Indigenous Urbanism

Tāmaki Makaurau Cultural Landscapes

Episode Summary

On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, we travel to Tāmaki Makaurau, our largest city, to look at how Māori designers are working alongside mana whenua to re-shape the city to better reflect their unique identity and culture and to create a distinctive sense of place that benefits us all.

Episode Notes

EPISODE SUMMARY: On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, we travel to Tāmaki Makaurau, our largest city, to look at how Māori designers are working alongside mana whenua to re-shape the city to better reflect their unique identity and culture and to create a distinctive sense of place that benefits us all.

GUESTS: Rau Hoskins, Phil Wihongi


Jade Kake: Tāmaki Makaurau. The land desired by many. Our nation’s largest city, and home to almost 1.6 million people. Auckland’s tribal landscape is complex, with 19 tribal groups holding mana whenua status within the wider Auckland area. The city is also our most ethnically diverse, a place that people from many different cultures call home. So, what is Auckland’s point of difference? And how do tangata whenua - the people of this place - see themselves in the City.

Rau Hoskins: So we've just arrived down here at the Wynyard quarter.

That’s architect Rau Hoskins, nō Ngāti Hau

RH: I guess the very name of the precinct is one of the issues that is the focus of our discussion, which is these colonial names. And of course Wynyard being a significant...

JK: Coloniser?

RH: Well, a military person of significance in the Northern Wars. This is of course primarily reclaimed land here, a lot of the work we've been doing in this area has been about saying well, looking at the names that applied to the foreshore, to the streams that ran out into the upper Waitematā, and to the names of the seabed. And sometimes there are known names for shellfishing beds and so on.

So, just a bit further down there, there's a shellfish bed there called Te Raukai, which remembers the significance of that site. Some of us know where freshwater meets seawater, that's where certain species of shellfish always live. Titiko - that's cockles - they do need some freshwater, and also the kōkota. Kōkota is a type of pipi. That also needs some freshwater as well. That's why in estuaries - Maketū and others - that you get such plentiful amounts of kai moana.

So, in this area here are several streams that flowed out, and Waikōkota was one of those streams that flowed out in this general area, and there's a little lane that's been named after the kōkota, called Waikōkota, just to remember the significance of that site.

And of course in this location here we've got some pretty amazing views through to Te Pae o te Raki in particular. Over there we've got Takarunga, also known as Mt Victoria, and Maungauika, also known as Takapuna, also known as North Head. And so, the tohu principle of the Te Aranga principles is really about saying, well these are incredibly important landmarks to us, and the ancestors associated with them are held in such high regard that we do need to preserve our connections to these. Not just cause it's a beautiful view, but because there's a cultural connection. And so, similarly when we look to the inland, it's very difficult to see any of the other cultural landmarks from this vantage point.

A lot of the projects that we've been doing in the Wynyard Quarter here of mapping those compass directions where significant sites are located. The harbour bridge is significant, because there's Te Onewa pā site there just below the harbour bridge, which is significant to Ngāti Paoa and other iwi as well. We're often about trying to highlight significance in the landscape which is just not known, is still held by mana whenua.

This gantry structure here, is apparently designed around the inspiration of the paparewa or the hākari stages, so that's what I understand Megan Wraight, who was involved with the project here used that structure, those traditional hākari stage structures as a method of displaying wealth, primarily the wealth in terms of food - seafood, riwai, kumara, karaka berries and so on. So, from Thames through to the North, our iwi were known to build these very large structures. Kororāreka (Russell), there was one that was measured 130 feet high, 230 feet wide, and all built with no nails, weighed down with tons and tons of food. So, some significant engineering feats. It's difficult to directly ascribe the paparewa visual identity to this structure, but that's what we understand it was inspired by.

I think this structure here is quite helpful in terms of the conversation around overt / covert, or overt vs covert approaches to design. Fair to say that, in the Māori design community and in talking with iwi mana whenua, they don't appreciate the subtle. The subtle gets lost. And when you're really trying hard to see yourselves in the built environment, you really do have to be overt. Overt as in, identifiably Māori, identifiably of this hapū, versus tacky. We've got this design aesthetic amongst our urban design and architecture community which favours the subtle. The ability for something which is too overt to become hackneyed, or too readily read, or simplistic. We're not asking for that. But we are asking for the test of legibility to be applied, and that test has to be applied from the lens of mana whenua. Can mana whenua see themselves in this environment?

JK: Tēnā koutou katoa

Nau mai haere mai ki te Indigenous Urbanism, Aotearoa Edition, Episode 5.

I’m your host Jade Kake and this is Indigenous Urbanism, stories about the spaces we inhabit, and the community drivers and practitioners who are shaping those environments and decolonising through design.

On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism we look at how Māori designers are working alongside mana whenua to re-shape the City to better reflect Tāmaki’s unique identity and to create a distinctive sense of place that benefits us all.

Over the past decade or so, Māori built environment practitioners in collaboration with Tāmaki mana whenua have developed the Te Aranga principles, a set of seven Māori urban design principles. The principles have arisen from a widely held desire to enhance mana whenua presence, visibility and participation in the design of the physical environment, and to assist mana whenua to engage in urban design and architecture within their local rohe in a meaningful way.

We spoke with architect Rau Hoskins, nō Ngāti Hau, co-author of the Te Aranga Māori urban design principles and a pivotal figure in the development and application of the principles in Tāmaki Makaurau.

RH: Nō Whakapara marae, Ngāti Hau, Ngāpuhi. Whangaruru te moana, Whakapara te awa, Huruiki te maunga. Tū i te pō, tū i te ao.

JK: What was the driver behind the emergence of these principles? Where did they come from?

RH: So, in 2005 we had the urban design protocol released by the Ministry for the Environment, and they had developed this protocol with its seven Cs. Interestingly, none of those Cs were culture. Wayne Knox, who was then working for TPK, approached me and said, would I like to comment on this, or think about how Māori design professionals might wish to respond to this. And I think MfE were thinking that we might become a chapter in their protocol. I organised a hui in Waitakere City, in July '06, and then a larger hui in Te Aranga marae in Flaxmere November '06, and we collectively developed the Te Aranga Māori cultural landscape design strategy. Now that was then, that strategy document was then taken around the motu and given good support. But what was effectively missing from that strategy was a concise set of principles which would inform the engagement of landowning groups - mainly local government, central government, hapū/iwi and their design experts. So that's really where the Te Aranga principles came from. They came from a distillation of the Te Aranga Māori cultural landscape design strategy, but the desire to have a tool which could be readily communicated to user groups, and readily adopted.

I began developing the principles where there were four principles, and I remember going to a conference in Christchurch, well before the earthquakes, and effectively the theme of my presentation was, what makes a difference to Māori in the built environment, or the urban environment? And that type I had four, there were four principles. What we did, working with mana whenua, from 2012 onwards, 2012-13-14, on some Auckland Transport projects, including CRL, was to say start with those four principles and then to work with them to look for a) the application of those principles, but b) the extension of the principles, and we actually did arrive at seven. With the last principle being the ahi kā principle, which really talks about that living presence, and that last principle came last, and it came from a reflection on some other projects, saying well okay, we've got good outcomes in all these other areas, but if iwi aren't naturally using those spaces, making them their own on a day to day basis, then we actually can't call that a truly successful project.

From 2006 through to 2012/13/14 when we began to anchor the principles, and then as you know, get them adopted within the Auckland Design Manual, was quite a few twists and turns along the way. It also came from the former Auckland Council urban design framework, which had five principles. They only had four to begin with, which from memory they were: a green city, a beautiful city, a connected city, and a compact city. And I managed to add the fifth principle, which was: a distinctive city. And by adding the distinctive term, I was really saying, well, the distinction is actually mana whenua. At that time, in the 2006/7, it wasn't politically tenable to talk about, overtly talk about Māori things and expect them to get through the processes that existed at that time.

JK: You've talked a bit about the City Rail Link project, which has been going on for quite a long time in terms of planning and which is under construction now. So what was the process like? How have those principles, or how will those principles be manifest in the physical environment upon completion?

RH: Well, I was brought on board by Jasmax at the time, and Jasmax were successful in being able to be appointed as the urban designers who were developing the urban design framework for the CRL. So effectively that was looking at all of the different station environments and routes, applying a framework to the NOR, or the Notice of Requirement. Which is effectively the use of the Public Works Act, to compulsorily acquire the land for the CRL. So, we managed to write the Te Aranga principles into that urban design framework. From there, I was separately engaged directly by Auckland Transport, and then CRL, to work directly with mana whenua in an ongoing capacity to apply the Te Aranga principles to each of the station environments.

So, for instance, Waitematā station, which is an extension of the current Britomart station, has significant number of above ground environments that are being developed alongside the CRL, so we have Lower Queen St, and we have some work on up Albert St, and so on and so forth. So there's a range of different above and below ground environments where mana whenua are having direct input into the design themes and the design responses for those station environments. That has been a really important project to really ground the principles.

The Britomart / Waitematā station is closely intertwined with the Commercial Bay development, and the Commercial Bay development has been designed to respond directly to the tunnels beneath it, that go up Albert St. Part of the requirement for them purchasing that piece of QEII Square in Lower Queen St, was that they were required to apply the Te Aranga design principles. I've also worked in a similar way, working between the architects and landscape architects - that's Warren and Mahoney and Landlab - with a similar group of mana whenua representatives. And so it's been useful to be working in contiguous design locations, and being able to respond to narratives which have been applied in one area, and how they may be appropriately reflected in a neighbouring environment.

JK: You've can't seem to go anywhere without people talking about Te Aranga, and how its been applied, and how you need to work with these principles, but we're also still hearing examples where developers and architects are not properly engaging with mana whenua, or not early enough. So I guess, how do we keep up the good work and the progress that has been made, and how do we ensure with this kind of explosion of growth that these principles and these processes are being done correctly.

RH: Well I think one of the key things is that mana whenua themselves are requesting that the Te Aranga principles be used as the basis of their engagement. So I think that's probably a critical success factor for the development of the Te Aranga principles, is that they are not only owned by mana whenua, but they are promoted by mana whenua. There is a process happening at the moment for those principles to be re-grounded in Tāmaki. And that's another important dimension, that they were never designed to be set in stone. And they were there as a kind of a springboard for robust discussions which could maximise outcomes in the built environment. I think lots of people quote the Te Aranga principles, and people that don't know that you co-developed them, talk to you about them. Interesting to see, I mean it's gratifying to see that they have become embedded in the way that urban design is practised in Tāmaki at least, but there's always ongoing professional development required to assist people who have got a kind of passing knowledge of the principles.

I think the problem arises when a group come across the principles and see them as a good resource, Google them, and then have a go, and don't actually really read or understand the very first principles. And don't really know how to go about developing a working relationship with one or more mana whenua groups. I think there's vigilance required from the Māori design community, just to make sure that principle number one, the mana rangatiratanga principle, is really understood. There is no application of the Te Aranga principles until a working relationship with mana whenua has been established to the satisfaction of mana whenua. And when and if they are satisfied with the working relationship, then you can start to progress an investigation into the other principles, or the opportunities that the other principles signal.

It's moved further than I would have hoped, in the last 3-4 years in particular. So that's really encouraging, but I think the key thing is to keep the quality application of the principles up there, as opposed to a cursory application and/or misapplication of the principles.

JK: Do you think the establishment of Phil Wihongi's role has helped in that respect?

RH: Yeah I do, I think certainly Phil's role was a long time coming, it's a huge role. It goes to show that whatever progress you make, there's a lot more required to really flesh out the full potential of the principles.

Phil Wihongi: Yeah, it definitely is the pre-eminent Māori design tool that is applied within Council. It's a tool that is familiar, and there's a degree of comfort and understanding that mana whenua have in the application of it. So it's actually quite useful.

JK: We also spoke with Phil Wihongi, nō Ngāti Hine.

PW: Ko Hikurangi te maunga, Awarua te awa, Ngātokimatawhaorua te waka, Ngāpuhi me Ngāti Hine ngā iwi, Kawiti Te Ruki te tangata, Motatau te marae, Ngāti Te Tawera te hapū. Ko Phil Wihongi tāku ingoa. Kia ora.

JK: Phil is a landscape architect and planner, and was appointed to the role of Māori design lead within Auckland Council in 2016.

PW: The role hasn't been formed solely with a local government perspective, it's also come with a Māori design industry perspective. Most importantly, with an oversight of mana whenua of Tāmaki.

Through Council projects, we are in a position, and I would argue that we have a responsibility, to Māori communities and mana whenua that we do incorporate the principles within our project works. They key to that, or the important thing with that, is that Council is able to demonstrate very clearly what the outcomes are, what the processes, which in a way demystifies the processes for private development. The most visible private development that has incorporated the principles to date has been Commercial Bay, which as you're aware is a huge development down right on the waterfront. So they went through a very long and engaged and robust process with mana whenua, which has resulted in a number of design outcomes. That is the exemplar that we have currently. It is finding its way into private development. But I think the more visibility in Council projects, then it will be taken up by private development.

The intent of the principles, when they were prepared from the strategy, and the principles subsequently, was that they would be developed in collaboration with mana whenua to get a finer grain of detail and nuance and specificity to takiwa. So that's something we're working towards, but in the meantime it's an effective placeholder, which has delivered some interesting outcomes within our built environment.

I think what we are doing - there's a program of works we have going down on the waterfront currently - where we have considerably raised expectations from a Māori design perspective. The aspiration for that programme is it will see a much thicker, much denser expression, or deeper expression of what that Māori identity is, worked out in collaboration with mana whenua. I think we're maturing, and that's important that we're progressing.

What I find my role is most often, it's a takawaenga role, so it's that operating between the notions of power and authority. If we look at authority being held by mana whenua over the place, and we look at power, which because of the relationship, the disparity of relationship, the majority of power is held by Councils and large design firms and central government. So I'm very conscious of a definition provided by Reverend Māori Marsden, which is that mana is the delicate balance of power and authority. Key within that, the takawaenga role, is trying to assist with that balance between the power and authority. So that's where a lot of my work actually occurs. The bridging if you like. Not being from here actually makes that a whole lot easier, so I would argue that it's actually a benefit in this role, not being mana whenua.

One of the main kaupapa that we run is moving Auckland to Tāmaki. Something that's been picked up, and very strongly by the design industry here. We all know what Auckland is, we know what that looks like, and most of us aren't happy with that form, and nobody knows what Tāmaki is. Implicit in the name, is that Māori are present, mana whenua are present. It kind of gives us something to aim towards, it's exciting.

JK: Rau shared his perspective on the future of Te Aranga, and how these principles might be further developed and adapted for use in other cities.

RH: It's been encouraging to see the uptake and adoption of the Te Aranga principles, particularly the last five years, to see them being normalised in design processes around Auckland and increasingly outside of Auckland. A few weeks ago I was in Tauranga working with mana whenua there on the adoption of the Te Aranga principles, and the renaming of the principles as the Tauranga Moana design principles. As we envisaged, was that if we could create a set of, you might say, more generic Māori design principles, then they would act as a platform for our iwi groups, hapū groups, to customise those principles for their particular processes, and to ground them in their particular cultural landscape, and within their own matauranga-a-hapū, -a-iwi.

I think the key thing about Te Aranga principles, it's about the kaupapa. It's not about the IP, it's not about locking them in stone, it's about saying, hey there's value to the indigenous world within this approach. Take it, adapt it, customise it, rename it, try and extract value from it.

We've all got a role, Ngā Aho's got a role to continually clarify those issues. To take them out to other parts of the motu, and also just to apply them. You may be doing quite a humble project, in a rural community. Without even necessarily making a big deal out of it, just using a simple foundation that they provide as a way to help maximise outcomes. I often find myself, we're involved at designTRIBE with multiple projects, from very humble to some large projects, and sometimes I have to remind myself, oh actually if I just mentally go through the Te Aranga principles and make sure I raise them with this particular group, then there will be more opportunities than I've seen at first glance to embed layers of meaning and appropriate design resolution in the project.

JK: So Māori are so often categorised as being rural, or have been for a long time, Māori spaces are the marae and papakāinga on our ancestral land, and absolutely those places are very important for our identity and for our culture and for our social structures, but the reality is that in this day and age, the majority of Māori do live in urban environments, and they often live away from their ancestral areas. What does it mean, this concept of indigenous urbanism? And how do we really conceive of ourselves as urban people without losing those things that anchor us and tether us to the whenua?

RH: I think it's an interesting perspective, and if you say, okay, 88% of Māori are urbanised, and in Tāmaki 85% of Māori are not from Tāmaki. So only 15% are actually from here. I've argued in the past, and still strongly believe, that mataawaka sense of place, in urban environments that are obviously not there own, is via the cultural lens of mana whenua. I think the more familiar you are with where you are from, the more likely you are to want to make sure that local mana whenua cultural histories are strongly represented, as you would hope yours would be back home. There's often a question, what about mataawaka identity? How do you allow for their aspirations and needs in the built environment? And that's my answer. So if you are privileging their aspirations separate to mana whenua, then you are recolonising that environment.

JK: You can find out more about the Te Aranga principles on the Auckland Design Manual website at

Indigenous Urbanism is a production of Te Matapihi. Sandy Wakefield does our sound recording, editing, and mixing. Our theme was composed by Thomas Burton. I’m Jade Kake, your host and Executive Producer.

For more information about today’s show and other episodes of Indigenous Urbanism go to You can drop us a line at And if you like what you’re hearing, please give us a review or rating on iTunes.

Coming up next on Indigenous Urbanism: In part two of our story on Tāmaki Makaurau cultural landscapes, we look at how mana whenua are shaping the city to better reflect the culture and history of place, and to promote a more responsible and regenerative ongoing relationship with our environment.

Lucy Tukua: So it's quite daunting for the fact that the city grew up around me. I have fond memories of the way it used to be, and some of the places today are just totally incomprehensible in terms of the development. I think about some of the kōrero that my mentors have shared with me over the years, and today is quite significance for me. It's the passing of Dame Nganeko Minhinnick today. One of the things that she always said was, weren't not against development, but we're against development without us. I'm always reminded of that, and I guess my journey within the work that I do now and the work that I have done in the past is making sure that we are being heard, that we are visible as mana whenua. For me not just Ngāti Paoa, but all mana whenua. Because we all have interests across the greater Tāmaki.