Many of the transport solutions we develop impact the spaces in which New Zealanders live, work and play. As we develop our transport networks, we are working to ensure quality urban design processes inform the integrated planning, environmental planning and design, implementation and management of the network.

What is urban design?

Urban design is the planning and design process that seeks to create desirable places for people to live, work and play. It involves the design and placement of buildings, roads, rail, public transport, walking and cycling facilities, open spaces, towns and cities. It focuses on the relationship between built form, land use and open space, natural features and human activity. Good urban design creates spaces that function well, have a distinctive identity and appeal. Good urban design outcomes support the role of the land transport system in shaping places and spaces to be accessible for people.

Our commitment to quality urban design

As a signatory to the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol, we're committed to planning for, developing and promoting quality urban design.

New Zealand Urban Design Protocol

Our commitment to integrated planning

Through our urban design processes, we support transport and land use integration, and good urban outcomes. From the spatial planning to site specific design.

Our integrated planning strategy

Our commitment to environment and sustainability

Urban design and landscape are part of the legislation and policy documents that guide our social and environmental responsibilities.

Environmental and social responsibility

Through our urban design processes, projects can also gain sustainability credits with the Infrastructure Sustainability Council (ISC) sustainably rating scheme.

Sustainability rating scheme

Our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Positively working with Māori culture and embedding mana whenua values into design offers significant opportunities that benefit all. NZTA develops specific principles through partnerships and these are set at the local place-based level. These principles can span partnership behaviours, set outcome-based vision and objectives, and aid collaboration on intrinsic Māori cultural values. 

This approach has arisen from a widely held desire to enhance mana whenua presence, visibility and participation in the design of the environment and physical realm.

For NZTA, mātauranga Māori in design and design principles are part of giving effect to Te Ara Kotahi – Our Māori Strategy

Te Ara Kotahi – Our Māori Strategy

Our commitment to public engagement and place

Good practice urban design also supports our public engagement processes and work with communities.

Social values

Our operational policy for urban design and landscape

Urban design is an integrated approach to transport planning, land use planning, network design and place-based planning and design. Urban design includes integrating system-level thinking with local communities to meet current and future needs and aspirations at all scales, from national level to neighbourhood level. This integrated approach includes:

  • spatial planning
  • transport integration with urban form and urban development
  • multidisciplinary place-based planning and design
  • street planning and design
  • urban design services (urban design assessment, design frameworks, design masterplans, design review)
  • landscape architecture services (landscape planning and assessment, landscape design and landscape management)
  • resource and environmental planning
  • architecture and aesthetics of structures. 

Our policy on urban design can be found in:

This is supported by:

Alongside the above, our policy on landscape can be found in:

This is supported by:

NZTA design principles

These principles reflect NZTA expectations for the integration of urban design in all phases of projects and the desired interdisciplinary approach to addressing urban form, urban mobility and urban design and landscape issues. The principles are applicable to all projects from the large and complex to the small and simple. The principles should be used in the early stages of a project to assist with the design of route options. As the design evolves, these principles should be adapted and turned into context- and project-specific design objectives and place-based principles.

The principles should not be considered in isolation but be pursued in parallel as they are closely inter-related. A project which dismisses one or more principles entirely is unlikely to lead to satisfactory urban design outcomes.

Our key principles for urban form and transport integration, are under development (coming soon).

Our key urban design principles, as set out in Bridging the gap, our urban design guidelines, are:

  • designing for the context
  • integrating transport and land use
  • contributing to good urban form
  • integrating all modes of movement
  • supporting community cohesion
  • maintaining local connectivity
  • respecting cultural heritage values
  • designing with nature
  • creating a positive road user experience
  • achieving a low maintenance design.

Bridging the gap: NZ Transport Agency urban design guidelines

Our key landscape principles, as set out in our Landscape guidelines, are:

  • a context sensitive and place-based approach
  • facilitate green infrastructure and landscape integration
  • understand the physical conditions
  • the right plant in the right place
  • promote biodiversity and build in resilience
  • champion  water sensitive design
  • deliver visual quality and a quality user experience
  • low maintenance and whole of life value
  • safety in design
  • facilitate community engagement and a collaborative approach.

Landscape guidelines

Key documents

Standards, guidelines and specifications provide an opportunity to clearly specify NZTA minimum levels of service, consolidate practical experience gained by the organisation and disseminate specific specialist knowledge relating to the construction, operation and maintenance of land transport infrastructure, so this knowledge can be applied efficiently and consistently across the organisation.

These key documents relate to NZTA expectations on how to meet our Urban Design Protocol obligations, help transport networks fit in sensitively with the landform and the built, natural and community environments through which they pass, and ensure the design of land transport infrastructure contributes to quality public spaces and transport-user experience.

Urban design and urban form

We’re current developing guidance about transport and land use integration, which we expect to publish mid-2023. This guidance will support access to public transport within urban centres.

Aotearoa urban street planning and design guide

Aotearoa urban street planning and design guide

This includes reference to:

Bridging the gap: NZ Transport Agency urban design guidelines

Bridging the gap: NZ Transport Agency urban design guidelines

This includes:

  • NZTA urban design policy, objectives and methods, and urban design principles
  • urban design requirements and process
  • urban design assessment guidelines
  • P44 Urban design specification
  • design framework guidelines
  • general design guidelines including design of highways:
    • highways in special context (urban arterials, main streets, scenic routes)
    • supporting walking and cycling (including facilities, lighting and crime prevention through environmental design)
    • highway components (including all roading elements, earthworks, stormwater management, highway furniture, stopping places, open space and public art)
  • useful document and references
  • urban design considerations in bridge architecture and structural design 
  • post-completion assessment of urban design for capital projects review template.

Other urban design documents and guides

Noise and vibration

Bridge manual

  • Urban form and transport integration guide (coming soon)
  • Design framework guide (coming soon, contact for details), which will include:
    • preliminary design frameworks, draft/planning version, final versions for procurement and planning, design masterplan and management plans, and sector plans
    • a clear nomenclature for ‘design framework’ document types including: UDLF (urban design framework), ULDF (landscape design framework), ULDF (urban and landscape design framework), and CEDF (cultural and environmental design framework) and the associated management plans/ master plans. Refer to our current urban design guidelines for details.

Landscape guidelines

Landscape guidelines

This includes:

NZTA landscape policy, objectives and methods, and landscape principles

  • landscape requirements and process
  • general landscape guidance including:
    • design for highway environments (urban, peri-urban, rural, coastal and significant natural environments and national parks)
    • landscape design considerations (including road safety, extent of landscape across the corridor and around highway facilities, heritage and cultural considerations and other considerations when designing highway landscape treatments)
    • landscape treatments (including all from soil to planting, hard and soft landscape and materials)
    • highway landscape management and maintenance (including detail on establishing quality treatments)
    • defects liability and maintenance phase (including detail on addressing quality control and hand over of assets)
    • operations and maintenance phase (including detail on maintenance and management)
  • Landscape and visual assessment guidelines
  • P39 Specification for highway landscape treatments

Other landscape documents

  • NZTA Tree Policy (coming soon)


Urban design research

Landscape research

Urban and landscape design frameworks

Design frameworks, which include urban and landscape design frameworks (ULDFs), cultural and environmental design frameworks (CEDFs), urban design frameworks (UDFs) and/or landscape design frameworks (LDFs), illustrate the guiding transport objectives, integrated approach to land use and environment, and the implementation of NZTA’s landscape and urban design principles for a project.

These documents present the spatial, corridor, network and place-based planning context, research and investigations, and coordinate essential environmental mitigation, as well as partnership and stakeholder/community inputs as an integrated package.

The frameworks also address the overall approach, focus areas and features including for multi-modal facilities.

A design framework ensures that the transport investment is fit for context and aligned with NZTA’s commitment to good outcomes.

The following are a selection of ULDFs developed by NZTA.

These resources demonstrate NZTA’s commitment to urban design and landscape, our concerns for the natural and built environments and impacts of infrastructure on surrounding communities. The links include case studies and lessons learnt aimed at firmly establishing urban design and landscape as a standard working practice for NZTA.

The material should be a source of inspiration, targeted at those tasked with planning, designing, implementing, and managing our infrastructure projects and for those in NZTA or working/acting on behalf of NZTA whose actions affect urban design outcomes.

Preliminary frameworks

  • Manawatū Tararua Highway Project (2019) (link coming soon)
  • Northland Township – executive summary (2019) (link coming soon)
  • Twin Coast Discovery Route (2019) (link coming soon)
  • SH3 New Plymouth to Hawera (2019) (link coming soon)
  • Northland Townships – Dargaville (2019) (link coming soon)
  • Peka Peka to Ōtaki (2016) (link coming soon)
  • Kirkbride (2014) (link coming soon)

Planning frameworks

Master plans

Concept plans (small projects)

Case studies

Other case studies can be found in Bridging the gap.

Bridging the gap: NZ Transport Agency urban design guidelines

  • State Highway 1 reconfiguration (M2PP)
  • Kumeu/Huapai – an urban design outcome
  • Victoria Park Urban and Landscape Design Framework
  • Noise walls that integrate with their context
  • Integrated thinking (Hamilton Southern Links)
  • Influencing urban form (Newmarket Viaduct Master Plan)
  • Upgrading Albany Highway (all modes of movement)
  • Mending severed connections – Onehunga foreshore restoration (avoid severing communities)
  • Connecting Newmarket (maintain local connectivity)
  • New era for heritage Building (respecting built heritage values)
  • Respect for cultural heritage values – Takiroa rock art (respecting cultural heritage values)
  • Rangiriri Bypass (respecting cultural heritage values)
  • Bridge that touches the earth lightly (design with nature)
  • 100% pure NZ (tourism journeys)
  • The view from the road (Orewa Interchange Bridge)
  • Simple barriers, high maintenance (unpainted timber noise barriers)
  • Design speeds (implications on urban environment)
  • Greening the quays (Jervois Quay, Wellington)
  • Lower Hutt High Street (main streets)
  • From state highway to main street (Orewa Boulevard project)
  • A hop stop and a jump (the great Kiwi road trip)
  • Scenic routes and infrastructure (structures can undermine this experience)
  • Scenic vs safety – can we have both? (Tasman Valley Road upgrade)
  • Model communities (walking and cycling in urban environments)
  • Walk this way (Coastal Walkway, New Plymouth)
  • NZ’s first puffin pedestrian crossing, Hutt City Council
  • Let’s go cycling! New Plymouth – Bell Block path
  • A model walking and cycling community, Hasting’s iWay project
  • An award-winning bridge (Clarks Lane footbridge)
  • Case study: A meaningful icon (Te Rewa Rewa Bridge)
  • A safe underpass – Kamo clearly visible
  • Turning light into art The Terrace Tunnel lighting
  • Onehunga underpass foreshore access
  • Graffiti prevention well covered (Greenhithe noise walls)
  • Elegance and purpose – Waiwera Viaduct: Northern Gateway toll road
  • Bridge design competition Memorial Avenue and Russley Road, Christchurch
  • Poor bridge aesthetics
  • Integrating retaining walls
  • Trench architecture (Wellington inner-city bypass)
  • Geotechnical conditions inspire innovative bridge solution (the Pukeko Bridge)
  • Maioro noise walls (Auckland)
  • Double sided noise walls
  • Transparent noise barriers (Victoria Park Tunnel project, Auckland)
  • Makorori improvements (guard rail barriers)
  • Slender W barrier supports
  • Design of stormwater wetlands (Hobsonville Point wetland)
  • A new generation of traffic signals (Queen Street, Auckland)
  • Landmark roundabout design (Whanganui Gateway)
  • Johnstone’s Hill tunnels – Northern Gateway toll road – dig deep for an optimal outcome
  • Rest areas (partnerships)
  • Onewa Interchange (planting under bridges – new designs)
  • Landscape noise bunds (Rolleston)
  • NZ heritage in harbour bridge landscape
  • Integrating engineering and art (Victoria Park Tunnel, Auckland)
  • Developing a world-class skate and cycle park (Victoria Park Tunnel, Auckland)
  • A park fit for a centenary (Memorial Park, Wellington)


NZTA have been acknowledged by the sector for their work on a number of projects.

Awards NZTA has won

Further information

For further information contact