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Planning for the market to decide

by Felicity Wong
Wellingtonians are concerned about the ‘top-down’ free-market approach to urban planning. The Government has effectively imposed high-density rezoning on communities from above, with limited potential for exemptions, under the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD).

Next year WCC will publicly notify its Draft District Plan to deliver on the NPS-UD’s requirements, but there will be limited scope for individuals and communities to influence final decisions through submissions.

Thousands of Wellingtonians discovered their substantive submissions opposing the Spatial Plan (the policy precursor) were ignored by elected representatives. Councillors followed the political dictats (issued through the media by party leaders days before the 24 June vote), and accordingly voted for a maximum deregulation of planning rules in heritage and other suburbs.

A majority of councillors also voted to reject the advice of Council staff and to increase the city centre’s “walkable catchment” in which at least 6 storey height limits will apply.

The new expanded, 15 minute area means 6 storeys up to the top of the Brooklyn Hill, up the slopes of Wadestown and Kelburn, and all of Mt Victoria, Mt Cook, The Terrace and Aro Valley.

Widespread areas in Newtown, Berhampore, Tawa, Johnsonville, and Onslow are all slated for 6 storeys or more as well. Very small character precincts with lower height levels will remain (just 15.5% of Berhampore and 26.8% of Newtown for example).

If Councillors get second thoughts and decide to backtrack on the deregulated planning approach, Kainga Ora stands ready to litigate to enforce compliance with the NPS-UD. It successfully did so in the High Court against Auckland planning commissioners adopting their Unitary plan some years ago.

The NPS-UD fundamentally undermines democracy, local decision-making and urban planning, which considers those perspectives in a local environmental context.

One of the Government’s main gripes has been that residents have used the RMA to object to new development on the basis that it reduces their neighbourhood “amenity values”.

As a result, the exposure draft of the new Natural and Built Environment Bill, which will replace the RMA, eliminates amenity values, and weakens the legal basis for heritage protection.

Submissions on the Bill close on 4 August and it’s important to call for heritage to be a matter which must be included in the proposed National Planning Framework. That’s the detailed policy on planning which the new 14 Councils will be required to adopt in their plans.

After the Productivity Commission report in 2015, Phil Twyford (then opposition spokesperson on housing) and Oliver Hartwich, CE of The New Zealand Initiative (and successor to the Business Roundtable) issued their joint manifesto to solve the housing crisis. In their Herald opinion piece of 29 November 2015 they set out “three modest ideas”:

● Remove the urban/rural city land boundary (enable sprawl),
● Free up density and height planning rules and “let the market discover where and how people want to live”, and
● Shift the cost of infrastructure away from developers.

Under the Government’s Urban Development Agenda, these ideas have since been implemented with little fanfare or media attention. The result is a radical reshaping of New Zealand’s planning laws.

In time, the native timber buildings of the old Wellington suburbs, (already among the most dense in New Zealand), will be clear felled for sun-stealers. Student tenants and low-income renters will find the expensive new builds unaffordable and snapped up by the usual suspects.

What’s so strange is that the advocates for this were young folks of Generation Zero, worried about carbon emissions from sprawl and low-income renters suffering housing shortages and extreme prices.

How did these groups get on board with the free market deregulators? Why would they want to “let the market discover where and how people wish to live”?

The Government’s radical reforms were adopted with little to no debate and treated in a low key way by media. There was little information about the new Infrastructure Funding Act (passed during COVID months in 2020), achieving the third modest idea.

Similarly the NPS-UD, implementing the second modest idea, was adopted as a directive to local government during 2020 COVID months without much attention.

During the October 2020 election campaign, Tracy Martin told Ohariu voters, concerned about the removal of density and height rules in Onslow, that NZ First Ministers were unaware of the contents of the NPS-UD when it went through Cabinet in June last year. So it seems the low profile was not just with the public.

At successive intervals, during Twyford’s Urban Growth Agenda reforms, NZ Initiative staff have cheered him on in their Newshub columns picked up by other media outlets. Wellington’s Spatial Plan controversy was fueled by grassroots, or ‘astroturf’, organisations led by Labour’s PR apparatchik Neale Jones.

It’s a return to the 1980s when it took just a few years to demolish the architectural face of Wellington city built up over a hundred years as our seat of mercantile commerce and government. Now post GFC and COVID, a lot of empty box office towers need to be repurposed into residential complexes with some new green space on Lambton Quay.

At heart is a government policy response to unaffordable houses. It’s a response to the million migrants to Aotearoa/New Zealand in the past 20 years without commensurate home building. That’s been exacerbated by asset price inflation from $55 billion of money printed in the past 12 months.

Boris Johnson is pushing through radical deregulated planning laws in the English Parliament. In recent weeks 90 Tory backbenchers have expressed doubts and the Labour Party is encouraging them to revolt. Could something similar happen here?

Felicity Wong is chair of Historic Places Wellington.

41 comments:

  1. Jimmy Newtron, 29. July 2021, 9:40

    This city needs more housing and the only real answer is to increase density. It can’t all fit on Adelaide Road.
    Some reality in regards to the current housing stock needs to occur. The most significant streets are being retained under the plan and that’s a good thing, but there is no need to save everything as the author appears to propose. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it is worthy of the heritage badge. Large swaths of the buildings in the inner-suburbs have been extensively altered and/or are run down. The 6-level buildings are still going to need to comply with the wider DP rules and just because they are allowed doesn’t mean that the entirety of Berhampore will be demolished.
    The author questions why young people have turned to “deregulation” – the answer is in her own article – because of her stubborn refusal to allow anything to change.

    Heritage NZ seems to have forgotten that people come first and buildings second – given their recent track record to object to everything under the sun that involves an old building.

     
  2. K, 29. July 2021, 9:40

    This article is based on the incorrect belief that more housing supply will not lower prices, ignoring thousands of years of evidence that form the basis of supply/demand theory that is simple enough for a high schooler to understand in their first day of economics class. Pretending that a big increase in medium & high-density housing won’t lead to more affordable housing is disingenuous. A friend of mine just moved into a just-finished new-build 1 bedroom on Taranaki street which was purchased for under $500k, as a prime example of how new high-density housing is lowering the entry cost for first home buyers.

     
  3. Claire, 29. July 2021, 9:53

    There is a real danger as with deregulation in the past (ie leaky buildings) that this zoning and development free for all will be an utter disaster.
    The WCC should stand up for a coordinated Plan to work with the community, and consider their own plans for better density (ie Newtown, Mt Victoria, Tearo etc focusing on brownfields) without wrecking neighbourhoods and forcing people out through lack of affordability and loss of amenity and character/heritage. The outcome will be shoddy and scattered. It has the hallmarks of a forced naive political directive that won’t provide what it says it will. Affordability. That is the government’s job not the free Market. We had free market all through the Key years! This needs urgent modification.

     
  4. Chad Oliver, 29. July 2021, 10:12

    Felicity, you’ve identified a lot of things that you believe to be bad. Fair enough! I too would prefer to live in the Wellington of 10 years ago, when housing was more affordable and our cute suburbs weren’t at risk of being transformed.

    But we don’t have the option of keeping things the way they were. Cities change, and so does the context in which a city exists. The context today is that the price of accomodation is crippling a generation and splitting the country into haves and have-nots. Maybe you’re okay with that. I own my own house, so maybe *I* should be okay with that too. But I can’t stand back and watch my friends give up any hope of ever being able to own a house or even live in a reasonable rental — whether in Wellington or in small town New Zealand.

    If we want accomodation to be affordable, we need to make sellers and landlords compete for buyers and renters. You talk about the free market like it’s obviously bad, but Generation Zero supports it because it’s better than one other thing: an entrenched rentier class that can extract wealth from everyone else in New Zealand by supressing competition.

    We need to build more. Yeah, I’d love it if we could just set up a new city somewhere, and tell everyone who wants to live in a dense walkable city “move there”. I would be one of the people moving. Seriously, that would be much better than trying to fight for political change in Wellington. But for a number of reasons including network effects, a new city isn’t going to happen. So if we want to build more houses, we need to meet people where they want to be. That means existing cities.

    In practice the only new land for development in Wellington is both distant and car-dependent. We should build on that land; some people will love that package of benefits and costs. But it’s not enough to meet demand, reduce costs, or meet our climate goals. We need to build up too. That means making our cities denser.

    Yeah, it sucks that cities have to change. Everyone wants to be able to choose a place to live, based on their own preferences, with the security that comes from knowing that the suburb isn’t going to change under your feet. Everyone wants that — but some people would prefer to just be able to have a place to live, and that need is more fundamental and must come first.

    It’s easy to complain that cities shouldn’t change, or shouldn’t change through processes we don’t have a veto over. But in the New Zealand we sadly live in today, if you say “Wellington shouldn’t change”, you’re saying “I’ve got mine, so screw you”. I know that’s not what you’re trying to say! I know you want everyone to be housed, while also respecting heritage. But this is the world we live in, and that’s what it comes down to.

    I want to live in a beautiful city full of heritage and light. But I’ll sacrifice that if it means preserving an egalitarian New Zealand where you can have security of accomodation and a reasonable quality of life *without* needing to be born to rich parents.

     
  5. Claire, 29. July 2021, 13:18

    Auckland has been building flat out with no affordability yet. Developers want to make money, and don’t flood the market for that reason.
    Where and how buildings are placed and design is absent from the above comments. People are planning for more than Adelaide Road, there are brownfields all over Wellington. Soon car yards and petrol stations will not be needed and office blocks will be converted. So some logic please. Again the Government will have to build these affordable houses – only they can make them affordable.

     
  6. Chew toy, 29. July 2021, 13:52

    K has pointed out that their friend was able to buy a sub $500k place to live. That’s great and it occurred under the current regime without having to demolish inner city suburbs. It was a brownfield site of which there are many within the city. These sites are already zoned for this as is adelaide road.

     
  7. Jimmy Newtron, 29. July 2021, 15:29

    The commentator above has called for logic – and also points out that there are brownfield sites across the city – this is correct. There are brownfield sites in all of the suburbs that the heritage lobby want to protect – so would they support 4, 6, 10, 15 levels on these lots? I doubt it. Similarly the same special interest groups that object to apartments in the noted suburbs also object to unlimited heights in Te Aro and the central city. So not only is there objection to the replacement of a derelict villas but also against tall buildings in the brownfield areas. Where is the logic there?

    People need to acknowledge that cities change as they grow – we can’t lock entire suburbs out of development – certainly not those that are within walking distance to the CBD – which all already have a mixed grain of villas and taller modernist buildings. Where is the harm in adding a few more taller buildings?

     
  8. Phil, 29. July 2021, 15:42

    The most effective thing Labour could have done to stem or at least moderate rising house prices and redistribute wealth was introduce a capital gains tax. However Jacinda ruled out a capital gains tax under her leadership. The NPS and its imposition of high density housing on communities and loss of heritage is a political response to a lack of political backbone.

     
  9. Lynne, 29. July 2021, 15:46

    Complete disregard for constituent and the democratic process for a self serving government. Disregard for property rights and the value historical properties bring to the region. Shameful.

     
  10. Dinner roll, 29. July 2021, 17:31

    Jimmy do you think unlimited heights in a city that’s earthquake prone is a good idea? Also the higher you go the more it costs. You could have unlimited height but I doubt anyone would want to build much higher than they currently can.

     
  11. Eddy Saul, 29. July 2021, 18:14

    There is one useful thing in the article I’d like to discuss. Developers are forced to front load the entire cost of subdivision and infrastructure development to the buyers… it’s a significant chunk of buying a new house. Many cities around the world fund infrastructure development by issuing bonds on the future value of the development and increased rates. If councils were to fund infrastructure with a condition that set the mark up that Developers could charge, and then increased the rates to that development only… surely we’d get more affordable development?…

     
  12. Richard, 29. July 2021, 19:48

    Some Wellingtonians might agree with Felicity but a very large number don’t.

     
  13. Ms Green, 29. July 2021, 20:01

    How do you think we got to where we are today? Because the free market let rip for 30 years. The result? Leaky homes, immigration without planning, exploited migrant labour, rampant apartment building with scant regard to the environment, future slums, poverty, an unequal society, a destroyed environment, and a climate crisis. Is that really what Gen. Zero aspires to achieve?

    Wake up you guys. Private landlords are never going to provide adequate housing for those most in need.The only way to get affordable housing for all is for the state (and local government) to build quality and provide as it used to. Pitting landlords against tenants goes nowhere.

    There are serious flaws in the Urban Development Act and all the statements and plans that fall out of it. From memory it has compulsory private land acquisition powers, encourages urban sprawl and unfettered development and is antithetical to an environmentally sustainable future with affordable infrastructure and healthy cities.

     
  14. Claire, 29. July 2021, 20:13

    Richard remember the submissions: at least 56% agree with Felicity – the number who didn’t want destruction of the inner suburbs which are only 6% of the land in Wellington. What about building on the rest of it?
    Jimmy the brownfields and main retail strip plan in Newtown would have six storey buildings. This is an area where owners have drawings, and developers are happy to press the go button. The community is happy also. Everyone agrees we need more housing.

     
  15. Jimmy Newtron, 29. July 2021, 20:50

    Seismic isn’t an issue that prevents taller buildings – we have the technology to allow for these events with base isolation and the like. It’s not like Tokyo and San Francisco are low rise cities. It’s true that costs go up but there is a balance – which will be dictated by the feasibility of costs. If we have the flexibility to build taller the height will be dictated by what’ works in no. of apartments vs foundations vs fire etc. The quality of these spaces can be controlled via the district plan, or incentives.
    The out-of-touch stamping of the foot by the author, and the likes, gets us nowhere. The reason liberal “younger” crowd support it is evident in the attitudes shown above; “it will destroy our neighbourhoods (it won’t) our rights are being infringed (now they are not) etc. Its not a left vs right issue.

     
  16. michael, 30. July 2021, 9:31

    Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems building high rises in our earthquake risk city is the cost of insurance (if you can get it). I live in a relatively new high spec apartment building which had no damage during the Kaikoura earthquake, yet our insurance has gone from $92,000 8 years ago to just under $800,000. Insurance companies do not seem to care how good building technology is.

     
  17. Harold Rodd, 30. July 2021, 9:46

    Richard, “a very large number” voted for New Zealand First at the last General Election. What point are you trying to make?

     
  18. K, 30. July 2021, 9:47

    Ms green: conflating building quality with the current density argument is a meaningless deflection. The building code has been updated to a level where all new residential structures now require high levels of living standards. I challenge you to provide any example of residential developments from the last 10 years in Wellington that are anything like the supposed hellscape you describe of slums of poverty. The “slums” and unhealthy residential living conditions are in the old housing stock you are trying to protect for who knows what reason.

     
  19. John Rankin, 30. July 2021, 9:49

    Ms Green, I’m not sure we have had a free market in housing for the last 30 years. Governments of all political stripes have told house buyers (who are also keen voters) that the value of their assets will increase year on year. Buying a house has become a one-way government-guaranteed bet yielding a tax-free income. So people have spent the last 30 years getting rich by selling houses to each other at ever-increasing prices. As a result, the current generation of first home buyers has been shut out of the market, unless the bank of mum and dad helps out. Meanwhile, the wider economy still depends on low-value commodity exports, because instead of investing in productive businesses, we have over-invested in housing, because it has a government-backed return. I agree with Phil that “The NPS and its imposition of high density housing on communities and loss of heritage is a political response to a lack of political backbone.”

     
  20. Claire, 30. July 2021, 9:55

    Ms Green’s comment is spot on. Can all so called young, progressive, yimby, Gen z, Green party people read it – you are very wrong.

     
  21. Julienz, 30. July 2021, 12:48

    K. So how do you explain the Altera Apartments complex in Stonefields, Auckland built in 2015 which is currently being remediated due to leaky curtain walling and not being fire compliant. The Living Hell documentary which screened on Prime earlier this year highlighted substandard apartment developments which are relatively recent builds.

     
  22. TrevorH, 30. July 2021, 13:13

    I’m convinced the CBD will be seen as an anachronism in twenty years or less. Technology and a crisis like COVID have made that plain. The opening of Transmission Gully and the expressway up to Levin will incentivize new hubs for business and housing accessed from those routes. We should be planning for that.

    It makes no sense to intensify housing in a seismically active city like Wellington, beyond two or perhaps three level townhouses. I would never buy an apartment in a high rise here. My neighbours were shaken and traumatized Kaikoura earthquake refugees from a downtown apartment when they arrived. They would now never return to that style of living in Wellington.

     
  23. Dave B, 30. July 2021, 17:34

    TrevorH, what makes you think the Levin area would be immune to a major earthquake? No one expected it to happen in Christchurch but it did. Meanwhile Wellington’s CBD continues to thrive, in spite of sewage leaks and public buildings left in limbo by the council.

     
  24. Ray Chung, 1. August 2021, 20:45

    Yes, I fully understand the concept of supply and demand and agree that at least in theory, if the supply exceeds demand, then prices will drop. But and this is a big but, these houses need to be built in the suburbs on brownfield and greenfield areas. This is the only way to get “affordable” housing. Medium density and high density six storey plus won’t provide “affordable” housing. I disagree that the council should pay for infrastructure for new developments. The current District Plan states that the developers should pay for this and amortise this over the sale of the properties. Developers are making sizable profits from the sale of new apartments and can well spread the cost of providing infrastructure.

     
  25. James Fraser, 1. August 2021, 22:29

    Thank You once again Felicity for such a thoughtful and thorough review of a year of a traumatic and divisive Planning Blitzkrieg on the citizens of Wellington by the Labour and Green Parties’ High Command.
    A well organised campaign of disinformation by ambitious councillors, professional lobbyists and Generation (Year) Zero has left us here in Newtown and Berhampore particularly angry and aggrieved. Twelve months of public meetings, workshops, submissions, walkabouts came to nothing and has left our low rise family homes at the mercy of developers and investors. It is they who stand to gain from blanket rezoning permitting random high density apartments amongst sunny low rise family houses.
    The overwhelming majority of residents’ submissions were ignored by our two Southern Ward elected “representatives” who moved a last minute amendment to reject an opportunity to work with communities on the ground and WCC Planners’ advice after diktat from their party bosses. To add insult to injury one stated she did it “For those not born yet.” As if they will thank her for replacing warm and sunny earthquake-proof native timber family homes and gardens with soulless and expensive high density blocks and wind tunnels. Welcome to the world of high insurance premiums, leaky homes, carbon-intensive demolition and construction, Body Corporates and conformity! What happened to the Climate Emergency and the 5 R’s of sustainability? A rare opportunity to work with renters and owners who live here and are passionate about their community to Do Density Well has been sacrificed for Party Politics. Who stands to gain from such an assault on local democracy? Follow the money!

     
  26. TrevorH, 2. August 2021, 12:58

    James Fraser: very eloquently said. Let this be a reminder, if you want to take back control of your city then never vote for candidates promoted by national political parties.

     
  27. Claire, 2. August 2021, 13:37

    Trevor: to be fair, who knew they would act in such a naive cowardly way and also be intellectually overwhelmed. They have ridden over democratic process. A choice for compromise put forward by the planners would have got them a lot further with communities. I guess it will backfire eventually. Councillors’ twitter feeds make enlightening reading and highlight their ridiculous hubris.

     
  28. Ray Chung, 2. August 2021, 20:07

    Trevor, James Fraser and Claire, I agree with your comments about your Southern ward councillors; out of all the Wellington wards, I’d say that these are amongst the most ideology driven. But it gets worse. Did you know that these councilors together with their Labour and Green colleagues in council are pushing to eliminate the ward system to be replaced by “councillors-at-large,” meaning it’ll be very difficult and expensive for independent candidates as they’d need to canvass all over Wellington rather than just in their own wards. This will place more central political party councillors into council with them all following their party ideology instead of being there for the good of Wellington ratepayers.

     
  29. Sam Peterson, 3. August 2021, 8:24

    Some of the commentators are implying that because some of the councilors didn’t do what they wanted (IE: do nothing) means that they are being undemocratic. Fortunately we have councilors who didn’t just fold to the vocal minority of people who have the time to join Resident Associations and write angry letters to the editors. Other commentators have asked: where do the detractors think intensification is appropriate? If not in our central suburbs, then where? Adelaide Road and and a few Brownfields is only going to work if every owner of those sites is going to develop them into multi-level buildings – that’s not realistic. Nor is building more sprawl in Kapiti or further afield – as it would be highly unsustainable. Reuse is important but so is efficient use of our very limited space.

    Just because the plan will allow for 6-levels doesn’t mean that entire suburbs are going to be flattened. Stop pretending that the old houses in these areas are warm, cosy and highly efficient – the vast majority are not. Why do we need 90% protection of the noted suburbs, is it rational? Sorry, but people can’t expect to live in an inner-city suburb and expect it not to change. The self-entitlement shown by some above won’t find much support outside your bubbles.

     
  30. Claire, 3. August 2021, 9:14

    Sam: it’s not the vocal minority but the majority. 56% of submissions did not want big buildings dotted in amongst cottages – that’s poor design. But yes the Newtown area has got owners who are ready to build six-storey buildings in the retail area. Most people want more housing; it’s just with better placement and design.

     
  31. Ben Schrader, 3. August 2021, 12:12

    It’s worth pointing out that Wellington City increased its population by over 65,000 people between 1986 and 2018 (just over 30 years) and this growth was accommodated through both greenfield and brownfield (including suburban infill) developments. This growth has not dramatically changed the appearance of the city.

    It seems reasonable that a further 80,000 people (the upper limit of projections) over the next 30 years could be accommodated within the city without radically destroying its look too. Sam is right to point out just because the DSP allows for 6 storey buildings in the inner city areas and along transport spines doesn’t mean that entire suburbs will be flattened. The city’s population would have to increase by hundreds of thousands for this to happen. This seems very unlikely at present.

    Mt Victoria actually provides a model of how things could develop. It is well known for its colonial housing, but it also has several medium-rise Art Deco and Modernist apartment blocks, numerous townhouse developments, and factories converted to residential use. I would argue that this housing diversity makes the place more interesting. It can accommodate further (well-designed) apartment buildings and townhouses without ruining those attributes that make it special. The same goes for other parts of inner city too.

    I agree with those who argue that the city is not a museum and needs to change with the times. The challenge is to make sure change is managed in a way that enriches urban life rather than impoverishes it.

     
  32. Isabella, 3. August 2021, 14:46

    Well put Ben. The most impoverished kinds of urban life in NZ are generally experienced in dormitory suburbs lacking natural “bumping into” spaces and too sparsely populated for people to easily form relationships (let alone get an icecream) without having to get in a car. Rich suburb or poor suburb, this kind of homogenous landscape is starving your quality of life. So multi-functional, mixed-use, density-done-well landuse is the best way to enrich people.

    And liveable streets, that play their full role as public spaces, are a vitally important part of this. Most of Wellington’s streets are really underperforming in this respect, regardless of the prettiness of the houses around them, and any good district plan will be accompanied by initiatives that reshape the stuff between the blocks of houses!

     
  33. Claire, 4. August 2021, 0:37

    Isabella: most suburbs have a walkable town centre, then a train to get further afield. With the trend to work from home, travel to work is reduced. Good communities are not necessarily found in city centres or in high rises. But in the rugby clubs, community halls and retail areas. The planners of the past didn’t get it entirely wrong. More density is okay but not a panacea and has its down sides. Especially if poorly executed with large buildings next to very low ones which is what the proposed new zones could allow. Look at the Mt Cook end of Hanson street. Five storeys next to one storey – how was that allowed.

     
  34. Jimmy Newtron, 4. August 2021, 12:21

    Claire – the comment about the 5-storey apartments on lower Hanson Street is a perfect display of what concerns me about the anti-spatial plan groups. This portion of Hanson Street borders on, or is part, of the Adelaide Road corridor where you support high-rise buildings. But it looks like even here you want to restrict heights to less then 4-5 storeys? The portion of the street you refer to has a handful of older cottages in proximity, with the majority of the street being townhouses, apartments or converted factories. If this is a reason to prevent development of this type, then you have ruled out the vast majority of the brownfields and retail strip areas you noted above.
    Yes, there needs to be a balance but what you propose isn’t even close.

     
  35. Claire, 4. August 2021, 13:26

    Jimmy: things are not black and white and require in depth design guides the like of we don’t have at the moment. Not just jargon and idealism.
    Hanson Street could have been a lot better. The idea that you can butt up next to a wooden cottage causing it to rot is ridiculous.

     
  36. JAB, 4. August 2021, 14:53

    Ben. Appreciate your comment. I’ve looked at Stats NZ and wondered if the 65,000 population growth was for the whole of the Wellington region or just Wellington city. Could you confirm please?
    I understand that the 80,000 figure promoted for the future during the discussions was an absolute top of the line projection, with a more middle of the road figure being around 35,000. I feel excessive projections undermine community trust in what has been a very top down approach. Talk about policy being done to people not with them. I also feel it has shut down real discussion about other community needs like building say retirement housing in outer suburbs.

     
  37. Jimmy Newtron, 4. August 2021, 15:18

    Exactly my point Claire. A comprehensive design guide will dictate the appropriateness of a 6-level in the proposed areas under the spatial plan – not arbitrary blanket protections over large swaths of the inner city. A good design guide should dictate the location of tall buildings, the impact on neighbours and how negatives can be mitigated.
    Yes, Hanson Street could have been done better, no doubt about that – but that is not due to the heights, rather design. Given the condition of the old timber houses in the area of question, it’s not the taller buildings causing the issue but poor maintenance by their owners.

     
  38. D'Esterre, 4. August 2021, 16:57

    “….it took just a few years to demolish the architectural face of Wellington city built up over a hundred years as our seat of mercantile commerce and government.” I remember that period. As I recall, the then mayor’s stalking horse was earthquake resilience. Although I didn’t then live in Wellington, I watched in shocked disbelief from afar. I doubt that we’re any better off as a result. The CBD streets are for the most part now sunless wind tunnels. Lambton Quay has been particularly affected. Willis St is similar, as is Manners St.

    Phil: “…introduce a capital gains tax.” I used to think that too. Until I read this. It changed my mind.

    James Fraser: I agree with you. This entire process has not been democratic. All those citizens who made submissions disagree with the “Labour and Green Parties’ High Command”, as you so neatly characterise it. And yet those submissions were ignored. In virtue of what would these political parties believe that they know better than the citizens?

    Sam Peterson: “Stop pretending that the old houses in these areas are warm, cosy and highly efficient – the vast majority are not.” And you know this: how, exactly? If you wish to persuade others to your point of view, it’s best not to make overstatements, or to insult or patronise those who disagree with you. All that’s achieved is the entrenching of opposing views.

    Ben Schrader: “…this growth was accommodated through both greenfield and brownfield (including suburban infill) developments.” Indeed. There’s been a bucket load of infill housing in this area over the time we’ve been here. I don’t doubt there’ll be more, though further development may be constrained by the limitations of existing infrastructure. And no, it hasn’t radically altered the look of this area. It’s for the most part been in keeping with its character. There have been one or two notable exceptions, of course. Infill housing of this sort may be the best that can be managed, in the hill suburbs at least. Advocates may wish to see high-rises constructed in these areas, but it by no means follows that topography and other ground conditions would admit of it.

    “The challenge is to make sure change is managed in a way that enriches urban life rather than impoverishes it.” Agreed: that’s the trick of it.

     
  39. Claire, 4. August 2021, 18:18

    Jimmy: don’t buy into the campaign of dumps and mould – most cottages are well maintained. But rentals need Government regulation whether old or new. Because cottages are untreated timber they need sun; putting a large building next door will almost certainly cause dampness and rot. I agree we need houses and design guides.

     
  40. Ben Schrader, 4. August 2021, 20:36

    JAB. I used Census population data between 1986 and 2018 for the Wellington City territorial area to get the 65,000 figure. In 1986 the population of the City was 137,495; in 2018 it had risen to 202,737. This was an increase of 65,242.

    However, it should be noted that the former Tawa Borough joined Wellington City in 1989 and this immediately raised the City’s population by about 10,000. If we take the 1991 Census as the starting point then Wellington City’s population increased by 54,289 up to 2018, over a 27 year period.

    You’re right to be somewhat sceptical about population forecasts. Most cities plan/hope for high growth but there have been times in Wellington’s history when its population has been static or even fallen – for example, between 1951 and 1956 and between 1976 and 1981. If Wellingtonians’ fertility rate continues to decline (see demographer Paul Spoonley’s work on this) and immigration becomes more restricted (as the government has indicated) then the 80,000 projection might prove over-ambitious.

     
  41. Ann Mallinson, 5. August 2021, 21:31

    Felicity is so right. Is it really likely that developers will give us affordable housing? It will be back to the bad old days of the 1980s when we very nearly lost the St James Theatre.