Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Keep it simple Print E-mail

I was very proud of my draft Maritime Plan for the Waitemata Harbour. It was a fat document and covered everything. 




Brad Giles, the lawyer who was working with me, looked me straight in the eye. “Tony, we only want eight pages.” I was outraged. There was nothing I could leave out. It was all essential.

 I headed off to Wellington to calm down. Eventually I swallowed my pride and came back with eight pages. Brad looked me straight in the eye. “Tony, we only want two pages.”

I suddenly realised what he was on about. This time I came back to him with a single sentence. “Protect the natural character of the harbour.” Over the next five years we never lost a case. The lawyers had no success with ifs, buts, or maybes. There was only one simple question. Did the proposal protect the natural character of the harbour or did it not?

From that simple statement everything followed. Instead of architect’s cheap shoddy imitations of the Sydney Opera House we ended up with green headlands.

When the Harbour Board was disestablished the ARC became the Maritime Planning Authority. For political reasons they rewrote my plan and Mary Buckland managed to turn it into a 500 page document. After that they never won a case. The lawyers had a field day, and the judges got lost in the complexity of the debate. No one knew where they were going or why. Planners who try to control everything end up achieving nothing. Less is more.

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