Town planning in New Zealand, 1900-1933 : the emergent years : concepts, the role of the state, and the emergence of a profession : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Planning at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Town planning in New Zealand 1900 - 1933 : The Emergent Years, is a study of the forces that shaped the development of town planning in New Zealand. The subtitle, concepts, the role of the state, and the emergence of a profession, highlight three themes or foci that are important in the emergence of town planning as a separate and identifiable activity. The existing paucity of planning history scholarship in New Zealand to date means that this period has generally been regarded as one of little achievement, merely a waiting period before 'real' planning began under the Town and Country Planning Act 1953. This thesis, which draws heavily on primary archival resources, instead reveals a period when the worth of town planning was recognised and a hardy band of enthusiasts fought to have the concept established through legislation. Legislation was not achieved until 1926 with the Town-planning Act, due to a number of factors in particular the decline of the Liberals and the on-set of World War One. When the legislation was achieved, progress was slow due to the apathy of local government, the Depression, and the lack of trained town planners. Nevertheless under the energetic leadership of John Mawson, Director of Town Planning, significant progress was made in laying the foundations for the planning systems that would follow. During this period town planning as a concept developed from one which was focused on ameliorating slums and urban ills, to a future orientated concept intended to guide the efficient functioning of the urban system. This saw the interventionist powers of the state used to limit the private use of land resources in the interest of achieving 'good' for the community as a whole. Such intervention was however in keeping with other such state interventions of the time. As the concept of town planning found favour it was taken up first by self-trained enthusiasts, such as Samuel Hurst Seager, often drawn from existing city beautifying groups. When legislation established it as a separate activity there was the slow development of a small band of town planning professionals. Thus the period of this thesis is one of quiet but gradual achievement that created acceptance of town planning as an appropriate intervention of the state and created the foundations of the planning profession.