Wellington Scoop

City Council gets go-ahead to spend $5m re-making Frank Kitts Park

approved chinese garden

Three commissioners appointed by the city council today approved the plan for the Wellington City council to reconstruct Frank Kitts Park and to build a walled Chinese Garden (above), which will be locked at night. The resource consent application for the $5m plan had been considered at a three-day hearing last month.

Though the council’s Technical Advisory Group had said that the walled garden was “provocatively sited in the Willeston Street viewshaft,” the commissioners ruled that “the benefits of increased amenity for park users outweighs the adverse effect of a slight reduction of distant views to the harbour and background hills.”

Here is a summary of the resource consent.

 We conclude that there are positive effects from the proposal overall in relation to enhancing overall public amenity, providing an appropriate location for a Chinese Garden, enhancing the amenity and attractiveness of the playground, opening more direct views across the park to the waterfront promenade and the harbour and providing a more flexible/useable space for public events.

 We also accept that we must have regard to positive effects when forming a broad judgement on the overall impact of the proposal.

 We recognise the proposal has had a number of years of gestation. TAG and the applicant both are of the view that Frank Kitts Park is the right location for Wellington’s Chinese Garden. We agree that integrating the Chinese Garden concept into the overall park design, noting the overall requirement for the Park for high quality design that is sensitive to context.

 We also acknowledge the position of the majority of other participants in this hearing process, who also considered that there was nothing in principle wrong with a Chinese Garden in Wellington but were concerned with its location in Frank Kitts Park.

 It is our view that the intention of the Design Brief to retain Frank Kitts Park as a large green park and a centre for outdoor activities that will meet the needs of a diverse range of people and activities remains relevant. The question of potential loss of amenity due to the loss of open green, usable space appeared in many submissions and we heard much discussion on green space during the hearing. We agree with submitters that the proposed design creates a more formal park but conclude that the loss of unstructured open space is balanced by the increased functionality of the lawn and playground areas.

 In respect of the amphitheatre we agree with submitters that it provides the park with a particular quality of space and function. However many of the attributes of the amphitheatre are already replicated along the waterfront or will be retained, albeit in the different location, in the redeveloped Frank Kitts Park.

 The proposal should be considered in its entirety and that it is not feasible to partially redevelop the park with a ‘pick and mix’ design process. In the wider waterfront context, our understanding is that the Waterfront Framework signals its intentions for Frank Kitts Park at some future time to be realigned away from Jervois Quay, with increased visual and physical connectivity between the park and the harbour. This vision would be significantly compromised by the retention of the amphitheatre and its supporting harbour wall.

 We agree that the redeveloped playground has a more structured character that provides a different range of more specialised play activity but with fewer areas for informal free play. While the playground could have been extended further south along the waterfront, we conclude that the park redevelopment has balanced the requirement to expand the playground with the need for a larger event space and the increased connectivity between the wider park and the harbour promenade.

 There was a general sense from submitters in opposition that the redeveloped park will reduce access between the city and the harbour and that the layout of space within the park reduces the ease of movement through the park. However on the issue of access into the park from the CBD, we find that the existing pedestrian entry and egress from the Jervois Quay frontage is more or less retained in the proposal and may even be improved by the relocation of the cross link pathway closer to the Willeston pedestrian crossing.

 In relation to the memorial plaques and the Wahine Mast we conclude that as an expression of history and heritage, the visual prominence of these features is more important than their historically accurate location. The Wahine Mast will be relocated at the edge of the waterfront promenade and we consider this to be appropriate. On the issue of the memorial plaques we wish to ensure that detailed design explores the location of the memorial plaques to confirm that they are appropriately located, readily visible and accessible in all weathers.

 On the pavilion structure and pergola we conclude that these structures provide amenity for people using the City Lawn terrace in the form of summer shading, protection from the rain and increased visibility between the terrace and Whairepo Lagoon, the harbour promenade and the wider waterfront. Given that the structures are visually permeable in the main, we find the benefits of increased amenity for park users outweighs the adverse effect of a slight reduction of distant views to the harbour and background hills from city streets and buildings to the west.

 We find that the redevelopment provides a range of seating options for a variety of locations and activities but agree that additional seating options should be considered.

 Given the viewing distance, the complexity of the view and the now intervening streetscape elements, we concur with the applicant and TAG that the effect on the Willeston viewshaft is minor.

 The applicant acknowledges that the redevelopment will not create new direct views to the water. We note that with the harbour promenade sited some 2.5m above water’s edge, there will only ever be opportunities for distant harbour views. In this respect, the Chinese Garden will not restrict views of the harbour from the city.

 We appreciate the concerns Wellington residents show for their waterfront and its existing vegetation. Overall we note that like the issue of sunlight in the park, there will not be many more or fewer trees but rather a redistribution of existing trees, with the notable removal of the Norfolk Island pines.

 Overall we agree that the issue of accessibility needs further scrutiny as the project progresses through detailed design. This is to ensure that path widths and surfaces facilitate accessibility through the park and that there is at least one accessible route through the garden.

 We accept that the walled garden not only replaces the shelter of the
amphitheatre but introduces a range of sheltered and small scale spaces that will provide additional amenity for the park users. Overall we consider the closure of the Chinese Garden at night to be an acceptable loss of access to a small area of Frank Kitts Park and waterfront open space. This is also at a time when there is a lower levels of activity on the waterfront.

 We find that the changes in shading effects will be less than minor. Shading will not affect the use and enjoyment of the park and potentially will provide additional amenity in the form of shady, sheltered areas within the Chinese Garden for users of the park over summer.

 There was agreement that there will be a change in the wind conditions with the proposal in place and there will still be areas of the reconfigured park where park users can be provided with shelter. In our view we agree with the views of both wind advisers that users will adapt and find other areas within the redeveloped park in which to find shelter from the wind.

 We were advised that there is no intention of changing any existing
arrangements that apply to the weekend market and that construction could be
managed to avoid undue disruption.

 We are satisfied that interested parties have had the opportunity to express their views prior to the application being submitted including at the time of consideration of the design brief. While consultation is not mandatory it is commonplace where there is the potential for adverse effects. Importantly this hearing is a further way that groups or individuals can express a differing view on the proposal from the initial design principles through to detailed design.

 Neither the NZCPS nor the RPS are particularly determinative in respect of
whether this proposal is consistent with the higher order planning framework. The proposal is considered to be consistent with the policy instruments that apply. We accept the applicants view that if positive effects are recognised and adverse effects are acceptable that there is no policy barrier to approval of the application.

 Our view is that the proposal is broadly but not entirely consistent with the Wellington Waterfront Framework document but this is not fatal to the application.

 Overall we have with some exceptions accepted that the conditions recommended by the applicant and WCC are fit for purpose.

 In the context of Part 2 of the Act there is a clear overall judgement to be made between the effects identified by submitters and the proposal from the applicant. We are satisfied that as long as the conditions are observed by the applicant, with monitoring and review where required, that the proposal represents the sustainable management purpose of the Act.

 We therefore grant the application for the redevelopment of Frank Kitts Park including the construction of buildings and structures and associated earthworks subject to the conditions contained in Appendix 1 to this decision.

Read also:
A $5m mistake
Losing another view
Not a good idea


  1. Marion Leader, 11. November 2016, 19:07

    So the Council’s advisors say that the Chinese Garden is “provocatively sited,” yet the decision does not give any reasons for locking it up at night which seems to be contrary to the Waterfront Framework and probably lots of other things.

  2. JC, 11. November 2016, 19:55


  3. Rumpole, 11. November 2016, 23:10

    The seagulls will be annoyed without an amphitheatre. There’s nothing worse than an angry seagull losing its dinner table. I’ll have Hilda make more sandwiches to keep them happy.

  4. Ben, 12. November 2016, 13:53

    I think a Chinese garden will be a great asset for the city . . . but not on the waterfront. There are not enough open views of the waterfront from the city now.

  5. Michael Gibson, 14. September 2017, 13:09

    The Memorandum of Understanding about having a Chinese garden in Frank Kitts Park was signed in Auckland nearly three years ago and aimed at building in 2015. The Wellington Chinese Garden Society were committed to contributing $5,000,000 but (at the last count) had only raised $35,000. Apparently more than half the Councillors and half Wellington’s Chinese community are opposed to proceeding with the project which makes it a pity that the Mayor is still employing lawyers to promote the whole thing. Could somebody ask him why?

  6. Tommy, 14. September 2017, 13:28

    Surely National is not the only group with Chinese “spy” training?