Designer’s Cook Islands climate crisis plans win two international awards

The first-ever town plan for Cook Islands’ capital, Avarua, has won an International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) award for its response to the climate crisis.

The honour, awarded to Auckland/Wânaka based practise Reset Urban Design, was announced at Gala Awards Ceremony in South Korea late last week.

It is one of two prizes presented to Reset Urban Design, the only New Zealand practice to win awards at the international event.

Te Tau Papa o Avarua The Avarua Town Plan, which was praised by judges for its climate change mitigation and positive contribution to the wider Cook Islands community, was commissioned by the Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) and designed in association with traffic engineers Stantec, and Rarotonga-based architect Romani Katoa. CIIC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Cook Islands Government. It controls the country’s property and public works.

Reset Urban Design director Garth Falconer says he is pleased to receive an award that recognises the responsible work the Cook Islands Government is doing to deal proactively with the climate crisis.

“The team worked closely with the CIIC to understand business, tourism, landowner and community concerns and aspirations, as well as the unique site context. These extensive consultations resulted in the country’s first-ever integration of agreed objectives across all aspects of the town’s functions being adopted by Parliament.

“This award recognises that tough calls need to be made to improve resilience to climate change and that these can be challenging to environmental ideals. One of a number of initiatives in this project involves infilling part of a degraded lagoon to help save the capital’s key institutions and town centre from coastal inundation.”

Reset Urban Design, working with Romani Katoa, received a second IFLA award for the development of Aitutaki’s first-ever spatial plan: Te Papa Tau o Araura.

Falconer says the award recognises the plan’s far-reaching aims to manage the quality of Aitutaki’s environment and the livelihood of the local people.

“Te Papa Tau o Araura is a comprehensive long-term strategy for Aitutaki’s growth and development. It describes the kind of place Aitutakians have said they want and outlines what is needed to achieve this. It sets the strategic direction that will enable the Island’s communities to work together in a resourceful and self-sufficient way to protect, manage and develop their environment – both land and water.

“The community said that they did not want this plan to be a growth strategy but rather a qualitative management tool.

“I’m stoked to accept these awards for the leading work the Cook Islands Government is doing. The entire process has been a demonstration of open and transparent dialogue with communities and of their government’s commitment to a sustainable future for their environment and their people.”

CIIC chairman Mike Henry says he is delighted that the Cook Islands has been recognised for the Te Tau Papa o Avarua The Avarua Town Plan and the Te Papa Tau o Araura Aitutaki Island Plan.

“Central to the plans is encouraging sustainable development and the utilisation of resources in a manner that benefits these communities.

“The plans were the result of the hard work of many CIIC staff members and in-country specialists, with the assistance of Reset Urban Design, working alongside and more importantly owned by our Rarotonga and Aitutaki communities. “The plans provide a long-term vision and blueprint to work from, which will be adjusted over time as our environment and priorities evolve. It is pleasing that there are many elements in these plans, that we have started implementing, and delivering benefits for Avarua and Aitutaki,” says Henry