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.