Exploring the adequacy of central city public space in New Zealand: Establishing a simple evaluative tool to measure public space success
Public space is a vital component of the public realm. Without it, cities lack the interaction and social sustainability that people desire. After various debates surrounding the apparent recent decline of public space, planners and urban designers have begun to reinstate its importance, especially in the central city. However, despite its importance, a lack of quality public space provision has been noted throughout many New Zealand central cities. A review of the relevant literature also determined that there are limited methods available to evaluate public space simply and efficiently. Many of the current methods are resource and time intensive, which has meant that the evaluation of many ongoing and proposed public space developments, such as those occurring throughout New Zealand central cities, are therefore neglected. This ultimately limits public space success. This thesis therefore aims to explore the adequacy and success of central city public space in New Zealand through the development and application of a new evaluative tool. This research evaluated three case study central cities throughout New Zealand: Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The research approach involved developing a public space evaluation tool based on best practice. This tool developed and applied simple evaluations of ten key components so that clear, quantitative results could be achieved. Key informant interviews were also carried out to help supplement primary findings. Three research questions were established to help answer the overall aim. The first question considered the overall adequacy and success of central city public space in the three case study cities. After substantial analysis, public space was found to be an overall success in Wellington, adequate in Christchurch, and neither adequate nor successful in Dunedin, though there was variance between individual spaces in each city. The second research question explored the overall success of individual public space components across the three cities. Safety and vision and accessibility were found to perform the highest, while innovation and amenity provision were determined to offer notable potential for improvement. Furthermore, overall population, diversity, stay time, and interaction within space all performed below average. The third research question determined that the use of this tool offered two key strengths. (1) It offers the capability to measure public space projects efficiently before, during, and after a development process. (2) It is effective in determining preliminary issues in public space before comprehensive evaluation or developments proceed. As a result of these findings, various recommendations were established for New Zealand wide application, as well as for each individual case study city.
Advisor: Freeman, Claire
Degree Name: Master of Planning
Degree Discipline: Department of Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Public Space; New Zealand; Planning; Urban Design; Liveable Cities; City Centre; Central City
Research Type: Thesis