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Tony Watkins

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Agenda 21 submissions Print E-mail

ImageNZIA Submissions on Agenda 21

This position paper presents to architects in a condensed format the key elements of the NZIA Environment Group’s response to the Agenda 21 Document on “Promoting sustainable human settlement development” submitted to Preparatory Committee Four in New York.
Copies of the full document are available from the NZIA Environment Group.
During the negotiating process in New York many, but by no means all, of the New Zealand submissions were incorporated into the document which went forward to the Earth Summit in Brazil. Position Paper 11 summarise key elements of the document which was finally adopted in Rio de Janeiro.






NOTE This text follows the format of A/CONF, 151/FC/100/Add
The headings of sections are taken from that document.
Paragraph numbers are from the NZIA Response.





1 We welcome the decision that human settlements should be treated as a distinct programme of Agenda 21.
5 We submit that a change of direction is needed, not a continuation of the same patterns which have in the past produced high levels of environmental degradation.
8 That the built environment be acknowledged as a primary means for ensuring the distribution rather than the concentration of power in the world.
9 That the built environment be acknowledges as a primary means for enabling people and communities to express and explore both their unique culture and their unique relationship with place.

human settlements objective
11 That the overall human settlements objective is to develop sustainable settlement patterns which have a positive rather than a negative impact on the environment.

programme areas

providing adequate shelter for all
12 We submit that the need for shelter is recognised and has been stressed again and again for the last fifty years.
What has not been recognised is the counterproductivity of providing too much shelter.
13 We submit that the past emphasis on “shelter” has resulted in alienation from the natural environment, and a fear of the natural environment.
22 That developing habitat which encourages closer relationship with the natural environment, and enhances closer understanding of the natural environment, is more important than the provision of habitat which does nothing more than shelter people from the natural environment.
23 That the development of sustainable habitat is primarily a responsibility of the developed countries, not the developing countries.
24 That fundamental and significant changes in the environmental design assumptions of human habitation are an essential first step in providing adequate human habitation for all.

improving human settlements management
Basis for action
25 We support the enthusiasm of Agenda 21 for the city, and the adoption of a positive design approach to the possibilities of the city, rather than a negative planning approach to the problems of the city.
Improve Urban Management
29 We support the strengthening of ecological urban design networks.
30 We support environmentally appropriate management guidelines, and reject concepts of master planning.
31 We support the generating of employment through self-build opportunities, programmes and education.
32 We support the involvement of all people in the maintenance, repair and recycling of buildings.
33 We support the communality of building rather than the privatisation of building.
35 We support egalitarianism in the built environment.
41 We support the institutionalisation of a participatory approach to building.
42 We support the greening of cities.
43 We support the essential public nature of the city and reject the privatisation of open space and public amenities.
44 We support incremental approaches to built environment, and recognise that a high quality environment is only possible when every citizen is involved in the environment in a stewardship role.
48 That ecological urban deign should be developed and enhanced.
49 That all decisions regarding the built environment should be taken at the lowest possible administrative level.
50 That no decisions regarding the built environment should be made by any person beyond walking distance from the decision maker’s place of residence.
51 That stewardship should be the foundation for all management decisions.
52 That environmental counterproductivity demands an emphasis on the quality of environment rather than the quantity of environment.
53 That diversity of built form which results from local people responding to the unique local natural environment is as essential as bio-diversity.

promoting effective land resource management
65 That stewardship is the appropriate foundation for all resource management decisions.
66 That responsibility should be given to individuals, not taken away.

promoting the integrated provision of environmental infrastructure: water, sanitation, drainage and solid waste management
71 that technologies should be developed which internalise the generated effects of buildings.
72 That waste is unacceptable in a sustainable built environment.

promoting sustainable energy and transport systems in human settlements
77 That a radical reduction in development patterns which demand mobility is essential.

promoting human settlements planning and management in disaster-prone areas
92 That those who derive benefit from taking risk also bear the full consequences of that risk.
93 That the risks associated with attempts to dominate and manipulate the natural world are recognised and acknowledged.

promoting sustainable construction industry activities
101 We support the promotion of the recycling of all materials in the construction industry, and also the recycling of buildings and the design of buildings so that they are able to be recycled.
106 That a new aesthetic is essential. This aesthetic will value clean green architecture, which is environmentally friendly and toxic free.
107 That soft engineering solutions should always be used in preference to hard engineering solutions. Soft engineering moves with the flow of energy of the natural environment.
108 That all buildings should touch the earth lightly.
109 That natural techniques for climate control should always be used in preference to artificial techniques.

promoting human-resource development and capacity building for human settlements
Means of implementation
113 We support the use of all available means to sensitise people to the choices, opportunities and alternatives possible in the built environment.
114 That urban settlements are recognised as the most powerful educational tool of all. Every building is an educational building. Every building, irrespective of its use, is continuously conveying messages to everyone who uses the building.
115 That urban design is recognised as one of the most critical and most neglected areas in human training. How each person uses and perceives the city is critical to the environmental cost of the city. Urban design is too important to be left to a few experts. The global environmental crisis will only be resolved when every person becomes an urban designer.
116 That Agenda 21 acknowledges that a strong and close relationship with the land by all people is essential for the development of cultural immune systems capable of resisting intellectual and economic ideas.

Tony Watkins
Senior Lecturer, Planning Department, University of Auckland

The above is a refereed paper and as such represents current thinking on the subject.

At the time when these Position Papers were published New Zealand was one of the nations leading the world. Sadly Gordon Moller and the business-before-ethics lobby felt threatened and challenged by all this. He disbanded the Environment Group and moved New Zealand to the bottom of the heap where the NZIA now wallows in greenwash and clichés, trying desperately to justify an untenable business-as-usual scenario. The University has become even more irrelevant. New Zealand architecture, driven by the consumerist values of the real estate agents, has been left to drown in the glossy images of a fashionable mediocrity.



No images were used when thes Position Papers were first published.

All the images in the NZIA Postion Papers presented on the web are from Gunyah Goondie + Wurley, Paul Memmott, University of Queensland Press 2007. I recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in sustainable architecture. In a tough landsacape these people survived for 100,000 years. In 200 years our architecture has destroyed not only their heritage and all it might have taught us, but the planet as well. Forget double glazing and insulation. These are concerned with comfort not sustainability.

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