Wellington Scoop

Losing another view

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by Lindsay Shelton
Viewshafts such as this one are among the wonderful features of Wellington’s urban design – giving views from the CBD to the harbour and the hills. It’s always dismaying when the city council makes plans to block any of them.

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This is the viewshaft from Willeston Street to the harbour. Not only does it have clear sightlines to the harbour and the hills, but also it marks a well-used citylink footpath, used by hundreds of people every day.

But the council is proposing that a walled Chinese Garden be built on this space. The garden would block the views, and the route for pedestrians would no longer be clear or direct.

The Chinese Garden is part of the city council’s proposal to spend $5m reconstructing Frank Kitts Park – more than 2400 people have signed an online petition opposing the plan. None of the opponents are opposed to a Chinese Garden – they just don’t want it to be built in the viewshaft. (They’re also against the council’s intention to remove the park’s tiered ampitheatre, and to replace it with a flat lawn.)

Commissioners chosen by the council heard three days of submissions last week – for and against the plan to reconstruct the park and add the Chinese Garden.

They’ll no doubt be considering an assessment made by the council’s Technical Advisory Group back in 2007 (changes do take time) who said the walled garden was “provocatively sited in the Willeston Street viewshaft.” Provocative indeed.

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A photo presented at the hearing shows the effect of the blockage.

There’s also a clash between the walled garden and the Waterfront Framework, which states that views should be “enhanced and improved”, and pedestrian thoroughfares should be “retained and enhanced”. Neither aim will be achieved by placing the walled garden in this waterfront space.

One of the council’s first decisions to block a viewshaft was at the harbour end of Kent and Cambridge Terraces – notoriously obstructed by the New World suparmarket. And once there was a view of the harbour down Cuba Street, till the Michael Fowler Centre was placed in the middle of the space.

In 2010, the council breached its waterfront Design Brief by allowing the new wharewaka to be built in a designated viewshaft between the City to Sea Bridge and Te Papa. It took the council nine weeks to admit that it had made a big mistake. And when they responded to what we’d written, they took obfuscation to a new level.

With the Willeston Street proposal, the council is again failing to protect a unique viewshaft. This time the problem has been identified before work has started. With a new mayor and new councillors, it’s time to start ensuring that the council’s rules on views and viewshafts are followed, and not ignored.


  1. Rumpole, 18. October 2016, 8:11

    The new mayor and councillors must act quickly to protect the waterfront.

  2. Patrick McCombs, 18. October 2016, 10:09

    The Chinese Garden Society told that hearing they had always identified Frank Kitts Park as their preferred site. Not surprising really, as it is the premium site on the waterfront. What’s disappointing is that the Council did not warn them that other people were likely to have a different view on how to use this gem.

    Waterfront Watch would welcome a Chinese garden in Wellington. But we don’t agree that it should be sited in a viewshaft, where it will block one of the main walkways on the waterfront, and require an area of public open space to be closed after hours behind locked gates.

    Patrick McCombs, Waterfront Watch

  3. Michael Gibson, 18. October 2016, 13:32

    When I visited the authentic Chinese Garden in Dunedin last week I asked about closing Chinese Gardens at night. The resident expert told me that the plans which she had been given showed too many gaps in the walls for ours to be closed at all. Was it a deliberate ploy to get Dunedin to support the proposal? Was she being misled?

  4. Patrick McCombs, 19. October 2016, 9:30

    The consent hearing was given plans for the Chinese Garden that show open entrances by Jervois Quay and at the top. Most of the gardens walls are 2m plus with openings to allow views in and out, but they will be covered by tasteful grills. The Council’s designers described the type of lockable gates that they propose to install as a result of a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design analysis which recommended locking the garden at night. Closing the garden each night was part of their application proposal.

    Patrick McCombs, Waterfront Watch

  5. City Lad, 19. October 2016, 13:30

    A gas wok in the garden would be useful for city dwellers.

  6. Alana Bowman, 19. October 2016, 23:54

    A high-walled structure of any sort in this park destroys this remaining bit of open space on the part of the waterfront and chops up that space available for performances, community gatherings, protests, dances, musicals, pipe-bands, fairs, sports events and other activities including just hanging out.

  7. Henry Filth, 20. October 2016, 16:30

    What is it about open space near the sea that makes people want to fill it up with buildings, walls, great big ugly sheds, and all the other ghastly paraphernalia of the urban planners wet dream?

    Central Wellington is a sunless canyon, bedeviled by savage gusting winds.

    If these people want to “do something” perhaps they could spend some time making the rainswept wind tunnels of central Wellington less of a trial and a tribulation to walk in.

  8. Save Jack Ilott Green Campaign, 26. October 2016, 15:58

    And also don’t forget . . . . last year the council was very keen to build on Jack Ilott Green, closing down yet another spectacular view from the city to Sea.
    Looking forward to seeing Jack Ilott Green designated as a permanent park/reserve now the elections are over, as the new mayor and a majority of winning candidates supported saving the green.

  9. Michael Gibson, 27. October 2016, 8:10

    I would appreciate a list of the winning Councillors who have supported saving the green.
    In the meantime I have read WCC’s closing submission to the recent hearing and have noted the admission that the proposed Chinese garden would not be safe. For what it is worth, if the go-ahead is given in the Commissioners’ final decision, I plan to file an appeal to the Court on those grounds particularly.