Wellington Scoop

They don’t know about our promenade

by Lindsay Shelton
Wellington has had a promenade on the edge of the harbour ever since the city council’s Waterfront Framework was published ten years ago. It was one of the few decisions which was supported by everyone during the fraught process of developing the Framework’s rules for waterfront development.

So it’s weird to discover this week that the council has commissioned a planning report which tells it … that the city should have a waterfront promenade. The DomPost published details of this report yesterday, headlining the fact that a new waterfront promenade has been proposed.

The report was written by a company called Space Syntax. Perhaps they didn’t look at the waterfront before writing their recommendations.

Or perhaps it’s the latest example of the council’s extravagant habit of spending money to re-construct areas which are already in perfectly good shape. Think the Manners Mall (twice redesigned), or Frank Kitts Park (lined up for a redesign with the addition of a Chinese Garden.) Think of the Framework itself – it’s been an effective policy document for waterfront development, but the council wants to rewrite it – councilors were thinking about paying $500,000 for the task when they approved it last year.

The cost of the Space Syntax report hasn’t been published. But their people (who seem to be based in another country) have decided there’s a need for a series of clearly defined walkways. It seems they haven’t read the Framework, in which the council agreed on such a policy ten years ago. Or the report by Jan Gehl, also commissioned by the council with the same recommendations which were (again) accepted five years ago.

The best comment on the re-discovered “need” for what exists already comes from hotelier and former councillor Chris Parkin who said: “You’d have to be a halfwit, or only just moved here, not to know how to get to all these places.” He’s right. The “need” is as absurd as the claims made last year, in defence of putting buses through Manners Street, that people were having trouble finding bus stops.

But perhaps our extravagant council isn’t too serious about this latest, repetitive report. The manager of research, strategy and urban design says it will feed into a project for Wellington in the year 2040. So there’s plenty of time for the report to be shelved. There’s also plenty of time for Space Syntax to come to New Zealand and go down to the waterfront where they’ll discover that the promenade exists already. And that it’s really popular.


  1. Peter Brooks, 6. April 2011, 11:20

    Before Wellington.Scoop decided to mock the Space Syntax planning report, it should have taken the trouble to find out a bit more about the purpose and scope of the studies commissioned by the council in the middle of last year. The consultants were asked, among other things, to look at the strategic design of pedestrian linkages and public spaces. The aim, in terms that I as a layman understand, is to provide ideas on how the CBD could be made more accessible, safer and more enjoyable for pedestrians. The study is to build on the Gehl report using methodologies specifically developed by Space Syntax and believed to be particularly appropriate for the task. The results of the study are to be fed into the 2040 Central City Framework project – this was made clear at the time and I am surprised that Scoop is unaware of that.

    As for a hotelier’s comment that only halfwits or strangers do not know their way around the city, this comes strangely (but perhaps not unexpectedly) from someone in the hospitality industry.

    The consultants have apparently made suggestions which they believe will improve access to and use of the waterfront by creating defined links to the established promenade. The suggestion that Frank Kitts Park be “extended eastwards to the harbour’s edge” would seem to be no more than support for the existing approved (and controversial) redesign of that park. The Dominion Post heading suggests a new waterfront promenade – that is, I am sure, a construction of the journalist’s not a recommendation of the consultants.

    I hope what appear to be modest proposals will work, because as the Waterfront Framework (which Scoop lauds) states “improving pedestrian access across the heavily-trafficked ‘quays’ is critical.” To suggest that Space Syntax is unaware of the Waterfront Framework or the existence of the waterfront promenade are suggestions unworthy of Wellington.Scoop. Be grumpy by all means, but do try to be constructive!

  2. Trish, 6. April 2011, 18:38

    I, for one, find walking through Wellington an uninspiring experience, just following along the footpaths beside the buses and cars. There is rarely a clear walking route to where I want to go. I might decide that I would like to go through the Civic Square or along the waterfront depending on the weather, but I usually let the little green men in the traffic signals decide which way I will go today. Wouldn’t it be much better if there was a pedestrian-friendly route that was actually pleasant and enjoyable. I’d walk that way every time.

  3. Lucifer, 8. April 2011, 10:17

    Do we really need a $180,000 computer modelling exercise to tell us where people want to walk? It seems overkill and duplicates the work already done by Gehl.

  4. David, 8. April 2011, 16:47

    Why not let people just wander around the city by themselves, get lost in wonder at works of art, follow their nose to a great cafe, walk in the sun, walk in the shade, walk in the rain or under a shelter…or in other words, let people guide themselves and explore the city. What’s wrong with freedom!!!!

    Of course, bureaucrats like us to be neatly channelled like sheep so they can fit neat little pathways on computer models. No reports, fire the damned lot of bureaucrats and analysts involved and SAVE the money from my rates.