Wellington Scoop

Spatial Plan: open letter to Gen Zero

Open letter from James Fraser to Generation Zero
Thank you for your invitation to submit against the airport expansion plan. Energy levels are low however, as I have been in recovery all summer from the hubbub of the Draft Spatial Plan, particularly your submission made to the City Council. At the time it filled me with shock and horror and I was taken aback by your refusal to debate the same, either over a coffee, or in a public forum.

I’m sorry I have been unable to get over it since. So please allow me, as a conservationist, to set out in this letter where in my opinion you lost the argument for a sustainable way forward for the Spatial Plan, with your dangerously naive submission full of misguided information.

Before that let’s begin with what we can agree on, such as greater accessibility to those with disabilities, support for Mana Whenua or urgent investment in The Three Waters. Who would not want more Affordable Housing.

But the cut and thrust of your submission for Te Whanganui-a-Tara could have been written for and by Developers with a Council on board desperate for revenue.

We can also all agree with your ‘High Asks’ at the beginning of your submission, but it goes downhill from there. The blame for the housing unaffordability crisis, lack of social cohesion and even disease is laid squarely on our treasured Character houses and existing ‘low maximum heights’ allowed in areas where ‘interesting and diverse’ people want to live. Ignored are the effects of macro economic policies, land banking by speculators and Waka Kotahi, Expensive building and Earthquake compliance costs and the long term effects of Covid in the city.

I whole heartedly support your submission to develop Adelaide Rd, but as there was a fabulous plan to do so put forward by the WCC in 2008, let’s ask why it hasn’t happened before we ‘Upzone’ other large areas of inner and outer suburbs to allow high rise apartment building.

You imply this will stop ‘gentrification’, and the flight of people to the Hutt Valley or Porirua, where you seem to be unaware, housing rents are even more expensive than Wellington City.

Wellington’s pre 1930’s housing stock is condemned as either ‘cold, damp and mouldy’ or owned by affluent members of society wholive in museums that represent Colonialism! Either way they are condemned.

Such a plan would forget that such character might be the golden goose that attracts people in the first place. At a stroke, land in these areas becomes more valuable than the dwellings, increasing prices further, removing any incentive to protect and improve the dwellings. As one who loves and treasures these houses, I took particular offence when your submission shamefully includes a image which you cited as ‘Dilapidated House’ deserving of demolition which at closer inspection deeper than a coat of paint, looks to be otherwise in good condition.

What happened to the 5 R’s of sustainability at Gen Zero? Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle? Before you condemn these homes please consider where these rare timbers of our ancient forests are likely to end up … in a unregulated landfill.

The high carbon cost of high rise development of concrete, steel and glass with expensive compliance demands seem to be forgotten. Concrete alone accounts for 8% of Global Co2 emissions and such large scale development is leading to environmental damage such as habitat loss by sand extraction.

Your submission also has a whiff of the politics of envy where you state that people do not want a backyard or need sunlight and should share green space in communal areas. Not for you the DIY tradition of getting ones hands dirty ‘doing up’ their homes, backyards and growing their own food, instead you will have us live in high rise sterile units with Body Corporates in shady wind tunnels.

I must here declare a conflict of interest. I happily grew up in a house built in 1893 and now live in one built in 1907. I fell for these timber houses as a nosey paper boy, where each residence on my round was a different and unique curiosity. Built on site by craftspeople and hand tools with the capacity to withstand earthquakes and weather over decades.

Forces beyond my control have made me asset rich but before you submit to handing over our communities to developers and speculators, please ask yourselves if we can trust our local authorities to deliver what you list as Nice To Have; good design, infrastructure, schools, and redress with Mana Whenua? If the Shelly Bay debacle is anything to go by I suggest we be very wary not to be sold out to profit driven Developers and a cash strapped council.

My appeal to you and others is to work together for a plan that works, under the current rules to develop sites already zoned multi storey and protect, repair and maintain what character and diversity we have left in our inner and outer suburbs.

Protect these communities. Campaign for more social or Co-ownership, rent controls and tax reform to stop land banking. Expose landlords who rent sub standard housing, Press Waka Kotahi to release land and buildings bought for roading immediately, for social housing.

As allies, we can definitely campaign against WIAL taking over public land set aside for education, housing and recreation, for car parking and aircraft.

Meanwhile please reconsider your submission on the Spatial Plan and try to treasure what is unique to Wellington. If you wish to get rid of it, what is your vision to replace it? Is it Dubai or Singapore? I would genuinely like to know.

https://www.ecori.org/climate-change/2019/10/4/global-warming-has-a-co2ncrete- problem
https://vimeo.com/162697329 https://na.unep.net/geas/getUNEPPageWithArticleIDScript.php?article_id=110


  1. I blame remuera, 10. February 2021, 11:10

    More people living in the central suburbs will mean more people who can walk or cycle to work, cutting greenhouse emissions. Mid rise buildings (which is what a 6 storey building is, by no sane definition high rise) can readily be made from plantation grown timber if that is the concern.

    James thinks he speaks for “our communities” but half or more of those living in the inner suburbs are renters who I suspect would rather have warmer drier options which make use of multiple storeys.

    I do not doubt that few developers are saints, or even that the good ones get everything right all of the time. But at the end they build more housing, as we desperately need, whereas landlords and speculators leave inadequate properties to rot while while someone else pays both for their mortgage.

    James and others refuse to accept that change will be necessary to end the cruel housing crises that plague this country and wellington especially. Anyone saying “we acknowledge we need more housing but..” should get no credit when the “but” is an list of insubstantial quibbles next to people’s need for warm, dry adequate homes. We need more houses.

  2. Local, 10. February 2021, 11:47

    Just saying…WIAL has not taken over any public land that has been set aside for education, housing or recreation. They have negotiated and purchased the southern part of a privately owned golf course (it was not a compulsory purchase at all). And they need it for aircraft apron when and if the demand arises and for them to comply with international aircraft clearance requirements. Not car parking.

  3. Claire, 10. February 2021, 17:05

    Great article James. Naive and unfounded ideas permeate the WCC. They have no place in the complex process of designing extra housing that complements and enhances new and old dwellings.

  4. Jan, 10. February 2021, 17:33

    Just saying… they now own the previous site of Miramar South School previously public land, put rocks out into Lyall Bay previously a public area and also own many empty houses along the airport boundaries.

  5. Claire, 10. February 2021, 19:41

    IBR..I used to have that black and white way of thinking that you have. I think you know we have a plan in the works for more housing – it just doesn’t include Lego land all through older houses. It’s down a commercial strip.
    Do you have a plan other than saying more housing more housing more housing?

  6. Arron, 11. February 2021, 6:48

    Kia ora James. As a member of Generation Zero I thought I should reply to this with my own thoughts (not Generation Zero’s) on your letter. Generation Zero’s submission was written by people who have expertise in many areas including housing policy, planning, and economics. The thinking in the submission is based off international research and experience.

    I don’t only blame ‘character areas’ for the lack of housing supply, if you read more broadly it is clear that they understand there are other macro economic causes. However, as the Spatial Plan enables more housing supply, not economic policies, it is fair for Generation Zero to highlight this as a cause. Also I am aware and concerned that rental prices are increasing across the region. This is a significant issue and needs a regional approach.

    I’m sure character attracts some people to Wellington, but the vibrant city life and diverse people attract people too. Without addressing the housing issues we will loose this vibrancy and diversity.

    The 5 R’s is a thing but when we have to provide housing to 30 thousand more people we have two choices, build out which will have to happen if we don’t pass the Spatial Plan, or build up. Building up uses less material and carbon per person than building out, even if you upgrade dilapidated buildings. If we force these 30 thousand people to live further outside the city by not building up we loose efficiencies in the transport network increasing carbon miles and cost per person. Also, if old homes are demolished care should be taken by the person demolishing thrm to reuse and recycle the timber, not hoof it into the landfill.

    I am aware that building has high carbon costs and contributed to a Generation Zero submission asking that the Building Code be changed to enable lower carbon construction materials and practices.

    It is also important to highlight that the current rules are out of date and not consistent with National Direction on developing urban areas. The Government has said we need to intensify and this Spatial Plan outlines how Wellington will do that. I understand you have advocated for the Council not to comply with national direction and find loopholes to avoid meeting it. Why do you think Wellington shouldn’t play its role in accommodating a growing Aotearoa.

    I agree we should develop areas already zoned for intensification and encourage property owners to upgrade their houses for renting, but this will not meet the high demand facing the city. I will campaign for other changes to make housing more affordable when the opportunity arises, but the Spatial Plan is here and now.

  7. Conor, 11. February 2021, 8:13

    This is the piece of someone who cares at a conceptual level about climate change, but is not prepared to do anything at the local level about it.

  8. I blame remuera, 11. February 2021, 9:10

    Claire, It is called the NPS-UD and the draft spatial plan. The draft spatial plan is already more conservative on retaining character areas than the WCC is probably entitled to be under the NPS-UD. You and James suggesting a do nothing plan does not give me any faith, insisting on near total capitulation is not being constructive or any sort of compromise. Shelter i.e. housing is a necessity of human life it must be put first.

  9. Claire, 11. February 2021, 11:11

    IBR. The people of Newtown do not believe in doing nothing and have made suggestions, scoped sites and are more than happy to develop our main strip. And co-design as the Lead planner at WCC has suggested. Newtown has always accepted new people and state and social homes. And we have 250 builds in the works.
    The spatial plan needs significant modification for it to be workable. Noone wants legoland and slumsville. What are your design ideas for placement of buildings? Or is it rip shit and bust.

  10. Peter Steven, 11. February 2021, 12:03

    Claire no single person can speak for the people of Newtown.

  11. Claire, 11. February 2021, 13:07

    Peter. That is true. But I am part of a group that has pretty similar ideas about this. Have a look at the submission from Anna Kemble Welsh. This is pretty much a plan presented at a public meeting in Newtown and with a few tweaks that people agree with.
    Marian Evans also talks about it in her article on Wellington.scoop right now.

  12. I blame remuera, 11. February 2021, 15:45

    Claire. Please do not mistake the opinions of those you know best with the wishes of an entire suburb or city. wellington is desperately hurting because of the lack of housing and the poor quality of dilapidated buildings that provide too much of what is here.

  13. Peter Steven, 11. February 2021, 17:08

    Claire that’s great but there are also groups of Newtown residents that are very supportive of the Draft Spatial Plan as it is.

  14. Claire, 11. February 2021, 19:12

    Peter and IBR – yes there may be the odd person or group who agrees with the very raw DSP.
    But judging from the numbers at the public meeting (most of whom I didn’t know) and the box drop of the whole of Newtown, I would suggest most disagree
    with its current raw form as applied to Newtown.
    The DSP is trumped by the RMA anyway so it will be unrecognisable in two years.

  15. Tamati, 11. February 2021, 22:17

    Once again the same arguments against densification are trotted out. First we’re told that dense housing should be placed in areas away from our beloved character homes, and then we’re admonished for even suggesting denser housing as it contributes too much to climate change. Then we’re told be to wary of greedy developers and an impoverished council, yet we’re meant to trust a group made up of landowners who have profited greatly, and stand to make even more from the status quo? At least the developers don’t waste our time with empty platitudes of coming together.

  16. Jane, 12. February 2021, 16:54

    34-year resident here, I’m yet to chat with anyone else in Newtown who doesn’t support the spatial plan. Is this the typical case of a loud minority claiming to speak for all?

    Tamati, thank you for your comment. You have summed this up expertly.

  17. Margaret, 13. February 2021, 15:42

    Housing Co-Ops, housing associations, co-housing – all good solutions for affordable housing coming from the community… Argue all you like but developers do NOT provide affordable housing. Consider the unsustainable materials used in high rise construction http:/sand-wars.com
    Adelaide Road land bankers = compulsory purchase for housing
    Kent terrace /other car yards = good housing sites
    Covid has changed requirements… people don’t want to come to work in the city and many empty office buildings are now available for housing in the CBD (Happening already)
    The politics of ‘ENVY’ is an ugly look. Let’s be kind, considerate, positive and listen to one another a little more.

  18. Roland Sapsford, 15. February 2021, 20:26

    Four comments

    1 Do not confuse density with height. Apartments are spatially inefficient compared with flats, which are a form of co-housing. Demolishing two-storey houses which serve as flats and replacing them with four storey apartments may result in the same number of people living on the site. The main difference will be that the apartment owners are wealthier than the displaced tenants.

    2 Demolishing houses is a very slow way to create new housing capacity. When you demolish a house people become homeless. You will increase the housing supply much faster if you prioritise building four to six storey housing on vacant land, land used for car parking and land used for poor quality commercial developments.

    3 Rental quality has no connection to character areas. Some character areas are amongst the least mouldy and damp and some perform poorly. None of the ten worst suburbs are character areas. I did this analysis and you can find it on line in my WCC submission.

    I have also looked at some of the poorer performing areas in more detail. Unsuprisingly topography and income are the big factors influencing how much mold and damp tenants experience.

    4 Increasing building height per se does not reduce emissions. The type of density that reduces emissions is densification that helps create 15 minute communities where they don’t already exist, and then links these “urban villages” with high quality public transport. This requires careful planning not deregulation.

    I appreciate you writing this open letter James. I think it captures the frustrations many of us feel.

  19. Claire, 16. February 2021, 8:25

    Roland thanks for your comments. Especially regarding mould and the obvious brownfield places to build. Yes many people feel frustrated, there have been many very good submissions and commentary against the DSP. What dismays people is how much more informed they are compared to the DSP presentation from the council.


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