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Whakahoahoa tiakanga wai

Water sensitive design

Water sensitive urban design (WSUD), also called water sensitive design (WSD) or low impact design (LID), is a more environmentally friendly approach to urban development.

It uses the natural processes of soils and plants to manage stormwater run-off. It also promotes a reduction of water usage including enhanced water re-use and improves urban liveability and human wellbeing. 

Our city’s growth means increased run-off from hard surfaces and pollutants, which adds pressure on our streams, rivers and harbours. The potential effects of climate change, including increased frequency and severity of weather events, will also add to this pressure.

Rutherford Street rain garden

Rain garden in Rutherford St, Tauranga. This garden is an example of water sensitive design in action.

Applying water sensitive design in Tauranga

Tauranga City Council holds consents for its existing stormwater discharges across the city. Consents require council to consider a WSD approach for any new development or redevelopment projects in Tauranga. As a result, council is working on identifying practical placement of WSD for different types of projects. 

An example – Durham Street upgrade

The Durham Street upgrade project included the construction of rain gardens to treat run-off which flows into the harbour. These are designed to remove contaminants while providing a native plant habitat in an urban space. The cleaner water then enters the groundwater before entering the harbour. The plants in the raingarden and trees in Durham Street are also a key amenity feature and break up the otherwise hard surface structures. 

In addition, filters have been installed in stormwater manholes along the ‘non-green’ section of the street. These filters treat the run-off in areas where vehicles, particularly buses, regularly stop.

  Durham Street Garden Durham Street Garden


Urban water principles – Ngā wai manga 

The Urban Water Working Group (UWWG), have developed a set of principles to guide decision making that promotes sustainable behaviours and the creation of water sensitive urban spaces. The UWWG are an independent group of urban water practitioners with expertise in policy, planning, engineering and urban design.

The principles promote drawing on mātauranga Māori, the lessons of the past, international best practice, the needs of our present communities, and a vision of a sustainable, resilient future.

View the urban water principles

Presentations – Water sensitive design seminar 2019

A series of presentations given during the water sensitive design seminar in Tauranga in October 2019. These presentations focused on the benefits of WSD and the efforts at national, regional and local levels to green towns and cities while supporting their growth. 

To address the negative effects of development on our waterways, it is best practice to apply a water sensitive design approach to any new developments and redevelopments in urban areas. 

Biophilic public health in the built environment

Neil de Wet, Toi Te Ora

Neil outlines the development of the ideas of biophilic design and biophilic cities. With local and international examples, Neil describes how these concepts and principles can help inform an ecological approach to public health and the built environment that promotes the health and wellbeing of people, nature and the planet.

View the video

Te Ao Māori and water sensitive urban design

Troy Brockbank, WSP

This presentation introduces Māori perspectives of water and discusses the importance of cultural integration for our water industry. Complementing traditional/engineered stormwater management views with Māori world views (Te Ao Māori) will go a long way towards not only providing for a culturally enhanced, holistic approach to stormwater management, but further promoting water stewardship.

View the video

Climate change and water sensitive design

James Hughes, Tonkin + Taylor

James presents on climate change risk, and the role of water sensitive design within climate-resilient cities. He also presents on his recent research into the impacts of climate change on stormwater management, and considerations for the design of water sensitive design devices.

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Supporting water sensitive design in the Bay of Plenty Region

Nicki Green and Paul Scholes, Bay of Plenty Regional Council 

A presentation on the water sensitive design matters that are core to Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s functions – integrated management and managing effects on land, freshwater and coastal environments. Nicki and Paul provide a brief snapshot of urban areas in the region and the state of freshwater and receiving environments. They then talk about upcoming opportunities to strengthen and develop support for water sensitive design. 

View the video

The Ministry for the Environment’s perspective on water sensitive design and freshwater management in urban areas

Arron Cox, Ministry for the Environment 

Arron from the Ministry for the Environment’s urban water team speaks about the role that water sensitive urban design could play in meeting the Government’s proposals for freshwater in urban areas, and how the Government is helping and hopes to help councils promote and implement water sensitive urban design.

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Kirimoko Park: a living example of integrated water sensitive urban design

Andres Roa, AR & Associates

Andres presents on the advantages and challenges of implementing a water sensitive urban design approach illustrated through a living example – the Kirimoko Park development.

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Benefits of water sensitive urban design 

Sue Ira, Koru Environmental Consultants

This presentation is based on the Water NZ Paper of the Year (2019) conference paper and discusses the economics of water sensitive urban design in the New Zealand context. Sue provides information on the cost of different green infrastructure practices, focussing on life cycle costs to better understand the long-term maintenance costs of stormwater management. Sue also explores the benefits of water sensitive urban design. She also discusses the water sensitive urban design assessment tool, “More Than Water”, which was developed by the Activating WSUD in NZ collaborative research team.

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Hobsonville Point – a master-planned community

Mike Chapman, Te Miro Water Consultants

The key to the success of Hobsonville Point is the comprehensive approach to development. Hobsonville Point is a medium density development. Achieving a higher density development is inherently more sustainable than lower density development due to the better use of the land resource. But at higher density the open space and roads need to serve multiple functions – including stormwater management – and this introduces complexity. Managing and prioritising competing demands is what Hobsonville Point does well.

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Apanui Linear Park

Glenn Cooper, Whakatāne District Council

The Apanui Linear Park is a proposal to transform a poorly functioning low-lying urban space in Whakatāne into an area that serves a number of functions. This presentation describes the opportunities such as reducing flooding, improving water quality and creating an attractive space while also being adaptable to rising ground water.

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Kopurererua Restoration Project

Dianne Paton, Tauranga City Council and Geoff Canham

An overview of the long-term restoration efforts in the Kopurererua Valley (Tauranga) to enhance environmental and community outcomes. The presentation covers what has been done in the last 20 years and what is being planned for the next 10 years.

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Flood hazard planning

Kate Dawkings, Tauranga City Council

An update on current Tauranga City Council work on re-mapping flood hazards and potential new plan provisions, and their alignment with a water sensitive design approach.

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Healthy Streets

Greg Bassam, Tauranga City Council

The role of urban streets is evolving. More and more cities are exploring how the street environment can be used to make communities healthier and happier. The Healthy Streets concept is an evidence-based approach for creating fairer, sustainable, attractive urban spaces. 

View the video

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