by Hugh Rennie
Early 1970s official estimates for population growth predicted that within 20 years the Judgeford/ Grenada/ etc areas would be full, the Hutt Valley would be bulging, and Featherston would have a population of 10,000 commuting to Wellington. This was based on assumptions about employment in manufacturing, processing, distribution, office and other industries, etc which were wrong.
The Wellington City Council’s planning then assumed the economic life of a wooden building was 70 years. Their plan assumed that people in areas like Mt Cook and the Aro Valley would welcome the acquisition and demolition of their homes, a North West Connector up the Valley through to Karori, and UK-style high rise rental flats dotted around.
They built one – the Nairn Street flats. Those who actually lived in these areas rebelled.
It took years of fighting the Council to deliver what the locals wanted, not what the planners dreamed of. No more Nairn Street flats, no North West connector, timber houses are still there but 40+ years older, and new building is similar to the old. (Incidentally, the cost of each flat was then equal to the cost of two new freehold houses in Newlands!)
Since then, whole areas of employment have gone – distribution warehouses, manufacturing, freezing works, motor assembly plants, head offices of major businesses. Now we are starting to see government agencies downsizing their Wellington activities and some are now run out of Auckland.
The City Council has no visible strategy to contain, let alone reverse, this trend.
The major attractions of Wellington life – lifestyle, residential environment, culture, education etc – are based on what is now to be discarded by these “planners”. Many of the areas Wellingtonians like most would never make it through today’s planning controls if they had not already been built.
One more significant earthquake would probably be terminal for any further growth in Wellington. Ask Christchurch people if they want to live in any residential block above 3 storeys!