Tāmaki Makaurau – a wellbeing vision for Auckland 2050

The challenge

Wellbeing is an increasingly important measure for cities globally. But what does it actually mean? How can planners take a strategic, principled approach to shaping place and identity for wellbeing through the built environment?

In this article

  • Issues and challenges facing Auckland in the lead-up to 2050
  • How a wellbeing approach can be applied to urban design
  • Utilising Te Ao Māori as guiding principles

New Zealand has always been good at firsts: first self-governing country to adopt a standard time in relation to Greenwich, first country where women had the right to vote, the winners of the first Rugby World Cup. A recent addition to this list is the adoption of a ‘wellbeing budget’, designed entirely around wellbeing priorities to drive policy change.


Amid New Zealand’s culture of innovation and success, the country still faces many of the same issues as the rest of the world. And its largest city, Auckland (or Tamaki Makaurau in Māori), is no exception. Home to more than 1.66 million people, Auckland has the most diverse population in the Pacific and is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. Auckland Council forecasts that the population could reach 2.43 million by 2051, providing further shifts in demographics and diversity. Whilst population growth brings economic prosperity we also need to consider it strategically to minimise pressure on the environment and vulnerable communities.


Anticipating these challenges,and in line with the wellbeing budget, the Auckland Design Office Māori Urban Design Team partnered with Arup Auckland to establish kaupapa (purpose) for the city that reaches out to 2050. UnderpinningArup’s foresight approach is an understanding of trends and new ideas to build resiliencewith Te Ao Māori values and mātauranga (knowledge), a vision has been created to guide a holistic, innovative and equitable approach to Auckland’s future growth and development.

Ki te kahore he whakakitenga ka ngaro te iwi - Without foresight or vision the people will be lost


Te Ao Māori encompasses values,traditions, knowledge and relationships. For Māori, identity is secured to whenua(land). Hauora (Māori view of health) and wellbeing is considered in a holistic continuum, encompassing universal physical, social, mental and spiritual needs. Wellbeing does not exist in the absence or imbalance of any one concept.

“Recognition of mana whenua and their special relationship to the land is a critical component of this vision and ensuring the outcomes are realised withinour urban environments is through a Treaty of Waitangi based relationship,” saysOlivia Haddon from the Māori Urban Design Team.

Growing population numbers place increased pressure on urban systems and require a range of solutions to mitigate other challenges, including the impacts of climate change, environmental degradation,urban sprawl, aging infrastructure, traffic congestion, housing affordability and growing inequality. Whilst the impacts of social and economic challenges and the shocks of a changing climate will affect all Aucklanders, vulnerable groups are less resilient and less able to respond. As a result, it is important that driversfor change address different levels of vulnerability in the population.

To envision Auckland in 2050, five guiding principles underpin four key themes. - Anne Kovachevich, Foresight Leader


Five guiding principles from Te Ao Māori inform and shape all aspects of the vision:

1/ Kotahitanga: Unity and togetherness supporting a holistic and community approach. Prioritising community, shared amenity and facilities for the health and wellbeing for all.

2/ Manaakitanga: Extending hospitality, openness and aroha (love). Encouraging inclusion, sharing and accessibility to resources and information.

3/ Whanaungatanga: Interconnectedness and relationships, a sense of place and belonging. The creation of place that reflects our shared identity, heritage, community and our relationships to each other.

4/ Kaitiakitanga: Care, protection, guardianship and reciprocity.

5/ Rangatiratanga: Quality decision making. Leadership, vision, autonomy and foresight. Recognition of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in advancing wellbeing for both people and environment.


The principles inform our approach and thinking across four themes: our people,our place, our identity, our connections.

Our people - a collective community

Diversity features as defining characteristic for Auckland’s collective identity, both locally and globally. Intergenerational care,equity and growth are key elements of Te Ao Māori, which considers the needs and aspirations for seven generations in either direction.

Urban environments will facilitate opportunities for people to meet neighbours and friends, extending manaakitanga and supporting community, whanaungatanga and kotahitanga.Open spaces and the design of streets are increasingly community focused, functioning as places to meet and chat. Streets are part of a wider open space network, providing safe places for children to play and walk to school without being accompanied by an adult.

Our place - natural environment

Aucklanders are supporters and drivers for change to become more environmentally,culturally and socially sustainable. Auckland’s sense of place and identity, informed by its geographic location and diverse natural environment, are uniquely supported by Te Ao Māori values that enhance natural processes and regeneration.

In 2050, residents and visitors to TāmakiMakaurau can interact with natural processes within our city streetscapes. The success and quality of the natural environment are measurable through the observation of native bird life and insects, which thrive even in dense, built-up environments.An increase in street trees and forests provide air quality improvement and reduce the urban heat island effect, transforming TāmakiMakaurau into a green city with positive impacts on people’s physical and mentalhealth and wellbeing.

Our identity - built environment

Population changes over the next 30 years will result in Aucklanders living at higher density in both the city centre and suburban areas. Shifts in how we live,work and move about will put pressure on current systems and infrastructure. Te Ao Māori values provide a framework (e.g.through the use of Te Aranga design principles)to express a deeper understanding and appreciation of rangatiratanga, kaitiakitanga,manaakitanga, kotahitanga and whanaungatanga in our built outcomes.

By 2050, we see a diverse range of non-conventional home ownership schemes in Auckland. Urban and vertical papakainga (traditional model of Māori housing),co-living and shared living options are common. Homes easily and effectively adapt to the needs of the people who live in them supporting aging in place, young children and families as well as non-traditional household structures.

Our connections - people, place, and identity

The current disconnect between land use and transport planning in Auckland means urban development doesn't always facilitate increased public transport and active mode use. A significant proportion of trips are made in single-occupancy vehicles that contribute to congestion, poor air quality and unfriendly urban environments.TeAo Māori values would guide planning for streets to become spaces for people, enhancing whanaungatanga and manaakitanga within neighbourhoods and communities.

In our vision for Auckland 2050, increased urban density is supported by a redistribution of street space, including priority cycle lanes, widened footpaths,clear modal priority for pedestrians and cyclists and charging stations for light electric and hydrogen vehicles. Streets are spaces for people, enhancing whanaungatanga and manaakitanga within neighbourhoods and communities.

Our vision for Tāmaki Makaurau in 2050 is a contemporaryAuckland that reflects who we are, a place diverse in culture, people and guided by Te Ao Māori for a contemporary identity, reaching confidently out to the worldfrom our place Aotearoa here at the heart of Te Mōana Nui a Kiwa. - Greer Oliver,Urban Planner.

For the vision to take hold and deliver on wellbeing, the link between people and place is vital. The ultimate vision is that by integrating Te Ao Māori values, knowledge and principles with contemporary perspectives and understanding, by 2050, urban management systems and techniques will be designed to ensure the city can respond to shocks, be climate ready, and provide an innovative and equitable approach to growth and development.It’s a kaupapa that we hope achieves yet another first for New Zealand.


  • Auckland’s strength is in its diversity of people, culture, ideas, experience and understanding of Te Ao Māori to shape responses to global problems
  • Expanding urban design approaches using Te Ao Maori principles gives us new tools and ways of thinking
  • Meaningful change requires a focus on developing relationships and cultural competency through conversation, curiosity, courage and understanding

Lead Arup Researcher

Greer Oliver
Greer is a Urban Planner and Urban Designer in our Auckland office

Ask Greer about:

  • Design and strategy to address public space
  • Housing
  • Transport and social opportunities
  • Challenges through the urban form


Olivia Haddon
Olivia is part of the Auckland Design Office - Māori Urban Design Team, where she works with mana whenua to incorporate Māori design thinking into all of the council’s work.

Research TEAM

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