Wellington Scoop

How the council can save $500,000 – just say no to reviewing the Framework

by Lindsay Shelton
Unnecessary expenditure of $500,000 is being recommended to a meeting of the Wellington City Council today. This would be the cost if the council decides to review the ten-year-old Framework which governs the development of the waterfront. The expenditure is not necessary.

A recommendation to review the council-owned waterfront company was signalled two weeks ago and it’s likely to be approved today. The work “will be funded from existing resources.” No argument with that, specially as the expected result is that the council will save money by closing the company.

But the cost of reviewing the 52-page Framework, involving lengthy public consultation (which was done meticulously ten years ago), isn’t in anyone’s budget. The idea is misconceived at a time when council finances are stretched. It isn’t necessary. It should be rejected.

One of the reasons that’s given is that the Framework is causing problems for developers: specifically the requirement that “ground floors of buildings will be predominantly accessible to the public.” This is not an unreasonable rule, given that all waterfront buildings are on public land. The consequences of breaching the rule are evident on Queens Wharf, where the ground floor of the enormous building originally known as the Retail Centre has been inaccessible to the public for years. Designed as a shopping centre and food hall, it never attracted enough customers. The council let the owners convert it into offices.

The developers of the Herd Street Building are having similar problems renting their ground floor space – the big atrium was briefly a deli, but not enough shoppers arrived, and the space is now empty except on Sundays when it’s a market. The owners of the heritage Odlins Building have also had problems finding a commercial tenant for their ground floor.

But a half-million-dollar review isn’t needed to solve such problems. Nor should the council allow the spaces to be turned into workplaces. The success of publically-accessible tenancies in the ground floors of heritage buildings – the National Portrait Gallery, Mojo, the Museum of Wellington are three examples – should encourage a more constructive search for activities which can enliven the waterfront, with a shortlist that does not include offices. Or shopping.

As well as saying no to a review of the Framework, councilors should be rejecting the recommendation that Variation 11 should be “parked.” The unpopularity of this planning document was clearly shown by the fact that all 48 public submissions opposed it. The Variation should be withdrawn.

It’s also clear that the new council must say no, firmly, to the old regime’s plans for new buildings on Waitangi Park. The new mayor is on record as opposing them. And the buildings are not required by the Framework, which specifies that there was no agreement on whether or not they would add to the quality of the park.

Now that the park has been successfully completed, everyone can see that new buildings would be detrimental to the openness that has been created. As well as saying no to a review of the Framework, councilors should also be saying no to any new buildings on the park.

Lindsay Shelton was a member of the council-appointed Leadership Group which held 23 meetings over seven months, starting in September 2000, to develop the Framework.


  1. Russell Tregonning, 14. December 2010, 21:57

    The public submission process showed that Variation 11 is deeply unpopular: the new council should abandon it.
    Also, recent calls by Chris Parkin et al for a new national art gallery building on the so-called “transition zone” of Waitangi Park, adjacent to Te Papa, should be rejected. The park should remain a park (ie open space).
    Ground floors of waterfront buildings, promised as public space on public land and unsuccessful commercially, could be used to show off the nation’s art – convenient and accessible. I’ll bet the Wellington public and visitors would flood in. Win, win – keep the park and show the art.

  2. Alana Bowman, 14. December 2010, 23:04

    After seeing the bloated structure that the wharewaka has become and the many possible even larger buildings Variation 11 would allow, I think it is time to bring Waterfront Ltd back into council control as quickly as possible, revoke Variation 11, establish a firm structure within council to manage and maintain existing waterfront assets, and then establish a 5 year moratorium on any further waterfront development.

  3. Pauline Swann, 15. December 2010, 9:19

    A number of years ago the much respected potter, the late Doreen Blumhardt, offered her collection to Wellington and the ground floor of the Herd Street building was the preferred location. However, after much debate in Council it was declined; apparently we could not afford another Trust. But the Dowse in the Hutt were delighted to accept the collection. Wellington’s loss, and so close to Te Papa, would have been a popular destination not just for Wellingtonians but tourists, cruise ship visitors etc

  4. The City is Ours, 16. December 2010, 0:07

    If the Framework is dismantled and Variation 11 is abandoned, Waterfront Watch can have a well deserved holiday!

  5. ViV, 16. December 2010, 18:31

    I wonder if this is the first step towards the Chris Parkin Memorial Art Gallery?????

  6. Dianne Buchan, 23. December 2010, 10:22

    When I heard that the Council was debating to need to review the Framework my immediate reaction was, why don’t they try to implement the existing one first? As Lindsay Shelton states, the Framework does not require new buildings and the criteria for any new developments is clearly stated. From the time the Council adopted the Framework as its guiding policy it has sought to undermine it, starting with approval for the development of a hotel on the outer T at Queens Wharf.
    The Framework was hard-won (like Lindsay I also was a member of the Leadership Group that developed this document). Do we really want to let the Council (the same Council that has just approved the construction of the giant loos at Queens Wharf North) to have a free-rein on rewriting it?

  7. Stan Andis, 30. December 2010, 9:19

    Somehow, the WCC has adopted a stance that it is in the game of being a developer. The costs of superloos and sculptures are a pittance as to how payment of the Indoor Sports Centre is going to impact on the rates for the new year – we have not commenced paying for it yet. As if this is not enough, we will have the annual $6 million operational charges to support. The WCC is also in the charitable handout game – it’s costing the ratepayer $2.25 million annually for Te Papa. Surely it’s time for a door charge to be introduced? The sewage infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. How do you imagine that the recent overflow occurred? Mechanical failure? I think not. More like that the heavy rains entered the sewage system from decrepit stormwater pipes. To remedy this problem WCC proposes to spend $6.2 million on an Ultra Violet disinfection process to treat excess flows during heavy rain falls. It doesn’t stop there as there is a serious problem with the state of fats, grease and oil disposal from Wellington’s Restaurants and Hotels. Council-approved grease converters are a failure and will need to be replaced to avoid fats build up at the Moa Point Treatment Plant. The cost of this has yet to be determined. And who will pay? Another Leaky Home blunder for sure.
    The council it seems wants to pursue a path of glory by devoting its attentions to the monuments and anything that is for show. Cutting services is not the answer as they are already at an all time low. I’ve had enough of rates increases to merely boost the egos of those who cannot see the wood for the trees. I did not vote for councillors to follow a path of their own personal opinions. Its is time that Consultation took a prominent stance so that the voice of the people is considered foremost. In the meantime a long hard look at how Council expenses are rising as a result of building monuments is well overdue.