News and Announcements Archive

Transforming Cities becomes the Urban Research Network

Farewell from the Transforming Cities Team


On 31st March 2015 the funding for Transforming Cities will expire and our work will be taken up by the University's Urban Research Network. We thank all of you who have worked with us over the last five years for your energetic engagement and support and wish everyone involved in the Urban Research Network every success.


Transforming Cities Project Groups Report Back

Research Development Manager, Charlotte Šunde, 24 March 2015


The 12 research project groups seed-funded by Transforming Cities in late 2013 gathered together for a celebration of the fruition of their projects at an event hosted by TC on 24 March. Combined, the 12 projects brought together 43 academic staff from across the university's faculties as well as other research institutions, and supported a total of 25 research assistants including new PhD students. Of the 12 projects, three were funded in the housing research area, three were aligned with the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), and the remaining six focused on urban research with a social imperative.

The seed funding round deliberately supported innovative urban research challenges with opportunities to initiate novel interdisciplinary research with application to real-life challenges. As such, the fund enabled workshops nationally to extend networks, literature reviews and surveys, and focus group interviews to collect and collate data for future research applications. We are pleased to report that a number of groups presented conference papers, are progressing publications and reports, and have submitted applications to the Marsden Fund, MBIE, and WUN.

The EDFAB installation in Avondale for the Whau festival.

In the housing space, John Chapman and Paola Leardini (School of Architecture and Planning) reported back on the edFab: Eco Digital Fabrication project, led by Dermott McMeel and supporting PhD candidate Yusef Patel. The project responds to Auckland's affordable housing needs with the development of a digital cut-out design for prefabricated houses, thereby simplifying and accelerating the housing supply side. The team is currently applying for funding to develop the interface that will enable people to design their own house. A small proto-type was built for the Whau festival and some locals liked it so much they took up residence. The structure has since been moved to a local community church where it is undergoing further development and testing and is used for community group meetings.

edFAB website

Alice Mills and Claire Meehan (Criminology, Sociology) presented on their interdisciplinary team's work on "Meeting the housing needs of vulnerable groups". Two major literature reviews were completed, including one led by Angela Maynard from the Tenants Association who brought industry expertise and networks to the academic mix. The group organised three highly successful workshops: Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, featuring four excellent keynote speakers. Even the definition of what constitutes "vulnerable" was a hotly contested and robustly debated issue. Radio New Zealand National and other media outlets recognised the importance of this research enquiry, which exposed the secondary and tertiary social impacts of housing needs in New Zealand. A Marsden application resulted and a MBIE proposal is in progress.

Katherine Scott (Housing New Zealand) presented on behalf of Julie Park (Anthropology) and Tricia Laing (Housing NZ) on the issue of children in rental housing. The work extended a longitudinal study already undertaken by Housing NZ and responded to a gap in the literature concerning children in rental and state houses. In addition to the importance of safe, warm and dry housing, the significance of familiarity was highlighted as a critical factor in children's experiences of rental housing. A report was produced, and is currently in an official review process, and a literature review has been published and is available to download on the Transforming Cities website.

Children and Rental Housing Literature Review

The Ketso Kit, used in the workshop, is designed to increase engagement and find more creative solutions. It helps ensure everyone in the group has a voice.

Related to WUN funding, Stephen Turner (English) and Kirsten Locke (Education) investigated the importance of values underlying the possibility of a "liveable university", asking: is there a differential between what the university appears to be and what we value? The group employed novel methods - performances, games and workshops - to tease out the values that university employees hold, the disconnect from their lived experiences at the university, and the values that the university as an institution projects. This led to a WUN application, one of three selected by the university and submitted to the international WUN selection panel. The proposal linked universities in the UK, Canada, Denmark and Australia. A book, an article and a MBIE Smart Ideas proposal are all imminent.

Also within the WUN related research area, Anita Lacey (Development Studies) and Dory Reeves (Planning) reported on their research interest at the cross-section of climate change, migration in the Pacific Region, cities and gender. They sought to address the issue of how Auckland is responding to climate change migration, particularly the impacts on women. They quickly realised that there was very little research on climate change migration, let alone the gender analysis factor. A literature review and survey of stakeholders, and a workshop attended by wide range of Pacific and refugee community groups, have all provided a useful information base. Pacific participants at the workshop urged the researchers to not assume that migration has a singular rationale.


Sasha Matthewman (Education) and Charlotte Šunde (Transforming Cities) outlined the education orientation that the Imagining Water Sustainability project team focussed on, working with students and staff at James Cook High School in Manurewa. The emphasis on sustainability employed a range of artistic methods to activate students' responses to their local environment, including poetry, photography, dance and mapping workshops. Several conference presentations and an article have been produced, and Alys Longley (Dance Studies) is currently in Portugal extending this work and international connections.

Margaret Stanley (School of Biological Sciences) and Penny Cliffin (Landscape Architecture, Unitec) shared a project that addressed the timely question: do Aucklanders value trees? The project team brought together physical and social scientists from the University of Auckland, Massey University, Unitec and Landcare Research who were each personally motivated in favour of urban tree/forestry protection. Margaret reported on the steep learning curve she underwent in working with senior social scientists, and the enriched sets of relationships and research approaches she's adopting along the way. The project group undertook focus group interviews, a literature review/survey, a Radio NZ National interview, a seminar at Auckland Council and as part of the Transforming Cities seminar series, engagement with Ngāti Whatua o Orakei and the Tree Council. Strong sentiments were expressed by communities who feel passionate about trees in their urban neighbourhoods, and frustrated by the weakened protection status in the recent reforms to the RMA.

The urban/digital nexus: Participation, belonging and social media in Auckland project, led by Jay Marlowe (Education), conducted in-depth interviews with tertiary students from migrant backgrounds for the first phase of their study. After analysing this data and information gathered from symposia, three work streams have been established to develop papers led by each research member. A final symposium will be held on 14 April at Epsom Campus. Jay and Francis Collins (School of Environment) were successful on a WUN proposal as associate investigators on the associated bid led by The University of Western Australia, Community, popular and digital media in migrant settlement, integration and resilience: mobilities and belonging. They also were successful in gaining ICNF funding to present their Transforming Cities project in Hong Kong at the WUN global cultures symposium. Jay submitted an application to the Marsden Fund 2015 based on this work and Francis was awarded a prestigious Rutherford Scholarship.

Other groups not represented at the gathering include:
Kai Gu (Planning) - urban waterfront regeneration Kellie McNeill (Sociology) - new geographies of work - scoping Auckland's functional labour market areas Derrick Cherrie (Elam School of Fine Arts) - public art and transformative social outcomes in NZ cities (project not active)

SCANZ 2015 Water*Peace Symposium

Dr Alys Longley and Dr Charlotte Sunde, two reserachers from the Fluid City project, are participating as Artists in Residence in the SCANZ 2015 Water and Peace symposium in New Plymouth., in association with project partners Creative New Zealand, Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, Taranaki Savings Bank Community Trust and the Intercreate community, have run this event between the 18th of January and the 1st of February 2015.

The event began with an overnight stay at Parihaka on the 18th of January where participants joined the celebrations of Te Whiti and Tohu, prophets of peace. SCANZ2015:water and peace culminated over the weekend 30th of January to the 1st of February with presentations.

Friday night January 30th consisted of a short programme of night time projections in Pukekura Park. On Saturday 31st January the event moved to Huatoki Plaza and Puke Ariki landing.  There were presentations, performances and activities for the public. Artists, video makers, Taranaki Regional Council, local school age children, dancers and musicians presented their work and hosted activities.

On Sunday February 1st there will be a walking discussion tour of temporary art works installed on the banks of the Huatoki stream walkway, with artists, local presenters and people from around the country taking part.

Water and peace are significant issues for the global community. Participants from Vanuatu, the Nanavut nation of Canada, India, USA, Canada, Hungary, Australia, New Zealand and tangata whenua took part. This is the fifth SCANZ event and has the largest number of participants.


Radio New Zealand interviews Susan Frykberg, SCANZ 2015 resident artist, about this years event.…/201651…/susan-frykberg-scanz-2015

This short youtube video explains the thinking behind the event:




Marsden Fund Workshops

Transforming Cities is hosted a series of workshops (October 2014 - January 2015) to assist researchers in their applications to the Marsden Fund. Those who have attended previously found them a very useful forum to hone their research ideas and improve their applications. If you are interested in joining us to prepare for the next funding round please contact Charlotte and she will let you know when the next dates will be.

University process - All Marsden fund applicants need to email the Research Office at: and the Research Office will then open up a portal for you. We have asked that the Research Office hold a demonstration of the portal operation well in advance of the internal deadline so that this reduces any last minute stress. The University will hold mock panels in early February and a one-page abstract needs to be submitted to the Research Office prior to the mock panels. Marsden Fund internal UoA deadline is due one week before the Marsden Fund for 2015.



Building Homes, Transforming Lives

“The investment in social housing delivers on broader social outcomes: Every dollar spent in social housing delivers three dollars in health outcomes and a dollar fifty in education outcomes,” explained Vicki McLaren, Manager City Housing at Wellington City Council, who delivered the keynote address at the recent workshop, Housing Needs of Vulnerable Populations. The 21 October Wellington workshop was convened by a University of Auckland housing research team led by Dr Alice Mills and Dr Katey Thom and supported by Transforming Cities. This was the third in a series held around New Zealand with the long-term aim of creating sustainable networks to address the needs of vulnerable groups in relation to housing in New Zealand. Vicki reflected on Wellington’s housing upgrade programme, and provided examples of successful new builds in social housing such as Regent Park in Newtown. The critical importance of affordable housing and viable rental options for vulnerable populations, in particular homeless persons and ex-offenders, was made very clear by participants who represented a broad range of government and NGO sector groups. For more information on this project team, see here or contact Alice Mills:


Auckland Housing Project Office: A potential legacy

At a recent Fast Forward lecture the Project Director of the Housing Project Office (HPO) at Auckland Council, Ree Anderson, gave an illuminating presentation about the HPO and the new way it is doing business. Ree provided a comprehensive overview of the HPO including its establishment and the various plans, programmes and legislation that the office connects with. In order to address the housing challenges in Auckland and implement the Auckland Housing Accord, the HPO has taken a project-based, whole-of council approach in order to manage end-to-end policy and delivery.

View the presentation given by Ree Anderson.
Powerpoint presentation given by Ree Anderson for the Fast Forward Lecture on 23-9-2014. (998.3 kB, PDF)

University of Auckland researchers contribute to Building a Better New Zealand conference

The recent Building a Better New Zealand conference brought together industry stakeholders including researchers, industry leaders, policy makers, innovators, designers, and manufacturers, with a focus on research findings and case studies of best practice in the building and construction sector.

There was a focus on New Zealand’s built environment and how to transform the building sector to deliver on the needs of our future. Local and international speakers shared their knowledge and insights on innovative, high performance, and low impact approaches to developing, maintaining, and retrofitting the built environment.

A pleasing number of University of Auckland staff and students presented at the conference, including:

  • Professor Harvey Perkins, Director of Transforming Cities
  • Professor Dianne Brand, Dean, National Institute of Creative Arts and Indust
  • Professor Suzanne Wilkinson, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Peter Fehl, Director of Property Services
  • Associate Professor Carol Boyle, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Dr Dermott McMeel, Architecture and Planning
  • Dr Paola Leardini, Architecture and Planning
  • John Chapman, Architecture and Planning
  • Andre Nouri, Leila Mirza, & Natalie Allen, PhD candidates, Architecture and Planning
  • Mohammadali Noktehdan,

Presentations and material from Harvey Perkins, Dermott McMeel, John Chapman, and Andre Nouri can be accessed here.

Building Better Cities, Towns and Communities: What Kind of Research Agenda?
Keynote address by Prof Harvey Perkins (1.2 MB, PDF)
EDFAB: Is a Digital Revolution Possible for the Construction Industry?
Authors: Dermott McMeel, John Chapman, Manfredo Manfredini, Paola Leardini, Gary Raftery and Yusef Patel (5.5 MB, PDF)
A Framework of Thermal Sensitive Urban Design Benchmarks: Potentiating the Longevity of Auckland's Public Realm
Paper presented by Andre Santos Nouri, CIAUD, Faculty of Architecture, University of Lisbon (391.2 kB, PDF)

Transforming Cities research projects feature in ArtWeek 2014

The University will be repesented at ArtWeek (10-19 October) thanks in part to Transforming Cities: Innovations for Sustainable Futures, one of the University’s three Thematic Research Initiatives (TRIs).

Now in its fifth year, ArtWeek is a 10-day celebration of Auckland’s vibrant contemporary art scene. Public art galleries, commercial galleries, artist-run spaces and venues across the city will open their doors to art tours, talks, workshops and special events.

Featured in this year’s programme are the “Fluid City project” and “Project: Make Place”, two research initiatives that have received seed funding from Transforming Cities. The TRI, which promotes interdisciplinary, transformative research about cities and the way they function, has supported 12 projects this year, all of which have the potential for connection and relevance to external agencies.  

Imagining Water Sustainability (the Fluid City project) is a unique interactive art-science-education public event and collaboration between the University and James Cook High School in South Auckland. The project involves students in the co-production of knowledge about water in their local environment, combining science, poetry, dance, photography and mapping. University of Auckland researchers include Principal Investigator Dr Alys Longley (Dance Studies), Sasha Matthewman (Education), Dr Charlotte Šunde (Transforming Cities) and Dr Karen Fisher (School of Environment).

“Project: Make Place” is led by University of Auckland architect and researcher Dr Dermott McMeel, whose interests span architecture, information science and artistic practice. The project comprises two individual events as part of ArtWeek’s Whau Arts Festival held in Avondale. Part one, EDFAB, was seed-funded by Transforming Cities. EDFAB is a digitally fabricated building that pushes the boundary of what digital fabrication means for designers, the built environment and society as a whole.

The second part of the project, “Antigravity”, is an installation by the University’s architecture students that examines how places can be temporarily activated to create instant urbanity that serves as a catalyst for communities and change.

“It is exciting to see the support from Transforming Cities helping to build and strengthen research connections that may not otherwise have been made, particularly within Auckland’s diverse art world,” says Professor Harvey Perkins, Director, Transforming Cities. “That these two projects are part of ArtWeek reflects the scope of urban-focused research and its vital role in our urban environments.”

Francis Collins

Congratulations to the new Rutherford Discovery Fellows

Dr Francis Collins and Dr Katie Fitzpatrick, two members of the Transforming Cities research college, have been named among ten of New Zealand’s most talented early- to mid-career researchers to be awarded Rutherford Discovery Fellowships for 2014.  The prestigious Fellowships are intended to foster the development of future research leaders by providing funding of up to $800,000 each over five years to cover salary and research costs. The funding is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Francis Collins will be pursuing his ambitious research programme titled “Nation and Migration: population mobilities, desires and state practices in 21st century New Zealand.” Francis is involved with the Transforming Cities funded research project "The Urban Digital Nexus".

Katie Fitzpatrick will be undertaking research titiled “Rethinking Health Education and Promotion: Health Capital and Diverse Youth.” She was involved with the Fluid City project.

View more about the new Rutherford Discovery Fellows and their projects on the Royal Society of New Zealand website.

National Science Challenge 11 approved by Cabinet

The Government has approved the eleventh National Science Challenge, Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities – Ko ngā wā kāinga hei whakamāhorahora. This 10-year Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities Challenge will deliver:

  • practical solutions to develop smart cities, better transport and healthy urban environments
  • solutions to constraints on construction sector productivity and innovation uptake
  • innovative materials, processes and devices for the New Zealand construction sector
  • better understanding of demographic drivers and consumer preferences in housing
  • solutions for cost-effective upgrades to existing building stock.

Beehive Press Release

Urban researchers make successful bid to WUN

Congratulations to Jay Marlowe and Francis Collins for their part in a successful bid for Worldwide University Network (WUN) funding. Seed funding from Transforming Cities, for the projectThe urban/digital nexus: Participation, belonging and social media in Auckland helped enable the connections to associated researchers on the successful bid, Community, popular and digital media in migrant settlement, integration and resilience: mobilities and belonging.


Transforming Cities' researchers in the news

How do we value trees in our urban environment?


Transforming Cities researcher, Dr Margaret Stanley (School of Biological Sciences) and researchers from Landcare Research Ltd, Alison Greenaway and Robin Simcock featured on This Way Up - slices of life for curious minds Radio New Zealand National on Saturday 16 August,  12.25pm. This facinating discussion about trees in the urban environment focuses on the Wynyard Quarter, but relates to wider work that Dr Stanley is leading with human geographer, Professor Robin Kearns (School of Environment) and colleagues from Landcare, Massey University (SHORE) and Unitec, entitled “Seeing the wood for the trees: Exploring variability in the valuing of trees and biodiversity in a transforming Auckland.” More details about that project can be obtained from our Current Research Projects webpage.

Link to Radio article

Meeting the housing needs of vulnerable groups in New Zealand - workshops are making an impact

The Transforming Cities seed funded project lead by Dr Claire Meehan and Dr Alice Mills has been facilitating a think-tank on housing for vulnerable populations in New Zealand. In Auckland and then in Christchurch they have brought together an interdisciplinary network of interested stakeholders to workshop what provision currently exists for vulnerable groups, identify examples of best-practice approaches, and areas in need of further research.

The research involves cross-Faculty collaboration between the Centre for Mental Health Research, the Centre for Addictions Research and the Centre for Child and Family Research. The workshops are enabling nation-wide networking on the topic and assisting the University-based team to identify future studies grounded in the needs of vulnerable populations. University of Auckland principal investigator Claire Meehan said the "very little" housing research there was did not discuss the needs of vulnerable groups. Her research group hoped to "make things happen".

Professor Larry Murphy talks about Housing Affordability in New Zealand

The Ballot Box- Housing Affordability
Published on Jun 9, 201

Professor Laurence Murphy, who teaches in our Department of Property at the Business School, answers a few key questions on housing affordability, in the lead up to the next in the School's Ballot Box series, which looks at deepening our understanding of key issues leading up to the 2014 General Election.

Link to Youtube Video 


Tuesday 31 July, 2012

Research College member, Professor Larry Murphy, Department of Property, appears on TV3's Campbell Live to discuss housing affordability.
Link to TV3 News ondemand


Associate Professor Niki Harré talks about her book - Psychology for a Better World