EPISODE SUMMARY: On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, we speak with Haley Hooper nō Ngāti Hau, an urban designer living in Tāmaki Makaurau, who explains just what an urban designer is, and how we navigate our role as mataawaka practitioners.
GUESTS: Haley Hooper
Jade Kake: Tēnā koutou katoa
Nau mai haere mai ki te Indigenous Urbanism, Aotearoa Edition, Episode 10.
I’m your host Jade Kake and this is Indigenous Urbanism, stories about the spaces we inhabit, and the community drivers and practitioners who are shaping those environments and decolonising through design.
On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, we speak with Haley Hooper nō Ngāti Hau, an urban designer living in Tāmaki Makaurau, who explains just what an urban designer is, and how we navigate our role as mataawaka practitioners.
Kia ora Haley. Thanks for meeting me, and thanks for being on the podcast. The first thing I'd like to ask is, ko wai koe? Nō hea koe? Who are you and where are you from?
Haley Hooper: Kia ora Jade, thank you for having me today. It's a pleasure to be here and to be able to speak with you. Ko Huruiki to maunga, ko Whakapara te awa, Ngāpuhi te iwi, ko Ngāti Hau to hapū, ko Whakapara te marae, ko Ray raua ko Sheree ōku mātua, ko Haley tōku ingoa. Nō Whangārei ahau, engari nō Tāmaki Makaurau ahau ināianei. My name is Haley Hooper from up north, I'm from Whangārei originally. My mum's from Whangārei, and my dad's from Kaitaia. I moved to Auckland when I was 14 and lived in Takapuna and then followed on, went to university in Auckland, and here I still am in Tāmaki today.
JK: We've met here at the top of Maungawhau Mt Eden in Tāmaki. I just wanted to ask you, why did you chose this place?
HH: So I guess for me, when you asked me to be interviewed I was trying to think of where we would be a place that does the kōrero justice, and a place where I really like to be. I think I always enjoy to be in outdoor environments, and being on the top of a maunga looking out across Tāmaki seemed like a pretty inspirational place and I was hoping that my thoughts might flow a little bit better up here.
JK: Kia ora to that. Now Haley you're an urban designer, but you're trained in and have started out your career in architecture. Which makes sense, because traditionally architects, as well as planners and landscape architects, took on that role of urban design, before it emerged as a distinct discipline. So, for those who don't know what urban design is, and what an urban designer does, could you explain that and how that has become its own thing?
HH: So I guess urban design is a fairly recent profession to have emerged. I would say kind of from around the 1950s, but much more predominantly in the last 20 to 30 years. Jane Jacobs was probably one of the founders of the profession in a sense I think. And yeah, it is a shift from architecture, landscape and planning. So, urban design is kind of like the crossroads of those three things coming together. People often speak about it being the design of the spaces in between, so the space in between buildings, or the stuff that knits cities together. So if you think about traditional European cities, it's much more evident what the urban design part is, because the space is so much stronger, the spatial dominance of what's actually in between the building. And you really feel and recognise what those spaces are, and the space as a thing and the buildings are a frame. Whereas I think sometimes in New Zealand you often find that the buildings are the object, and the space in between is secondary, and it's something you can't even almost read. So it lacks a form, and it kind of leaks everywhere. So, going back to the original question, urban design I think is most commonly known as the design of cities, and it's integration of the public realm, infrastructure, social and transport and servicing infrastructures. The negotiation of politics and planning - as joyous as that sometimes is or isn't - and development controls, and it's generally looking at design from that broader scale. Involving a number of buildings or spaces as opposed to one thing, but the collection of parts. And it can also be things like looking at economics, feasibility and evaluations, identifying opportunities for growth in the city or growth management, and looking at targeted areas where future urban development might happen. Plus it's definitely about culture, and it's absolutely about heritage, resilience, and things like accessibility as well. So I think it's a very difficult profession to define succinctly.
JK: Because it sounds like it's everything
HH: It's a little bit of everything, yeah, and that's probably why I like it.
JK: And so what did lead you to move on from purely architectural work, to more urban design mahi?
HH: So I think originally when I was studying at university I was always interested in things from an urban scale, and I kind of followed lecturers like John Hewitt, who were urban designers, just naturally, because I think of the social motivation, and the fact that you are doing things that change the common good or interested in the broader picture or the vision, strategy, for the design, as opposed to the architectural side, which can sometimes be about the object - it not always is, but. So, I guess, started at university, and then I went off and worked in a number of different areas of architecture, which was interesting from a design point of view, but I kept struggling with the fact that I wasn't able to contribute to things that are concerning, for me, really concerning the city, and community, and the bigger, broader scale ideas.
JK: So architecture felt quite limited and it perhaps didn't go far enough to achieve some of these broader social aims that we might hope that our work might encompass?
HH: Yes, and I think the thing is, architecture, all of the disciplines, has it's place, but I was just interested in the bigger ideas part of design, and that seemed to be urban design. So a job came up at Jasmax and I was like, oh cool, I'll give that a shot. And that's where it kind of started from there under Al Ray.
JK: How have you found it as you've continued on that journey? Obviously you had an interest, and you thought urban design might be the way to achieve some of these things, that'll give that a crack. How do you feel now, a few years later?
HH: Big question.
JK: Loaded question.
HH: I think, my first thing I would say, I still feel really good about the decision that I made to take that path for me, because I think it has enabled me to be involved in projects at a broader scale, and across architecture, landscape, planning, economics and those types of things that I'm interested in. I think I probably didn't really understand what urban design was, and what the environment, the development environment is like in Auckland all the time. I think that sometimes has been probably challenging or revealing, like any growth and education is. But I still see it as a very aspirational discipline, and I think the relationship of urban design to architecture is something that is a continuum and I still see those things not as one or the other, even though I've selected to be in -
JK: This part of the continuum, it's not one or the other, it's yeah, like you said a continuum, and you're just kind of sitting here, rather than maybe over here where you would have been before.
HH: Yes, yeah. And I think that shifts too, you know, like you start in architecture, and I've moved into urban design, and who knows where I'll end up.
JK: I asked Haley about the role and relevance of The Treaty of Waitangi within the built environment professions.
HH: So yeah I think there's a really strong place in design now for recognising the tino rangatiratanga of place, or of tangata whenua. And, I think to me it means that the environment is then considered from a holistic point of view, and it's considered as a taonga, and as soon as you make that transition in your thinking of the environment as a taonga you take a duty of care around it that's much different to looking at it as a product or an object for development sole purposes. And that is a fundamental thing that I think the Treaty offers New Zealand and that partnership offers New Zealand going forward. And when you look at resource management, urban design, architecture and development, if we have that kind of embrace from Māori, and Pākehā who come on board with it, it's a really beautiful thing. Because, it means that you take on the idea of being kaitiaki. You take on the idea and the responsibility of being kaitiaki, and you're stopping to take the time to understand the land, and the importance of the land, and everything that that offers, first. Before you start to look at how you may intervene into that space. And that's, like, phenomenally important. The Treaty offers New Zealand or Aotearoa an opportunity to acknowledge and uphold a relationship between two people, but it also has an opportunity for us as designers to really create an incredible country - which we already have - but in an urban way.
JK: I really like that whakaaro, I'm glad you took it there.
HH: Part of the thing that I find really interesting is the conversation or the kōrero around New Zealand being a bicultural place, but co-governance and co-management. And how those types of ideologies are evolving. I know that they're still developing and there's a lot of teething problems in those areas, but I am really inspired by the fact that we are going down that path, that we have started on that path. We started on it a long, long time ago, but that we in this modern contemporary context are discussing things like co-governance and co-management, because we should be one hundred percent doing that.
JK: And the amount of, I guess, activities and relationships that are Treaty-based that, in the not so distant past would have been dismissed immediately, are actually being seriously engaged. I mean, I'm speaking from our relative youth, so I can't say we've been there through all of that, but I think having enough historical context to understand how much things have changed, particularly since the 1970s.
HH: Yeah, and that's because of all of the mahi that's gone in those years, you know, like there's been so much work by those generations before us in order to get to the place where we can now have the conversations that we as rangatahi are enabled to have.
JK: As Māori we've been traditionally categorised as rural, but increasingly our population is urban, and I guess I'm just wondering what does that mean for our relationships to people and place, and what does that mean for us as practitioners in the built environment, especially when the majority of us are not going to be mana whenua in the area where we're residing.
HH: Yeah, that was a really interesting question Jade. I think it's an amazing question, and you could spend a lot of time considering that. I actually talked to Rebecca Kiddle when we were down at the Urbanism New Zealand thing, and she was like, yeah you could do a PhD on that. I think you probably could. And I think it's really tricky, it crosses into a number of different things. Like, displacement is one kind of conversation around that, and effects of displacement of people from rural areas when they move to urban areas. And definitions of Indigenous cultures are being rural, as being something else. On that note, in terms of the definition of if Māori are rural people or urban people, I think we're always past the definition anyway, so people can say, yeah you're rural or your urban or whatever, we are kind of going to be everything. Well, some of us will be rural and some of us with be urban sometimes, and between those things. It's not so, I don't think it's so relevant to where we're heading, the definition of whether we're rural or urban. But I think there is distinction between what happens in a rural context, and what happens in an urban context, from a Māori point of view. And that types of lives that you live based on the decision that you make to either be urban or rural. It's like, a lot of the time it's hau kāinga or mataawaka, whether you're choosing to live at home and support what's happening at home.
JK: And maybe that's a more appropriate definition, sort of distinction that's relevant to us, and that happens to by default more often fall into the rural - urban camp, but it doesn't actually need to be that.
HH: Yes. Yeah and I think, on a personal level too, I always question, what are my doing in the city? Sometimes, a lot of the time. And like we've talked about before, I have a lot of admiration for you going back home, and being back up north in Whangārei, and the relationships that you've built with people there, because you're able to take the skills that you've learnt in an urban context, and then use those for the betterment of our own people, which is really kind of the ideal. But I think aside from that too, I also question the things that you miss from being in the city, the direct relationships that you have with whenua, and whānau, and actually sometimes being in the city is a compromise, and sometimes it's an opportunity. So I think that there is, on the city side, being urban and being Māori and being in an urban environment, there's obviously the intensity that comes with being in a city, and that's a really exciting part of it, because you have, like all people do when you're in a city, so many things coming at you from so many different directions. And that's a wonderful thing, because it's all about exchange, and like, high levels of exchange with people from all over the world and different ideas from many different places and influences from everywhere. But then I think, like when I compare that to being in a rural context, or being back home, you can have intensity and exchange in a rural way, it's just a completely different intensity. It's more about intensity of environment, and being in a beautiful place, or connecting with your awa or your maunga, and that equally has the same intensity. So, I think we have roles in both places, and it's just when you're mataawaka living in Auckland for example, it's important obviously to keep going back home all the time, but understanding how you work in this space professionally is a really difficult question. Because ultimately you want to recognise mana whenua in everything that you do, mana whenua is the people who have the mana over the land. I guess I see our role as mataawaka as more like a vehicle. So, I think that we can help to tell the messages of mana whenua, to help to support, using our professional skills, the communication between mana whenua and some of the design -
JK: So maybe like a conduit?
HH: Yeah, like a conduit.
JK: And opening a door in some places, where if we have access to those spaces in our professional capacity, opening the door to mana whenua if they had not already been invited into that conversation or already involved.
HH: Exactly, it's like you're not the direct resource, it's them first. How can you enable that process.
JK: Which is challenging because you don't want to be treated as a proxy, and I think there can be that tendency, to kind of go, oh okay well you're a Māori, you know. And I think that's something that's really, I think, concerning for young practitioners, who are less experienced, is how do you push back on that, and maintain cultural safety if you're getting pushed in those kinds of directions.
HH: Again, from my own point of view, because I am still so much at the beginning point of learning about kaupapa Māori as well, and urban design and everything, I'm very aware of that. Of not wanting to speak where I don't have the knowledge to speak.
JK: There's plenty of time to become the knowledge holder. It's a long apprenticeship.
HH: Yeah, yeah, I know aye. I think another thing that I find interesting, when I think about the Māori roopu in Auckland, people like me and you for example, I have this idea of new identities of new identities and old whakapapa. And it's like, I didn't know you before we met in the Ngā Aho hui that we had about the Arts and Culture Strategic Action Plan or whatever, yet our whānau have been meeting for years and years and years, you know.
JK: We're very closely connected.
HH: We're so closely connected, and I think that's a really interesting thing too, we're both mataawaka in Auckland, we're both from up north, we're both from Whangārei, we're both Ngāti Hau, and we met here in these urban contexts, in a Māori roopu here, and we developed new identities, but it's based on old whakapapa. And that's real special. And I really admire also the way that the Māori design community and our young Māori design community in Ngā Aho comes together. And we're all operating in slightly different spaces. You know when you need to ring somebody up, or if you need help with something, that we can always ring each other and support each other.
JK: I wouldn't have stayed in the discipline if I hadn't connected with Ngā Aho. I almost quit so many times. Cause I just found it so hard to, I couldn't see my values and approach to practice, that I felt quite strongly even though I was so inexperienced, I couldn't see those reflected in practice, I couldn't see where I could go, and I couldn't see people who were further progressed in their careers working in the way I wanted to work. And it was connecting with Rau and then the rest of Ngā Aho that I realised there was a space for me in this profession, and it was somewhere that I could achieve those aims that I had wanted to from the beginning when I first chose architecture, but was beginning to feel that I may never be able to realise.
HH: Absolutely, like it is hard to find that space if you know that's what you're looking for. And I think it's like what we were talking about just earlier, Rau is somebody who's created a lot of space in design for us to be able to be. And I know like too, when I was at Jasmax with Rameka, Brendan and Elisapeta, through having them beside me, we can do these things together, and you can create something with a roopu what you can never do when it's just you by yourself. Finding those people or those groups where your values align give you heaps of drive.
JK: It's amazing how much diversity of thought there is about what architecture is for, what built environment professionals should do, what their role is. And I think that can be challenging at times.
HH: We're always trying to conform to so many things at once, like you have your heart desires of what you really want to do, and then you have the things that you have to do, and then there's a whole lot of stuff that just happens, as well. And the more you can get onto the side where you're working with people that you love being around, that believe in things that are similar to what you believe in, then I think the more passionate, and the more inspired you are just to get up in the day and just get out there and like, own it. And that's where you really want to be, you want to be in a place where you're happy, and you're not going to be happy all the time, but like, you want to be working in an environment where you can make the best difference using the best skills that you have, and be around awesome people.
JK: I mean it doesn't get better than that. So the kaupapa of the podcast is Indigenous Urbanism, and through this series I've tried to think about that quite broadly, so anywhere where we have settlements, or we're having a relationship with our physical environment, and shaping that physical environment. And I guess I just wanted to ask you, this is quite an open question, but do you have any final thoughts on the theme?
HH: Yes, definitely. Like I think there's so much for everyone to gain when we understand how much environmental stress the world is under, and then when you think about Indigenous cultures and their approach to environment, it's just there's so much to be learnt, or re-learnt, from the things that we've lost. And, now is the time if ever it was, if there ever was a time, is definitely now. Like we should never have come this far away from things as we are at the moment, and I think, yeah, indigenous urbanism, in a sense I guess is a new thing. The idea of indigenous urbanism. But the ideas are based on years and years of experience and knowledge and understanding of how things can be done. And I think it's just taking the time to learn and have those conversations with indigenous people. And in that, the urbanism that's created from it, is always going to be valuable, because it's considering things across the board, it's just taking into account the values that need to be recognised in order to do things appropriately, and purposefully, and respectfully.
JK: I feel like this is a bit utopian in my thinking, but all my thinking is a bit utopian, so just go with it. You know, cities, all the things we like about cities, they're inspiring places, there's all this connectivity and opportunity for collaboration, and really stuff can happen when people kind of jumble and collide in this kind of dense environment, but there's also lots of negative things, the environmental impacts, they're often very unhealthy places, there's all sorts of pollution, there's all sorts of stress from things like traffic and congestion, housing's wildly unaffordable, all of these things that we know, and I just really think that cities don't have to be dire places. They can be really wonderful, inspiring, amazing places. And I think by bringing that more holistic perspective, which involves our, really respects those relationships between people, and between people and the whenua, provides the potential to transform our cities, or create new cities that are going to be really amazing places. I don't think we can just take for granted that cities are going to be these kind of messy, expensive, stressful places to be in.
HH: No because then we won't want to keep living there, aye. We'll all live horrible lives if they are. But on that note, like I think one of the things that I was just thinking about then, but I have thought about a lot in the past too, is places like Whangārei, obviously I'm biased, but to me a place like Whangārei is a mid-sized city, that has so much potential for those types of things that you were talking about. It's not under that pressure yet, it's definitely not under that pressure yet at all, but I think in those types of cities, in our regional areas in New Zealand, in places like Whangārei, we have huge opportunity to be able to develop an urbanism that is quite different. In Auckland there are obviously still a lot of opportunities as well, but it's much more complicated because of, like you say, the way that the city is already set in lots of different areas. Naturally, there's so many opportunities yet, that are still unrealised, but I think for me in a place the size of Whangārei, I think you could develop a model of urbanism that has a scale and a humanity and a connection to environment, and culture and place, that would really resonate with a lot of the ideals that I have. So hopefully we can do that in the future Jade. Whangārei will be the place to live, you heard it here first. It is the place to live though, and ultimately when we think about Northland, and where Northland is going in the future, there's going to be a huge demand for the kinds of skills that I think architecture and design -
JK: That we have and that we are developing.
HH: Yeah, all of the Ngāpuhi up there, come down to the architecture schools in Auckland and Victoria, because we're going to need you.
JK: Indigenous Urbanism is a production of Te Matapihi. Sandy Wakefield does our sound recording, editing, and mixing. Our theme was composed by Thomas Burton. I’m Jade Kake, your host and Executive Producer.
For more information about today’s show and other episodes of Indigenous Urbanism go to indigenousurbanism.net. You can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you like what you’re hearing, please give us a review or rating on iTunes.
Coming up next on Indigenous Urbanism, we visit the Ranga-Bidois whānau of Waikato-Tainui, who have bought back their ancestral land in Ngāruawāhia and have worked together as a whānau to re-establish papakāinga.
Poppy Ranga: They eat at my house, sleep at Trevor’s house, party at Tania’s house, and the babysitter’s over here. We’ve got the best of all worlds, we have. Living the dream. So for me, this is the dream, this is the moemoeā. But this is also the tuku iho.