Wellington Scoop

A processional route past the car yards


A long-forgotten plan was dusted off and put back into the city council’s annual plan last week – it’s a plan to plant trees in Taranaki Street, to make it part of a new “processional route.”

Taranaki Street was chosen for this honour in 2009 as part of a “capital city initiative” announced by the Prime Minister and then Mayor Kerry Prendergast.

In that year, the council earmarked $3.5m for the tree-planting in Taranaki Street. But the money was never spent. If trees had been planted in 2009, they’d have had time to acquire the maturity that might be expected for whatever processions are being planned for the new processional route. But the failure to plant them has meant that trucks carrying used cars have had four more years to park in the middle of the street while they make their deliveries.

The council’s spending plans for the processional route shrank last week to become much more modest than four years ago: only $150,000 was allocated, “to redesign the street including tree planting and other design and development measures.” Which doesn’t really make it clear whether trees are to planted at last, or whether it’s to be a year of only making plans.

The same amount is being spent to investigate ideas to revitalise Civic Square. That’s a project that’s really needed and which has much more potential. But it’s not likely to show any results till strengthening of the town hall is completed. And that’s at least four years away.

The capital city initiative in 2009 was described as aiming to “elevate the status” of Wellington in time for the city’s 150th anniversary as the capital city in 2015.

Taranaki Street was to become part of “a recognized processional route” to the National War Memorial. The processions were to start from Parliament, heading down Whitmore Street to the Quays, and thence to the bottom of Taranaki Street, with new pohutukawa trees in the middle of the road as a distraction from the used-car yards.

When the route was first announced, the War Memorial Park was still to be bisected by State Highway 1, and parades would have had to navigate the traffic lights at Taranaki Street. Now that the road is going underground, processions will no doubt access the park at its northern corner, without having to cross State Highway 1. Let’s hope that they don’t have to wait too long at the other traffic lights.

But what are the processions that need a processional route? Somewhere in one of the bureaucracies, is there a list of processions waiting to be organised once the trees have been planted on the new processional route?

And what’s going to happen to the trucks wanting to unload more cars?


  1. Erentz, 1. July 2013, 12:19

    Wellington hasn’t produced a beautiful street the entire time I’ve lived there. Taranaki Street is a tough street to make much of because it’s fairly narrow and yet very important for transport (largely due to our sparse grid). Ideally a plan for Taranaki St would provide wider footpaths, dedicated bus lanes the whole length, and a dedicated bike lane (preferably segregated) on the uphill direction. But it will be hard to make that work and make it attractive. We should wait until we can do it well. Until we understand how to do green streets properly (out last attempt was an expensive disaster). But for some reason we won’t do that in Wellington. We’ll go ahead and do something crappy just to have something done now.

  2. Curtis Nixon, 1. July 2013, 19:20

    What would be great is if WCC planted yellow pohutukawa – Metrosideros excelsa ‘Aurea’ on Taranaki St – in line with Wellington’s yellow and black colours. It would be great to see inter-planting with kowhai too – they flower earlier in late winter/early spring so would augment the pohutukawa display.

  3. Hayley Robinson, 1. July 2013, 20:17

    Some will already be aware that I feel this ‘greening of Taranaki St’ should not be a priority at this time. The whole issue of tree planting in the inner city causes me great concern as a biologist, and here’s why: healthy trees (low maintenance, good looking) need healthy roots. The roots of a mature tree extend out a great distance past the edge of the leafy drip line; and most roots are in the top metre of soil (and expand as they grow). The recent storms have given many people a first-hand view of some of those root systems – when you see an uprooted tree, there are still metres of roots left in the ground around the hole.

    One of the worst conditions for a tree to grow in is compacted soil, with low moisture and oxygen penetration and constant physical compression injury. So you will quickly see why I think planting trees anywhere near a major road where cars will constantly drive over their root system (which is mostly compressed by tarmac already) is NOT the greatest idea anyone has ever had. Add to this the damage that tree roots can do to road surfaces and drains as they grow.

    I love trees, I just don’t think its a great idea to plant them in places like Taranaki St.

    My second concern is that a ‘processional route’ (if indeed we need to do anything special to make one; I thought the procession itself would ‘make’ the route) should surely have good lines of sight for onlookers. How would trees aid this?

    I think this is something we should leave alone; our city has more pressing priorities. Sometimes a road, carparks and all, is just useful as it is.

    P.S. People may make off-hand comments about the caryards, but they are pretty handy when you are looking for a car.

    Hayley Robinson
    Master of Science (Victoria University of Wellington)
    Onslow-Western Ward candidate

  4. JC, 2. July 2013, 11:29

    Hayley – err, really? What does it matter if the trees down Taranaki St aren’t as healthy as trees in the forest? The ones down the Quays look pretty decent to me. And they are, after all, being grown for aesthetic value – not as pets.

  5. Hayley Robinson, 2. July 2013, 19:55

    Indeed, the Council do an admirable job of keeping our city trees well tended. Doesn’t negate the fact that new trees would cost new money to plant and maintain. Money we could spend on library staff or affordable housing.

  6. Maggy Wassilieff, 3. July 2013, 10:19

    It is good to see Hayley Robinson giving a thoughtful response to this call for a processional planting down Taranaki Street. I too would hardly call this a priority project for Wellington. But often cool economic logic doesn’t prevail… so here’s my penny worth, based on 40 years observation of urban trees in Wellington.
    The Taranaki site will be difficult, but not impossible to plant with a limited suite of trees. The three large NZ trees that could thrive in this environment are pohutukawa, puriri and karaka – none of which are indigenous to Wellington. There are drawbacks with each though: large surface roots of mature pohutukawa are a real drawback; puriri can become very windswept and may not form an attractive crown; karaka drops stinking and poisonous fruit.
    Perhaps a tall form of kowhai (Sophora microphylla) could work.
    For non-natives, male ginkgo “Princeton Sentry” and Zelkova serrata are possibilities.
    @Curtis Nixon: Pohutukawa “Aurea” has insipid yellow flowers. There’s one growing outside Island Bay New World and nobody seems to notice when it’s in flower.
    @JC.: It matters a hell of a lot if a street tree is healthy. Sickly trees act as reservoirs of disease and pests. It’s an added expense to maintain or replace trees with damaged /diseased limbs.

  7. KB, 3. July 2013, 17:55

    Wouldn’t these trees partially destroy the viewshaft straight to the waterfront that Taranaki street currently enjoys?

  8. I live on Taranaki Street and use it several times a day (walking, driving and cycling). It’s one of Wellington’s bleakest and wind-swept streets so I applaud anything to make it more attractive but I’m struggling to understand why the WCC didn’t start the work when the budget of $3.5m was first approved. Paralysis by analysis, with another report & more planning…

    I’m sure the WCC has plenty of experts to advise on suitable planting!

  9. Jason, 12. February 2014, 0:20

    What about a neat, manicured hedge down the middle length, with processional flag poles down the middle for various flags, depending on the event ? Hedges dont have huge root systems, wont block the view down to the waterfront, will do a bit to act as a noise barrier from traffic and make the place look decent… let’s think creatively wellington – something you are supposedly known for.