Wellington Scoop

Buildings or people

by Mary Munro
We’ve had some lovely warm sunny days in Wellington recently. Our beautiful waterfront has served as a magnet for all sorts of people – office workers in the lunch hour, cruise ship visitors, kids who’ve finished school for the year, joggers, skateboarders, and happy wanderers like me.

Right now I’m taking a particular interest in the North Kumutoto area, the last area to be developed. It’s up at the Railway Station end of the waterfront, opposite the huge ugly building housing NZ Post.

On December 8, Wellington Waterfront Ltd. advertised for expressions of interest in the two sites on North Kumutoto that could have buildings on them. The deadline for these expressions of interest is December 20, so developers have been given only 12 days to register. That seems a very short time frame – unless, of course, you’ve had your plans on hold waiting for the green light.

The footprints for these building sites (Sites 9 and 10) and the height limits are huge when one considers the total area of North Kumutoto (the map is part of the North Kumutoto Design Brief adopted on 22 November).

Not only will two new large buildings create an ugly canyon along Waterloo Quay, but they will also shade much of North Kumutoto and no doubt have unpleasant wind effects.

There is a small area for Open Space (Site 8). But the buildings will dominate the area. In addition, there will be cars and trucks competing with people for the rest of the non-Site 8 open space because this is a main vehicular entrance to the wharf – and the buildings (and the others in the Kumutoto Precinct) need servicing.

So now the question is, what will the buildings be used for? What do developers in central Wellington usually go for – offices, apartments, hotels.

We hear regularly that Wellington city has an over-supply of offices, and that there are empty spaces all over the city.

And apartments – do they belong on a beautiful waterfront promenade owned by the people of Wellington?

As for hotels, Sofitel’s plans for a 5-star hotel in Bolton Street would surely mean there’s no need for another hotel on the waterfront – wouldn’t it?

The best thing is to go down there and check it out. It’s an area rich in history and once the busiest part of the wharf area. It’s tiny, so just try and imagine how it will be with two big buildings on site. Could it be that people like you and me are being squeezed out?


  1. Nick, 17. December 2012, 20:01

    Mary, the area you’re talking about is a wasteland of city space and not a magnet to anyone; when did it last attract anyone apart from people carparking? To the south, the Meridian building has created renewed life for that part of the waterfront by providing activity and good public space alongside it – drawing people in.

    Wellington is one big wind tunnel already isn’t it… and the NZ Post building blocks out half the sun in that area anyway, so what is wrong with new considerably smaller buildings there that can make that area attractive again.

  2. Alana, 17. December 2012, 23:57

    I’ve seen heaps more activity at Frank Kitts Park than around the Meridian building – people congregate there because there is open space to wander, sit and talk, have lunch, play games and watch the kids at the playground. The activity I’ve seen at the Meridian building doesn’t involve the self-contained office building or the restaurants as much as buying tickets for the ferry or using the surrounding space as they would at Frank Kitts Park – or North Kumutoto if it weren’t filled with caravan tourists, who enjoy the harbour views as they bring income to the city. But as with the Te Raukaihau Point and Owhiro Bay, once Council spends a bit to spruce up the place, people will flock to a more cared-for space on the harbour.

  3. Pauline Swann, 18. December 2012, 10:47

    One has to wonder if Nick attended the forum on the 1st November or has taken the time to read the 71 submissions to the Draft Design Brief for North Kumutoto which show that the public are not short on ideas, as was also evident in the Blue Skies competition for Shed 1 on Queens Wharf.

    Wellington has one of the most beautiful harbours in the world and with the commencement of the cruise ship season our visitors when they walk down Waterloo Quay to Kumutoto would rather see Mt Victoria and the Monastery, and not just glimpses through view shafts. One can imagine they would prefer a recreation area with a variety of green spaces, shelter, seats, artisans’ workshops, an I-centre, access to the hiring of cycles, scooters, crocodile bikes etc to continue on to Te Papa and Oriental Bay. Over the years many overseas consultants have been invited here, including Ann Breen and Dick Rigby of the Washington DC Waterfront Centre and Cathy Simon an American architect. All were agreed that our waterfront is an asset which should be the major “green” space in Wellington. Jan Gehl in his report to council commented “a significant recording is that the highest number of cultural activities and children playing are found on the waterfront and as such is the playground of Wellington”.

    Waterfront Watch believes the Waterfront is a community asset as unique as the Town Belt and whilst we will support appropriate development that enhances public space and usage we will question any excessive development that seeks to privatise and restrict public access, remove views, downgrades our heritage or introduces shading or wind issues.

    To quote from the Environment Court decision on Variation 11 (page 38): the waterfront is predominantly a public area, a place owned by all Wellingtonians.

  4. Trish, 18. December 2012, 11:12

    Kumutoto is the most sheltered, sunny spot and only needs some decent landscaping. But Wellington Waterfront would never create a temporary green space – look at the trouble the Council had trying to build a music school on Ilott Green. That is why the areas designated for buildings within the boundaries of Waitangi Park are sealed carparks rather than grass. Their best move was to park old rusty fishing boats along the Overseas Passenger Terminal to minimise its public appeal before they got approval to demolish it.

  5. Michael Gibson, 18. December 2012, 17:30

    The Mayor’s office has just told me that the City lawyer, Ms Sally Dossor, is writing to me about my concern that the Draft Design Brief for North Kumutoto was adopted by only a narrow majority of elected members – & that this was simply because a) the Councillor who is a director of Wellington Waterfront Ltd has been vociferous in support of the Company’s officers’ desire for more buidings on the waterfront & b) said Councillor has been aggressively supported in this by his Committee Chair in spite of the Committee Chair’s obligation to ensure that conflicts-of-interest are properly declared.
    More when I have received the promised email from the City lawyer!

  6. Nick, 18. December 2012, 18:37

    Why would you want to accentuate a viewshaft from Waterloo Quay that requires you to look past 4-5 lanes of traffic, a carpark, and then horrible wharf buildings. There is no viewshaft there, which is why you go down to the waterfront to get the view. This development won’t obstruct your view from the waterfront, and also it will make the Kumototo area a better place for the public – more accessible, and enhanced public space (seating, landscaping). Would a “green space” instead be well used? There’s a park nearby outside the Wellington Railway station, and I think that is poorly used for the amount of people in the vicinity.

  7. Pauline Swann, 19. December 2012, 14:47

    Sorry Nick but have come past the railway station twice today and guess what: all the seats were taken, and many many adults and children were sitting, lying or playing on the grass and of course eating……and both times past Frank Kitts Park, the lagoon and the grass outside the Ambulance building where many Wellingtonians were relaxing in the sun….Wished I had my camera with me. Waiting at the lights at Whitmore Street, I enjoyed looking at the Ferry, Police boats, fishing boats and yes the view to the Monastery and Mt Victoria and on the way north earlier stopped at the Backpackers “Waterloo Hotel” and again great views looking south walking back to Whitmore Street and from the steps of the Postal Centre..

  8. Muriel, 19. December 2012, 18:18

    Nick, I thought the general idea of having viewshafts was to allow Wellingtonians the pleasure of seeing harbor and hills to remind us of how lucky we are to live here.