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Quick Guide to Public Creativity

Creative technologists often work in interesting places – including public spaces. Inevitable questions arise: Do I need a permit? Do I need to contact my Council? What by-law(s) is this under?

The following guide begins to answer some of those questions. It was kindly researched and prepared by Alicia Lawrie, Strategic Urban Designer at Whangarei District Council (who consulted with different teams across Council: Venues and Events, Health and Bylaws, Health and Safety, Community Development, Roading, Resource Consents, and District Development ). The request for this information – to remove barriers for creatives doing public work – emerged out of research conducted during the Strandlab public installation,

This guide should be seen as an overview not a definitive, in depth reference to by-laws. It is applicable to the Whangarei District only however some of the general guidance may be useful for those in other parts of Northland, New Zealand (but you must contact your particular Council for specific information). Always seek advice and permissions at the start of your production process (some permits and permissions take time!).

Working In Public – An Introduction

Currently Public Creativity permissions/guidance/project partnership occurs on a case by case basis in Whangarei District Council (WDC). Ultimately this is because the experience and intent is always different, and it is usually place specific.

The first questions that WDC will likely have for someone wanting to conduct this work are:

1.What do you want to do?

What type of medium do you want to use, what type of creative practice or project will it be?

2. Where will it be?

What building is it on and where will it be seen from, public or private land?

3. What is the scale of it?

How big will it be?

4. How long will it be there?

Permanent or temporary?

5. Will it be an event or have activities that involve people gathering?

The answers to these questions may or may not trigger certain permits and permissions from council.

There will likely be a question around the content. Creativity is very subjective, and as council it would be difficult to comment or control the images being displayed but there is an element of trust that if the creative practitioner is projecting images within a public space they will not be explicit, offensive or contravene any laws (e.g. defamation)

The information collected from the noted teams and people above is as follows:

Bylaws, Permits and Events

Whether a creative work (e.g. interactive experiences and objects, temporary installations) triggers a current bylaw is ultimately dependent on the questions noted above.

The current WDC Public Places Bylaw will be triggered if work is considered an event or performance, and if it is on council land (primarily the CBD and Town Basin, parks, reserves and beaches). If it is on private land and/or a privately-owned building, the artist will require permission from the land/building owner, and council will likely not be concerned. The Public Places Bylaw can be found in this link

Today the line between the creation and enactment of public works is often blurred and they can be considered as much an ‘event’ as a discrete work.

A good guide is the ‘Plan an Event’ Page on the Venues and Events Whangarei website which has a lot of helpful information around planning an event which may also be relevant to art, murals, interactive interventions or temporary installations in our public spaces:

In general, a key person within Whangarei District Council who would be very helpful in regards to events and event planning is Petra Gray, who is a community events coordinator. Her contact details are:

Petra Gray

Community Events Coordinator, Venues and Events

P 09 470 2593 | M 021 084 18961 | E

If an event takes place on public/council land, or privately-owned building/land but may cause obstruction within public land (i.e. on footpaths or road carriageways), council may have concerns.

An example could be: It creates an event or encourages people to gather, creating an obstruction in public spaces.

It requires associated infrastructure or people working on public land (ie. on the footpath).It creates a traffic hazard, or traffic safety issue (ie. illumination).

Using projection mapping as an example, this may be something people casually observe as they pass by. However, if people are to gather over a short period of time to observe it, this may be considered an event. 

Another thing that may be considered is the signage rules within the Signs Control Bylaw, however, if the artwork does not include, advertising or the intention of selling goods, a product, or service this is unlikely.

Regardless it may be a good tool when considering councils concerns around illumination, road safety etc.

Public Art and creative installations are currently a grey area within the current Public Places Bylaw, however clear processes for this type of activity will be included within a review of the future Public Places Bylaw.

In the meantime, the Health and Bylaws Team will be happy to be informed of any potential creative public work/event/experience and advise accordingly. They will then be able to pass the information on to other interested parties within council. Please feel free to contact:

Reiner Mussle

Manager – Health & Bylaws, WDC

P 09 470 3104 | M 027 295 1115 | E

Health and Safety (and Liability Insurance)

It is important to consider health and safety throughout the project, but particularly at the installation stage. A good starting point is to undertake a risk assessment and create a health and safety plan.

The first steps are:Identify all possible hazards (anything that could cause harm to anyone) and decide who might be harmed and how. Check the risks (the likelihood and effects of a hazard happening) and decide on the methods of control and whether the risk can be eliminated, isolated or minimised Work out how you will put your planned action into practice and keep a written record of your plans (health and safety plan).

Whangarei District Council has a pre-start form which is a good tool when it comes to identifying hazards and risks and the methods of control. It also helps to identify whether you require a permit, a site-specific safety plan, a traffic management plan and/or whether you require any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The ‘Plan an Event’ Page on the Venues and Events Whangarei website is also a good source of information for risk management. 

Public liability insurance is good to consider if there is any risk to public safety or public property. However its an individual’s choice whether to have public liability insurance. If someone is working for the council as a contractor (including creative contracts) it is likely they will require public liability insurance.

A key contact within council in regards to Health and Safety is:

Jeff Foster

Health and Safety Field Officer

P 09 430 4260| M 021 510 426 | E

Jeff will also be able to provide initial advice on road safety hazards and whether a traffic management plan is required (see next section).  

Traffic Management and Road Safety

A Traffic Management Plan is required for any proposed work on a public road. This includes:

  1. Excavating the roadway, or other maintenance works.
  2. Temporary road closure for an event.
  3. Creating an obstruction on footpaths e.g. for signwriting, window cleaning, painting etc.

Unless the art, mural, interactive intervention or temporary installation meets the criteria above in some form a traffic management plan is not required.

For example, if a creative is to conduct projection mapping, no traffic management plan would be required unless there is associated set up of equipment, or installation which requires the artist to block a section of the footpath or road carriageway. Follow this link for more information on traffic management. 

Another key aspect to consider is the effect on traffic safety. As a starting point when addressing traffic safety, consider whether the creative work or event would:

  1. Obstruct or be likely to obstruct the view of any corner, bend, intersection, vehicle crossing, traffic sign or traffic signal;
  2. Distract or be likely to distract the attention of road users;
  3. Resemble or be likely to be confused with any traffic sign or signal;
  4. Give rise to excessive levels of glare, use flashing or revolving lights or, reflective materials or, moving images that may interfere with a road user’s vision;
  5. Invite drivers to turn so close to a turning point that there is no time to signal and turn safely;
  6. Constitute or be likely to constitute in any way a danger to road users.
  7. It will also be important to think about where the creative work is located and the scale of it. If it is located next to a busy intersection, and arterial road, or a pedestrian crossing there may be a higher level of traffic safety risk. It is also important to consider illumination and if it is a cause for distraction at night.

Council Buildings / Council Owned land

Besides our public spaces and street networks, council owns a limited number of buildings within the city centre. However, if creatives want to enquire about a space, they can get in touch with Whangarei District Development Manager who will help guide them through the process.

Tony Collins

Manager – District Development

M 027 251 9456 | E


WDC has some great people who are more than happy to advise anyone wanting to progress with creative works. Work through the different aspects above, find out what questions you have and then contact them for support!

Note main images is of AwhiWorld’s 2018 Live Public Projection: 11.11 (Photo credit to Kerry Marinkovich)