Binding Community.
Wirihana Masterplan.


When Te Ākitai Waihoua approached us to re-think an earlier masterplan for this land, we immediately saw the ability to weave the untapped value of the Puhinui Stream and its environs into an intensive residential setting. This knitting together of a sensitive ecological landscape with an intensive residential setting presented an opportunity to not only bind a community together, but also to connect them with the natural environment.

Te Ākitai Waiohua, in conjunction with their developer partner Avant Group, commissioned Isthmus early in 2018 to develop a masterplan for the site in the Wiri neighbourhood of Manukau, Auckland. The site, by virtue of its location and extent, represents an unparalleled opportunity to define the future of a healthy and thriving community.

The site covers approximately 11-hectares and offers unique opportunity to connect with the land; the rehabilitation and integration of the ecological environment of the Puhinui Stream acts as the catalyst for this positive development while delivering on the strategic intentions of Manukau’s transformation.

Our design team, along with iwi representatives, presented a united front at workshops and design review presentations with Auckland Council, MBIE and other agencies to outline our vision of this new residential community.  A collaborative and integrated design approach – urban design, architecture and landscape architecture – has resulted in a masterplan that fits with its place.

Three separate architecture practices – Crosson Architects, Brewer Davidson,
Sills van Bohemen – were engaged to produce house designs for the development of the first stage (three superlots) that have been coordinated and integrated into the overall masterplan by Isthmus and for which resource consent is now being sought.

The masterplan for Wirihana itself has been designed to act as a catalyst not only for the wider neighbourhood of Wiri, but also for the city of Manukau itself. The Masterplan principles set the bar high; this is an opportunity to demonstrate a new way of living communally, intimately connected to place. The interplay of the street network with linear parks, green spaces, wetlands, plazas, homes and retail activity are all “bound” together through a series of placemaking gestures, fostering community and wellbeing for its residents and visitors alike.

The masterplan will not only deliver on the aspirations of the Manukau Framework Plan, but importantly embraces the government’s aspirations for Kiwibuild. In doing so, it will provide a more than 600 new homes set in high quality public realm with strong visual and physical connections to the landscape.


Through a collaborative workshop process with Te Ākitai Waiohua, three key moves for the urban design and landscape framework were identified, the essence of which is restoring the mauri of the adjacent Puhinui Stream and ensuring that the people who will call Wirihana home will feel a strong connection to this environment.

Connecting with Nature
Wirihana draws the amenity and character of the Puhinui Stream deep into the site, placing more of the community in contact with their natural surroundings. The Stream has long been a source of cultural well-being to Mana Whenua. Connecting seasonal resource across the wider area, the Puhinui is the binding landscape narrative that ties these elements together.

Connecting with Community
The masterplan incorporates a focal point, a heart, that gives the community a place to come together, a place of reference and identity. This accommodates a number of functions, including a flexible shared movement space that can host events/markets and can function as a destination with vibrancy and visual interest through strong urban form and ground floor activation of mixed-use retail and commercial activity.

Connecting with Tradition
The site’s history and rich cultural heritage are bound into a new contemporary experience. This happens frequently and at varying scales – junctions, intersections, focal points, edges, parks, crossings and the plaza. Given the significance of the name Wirihana for the land and people, the notion of ‘binding’ the key elements of the masterplan together (as in Tukutuku) gives life to the names, stories, and histories specific to this place. Te Ākitai are excited to meaningfully layer their own artworks, stories and names into the neighbourhood through this concept.

Housing Diversity and Density is integrated through a mix of housing typologies. The typologies specifically target the Government’s Kiwibuild aspirations, particularly in regard to the; Walk-ups, Home + Income and Terrace typologies. A total yield of around 630 dwellings is proposed that reinforces the sites appropriateness to greater intensity due to its proximity to the green amenity of the Puhinui Stream environs, a major rail/bus interchange at Manukau City Centre and associated convenience shopping as well as schools in the area.

Demographic diversity is ensured through a proportionate mix of housing types and sizes appropriate for: first home buyers, young families, single parents and retirees. This also allows diversity of tenure with the potential for a complementary social mix of rentals, rent to buy schemes, homeowners, investors and social tenants.

Landscape and open space are a critical part of intensive residential building. The contained private open space associated with individual dwellings is traded for an increased emphasis on communal open space, pocket parks, direct links to surrounding landscape amenity as well as the “good street” as public spaces where communities can come together. The neighbourhood of Wirihana is in effect the communities ‘backyard’. The quality of the landscape and an overall impression of greenness created by street planting and front yard landscaping will result in an overall consistency and character that defines Wirihana and its setting within the Wiri neighbourhood.

Planted swales, bio-retention devices, boardwalk crossings and large scaled trees make up this environment. Isthmus has worked closely with members of Te Ākitai Waiohua to select an almost exclusively native plant palette that is meaningful and functional. The only exotic species to feature in the development will be fruit trees; planted to encourage neighbourly interaction and the forming of social connections through the sharing of fruit

Healthy Water
For the most part today, the stream is hidden from view, polluted and unhealthy. It is vitally important to Te Ākitai Waiohua that this stream is restored to its previous health and that the Wirihana neighbourhood contributes to this as much as possible. As such, the masterplan puts the treatment of stormwater at the forefront of the landscape concept. The wetland system will take advantage of water sensitive design principles that use natural systems and processes for stormwater management to ensure overall water quality. This includes; maximising localized water collection, retention and re-use.

Bentley & Co
Hutchinson Consulting
Freshwater Solutions

Crosson Architects
Brewer Davidson
Sills van Bohemen

Te Ākitai Waiohua (working with Avant Group)