Wellington Scoop

“It looks a lot taller than I expected”

Photo by Fritz Schone
by Lindsay Shelton
“It looks a lot taller than I expected it to be.” That was what people said when the Events Centre was being built in the mid 1990s on Queens Wharf. And now people are saying it again, this time about the new apartment block that is replacing the Overseas Passenger Terminal on the Clyde Quay Wharf.

The project – with up to 90 apartments and car parks – was approved by the city council five years ago. There was, however, public misapprehension that the 1960s building was to be redeveloped, rather than demolished.

When the Environment Court rejected an appeal and approved the project in 2009, the decision of Judge C J Thompson confirmed what the developers hadn’t made clear: the original Overseas Passenger Terminal building would be demolished and what would replace it would be much bigger.

The OPT will be removed and will be replaced by a new and significantly larger building. There is no question that what is proposed will preserve or protect the OPT. While some of its fabric might be reused, the building and its values will be lost.

The Judge described as “quaint” the developer’s claim that the OPT was to be “refurbished.” The project “is much more than that.” wrote the judge, who described how much bigger the new building would be.

Wider along the eastern side of the wharf and will extend past the present northern and southern limits. The upper levels will contain between 70 and 90 apartments and there’ll be under-wharf parking with space for 90 cars as well as parking on the wharf.

The judge also told us that the new building would be “so much larger” than permitted in the regional coastal plan (which states that additions or replacements must not exceed the dimensions of the existing building by 5 metres in vertical projection or 5 per cent … whichever is the lesser). And he commented that it will “undoubtedly be substantially different in external appearance . . .” By then it was unstoppable.

The website of Wellington Waterfront Ltd gives the specifics of the change. It says the height of the original building (above – now demolished) was approximately 12 metres.

The heights of the new building are to be:
Northern end – 17 metres
Middle section (the main body of the building) – 15 metres
Southern end – 18 metres

Which makes it clear just how much bigger the new structure will be. And why some of Wellington’s harbour views will not be the same again.

Wellington has lost more than views. The Overseas Passenger Terminal was listed in the city’s District Plan and was one of 180 structures chosen for inclusion in a book (edited by Julia Gatley) about New Zealand’s modernist buildings.

Public ownership has been lost as well. More information from the judge:

A subdivision given consent in 2006 broadly separated the envelope of the proposed building from the surrounding wharf structure … This will enable the building to be owned by the developer or its successors, and the wharf structure to remain in public ownership, thus providing for ongoing public access.

Hopes of attracting shops and restaurants into the ground floor of the new building were countered by the judge’s comment that there had been a series of unsuccessful restaurants and cafes and that its distance from transport and the CBD had been a problem for such uses. However he noted the argument that bringing more residents into the area will bring with it “something closer to the critical mass required to give viability to the business established in and around the Chaffers Dock and Herd Street apartments” though “we are told that most of them have not so far been successful.”

He also noted that the wharf’s early history earned it a reputation as “cold and windy”, an attribute which buyers of the new apartments will no doubt have to learn to live with.

Read also:
The developer’s dollar-a-year deal with the council


  1. Nora, 18. December 2012, 8:18

    Wellington Waterfront Ltd and members of TAG (Technical Advisory Group) over the years have been great in interpreting the Waterfront Framework April 2001 to suit their plans and in this regard they chose to ignore Page 37 “The Overseas Passenger Terminal will be retained and restored” . Although the Judge appeared to think it “quaint” that the developer said it would be refurbished, what a pity he gave the thumbs up to the decision.

  2. Trish, 18. December 2012, 12:03

    Why stop at Clyde Quay wharf? Why not build another 3 or 4 wharves for apartments – one right at Point Jerningham would have great views both ways and would add interest to the waterfront. The next candidate should be the unused wharf shed in front of Site 10 opposite the NZ Post building. But personally, I would rather that wharf was removed.

  3. Polly, 18. December 2012, 13:17

    On the 31st October, Willis Bond had a full page in the DomPost advertising a “remarkable development on a spectacular site”. One section says the “Clyde Quay Wharf development replaces the Overseas Passenger Terminal which was a landmark that provided a backdrop to Wellington’s waterfront and harbour recreation for decades. The new building’s design draws inspiration from the OPT, reusing or replicating elements and building on its nautical references.” Funny but apart from the Spire the two buildings bear no resemblance to each other!

    It goes on to say a number of items from the old building and wharf have been salvaged and will be reused within the new development….Many of the “original” piles for example, were constructed from a high-quality hardwood timber, which will be used to construct much of the new fishing jetty at the north-end of the wharf. One presumes they had to be moved as the underground car park would require additional strength. Two weeks ago, Wellington had a mighty storm and while I was driving around to Evans Bay the waves were crashing over the sea walls around Oriental Bay. On my return journey the water was lapping around the Clyde Quay wharf. I tried to imagine gaining entry to the underground car park!

  4. nimby, 19. December 2012, 10:49

    I hate change.

  5. Paul.D, 19. December 2012, 12:17

    Roll over Nimby.

  6. Dave, 30. December 2012, 12:00

    I predict there will end up one long term eatery/bar on the western side to collect the sunshine & sunsets and avoid the easterlies; some offices may emerge as well, but the eastern side will be shaded, cold, miserable and either unoccupied or suffer a procession of failed enterprises and ‘for lease’ signs that will make the experience quite downbeat. I’m not sure what could usefully go there. Perhaps the Island Bay Marine people could move their tanks, fishes and stuff there and sublease part to a small fish & chip outlet to keep people there on a cold and windy day. There’s a similar building in Monaco along the Quai Antoine and even there it’s dismal with unoccupied offices and a forlorn feel. And they’ve got free parking for the first hour, and cheaper parking fees than Wellington the rest of the time. They do have Stars & Bars which is increasingly overpriced, a foreign language school and some radio station studios which add a bit of glamour but no sign of activity as they’re networked from Milan or Paris anyway. Still, this new use of the wharf in Wellington sure beats the rotting and ugly old building there before. I give this new one 50 years before it gets bowled for something else more suitable.