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Two buildings into one on the waterfront

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Though controversial plans for big new waterfront buildings have failed to find any takers, the Wellington City Council continues to hope that smaller structures will be built. For example, the wharenui on Taranaki Wharf, though it’s not really small. The council computer-generated image (above) from 2004 shows it blocking the viewshaft between the Odlins Building and the rowing clubs.

It’s had a changeable history. At first there were to be two buildings. One was to be a wharewaka (it’s the open structure on the right of the illustration) to house the city’s ceremonial canoe, the other was to be the wharenui/wharekai, including a café, for meetings and gatherings.

The wharenui was to be “a fusion of pre-European Maori, 21st century Maori, Pacific and Wellington cultures that will provide a social and cultural activity centre,” said the Wellington Tenths Trust Executive Officer Morrie Love in 2004.

But its size and position caused concerns. Owners of the million-dollar apartments in the Odlins Building felt it would be too close to them, and they were upset by its height and its bulk. The two rowing clubs were concerned about access being blocked. Negotiations were held and changes were made.

Time passed, and in 2006 the chairman of the Tenths Trust, Professor Ngatata Love, said there was a new concept, to put the wharewaka and wharenui into one new building, occupying the same footprint as the proposed wharenui.

The latest council documents refer to the single building as a wharewaka rather than a wharenui. Perhaps the idea of meetings and gatherings has been given up? But no one seems to have seen the new plan. The only clue comes from Professor Love’s statement three years ago. “The purpose of the development is to bring waka culture to life around Wellington’s harbour and beyond which means using Te Raukura (the Wellington City waka taua) at a variety of events and locations. The plan is to provide accommodation for two or more waka.

“The facilities are intended to generate opportunities for business development, creative art, tourism and events that celebrate waka and their use, together with local Maori history. The location … makes an ideal potential venue for civic functions and formal welcomes.”

The council-owned Wellington Waterfront Limited is telling councilors this week that construction is expected to start early next year, funded primarily by a charitable trust. But questions are being asked about whether a resource consent issued five years ago for two buildings will be relevant for one of them, when it’s been redesigned. It’s hard to believe that a new resource consent process can be avoided. In which case there’ll be more delays. And the big open space on Taranaki Wharf – and the viewshaft – will remain for a few more years.

1 comment:

  1. Alana Bowman, 1. September 2009, 20:18

    Thanks, Lindsay, for bringing attention to another plan by WCC which fails to provide a clear description of what is intended to be built on the waterfront. The Council has failed to provide an opportunity for public comment on its new plans – one building or two? – and has chosen to hide its intentions yet again.