Wellington Scoop

The lawn is not for building

Open letter from Helene Ritchie to Wellington mayor and councillors
I am writing in anticipation of your debate tomorrow about Frank Kitts Park, because there is significant public concern about the loss of green open public space on our waterfront. I want to alert you to a serious omission that your officers appear to have made.

I am asking you adhere to the resource consent application made by the Council and subsequent Court decisions.

I recap: The Waterfront Framework, 2001 (yes 20 years ago), received much public support and Council approval for a necklace of green public open space on our waterfront. One of the gems of that green necklace is Frank Kitts Park, a place to enjoy in so many ways.

Just 3 years ago, in 2018, the Environment Court clarified approval for the Chinese Garden and other aspects of the site, but with no mention of any new building. It concerns me that your officer report skims over the resource consent, omitting crucial relevant detail and simply summarily saying:

“In 2018 the Environment Court issued a resource consent for the proposed redevelopment of Frank Kitts Park. The proposal included plans for a redeveloped Children’s Playground, a Chinese Garden, and minor upgrade of the balance of the park.”

The officer report fails to inform you of the important open space detail in the Court decision; instead, officers have recommended that a fale maele building should be allowed on much of this green public open space, taking away as much as 20,000 square metres of the flat open lawn that was approved by the court.

fkp consents

The Court decision was this:

“The proposed modifications to the (Frank Kitts) Park are these:
(1) Demolition of the existing amphitheatre and associated promenade walls.
(2) Earthworks to level the surface of the park (except above the carparking building).
(3) The creation of two flat open lawns, the northern-most to be called the Harbour Lawn and, above the carpark building, the City Lawn.
(4) The expansion towards Jervois Quay and upgrade of the children’s playground, which will include repositioning the lighthouse slide structure.
(5) The construction of a Chinese Garden, to be known as the Garden of Beneficence, which is to be located across the area of the park which marks the transition between the City Lawn and the Harbour Lawn.
(6) The removal and replacement of the memorial plaques currently located on the promenade wall, and the relocation of the Wahine mast (also a memorial).
(7) The construction of a pavilion structure adjoining the Chinese Garden.
(8) A pergola structure on the southern elevated edge of the site to provide shelter to that part of the City Lawn.
(9) Related seating, lighting, landscaping and paving.”

Officers are saying that the Council will compensate the public by finding green open space somewhere else in the city, despite the fact that the public do not want green open space taken away from the waterfront, and have been crying out for more green open space in addition to what already exists, and despite the fact that there is nothing in the Environment Court decision that would allow this to be done..

Finally, I am asking those of you who are environmentalists, lawyers, qualified resource consent commissioners or simply councillors who believe it is important to keep to court decisions, that you adhere to this Court decision, and retain all of the flat green open lawne that exists on Frank Kitts Park and is described in the Environment Court’s ruling.

Wouldn’t it be awful for Councillors to give the public another opportunity to severely criticise the Council, this time for ignoring Court decisions?

Nga mihi nui
Helene Ritchie
Former deputy mayor of Wellington

By the way I think a fale malae would be great somewhere else in Wellington.

The vote: Majority of councillors support a building on the green lawn of Frank Kitts Park


  1. Peter B, 22. September 2021, 8:43

    This is crazy. Wellington people want and require an open space in Frank Kitts Park. The Councillors need to go as they are elected every three years but buildings last 50 years – gone will be the views over the harbour that Wellington people have fought to protect over the last 50 years. The Councillors need to take the requirements of the population in Wellington into full consideration.

  2. Jill Ford, 22. September 2021, 11:21

    Reading this looks like the council are ensuring green space, and the addition of the Chinese Garden is a garden so will have green plants! I have been to the Chinese Garden in Sydney and it’s a great place.

  3. Marion Leader, 22. September 2021, 11:45

    Jill, has it got two-metre-high walls and is it locked up at night?

  4. Ray Chung, 22. September 2021, 14:22

    Hi Marion and Jill, the proposal to lock this garden up at night came from the WCC, as they were concerned about drugs and other anti-social behaviour as happens in other parks in Wellington. The WCC wanted to keep the possibility of it being locked at night in the design if it was required. They explained that the reason for this was the safety of everyone.

  5. Alana, 23. September 2021, 9:14

    Jill. It is a walled structure and locked at night. The main feature is a tea garden cafe.

  6. Traveller, 23. September 2021, 9:47

    What is very clear is that allowing any new building on Frank Kitts Park would reduce the size of the green open lawn, and therefore reduce the amount of open space available for the public to enjoy on the waterfront. Why would any councillor want to be so negative, when the public has – for so many years – clearly supported the need for open space on the waterfront.

  7. Pauline Swann, 23. September 2021, 10:27

    Well what a farce – the debate today was attended by only three councillors, chaired by Iona Pannett and 3 of us members of the public! We all left because the other councillors were zooming in on the 3 councillors’ laptops so it was almost impossible to hear. Will be interesting to get the report from the meeting.

  8. Ray Chung, 23. September 2021, 13:56

    The “Tea garden cafe” is an intricate tea pagoda donated by the Xiamen government and is not a “cafe” in any sense of the word. There will be bench seats for the public to look at the view and contemplate. There won’t be a cafe or any shop there so the public will need to bring their own tea in a thermos.

  9. Peter B, 23. September 2021, 13:59

    Why is it that the WCC does not have a large 75 inch TV so that all members of the public who attend the meeting can see the debate as well as hearing the zoomed in Councillors clearly should they opt to attend via zoom. Democracy in action.
    The green space should be retained for the sea vistas.

  10. Richie Bestingface, 23. September 2021, 14:54

    Why aren’t the councillors attending in person?. It’s been deemed safe to do so at level 2.

  11. Harold Rodd, 23. September 2021, 19:34

    Richie, if they can earn their pay by sitting at home and not even paying attention, why should they bother to go to that dreadful-looking Council meeting place?

  12. Richie Bestingface, 23. September 2021, 20:35

    Good point Harold. I thought they might have wanted to set an example about returning to the CBD and supporting businesses there.

  13. D'Esterre, 24. September 2021, 1:12

    Richie Bestingface: “I thought they might have wanted to set an example about returning to the CBD and supporting businesses there.” Yes indeed. Many of us expected that at least. But evidently not.

    I note the outcome of the vote today. The only (small) consolation is that, given WCC’s inability to get anything done, it would likely be another 20 years before anything substantive happened there. If it ever does.

    Ray, I agree with you about most things, and I really like the Chinese garden concept. I just don’t want to see it on Frank Kitts park. Nor the fale malae. The park is supposed to be green open space: that’s how it needs to remain.

  14. Trish, 24. September 2021, 12:42

    There’s been no mention yet that the Chinese Garden will need to be redesigned as a result of the demolition of the carpark structure. The garden as planned was to be built against the carpark wall, up what is now a sloping path from the Jervois Quay footpath, to open onto the lawn on top of the carpark. That’s where the Cafe would be, enjoying the best views on the waterfront. We haven’t heard how the council plans to remodel the carpark footprint, but the obvious thing would be to have the site level with the main Park lawn, especially if they’re going to build the fale there. If they do that, the Chinese Garden couldn’t be left perched on a silly knob, blocking the harbour view from the new building. I’m thinking that nothing will be decided, let along built, in my lifetime.

  15. Traveller, 24. September 2021, 12:47

    The Chinese Garden was being discussed more than 20 years ago, when the Waterfront Framework was being debated, and when it was to be placed east of Te Papa. But nothing has taken shape over the following two decades.

  16. Ray Chung, 24. September 2021, 15:30

    Hi D’Esterre, personally I thought the Chinese garden would be ideally located in the Botanical Garden but I understand that because this has taken 30 years from the first concept, many of the people who first worked on it have passed away and if it’s now shifted to another location, it could be another 20-30 years to come to fruition. I’m not crazy about the design but in my view, it’s still a park open to public access and and as the Environment Court stated, doesn’t affect the sight planes detrimentally.
    Trish: I wonder whether the WCC has considered your good points and whether a re-design would obviate a need to lock it at night.

  17. Meredith, 24. September 2021, 16:49

    I wonder whether anyone thinks the Council should comply with the 2018 Environment Court decision? If the Council does not need to, does that let all of us off the hook when it comes to Court decisions? We can just ignore them? They ignored it. Took no notice of their legal obligations. Not one mayor or councillor mentioned it in the debate.

  18. Polly, 24. September 2021, 16:53

    I understand the Council did not want the Chinese Garden in the Botanical Garden but an opportunity was lost when the Sharella closed and a group of town houses popped up – this would have been a great position between the Chinese Embassy and the Chinese Church!

  19. Geoff, 24. September 2021, 18:57

    Typical ‘squad’ don’t care about the ratepayers, only their ideology. Hopefully they get voted out. Otherwise I see Wgtn being doomed in victimhood payouts.

  20. D'Esterre, 25. September 2021, 12:10

    I also thought the Botanical Garden an ideal location. But given that the Chinese Garden has a resource consent for Frank Kitts Park, that battle may be lost. The same doesn’t apply to the fale malae. We the citizens must vigorously oppose that proposal.

  21. Conor, 25. September 2021, 15:57

    Luckily there’s hectares of open space running 8 lanes wide directly behind Frank Kitts. Linear park anyone?


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