Article previously published on UrbanismNZ and has been republished with permission.

As engineers, designers, architects and planners, we are asked to consider more as part of our work. We’re also seeing first-hand that conventional western planning, standards, and ways of managing resources cannot cope with the complexities and uncertainties of our future needs. 

We inhabit and are part of a natural world. As kaitiaki how we approach the stewardship of land, water and resources is highly dependent on the infrastructure that carries them. How we value and regenerate land and resources will impact generations to come. Demand for these critical resources is ever-increasing and vulnerable to disruption, yet we still plan in isolation to each other. 

We need to fundamentally change how we conceptualise our spatial structures, socio-economic outcomes and relationship with the natural world, to deliver a regenerative future. This approach needs to embrace traditional cultural perspectives, to learn from, co-design and apply Te ao Māori principles. The unpredictable and complex nature of our modern world demands a shift in thinking that requires multiple scales of intervention, radical collaboration, different economic models and a systems thinking lens.

In the Netherlands, systems thinking, social equity and circular economy is embedded in urban planning. A course I recently completed from TU Delft on Spatial Circularity Strategies demonstrated the country’s ability to bring multiple ‘actors’ together, providing space for innovation, co-creation and co-design outcomes.

My key take-aways for Aotearoa:

  • Government has a critical role in setting strong and consistent sectoral or regional circular focus, as we don’t have the scale required to work in isolation; 
  • Clear vision, strategy and action plans must be developed by all actors collectively, so that outcomes are shared and constructable; and, 
  • A robust transition roadmap that forms and embeds a long-term nationwide strategy, not affected by political cycles.

So why are we not seeing different outcomes? There is a huge gap in translation between strategy and implementation. We need everyone at the table when we set policies and strategies, including implementation and system thinkers to challenge the process. We need people who understand the complexities to translate the concepts into the pragmatic world of critical infrastructure design. We need to start asking different questions. This led me to co-design a Circular Design Framework to start this process, pulling together all the different facets that we need to consider as we shape new spaces for our communities. 

How are you radically collaborating to create a regenerative future?

About the Author
Tania Hyde

Technical Director & Circular Design Lead (Transport & Infrastructure)

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