Wellington Scoop

Decisions, or options

by Lindsay Shelton
With only six months till the elections, Wellington needs decisions on many big issues … if anyone is paying attention.

But election campaigning in Wellington has not yet started, and so far we don’t have any candidates telling us what they want and what they stand for.

There’s only one mayoral candidate for Wellington – mayor Justin Lester. And he and his council are dealing in options rather than recommendations on one of the biggest issues.

How should Wellington grow, asks the council, telling us that Wellington will have up to 80,000 more residents by the middle of the century. It offers a report which describes five options for growth – one is growth concentrated in the inner city, with more high rise buildings; another is suburban growth, with four-storey apartment buildings in Karori, Miramar, Johnsonville and Tawa; yet another is the creation of distant new suburbs, with the need for costly instrastructure. This consultation closes on Friday week, for anyone who has the time and the inclination to do the research and then to advise the council.

And if you’re spending time studying the report, you’ll find it also deals with parts of the central city “at risk from natural hazards” and suggests growth should not be encouraged in these areas.

The council is being more decisive on how it can reduce emissions that cause climate change. It seeks our support on these plans, with consultation till next Friday on its blueprint for a carbon zero city. Most of us know that the highest tides are already leading to flooding in underground carparks so it’s no surprise that one of the council’s concerns is rising sea levels.

The mayor is also concerned about rising insurance premiums and wants a forum to discuss this with the government. He’s not asking for consultation on whether or not there should be a forum. It’s something, he says, which is needed now. Everyone would agree with him on this.

Then there’s the council’s annual plan, which has been overtaken by what ought to be the number one priority for the city – what’s to be done about restoring or replacing the library, and how is this to be paid for? Who is going to state the obvious and say this should be added to the annual plan? There’s not much time to spare. Consultation closes on Wednesday.

And, yes, the city’s annual rates increase is also included in the annual plan … if you want to say what you think before Wednesday.


  1. Traveller, 6. May 2019, 11:51

    Perhaps potential candidates are nervous about being decisive. At the last election, “four lanes to the planes” was the most visible slogan, but it didn’t result in success for Jo Coughlan.

  2. michael, 6. May 2019, 13:28

    It is time sitting councillors came forward and let us know where they stand on the important issues, like the library, Civic Square, transport, vanity projects etc. I only hope it won’t be long before we have a few more mayoral and council candidates to give us a lot more options at election time, as I would like to see a few changes.

  3. Diane Calvert, 6. May 2019, 18:48

    Back in February, Simon Woolf and I announced our key priorities for the next council term:
    • A resilient city – water, transport, housing and public amenities
    • Engaged communities
    • Strong economic growth
    • A vibrant creative sector

    We continue to welcome feedback. I agree with the writer that the Central Library is an emerging big issue for the city, not least because it is a key cornerstone of our civic square but also because it provides much more to residents than just books. Council staff have worked hard on finding interim solutions such as enabling better access to our suburban libraries and will soon be opening a new pop up Library in Manner Street.

    Our Annual Plan consultation does end this week and we will need to accommodate unplanned funding for the library. Any long term plans for the Library are and should be inextricably entwined with the Civic Square development. We need to ensure we don’t adopt a piecemeal approach and the whole matter is a key priority for Councillors. My personal view is that the square should be a community and cultural hub with a greater variety of daytime and night time activity that could also encompass retail and hospitality. Council admin offices can be accommodated elsewhere.

    The “Planning for growth” engagement underway at present is not formal “consultation” (that will come later once preferred options are developed up early next year). The feedback gained from the meetings and forums will help inform the development of a proposed future plan. There will be some tough choices but we can’t lose what is unique to the city and we still need to provide residents with choices to their changing needs.

    This balmy Autumn is poignant as we consider what we need to do now to address climate change and how we can help others. This is why there is a decisive action plan being consulted on now. We will be finalising the plan over the next few months.

    There are a number of projects now underway; yes the Town Hall work has commenced and the Convention Centre is underway (despite what some people think about its merits, it will be a catalyst for rejuvenating the surrounding area). The indoor arena precinct, some say it’s a must have for our economy, others say it’s a “vanity project”. We at least need to complete the business case (including identifying what funding is required) once a preferred site is confirmed (later this year).

    There is good work happening around council social housing and affordable housing. Council staff have also worked hard and dealt admirably with the shifting land and goalposts following the impacts of the Nov 2016 quake.

    For me, the other top city wide priorities will be ensuring Shelly Bay progresses fairly and transparently, we continue to improve our engagement and the(soon?) announcement of the Government’s preferred long term solution for Wgtn’s transport issues – noting that many would just like our current Public Transport to be well run and resourced now. This would immediately help alleviate a number of issues around congestion and emissions.

  4. michael, 6. May 2019, 22:36

    Thank you for your comments Diane which raise several concerns/questions for me.

    1) Our rates have been steadily increasing and, as we are now faced with sorting out the library and Civic Square, I do not understand why there is still a focus on the indoor arena which should be a very low priority. And yes, at this stage I believe it is a vanity project.

    2) I think it is a little late for the council to be focussing on transparency regarding Shelly Bay since itchose to prevent public consultation occurring, and ask is “fairness” intended for the developer or Wellingtonians? I would also like to know how much ratepayer money the council has spent on defending its position regarding Shelley Bay.

    3) And, does your comment that “Council admin offices can be accommodated elsewhere” mean it has been decided to relocate the council elsewhere permanently. If so, is this not something that should have been put out to the public for their reaction?

  5. Andrew, 6. May 2019, 23:16

    Why is it often repeated that the convention centre will rejuvenate the area? Adjacent to the site is Te Papa or is that forgotten conveniently? Apart from the empty lot that WB sat on, the area is hardly dead.

  6. Russel C., 7. May 2019, 7:00

    As Dave Armstrong has said in the Dom-Post, a bunch of Muppets couldn’t do any worse than the current bunch of City and Regional Councillors. I’d certainly consider voting for a Kermit or a Waldorf so let’s hope some Muppets put their names forward.

  7. Harry M, 7. May 2019, 7:16

    I have found that most candidates claim they will solve this or that election issue all without disclosing a plan for doing it and it’s mostly all the unsolved Council problems anyway. They all have same old WCC agenda. Serving the wants of developers, lobbyist$ and businesses. No candidates will serve my interests as a ratepayer as there is a conflict of interest.

  8. Benny, 7. May 2019, 10:31

    Dianne, let me disagree with your desire for “strong economic growth,” as a lot of problems we face, housing prices especially, are byproducts of growth. I’d argue the last thing we need right now is growth, rather a stronger focus on resolving the issues we are facing: housing, traffic, emissions. These are the real challenges for Wellington and these need funding to be addressed. Adding a convention centre, an arena or what else are only going to exacerbate all these issues.

  9. Brendan, 7. May 2019, 11:31

    Well said Benny! I’m happy with Wellington’s population right now. Certainly no need to increase it. And economic growth from entertaining ‘out of towners’? Well let ‘out of towners’ entertain themselves where they live now (i.e. locally) and so save the planet loads of CO2 and us Wellingtonians from the pollution and congestion.

  10. michael, 7. May 2019, 14:52

    My biggest concern regarding the Planning for Growth project is that the council seems to be focussed on the maximum number of apartments/houses they can cram into Wellington’s inner city, with little consideration of the health and well-being of residents. Surely the first thing that should have been done before going out to consultation was to determine how many people the inner city could sustain? In this regard, there appears to be little thought given to social infrastructure requirements (ie: parks/green spaces, sports fields, space for schools, shops, medical centres, day-care centres, and additional hospital beds etc) for the thousands of extra people we are told we have to make room for.

  11. Andrew, 7. May 2019, 15:57

    Cramming in apartments seems crazy to me with the current insurance situation in Wellington. The new apartments may be built to the latest code, but as we know too well there may be issues that arise with the build design and construction down the road… good luck selling or insuring in that situation.

  12. Michael Gibson, 7. May 2019, 16:15

    Diane – what I would like to know is why the Council is involved with helping somebody who apparently sold land at Shelly Bay for $2,000,000 then the land was sold to somebody else for about four times as much. Are these figures correct for Shelly Bay? Is the Council still planning to toss in another $10,000,000?

  13. michael, 7. May 2019, 18:06

    On May 4th, the DomPost reported that a Deed of Settlement signed on August 19, 2008 allowed the iwi to purchase four parcels of Shelly Bay land costing at least $13.3 million. These parcels of land were owned by iwi until 2017, when three of the four were sold to Ian Cassels’ Shelly Bay Investments (and his related companies) by Port Nicholson Block Settlement (PNBST) for a combined total price of $2 million. Cassels said his role was to assist the iwi to do more social projects around Wellington. So how come he didn’t pay the full value of the land?

    Little wonder members of Taranaki Whānui and the general public are questioning what has gone on.

  14. Diane Calvert, 10. May 2019, 18:47

    Thanks everyone for your feedback. I will respond to the comments addressed to me.

    Michael – We may well have to think harder about the indoor arena precinct given the emerging additional issues around the library and civic square.
    Shelly Bay – Fairness is intended for all. The majority of the land is privately owned and the landowner may develop how they choose subject to the appropriate regulatory consents. The previous resource consent process has been subject to a rigorous review and we must now wait for the application to be re-processed.
    Council offices – that was my personal view expressed as I said. I have not been at any meetings where this is on the table however I have shared my views from time to time. When officers have formulated future options for the square and its building, there will be open debate and engagement
    Planning for growth – you raise very good points and it is those ideas that the Council wants to hear about as it starts shaping future growth plans so they can be included.
    Andrew – Yes the site is next to Te Papa but it is also surrounded by low rise buildings, some just used for parking and likely requiring renovating in the future. The convention centre will increase the desirability of the area for more intense development.

    Benny – We do need to consider the future. While some of us may be happy with the status quo, many others want Wellington to set the pace for the future so we keep attracting new talent in a sustainable way . I agree with you on a stronger focus on resolving issues now. I can’t fathom why more central govt politicians have not been up in arms about the bus situation in Wellington. If we had cheaper and more electric buses now (yes our streets can handle them subject to them being the right size) we would make a significant dent in congestion and emissions now (rather than in 20 yrs)

    Michael Gibson – I can’t comment on the figures you mention re the sale of privately owned land as Council is not a party to that and I have no knowledge of the information. In terms of the $10million, yes that was the amount agreed that the Council’s contribution would be capped at in respect of infrastructure. However 18mths has since lapsed, a judicial review, an appeal and now a second hearing of the resource consent underway, I cannot predict what changes (if any) there may be. This will become much clearer once the outcome of the Resource consent is known and all other relevant information is on the table.

  15. michael, 10. May 2019, 23:12

    If the transport debacle continues for much longer, the one thing we won’t have to worry about is the anticipated extra 80,000 people moving into Wellington – they will be looking elsewhere.

  16. Wellington Inc, 11. May 2019, 0:02

    I am surprised there hasn’t been more comment on one of the planning for growth scenarios which proposes removing the pre 1930 character protection in some inner suburb areas. Redeveloping or pulling down Mt Vic cottages and replacing them with townhouses would be a terrible thing in my opinion, yet apparently this is the preferred option within the council. The developers say they can make it work, but look what happened in Thorndon with the faux character town houses with pointy roofs. I’m all for population growth and would prefer it in the inner city, but the debate about heritage areas needs to be had but it seems to be being pursued on the quiet. Removing character protection is on a par with allowing development on the town belt. I would go as far as saying that development on some of the less attractive green spaces on the inner city fringe and throughout would be preferable to knocking down character houses in Mt Cook and Newtown.

  17. michael, 11. May 2019, 15:35

    What about considering areas like Johnsonville’s CBD which is not very attractive, has acres of carparking, a mall which needs total refurbishment. All of this could be attractively redesigned to provide high density living, shops, day care etc very close to the railway station without impinging on the outer suburbs.

  18. mason, 12. May 2019, 3:54

    I like the idea of converting the Johnsonville Mall into high density housing. Same with Petone, Paraparaumu, Parematta and Waikanae Station carparks.

  19. Tim Jones, 13. May 2019, 12:41

    Recently I learned WgtnCC’s “Planning for Growth” strategy already assumes that there will be internal migration away from Wellington suburbs threatened by sea level rise. Should it be renamed “Planning for Retreat”?
    Submit by this Friday: (link: https://planningforgrowth.wellington.govt.nz/) planningforgrowth.wellington.govt.nz