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Keeping the public away from FKP decisions

fkp panorama
Chinese Garden cutting across Frank Kitts Park – plans which were announced before the new proposal to build the Fale Malae on the lawn alongside it.

by Alana Bowman
When the Wellington City Council announced last Friday that councillors would make decisions six days later affecting Frank Kitts Park, it chose to by-pass even the minimum opportunity for public comment.

The Council Agenda item for this Thursday’s 9.30 meeting throws all the decision-making power to councillors and the promoters of two proposed projects there, the Chinese Garden and the Falae Male, with no opportunity for any public participation.

Council staff had plenty of time to prepare a lengthy report, but the Council doesn’t give any opportunity to the public to comment or make submissions.

Questions arise throughout the Council staff report. Who would own the land under the Garden or the Fale Malae? Destruction of the car park would not be substantial and could therefore create automatic resource consent approval for further destruction of the park. The renovations for the playground could be delayed until the entire project was completed. Too many questions remain. Yet Council staff recommend decisions on Thursday.

Pubic Scrutiny?

WCC has ignored public opportunities for engagement with the public about Frank Kitts Park.

Both projects were initiated away from any open public forum – Wellington became aware of them only when it was announced they had been agreed between the city and the project promoters.

The Chinese Garden was originally to be sited in Waitangi Park and, in that position, would have benefitted from the then (pre-COVID) 1.8 million visitors from its location beside Te Papa. That location is named in the Waterfront Framework which says it was preferred by the Chinese Garden Society. The site remains empty.

chinese garden deal

But then – with no public announcement of the intent – Mayor Celia Wade Brown travelled to China and signed an MOU with the Chinese government and Chinese Garden Society members, and announced the location had changed to Frank Kitts Park. No other public entity was invited to participate in the decision to change the location.

The Falae Male was to be sited in Bunny Street beside Victoria University until it, too, was made part of another agreement, this one between only the Fale Malae Trust and the City Council – again with no opportunity for public comment. The new location was just another announcement made by Mayor Andy Foster and the Trust in April.

Both projects are worthwhile – the only objection is to their location.

Rather than open the decisions for public discussion, the pattern with the Wellington City Council and its plans for Frank Kitts Park has been to hold secret meetings and then announce their outcome.

“The will of the public?”

At every opportunity, residents of Wellington have rejected the Council’s plans to reduce the green space of Frank Kitts Park.

The Council invited online submissions on the proposed redesign in June 2016 and received 240 responses when the comment period ended after 30 days.

Those results were clearly opposed. The Council’s analysis contractor, Resource Management Group Ltd, reported that only 33 responses could be described as supporting the redevelopment, and only 16 supported the Chinese Garden being located in Frank Kitts Park.

Then 3,189 people signed a Change.org petition (which was open for six months), with most making significant comments urging WCC to keep FKP as it is, and objecting to a walled Chinese Garden in the park – not objecting to a Chinese Garden, just not in Frank Kitts Park. Additionally, volunteers from the Civic Trust and Waterfront Watch gathered over 1,200 more signatures on hard copy petitions against the proposed change.

And then – the Council approved and funded plans for the Chinese Garden in the park and supported it through its successful resource consent process in 2018.

It seems the Council really doesn’t want to know what Wellingtonians want for the park – the inadequate public consultation in 2016 hasn’t been tried again for either project.

WCC Green Plan?

For the decision at Thursday’s meeting, Council staff recommend that Councillors support further development of the Fale Malae on the park, incorporate plans for the Chinese Garden to accommodate changes resulting from the Fale Malae, begin destruction of the car park, and swap out the loss of green space from those projects for some other unspecified space somewhere else in the city.

The green space swap – the first disclosed anywhere in Wellington – would occur before the development of the promised Green Plan for the entire city, and would create a permanent loss of the values that a Plan would protect and promote.

How to encourage public disengagement with democratic processes

Democracy, large and small, is under immense scrutiny after dubious election processes around the world. The value of integrity of procedures and public engagement have been the focus – to ensure trust and to encourage public participation and discussion.

When a local council ignores public will and manipulates its decision-making processes, people who care about the city will simply step back, ask “why bother?” and join the cynical voters who feel powerless and stay home during local elections.

Read also:
Why we love Frank Kitts Park

14 comments:

  1. Claire, 21. September 2021, 10:47

    Thanks Alana: no doubt the councillors who vote for this will see themselves as visionary again. We all realise the hubris involved in this group.

     
  2. Ray Chung, 21. September 2021, 12:48

    Many thanks Alana, some of what you stated contradicts what I thought about the process of this and I certainly wasn’t aware of the 2016 consultation. From my experience of the WCC’s “consultation” process it’s by and large a sham and the councillors vote what they originally wanted anyway, regardless of submissions. I’d like to think that rather than your last paragraph on, “why bother (voting),” it’s my fervent hope that people like yourself and Claire get out and encourage people to vote these councillors out and vote in councillors who really care about Wellington and who listen to residents.

     
  3. Jim the Yimby, 21. September 2021, 14:35

    The issue with the submission system is that it favours those with plenty of time on their hands (ie: retirees). It’s certainly an important part of the letting people have their say but it shouldn’t be used as a clear cut vote for yes/no.
    I imagine I have a different understanding of which councilors are interested in moving this city forward, compared to those of Ray and Claire, and will vote accordingly – not everyone is of the same opinion of what is good for this city and that’s ok.

     
  4. Wendy, 21. September 2021, 14:54

    Unbelievable how councillors are once again ignoring the public and considering the loss of 20,000 sqm of green space when there is a critical shortage in the inner-city, and no sign of an Inner-city Green Network Plan as to how this serious shortage is going to be addressed.

    And, as the inner-city (Lambton & Te Aro) is now the largest suburb in Wellington on the smallest area of land, and the population is projected to increase significantly, we can ill afford to lose this large open green space.

    Then we are expected to believe the loss of Frank Kitts Park will be compensated elsewhere in the city? Really! A few little patches of green scattered around the city won’t do it. Unless the council can find and afford to buy and develop a 20,000sqm plot of inner-city land to replace the loss of Frank Kitts Park, their claim we will be compensated is misleading and little more than ‘creative storytelling’.

     
  5. Claudette Mouzouri, 21. September 2021, 15:25

    Please keep our History intact, it is important to those seeking to keep the facts to the foremost at all times. You cannot change History to suit “oneself”, nonsense if you think this will work! It’s a pipe dream on the part of some people, just too much time on their hands. New Zealand is a good country with good people, please continue to keep it this way. Take Care.

     
  6. Dave B, 21. September 2021, 15:40

    Perhaps next Thursday’s Council-vote will signal a rejection of these inappropriate developments in Frank Kitts Park.
    One can but hope that there are enough councillors with enough integrity and enough backbone to do the right thing here.

     
  7. Claire, 21. September 2021, 17:55

    Yimby: of course it depends on what moving forward means, or is it back to the future? Many of the decisions made recently are misguided. For example imagining the market through up-zoning can provide affordable housing!! Also submissions take very little time online – no need to take time off work or Uni.

     
  8. Peter B, 22. September 2021, 2:31

    In line with democracy Wellington citizens have made it clear the waterfront and views are protected and as such the open space should not be built on. The Councilors are there to implement long term policy considered reasonable and supported by its citizens.

     
  9. Catharine, 22. September 2021, 9:29

    Thanks Alana. I had read some of the council agenda for Thursday and was alarmed with what was being proposed. The removal of the slide from the lighthouse aligns in a timely way with the council agenda of stuffing up the playground.
    It is also worth noting that the council is running a project “that looks at decisions made in Council committees and subcommittees and ways the information generated from these can be made more transparent and accessible.”

     
  10. Jim the Yimby, 22. September 2021, 10:48

    Claire. My point is that “you” find them misguided, others do not. I, and many others, support the changes to allow up-zoning (supply and demand), better PT and cycleways, and a revised FKP. Just because you personally don’t want any of these things doesn’t mean we should stop doing all of it. We can’t progress if any opposition means things don’t happen.
    A 3000 “change petition” is hardly a damning vote from a city with the population of Wellington.

     
  11. Claire, 22. September 2021, 11:35

    Yimby: my point is that large scale up-zoning and market devt will not provide affordable housing. This is not an opinion it has been proven over time. Affordability will only be achieved with Government intervention or kind developers like the one in Wainui. Up-zoning especially in expensive inner suburbs will not do what the WCC has sold to you.

     
  12. Jim the Yimby, 22. September 2021, 15:21

    Hi Claire – Supply and demand is key to leveling the housing affordability. You are correct that government intervention is required but we can’t just push low-cost housing out to the fringes of the city. The issue is also greater than a lack of affordable homes – it’s the lack of homes in general. It’s also the issue of sustainability – dense, walkable and cycle friendly cities are what we need to move towards. Not suburban sprawl. For up-zoning we should look at the Melbourne model – they have permitted intensification and have also retained their iconic suburbs.

     
  13. Ray Chung, 22. September 2021, 20:22

    Claire, I’m with you! We should give house buyers the choice of where they want to live based on their requirements and situation at the time. This will mean a mixture of greenfield sites in addition to intensifying some areas.

     
  14. Claire, 23. September 2021, 9:12

    Ray: yes it pays to remind people who are saying homeowners are against more housing or intensification that this is just not true. There are places all over Wellington to intensify, and communities have architect-led plans for that. But it doesn’t mean plonking a six-storey building next to a small cottage is going to gain support.
    The pre 1930 houses were given protection twenty years ago because of out of control building. We need both medium density increase and some greenfields choice.

     

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