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Two generations of support for Wellington’s character areas; warning of “foolish” deregulation

News from Historic Places Wellington
The Wellington City Council today voted for their “Planning for Growth” spatial plan. The proposal erodes protections of heritage housing by amending the “Character Area” protections. It also allows for high density intensification of up to 8 storey buildings in many of the neighbourhoods that provide us with the most historical, societal and cultural substance.

One of the speakers at today’s meeting was Felicity Wong, the chair of Historic Places Wellington:

We acknowledge the urgency of making homes for people. Realistic housing projects can be started now. We want a compact resilient city – but not at the expense of heritage and character homes.

Foreign cities have their particular character but when you think of Wellington, you think of wooden houses nestled into the hillside. They are our identity. That identity exists because people have gone before me, expressed our shared community value, and ensured the rule of law protects them.

The city is beginning the biggest building deregulation in decades. You propose that if neighbours have 1960s windows in their old villa, the whole street can be demolished. You propose to re-zone 60% of the existing character areas as high rise.

This foolish draft plan is already out of date. It uses a Housing Assessment computer model that does not comply with the Government’s new National Policy Statement. Your old computer model grossly exaggerates the amount of zoning change required to fit folk into our city.

It used to google street view photos of homes and neighbourhoods. It did not have any data about the housing needs of Māori or elderly, as is required by law.

We know that NZ has a problem acknowledging its history. Only in 2022 will NZ history be taught in schools. Allowing demolition of Wellington’s pre-1930 character homes will continue a trend of erasure and removal.

This is not about privileging one strand of history over another. Many people have heritage in te whanganui-a-tara – new heritage and old. The character areas have housed people from all walks of life and have stories to tell about us all.

Thank you Mayor for offering to wear your shoes down checking google street view. (By contrast, officers plan not to take their “tiny home consultation stunt” to heritage areas, or to meet with us.)

Let’s work together to build connected communities that value diverse heritage experiences. You will make a big political decision with your vote today – to ask communities what they think of a foolish, flawed and out of date plan. I have no doubt it will excite public passion – and claims that you are merely following Government orders will be of doubtful value.

A second speaker was Gregor Thompson:

I am 25 years old. I’ve lived in Wellington almost all my life. I am currently a student living in Newtown. What I’m here to talk about is the fact that I think there is a misapprehension around the youth position on this issue.

The narrative the council seems to be spreading is one of progression and an inclusive city for future generations, but I’d contest that – no one seems to have really consulted this city’s future generation

The reason I live in Newtown is because I like it, I like the character of my home. Newtown is charming, inclusive, interesting and the residents are proud of it.

This is not exclusive to Newtown; it can be seen in all the other communities this council seems to be intent on demolishing. The immediate peripheral suburbs house a large proportion of our younger and student populations, we may not own the houses but we do still benefit immensely from them.

Now I’m not saying that we should close our doors. Accommodating new Wellingtonians is salient but we shouldn’t do it at the expense of what makes people want to come here in the first place. Asides from Cuba Street, our inner-city suburbs are the last frontier of a unique cultural vibrancy. It honestly seems like we are deliberately sucking the soul out of this city.

I think the rhetoric and framing of the council’s intentions, as if this is doing young people a service seems disingenuous or at least one sided. If you look, you’ll find that the youth view on this is far more complex than you give it credit for. We need to reconsider who the real beneficiaries of this extensive deregulation are, because I certainly don’t think it’s me or anyone who has had the pleasure of growing up among these beautiful buildings.

https://planningforgrowth.wellington.govt.nz/ [1]
Submissions on the issue open on August 10.