Wellington Scoop

Back in court, on waterfront issues

kumutoto precinct plan

by Patrick McCombs
Waterfront Watch is back in the Environment Court today, contesting another building on the waterfront. The 5-storey office building is proposed for the site opposite the Post Office building on Waterloo Quay that’s currently used for campervans.

The City Council has agreed to sell a 125 year lease over the site to Willis Bond (who have also developed most of the other waterfront buildings) if they are successful in their application for resource consent. If you are interested you can sit in the public gallery of the court, level 5 of the District court building in Ballance Street, 9.30-5pm Monday to Friday.

Normal procedure is for resource consents to be first considered by the city council, using appointed commissioners for the hearing, before anyone has to decide whether to lodge an appeal to the Environment Court if they don’t like the decision. In this case, Willis Bond and the council agreed that the application should go directly to a court hearing. This means that Waterfront Watch is involved at the Environment Court level much earlier than we had considered likely.

Normally the council hearing serves as a practice run for the applicant and provides an opportunity for the views of “ordinary” people to be heard in a less formal setting. Because this application is going direct to the court, several of the individuals and groups that initially made well thought-out submissions have withdrawn from the case. However five individuals in addition to Waterfront Watch have continued with objections and will be appearing at the hearing.

The rushed timetable has meant that Waterfront Watch will not be represented at the hearing by a lawyer. Instead our case has been assembled by the committee with the help of some of our very able members and supporters. We have engaged Barbara Fill, who gave evidence at our appeals against the Hilton Hotel and Variation 11, to give expert evidence about the effect the proposed building would have on the historic waterfront setting.

Our main concern is that there is no justification for an office building on the waterfront that will block views and permanently remove a significant area of open space from public use at a time when the increasing numbers living in the inner city need more space for recreation. We believe the design of the building would clash with the maritime setting, and its size would overshadow the historic Eastbourne Ferry Terminal and Sheds 11 and 13 along the edge of the Quay. There are traffic issues as well.

In other words, Waterfront Watch is continuing to fight for the same principles that we’ve been defending for twenty years.

Dr McCombs is president of Waterfront Watch.

UPDATE: The court’s public hearings ended on Wednesday afternoon, with a submission from Waterfront Watch.

2012: Public opposition to new buildings on Kumutoto
2013: Willis Bond plan new Kumutoto building
2014: Councillors support new Kumutoto building


  1. Marion Leader, 24. August 2015, 19:01

    It was well worth being in Court today. But I could not work out why the Council is in kahoots with the developer and why it has chosen this case to go for a short-cut.

  2. Hel, 24. August 2015, 21:59

    I quite like the proposed building. It will be a good addition and bring life to a bleak end of the waterfront. Wouldn’t have thought you get an environment court hearing at short notice so not sure why legal representation couldn’t have been arranged.

  3. Marion Leader, 25. August 2015, 7:29

    I presume that Hel represents one of the parties trying this short-cut. Does (s)he represent the developer by any chance? Or is it the Council? In either case the remark is pretty snide since (s)he must know the time which it takes citizens’ organisations to raise funding.

  4. luke, 25. August 2015, 7:48

    There are far too many carparks on the waterfront, it should be a pedestrian haven. But I too quite like the look of the building, much preferable to a campervan carpark.

  5. banana, 25. August 2015, 9:42

    Good luck to Willis Bond I say – sick and tired of the city being hamstrung by these nimby groups. And Luke and Hel – I also like the look of this building (I quite liked the Hilton concept too for that matter).

  6. KB, 25. August 2015, 10:20

    That’s a highly misleading photo of the proposed building. For most of the day, this new building will cast a shadow over the footpath, which is currently sun-drenched. The photo shows the building getting light from the western side, which would happen at most for about an hour per day. The truth is that this building will make Customhouse Quay much darker than it is currently.

  7. Marion Leader, 25. August 2015, 13:14

    Another interesting morning in Court. I looked closely at the photo and noticed the problem about the the deceptiveness about the shadow.
    Was there a banana on the pavement? If so was it chucked out from high up in the building? Does a banana represent the sort of slipperiness that we can expect when hundreds of people have offices spoiling our open spaces?

  8. Guy, 25. August 2015, 16:14

    KB – no, your statement is incorrect. As the building is oriented with the spine running North-Nor-East, then actually the west side of the building (the side in the shot) will have sunshine on it basically all day after about 9 or 10 in the morning. I’m not sure if the studies have been done on how much the NZPost building will shade it, but certainly, from about 10am on, that west side will be in broad sunshine. It will shade the area under its overhang as the sun moves from east to west, but the footpath on the street side should be largely unaffected by it after about 10am.

    It is however a particularly grainy and washed out early photo. I’d encourage anyone at Athfield’s to send a newer, better photo to Lindsay, so he can post up a better representation than that grainy little pic. [Guy: we’re now using another photo – is that better, do you think?]

  9. Guy, 25. August 2015, 23:23

    That’s a much better, clearer pic now, yes. Thanks. It does show, quite clearly, that the biggest risk from shading is from the NZPost building – their shadow is already creeping across the road in that shot, and will completely shade the east side of the Quay (and the new building) from about 2 or 3pm on.

    But now I’m wondering about Marion’s banana.

  10. CC, 26. August 2015, 6:16

    At great expense to the ratepayers, the Council and one of its developer friends have fine tuned a process that could potentially lead to over 60% of the publicly owned waterfront being covered in privately owned commercial buildings. Well done!

  11. Callum, 26. August 2015, 6:54

    It certainly looks good in renders on the Willis Bond site . Too bad the rooftop amenity was lost due to height restrictions (that wouldn’t have been visible at street level).


  12. City Lad, 26. August 2015, 16:22

    I’ve never seen a horse float designed like this before. All we need now are bags of chaff and a wide shovel.

  13. Maria van der Meel, 26. August 2015, 20:56
  14. Patrick McCombs, 30. August 2015, 20:35

    Banana: Waterfront Watch are not the Nimbys here. We are asking for the waterfront to be developed as public space, with buildings only as needed to meet the needs of people enjoying the bars, cafes and icecream shops, and green planting – as agreed in the Waterfront Framework. Office buildings should be on the other side of the Quays, like the new Maritime Building and the planned replacement of BP House. The council has a “not in our back yard” attitude to the public’s wish for more green open space on the waterfront. Waterfront Watch views the waterfront as our front yard, open and inviting to all.