Wellington Scoop

Andy Foster: New housing plan for unpopular football ground

by Andy Foster
This week I’ve released an innovative and researched proposal to put housing on Happy Valley Park, and use the $24 – 29 million estimated proceeds for a wide range of environmental and sporting benefits.

I’m a keen footballer. This idea has evolved from yet another Happy Valley football match last year, sloshing around in the mud. Happy Valley is widely recognized by those condemned to play on it as one of the worst football grounds in the city, which usually goes from rock hard to muddy bog within a few weeks of the arrival of winter rains.

I wondered whether it could be repurposed for housing. Throughout my time on Council I’ve been leading adding land to our reserve network – creating the Outer Green Belt, recovering Town Belt, upgrading parks, so removing a reserve isn’t normally something I’d promote.

However researching all our grounds shows Happy Valley to be unique in not being a former landfill, but simply being a really poor ground. It just has a limited history of clean fill construction dumping which our closed landfill managers don’t think will be an issue. It is not Town Belt or Outer Green Belt.

I’ve talked with all the key stakeholders several times over the last few months in developing this proposal. Capital Football and Cricket Wellington are enthusiastic supporters. Friends of Owhiro Stream (FOOS) and the Owhiro Bay School Board of Trustees are predictably more cautious. FOOS noted the opportunities across the catchment to reduce rapid run off through water sensitive urban design, and reduce leachate from 3 landfills, and to enhance the stream environment where at the moment it runs in an artificial channel beside the park. The school noted some existing community use of the park – something which could be accommodated depending on the level of development if the idea proceeds. The School Board also noted the lack of some amenities like a local convenience shop, which development might make viable.

I also briefed Council senior management and elected members about the proposal earlier this year at a Council ½ day retreat. They were all either explicitly supportive, or at least cautiously interested. Nobody said it was a bad idea.

I have written a detailed (29 page report) available on my website www.andyfoster.org.nz which I have lodged with the Council CEO.

The proposal, if fully developed, is expected to generate between $24 and 29 million. That is sufficient to pay for:

Two new artificial turfs in addition to the one already in Council’s Long Term Plan for Grenada/Tawa. Capital Football has nominated the Western and Southern Suburbs as locations.
Improvements to a wide range of cricket wickets and outfields. These are set out in Cricket Wellington’s 2018 Facilities Plan.
Allow sports subscriptions to be permanently reduced for the two codes by reducing debt by the capitalized equivalent of Council’s sportsfield charges to Cricket Wellington and Capital Football (ie 25 times the annual charge). That is the equivalent of a 35-40% reduction in senior football charges and $350 per senior cricket team. (note this would not affect training charges)
Pay for a range of local amenity and environmental improvements, revegetation, stream enhancement and walking tracks in Owhiro Bay. I have suggested $2 million for this.
Providing enough funding to complete the City’s entire wild reserve network (Outer Green Belt, Harbour escarpment and other bush areas) after development contributions .
Provide a significant contribution to a natural heritage fund to support protection of important areas of bush on private land, which would benefit both biodiversity and reduce overall carbon emissions.
Providing substantial funding for inner city reserve purchase and development
Potentially contributing to looking after neglected military heritage on Council reserves

The paper also recommends getting on with discussion about closure management with the operators of the T and T landfill just up Ohiro Road. The landfill has around 4 years left to run and Council owns 88 hectares at the southern end (entrance to the landfill) which we need to give consideration to.

The proposal is based on approximately 96 dwellings on the site, though that number could be refined significantly depending on building typology, design layout, and on whether part of the park might be retained as a local open space.

The key point of this proposal is that the housing development would pay for a wide range of sports and reserves improvements that would otherwise have little or no chance of happening. For example the last 3 or 4 Councils have repeatedly refused my proposals to budget for completing the City’s wild reserve network. Getting money for downtown parks has been similarly challenging. The result has been that when we do actually buy land it costs ratepayers more than it would if we’d included money in our budgets. That’s because if not budgeted we cannot include it in development contributions calculations.

My proposal would also significantly reduce the cost of playing football and cricket, being the sports that currently use Happy Valley Park – and all this is genuinely at zero cost to ratepayers.

There are a fair few steps to go through. Initially my paper asks for initial exploratory work to be undertaken and for officers to further develop and refine the proposal and then to engage with key stakeholders, and then if there are no critical barriers, undertake wider community consultation.

It is definitely a lateral proposal, though a good deal more thought-through than a couple of recent proposals by other candidates to re-purpose local golf courses. Some people are likely to find it challenging. Nevertheless the extensive benefits for sport and the environment make it well worth proposing, and it would provide some much needed housing.

Andy Foster is the Wellington City Council’s Urban Development Leader and Finance Chairperson. He is a candidate for the Mayoralty.


  1. Andy Foster, 15. September 2019, 20:29

    I presented my proposal to develop 96 houses in Happy Valley back in February to the whole Council and Justin Lester was very supportive of the idea at the time. Surprising he’s now opposed, and so insecure about it. [via twitter]

  2. Citizen, 16. September 2019, 6:21

    This is the sort of sensible and practical suggestion which has been so sorely missing from the ever-changing and waffling agenda of the present incumbent.

  3. Curtis Antony Nixon, 16. September 2019, 13:36

    Isn’t this site an old rubbish dump? If so then it is unsuitable for building on I would have thought?

  4. Ciel, 16. September 2019, 13:41

    I really like the creative thinking. An interesting idea.

    Andy: Regarding “The landfill has around 4 years left to run and Council owns 88 hectares at the southern end (entrance to the landfill) which we need to give consideration to” did I understand you correctly that you are for closing the landfill, and doing something with the 88 acres, like other housing?

    Regarding “Providing enough funding to complete the City’s entire wild reserve network (Outer Green Belt, Harbour escarpment and other bush areas) after development contributions” are you indicating that the funds would be used to also ensure existing very long standing hazard issues are addressed (rather than just expansion of the OGB)?

    I’m specifically asking regarding Hawkins Hill Road that is used to run and cycle on — but never fixed for one reason or another. Not a good look to not be able to maintain the only way to enjoy the OGB closest to the city.

    While we’re at it…what is your stance on the proposed zipline? On a plan, it looks like a little insignifiant line — but as an experience, it would just about wreck the OGB above Brooklyn (listening to birds and having a wonderful escape from the city doesn’t go well with someone every 5 minutes screaming their head off as they zip past 50 yards to the south of the road (doubt the birds and animals will like it any more than humans). It’s short-sighted making it look like Mt. Ruapehu in summer, with the traffic of winter . Andy — please don’t let the urban need for cash wreck the OGB for a bit of coin. Or trash (fill).

    Thanks! Continue the good work. And good luck.

  5. Guy M, 16. September 2019, 14:17

    Andy – you say on your website that you welcome feedback – but there is no place on your blog to post feedback (I’m not into Twitter). Any other suggestions for potential dialogue places?

  6. Maggie Kennedy, 16. September 2019, 20:17

    The idea for development at Happy Valley Park would seem to have some merit, depending on the answers to the following questions:-
    1) Is this land a former landfill site?
    2) Drainage seems to be an issue, so this would need to be investigated fully, with a viable solution,before any commitment is made to development.
    3) Provision for some activities open space needs to be desired by locals, especially the neighbouring primary school.
    4) Transport/roading: Owhiro Road is quite narrow and poorly lit at night, and would require widening and upgrading to accommodate the extra traffic incurred through the proposed development.
    5) Public transport: a more extensive commuter bus service would need to be developed to cope with likely extra demand incurred through the proposed development.

  7. Andy Foster, 16. September 2019, 23:09

    Thank you for the feedback so far.
    Citzen – thank you !!
    Curtis – all that information is in my paper to the CEO which is also on my website. I’ll put the core of the relevant details in a second post in just a moment.
    Ciel – the T and T Landfill has approximately 4 years of life left both in terms of consent, lease and capacity. I have not taken a view on what the land there should be used for – that will depend very literally on ‘what lies beneath’. Our closed landfill manager’s advice is that it is unlikely to be suitable for housing, more likely things like recreation, camping, re-vegetation. My point here is that we should start the discussion – not wait till the last minute.

    Regarding the Outer Green Belt – I am very much thinking about completion. There are a limited number of gaps and sites to achieve that outcome. I would like people in 200 years time to be thinking it was great that the Council of today had the foresight to protect this land, and manage it, just as we are thankful our City founders set aside the original Town Belt (even if they sadly removed all the vegetation). Hawkins Hill Road and the Zipline are separate but important issues which I am very happy to discuss further. The Zipline hasn’t yet got consent has it ?

    Guy – at this stage you can get me on facebook https://www.facebook.com/andyfosterforwellington/ or email or phone for feedback. I haven’t yet got my own blog site!

    Maggie – no it is not a former landfill site. I’ll post that advice in a moment. The other points are all relevant considerations, particularly the local open space conversation. There is a bus service – roughly half hourly most of the week. More development may encourage GWRC to enhance the service a bit. Ohiro Road is not especially narrow in a Wellington context.

    Kind regards, Andy

  8. Andy Foster, 16. September 2019, 23:13

    Hi Curtis and Maggie – here’s the extract from my paper about the ‘landfill’ question. I have put together a lot of detail in the paper. I wanted it to be well thought through.
    Warmest regards, Andy

    3. It is a HAIL (Hazardous Activities and Industries List) site. It has a brief history of limited scale unauthorized ad hoc tipping between 1972 and 1977. WCC Chief Resilience Adviser and former Closed Landfill Manager Zac Jordan’s advice (appendix 2) is that there appear to be no material concerns in that history preventing development. Archival information indicates that any dumping was largely clean fill (construction material) and some fly tipping (inert material such as glass). Importantly there is no history of chemical dumping. The history supported by the low altitude, the topography, adjacent stream and land levels all indicate any fill would be likely to be shallow.

    4. By way of background, Happy Valley is not listed as a former landfill although it appears as such on the Council website list of landfills. All landfills are HAIL sites, but HAIL covers a multitude of situations beyond landfills. Just some of the HAIL sites in Wellington include the land under Civic Centre, Te Papa, Waitangi Park, the ASB Stadium, Kilbirnie Park, and indeed most of our sportsfields, and there are a large number (hundreds if not thousands) of houses built on HAIL sites. A nearby example is at the end of Severn and Wye Streets – above Owhiro Bay. HAIL categorization says a site might have contamination present, but does not confirm that a site is in any way contaminated. It is sometimes necessary to confirm whether or not contamination exists and what the source, depth and nature of any contamination is. Even landfills are often developable. The award winning Regent Park, which Council redeveloped and opened in March 2012 was formerly a landfill. Fort Dorset in Seatoun had two shallow landfills. That site has been redeveloped for housing and a school.

    5. Zac advises that the first step to take would be to do exploratory testing to confirm that the Archival evidence is accurate. This is a common process involving a tractor borne coring drill. It would test the depth and compaction of fill to ascertain whether there would be any issues in respect of piling depth or ground compaction in any part of the site. It would also ascertain whether there are any issues in respect of contamination. Contamination, if found, can be dealt with by removal of the top soil to about 500 mm depth, covering with a geotech layer, and importing new soil material. This was done at Regent Park for example. We have also recently undertaken a similar coring process with Arlington.

    6. Zac’s advice is that the cost of initial exploration would be only in the few thousands of dollars, that this should be done with Happy Valley anyway, and that it could be funded out of the Closed Landfill provisions (already budgeted). The likelihood is that Happy Valley will have only shallow fill depth, it will be relatively compacted, and has a low contaminant risk. All of these factors are good for development. The coring work would quickly determine whether there are any material physical barriers to repurposing the reserve.

  9. Ciel, 17. September 2019, 10:29

    Hi Andy,
    Appreciate you taking the time to answer. Apologies beforehand for replying here — I no longer use Facebook.

    Agree the OGB is of great current value today and certainly hope it will still in 200 years. Politely disagree that Hawkins Hill Road and the Zipline are separate issues.

    – Access to the OGB should be maintained, especially for bike rider safety, unless the the OGB was just to be looked at.
    – Developing this property in order to achieve multiple goals:
    a) provide housing
    b) convert poor value land into higher value outcomes
    c) fund completing the OGB
    is an admireable initiative — but using the city’s income from the project to purchase land as the backdrop of a zipline would not be. Would remind me too much of Shelly Bay at first being for a good cause, only to be slapped in the face with a murky deal, for a private group, to wreck the access to green space for everyone. I certainly (really!) hope the zipline does not get consent. Would even question how it could, legally, when one looks deeper into it.

    Other than that, keep up the good work. And good luck!

  10. Curtis Antony Nixon, 17. September 2019, 17:41

    Thanks for the good follow-up information Andy. Seems reasonable.