Panuku is a Maori word meaning to “move on” or “move forward”. It conveys the concept of dynamism and building towards excellence and references the level of collaboration and teamwork required to successfully propel a waka (traditional Maori canoe). For us, the metaphor couldn’t be more fitting.

In September of 2015, the Auckland Council organisations Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Property Ltd (ACPL) were brought together to create Panuku Development Auckland – an urban regeneration agency designed to drive successful development for Auckland, working from the blueprint of the recently revitalised waterfront precinct, Wynyard Quarter and calling on the strength of Council’s property portfolio.

To put it officially, we “facilitate urban redevelopment that optimises and integrates good public transport outcomes, efficient and stable infrastructure, and quality public services and amenities” [1] The bringing together of what has been described as the “Waterfront Mojo” with the level of commercial skill, precision, and knowledge held by ACPL, is proving to be a very exciting mix for those of us in the middle. As we get to know each other’s skill sets and areas of interest, new processes are evolving - which seems a very good thing in terms of the work we are doing for this city we care about. To quote our Chief Executive John Dalzell, this merger should be based on the possibility that “2 + 2 = 7”.

"The bringing together of what has been described as the “Waterfront Mojo” with the level of commercial skill, precision, and knowledge held by ACPL, is proving to be a very exciting mix for those of us in the middle."

What our new remit covers:

Panuku Development Auckland, now 10 months old, is feverishly working to rejuvenate parts of our city - from “small projects that refresh a site or building, to major transformations of town centres or neighbourhoods.” [2] Auckland is facing rapid growth and as a result of this, it is experiencing significant housing and infrastructure pressures. Around 800 people move to Auckland each week, and current projections suggest the population could reach 2.01 million by 2033 - an increase of more than 517,000 people within the next two decades. So there is no time to waste.

As an urban regeneration agency, Panuku Development Auckland’s structure is the first of its kind in New Zealand with a mandate to:

  • Work across multiple locations and scales - from large long-term urban regeneration projects to small projects on specific sites;

  • Operate in a commercial way, but with good public outcomes. We make a profit and deliver returns to Council, but at the same time ensure developments and community outcomes are positive and sustainable;

  • Provide leadership and unlock barriers to enable urban transformation to occur. We’ll pilot ideas to advance Council objectives in affordable housing, housing for older persons and iwi partnerships.


Carry backing of Council finances - which allows us to borrow at low cost and obtain funding through Auckland’s 10-year budget process -  we can structure the delivery of projects in a way that helps fund positive public outcomes.

Why a place led approach is so important for the organisation and indeed the city?

Panuku is involved throughout the lifecycle of property, from buying, developing, managing, and selling the property on behalf of Auckland Council, through identifying when the property is no longer required or when it can be used to better meet community needs. And so consideration needs to be given to the impacts and the outcomes of our projects from every viewpoint; to ensure that we are creating developments that are successful over the very long term.

In adopting a place led approach Panuku is committed to creating well-conceived spaces, with strong patterns of use that in turn helps to foster and support connected communities, good economic outcomes and resilient, high-value development. And happy people.

As such, there are two fundamental principles in any Panuku Place Led process:

Letting the place speak for itself: A process of discovery needs to be step one - research, observation, attention to work that has gone before, and the physical environment (historic, environmental, built) all need to be taken into account at the start of any master planning process.

Letting people speak for the place: Local communities and all the various stakeholders in a place are experts in local knowledge and what makes a place good and liveable.    Place-making processes help in connecting this knowledge to plans, programmes, and activities on the ground - both at the beginning of planning processes as well as regularly through development, and on beyond completion.

The work on Auckland’s CBD Waterfront developed a successful formula.  However, every place has its own DNA and its own communities and constituents, so the outcomes for the new places in which we are working will be different – in other words, place-based.  There are, nevertheless, factors that can be taken forward. Our place team, therefore, base their work in the field around 10 Principles that are developed in order to best capture a process designed to foster collaboration, constant communication, and flexibility in urban planning.

There are several organisations and Council work streams charged with place-making and community empowerment within the Auckland region. It is imperative that the good work of Panuku does not conflict or negatively impact on the roles of these organisations. Rather, it should actively seek to support and benefit shared outcomes. The role of place-making should be to support an iterative process that is responsive, open and honest.  In this, Panuku aims to work together with its Council family members, Mana Whenua (local Maori or “people of the land”), local peoples, and other related agencies charged to ensure that the people of Auckland participate in, and benefit from, the transformation of their City.


On the back of our business cards is our strapline - “Shaping Spaces for Aucklanders to Love”. Through a genuinely place led approach, and with a focus on people, we are working to ensure that we deliver on this promise – like, literally.