Wellington Scoop

Breaking the rules on the waterfront

fale marae

by Lindsay Shelton
A fale malae is a great idea for Wellington’s Pasifika community, but city councillors are this week being asked to support building it in the wrong place – on land on Frank Kitts Park that is designated as public open space.

The City Council’s Waterfront Framework (have councillors forgotten it?) has been in place since 2001, and it is precise about Frank Kitts Park:

A large green park;
Centre for outdoor activities both on and off the water;
Recognised as major green open space.
Provides visual relief from the predominantly hard surfaces of the adjacent central central city.

The Framework leaves no doubt – there is nothing that would allow for the addition of a new building. There’s no way that the council can support a building on the park, as is being recommended this week. The council shouldn’t embarrass itself by making such a mistake, and councillors should be stepping up to tell the staff to follow the rules.

The council has already made a major planning mistake on the waterfront. It was in 2010, when it approved the placement of the new wharewaka on Taranaki Wharf, blocking a view which was designated and protected in the waterfront Design Brief.

The Design Brief is specific:

“The vista from the City-to-Sea bridge will be retained and enhanced. The design will pay special attention to maintaining a strong visual connection between the Civic Centre to Te Papa.”

connection destroyed

But the council forgot. As the building took shape, it was obvious that the vista had neither been retained nor enhanced, and the strong visual connection with Te Papa had been lost.

The council’s embarrassment was evident by the fact that it took two months to respond to our report about what it had done. Then it tried to defend the indefensible, by ignoring its Design Brief:

The wharewaka … will help to provide a memorable and dramatic vista from the bridge – with the wharewaka, together with the rowing club buildings, providing an excellent backdrop to the lagoon, and enriching the viewing experience of people moving between Te Papa and Civic Square.

Which is not what was specified in the Design Brief. Back then we advised councillors:

They need to ensure that council officers follow the rules.

Councillors need the same advice this week, as they’re being asked to support construction of a substantial new building on Frank Kitts Park which is designated as green public open space and not as a site for buildings.

There are other options as a site for the big fale malae. One would be on the waterfront land across from the railway station. Another could be on the asphalted car park east of Te Papa (though this was supposed to have been developed as part of Waitangi Park, till the council decided that the park should be reduced in size.) But the asphalted area of Waitangi Park is also in breach of the Framework, which says it is supposed to be

Principally a large green urban park.

Not a large carpark. The Framework also says:

…the Chaffers [now Waitangi Park] area is a good location for a Chinese garden … and the Leadership Group notes that the Chinese community has indicated to the east of Te Papa is its preferred location.

Another problem that could be solved, by following the Framework.

July 2010: There goes the view, again


  1. hel, 20. September 2021, 18:34

    The whole purpose of having documents like the Waterfront Framework is to guide the development of the waterfront in accordance with the principles of the Framework which were developed through an extensive consultation and engagement process with the public.

    There is no way the proposed Fale development on Frank Kitts park is consistent with or supports the objectives of the Framework. In good faith, Council should be pouring cold water on this proposal.

  2. Wendy, 20. September 2021, 19:33

    This is another example of the council ignoring the critical shortage of green space in the inner-city. I am so sick of WCC putting the wishes of individual groups (and developers) ahead of the needs of the inner-city (Te Aro/Lambton) residents, who now make up the largest suburb in Wellington (in terms of population on the smallest area of land), as well as ignoring the wishes of the general Wellington public.

    A WCC-commissioned report (Green Space in Wellington Central City by the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities) was concerned with the substantial lack of greenspace available and pointed out that that much of what is there is dominated by hard surfaces. It also identified that “more than half of the central city’s public green space is located not in city parks and gardens but in road reserves or in other non-council areas, and some is of relatively low quality and poorly accessible.” The report recommended that the council “plan for and adequately resource an increased amount, accessibility and quality of green space in the central city, in order to provide for the health, wellbeing, amenity and ecosystem benefits required by the significantly larger likely future population of the central city”. So why are councillors even considering the loss of 20,000sqm of open useable green space when WCC is yet to produce a confirmed Inner-city Green Network Plan?

    The council constantly acknowledges that the inner-city neighbourhood is critically short of open useable green spaces for the current residents and would need extra green space the equivalent to another 10 Te Aro sized parks. In addition, they have now identified a requirement for “an additional 1.5 ha – 1.7 ha of open space to meet the needs of the proposed increase in population”.

    Yet, time and time again they ignore report recommendations and allow the loss of green spaces while trying to placate us with assurances that “any loss of open space will be accounted for and compensated for elsewhere in the city”. Does that mean the council are going to purchase 20,000sqm of open land somewhere in the inner-city to compensate for the loss of Frank Kitts Park? Or will it be tiny pocket parks, green walls, and a tree and a few shrubs planted here and there? Wellington is rushing into becoming a city with very little to commend it as a residential environment as frameworks and recommendations are ignored. As inner-city green spaces recede, wall to wall high-rise apartments are appearing without close community facilities or useable parks/green spaces to safeguard the mental and physical well-being of residents.

    Removing existing open green parks goes against the wishes of Wellingtonians and makes a mockery of WCC claims in their spatial plan that “Green spaces will be provided to support neighbourhood needs” and that residents will continue to enjoy a “world-class quality of life”.

  3. Ray Chung, 20. September 2021, 20:20

    I agree that whilst this building looks impressive and would be an asset in the right location, it looks as if it’ll dominate the park area. It could be located at the Northern end of waterfront area, possibly where the Bluebridge Ferry terminal is, as that’s going to be relocated to Ngauranga isn’t it?

  4. Traveller, 21. September 2021, 8:38

    In something of an under-statement, Andy Foster says: “Wellington’s waterfront is an iconic space dear to the heart of Wellingtonians … The importance of Frank Kitts Park and the deep passion Wellingtonians have for the park means there will almost certainly be a need for significant engagement in due course regardless of which direction is ultimately chosen. This will be vital in achieving a coherent development plan that safeguards the look and feel of this treasured space in our city.” For or against protecting the park?

  5. Yimby Jim, 21. September 2021, 9:30

    I don’t think you finished reading the Framework – it states on page 35 “the lagoon end of the park, incorporating the car park structure, is proposed as an alternative for the waka shelter aka the “wharewaka”. Given this statement it means that there is flexibility to allow for a building in the proposed area.

    Getting upset that the wharewaka blocks the view of the museum is a little silly – the latter is not exactly a looker and the area around the building is widely used by the public.

    I agree that the car park area is a waste of precious space and should be better used – but buildings can provide a valuable benefit on the waterfront by proving active points of engagement, and shelter in our notorious weather. Importantly the Framework is 20 years old – things can change.

  6. Toni, 21. September 2021, 10:14

    The council acknowledges that “Wellington’s waterfront is an iconic space dear to the heart of Wellingtonians” along with “The importance of Frank Kitts Park and the deep passion Wellingtonians have for the park”

    So why is the significance and importance of Frank Kitts Park to the greater Wellington community being ignored and usurped by the importance of two buildings to “significant parts of our community”? And why has practically all the space on the waterfront now been built out, destroying viewshafts to the harbour, and creating a walled canyon along Jervois Quay?

  7. Elaine Hampton, 21. September 2021, 17:02

    Fantastic building, but who is to build this? More private profit from public waterfront space, there have been so many.
    Councilors are in a governance role, they need to control the officers who seem to see future benefits in these projects.
    What is the point of a design brief if it can be ignored. And then there is climate change – sea level rise, whose money exactly is to be wasted shackling future generations with more debt?

  8. Peter B, 21. September 2021, 17:12

    This is crazy democracy when Wellington has agreed that Frank Kitts Park should not not have a building on it, and that Welly people do not want a building on it. Councillors need to realize that their term is only three years and the waterfront is not to be built out.

  9. K, 21. September 2021, 17:37

    I’m guessing the “framework” isn’t a legally enforceable thing? More of a suggestion of what would be appropriate?

  10. Pauline, 22. September 2021, 7:12

    I would like to quote from Page 39 of the 2014-2043 Wellington Urban Growth Plan:

    ‘Complete the development of the waterfront … Frank Kitts Park should be the premiere recreation area for the city particularly children.’

    and another quote from Jan Gehl, the Danish consultant:

    ‘A significant recording is that the highest number of cultural activities and children playing are found on the waterfront where space is wide enough to run around freely – as such the waterfront is the playground of Wellington.’

  11. Elaine Hampton, 23. September 2021, 18:25

    Peter B. Councillors are only there for 3 years (well some seem bomb proof) but officers are employees and permanently unelected.

  12. exLGM, 2. October 2021, 15:32

    This is yet another example of the Council [staff and Councillors] showing their disdain for ratepayers and ignoring the rules. Sadly Wellington has, for the past 40 plus years demonstrated that the rules do not apply when the person/s see a specific aspirational project.
    One can wonder how much longer we ratepayers will be asked to fall in behind such dreams – usually chasing other centre’s achievements.


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