Wellington Scoop

How our councillors voted: the final Spatial Plan decisions

Here are details of decisions taken at yesterday’s meeting where Wellington city councillors made decisions on the final shape of the Spatial Plan.

Character Plus
Cr Young put an early amendment to increase the areas of character protection (307 ha plus the addition of a long list of areas & specific streets recommended by HNZ or Boffa Miskell in the Lambton Ward). The list contained Roland Sapsford’s proposals for Aro Valley and Iona Pannett’s proposal for The Terrace, among streets in Mt Victoria, Thorndon and Mt Cook.

The voting on this established the early block.
For: Young, Sparrow (seconder), Calvert, Foster, Pannett and Woolfe. The vote was lost 6/9.

Reduced character protection
A 9/ 6 vote was carried on an amendment by Cr Foon to revert to the Draft Spatial Plan areas of character protection and remove the character (design) overlay from areas outside those sub areas. Only 88 ha, or less than 28% of existing 307ha of no demo area, is retained.

The vote in favour of this included Labour x 4 (Fitzsimons, Matthews, Day, and O’Neil), Condie, Paul, Foon, Free and Rush.

Councillors who voted against Foon’s amendment to reject council staff‘s recommended new character precincts were the same as above: Young, Sparrow, Calvert, Woolfe, Pannett, and Foster.

“Nuclear Option”
An earlier amendment was put by Crs Paul and Matthews, described by Mayor Foster as the “nuclear option”, to remove all areas of character protection. That was lost 6/9 (Rush, Condie, Paul, Matthews, O’Neil and Day voted in favour).

Cr Fitzsimons and all Greens voted against removing all character. That was the only time Labour voted split. Cr Rush joined Labour in supporting deregulation (akin to Nicola Willis views).

City Centre Height Limits
Cr Young proposed to reinstate the city height limits which had become unlimited in the recommended Spatial Plan. This was passed 8/7 (in favour were Young, Pannett, Woolfe, Calvert, Sparrow, Rush, Free, and Foster. Against were Labour x4, Condie, Paul & Foon).

This passed on a re-vote as Cr Pannett had misvoted.

catchment vote

City Walkable Catchment
The walkable catchment around the city Center was extended from 10 mins to 15mins in an amendment put by Cr Condie. This will enable at least 6 storey buildings in a much bigger area. Cnrs who voted for it were Labour x4, Condie, Paul, Free and Foon (though absent). Seven against: Foster, Calvert, Pannett, Rush, Sparrow, Woolfe and Young.

Qualifying Matters
An amendment was put by Cr Condie that noted that NPS did not require all matters that could be qualifying matters to be exempted from intensification (ie Council had a discretion to exempt or not). That was passed 14/1. Only Cr Young voted against it.

An amendment by Cr Condie was passed noting that as a result of that cost benefit less than 88ha of character protection could be included in the draft District plan. Six voted against: Young Sparrow Calvert Woolfe Foster and Pannett.

Voting blocks
Councillors largely voted consistently on character. In favour of protection were Young, Sparrow, Calvert, Woolfe, Pannett and Foster. Consistently opposed to character protection (in favour of demolition deregulation) was Labour x4, Condie, Paul, Free, Foon and Rush.

The blocks were largely political with Pannett departing from the Greens block, and Rush voting in favour of deregulation (he described it as voting “for families”).

Ben Schrader: Surrendering planning power to developers


  1. Local, 25. June 2021, 9:00

    I’m not sure how much value there is in continuing to participate in consultation. It’s probably better to get ready for litigation.

  2. Georgina Campbell, 25. June 2021, 9:22

    Wellington’s spatial plan shrinks protected character areas by almost three quarters, allows at least six storey developments in suburban centres and along key transit routes, and expands walking catchment areas for railway station stops and central city.

  3. Ms Green, 25. June 2021, 10:29

    Watch this one! Will unlimited heights creep back: the council by majority vote voted both against unlimited height but then went on to vote for it in the following: Foon/Fitzsimons amendment: “Request officers identify incentives such as enabling more height if developments include a percent of affordable housing, outdoor shared space, community gardens, green roofs as part of the District Plan Review councillor working group.” No definition of affordable housing exists – just look at Shelley Bay approved as a Special housing area intended for affordable housing!

    In my opinion none of this should be an incentive. Most should be an integral part of every development and developers should show how they are going to achieve some in every application. At present officers grant height dispensations on already very high new apartment buildings and for no particular transparent reason.

  4. K, 25. June 2021, 11:51

    On the whole a good result! Onwards with the intensification effort!!

  5. James Fraser, 25. June 2021, 12:14

    Watching the debate and vote yesterday reminded me of School Council meetings at Wellington High School back in the day, depressingly, for the wrong reasons! Depressing too that the many hours of Public Meetings, consultations, workshops, walkabouts etc counted for nothing here in Newtown where a compromise and attempt to work together to develop where possible was ignored by our Councillors Fitzsimons and Foon following their Party directives. So much for Local Democracy. Lets hope their constituents mobilise so such arrogance will come back to bite them next year. Councillor Fitzsimons added insult to injury by stating that she was voting on behalf of those ‘not born yet’. I suspect instead they will asking “Who on earth allowed these fabulous houses be turned into soulless concrete apartment blocks and leaky homes in cold damp wind tunnels?”
    On behalf of WE ARE NEWTOWN I want to thank Anna Kemble Welch for putting our view again so succinctly on the day and Councillors Pannet, Young, Sparrow, Calvert, Woolfe and Mayor Foster for listening to our community and supporting for compromise and consensus.

  6. Toni, 25. June 2021, 13:41

    I wonder if any of the councillors so keen to demolish the character and attractiveness of the city will be surprised when people start turning away from the soulless grey canyons of wall-to-wall high rises that have been built to gain the most profit for the developer, and to squeeze in as many people as possible for WCC. The abysmal lack of green spaces and community spaces is unlikely to be resolved in the rush to focus only on buildings not sustainable living environments.
    Density done well would be great for the city, but this is not density done well, this is mindless destruction of what is a beautiful city.

  7. GK, 25. June 2021, 13:42

    All those claiming to speak for “the community”: What part of it/how much of it were you actually speaking for? It wasn’t all of it. What voices were left out?

  8. T bag, 25. June 2021, 15:17

    GK: good point. How many of the councillors voting to demolish character areas actually live in the affected areas.

  9. Claire, 25. June 2021, 15:41

    T bag: actually none of them.

  10. Brad Olsen, 25. June 2021, 15:42

    Last night’s result on Wgtn’s Spatial Plan will help chart a better future for Wgtn, with more housing enabled over time. Now the focus must turn to getting houses built. Wgtn City residential consents are down 24% over the last 12 months – let’s reverse that trend, and quick. [via twitter]

  11. Ray Chung, 25. June 2021, 18:31

    What a pitiful result! OK, we’re now going to get six storey plus apartments built in Wellington so if they happen to be too expensive for people to buy, what are they going to say then or who are they going to blame?

  12. Claire, 25. June 2021, 18:53

    Ray: All the work of residents and officers lost because of two ambitious yet misguided councillors.

  13. michael, 25. June 2021, 21:51

    Guess it was always going to be a foregone conclusion that a Labour majority in council would tow the party line instead of engaging and listening to their constituents. Unfortunately, too often party politics and personal ambition come into play in local body decisions to the detriment of the city.

  14. Bernard Hickey, 26. June 2021, 17:32

    Curious to know if the Council has the balance sheet and the debt limit flexibility to borrow for the infrastructure and public transport needed to get more houses built? I see low-density Paddington and Te Aro projects blamed on ‘not enough infrastructure’. [via twitter]

  15. Claire, 26. June 2021, 17:51

    Bernard: largescale densification is a misguided dream, especially trying to squeeze it to the 6% of land that is the character suburbs. The brownfields are the answer. Lincoln Farm and Stebbings are earmarked for the contestable infrastructure fund. And they are much maligned greenfields.

  16. Stuart Niven, 26. June 2021, 20:09

    All this farce demonstrates is that:
    * the people of Wellington are not well served when its Council is largely composed of nationally constituted political parties. Councillors are elected to represent their constituents, not the political agendas (real or imagined) of political parties.
    * youth has as much access to hubris, contempt and ignorance as older, white house owners who have the ill grace to own a weatherboard-clad, pitch roofed colonial-tainted home.
    * Councillors are not experts in city design and development but they should have the judgement to listen to and understand experienced advice.
    * Planners shouldn’t be let near any attempt to successfully explain that new swear word “character”.
    * Councils should stop treating their citizens with contempt by offering them “consultation” when this is just an empty invitation to fool them into wasting a lot of time – no matter how much understanding, skill, ability and ideas they freely provide.
    AND, finally, perhaps the next time Wellingtonians might be persuaded to enter into a discussion about density and growth the Council might have the good grace to come clean on some idea – ANY idea really – about the “quality” dimensions of how to get “good density” – but then, that would be altogether too hard when they’d rather lure us into the divisive numbers game of location and storey heights – as if this has any relevance to the custodianship and creation of a good city.

  17. Ray Chung, 26. June 2021, 22:20

    Hi Stuart, very succinctly written, thanks very much and I agree completely.

    Claire, when I saw this result, I was flabbergasted and very disappointed. I was told that some young and not so young people just don’t value anything anymore.

  18. Claire, 26. June 2021, 22:20

    Stuart: all well put.
    This will take three years to become law. In the meantime we can try and change it. The best thing will be that those councillors will be in that time voted out.

  19. D'Esterre, 27. June 2021, 0:14

    Stuart Niven: a very good analysis of the current imbroglio. I hope that all councillors read it, but especially those who were “consistently opposed to character protection (in favour of demolition deregulation)…”. They have done us no favours.

    Bernard Hickey: The Council can borrow on new development, but not on maintenance or rejigging of existing infrastructure. This will be a significant brake on large-scale apartment-building in the CBD and inner suburbs. The infrastructure cannot cope with more demand.

  20. Richard Murcott, 27. June 2021, 0:54

    Throughout consultation on the spatial plan I witnessed care and attention from citizens, WCC officers and councillors. A lot of volunteered effort, a lot of people engaging and contributing in good faith on a complex project – from many perspectives. It would have taken a lot of effort for officers to faithfully review nearly 3000 submissions. Then carefully craft balanced recommendations. All good so far.
    So I was appalled to witness, right at the finish line, the wheels falling off some of this work. Now there’s a bit of wreck to deal with, and roll-on impacts. Things like the consequences from impacted neighbourhoods having not been consulted on changes passed on Thursday. What’s happened to participative democracy?
    We need to see a separation of concerns. The job is governance and representation of the specific needs of this city. Tweaking expert advice at the last minute, rushing into changes without all the evidence, is risky (or reckless) behaviour. Such erodes trust & confidence. Wellington deserves much better.

  21. Pseudopanax, 27. June 2021, 11:29

    Councillor Foon. The sense of betrayal by you moving the amendment at the last minute to reject the compromise arrived at after months of consultation is compounded by your declaration that you did it on behalf of 20-30 somethings desperate to live in concrete blocks. With Councillor Fitzsimons voting for those not born yet, would you please consider resigning so you can limit your Helicopter Parenting to Gen Zero, and us grown ups who actually live here with Twenty somethings on the way who may not want to live in soulless 6-storey apartment buildings can have some democratic representation.
    Stuart Niven: You nailed it, please consider standing for the position here in Southern Ward that hopefully will become vacant as soon as.

  22. Toni, 27. June 2021, 11:44

    Again, public anger has been generated by WCC’s undemocratic processes. After the enormous effort and time put in by members of the public and resident associations etc who not only attended road shows, workshops etc, but spent hours spent writing submissions, it is no surprise they feel let down. The last-minute changes that came out of left field made a mockery of the process. A process the public had a right to expect would be legitimate.
    How any councillor can claim to be in receipt of all the facts required to make judgements (on behalf of their constituents) regarding last minute ideas/changes is arrogant and misguided. As a result, trust between councillors and their constituents has been diminished.

  23. Steven, 27. June 2021, 15:23

    It’s a strange political moment when simply giving developers more choice where to build is said to count as a win for housing, when it’s not a lack of sites to build on that is holding back new and affordable housing.

  24. Ray Chung, 27. June 2021, 19:16

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if no or very few “affordable” houses came out of this. Developers will maximise their profit as is their right, but will any of these new apartments be priced within the affordability of Generation Zero buyers? I’ll be watching this carefully and if these people who these councillors say they voted for to benefit from this deregulation don’t buy, apart from Fleur Fitzsimons who’s doing it for babies yet to be born, I’ll be calling for their resignations.
    Stuart Niven: I reinforce Pseudopanax’s plea to please consider running in the Southern ward to replace those who obviously have ideology as their prime interest and not the residents.

  25. Marion Leader, 28. June 2021, 8:10

    What is “affordable”? I have asked WCC for their definition but haven’t had an answer. Getting a yearly $115,000 as a Councillor must influence your judgment.

  26. Claire, 28. June 2021, 8:46

    Marion: from what I saw livestreamed on voting day, at least half the councillors are unsuitable for the complex job they are in.

  27. Wendy, 28. June 2021, 12:13

    I am concerned that what seems an unsystematic push to build high rise buildings, is not going to result in carefully planned sustainable living environments, which will defeat the whole purpose of providing healthy homes for people. Unless WCC mandates strict requirements, developments will continue to be all about profit not people. I am not against density but only if it is planned density done well.

    Also, apart from the failing infrastructure, another major factor of consideration is the critical shortage of inner-city useable open green spaces. These become the “backyards for local residents” to meet up, have group activities, where children can play, ride bikes, and others relax and watch the goings-on etc. Under the WHO guidelines it is essential that urban residents should be able to access public green spaces of at least 0.5-1 hectare within 300 metres linear distance. That is within a 5 minute walk of their homes. WCC acknowledges that the inner-city (Lambton/Te Aro), which is now the largest suburb in Wellington in terms of population on the smallest area of land, is already failing to provide this for the current residents.

    Therefore, I ask councillors to make a unified commitment to ensure all developments have close useable open green spaces for group activities and children’s play etc., otherwise we are likely to see a steady increase in social and mental health issues associated with unplanned, unattractive grey unsustainable living environments.

  28. PCGM, 28. June 2021, 12:44

    Claire – You make a good point about the capabilities of councillors. If the position had been advertised as a job rather than just elected, most of the incumbents wouldn’t have made the long-list of eligible candidates let alone the short-list of people you’d actually want to employ, on the basis of their insufficient skills and track record in governance and decision making in large-scale organisations.

    But such is the nature of representative democracy – as was stated about Richard Nixon, the very qualities that made it possible for him to be elected President should have immediately disqualified him from ever holding the office. I’m not suggesting any of our councillors quite meet that standard, but it’s important to remember their main focus isn’t to do the right thing for the long-term development of the city: it’s to get re-elected. In that context, some of the more erratic behaviour begins to make a bit more sense.

  29. Claire, 28. June 2021, 16:59

    PCGM: yes but the larger problem is not understanding the consequences of their decisions. In this case setting back any way forward for building housing in communities with the cooperation of the suburbs. We were very close with the upgraded DSP. But grandstanding and hubris and career limiting decision making has stopped that cold.

  30. Polly, 28. June 2021, 17:00

    Well said Wendy.

  31. GK, 29. June 2021, 12:50

    Newtown “character” homes aren’t all well maintained: employees of a top Wellington real estate company own an $870 a week rental that’s falling apart : holes in the floor, damp, rats, mice, beetle infestation … and owned by employees of the company that “manages” it.

  32. D'Esterre, 29. June 2021, 14:50

    Ray, I sincerely hope that you’ll also be standing for Council: in the Onslow ward at the next election.

    Brad Olsen: “..Wgtn City residential consents are down 24% over the last 12 months…” No surprises there, according to a member of this household, who has experience of navigating WCC’s consents process. It’s a wonder the figure isn’t higher.

  33. D'Esterre, 29. June 2021, 15:53

    GK: “Newtown character homes aren’t all well maintained…” Well of course they aren’t. I don’t recall anyone suggesting that they are. That’s true of all sorts of houses of varying ages in Wellington. But so what? The fact that some houses aren’t well-maintained entails nothing about whether protection should apply to particular areas.

  34. GK, 29. June 2021, 17:22

    D’Esterre: An example of what some seek to protect when they support blanket protection for whole suburbs. Any protection should be for specific buildings only.

  35. D'Esterre, 29. June 2021, 17:34

    GK, it seems to me that the example you adduce doesn’t support the notion of lifting protections from character areas. Maintenance and protection are two different elements: the former – in respect of one property – ought not to influence the latter – in respect of entire areas.

  36. Claire, 30. June 2021, 10:52

    Opposite 47 Owen Street some infill housing is being built. I have just had a chat with the developer, who laughed when I asked will it be affordable? It will be at least $900,000. Affordability is a dream. No developer wants to flood the market. Or lose money.

  37. Ray Chung, 30. June 2021, 13:59

    I recall someone saying that being a politician is the only job that requires no experience and no qualifications. The only thing you need is to do is make enough promises to spend taxpayers/ratepayers money to get people to vote for you. It’s sad if this is true. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and one thought is, at the very least, candidates should be an active member of a Residents Association as this shows that they have the interest of their community at heart. Other qualifications perhaps being in business so you know the effects of bad decision-making.
    D’Esterre, I’ve always thought that if councillors were doing a good job, there would be no need or advantage for the community for me to leave my job to run for council. But this ideology-driven council is doing little to help Wellingtonians but is only focussed on achieving their ideology objectives. So yes, I will run in the Onslow-Western ward next year and I’d entreat anyone who isn’t happy with this council to do the same. There are some very good sensible people who comment on Wellington.Scoop and I’d like to see them run too.
    Talking about “affordable” housing, none of the high/medium-rise developments will be below $700,000 and the higher they go, the dearer they’ll be. Councillors who said they’re voting for these to get more “affordable” housing don’t know what they’re talking about. Having said that, I do agree that if the number of houses can be increased, the theory is that it’ll reduce the pricing through market forces but these need to be in Greenfield or Brownfield sites otherwise the land is too expensive. These don’t need to be a long way out of town and an example is the development at Silver Stream Road in Ngaio. This development is easy walking distance to the Ngaio Railway Station and buses. We should be pushing the council to approve more of these and the developer should be responsible for the infrastructure.

  38. Concerned Wellingtonian, 30. June 2021, 15:26

    I am so pleased that you will be standing, Ray.

  39. Claire, 30. June 2021, 15:36

    Ray: great you will be running. I have been reading a lot about market forces and affordable housing, for example overseas studies. Even if you build a lot, they are still not affordable because they don’t all go on the market at once. Govt subsidy is the only way to effect that.

  40. Ray Chung, 30. June 2021, 19:53

    Hi Claire, you’re one of the people I was thinking about to bring some common sense to council if you’d consider running next year. You’re in the Southern ward aren’t you that’s currently held by a Labour and Green councillor who just push their socialist ideology. You’d be great as an Independent supporting the Newtown and Southern ward residents.
    Concerned Wellingtonian: Many thanks too!

  41. Claire, 1. July 2021, 9:32

    Ray thanks for that. One thing is for sure there will be little support for current councillors next year. They have grandstanded their ambition and allowed more to be cut out of our suburb, when we have a plan to develop our retail area with owners ready to go with actual residential plans. I see we are being called Nimbys on stuff today. This is misrepresentation at best.