Wellington Scoop

How the Spatial Plan can help the housing crisis – a public forum

Joint press release from A City for People, Generation Zero, and Renters United.
A City for People, Generation Zero, and Renters United hosted a public forum on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming Council vote on the Draft Spatial Plan. We heard passionate presentations from four panellists – Alison Anitawaru Cole, Becky Kiddle, David Peirce, and Stewart Sexton – on the critical importance of passing an ambitious plan.

In attendance; Cr. Tamatha Paul, Cr. Teri O’Neill, Cr. Jill Day, Cr. Iona Pannett, Cr. Fleur Fitzsimons, Cr. Laurie Foon, Cr. Rebecca Matthews, Nicola Willis MP.

Apologies received: Cr. Jenny Condie.

Marko Garlick of Generation Zero introduced the evening with a reflection on why we need an ambitious Spatial Plan, referring to A City for People’s key asks, as outlined in their petition to Councillors.

“We don’t just have to plan for the people joining our city, but make up for the housing shortage we have now.” – Marko Garlick

Each panellist spoke for five minutes followed by questions from the audience, then reflections from politicians.

Alison Anitawaru Cole (Ngāruahine, Ngāti Ruanui, Taranaki Whānui) is an international human rights lawyer, climate activist and lecturer at VUW and Hong Kong University. Alison spoke about the internationally recognised right to adequate housing and the legal risk Council takes if they fail to provide for the expected population growth in Wellington. She spoke about Aotearoa’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and the role urban form needs to play in reducing our emissions. She discussed her experience of Te Whanganui-a-Tara as mana whenua and the role of indigenous peoples in planning for the future of our city.

“The Paris Agreement specifically highlights two crucial demographics to the issue of housing, right in the preamble it starts with the need to protect future generations. The second demographic group highlighted is indigenous communities.”

Dr. Rebecca Kiddle (Ngāti Porou, Ngā Puhi) is a Senior Lecturer at the Architecture School, VUW. Her research focuses on Māori identity and placemaking in Aotearoa New Zealand and the nexus between community creation, social processes, and urban design. She set the Spatial Plan as an equity issue, and spoke about how when you understand this city to be an indigenous place, the time and money spent on cataloguing and protecting colonial “character” is entirely inappropriate. She made a case for investing just as much money into reclaiming the indgenous heritage that has been erased from the landscape. She discussed the effects of colonisation on Māori, how the housing crisis has disproportionately affected their communities, and how the Spatial Plan could be a step towards improving this situation.

“If we understand this to be indigenous space, then we know that those colonial villas people are trying to protect are standing on layers of history many don’t understand.”

“When we walk around this city it’s still quite a colonial place. We need to be serious about the Treaty relationship and re-focus away from the colonial villas and back to re-establishing that Māori identity.”

“In order to create a de-colonial city, you absolutely need to not extend the character protections, and in order to achieve social justice, you need to be fighting for a spatial plan that really does enable good densification.”

David Pierce manages the Healthy Homes team at the Sustainability Trust. His team supports low-income households to help ensure warm, dry healthy homes. David gave an emotional account of the realities faced by many of his clients and the compounding negative effects of poor housing on families. He read aloud a letter one of the Trust’s clients sent to her local MP this year, pleading for help finding safe, affordable housing for her young family as they struggle with homelessness.

“What of those people who haven’t been able to contribute to submissions on the Spatial Plan? They’re just trying to manage everyday life.”

Stew Sexton is an accessibility advisor and director at AbilityDis Consulting. Stew has a lived experience of disability himself and spoke of the desperate need for more housing that meets the needs of the disabled community. He spoke about the process of designing and building his own home, and made the important point that it is much easier to build accessible housing new, than it is to retrofit.

“People with disabilities live, work and play in the city. They’re getting pushed out into the suburbs because it’s becoming harder to live in the city. Wellington’s a very hilly city, so it makes it very difficult for disabled people.”

“Our disabled community needs our independence. We moved into my accessible house, I was in my early 40s. It was the first time in my life I was able to drive out, do my chores, do my groceries, and put them away.”

During the Q & A sessions the panellists discussed several topics, including the grounds for Judicial Review should the council pass a Spatial Plan that does not comply with the National Policy Statement on Urban Development.

“The NPS forced Council to go further than they were planning to. The plan isn’t in the spirit or even the wording of the NPS. You’d have to have something pretty big on the other side to not provide enough housing.” – Marko Garlick, Generation Zero.

We heard reflections from each of the Councillors present and Nicola Willis (with apologies from Cr. Foon who had to leave early).

“I’m angry that it’s mostly young people who are affected by the housing crisis and that they’re the ones who have to fight for their right to housing. If there’s any time to be ambitious, it’s now.” – Cr. Matthews

“I’m optimistic that with the shift we’ve already seen in the community, we can pass an ambitious Spatial Plan. It’s my duty to make sure that those who are pushed out of Wellington are given prominence at the council table.” – Cr. Fitzsimons

“I am disheartened by the notions of some in our community who are concerned about the beggar outside their shop, but aren’t willing to enable more housing in our community.” – Cr. O’Neill

“It’s about climate adaptation, earthquakes, and ensuring there is equity in the city. I promise that anything we move next week will add to the environmental sustainability of our city.” – Iona Panett

“I live an 11 min walk from our local train station, and it’s 12mim from the city, so we live really close. Places like Tākapu Northern Ward can have much more development.” – Cr. Day.

“Poor people can not bear the brunt of climate action. It was the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire the other day, and I was reading about how the flammable cladding was only put in place to appease the neighbours.” – Cr. Paul

“I support an ambitious spatial plan for the city. We have heard the stories, we know this is real. House prices have gone up more than 50% in 4 years. The list is 810 people and their families waiting for emergency housing. 684 people are living in emergency housing. We need to make it harder to say no to housing and easier to say yes.” – Nicola Willis (MP)

Thank you to everyone who attended the forum. There was a strong challenge laid for our Councillors to advance social justice by enabling quality, affordable & accessible homes for all, and to start decolonising our city by prioritising housing needs ahead of the protection of colonial villas.

A City for People is a non-partisan group of Wellingtonians who share a progressive and sustainable vision for Wellington’s built environment.

Generation Zero is a youth-led climate action organisation

Renters United is an advocacy group for renters that campaigns to make renting better for everyone.

We have come together to achieve a long-term solution to our city’s housing crisis.

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  1. Claire, 20. June 2021, 20:14

    Kainga Ora can do the affordable social housing. They have the power to acquire land. The market will NOT provide affordable housing. Blaming old done-up houses for colonialism and the housing crisis is childish. The owners are not colonists. This news release is short on facts and logic. There are a lot of places to build houses – brownfields mainly.

  2. D'Esterre, 22. June 2021, 0:42

    Claire, I totally agree. Were “the market” able to provide affordable housing, it would have done so long since. Any new apartments in the inner city will sell at a comparable price to other property in the area. They won’t be inexpensive, that’s for sure. It appears that government policies enacted since 2017, and intended to reduce housing and rental costs, have had the unintended consequence of ramping them up, especially in Wellington.

    References in the above article to “colonial villas” are bizarre. NZ hasn’t been a colony since about 1852, when it became self-governing. In my view, this use of the term “colonial” is intellectually lazy: as with “racism”, it’s morphed into an epithet intended to cause division and discord.