Concrete wastelands on the waterfront

Two city councillors showed confused thinking during yesterday’s debate that approved another new building for the waterfront.

Justin Lester:
“If we were of a mind to decline this proposal … it would remain a concrete wasteland for at least the next 10 years.”

Andy Foster:
The bar was high, but you had to set it at a reasonable level, otherwise “you will have a car park there for a very, very long time.”

Their comments are nonsense, of course. If they had decided to reject the new Willis Bond building on North Kumutoto, there would be no reason why the area had to be kept either as a carpark or as a concrete wasteland. There’s nothing to stop councillors deciding to create a new area of well-designed open space for the public to use.

Open space is popular on the waterfront – just consider Waitangi Park, or Frank Kitts Park, or the Taranaki Wharf precinct.

If Andy and Justin are serious in their dislike for concrete wastelands and carparks on the waterfront, they should take a new look at the concrete wasteland which is being used as a carpark east of Te Papa.

The public were surveyed by ACNeilsen in 2001 and asked how this space should be used. The public knew what should have been done. Eightysix per cent wanted landscaping instead of buildings. Councillors ignored the survey (which the council had commissioned), and decided instead that a transition building and a carparking building should be built on the space. The resulting outcry stopped construction of the two buildings. But councillors then fell back to the ideas that are so disliked by Andy and Justin – a concrete wasteland and a carpark, on land which should have been part of the open green Waitangi Park.

Let’s agree with Andy and Justin: concrete wastelands and carparks have no place on the Wellington waterfront. Let’s expect them to come up with a plan to convert the concrete wasteland next to Te Papa into an innovative extension to Waitangi Park. Even if they’re not willing to vote against Willis Bond’s new huilding at the other end of the waterfront.

Here’s the DomPost report of yesterday’s decision by a council committee to approve another new building on the waterfront. With Iona Pannett (“public space should not be commercialised”) the only dissenting vote.



  1. Traveller, 22. August 2014, 13:16

    Andy was there in 2001. Did he vote for the carpark?

  2. JC, 22. August 2014, 13:48

    Great idea in theory. Who will pay for it in practice? As soon as the Council increases the public space development budget, this website would be the first to complain about the consequential rates hike.

    The obvious and pragmatic answer is to provide for a mix of buildings and public space, with one funding the other. Many would say that the combination of buildings and public space has more amenity anyway, as people enjoy gathering in an area of activity.

  3. Pauline, 22. August 2014, 14:52

    Crs Helene Ritchie and Mark Peck spoke very strongly against this office block but were not allowed to vote as they are not on the Transport and Urban committee. Councillor Pannett questioned the need to spend millions on rearranging Frank Kitts Park and said the money would be better spent on Kumutoto.

    The Variation 11 Court decision, Page 19 (paragraph 57: “There is a clear understanding that this area [the waterfront] provides the main open space for the Central City and is primarily a place for people.” And in February 1998 Assessment of Open Spaces in Wellington City by Boffa Miskell Page 30: “The waterfront contains the greatest area of remaining open public space available in the central city. There is consistent public support for maintaining and developing its green character and public access at the water’s edge.”

    Wellington has one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. With the increase in cruise ship passengers who walk along Aotea Quay, it will be a disappointment to arrive at Kumutoto to be greeted by a 5 storey office block which will create shadows and the loss of views across the harbour. They would prefer to find an open recreation area with a variety of green spaces, shelter, seats, and access to the hiring of cycles, scooters, crocodile bikes etc. The Council wants to increase tourism and facilitate walking and cycling; this would meet their objectives.

  4. City Lad, 23. August 2014, 8:27

    Deputy mayor Lester and councillor Foster could form a private tour company. They could use their considerable knowledge of concrete wastelands. They’d make a fortune taking tourists to number 2 Queens Wharf (privately owned) and show them just what an office building concrete wasteland looks like on the waterfront. Nobody from the public goes near there. There’s nothing to do. Even the building’s office workers isolated inside with their home made lunches wonder why they are not in the vibrant CBD commercial zoned area across the street.

    Next, our tour guides would head off to Kumutoto North and show their high paying tourists what a concrete wasteland isn’t. And never should be.

  5. Ellie, 23. August 2014, 11:48

    The waterfront land is public land. The Council manage the land for ratepayers/citizens.
    Am I slow? Or is there a schizophrenic thing going on? Why work against the goal of being a destination city? Why insist on privatising prime public land in spite of ratepayers/citizens wanting an open landscaped waterfront for public use. Whose hand is in whose glove?

  6. Alana, 25. August 2014, 0:06

    This proposal must still go before the full Council.
    Will the majority go along with the limited thinking behind yet another building – and an office building at that – on the very limited precious space on the waterfront?
    And the Waterfront Framework is clear that this should not be a financial exchange.
    Will the rest of Council stop this taking of more public land for private use – another asset sale by long term lease (125 years!)?


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