Our projects

Our Future Masterton — Ahutahi ki mua

Our projects

Our Future Masterton
— Ahutahi ki mua

Toi Āria worked with the Masterton District Council on the development of a citizen-led design strategy to assist in the public re-imagining of their Town Centre.

The project was undertaken in partnership with Letting Space, an independent public art and urban revitalisation organisation, and their project Urban Dream Brokerage, a Wellington-based national independent urban art and revitalisation programme. The central vision was to establish a citizen empowered design strategy for the Masterton CBD and its connections to wider Masterton, a strategy that will support the creation of a quality, compact, vibrant and connected CBD characterised by integrated, liveable, efficient and sustainable community spaces and places.

Our Future Masteton Hub 01.jpg

In late 2016 workshops and meetings were held to understand the context of a public reimagining and rejuvenation of Masterton’s town centre as a living space for all. The workshops were guided by the idea of a strong collective citizen contribution to a 50-year vision for the Masterton CBD — not for the next few years necessarily, but for the decades ahead.

When thinking about what we wanted to create together, we thought of committed locals prepared to learn as things evolve, and the importance of avoiding top-down projects imposed on communities. We aimed to focus on possibilities, not problems, and we wondered, who is in the room is crucial, and who is missing, as we were keen to make sure that the voices in Masterton that might be absent from the discussion so far were included for this project and in the future. We asked, what do we all share, and what are the community’s assets? And we wanted to consider, jointly, how to make more mixed spaces in Masterton; town and city centres thrive when they allow for mixed-use, small locally-owned enterprises and good sharing private and public spaces.

The workshops involved over 200 participants. They engaged with a broad spectrum of the community, including Masterton District Councillors and key staff; Masterton businesses, community groups, and youth; Māori; and the general public.


A participatory design-led approach was used to enable the bringing together of different people to work creatively towards common goals. Participatory design in particular enables the voice of the citizen to be heard early in planning and development.

The vision of a citizen-empowered design strategy for the Masterton CBD and the wider Masterton was informed by nine principles in three tiers; strategic, social and physical design.

The strategic principles, when implemented over the long term, will determine success. Without strong leadership, sustainable action and good design a shared vision will not be achieved.

The social principles recognise that the most important elements of change are the relationships between people and how they reflect the diversity and character of Masterton’s community.

The physical design principles are informed by the workshops and can guide design solutions for Masterton.


Feedback was extensive and wide-ranging, and included:

  • That the CBD is a good size and its original strong design are the bones of something good;
  • The contemporary and traditional strength of Māori should be built on;
  • Theme areas for the Masterton CBD should be considered: a cultural area, around north Queen Street, a boutique retail area around mid-Queen Street, a big business and chain stores area off Queen Street, and a recreational area near Queen Elizabeth Park and surrounding areas;
  • Sports grounds, green spaces and cultural facilities are highly valued and there is a greater opportunity to connect through pathways and integrate these assets and their experiences.

There was a view that Queen Elizabeth Park is a treasure but not as utilised as it could be, and is a huge opportunity for development in making it more connected to the rest of the CBD via shared space and places like Aratoi, leisure centre, cafes and library. There is currently limited coordination around Masterton CBD and the use of space and buildings — they are in a bad condition and hold little appeal to young people (who are more likely to spend their time in the East or South, or near and around their schools and homes).

The full report, and all the feedback, can be viewed through Toi Āria’s full summary report Moving Forward Together. Summary of Workshops 1–4 in 2016, which was presented to the Masterton District Council on 19 April 2017.