Advocating for a more aspirational Devonport

Concept Design & Article

“That’s why the discussions about a mix of development proposals for Devonport deserve to be kept alive and not placed off limits with undue haste.”


Given all of its obvious charms, the harbourside settlement of Devonport is, without doubt, one of those few destinations in greater Auckland that has the power to act as a signal defining demonstration of our past, present and future as a liveable city.

That’s why the discussions about a mix of development proposals for Devonport deserve to be kept alive and not placed off limits with undue haste.

Even though the current proposals have had a good gestation period, with many now on a conveyor belt provided by various consents, it is not too late to influence the next phase of implementing the proposals so that they continue to be open to changes and modifications, fine-tuning and re-visioning.

Most importantly, it is not too late to collaborate within the wider community to ensure that Devonport’s future development doesn’t occur as a set of disjointed, piecemeal or isolated elements.

A common pitfall of urban planning processes is that they can frequently result in a set of decisions that are not necessarily consistent with a strong vision – such as that provided by a coherent precinct-wide masterplan.

The result can also unfold in such a way that design elements don’t necessarily inform each other, and the overall effect can all too easily fall out of touch with what may have been originally conceived – as well as falling out of touch with both local and citywide expectations.

Along with other concerned citizens and professional designers, we have been expressing this concern to the Takapuna Devonport Board.

Our concerns are borne out of one overriding imperative: An aspiration that Devonport be developed more transparently as an entire village, rather than being satisfied with a series of disconnected upgrades.

Upgrades alone will of course tick various boxes. Architecturally library makeover, tick. Boardwalk, tick. Punctuate the end of a palm avenue with a new public seat, tick. And so on.

To our mind ticking boxes isn’t and won’t be enough to underpin a longer-term vision for Devonport, which is why we’ve embarked on a parallel process we are calling the Devonport 2020 Vision.

Essentially the purpose of the Devonport 2020 Vision is to put up a precinct-wide model as a lens through which Aucklanders can better envision the future urbanscape of Devonport for themselves.

For resident and visitors alike, the strengths of Devonport are that it exhibits both an understated nature and an accessible scale.

Through the adjacency of wharf, waterfront and civic spaces it delivers a welcome mat to a legacy of time and place that has retained its character without succumbing to overt ‘beautification’, when or where it didn’t need it.

The projects that are happening are positive. The devil being in the detail, it is fair enough to have some specific reservations about aspects of the current design for the library building. We have put those to the library project team, and we await what will transpire when a new design for the wharf building emerges.

Sometimes a fait accompli appears to be just that. A counter-view, held by our group, is that fresh insight in design at any stage of a project is a good thing.

We believe the approach taken in Devonport will set precedents that should and must be of interest across Auckland. If we want to optimise the city to one day be one of the world’s most liveable, we can’t do that from the sidelines.

Mark Twain said it best: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did do. Sail away from the safe harbour. Explore, Dream, Discover".

As we continue to put forward our Devonport 2020 Vision concept model we will be doing so in the spirit of that quote.

The risk of not making alternative views known in the interests of enhancing the integrity of projects is that we live with mistakes or sub-optimal results that could have been avoided but for taking extra time now to ensure they really do work, that they are fully understood and that they really do have the full support of the community.

If there are doubts about achieving the very best for Devonport, now is the time to express those doubts.

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