Urbanisation is one of the 21 century’s most transformative trends, and increasing urban population along with the impacts of climate change provide new challenges and new opportunities. However, there are significant differences in the way countries are perceiving the phenomenon of climate change and implementing adaptation strategies to improve urban climate.
This paper reports on a study carried out in New Zealand and aimed at identifying how the country is implementing adaptation strategies through urban design and planning to improve urban climate in the face of climate change. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with New Zealand scholars studying urban climate related issues, urban design and planning practitioners, and governance. The study was designed to provide a wide range of perceptions rather than a set number of interviews in specific cities. The semi-structured interviews focused upon awareness of the need for climate change adaptation, existing urban climate phenomena as a consequence of design decisions, existing design strategies to improve climate adaptation, communication of climate change issues, existing policy instruments and implementation of initiatives.
The paper discusses the perceptions of interviewees regarding awareness and urgency of action; the role of citizens, governance, and urban designers and planners in the urban climate adaptation agenda; and the role of dramatic events such as the Christchurch earthquakes on acknowledging the need for appropriate design and planning. Results indicate that the geographical condition of New Zealand and its consequent maritime climate means that climate change – particularly effects related to city design – are not seen as a major issue. However, the recent Christchurch earthquakes have sped up the processes of change, making citizens and governance more aware of consequences of inappropriate design and planning.