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Six storeys in the suburbs

by Felicity Wong
City councillors will vote on 20 October to release Wellington’s Draft District Plan for “consultation”. After a majority of them ignored the huge amount of feedback on the draft Spatial Plan last year, it’s worth asking whether going to much trouble this time will make any difference.

Last time, Labour Councillor Fitzsimons said she “was voting for all those who did not participate in the consultation” and for “future generations” (i.e. imaginary people).

Nonetheless, if you care about the city, you should look at the proposals, at least for your street or neighbourhood, and send in a view next month.

The new zoning maps came out on Friday, associated with nearly 200 pages of the final Spatial Plan. They show the effect of the political decisions taken by majority vote on 24 June. Have a look at the maps to see what’s coming in the Draft District Plan for your area.

Bigger walkable catchment

The biggest change from the Draft Spatial Plan is the increase to areas in which 6 plus storey development will be allowed as of right (i.e. without neighbours being able to object).

Six plus storey development will be allowed in many new areas and now includes the Terrace, Bolton St, Wesley Rd, Talavera Tce, Salamanca Rd, Rawhiti Tce, north-end Upland Rd, most of Aro Valley and Mt Cook, and even in Hay St, Oriental Bay, not to mention large areas of Mt Victoria (Roxburgh St, Hawker St, Stafford St, Austin St, and Ellice St etc).

That expansion of the 6 plus storey zone results from the political decision by a majority of Councillors on 24 June to increase the “walkable catchment” from an area covered by a 10 minute walk (from the edges of the central city), to the area of a 15 minute walk.

The earlier Draft Spatial Plan had used the smaller 10 minute “walkable catchment” but Labour Councillors (Day, Fitzsimmons, Matthews and O’Neil) and two of the Green Councillors (Free/Foon) voted to expand it, along with YIMBY Councillor Condie and anti-colonialist Councillor Paul, (who is excited to be building a new city on top of the existing one).

spatial plan

Small Character Precincts

The inner suburb “character precincts” are being reduced to just 29% of the size they are in the current (operative) District Plan. The planning rules in the new Draft District Plan are expected to water down the protection even inside those small precincts.

The new rules will encourage development generally and reduce the efficacy of the rule inside the remaining small precincts which requires resource consent before demolishing a pre-1930 building. The rule will no longer apply in the remaining 71% of character suburbs.

It’s a lot of potential destruction of heritage and character in inner suburbs for a small gain in housing.

A relatively slight increase in new housing will likely result from the expanded upzoning in the inner suburbs. Council figures show it’s only going to provide homes for an extra 3,800 – 6,300 people (1,500-2,500 new dwellings). One thing is clear, new homes in these areas will not be affordable.

chart

MRT: Berhampore and Newtown

Some inner suburbs are, however, less badly off than originally proposed. The worst effects of the proposed upzoning have gone from Berhampore and south Newtown.

They had initially been within the (now) dreaded “walkable catchment” of “planned rapid transit”. Since LGWM has not actually planned any particular rapid transit, the Spatial Plan has removed the earlier proposed 6 plus storey zoning throughout large swaths of Berhampore and South Newtown, at least for now.

But with LGWM also consulting about options for rapid transit, it’s possible those large areas (of 6 plus storey zoning) will come back on the table. In case you think “consultation” had its legal meaning (retaining an open mind), regional council chair Daran Ponter has made it clear that it’s no numbers game (i.e. it’s not democracy), just another information gathering exercise.

It’s clear that LGWM’s focus has shifted towards becoming an advocate for urban development opportunities. That’s the only way to make the cost/benefit work for rapid transit – to propose transplanting a population so it can be served by new MRT.

In the meantime, sticking a label on bendy-buses and some plastic lane dividers is likely to be the affordable MRT rationale for upzoning, until the imaginary people arrive.

With LGWM moving into the housing development space, we’re likely to see as much new housing after another seven years as we have seen improvements to public transport.

Obliteration of Onslow suburbs

Which brings us to the post-truth re-branding of the Johnsonville heritage railway. The train was recently designated as MRT and as a result is responsible for the potential obliteration of Onslow suburbs, with 6 plus storeys throughout even larger areas of Khandallah.

The following streets and everything in between is proposed to be zoned for at least 6 storey development: Kim St, Baroda St, Woodmancote Rd, Clark St, Simla Crescent, Amapur Dr, Ngatoto St, Lucknow Tce, Clutha Ave, Everest St, Cashmere Ave, Madras St, etc. It is proposed to accommodate an extra 3,817-4,585 people.

In Ngaio, the zoning of at least 6 storey development is proposed to extend from Fox St, Awarua St, Chelmsford St, Motueka St, Makererua St, Collingwood St, Kenya St, Imlay St, Abbott St and Colway St etc and everything in between. That is proposed to accommodate 2,330-2,770 additional people. Councillor Matthews has been a vocal supporter of that, (from her small, exempted character precinct in historic Tarikaka St).

Like Newtown and Berhampore, Onslow residents will now be motivated to oppose MRT by either proving they don’t yet have it, or getting it closed down, since it justifies the unwanted upzoning and risks fundamental change in loved local character. That would be a truly dystopian outcome, although a rail trail cycle way – or even bendy-buses – would be great.

Other suburbs

According to Council figures, Tawa and Karori will still be doing the heavy lifting by accommodating an extra 6,170-7,965, and 5,585-7,600 people respectively. Those suburbs have leading YIMBY Councillors (Condie, and Day in Tawa/Johnsonville, and Matthews in Onslow/Karori) strongly advocating for upzoning and development.

Johnsonville is to become a sea of zoning for at least 6 storey development, covering a huge area from Hawtrey Tce in its north, Prospect Tce to the west, Fraser Ave to the south, and Chesterton St and Helston Rd to its east in Paparangi, and everything in between, plus a high density zone of up to 8 stories in its centre (metropolitan zone). That’s the unsightly dead zone caused by (Hutt City’s Queensgate Mall owner) Stride Investment’s land banking.

Thorndon

Another major change is the shrinking of Thorndon, by removing the east side of the motorway (Hobson St, Selwyn Tce and Portland Cres etc) from its residential zone, and applying much higher city centre zone height limits in those areas.

Infrastructure

But wait. The Spatial Plan identifies that the Council will be sequencing its infrastructure expenditure. In the next 10 years it will focus on improving the infrastructure in Tawa, Johnsonville, Te Aro, Adelaide Road and Newtown. Other suburbs will have infrastructure investment designed to support increased development in 10-20 years time.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding that caveat on wholesale development, pepper potting development will be able to occur across all these areas in a random way. If necessary, developments will be able to use large sewage holding tanks (like the Sharp building in Taranaki St), regularly emptied by a modern night cart.

Process

This year, Councillors must be advised of residents’ views. Next year it will be crucial to make formal submissions. That’s when the legal process will kick off and you will need to make a formal submission on the “notified” District Plan in order to qualify to take your view before an independent hearing, (and then to head to Court). That is, assuming next year’s local elections don’t resolve matters satisfactorily.

50 comments:

  1. Jim the Yimby, 7. October 2021, 10:24

    I for one will be supporting these changes – and so will many of the city’s “younger” population – IE: those under 60. If you look at the feedback provided by age group, it swings in favour once you start looking at those under the 60 year age groups. These are the people who will be living with these changes. We can’t let the future of the city be dictated by small vocal community groups (largely represented by retired citizens) who have the time on there hands to make submissions. Just because people haven’t submitted, doesn’t make them imaginary.

    The new District Plan is to have conditions for affordable housing in it – as an incentive for developers. It’s not just affordable homes we are short of – it’s all housing in general. Please think of the benefits that this will bring to our city.

     
  2. Claire, 7. October 2021, 10:55

    Yimby: disagreement with the plan hardens in those over 35. This is highlighted in the suburb to suburb report after the submissions. The majority do not necessarily want to live in apartment blocks. The WCC should place a full page advertisement in the paper regarding the DP – many people don’t seem to know about the extent of the DSP and the possible effect on them.
    There are better ways to create more housing than random pepper potting through suburbs. Ie on brownfields all over Wellington, empty carparking old petrol stations, low seventies buildings. As tight as some communities are, they may well refuse to sell to developers!
    Thanks for a great summation Felicity.

     
  3. Peter Steven, 7. October 2021, 10:58

    Great to hear that the walkable catchment has been increased to a more sensible 15 minutes, and that it includes the area around the cable car! Hopefully the 6 plus storey zoning throughout Berhampore and South Newtown comes back on the table when LGWM release their MRT proposal in the near future.

    Increased density and better public transport is a no brainer. Losing some heritage housing is a small price to pay. The alternative is a far flung soulless suburban nightmare with billions of dollars for roads and motorways, billions of hours wasted at the wheel and billions of tonnes of carbon emitted. When we grow up, do we want to be Texas or Tokyo?

     
  4. pedge, 7. October 2021, 11:15

    I also support these changes. Do we have any survey information about support for the changes? What is the true feeling amongst Wellington’s population? I agree with Jim, using submission feedback to account for overall public opinion is flawed.

     
  5. Everard Aspell, 7. October 2021, 11:33

    So the council will permit the destruction of 71% of the character of Wellington, this is appalling. Wellington will end up with concrete blocks blocking views from properties behind with no character; just walk around Mount Victoria now and see the 1960s and 1970s high rise apartments – these certainly do not add any value to this area. Similar in Thorndon where there are a number of high rises, these will be multiplied all over Wellington.
    There is enough land where high rises can be built without destroying the Wellington character eg Adelaide Road from Basin Reserve to Countdown this area could be developed into 10-15 storeys of apartments.
    Now if the council were really intending to develop high rises, why did they not insist the new development in Taranaki Street (Paddington ) be high rise, this land could have accommodated 15/18 storeys with no character destroyed and could have housed hundreds of extra people. I am not against development, just development in the right areas.

     
  6. Katie, 7. October 2021, 11:33

    I’d heard with the current development rate of infill housing, the selling off council stand alone housing, and proposed apartment buildings coupled with the over estimated population figures, that Wellington was on track to house the real expected population figures.
    Some of the proposal (very little) makes sense only if there are tight design guidelines to protect views, sun, outlook and the environment, provide streetscape and green spaces. Inner Wellington is already missing a huge amount of green space for the current population.
    There were some great submissions to the spatial plan process that have been ignored by council officers and councillors.
    Wellington used to be a classy and dignified city. The majority of these plans will kill off what ever is left of dignity and class.

     
  7. Richard Norman, 7. October 2021, 11:34

    Congratulations Felicity for your summary of the potential damage to Wellington’s distinctive character which could result from actions of a small majority of councillors. The push by mostly left and green leaning councillors to disregard advice from council officers about the Spatial Plan reminded me of the zeal of neo-liberal advocates of the 1980s and 1990s, with their mantra of TINA (there is no alternative). It is significant that the first respondent to Felicity’s careful analysis uses a pseudonym including the term ‘Yimby’. For those like me who dislike simplistic political labels, as used in the Wellington campaign for blanket removal of heritage protections, this link raises questions about the so-called ‘yimby movement’ in California, where it is almost certainly a front for vested interests in property development, funded by money from a tech entrepreneur. I’m happy to declare my backing for diverse, affordable housing and heritage as something which can happen through targeting effort on under-used brownfields sites, not relying as a small group of councillors are, on the market ‘magic’ which seems to be their rationale for rezoning most of Wellington’s heritage suburbs. Let’s have a serious debate Jim and others like you who are mis-using anonymity.

     
  8. Helene Ritchie, 7. October 2021, 11:42

    I have resisted becoming part of this debate primarily to avoid the misguided ageist, discriminatory and divisive “old and mouldy” attacks mainly from one or two members of Gen Zero. (But I admire Gen Zero and encourage their work on public transport, the climate crisis, and active tree planting.) I further refused because the process was set up by the Council as a fruitless adversarial one when it should have been collaborative and consensual.
    I support quality densification but the spatial plan was never about housing (that’s another plan). It was to be about anticipated capacity. Unfortunately it was (and remains) severely flawed with fallacious baseline stats for anticipated population numbers. Further as a non statutory guide, it was never intended to be embedded in the draft District Plan, but now some of it will be. The outcome so far is a plan not just destructive of so-called ‘heritage areas’ but destructive of the psychological and physical wellbeing of the people and the city.
    How? (Just a few examples of many I could make):
    1. Six storeys randomly all over the city are no guarantee for quality living for anyone, but instead damaging for many/most.
    2. Six storeys, non notified, and impacting on a small inner city and outer city already dense sections are a big impact.
    3. Loss of green space. Council decisions have already signalled the potential loss of the small amount of inner city green space, since the adoption 3 months ago of the spatial plan with eg the approval of town houses on a community garden, proposals to commercialise parts of the Town Belt and reserves, proposal to add another building on Frank Kitts Park etc.
    4. The one month or so proposed for submissions on the draft district plan. That’s just a joke.
    5. The ‘15 minute walkable city’ will not do what is intended – to minimise car use. Instead it will do the opposite and especially without adequate public transport for years.
    6. Inadequate basic public transport and sewerage infrastructure, will be worse than now.
    7. Reasonable rates will also never keep up.

    None of this is satisfactory for the city and our people’s future – not for young people living in apartments 60 square metres or less with young families, working from home, nor for our elders, some of whom cannot walk the 15 minutes, nor our children, nor for our razed but already densely populated inner city with wooden, earthquake resilient homes. It is a laissez faire proposal where anything goes, almost anywhere, regardless of the wellbeing of the people and the city and with no proper statistical basis. Why can we not be like Amsterdam or Paris or Copenhagen or Stockholm, etc. with far greater populations where human scale central cities are designed, controlled and landscaped, heritage architecture is protected, and there are adequate transport systems of all kinds including cycleways. And in Holland they are in a much more precarious physical environment than Wellington.

    If the Council started with the wellbeing of our city and people and the protection of our environment, we would end with a completely different and liveable result for future generations.

     
  9. Toni, 7. October 2021, 11:49

    Jim the Yimby: As an over 60 who petitions WCC regularly to try to ensure the council provides long term sustainable living environments, I find your remarks about us patronising. Many of us “oldies” are not against development but are concerned about our grandchildren and the soulless city they may inherit if density isn’t done in a well-planned sustainable way. As you have said, you will be the people living with the changes (along with our grandchildren) not us, so your dismissal of us as merely having time on our hands is unkind and ill-informed because we do want the best for our city and our future generations.

     
  10. Jim the Yimby, 7. October 2021, 12:37

    Claire – if you sort by under 65, it is 50% agreement with intensification of the inner/outer suburbs, If you go by under 55 it goes up to 58%. Under 45 it’s a whopping 67% whilst under 35 is 80%. Those are quite convincing numbers. This plan will enable those under-utilised sites you mention to be developed, and also more likely as they tend to be of bigger size. If communities don’t sell to developers, that’s fine. No one is forcing the sale of land here. It just enables better use of the limited land.

     
  11. Claire, 7. October 2021, 13:08

    Yimby: I have no idea what figuresyou are looking at. I am looking at the feedback report to last year’s submissions where you can plug in age bands.
    And the under 35s agree and the over 35s do not.

     
  12. Mick, 7. October 2021, 13:31

    It’s amusing that people think infill development will suddenly provide swathes of affordable housing. Recent townhouse developments in Karori are generally priced way above entry level homes. And let’s be realistic too, apartments are pretty rubbish to live in especially with kids. This sounds like something that only really suits developers.

     
  13. Marilyn, 7. October 2021, 13:44

    Thank you for this Felicity; many will have had no idea of the ramifications.
    A sort of wrecking madness has taken over some councillors. Why are they representing developers who deal with concrete?

     
  14. Wellington Inc, 7. October 2021, 13:57

    Agree with Claire. Brownfields, empty carparking, old petrol stations, low seventies buildings should be the priority for new housing/apartments. Not “colonial” era houses. Some high rise ok but don’t destroy Wellington’s distinctive character.

     
  15. Ann Mallinson, 7. October 2021, 15:41

    Thank you, Felicity, for analysing so carefully the effects of Wellington’s Draft District Plan. The Plan will have a devastating effect on the liveability of Wellington, and needs urgent consideration by all Wellingtonians.

     
  16. Jim the Yimby, 7. October 2021, 15:48

    Hi Claire – Yes, that is what I’m looking at. The numbers are for the for the overall feedback. if you plug in all the age brackets from under 18 to under 65 you get the numbers I noted above.

    It’s frustrating that people think this will lead to the overall destruction of the city. It won’t, there is so much unnecessary fear mongering. People say they would be happy with the development of Brownfields etc – but something needs to change to allow that to happen in a feasible manner. This plan allows it to happen.

     
  17. Claire, 7. October 2021, 16:45

    Yimby: plug in all age groups equals 46% for inner suburbs agree. If you go to separate suburbs the support drops away over 35. Brownfields can be developed now i.e. Ie Adelaide Road. The main retail area in Newtown has been zoned four storeys for ever.

     
  18. Jim, 7. October 2021, 17:06

    Yes. I get that – that’s why my comment referred to the block of under 65s. Not by suburb, but as a whole.
    I enjoy the old villas of Wellington and think they are an important part of the city’s fabric (I’m even fortunate enough to own one). But not all of them are worthy of saving. As this city grows, people will need somewhere to live. That includes quality rentals which we have a dire shortage of. I know well-heeled young professionals who are leaving the city because it’s too difficult to find quality accommodation.

     
  19. Ms Green, 7. October 2021, 17:20

    Jim and Claire, I have just looked at the feedback as linked above and I cannot for the life of me see how anyone can get any percentages for or against anything from such a jumble of questions.
    But more important, I can see on the first feedback form, very clearly at the top: “Population projections are flawed and incorrect”. Further down the submitter said “This consultation is totally flawed as the population projections are extreme at the top end of any range. This figure of 80,000 is false and therefore the rest of the consultation is unsound.” As I recall the Council acknowledged that the projections were wrong but did not alter the consultation document. The conclusion? For this and other reasons this flawed process has been a waste of time. But this Council care less about its processes and projections and intends to proceed to make what can only be seen as destructive decisions.

     
  20. Alana, 7. October 2021, 20:20

    Excellent article. But Councillors have a history of ignoring the public will. Keeping Frank Kitts Park as it is – and with a modernised playground – was supported by over 4.500 through online and hard copy petitions and only 33 through WCC consultation. Yet councillors support both the Chinese Garden and Fale Malae to be built there.

     
  21. Ray Chung, 7. October 2021, 21:01

    Many thanks for a comprehensive article Felicity. We’re told time and time again that we’re living in a democracy, where the government listens to her citizens, but this concept seems to have escaped our councillors. I’ve made many submissions and will speak to my Representation Review submission next Tuesday. Yes, I realise that anything that doesn’t suit the majority of the council’s ideology is ignored, but I still persist.

    Insofar as what Jim the Yimby states, I take offence at his comments that the older generation just wants to maintain the status quo. We think very carefully about what’s best for the city and future generations. I’ve lived in cities of high and medium-rise apartment concrete buildings and I consider that this is bearable if you’re only there for a short time – it’s accommodation, not a home.

    I have no quarrel with building more houses. But the city council has it wrong when they continue to maintain that Wellington is going to get 50,000-80,000 more people in the next 30 years. They’re using numbers that are no longer valid and have been told that for planning purposes, they should plan for no more than the median; this was pre-Covid so it’s even lower now. However, these apartments are not going to be “affordable” by anyone’s description of the word. It’s much more expensive to build multi-storey apartments than building single and two storey wooden houses. The least expensive houses will be single units built on Greenfield areas.

    Ideally, what we need is a mixture of housing types so there’s always a choice. Many families will still opt for a house and garden in the suburbs and Jim the Yimby and all those councillors can live in the medium and high-rise apartments.

     
  22. Henry Filth, 8. October 2021, 6:20

    “. . . developments will be able to use large sewage holding tanks (like the Sharp building in Taranaki St), regularly emptied by a modern night cart.” At first I thought you were pulling my leg, but no.
    Oh Wellington! The rest of the world wants sewers, the rest of the world is building sewers, but Wellington. . . Oh Wellington!

     
  23. Jim, 8. October 2021, 8:40

    “We are against the plan because we all care so deeply about the next generation and our grandchildren” – But do we want to listen to them and help provide extra housing in the city? Absolutely not! No offense was meant by my comment earlier but it was written in frustration at the dismissal of the opinions from the younger generations that is continuously shown here.

     
  24. Helene Ritchie, 8. October 2021, 8:56

    All power to your arm, pen and voice Felicity!

     
  25. Marko, 8. October 2021, 10:06

    I’m confused with all the attempts to discredit the projected population growth. Do people not realise we have a massive shortage right now which is causing displacement and overcrowding? Plus Wellington City has barely managed to consent 800 dwellings per year for ages – that’s only catering for ~0.3% population growth. We simply don’t have enough homes!

     
  26. Claire, 8. October 2021, 10:19

    I think it’s groups like Gen Z who launched the mould and falling down villa campaign who are not listening. People across the board know more housing is needed. But to concentrate vitriol on the 6% of inner suburbs is childish. We want to build on under-utilised land, not on top of villas that are mostly renovated. This is a direct threat to those communities.

     
  27. Catherine, 8. October 2021, 10:46

    I can’t wait for more development. This all sounds great. Don’t know why you’re so anti housing. Are you ok with Wellington becoming a city for retirees only? To all the over 65s posting that the city is losing its soul – your grandkids are never going to be able to afford to live here unless we have more housing! A city without young people and families is much more soulless than a city with well planned and designed apartments.

    If you don’t like apartments cool, don’t live in one! Most people don’t have the luxury of being able to afford a $2 mill villa in Mt Vic or Thorndon – it’s apartments or nothing.

     
  28. pedge, 8. October 2021, 11:21

    Marko, we clearly don’t have enough houses, but even worse I think the projected population numbers are too low. The world has nearly 8 billion people now. There will be displaced people all over the world in the not too distant future due to climate change and a large number will want to come here. This is a desirable country. We have a stable democracy, low corruption, a temperate climate and we grow and farm a huge amount of food, not to mention fresh water. The only way our population will not grow is if we shut our borders. And even then, how many NZ citizens overseas could want to come home? I personally think we should aim for around 10 million people in NZ. There are great benefits that come with a slightly larger population, I think we need to have a serious debate about how many people we want living here.

     
  29. Jim, 8. October 2021, 12:14

    Claire – Generation Zero is made up of people who live, or have recently lived in substandard housing. If you have been a student in this city you will know that a large number of flats are cold, mouldy and damp. Many are the old houses that you are determined to protect – just because they have had a lick of paint doesn’t mean they are renovated.
    The plan doesn’t mean that every house in the revised catchments is going to be demolished and replaced. Developers are not going to pay extra for a fully renovated house just to develop it – it’s the run-down houses that have little value outside of the land they sit on that will be able to be replaced with better housing. It’s not just 6% of the city – the changes encompass areas of every suburb. Why should Berhampore be exempt but Tawa not?

     
  30. pedge, 8. October 2021, 12:21

    Claire. I live in Mt Victoria. I can walk down any street near where I live and there are multiple houses so derelict they should be pulled down. People are land banking everywhere. I love an old villa as much as the next person, but the “mould and falling down villa campaign” is what people see every day.

     
  31. Claire, 8. October 2021, 12:26

    Marko: Statistics reports for the year ending July 2021 show that 3268 consents were granted – up 5% for Wellington.
    Pedge: all that population you talk about would need a totally new city on the Canterbury plains.
    Most houses around me are definitely renovated. Also there are miles of other places to build. So it really looks like a spin campaign. Wherever I go on Mt Vic I do not see what you are saying is true. Needing a coat of paint does not equal falling down.

     
  32. Marko, 8. October 2021, 15:52

    Claire: Your numbers are for the region. Wellington City consented 985 dwellings in the last 12 months. Higher than our average from the last ten years but well below where we need to be. Other councils in the region are consenting even lower. Auckland and Christchurch on the other hand are doing a much better job … but everyone has a long way to go.

    The quality of these homes are often terrible. Every room but the kitchen converted into bedrooms, a constant battle against mould, creaks in the wind. Go to one of the unis and ask around about flatting. Average is $230 a room per week now and goes up $10 each year. No discounts for respiratory illnesses sadly.

     
  33. JAB, 8. October 2021, 15:57

    Now I’ve read all the reports.
    Jim the Yimby – an age group conflict narrative based on the somewhat dodgy fill out on the submissions (not all completed those details) rather than acknowledging the depth and extent of the submissions and the extent to which efforts were made to identify suitable sites for intensification (and ideas to stop land banking) plus the many other relevant issues raised doesn’t point to a generational reluctance to build extra housing.
    Pedge – Statistics NZ has the relevant data in so far as anyone can see out 30 years. Unlimited migration would intensify the housing shortage and is the cause of at least some of the current shortage. World populations are expected to rise slowly over the couple of decades and then decline for the rest of the century. Some like Japan and China are already well along that curve.

     
  34. Andrew, 8. October 2021, 16:30

    Many have written about the old houses and villas being a key part of Wellington’s charm. Those, and their suburbs need to be protected. As others have said, there are plenty of brownfields sites to convert or infill. However, there is an already existing set of structures in the city: office blocks. With many people now WFH, there are lots of empty or part-used office floors throughout the CBD. Surely companies can be encouraged (dollars usually work), to move from their current premises to consolidate in fewer office blocks. Those newly emptied ones can then be converted into apartments, much faster and for a lower cost, than constructing additional buildings.

    A further benefit is that those inner-city residents will spend their money in the city rather than taking more business to the suburbs. This alleviates the doughnut city centre problem we are seeing as CBD operations shut down, while WFH consumers spend in the suburbs.

    This is also not reliant on the ironically-named LGWM (surely the most laggard institution in the country) to provide transport and commuting options as people will already be in the city and within the ten-minute walk limit. Environmentally, this is also a good plan since concrete is a massive CO2 emitter. We would be using existing concrete rather than producing more. Re-purposing office blocks also reduces the spoil from knocking down old buildings that would have to go to the landfill.

     
  35. K, 8. October 2021, 16:50

    Thanks for writing this article – I will definitely be contributing to the consultation now that you have brought it to my attention. I will be vigorously supporting the council’s proposals as they are (and probably encourage them to go further).

     
  36. JAB, 8. October 2021, 17:27

    Claire – I too suspect something of a spin campaign. Mt Vic is hardly full of derelict houses, but many of the issues raised in the submissions are real and need mitigation so would be very interested to see the Yimby solutions. In particular the Insurance Council (P105?) raised the issue of a seismic survey that is still to be completed and no doubt will affect premiums depending on the building spot. Also nationwide affordable housing is being left basically to the state and I don’t see that being much different in Wellington. Interestingly almost nobody trusted the developers to build anything decent or affordable. Then there are the schools and parks needed. And what is Vic doing with its mass of student accommodation?

     
  37. Claire, 8. October 2021, 17:58

    Jab: yes. Govt will have to front on affordability as the upzoning and developers won’t deliver that, though the WCC has touted the DSP as an affordable housing enabler!

     
  38. pedge, 8. October 2021, 21:13

    JAB, I didn’t say Mt Vic was full of derelict houses, but I can throw a rock from my house and hit at least 3, 4 if I had a better arm. My point is that we have created a scenario where development in the city is prohibitive. I think one of the reasons is because we are protecting too much of it, but there are obviously many others. Do we want a city that is changing and adapting? A dynamic city that embraces new ideas and solutions, or shall we pretend that everything is great the way it is, and stagnate. I also didn’t call for unlimited migration, just a debate about what we allow in the future.

     
  39. JAB, 8. October 2021, 23:56

    Pedge: In the area from Elizabeth Street all the way over to Oriental Bay I can think of only one uninhabited house and a few that are for sale. I’ll check the rest of Mt Vic later. Yes cities change and adapt but I would still be delighted with a Yimby discussion as to why:
    Six storeys need to be zoned everywhere rather than in more concentrated areas with land banking penalties;
    Why these will be affordable to buy or rent rather than lights-out up-market flats owned offshore because these types of dwellings can still be sold to non residents;
    Why earthquake and other resilience risks are not being factored in – we already have some 17000 people who will be homeless in a decent shake;
    Where community needs like schools parks etc are going to be located? Why is this housing not integrated with other policies;
    Why there is not a region wide housing policy to give a variety of purchase options.
    And all the other issues raised in the many submissions.
    Lastly is this going to be just change and adapt or will it create maybe a Chicago or Detroit like city where the distant suburbs are green but the centre city housing is a slum like mess. Measured change is better than a city wide mess.

     
  40. Jason, 9. October 2021, 0:20

    You guys are ruining my (and many young people’s) chance of ever living in Wellington. Talk all you want about character, your main aim is to preserve untaxed capital gains that you’ve done nothing to earn (except by being old geezers).

     
  41. Aaron Turr, 9. October 2021, 1:18

    Character homes are a canard. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of renting one, you’ll know the only character they have inside is profit maximisation and cost minimisation. Cover everything in white paint, and cram as many people in as possible. If the majority of us are going to live like that anyway, we’d rather do it in properly designed dense housing.

     
  42. Alex, 9. October 2021, 1:41

    This all sounds great. Thank you Felicity for highlighting the positive changes coming to our city.

     
  43. Helene Ritchie, 9. October 2021, 7:42

    Marko. Your problems are now. The spatial plan is for 30 years hence. It’s flawed. But I want to help you now. How about you look to the University? They are massive property owners/developers. They charge a heap for students in their marginal ‘halls’ and are not controlled by the residential tenancies act. Ask them to bring that ‘rent’ cost down. Ask them whether they have empty space in their ‘halls’ because there are no international students. Ask them whether they can open them up for you and all. And while you are at it, ask them to fix the Gordon Wilson Flats… the concrete which was supposed to fall off the outside has not. They are land banking big time. We could see whether we could get the government-owned empty Dixon St Flats used again. All of that could provide a lot of flats for anybody and young people.

    It depends what you want. Somewhere to live? There is a lot of already built vacant space, much of which could be made into very adequate accommodation.

    Anyway good luck from one of your elders whose first family home was bought at age 26. It was a rumpty 1910 wooden house, one and half bedrooms. The southerly blew through the wooden cladding and scrim. One room was heated in winter, the rest closed off. The children all thrived surrounded by plenty of green and loved living there.

    There’s a way through this. It’s just not random six-storeys all over the place and a stifling concreted-over city with no thought about green open space, the natural environment or even about quality indoor living space.

     
  44. JAB, 9. October 2021, 11:22

    With respect to unused housing. There are quite a lot of central flats that have been lights out for a lot of the winter. To prevent people house banking, can we ask the council to lobby Labour for a Vancouver-style unused house tax? Perhaps even a compulsory rental scenario after a certain period of time? Even if it didn’t produce much income, it’s a clear signal nationwide that flats cannot be held vacant. I realise that this may be higher than student rents housing but it would ease the overall supply and quickly. Plus maybe some discussions with the retirement companies to enable units up for sale to be rented appropriately? These are all worth lobbying for and are immediate solutions.

     
  45. Toni, 9. October 2021, 11:31

    Pedge: “Do we want a city that is changing and adapting? A dynamic city that embraces new ideas and solutions” Yes we do, but we have to make sure we end up with well thought out sustainable living environments that provide enough green spaces and services for residents. If the focus is just on banging up buildings wherever we can without a holistic plan, we will end up with a very unattractive place to live and the social and mental issues associated with that.

     
  46. Evan Henshaw, 9. October 2021, 12:20

    I wish they allowed 20 storey buildings instead of just 6. The only way we can make housing affordable and reduce our carbon footprint is to make very dense livable walkable communities. If we don’t take radical action, housing will be only something for the rich and we’ll face several meters of sea level rise.

     
  47. Claire, 9. October 2021, 12:33

    Jason: it’s not about so called character homes. That has been a campaign and a very small part of Wellington. This is about successive Govts failing to do a job, regards affordable homes. House prices will not come down, especially in the inner suburbs. But you are right in one way: homeowners have no real control as to whether prices go up or down. And if your house goes up to a million, you are probably going to need as much as that to move anywhere else.

     
  48. Guy Marriage, 9. October 2021, 12:46

    Evan Henshaw – you are sadly so badly informed. New buildings 20 storeys tall will not be affordable. End of story. Big tall buildings are very expensive to build.

    If you want to find out more, may I suggest that you read my book, Tall: the Design and Construction of High-Rise Architecture. It’s available at Vic Books and Unity Books.

     
  49. Stephen Moore, 9. October 2021, 13:17

    I have no issue with intensification provided it is done well where all dwellings have natural light, and outdoor area and adequate space. These minimum requirements should be legislated for. What I object to is the associated social engineering by not including car parks as a mandatory requirement in these high density apartments. People who live in these frequently have vehicles they park in surrounding areas. I also fail to see why suburbs such as Seatoun are not included for high density housing so they can share the joy of this decision by our elected councillors. Lastly as I have said before, if we expand Wellington to green fields in Ohariu and south Jakarta, we could avoid this intensification and preserve our heritage.

     
  50. Ian Turk, 11. October 2021, 9:26

    Hi Felicity – you raise interesting issues here, but the most important, whether or not you agree with each decision, is Council’s attitude to consultation and residents’ views. In the days leading up to the Council meeting, after all the analysis, reporting, change and re-analysis, submitting and hearings, three significant changes were moved – without analysis, consultation, or any debate other than around the council table in June.

    Councillor Mathews moved to increase the walking catchments (in our area from 5 minutes to 10 minutes from rail stations) “to enable more housing in a crisis”. This was a particularly hot topic in suburbs along the Johnsonville line. How many more houses will this enable?, why do we have a permanent response to a current issue? Interestingly, council officers opposed because they “have not had time to model the impacts of such a significant change and this has not been consulted on with the public”.

    Along the Johnsonville line this is a consequence of the line being deemed mass rapid transit. Council officers’ view on this in June 21 was “It might not met the definition of (MRT) strictly now as our understanding the service frequency is not frequent throughout the day (eg, 7am to 7pm), but it will be around 2025. This particular point should be confirmed with GWRC.” Ummm…. Why wasn’t it confirmed then, while the plan that depends on this clarification was being written?.

    Another last minute change, recommended by officers, was to remove all building height limits in the CBD. The reason given was that the “NPS-UD directs councils to realise as much development capacity as possible in the central city in order to maximise the benefits of intensification”. In which case CBD can say good bye to green space, green streets, view shafts, recession planes etc – they will all get in the way of development capacity.

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