Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Evaluating the Influence of Governance on the Built form: The Redevelopment of Wellington, New Zealand’s Waterfront Precinct

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Version 2 2022-03-21, 00:58
Version 1 2021-11-16, 00:48
posted on 2022-03-21, 00:58 authored by O'Byrne, Colin

Because there are many ways of structuring and managing a land development process, this research asks the question: What influence do different decision making approaches have on the built form of the Wellington waterfront redevelopment?  The form of the built environment is shaped by existing physical and economic conditions; the values of those involved in the planning and design of it; and, the activities of those who occupy it. However, the social structure and mechanisms of decision making (i.e. the governance) within the urban planning and design stages of the development process act as a filter for identifying and prioritizing factors that will have the greatest influence on the form. Because of the filter effect, this thesis argues the governance of a development process has observable effects on the built form of the associated development project.  A review of urban design, urban morphology, and land development literature identified related research on the governance-built form relationship. Studies in urban design and development processes have generally identified single, overall governance approaches for development projects and have not effectively identified relationships with the built form. Recent work in the field of urban morphology has more effectively identified relationships between governance practices and the evolution of the built environment; however, these studies have tended to treat governance as a single process rather than a sequence of different governance approaches. Therefore, this study examined the redevelopment of the Wellington waterfront to look for and identify the different governance approaches that were used over the study period and how these influenced the resulting built form.  To address the question of what effect different governance approaches had on the built form, the history of the redevelopment was analyzed in depth. Through analysis of written records, semi-structured interviews with participants involved in a variety of redevelopment related roles, and site visits, it was possible to characterize different governance approaches within the overall project and how these have influenced the form of the built environment. Triangulation of the three methods was used to provide a richer description of the redevelopment and improve confidence in the findings.  Between 1974 and 2012, Wellington transitioned through seven separate governance approaches, each having some influence on the form of the redevelopment. Each governance approach was marked by different driving values and forms of stakeholder involvement that affected the redevelopment. For example, periods dominated by top-down or corporate approaches resulted in larger and more internally focused buildings and building sites than periods with more inclusive governance arrangements.   Characterizing the governance approaches and their effects on the built form provided a useful tool for evaluating and understanding the development process and the evolution of the built form of the Wellington waterfront. This level of understanding of the different governance approaches and their influence on the built form has not been previously described in the literature. While the findings cannot be assumed to be descriptive of other development projects, they do identify patterns that should be investigated in other development contexts. The approach and findings from this thesis therefore contribute to the literature on the relationship between the processes and products of urban design, and the social structures of development processes.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Landscape Architecture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Vale, Brenda