Thursday Speakers


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Speakers below are listed in alphabetical order of last name

Martine Able wearing a striped purple shirt smiles while sitting in the passenger seat of a car.

Martine Abel-Williamson

World Blind Union

Ms Martine Abel-Williamson QSM has been an advocate, lecturer, policy advisor, and service coordinator for New Zealand's disability sector for 22 years and has held governance roles on a range of national and international bodies supporting vision impaired persons.

From 2007 until 2018 she worked in various roles for Manukau City Council and then Auckland Council, including as Policy Advisor Disability and Strategic Advisor Disability. She is currently Treasurer at the global level of the World Blind Union. She is Regional UN Advocacy Network Co-ordinator of World Blind Union Asia-Pacific (WBUAP), having previously held positions with WBUAP such as Vice-President and Women's Committee Chair. In these roles she has travelled the world to assist building international capacity in disability services in developing countries, as well as liaising in areas of systemic advocacy, specialising in access to the environment and transport. She chairs Auckland Disability Law, the only disability-specific community law centre in New Zealand. Ms Abel-Williamson is currently the Vice-President of Blind Citizens New Zealand. 

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Tricia Austin

University of Auckland

Tricia Austin is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Auckland.  

She is currently undertaking research on Future Neighbourhoods a smart of the National Science Challenge 11: Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities.  

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Bridget Burdett


Bridget is a Chartered Member of Engineering NZ and Principal Researcher at TDG (now Stantec) in Hamilton. She works on road safety, human factors, inclusiveness and accessibility. 

Her work spans transport research, policy, planning, design. Bridget has an interest in understanding how engineers think so that she can recommend systemic changes that result in better outcomes for people. 

Bridget is also in the final stages of a PhD in applied cognitive psychology at the University of Waikato.

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A head and shoulders picture of a thoughtful Darren, wearing glasses, white long sleeve shirt and dark coloured tie

Darren Davis

Transport & Land Use Integration Manager, Auckland Design Office (ADO)

Darren works in the tricky nexus between land use, placemaking and movement. Put simply, there's no point having place without movement to get there and no point having movement with no place to go. He has 25 years' experience in transport and land use, including being a lobbyist, planner, strategist, communicator and consultant. He has been involved in projects ranging from high level strategic policy advice; successfully influencing regional and central government agencies; to on-the-ground involvement in major transport infrastructure and land-use projects; doing public transport service design; carrying out high-level policy and strategy work as well as being a key team member on transit oriented development projects. He is currently Auckland Council's Transport and Land Use Integration Manager as well as being a lead instructor in Simon Fraser University's on-line Next Generation Transportation Certificate programme. 

Darren is a subject area expert in transport, in New Zealand and around the world, and has presented Auckland transport innovations to many cities in New Zealand, Austria, Australia, the United States and Canada.

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A head and shoulder picture of a smiling Elise dressed in a long sleeve light blue collared shirt

Elise Copeland

Principal Specialist Universal Access and Design, Auckland Design Office (ADO)

Elise Copeland is a registered Occupational Therapist who completed her Masters at the Auckland University of Technology focusing on universal design in the built environment. Elise, as Principal Specialist Universal Access and Design in the Auckland Design Office is part of Auckland Council Project's Design Review Panel, advising on projects such as the City Rail Link and major streetscape upgrades. 

Elise collaborates with a wide range of disability organisations to support better practice in universal design. Additionally, she is the Deputy Lead Officer for Auckland Council's Disability Advisory Panel. Elise develops and curates content for the Universal Design Hub of the Auckland Design Manual. This online manual features New Zealand and international resources for architects, designers and property developers to enable universal design thinking in their next project. 

Hayley Fitchett


Hayley Fitchett. She is the urban design and masterplanning manager at HLC who is overseeing their portion of the Auckland Housing Programme and has commissioned design guidelines for children living at density on the basis of learnings from Hobsonville Point. She brings a great perspective from the client side/developer's side and we have presented together on this topic before.

Raewyn Halies

CCS Disability Action

Raewyn Hailes is a member of the CCS Disability Action Moving Around Communities Team. Their role is to liaise with Councils, architects, builders and the community in general to promote and encourage a community accessible by everyone.

Raewyn has taken the lead for the development of the Access Aware application which was firstly piloted in Wellington and Christchurch in 2017 and has now been made available across New Zealand. 

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Jason Higham

Higham Architecture

Jason is an architectural designer and owner of Higham Architecture in Canterbury, specialising in unique residential architecture, both new homes and additions/alterations. Having deliberately kept his practice very small, Jason provides clients a highly personalised design service to best suit their individual needs and their property. With this focus on quality outcomes and over 19 years experience, he has won more than 30 design awards and had work published nationally and internationally.

Higham Architecture became an accredited partner of Lifemark in 2014 and has been actively promoting universal design principles through inspirational house designs ever since. Jason also believes many people are building homes far bigger than what they actually need, fueling the problem of housing affordability. His clever use of space in designs often results in smaller homes with a feeling of spaciousness well beyond their physical size.

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Shannon Joe

Warren and Mahoney

Shannon Joe is a Principal at Warren and Mahoney Architects and is one of the lead designers of the practice. Shannon sees people as being the critical factor in any architectural project. 

He is skilled at exploring design through working with clients and stakeholders to evolve public perceptions through clear explanation and education. To listen, understand and challenge in order to develop design solutions is the foundation of his practice, from concept through to completion. 

Motivated by translating culture into built form, Shannon considers who we are - our drivers, ideal and values - should influence our habitats. He sees architecture as an asset, an ability to create spaces that can inspire and empower, forming the framework of our experiences and our aspirations. 

Helen Kerr

Isthmus Group

Over 17 years experience working as a landscape architect in New Zealand, Helen has developed a specialism in designing with communities for their health and wellbeing. Often those communities are residential neighbourhoods or urban transformation areas, but also educational communities (schools and universities), rural villages, mana whenua or community of interest. 

Her approach is grounded in land, people and culture, and deepened through meaningful community involvement and keen observation. She is motivated by collaborative design, cultural perspectives, all ages play, healthy habitats and embedding layers of meaning and narrative into place. 

Helen is a Principal at Isthmus Group and has worked on a number of award winning open space projects over the years such as Hobsonville Point, Barry Curtis Park, New Plymouth Foreshore, Monte Cecilia Park and Myers Park playspace. 

She is currently working with the Northcote community and mana whenua kaitiaki to bring the Awataha Greenway project to life. 

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Thea Kurdi

Designable Environments Inc.

Thea Kurdi is an accessibility specialist and dynamic speaker known for her enthusiasm for teaching. She has presented workshops, keynote addresses and lectures at local and international events for design professionals, building owners, and policymakers. 

From the human rights code to evidence-based design and increased marketability, Kurdi shares her passion for how accessibility is fundamental to successful architecture.

Afoa Tevita Malolo

Tāmaki Regeneration Company

Afoa is the Strategic Partnerships Manager for Tamaki Regeneration which is undertaking a large urban regeneration programme in the east Auckland area of Tamaki. Afoa's portfolio responsibilities include Affordable Housing, Jobs and Skills and Social Enterprise and is currently facilitating the Kainga Hou Multi-generational housing project. 

Afoa is a qualified lawyer and experienced community development practitioner and has held roles in both the legal and social services. Afoa has spent some time in Australia working with at-risk communities where he developed a passion for creating positive change in marginalised communities. His current work allows him to continue helping people in the Tamaki area achieve inter-generational change through employment and housing in an area that is physically changing with more new homes. Afoa is passionate about creating more opportunities for Maori and Pasifika whanau to move into sustainable home ownership and sees this Kainga Hou project as a viable housing option for whanau. 

Kamelia Peneva

Isthmus Group

Kamelia is an Urban designer with over ten years experience in the industry and qualifications in architecture (Registered Architect, ARBV + NZRAB) and urban design (Masters of Urban Design). Her project experience is based predominantly in Auckland and Melbourne. This includes large-scale public projects delivered in partnership with international practices such as Auckland's City Rail Link and Arts Centre Melbourne. Having worked on the regeneration of Glen Innes and Mount Roskill she has learnt that community, local understanding and forward planning are essential to placemaking. 

Kamelia's belief that design and development are interconnected, and integral to creating a better built environment, has led to her involvement in both the NZIA and Property Council.

Qualifications: BArch, MUrbDes (Hon), NZRAB Registered Architect

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headshot of a smiling John wearing a button up checked shirt.

John Potter

Boffa Miskell

John has 28 year's professional experience as a Landscape Architect in the UK and Auckland, and is a Partner, Director and Design Leader in the Boffa Miskell Auckland Office.  

Over the past 15 years John has worked extensively with Auckland Council and Auckland Transport on a range of public realm and streetscape improvement projects involving community and key stakeholder participation.  He was at the forefront of the introduction of Shared Space streets into Auckland City Centre, which has resulted in the delivery of some $50 million of shared space streets and lanes in the city.  

John spent 14 months working in Christchurch as a member of the Design Leadership Team for the $147 million Avon River Precinct streetscape and public realm anchor project for the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority. He is currently involved in Auckland's transformation into a cycle-friendly city through his involvement in a number of city and suburban 'active transport' projects.

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Hayley Muir


Haylea Muir is an Associate and Board Member at Isthmus, where she has worked as a Landscape Architect and Urban Designer for over ten years.

She is an experienced Residential Masterplanner, being instrumental in Hobsonville Point, Roskill South, Northcote and other projects across Auckland, alongside projects in Queenstown and Wellington. 

She has written a number of Architecture and Landscape design guideline documents and been the design lead on several award winning playspaces including Hobsonville Point's Forest Floor Playground and the backyard themed Myers Park Playspace. 

She has a special interest in how people live, play and connect in their neighbourhoods and the positive outcomes her projects can have on these communities.

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George grins at the camera wearing a black button up shirt.

George Weeks

Specialist Urban Designer - City Centre Unit, Auckland Design Office (ADO)

Specialist Urban Designer George Weeks has been based in the City Centre Unit at the Auckland Council Design Office since January 2017. He is responsible for refreshing and developing the Auckland City Centre Masterplan, with an emphasis on integrating public transport with a walkable public realm.

Prior to this (2011 – 2016) he worked for Transport for London's Urban Design team. Additionally, between 2014 and 2017, George led a series of cycling-and-urbanism study tours to the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden.  His work reflects a lifelong interest in understanding cities and their impact on people's wellbeing. 

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Head and shoulders image of a grinning Phil wearing a long sleeved black shirt

Phil Wihongi

Māori Design Leader

Phil Wihongi is a roof tiler/landscape architect/planner, currently employed as Māori Design Leader within Auckland Council's Auckland Design Office. 

Phil's role includes working with Auckland Council, council-controlled organisation colleagues, mana whenua and Māori design industry professionals to incorporate Māori design into the heart of the organisation and the fabric of Auckland.

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Karen Witten

Massey University

Karen Witten is a geographer and Professor of Public Health at Massey University. Her research investigates how neighbourhood design and infrastructure influences social relationships, transport choices and the wellbeing of residents. 

Panel Speakers

Olivia Haddon

Specialist Māori Design, Auckland Design Office (ADO)

Olivia Haddon is a Māori Design Specialist at Auckland Council. She champions mana whenua and urban kaitiakitanga and specifically works to incorporate Māori design thinking into council's urban design and planning.

Olivia has a background in Māori art, planning and urban design. Olivia's design work and research investigates indigenous innovation, Māori urbanism, māori design principles, qualities and outcomes.  Which is when design is inclusive of  indigenous knowledge and mixes old ways of  knowing, being and doing with new modes, technologies, and media to have transformational urban social and enviromental outcomes of mutual benefit for all.

Olivia is from Pakiri, and is from Ngāti Manuhiri, Ngāti wai and Ngati Runanui iwi.

Rachel Lees-Green

Senior Consultant - Transport Planning and Business Cases, MRCagney

Rachel is a Senior Consultant at MRCagney and a founding member of Women in Urbanism Aotearoa. She is passionate about making our cities healthier and more sustainable. 

With an academic background in Biomedical Engineering, Rachel joined MRCagney so she could apply the analytical skills she had developed at university to projects with environmental and social benefit. A primary focus of her work is evaluating transport and economic outcomes of investing in walking and public transport.

A head and shoulders picture of a smiling Vivian dressed in colourful blue and purple patterned shirt against a dark brown background

Vivian Naylor

Accredited Barrier Free Advisor & Inclusive Design Educator

Vivian Naylor is an ardent advocate of Universal Design, ensuring a safe and inclusive built environment for everyone.

As a Barrier Free Advisor and Educator with CCS Disability Action for seventeen years, Vivian has provided advice to Councils in the Auckland region on countless major infrastructure projects – buildings, streetscapes, transport. She is also the go to person for many Auckland architects and others in the building industry on accessible design, advising on architectural plans to assist in the Building Consent process.

Vivian is a founding Trustee of the Barrier Free New Zealand Trust and presents workshops on Universal Access and Design to a variety of recipients.

She was a member of the Access Advisory Panel of the former Department of Building and Housing; and MBIE's Access Reference Group and Fire Safety review. Also an advisor on Auckland Council's Urban Design Panel and a member of Auckland Transport's Accessibility Groups.

Black and white head shot of Renata with a friendly grin.

Renata Smit

Manager Airport Access Programme, Auckland Transport

Renata Smit is a transport planner with 17 years' experience in leading transport planning projects in both local government and consultancies in New Zealand and the UK.  

She is passionate about public transport, walking and cycling. She is equally passionate about land-use and place shaping; and the catalyst role that transport investment can have on urban transformation and creating a more liveable city for all.

Renata is currently managing Auckland Transport's input into improving access to the Auckland Airport and surrounding areas.  This includes leading the development of the Airport to Botany Rapid Transit line, which will deliver a fast, frequent and reliable public transport system between the Airport, Manukau and Botany to improve accessibility for the south-west, southern and eastern areas of Auckland.  

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