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Lots to celebrate at the new, improved Newtown Park Apartments

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Report and photos by Stephen Olsen for Wellington.Scoop
The City Housing team of Wellington City Council broke out the balloons for a celebratory “opening day” at the Newtown Park Apartments on Saturday.

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Up until the 1960s the home of New Zealand’s last remaining tram-yards, the city council apartments attracted a steady stream of visitors.

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But not till WCC Chief Operating Officer Greg Orchard had first officiated over a formal welcome, with brief speeches from Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, councillor Paul Eagle, Rongotai MP Annette King and tenant Gary Shaw.

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The Mayor paid tribute to the tenants and housing heroes who made the project happen, as well as honouring two recent community losses, Leonie Gill and koro Sam Jackson.

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In her turn at the microphone Annette King pointed out just how dominant a house provider Wellington City Council is, far exceeding Housing New Zealand properties in the city. On that note King said new social housing legislation going through Parliament was all the poorer for not including council housing in provisions being extended to community housing providers around income-related rent subsidies. “Any acceptable government would see that as a saving on the Accommodation Supplement”.

King lauded the scale of City Housing in Wellington for its positive impacts on the health and well-being of tenants, sustainability in housing and its inherent partnership approach. It is a long known fact that the city is an exception to the rule in terms of retaining its public housing – so successfully that its excellence in doing so topped the Australasian Housing Institute’s annual awards this year.

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The Newtown Park Apartments have a new configuration of 205 units, boasting warmer and drier living areas, modernised kitchens and bathrooms, improved communal indoor and outdoor spaces and notably better access, safety and security. Other features are an internal playground, community garden, community rooms and a computer hub.

Already an award winner for the colour component of its multi-million dollar upgrade, the new lick of paint applied to this previously somewhat forbidding cluster of medium and multi-storey social housing sits on the surface of a series of transformative changes.

As experienced on Saturday, prime amongst those changes are the vastly more inviting spaces created between buildings in a collaboration between architectural practices Studio Pacific and Isthmus.

Work completed between February 2011 and this year also included seismic strengthening and the demolition of one block at the rear of the site, which is prominently located at the end of Newtown’s Mansfield Street within cooee of the park and the Zoo.

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During this time a number of key people have been involved in the project across a range of project managers, construction experts and architects (Rachel VanDoorn, Sonia Waters, Tammy Mullens, Graeme McIndoe, Frank Stoks, Bob Hall, Marc Woodbury and Dan Males to name a few).

Construction was contracted to Hawkins Construction, and most importantly the care and attention given to tenants continues to be handled by City Housing general manager Vicki McLaren and associated community action and engagement by Rosie Gallen.

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A mural at the apartments is a reminder that the area was once the end of the Newtown tramline.

3 comments:

  1. Dick Ottervanger, 26. November 2013, 4:52

    It’s fantastic to see a city take its responsibility in providing comfortable social housing.

     
  2. Ian S, 26. November 2013, 5:44

    Wonderful to see this housing development completed, and to see the Wellington tram history included in the memories.

    I look forward to the new tram route through Newtown and going past the zoo into the new tunnel to Kilbirnie – this will help bring that history back to life, and further revitalise this area of the city.

    The people of Wellington are strongly in support of sustainable public transport developments, and it should be noted that the stupid costings presented in the public transport spine study, designed to kill off the tram option, were a pitiful twist of facts.

    I look forward to a new sensible tram development through Newtown being launched soon, and I will join residents in pushing for it to be built within 10 years. Dissenting politicians need to get out of the way of progress in our great city.

     
  3. CC, 26. November 2013, 9:23

    Have to agree in part with Dick Ottervanger’s comment. But there had been a chance that the lot might have been flogged off to developers, but for the fact they couldn’t get them cheaply enough, then the Government made the Council ‘an offer it could not refuse’ which led to the upgrading. Can’t recall the level of the taxpayers’ subsidy but it was not inconsiderable from memory.