car parks in the new park more social opportunities would be made available as well as improving the ecological value of the site. The W/S green network would provide more space for both native species and human social activities.

This case study suggests that through careful purchasing, gifting and a revegetation process, more land could be converted for use as public green spaces. For example, potential land for a green network, such as land with excessive slopes or land that could flood is not valuable. By using a GIS based planning methodology, critical sites can become identified and either purchased or landowner can be helped to gift the land. This makes the creation of a future green network more cost effective than buying the land in the future. An example of land that has been gifted by private land owners recently in the Auckland region is the 196 hectares of the Mangawhai North Forest gifted for a conservation reserve in 2014. The land included beach frontage, wetlands and dunes, and the Te Arai Stream. This gift, part of a property development deal, will combine with existing DoC and Council owned reserves to make up over 500 hectares of contiguous public coastal land south of Mangawhai.


The Puhoi village case study focuses on a smaller scale project to show how urban development could emerge within a proposed greenbelt. Social conditions from the Remuera study were used to generate urban and landscape strategies for Puhoi’s future structure. Important conditions included: allowing for an average population density of about 40-60 people/ha; determining the proportion of single houses to flat/apartments of around 7 to 3; allowing a maximum distance from each house to an adjacent green space of about 500m. Through the modelling of these unfolding conditions north of the Old Town, the research suggested that the population in Puhoi could increase 4 fold while maintaining the historic town centre. 

Through a continuation of the environmental strategies developed in the large scale modelling; a new green space for the town was identified on the north side of the Puhoi River. This new green space would not only enhance the existing native environment, but would also make a strong connections between the historic town and the new town. Based on the existing topography and hydrological networks three green corridors would emerge across the new urban zone, linking the northern green space to the southern green belt. The design of residential gardens would be considered as a core element to be surrounded by new building clusters. Pathways instead of roads have priority to connect houses to gardens and parks (see the Puhoi Master plan for details).

The emerging urban /landscape strategy for Puhoi suggests that a new town could develop with the construction of a green network. The new green space and ecological corridors would not only support a high quality built environment, but would also ensure a good quality of life with easy access to the native environment.



Given the current and future pressures on the greater Auckland region, the preservation and expansion of the current regional green space network would provide an important way to protect both the regions high quality environment and important lifestyle. Research findings from this project suggested that an enhanced and enlarged green network would not only offer the growing population of Auckland a new regional green network but could also provide more desirable urban land for a growing Auckland. The result of these two operations will enhance the quality of life for future citizens. 

A regional green network would dramatically increase the accessibility to public green space for people living in the projected new cities and towns along the SH1 spine. Current towns around Auckland are mostly surrounded by private farm land or forests.  By purchasing some of this private land, identified in the GIS mapping process, and encouraging a revegetation process, a large scale green network would start to be established. Citizens in the new towns and cities would have easy access to the new public green space network, all planned to be no more than 5km away from the new urban centres.  The new green network would offers people a variety of outdoor activities, passive recreation and meet other social needs.

By preserving native ecotones, native species will be helped to move and migrate. Through the protection of public conservation sites, native bush and water bodies, plus establishing linkage through corridors from hills to the sea, the numbers of wild plants and animals could be increased. Their movement would enhance a resilient ecosystem and increase biodiversity, which are fundamental to the preservation of the Auckland regions native environment. 

A green space network in the greater Auckland region would also prevent urban sprawl. Facing the persistent urban growth trend along SH1, cities and towns like Albany and Silverdale have almost connected together. The proposed green space network could contain some of the cities and towns on more or less their existing sites, while allowing new developments within the proposed green network. Urban sprawl threatens green space, it better to plan an effective green network around which future urban development can occur. Preserving green space in the greater Auckland region is not anti-development, but will rather result in better urbanism by identifying suitable sites for smart urban development instead of letting sprawl occur. 

This research project suggests that a new green space network can contribute to improving the living environment of the new Auckland citizen. The new green networks will dramatically increase the access to green space for people living in the new cities and towns of regional Auckland while at the same time limit the growth of those town and cities thus preserving the enviable Auckland lifestyle. 


(1) Duder, B., Winstone, M. J., & Warren, T. J. (1969). Auckland’s historical background: Its relation to city planning: Aukland City Council: Department of Works and Services.

(2) Palmer, D. (2002). Walking historic Auckland.

(3) Auckland Council. (2015). The Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. Retrieved from

(4) Burdett, R., &  Sudjic, D. . (2011). Living in the endless city : The urban age project by the London School of Economics and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society (Burdett, R., &  Sudjic, D. Ed.). London: Phaidon Press Ltd.

(5) Bogunovich, D., & Bradbury, M. (2012). Auckand 2040: A resilient urban region on the water. Planning Quarterly(184), 4-8. 

(6) Bosselmann, P. (2008). Urban transformation: understanding city design and form Washington, DC: Island Press

(7) Soja, E. W. (2001). Postmetropolis: Critical studies of cities and regions. UK and USA: Blackwell Publishers.

(8) Hall, P. (2014). Good cities, better lives: how Europe discovered the lost art of urbanism. UK, USA and Canada: Routledge.

(9) Hall,P. (2014).

(10) Hall, P. (2014).

(11) Hall, P. (2002). Cities of tomorrow: an intellectual history of urban planning and design in the twentieth century. USA, UK, Australia: Blackwell Publishing.

(12) Hall,P. (2014). 

(13) Hall, P., & Pain, K. (2006). The Polycentric Metropolis : Learning from Mega-city Regions in Europe (Hall, P. & Pain, K. Eds.). London; Sterling, VA: Earthscan.

(14) Soja, E. W. (2014). My Los Angeles : From Urban Restructuring to Regional Urbanization   Retrieved from

(15) Bosselmann, P. (2008).

(16) Calthorpe, P., & Fulton, W. (2001). The regional city: Planning for the end of sprawl. Washington, DC: Island Press.

(17) Hall, & Pain. (2006).

(18) Weller, R., & Bolleter, J. (2013). Made in Australia: the future of Australian cities. Crawley, Western Australia: UWA Publishing.

(19) Bogunovich, & Bradbury. (2012).

(20) Bogunovich, & Bradbury. (2012).

(21) Meurk, C. D., & Hall, G. M. J. (2006). Options for enhancing forest biodiversity across New Zealand’s managed landscape based on ecosystem modelling and spatial design. New Zealand Joutnal of Ecology, 30, 16.

(22) Ignatieva, M., Meurk, C., Roon, M. v., Simcock, R., & Stewart, G. (2008). How to put nature into our neighbourhoods. New Zealand: Manaaki Whenua Press.

(23) Kline, M., & Cahoon, B. (2010). Protecting river corridors in Vermont. Tournal of the American Water Resources Association, 46(2), 11.

(24) Popov, N. (2011). GIS-Applications in design handbook. Auckland: Unitec.

Landscape & Cultural Exchange

Tosh Graham & Susan J. Wake




This paper proposes the use of prophecy as an investigative tool for landscape analysis and explores how it could produce more culturally meaningful landscape outcomes. It investigates the relevance of indigenous prophecy and how it could inform and guide Landscape Architecture in aspects that engage with Mana whenua, enhance Māori values, preserve and promote cultural mana, and cut across cultural boundaries to create shared and inclusive landscapes. This discussion proposes that the subject may hold crucial information pertaining to the reading of landscapes and have great potential when included within the design process, as prophecy has the ability to weave a thread through time connecting historical context to the present day and to the future. 

The research project is outlined, followed by explanation of the development of a methodology involving relevant aspects of design consideration such as post-colonial theory and Māori values and principles for design. When applied to selected land-based prophecies in Auckland, the process showed that unique outcomes are possible.



Inā kei te mohio koe ko wai koe, I anga mai koe i hea,
kei te mohio koe. Kei te anga atu ki hea
If you know who you are and where you are from,
then you will know where you are going.



The concept of a prophecy is different to a historical point in time, as it cannot be contained within the moments of its utterance, nor be considered a historical fact. It is not embedded in a time or chronicled within the annals of history and although it may be recorded in a historical manner, prophecy is more like an organic entity that moves within time and evolves within its passing.  According to Geertz (1) “Prophecy is not static, but is and always has been used in response to internal and external conditions. It is a way of articulating and defining contemporary events within the context of language and ‘tradition’”. There has been considerable attention given to related landscape topics such as cultural, spiritual, sacred landscapes and more recently shared landscapes. On the other hand, Geertz (2) points out that prophecy is a largely unexplored area. This research therefore takes a step into the obscure and the intangible. 

The catalyst for researching indigenous prophecy began during participation in the 2013 IFLA50 Student Charrette, when Ngāti Whātua representatives who attended the final presentation and critique met a design intervention proposing the erection of pou on the Ōkahu Bay breakwater with interest. They connected this design move to a prophecy given by a pre-colonel tohunga named Titahi. This led to the investigation presented in this paper, which addresses the value of indigenous prophecy within landscape architecture and considers how it could be applied within practice.

As a precursor to this research three seminars were presented in 2014 within the Unitec Scala Seminar Series. These featured esteemed kaumātua speaking about three core Māori values in relation to the landscape: kaitiakitanga (stewardship responsibilities), wairuatanga (spiritual connection) and mauritanga (life force or essence). This resonates with Bhabha’s (3) notion of hybridity as being a blurred boundary space of cultural mixing that arises out of the post-colonial period. Therefore the selection and connection between the values explored in the seminars and the post-colonial theory of hybridity are deeply embedded in valuing notions of whakapapa and whānau for all parties (both coloniser and colonised), in reaching towards a ‘third space’ where both groups can function in unity (4). The current research considers these ideas and extends them by contemplating the place and value of indigenous prophecy in landscape practice if it is to be sensitive to operating within this ‘third space’. 

This paper will explain how the methods that were used to research indigenous prophecy were developed into an analysis tool, including the relevant theory that establishes its importance within landscape architecture. Within this, the interpretations, metaphors, underlying meanings and implications of the chosen prophecies will be explored. Emerging out of this research, the development of a landscape analysis tool that is inclusive of prophecy will then be discussed and applied to the prophecies selected for this design-based research project. Finally, the way that a hypothetical design emerged from this process is outlined and related back to both theory and practice, by referencing the theory of post-colonialism, the Resource Management Act (RMA) and the recent adoption of the Te Aranga Māori Design Guidelines by Auckland Council (5). 

In conclusion this paper reflects on the value of this iterative process and considers further research and development that could lead to prophecy playing a more prominent role in landscape site analysis and development. It also considers the impact of a prophecy-led design process in creating significant landscapes and landscape elements in Aotearoa.



The research involved extensive literature review and historical searches to find prophecies that would be relevant to the study. Pre-European prophecy (i.e. before the influence of Christianity) as well as the Māori prophets and their prophecies that arose post-colonisation were considered and two possible prophecies were chosen to investigate due to their interconnectedness and sentiment. Further validation and information was however sought and after obtaining ethics approval, interviews were conducted with well-informed people both Māori and pākehā. Interview participants were knowledgeable about the prophecies, te Ao Māori, the land and Landscape Architecture, stories of the land and people, history, and current events affecting our city that could be linked to the prophecies.

This process of narrative inquiry provided a clearer approach for the project because it established a valid method to follow and suggested appropriate sites and design possibilities (6). The interviews were manually transcribed and analysed.  This led to the site locations revealing themselves in a logical and even predictable way that aligned to the historical events influenced by these prophecies, all of which have shaped Auckland city. It is important to note that the identities of some interviewees have been kept anonymous as per the ethics approval process.  

Figure 1: Prophecy of Tahiti

Figure 1: Prophecy of Tahiti



The two prophecies chosen as relevant and appropriate for the project are both Auckland based: The first is the well-known prophecy of tohunga matakite Titahi, the second is an obscure prophecy that was made by Ngāti Whātua kaumātua Thomas “Te Puru o Tāmaki” Downs.

Just prior to Cooks arrival, the prophecy of tohunga Titahi (see Figure 1) told of a ‘nautilus shell’ coming to these shores (this was said to represent the billowing sails of the European ships), then of a ‘pou wakairo’ that would be established in the Waitematā.  According to Kāwharu “It is a metaphor symbolising a new sovereignty, culture and authority” (7). This prophecy was a key factor in the consideration of Ngati Whatua and their chief Apihai Te Kawau inviting Lieutenant Governor William Hobson to Tāmaki in 1840, to offer a gift of land for the establishment of a new capital for Aotearoa. From the summit of Maungawhau (Mt Eden), Te Kawau pointed to Opoututeka (Coxs’ Bay) and then to Hobson Bay lying midway on an axis to Takaparawhau (Bastion Point), indicating that all the land in between had been set-aside for the Crown. When the colonising power relocated to Tāmaki they raised a flagstaff on Point Britomart, and according to Hawke (pers. comm. 24 July 2015), “… that ‘pou’ was deemed by local iwi to be the literal fulfilment of the Titahi prophecy”. It is suggested that the act of the land gift, which was inspired by the prophecy, brought about what could legitimately be considered its fulfilment. Following from this it is proposed that the colonial capital of Auckland was established under the influence of the Titahi prophecy.

Ngāti Whātua kaumātua Thomas Downs made a further prophecy in the 1960s (see Figure 2).  According to Simmons & Grahamthis stated, “… when pakeha have the mana to grow a tōtara on Maungakiekie, they would truly become tangata whenua” (8). It has been suggested that a tōtara will be planted on Maungakiekei (One Tree Hill), possibly by the end of 2016 (9),signalling the literal fulfilment of this prophecy. However, the prophecy also has a metaphorical meaning since trees are widely regarded as symbolic of unity that is long-lived. Reflecting this, in an interview with Hill, Blair made several propositions, including (10):

The tree on One Tree Hill has been a beacon of hope for unity for this city. (para. 6)

Perhaps it’s the turn of this generation to grow a tōtara on Maungakiekie together. (para. 13)

This would be a big step forward for Auckland. (para. 5)

It is suggested that the underlying premise of the Titahi prophecy can be interpreted as an invitation to the coloniser to share the land with tangata whenua. Further, it is proposed that Downs’ astonishing statement moves the Titahi prophecy beyond sharing of the land toward a ‘oneness’ of cultures which connects directly to the post-colonial theory of hybridity. Amoamo and Thompson consider that “Through ‘hybridity’, the ‘in-betweeness’ is transformed to become ‘the third space’ (11); the perspective of cultural production which explores new possibilities of change within political-geographic spaces and demonstrates the fluidity of the boundaries of cultural mixing.” Such notions of ‘sharing’ and ‘oneness’, as indicated by these two remarkable prophecies have therefore been explored through design of the landscape in the selected sites relating to these prophecies, as discussed in the following section.

Figure 2: Prophesy of Downs

Figure 2: Prophesy of Downs



The two chosen prophecies generated 5 sites for design (see Figure 3 for historic map showing site location), with the first four developing out of the Titahi prophecy. Of these, three of the sites were determined by the invitation extended by Ngāti Whātua and chief Apihai Te Kawau to Hobson and the Crown. These sites formed the boundary markers of the land package for the establishment of a new capital city for Aotearoa and a new British colony. The locations are: Opoututeka (Cox’s Bay, Westmere), Maungawhau (Mt Eden) and an extension of the axis through the Hobson Bay boundary marker to Takaparawhau (Bastion Point) – the tūrangawaewae of Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei.

The fourth site was developed from the place where the colonisers erected their flagstaff on Point Britomart.  This is considered by iwi to be the pou whakairo of the Titahi prophecy. This location was where the British established their military base, Government house, Supreme Court and a Church.  As the cornerstones of imperial rule these established Auckland as the epicenter of colonial power in Aotearoa. The location is Te Rerenga Oraiti or Point Britomart, which is now Quay Street.

The final site was derived from the Downs prophecy, which, according to Williams (pers. comm., 25 July 2015) “… flowed out of the Titahi prophecy”. This is the site of Logan Campbell’s tomb and monument.  It is also the historic and iconic location of two very significant trees (an original tōtara and the more recent Monterey pine) as well as being the intended site of a future tree that will, according to the prophecy, symbolise the melding of two cultures onto one. This location is Maungakiekie or One Tree Hill.

Figure 3: Site Selection

Figure 3: Site Selection



The research focused on developing an applied method to connect prophecy with processes of landscape analysis and to then test this by design application. An essential part of this was combining core Māori values, as expressed in the Te Aranga Design Principles (12) and the Resource Management Act (RMA) (13) with the concept of ‘hybridity’ as discussed by Bhabha in post-colonial theory (14).

Figure 4: Core Maori Principles and Values

Figure 4: Core Maori Principles and Values


The method evolved through consideration of three key aspects, as identified in the previous paragraph. Figure 4 illustrates the key Maori values and principles (three of which were explored in the Scala Seminars in 2014), while Figure 5 shows Te Aranga Design Principles and Figure 6 the relevant areas of the RMA. Figures 7 and 8 focus on post-colonial theory and hybridity, showing that a state of biculturalism (where we may presently be situated) can lead to a position of cultural blending if both cultures can align in a mutually beneficial way. From this a model (see Figure 9) distills the three key aspects into a set of questions that determine the suitability of a prophecy for inclusion as a site analysis factor. In the case of the prophecies chosen for this project this process, in combination with guidance from the interview findings, validated their inclusion.

Figure 5: Auckland Design Manual Specific References to Maori

Figure 5: Auckland Design Manual Specific References to Maori

The design process began with the selected sites and as the design concepts and interventions were formed, they were considered in light of the diagrams (Figs 4-8) to test their robustness – i.e. did the designs reinforce, strengthen and support core Māori values, hybridity, the prophecies and the history that followed.  This was important to ensure the designs were inclusive and culturally meaningful.  As a result it is believed this process could also be useful within other cultures as an analysis and design tool, hence contributing to our knowledge of cultural, spiritual and shared landscapes.   

Figure 6: Resource Management Act Specific References to Maori

Figure 6: Resource Management Act Specific References to Maori

Figure 7: Evolution of Intergration

Figure 7: Evolution of Intergration

Figure 8: Time line of Post-Colonial Theory

Figure 8: Time line of Post-Colonial Theory



In a bold gesture that also incorporates little known history about Auckland, the main element of the design is the siting of pou in key locations. The rationale is the challenge issued during the course of the interviews conducted within this project to re-evaluate the common and historical perception of pou.  From this emerged a redefining of the traditional function of pou as mere boundary markers into a contemporary expression of cultural identification. In line with this each pou enlarges in size relative to the context of the site.  For example, the pou on Maungawhau (Mt Eden), Takaparawhau (Bastion Point) and at Te Rerenga Oraiti (Point Britomart) are increasingly tall and massive structures as determined by their surroundings. In a redefining of their function this transforms a simple marker into a structure that people can enter and fill with life, so that they become buildings that have a living purpose. Similarly, the non-living imperialist obelisk on Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) will find future balance once the living totara has grown, and it will connect to the comparatively sized pou intended for Maungawhau (Mt Eden). The pou on Takaparawhau (Bastion Point) will bring equilibrium to the monument bearing the tomb of Sir Michael Joseph Savage while also representing the endurance of Ngāti Whatua through and beyond colonisation.

The structure envisioned for Te Rerenga Oraiti (originally Point Britomart) is positioned at the end of Bledisloe wharf.  This is on a direct axis to where the original flagstaff is deemed to have been located on Point Britomart bluff, according to historic renderings (Figure 10 from Governor Grey’s Collection, Auckland Library).   This provides respectful recognition of our colonial past and contains the embodied meaning that is invested in the flagstaff for both Māori and Pākehā. In this location, and in scale with its surroundings, a monumental pou is intended, comparable in size to the Statue of Liberty but exemplifying the culture and heritage of Aotearoa. It is predicted this monument would be a symbolic structure that establishes itself as an iconic symbol of Aotearoa, as other international structures have become, worldwide.

Quay Street and the wharves have historically been a highly contested area even prior to colonisation and this tension continues by way of public access versus port activities.  Point Britomart was quarried to create the port so this design proposal ‘reclaims’ the area for public use.  Moon (pers. comm.,6 July, 2015) points out this would be:

…  in the heart of the gifted land, the colonised space, commercial space, and industrial space. A statement of indigenous reclamation can be made, literally on this reclaimed land – reclaiming notions of indigeneity in the centre of this post-colonised area of the city, this time for social space.  

This would prevent Ports of Auckland from encroaching further into the city and may provide a future opportunity for its relocation.

A crowning feature of these pou is the positioning of a light beacon on their tops, including the Maungakiekie obelisk, since this is a symbol of integration between the colonised and coloniser towards ‘hybridity’ as a nation. The beacons create a pillar of light directed straight up, rendering the sites visible by night as well as day and forming a terrestrial constellation of iconic landmarks that suggest navigation of the city. Each pou is a special site-specific monument whose light beacons, when seen as a whole, forms a different type of monument, which would give the city a special point of difference.  This reminds Aucklanders and informs visitors that the city was founded on a prophecy of sharing and has been offered a prophecy of unity for the future. 

Figure 9: Strength of Prophecy 

Figure 9: Strength of Prophecy 


Literature and historical reviews, research of post-colonial and prophetic theory plus targeted interviews and incorporation of core Māori values enabled the formulation of an analysis tool to aid design of culturally meaningful landscapes. A design process then tested this analysis tool on selected sites, which clearly showed that indigenous prophecy could be a significant driver for design. By maintaining continuity of design moves including large-scale pou and light beacons (plus other elements not detailed in this paper), each site builds on the next to create a significant monument for Auckland city that is guided by prophecy.

The development and use of the analysis tool is considered useful, due to the iterative process it created so that the meaning of the design interventions resulting from the tool were re-evaluated against the three key aspects.  However, this is considered to be initial research only, with more time needed to test and refine this tool.  For example applying it to other narratives such as histories, stories, legend and myth by Māori and other indigenous cultures or by applying it to other designers’ work.

In conclusion this project represents a valuable initial study into the topic of landscape and prophecy, which is significant for the following reasons:

  • The creation of a prototype methodology template of application that may be transportable to other indigenous cultures.
  • A new contribution to the body of knowledge of landscape architecture aiding analysis and contextualization of landscape that could possibly be applicable, to and used by related disciplines.
  • The prophecies chosen influenced our city’s history; the layers are hard to retrieve. Therefore another important element is the recovery of knowledge informing a fresh historical perspective.
  • A cross-cultural approach was employed containing elements of the indigenous and European that explores the Post-colonial theory of ‘hybridity’ demonstrating how it could be applied to landscape.
  • Using the design theme of ‘hybridization’ a technique of redefining cultural artifacts emerged, modernizing and giving new expression to traditional use and functionality.

The design outcomes of this research are ambitious and polemic, reflecting that this project developed a direction of its own, seemingly following the spirit of the prophecies wherever they led. While there were occasions of doubt, the outcomes support the notion that prophecy is a subject worthy of attention and consideration.

This project has provided a unique way to reconnect with past knowledge and generate a different perspective of design that allows prophetic historical narratives to manifest into everyday life. The design results from testing the analysis tool are symbolic of the past and the future and encourage a deeper appreciation and understanding of landscape for Māori and Pākehā in Aotearoa. 

Figure 10: Britomart Investigation

Figure 10: Britomart Investigation


Special thanks to:

Professor Paul Moon for expertise and valuable advice 

Interview participants for their time, stories and opinions.


(1) Geertz, A. (1994). The invention of prophecy: Continuity and meaning in Hopi Indian religion. Berkeley: University of California Press.

(2) Geertz, A. (1994). 

(3)  Bhabha, H. (1994). The Location of Culture. London: Routledge.

(4) Graham, T. (2014). Occupying the Third Space: The location of cultural exchange.  X-Section Journal, 4(Exchange), 8-11.

(5) New Zealand Government (1991). Resource Management Act. Retrieved from

(6) Clandinin, D. J. (Ed.). (2007). Handbook of narrative inquiry: Mapping a methodology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

(7) Kāwharu, I.H (2001). Land and Identity in Tamaki: A Ngāti Whātua Perspective. Retrieved March 22, 2015, from

(8) Simmons, D. R., & Graham, G. (1987). Maori Auckland. Auckland: Bush Press

(9) New Zealand Herald (2015).  Retrieved from

(10) Hill, M. (2015). Hopes One Tree Hill will be replanted. Retrieved from

(11) Amoamo, M., & Thompson, A. (2010). (re)Imaging Maori tourism: Representation and cultural hybridity in post-colonial New Zealand. Tourist Studies, 10(1), 35-55. doi: 10.1177/1468797610390989

(12) Auckland Council. (2015). Auckland Design Manual: Te Aranga Design PrinciplesRetrieved from

(13) New Zealand Government. (1991).

(14) Bhabha, H. (1994).

Auckland Volcanic Field Build resilient framework on Public Open Space

Yan Gao & Nikolay Popov




Auckland is a city built on volcanoes. Although the special volcanic landscape has brought benefits such as attracting foreign tourists and providing leisure for residents, it also brings potential risks. Volcanic eruption is ranked as the most dangerous hazard among all types of disaster and is considered a likely event with very high risks (Auckland Civil Defence, 2011). The challenge is to manage the aftermath of the disaster in a growing city as Auckland’ population is expected to grow by one million by 2040 (Auckland Council, 2012). In addition, evidence from the historical record shows that natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions do not always happen in isolation. For instance, the active volcano Mount Tambora, situated on a peninsula in Indonesia, had its strongest recorded eruption in 1815. The volcanic eruption was followed by a tsunami that caused over 4,500 deaths (Monk, Fretes, & Reksodiharjo-Lilley, 1996). As mentioned in the Auckland Civil Defence and the Emergency Management (CDEM) Plan, “Volcanic eruption can also cause other natural disasters, including earthquakes, wildfires, and (given certain conditions) tsunamis” (Auckland Civil Defence, 2010, p. 4). 

Response strategies in the case of natural disasters have been investigated in several ways. For example, CDEM Plan provides a comprehensive list of disasters that could happen in Auckland, as well as a variety of measures and suggestions relative to each type of disaster (Auckland Civil Defence, 2011). As outlined in the Auckland Evacuation Plan, the five phases of evacuation are decision, warning, physical evacuation, shelter and return (Auckland Civil Defence, 2014). The idea that open spaces can be part of a disaster relief system has been applied in other countries. For example, in many cities in China, use of parks as evacuation spaces has been built into policies (Ye & Fu, 2013). 

At present, public open spaces in Auckland are not adequately designed as disaster relief spaces. As such, this research attempts to explore how an open space can be used in disaster relief.

Specifically, three aims will be addressed:

  1. Assess public open spaces for availability of possible evacuation sites. Sites wherein secondary hazards (earthquakes and tsunami) may occur are considered as exclusion zones.
  2. Explore the potential for increased usage of public open spaces and identify the emergency functions of open space approaches in disaster relief.
  3. Design a sample site with emergency functions and test the design work though simulation in both a disaster situation and daily use.



“Parks and open space are core infrastructure required to support the growth of Auckland” (Auckland Council, 2013a, p.16). The Action Plan aims to develop more parks before 2040 to meet the growing population. Meanwhile, Council is conserving and upgrading the existing open spaces to achieve maximum benefits from the different roles of the parks. It also suggests using roads to form a green infrastructure in order to connect the parks (Auckland Council, 2013a). In the Auckland plan, one of the expected outcomes is a fair, safe and healthy Auckland in 2040. However, the strategy does not sufficiently mention how to respond to the changing environment and natural hazards such as coastal erosion, although it questions how to manage parks and create a resilient open space network in order to cut down environmental risks. 

From the plan, it is clear that in Auckland, people need more open spaces, and more resources could be considered to play a role in disaster relief, while all parks or open spaces could be planned or managed with a disaster risk minimisation response in mind. Existing parks and open spaces are valuable resources because they may be redesigned to serve multiple roles in the future plan.

In this research, public open space (POS) mainly refers to the five types of green forms in the Auckland unitary plan; these are civic, communication, conservation, informal recreation, and sports and active recreation zones (Auckland Council, 2013b). Given the current urban growth rate, the research will focus on the urban public open spaces to meet the needs of the increasing population (Auckland Council, 2013a).  



Approximately fifty volcanoes are found within a 360 square kilometers area of urban Auckland, also referred to as the Auckland volcanic field (AVF). In contrast to the central north volcanic sources, the volume of magma in AVF is much smaller but is enough to form today’s central Auckland. Based on the past experience, erupted volcanic cones in AVF is unlikely to erupt again, except for Rangitoto, which have erupted more than once. Geologically, AVF is one of the youngest volcanoes as such still potentially active and its volcanic activity is hard to predict (Auckland Civil Defence, 2014).

Researchers have examined hazard zones by mapping. As Tomsen, Lindsay, Gahegan, Wilson and Blake (2014) reported, these are somewhat consistent with the primary (3 km radius) and secondary (5 km radius) evacuation zones in the AVF contingency plan, but crucially suggest an additional larger radius of 8 km should be considered in an evacuation demand analysis (2014). In addition, Auckland Council (2015) also mentions that within 3 km diameter of a volcanic vent, the lava flow will destroy any buildings and infrastructure. These factors were taken into consideration when selecting for possible relief sites in this research.



Geographic Information Systems (GIS), one of the essential applications for location mapping, dynamic condition visualisation, and decision-making, plays an important role in providing technical support in the aftermath of disasters. In January 2010, in the Haiti earthquake, damage assessment maps based on online data and geographic tools were generated using GIS as a timely response to the crisis. This technique will be applied here to identify the appropriate locations for evacuation.




The methodology comprises two parts as detailed below:


To select potential urban green spaces for use as evacuation sites, two sets of criteria were created. The first set of criteria aimed to identify safety zones in order to select a site (as outlined as Test A). The second set of criteria (Test B) was developed in order to address the limitations of Test A. Although Test A failed to identify suitable sites, it contributed to the development of Test B. Test B enabled the identification of several sites, of which the five most suitable were shortlisted for further analysis.



Hazard zone were determined using 3, 5 and 8 km zonal radius (from volcanic vents). GIS mapping was performed for all known historical vents, and assumed that left areas outside the mapped hazard zones were potential safe sites. 



Small areas outside the 8 km radius zones were mostly located on the edge of the city’s urban space. Due to the location of the next volcanic eruption is unpredictable; Test A cannot prove the “non-affected” areas safe. However, Test A shows that the effects are huge no matter where the next volcanic eruption occur. Instead of finding the safe areas, identifying a number of potential safe sites is rather important to provide more choices in an unpredicted volcanic event. 



Another set of criteria was the requirements that derived from historical effects and suggestions of volcanic eruptions, tsunami and earthquakes. Public open spaces were considered as suitable for use as evacuation sites when they fulfilled these criteria: 



  1. Located in Auckland
  2. Located in the urban space
    Potential sites
  3. Out of secondary hazards
  4. Big enough for massive evacuation
  5. Flat
  6. Proximity to roads
  7. Proximity to river
  8. Proximity to structural transport
  9. Proximity to hospital
    Sample sites 
  10. Within 3km of criteria (3 – 8)

Having applied these criteria, many historical volcanic cones mapped to present day parks. These sites were finally chosen as possible evacuation sites because volcanoes in the AVF are unlikely to erupt more than once (except Rangitoto). Furthermore, many of these sites area flat. As sites of future eruptions are unknown, it is essential to have multiple evacuation sites in various locations. 



101 sites were identified as having the potential to function as disaster relief parks; 8 of them were volcanic cones. Apart from several sites which were bush lands and possible unsuitable for large vehicle to access, all remaining sites were considered suitable. 

Figure 1: Site Selection

Figure 1: Site Selection

The five sites, namely A.F Thomas Park, Auckland Domain, Chamberlain Park, Cornwall Park, and Auckland Botanic Gardens were found meet all the criteria (Figure 1). Compared with the other potential sites, these five sites have more advantages that able to reach the sources (such as hospital) in a walking distance.



The design component involves applying the different methods in a similar manner to site selection. It includes four parts: collect needs from interview; case studies and site analysis; and test the design.



In acquiring updated information to find a solution for response to a volcanic disaster, an extension research was developed during this ongoing study. The research incorporates new, related information from the newly published Auckland Volcanic Field Contingency Plan that appeared in March 2015 and outlined the planning arrangements for managing an eruption within the AVF. The focus of this publication is closely aligned with this research, such as site selection; both the plan and this research use criteria and mapping systems. To answer a question that arose from the plan regarding any pre-identified sites for volcanic eruption in Auckland, which was also due to the inconclusive findings of other government sources, an interview was arranged with the manager of Civil Defence. 


The interview reveled that possible shelter areas are not public information. In the New Zealand context, while storage of goods for natural disasters are not essential, other factors that need to be considered include proximity to the train station, victims need privacy and no signage in this research are flood plains, train routes, patients need a little bit privacy and signage for the possible sites are not needed.



Case studies provide sufficient support for planning an evacuation system and specific emergency response programmes. The 13.2 ha area of Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park was examined. This park comprising the national government park and the adjacent municipal park, is located in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. It acts as a central base for disaster prevention as well as for tourism and education programmes in everyday life (“About the Park”, n.d.). 



Five facilities and eight response resources comprise the prevention park as summarised in Figure 2. These functional relationships will be applied to the analysis of a sample site.

Figure 2: Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park

Figure 2: Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park



Cornwall Park, which covers over 129 ha, is located in the greater central area of urban Auckland. The nearest business centre is Manukau City Centre. The site was researched from three angles: 1. general and legal aspects of the site’s history, current usage, and future plans; 2. hard data relating to the site features and relationships among its surroundings e.g., contours, slope, circulations, on-site features, and climate; and 3. soft data which involves on-site inspection of visual features and feelings from observation.



In summary, this site study has researched both opportunities and constraints, and an emergency response programme was then applied to the most suitable zone identified.



Combining information on real conditions within the local context determined from site analyses and the interview, the programmes summarised from the case study were finally laid out on site as an emergency situation. As Fu, Liang, Du, Wang and Chen mentioned (2008), the five principles of the planning disaster relief parks are as follows: integrated approach to disaster prevention and overall planning, accessibility, walking distance, balance distribution, and the consideration for both daily and emergency needs. In addition, in non-emergency use, it is expected that the design should respect the environment. Two roads are proposed to add to the layout to make sure the multiple choice in an emergency event, a shower (functional) building is proposed on a planned build up area. Those small designs would provide the value in an emergency event see Figure 3. 

Figure 3: Master Plan

Figure 3: Master Plan



Sphere Hand Book 2011 gives the minimum demands of sleeping, toilets, showering and rubbish bins. These features were used to evaluate the usage efficiency of the sample site. The analysis found that 22,528 people could be sheltered in the designed camping site in Cornwall Park. More facilities such as toilets and bins would be needed but could be provided in the case of an emergency event. 



This research was set out to explore how Auckland’s open spaces can be used in disaster relief to make the city more resilient. To address the concerns relating to the aftermath of volcanic eruptions, an issue relevant to Auckland, this research applied the idea of building an evacuation network system in existing open spaces as a part of a disaster relief system, a strategy which has been applied in other countries successfully, to a sample site in Auckland. Consequently, possible solutions to reduce loss of lives from a volcanic eruption in AVF were identified.

Open spaces in Auckland are found to be valuable in disaster relief. It is encouraging that there are 101 open spaces covering over 10ha that could function as evacuation sites to shelter people who are affected after a volcanic eruption, and from the secondary hazards of tsunami and earthquakes. Cornwall Park, a recreation site during non-emergency times, was used as a sample site to show how a small design of response facilities can bring significant value to the affected people in the aftermath of a disaster.

This research suggests that sustaining the green space of the existing open spaces creates potential value for their use in disaster relief. An estimated 20,000 people can be sheltered in Cornwall Park. Based on the current population of 1.5 million, this implies that there may be sufficient open spaces for disaster relief provided that all the 101 proposed sites are used, and that each site shelters 20,000 people. However, this capacity will not satisfy the city’s need by 2040 given the projected population growth rate. 

Another suggestion was to adopt an evacuation network system by including existing open space when building evacuation network systems. This idea has been approved in other countries, though the systems are quite different due to differences in open space classification. However, in the New Zealand, there are other kinds of evacuation sites available as public information. In any future study, it would be good to consider how open spaces could be engaged in forming an evacuation network system. It should include the open spaces smaller than 10 ha that were not studied in this research, and more types of disasters should be considered. 

As Auckland population is growing, efficient management of open spaces and setting up evacuation net works can make Auckland city more resilient to future volcanic eruptions. More evacuation sites will improve population’s survival. In a volcanic event, emergency alerts will be released by Auckland Civil Defence to warn people to remain at home or evacuate. Due to the amount of magma being small in AVF and volcanic eruptions non-repetitive, the chance of evacuation is increased. Open spaces can potentially be part of the evacuation route when traffic is down. Then, the government can inform the people the safe relief sites. Distant open spaces may be accessed as camping sites to assist recovery.


All the findings in response to the research question can be reduced to the following points:

  • The location remains a park or an open space, but simple design moves can provide the residents with shelters and emergency services during disaster relief.
  • Cornwall Park is one sample design site among several possible sites identified by a set of pre-defined criteria.
  • All the possible sites identified could make up an evacuation network system, and be part of evacuation routes.
  • The standard of the evacuation sites could also respond to earthquakes and tsunami as well as volcanic eruption.
  • Emergency response features on site could be provided as corn facilities and their use extended to provide service in an emergency event
  • Findings relating to the areas that would be affected by historical volcanic cones might be useful in other research.


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