Wellington Scoop

Secret decisions about another new building on the waterfront

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by Lindsay Shelton
The Wellington City Council will today be making decisions in secret about whether to allow another new building on public land on the waterfront. It’s a building for which no use has been announced, and which threatens (as the illustration shows) to contribute to a new wall between the city and the harbour.

The building is planned for Kumutoto’s Site 9. It was first announced by the council in July, with public consultation in July and August – the results of the consultation have not been released and the public will be excluded from today’s council meeting when they’re given to councillors.

Waterfront Watch was one of a number of organisations that opposed the new building, as did the owner of a new office block across the road.


The public will also be excluded when councillors are given details of changes to the design for the building, which include lowering its height to comply with an Environment Court decision which had been breached in the original plan. Discussion of the legal and commercial terms of a proposed Development and Lease Agreement with Willis Bond will also be heard in secret. (Willis Bond have had an option on the site for two years, though it’s understood to have expired).


Willis Bond are also responsible for the enormous new building that’s being constructed on Site 10 nearby, also on public land, and also contributing to walling off the harbour from the city. The council similarly made its decision on this building in secret.

The focus of today’s meeting will be to decide whether or not to approve the building on Site 9. But because it’s a closed meeting, no recommendations have been published with the agenda papers online. So the public is not being given any information on the guidance that councillors are receiving from council staff.

A strange aspect of last July’s announcement was the fact that the council was supporting the building although no use for it had been found. The council was even asking for suggestions:

The proposed use of the floors above ground is still to be determined but options are likely to be commercial office space, residential apartments or a boutique serviced apartment hotel says Urban Development Leader Councillor Andy Foster. “We are particularly interested in feedback on uses which people consider will best interact with the surrounding public space and improve public safety at all times.”

Cr Foster and his colleagues have chosen to forget the strength of opposition to new buildings on Kumutoto, which was revealed during public consultation five years ago. They may have also forgotten some of the criticism from the Environment Court , whose ruling referred to …

an unspoken but readily discernible view that the council cannot be relied on to get it right, and that only public opinion and action, litigious or otherwise, has averted poor planning and design outcomes on the waterfront in the past.

In the light of these past reports, the council’s decision to shut out the public today is unwelcome and unwise.

UPDATE: Council approves building, keeps deal secret


  1. K, 1. November 2017, 8:13

    Atrocious. Selling off public land once again for no purpose (and for Willis Bond once again to profit – why do they keep getting these sweetheart deals?).

    Some public green space would have been perfect there – and would have saved the land for future public use when a need was actually identified. This is one of the prime locations on all of Wellington’s waterfront – beautiful views of the harbour and parliament, central to everything including close to the railway station. But sure let’s give it away for a $1 a year land lease to a private developer who will quickly sell it off for tens of millions to private investors. And what does Wellington get in return for the loss of such prime land? Probably a hundred thousand or so in extra rates per year.

    As I said, atrocious.

  2. Ron Beernink, 1. November 2017, 9:02

    This is a worrying trend with this Council; one only has to look at how it’s pushed through the Shelly Bay decision, bypassing resource consent. That despite all its talk about better community engagement, which is looking more and more like going through the motions to appear that they are listening to Wellingtonians.

    Advocacy groups like Waterfront Watch and others have to somehow find the money to take legal action, while we pay our rates for the Council to take and defend these types of questionable actions.

    There needs to be a proper commitment to community engagement and the outcomes from that, and provisioning a fund that community groups can use to take legal action.

  3. Michael, 1. November 2017, 9:16

    So much for the open consultation we were promised under this new council. Wellingtonians have time and time again said they do not want the harbour walled off, but are ignored. No doubt this is why they have these meetings in secret. Wellington is currently a beautiful city but is turning into a concrete jungle alienated from its natural beauty – the harbour. Meanwhile the Auckland council is doing all it can to rip down buildings and open up their waterfront to the public = go figure!

  4. Marion Leader, 1. November 2017, 12:55

    I was amazed to hear Justin Lester supporting these buildings at the Council today. His reasons were extraordinary. He kept saying that Wellington’s waterfront is the best in the world and compared well with some Canadian city which he had visited recently.
    However he failed to explain how our waterfront would be improved by having more tall view-blocking buildings on it. Where is he coming from?
    Victor Davie of Waterfront Watch gave a brilliant analysis of the scheme’s failings.

  5. luke, 1. November 2017, 13:04

    personally i would prefer buildings to all the surface carparking on the waterfront. Even the construction site is an improvement on the previous use for motorhomes and cars.

  6. Michael, 1. November 2017, 13:43

    It has to be all about money or the perception of getting money. Hardly worth destroying our city over.
    I am so sick of councils patronising Wellington ratepayers by always thinking they know best for us.

  7. Simon, 1. November 2017, 14:25

    Wellington is short of office space and hotel capacity. Businesses and tourism support the economic growth of the city. And contribute almost half the WCC’s rates. Without them, there will be no population growth, no infrastructure build. But that’s maybe what the heart of the issue in Wellington is? Anything but not in my back yard.

  8. City Lad, 1. November 2017, 14:35

    Luke apparently enjoys looking across at the Site 10 office building being constructed on the waterfront. Doesn’t seem to care about his loss of views of the Bluebridge Ferries or the historic Eastbourne Ferry building. Very strange indeed.

  9. Traveller, 1. November 2017, 15:04

    Luke: agree about the carparks, but the space can have many other uses apart from new privately-owned buildings. It’s public land – should be developed as public open green space for all to enjoy. Waitangi Park used to be a carpark – look at it now. Simon: agree about need for offices and hotels. But there’s tons of space off the waterfront where new buildings can be positioned.

  10. Pauline Swann(Polly), 1. November 2017, 15:18

    Agree with Traveller – just across the road, 3 new office blocks plus Bob Jones’ great new wooden block in Featherston Street, so more lunch time recreation space is necessary….

  11. Michael Gibson, 1. November 2017, 15:18

    Traveller is right about wanting it as public open space. In my submission I suggested that a Chinese Garden would be preferable to a building (so long as it did not have dangerous spaces requiring it to be locked at night).
    I was shot down by Councillor David Lee who had donated $10,000 to have a Chinese Garden instead of the arena in Frank Kitts Park.

  12. Nora, 1. November 2017, 15:54

    Cr Foster kept referring to the Wellington Waterfront Framework re North Queens Wharf but I would refer him to Page 32 “Views of the waterfront and harbour down Whitmore, Johnston and Waring Taylor Streets will be preserved and improved where possible” and page 33 “An option to be considered in this area is the idea of a contemporary maritime museum.”
    And again Page 37 where the leadership group was asked to consider sites on and off the waterfront for a Chinese garden and the group notes that the Chinese community has indicated the area to the east of Te Papa is its preferred location.

  13. CC, 1. November 2017, 17:59

    When the Council think that ignoring Environment Court decisions is ‘kinda legal,’ do you really expect many of them to consider that anyone should abide by the Framework? Even the Chair of the City Strategy Committee thought the Variation 11 ruling could be ignored. Mind-numbingly, she also trotted out the fallacious old line at a WW meeting that Kumutoto needed buildings as places to go.

    As a side issue, does anyone know if the Site 10 building is in compliance with the height, footprint and bulk consent conditions?

  14. Iona Pannett, 1. November 2017, 21:02

    Development is good but this is not the place for it, transparency needed. [via twitter]

  15. Simon, 2. November 2017, 5:57

    Iona, with all due respect, you’ve been on the council for 10 years. If transparency is needed, you’ve had plenty of time to go about ensuring it happens.
    Traveller, where is the ‘tons of space’ that would meet the requirements for A-grade office space or a hotel? Again, anywhere but here.

  16. CC, 2. November 2017, 7:35

    Too late Cr. Pannett – Willis Bond have virtually walled the waterfront off from the city with the aid of the administration’s secret deals and Councillor rubber-stamping. Pleased to note that you voted against the Site 9 building and trust that you will oppose the Council’s legal team representing the interests of the developer in the inevitable case of an appeal – at the expense of the ratepayers!

  17. Observer, 2. November 2017, 9:27

    At yesterday’s council meeting, Andy Foster led the battle to approve the new building and only Diane Calvert and Iona Pannett spoke against it…..The only other councillors to speak were Lester, Woolf, Free and Calvi Freeman (who although he voted for the building felt the public should not be ignored)

  18. Diane Calvert, 2. November 2017, 9:34

    We only have one waterfront, plenty of space for new office blocks elsewhere. [via twitter]

  19. Richard Shea, 3. November 2017, 10:49

    The way WCC keeps hiding the details of deals until it’s too late … it’s almost like they’re ashamed of something. [via twitter]