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Town Belt takeover

by David Lee
Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson is dismissive of Action for Environment’s claim that the Wellington Town Belt Bill will override the Town Belt Deed, the governing document which gifted the land to the people of Wellington.

His attention needs to be drawn to the Bill’s general policy statement (a) which states the Bill will be “the principle source” of the Council’s powers.

Giving more powers to a development-minded Council officialdom won’t “better protect” the Town Belt, as Mr Robertson claims. To realise that, one only has to examine the record of how the council treats open space when it does have a lot of power. For example on the waterfront. That and its readiness to rezone open space at the behest of developers – in one case illegally – hardly inspires confidence.

The one claim to better protection the Bill had was the removal of the jurisdiction of the Public Works Act over the Town Belt. But the Bill was sent back from Parliament because of that.

The Bill has now lost its clothes and can be seen for what it is: a naked Council takeover of the commons. Wellingtonians should protect their natural inheritance of the Town Belt by opposing more powers over it being given to the Council.

Submissions can be sent to the Environment and Local Government Select Committee; the closing date is 29 October.

David Lee is chairman of Action for Environment Inc

Parliament invites submissions on Town Belt Bill
September 28: Helene Ritchie on the Town Belt Bill

18 comments:

  1. Elaine Hampton, 24. September 2015, 14:20

    This bill has been touted as an effort to return alienated Town Belt land. This may happen but at a terrible cost. This Bill allows for commercial activity on the Town Belt, removal of land, especially now the overriding of the Public Works Act has been rejected, (because NZTA wants Town Belt land along Ruahine St).
    And who would trust the Council with such a Taonga, especially with their record of cosying up to developers, (working against ratepayers in the central city by building more office space on our waterfront public land), NZTA, and the lamentable voting record against residents’ interests, (namely Andy Foster’s vote change at lunch time and voting for the Flyover).

     
  2. Councillor Helene Ritchie, 24. September 2015, 16:29

    Dear David and Elaine,

    To assist you, I will stick only to the facts and correct what you have to say:

    1. Unfortunately the open space on the waterfront was never protected by legislation (much as some of us might have preferred) so comparison with the Town Belt is inappropriate.

    2. The Bill is not about the Public Works Act or getting rid of it…that is not the purpose of the Bill which is primarily to impose responsibilities on the Council, and provide powers only to protect, manage and enhance the Wellington Town Belt.

    3.The Bill is not about Ruahine Street.

    4.The Bill never had as its purpose to override the Public Works Act. It could not. But the Council has endeavoured in it to ensure that if ever the Crown over the next 170 years wished to exercise PWA compulsory acquisition powers, then there would be a clear transparent process of negotiation and legal challenge if necessary, so that the best outcome/compensation for open space for Wellington.

    5. The Bill will ensure land will be added to the Town Belt, and will be able to be in the future.

    6. Developers will not be able to take Town Belt land. In the past the Crown has taken Town Belt land, (one third was lost) not developers.

    7. The Council will not be selling Town Belt to developers – or to anyone. There is a clear clause 13 that says “Council has no power to sell, exchange or use as security the Wellington Town Belt.. ”

    8. Only Temporary business/commercial activity is allowed (temporary is defined as eg. not exceeding four weeks’ duration), or if the activity is consistent with the use of the Town Belt as a public recreation ground… I personally would like to see business activities more restricted, and if submitters want to suggest one amendment it could be that clause 18 (1) (a) be amended by replacing the word “or” with the word “and”. !

    Finally I repeat what I have often said: If the Bill is passed in its entirety or with only the above “or to and” amendment, then the Wellington Town Belt Act will give far greater protection, enhancement and better management of the Town Belt for future generations. I will be issuing a more detailed statement to help submitters understand the very significant gains we have made through the Bill to protect the Town Belt for the next 170 years.

    Helene Ritchie
    Portfolio Leader Natural Environment (Town Belt)

     
  3. CC, 24. September 2015, 21:57

    Come on Cr Ritchie, the original deed didn’t vest ownership in the Council, so the Bill is a land grab. Reference to the PWA is a smokescreen – there will be no change in that regard as there is no way the Government is going to live with a statutory anomaly. It is true that the waterfront open space had no formal protection, apart from the 35% rule which is an interesting rort, but the Council has done a great job of converting the city’s windfall into a developer’s dream – Willis Bond et al must love you lot. Why should the rightful owners of the Town Belt feel confident about divesting any rights to the Council and its developer friendly administration?

     
  4. George, 24. September 2015, 23:10

    Hard to believe such drastic changes to the governance and management of the Town Belt are occurring with no notification to the beneficial owners of the the Town Belt (the people of Wellington). The DomPost , the WCC, and our politicians have badly let us down . Theft by stealth of a Taonga . A mighty Totara is about to be lost.

     
  5. Ron Beernink, 25. September 2015, 8:56

    Helene, thanks for your time to give a detailed response. A couple of questions which hopefully will help to address concerns:
    – Who are ultimately the owners of the townbelt, and how will they be able to exert their powers? For example, how will they be able to use their powers when a project like the Ruahine Street widening may need to take land away from the townbelt?
    Thanks

     
  6. Helene Ritchie, 25. September 2015, 10:18

    Thanks

    1. Re George:
    You are wrong – there has been exhaustive and exhausting consultation and notfication since 2010. It has been a comprehensive consultation process and many Wellingtonians (probably representing thousands) have made constructive comments in the consultation, to the principles; the Town belt Management Plan; the drafting instructions; the draft legislation; and now the select committee.

    Ron: Cl 8 (1) says: ” The Council holds the Wellington Town belt on behalf of the inhabitants of the city of Wellington as trustee of the trust created by the Town belt Deed.”

    CC. The Bill is not a land grab. Its purpose is the opposite throughout: In lay language: to protect the Town Belt from land grabs to the highest degree possible.

    You are welcome to read the 1873 Deed (it is Schedule 1 of the Bill). It is written in archaic language in one sentence over two pages. It has not been successful in stopping significant land grabs (1/3 lost), or for example stopping adhoc buildings being built on the Town Belt.

     
  7. City Lad, 25. September 2015, 12:28

    The 1873 Deed is written with great wisdom, great clarity and most importantly is readily understood. This proposed new Bill waffles on and opens the door for the City Council to build anything it desires on the Town Belt. It’s time for the Select Committee to blow their whistle and send the Bill off to the wastepaper basket (shredded).

     
  8. CC, 25. September 2015, 20:48

    The response of Cr Ritchie does not inspire confidence. The Town Belt Deed is younger that the Treaty of Waitangi and is a real pup compared to the Magna Carta. Did they get re-written because of archaic language? No! The fact that the Deed wasn’t adhered to has nothing to do with its language, and everything to do with the lack of will to honour its intent by those who had a vested responsibility. The proposed Bill will do no better than the legislation it is intended to replace, given its loopholes and the impression that some of the basic protections of the original document appear to have been stripped away. It seems the Councillor acknowledges that nothing will change in the protection of the Town Belt when she says of the deed that, “it has not been successful in stopping significant land grabs (1/3 lost), or for example stopping adhoc buildings being built on the Town Belt.” Same asset, same trustee and a Council that readily disposes of open space for the benefit of a few of Wellington’s developers and their fellow travellers.

     
  9. Anabel, 26. September 2015, 7:38

    Neither the Wellington City Council nor the Wellington City Corporation is the administrator of the Town Belt Trust. The council should cease and desist this illegal action against the Town Belt Trust. (I know the TBT administrator has given notice to cease and desist but the WCC ignored it.) I also know the WCC continues to ignore input from the people of Wellington. Asking for & taking submissions and then ignoring them must be exhausting. Imagine how exhausting it is for the people of wellington to elect people to represent us and instead find they are self serving. Get the Governor General to gift the Town Belt Trust land back to the people of Wellington. Providing access only once a year and taking $60million from the people to pretty up his mansion is not fair nor does it provide access through the town belt land.

     
  10. Marion Leader, 26. September 2015, 7:56

    Quite right, CC. The Bill should be stopping the land-grabs which the Council has encouraged in recent years. Why is the Council suddenly so keen to let NZTA have a multi-lane highway on our Town Belt?

     
  11. David Lee, 26. September 2015, 9:02

    Cr Ritchie, in claiming the Town Belt Deed “has not been successful in stopping significant land grabs 1/3 lost,” displays a lack of knowledge of the subject she is policy leader of. The Town Belt land she is referring to was taken by the government before the 1873 Deed was promulgated.
    Also her concern for “ad hoc” buildings in the Town Belt rings hollow considering she supports a Bill which will give Council officials the automatic legal right (after “consultation”) to build on the Town Belt. This contrary to the Deed and the instructions which set aside the land that “no buildings be ever erected upon it “. This Bill is about giving the Council more power so it can have, what it had long wanted; ‘flexible decision making” over the land. (with all that that entails. Why isn’t the Council being honest about it instead of the sham about “better protection”?
    It is ironic (and contradictory) that Cr Ritchie who has so admirably opposed the Council’s ‘flexible’ decision making on the waterfront, supports it with regard to the other great open space taonga of Wellington, the Town Belt.

     
  12. KB, 26. September 2015, 12:28

    Councillor Ritchie said: “The Council will not be selling Town Belt to developers – or to anyone. There is a clear clause 13 that says ‘Council has no power to sell, exchange or use as security the Wellington Town Belt..’ ” But this in no way prevents any of the town belt land from being leased to developers, just as most of the waterfront developments are on leased land.

     
  13. Marion Leader, 26. September 2015, 20:24

    A really good point by KB. Can Councillor Ritchie confirm whether somebody could be given a 125-year lease of Town Belt land, as happens on the waterfront?

     
  14. Councillor Helene Ritchie, 27. September 2015, 17:36

    Marion, Cl 16 (2) and (3) (c)., in particular of the Bill provides your answer. An Act with the same wording would not allow a 125 year lease of Town Belt land; would allow leasing of only a small fraction-8 hectares of 525 hectares of the Town Belt. (See my personal comment above re proposing a small amendment to cl 18 to limit business activities to only temporary.)

    In contrast, the 1873 Deed “declared that is shall be lawful for the Corporation to demise or lease all or any part of the lands…..(the Town Belt).

    Thank you for all the comments which I have carefully considered. Unfortunately many are misleading and not correct. I urge people to read the Bill to get the facts about it should they intend to make a submission to Parliament.

    Helene Ritchie
    Portfolio leader Natural Environment.

     
  15. Mathew, 28. September 2015, 16:13

    Another good point is she is not the Town Belt Trust administrator, she is just a “trustee” She and her cohorts are acting in breach of Trust law.

     
  16. George, 2. October 2015, 0:31

    The current council supported buildings for childcare facilities on the Town Belt and a very large extension of the Ruahine St Badminton Hall facilities into the Town Belt .The latter was in spite of the Renouf Tennis centre on Brookyln Town Belt being under utilised and additional lighting potentially making it suitable for dual purpose use. The extension of buildings in Ruahine St will see the loss of the accessible dog walking area which is often used by less able bodied persons. This is the council which will not allow more construction on the Town Belt?

     
  17. City Lad, 7. October 2015, 19:44

    Friends Of The Town Belt remain very silent. Have they gone to sleep beneath a tree? A pity for Councillor Ritchie.

     
  18. Michael Gibson, 8. October 2015, 15:33

    The shrewd sentence “she and her cohorts are acting in breach of Trust law” points to the real reason why this unnecessary Bill is being promoted i.e. to change the conditions of the Trust Deed so that “she and her cohorts” can do as they like without worrying about the Deed. What is needed is a set of sanctions which will penalise those who decide to act in breach of their obligations.