Papaioea “Look, how beautiful it is”

Palmerston North City Council has recently completed a development in Papaioea. Papaioea was the original name given to Palmerston North by early Maori, meaning “How beautiful it is.” This was in reference to the location of the settlement next to the Manawatu River.  It is now the name of a suburb in Palmerston North. Here you can find a new Social Housing development that really does demonstrate this beauty – Papaioea Place.

There were 48 original units at Papaioea built in the 1950’s. Given the growing need for Social housing in the area, a decision was made to build 76 new units in place of the existing ones. Palmerston North City Council recognised the need for homes that were more accessible to the ageing population they now have. According to Statistics NZ, it is projected that by 2043 20% of Palmerston North’s population will be 65+.  That is why they involved Lifemark® to peer review the design process of the units.

Currently 30 units have achieved a Lifemark® 4-Star Certification. 18 more are set to be completed by Christmas of 2019. The remainder of the units are due to be constructed in 2020.




The original units were dated and didn’t provide the accessibility features that the tenants quite often required.




The new units are better suited to the occupants – a lot of whom are in that 65+ category. When we start to age there is a perception that we are lonely and excluded, not here! With a community feel and inclusive layout occupants can interact with their neighbours on a daily basis.



We talked with a spokesperson from PNCC about working with Lifemark® on Papaioea. Here is what they had to say.

Why did you think it was important to have these units Lifemark® Certified?

The Council’s role is to provide affordable and appropriate housing to meet the needs of people who are of different ages and abilities. A certified Lifemark® home includes design features which achieve this. Lifemark® homes are designed to be usable by most people over their lifetime without the need for major adaption in the future. It was important for Council to design homes where the residents can age in place.

Would you recommend Lifemark® to other Councils or Organisations working on Social Housing projects?

Providing other Councils’ Social Housing Policies reflect the same outcomes as PNCC then including Lifemark® Certification should be a consideration.


What do the new occupants of Papaioea Place think of their new homes?

The residents have been in their new homes approximately four weeks. The feedback to date has been very positive. The residents seem very happy with the layout and function of their new homes.



Boon architects were the architecture practice that worked with the Palmerston North Council.  We asked them about how it was working with Lifemark® and Universal Design for the first time.

How was it integrating Lifemark® and Universal Design into your design process for Papaioea Place?

From the initiation of this project, Universal Design was a priority. It became a prerequisite to the project that design and documentation was prepared to the level for assessment by Lifemark®. The maximum potential for a Lifemark® rating was key throughout the design process to ensure the best possible outcome.

All units of this project have been designed with disabled access considerations, which incorporate level entrances into each unit and single level living; these have been designed to achieve a Lifemark® 4-Star Certification.



What have you learnt from integrating Lifemark® Standards into this project?

We are now aware of the relatively simple process that leverages Universal Design integration to achieve Lifemark® Standards. The table of criteria made it simple to follow and easy to make sure all possible options were included at design documentation stage.


Would you work with Lifemark® again when designing future builds or recommend Lifemark® to other architects out there?


Yes, we would be confident to use Lifemark® Standards again and recommend use of these to create more inclusive, sustainable and future proofed spaces for future users.


Papaioea place is one of the larger Social Housing developments we have worked on. We love working with councils and it was a pleasure to work with Palmerston North City Council. Papaioea is hugely beneficial to the Manawatu community and will be life changing to the occupants. They can now not only live in warm, comfortable homes but homes that are accessible and meet their needs.

We think this development is a shining example of Social Housing best practice. We love to work with other councils in New Zealand that desire to achieve Universal Design outcomes.




Below Mayor Grant Smith talks about some of Papaioea Place’s Universal Design elements during the opening of stage 1 of this development, in early 2020!


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