Wellington Scoop

Draft District Plan – more consultation on many issues

The Wellington City Council’s Planning Committee yesterday adopted the Draft District Plan by unanimous vote and agreed to its release for public consultation. Consultation will take place from 2 November to 14 December and all citizens are invited to make submissions.

The Chair of the Committee (Councillor Pannett) achieved majority support for several important amendments, including the emerging issue of light in residential dwellings, the lack of which Deputy Mayor Free described as “dystopian and scary” notwithstanding the urgent need for housing.

Council staff reported that the government envisages a one metre square light well will be sufficient for habitable rooms, something Councillor Young was worried would provide no more than sufficient light for “lab rats”. Council staff reassured councillors that they were “doing more work” on issues relating to access to light for mental health.

An amendment highlighting the need for water permeability of developed sites (in order to limit stormwater run off) was successful, as was the proposal to consider long standing public view shafts within the city.

Deputy Mayor Free moved a successful amendment to encourage talks with the Airport aimed at getting a public access road reinstated through airport land.

Other amendments failed to get the necessary votes. They included one on waste minimisation in building activity (responding to the problem that developments produce on average more than 4 tons of waste material), something of particular concern to Councillor Foon.

An innovative proposal by Councillor Pannett, to introduce neighbourhood planning (in order for the Council to work with communities on the impact of density in their areas), was voted against by a majority made up of Labour Councillors (Fitzsimons, Matthews, Day and O’Neil), Councillors Paul, Condie, Rush and new Ngati Toa Councillor Liz Kelly. Councillor Fitzsimons said that neighbourhood planning would give residents “too much power” to stop housing, and give people “false hope about the power they had” to alter density decisions.

Council staff noted that the government’s announcement the day before the meeting, will mean changes will need to be made to the Draft District Plan, but that will happen after consultation. Those changes relate to the new mandatory requirement to allow all developments in all residential zones of 3 new buildings per property, each of up to 3 storeys in height, (Medium Density Residential Standards MDRS).

While that new deregulation is not yet incorporated into the Draft, a guidance note will advise the public about the issue. The new MDRS will cover half the entire area of Wellington.

The government is expected to pass the MDRS legislation before the end of this year, and in the meantime the public will be consulted on Wellington’s Draft District Plan which implements the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD). The NPS-UD contains the requirement for mandatory deregulation of height limits (to at least six storeys) within a walkable distance of the CBD boundaries, and all mass rapid transit (MRT) stops – either planned or existing. Council staff explained that “walkability” was determined by the average fit person, not by someone pushing a pram or who could not climb steps.

Council staff reported that the MRT stops in southern and eastern suburbs will not however be identified until late next year (after LGWM has made plans post-consultation on routes etc). So an amendment to the District Plan is already envisaged to be necessary after its finalised next year – to upzone the areas around those MRT stops (in Newtown, Berhampore, Island Bay, Hataitai etc).

Councillors asked a number of important questions at the meeting.

Mayor Foster asked how many new dwellings are theoretically possible under the NPS-UD upzoning in the Draft District Plan plus the government’s new announcement of 3 times 3 storeys everywhere? Council staff were unable to answer that, but it seemed like it would be an enormous number. That results from the NPS-UD having required Wellington to make room for more than 100,000 new dwellings.

So it’s likely that the new District Plan will “enable“ hundreds of thousands of new dwellings. The approach is designed to bring down the price of land and provide affordable housing for all, which a similar approach has not achieved in Australia.

Council staff answered Councillors’ questions about the design guides for developers that are included in the Draft District Plan. The design guides take a light touch, to allow for architects to be creative they said.

If developers contribute to city outcomes (eg include affordable units) they will get extra “points“ and be allowed to build higher than the height limits. So height limits won’t necessarily be limiting.

Council staff explained that the government’s new MDRS will have recession planes measured from 6 meters above ground. In Wellington’s operative District Plan, this is currently only 2.5 metres in residential areas. So there could be big walls next to existing houses. Councillor Fitzsimons said “she had “been consistently clear” to those worried “that not everybody is going to have the same light in their homes in the next 5 years … as they do now”.

Several citizens made presentations to Councillors, noting that the proposed SNAs (Significant Natural Areas) were illegal, discriminatory and did not accurately reflect the legal definition of areas of significant biodiversity. In some cases, they said, SNAs were proposed for patches of green in citizens’ gardens. That is also likely to be a controversial issue in the consultation, although Councillor Rush thought it might just be “a storm in a teacup”.

Several Councillors called for “overwhelming submissions.”

Read also
Draft District Plan seeking more opinions


  1. JAB, 21. October 2021, 23:06

    Thanks to Councillor Pannett for attempting to introduce community planning. Even though it is a concept that would need expanded discussion, I am left wondering just who the rest of the council think should have say over what happens in the city? The residents perhaps? Or someone else.

    But a potential 100,000 increase in dwellings? That’s just nuts. Write to your local labour/green MP. This is a town with plenty of those.

  2. Angela Rothwell, 22. October 2021, 8:03

    Sad to see a council concerned that citizens might have “too much power”. Communities all over Wellington are asking for community-led design.
    Concerning that council officers are only now attending to the mental health aspects of the proposed upzoning. We’ve been assured that this was at the forefront of the thinking from the get-go.

  3. Claire, 22. October 2021, 9:01

    Councillors who voted against community involvement … shame. The idea that residents would have too much power and WCC shouldn’t include them is Dystopia. This is a forced deregulation. Rest assured it will come back to bite.

  4. June_Tuna, 22. October 2021, 13:01

    “Council staff explained that “walkability” was determined by the average fit person, not by someone pushing a pram or who could not climb steps.” This seems rather ableist – not least because a number of contemporary high-density housing designs deliberately *exclude* parking spaces.

  5. Roland Sapsford, 22. October 2021, 13:07

    The idea that communities can’t be trusted to participate in planning a future that welcomes more people is very sad. These attitudes hold a dark mirror up to the disparaging term “NIMBY”, which is simply a mild form of hate speech. Rather than having any connection to actual events, it is now used to mean anyone who disagrees with a radical deregulatory agenda. It serves the same purpose as other, more derogatory, terms. Namely it demeans and diminishes people as a class, and allows other people to dismiss voices without listening.

    Without being asked, Newtown has come up with a plan to house more people faster with better urban design outcomes. Other communities can do the same. This makes the claims of Cr Fitzsimons particularly hollow.

    There is growing disquiet across the country at the broad anti-democratic agenda emerging from central government. It is an odd blend of technocratic centralism (experts on top) and neoliberal fervour. At some point, something will crystalise this unease into active opposition. Those of us who care about democracy. design quality and good evidence need to be ready when this happens.

  6. Peter Hill, 22. October 2021, 14:19

    Amongst many, many other faults the Draft District Plan allows for a paltry 2 hours of sunlight at the winter solstice. And if your 2 hours is 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon – too bad, even though sunlight at those times has only 1/3 of the heating power of sunlight around noon. And of course this is exactly what will happen to you if a 6 storey building goes up to the north of you!

  7. Wellington Commuter, 22. October 2021, 23:47

    Peter Hill – In fact it’s even worse, only 2 hours of DAYLIGHT. They are not requiring any room must have sunlight.
    Current Plan = 4 Hours sunlight for habitual rooms.
    Proposed Plan = 2 hours daylight.
    “… we’re suggesting in the draft District Plan is you have natural light in the room, it doesn’t mean direct sunlight …”
    See: this and this.

  8. Claire, 23. October 2021, 10:36

    I think sunlight and distance from other homes will become a big issue. Already it has split the voting block. Someone needs to really look at issues like sun actually needed for good health, vitamin D and mental health. Space and outlook and a garden are very important for overall wellbeing. There is no need to jam buildings up too closely. Control developers. Build for quality and longevity.

  9. JAB, 23. October 2021, 11:59

    Roland: If I remember correctly, better plans were also produced for the Basin Reserve by the community than anything ever advanced formally. I would also like to hear from Gen Zero about the cold and mould effects of the new district plan on houses and how they expect those to be mitigated.

  10. Julienz, 23. October 2021, 13:25

    Councillor Daran Ponter was recently on this site singing praise for the 24 bus route which is now in the top ten routes for patronage in Wellington. This route was established after a community workshopping process facilitated by GWRC. Members of the community gave up three evenings to work with GWRC staff, brainstorm, share their local experience, co-operate and listen to others. The outcome has clearly been quite a success. One of the few good results of the bus catastrophe. WCC could learn something from this kind of process

  11. Kara, 23. October 2021, 20:17

    With electricity tariffs rising in the next 2 years, it would be more prudent for the WCC to think about how houses could be heated by sunlight. Just 2 hours each day is not enough.
    If we want to ensure continued democratic process, there’s local council elections coming up soon.

  12. Keith Flinders, 24. October 2021, 13:33

    Kara: Agreed two hours sun a day is insufficient, so some authority needs to give attention to this aspect. In Wellington’s climate, especially during winter, any assistance to keep household energy costs to a minimum is vital for the majority whose incomes are at the low end.

    In the mid 1970s wages were on average around $50/week for blue collar workers, and the cost of electricity was 0.08 cents per kW/hr. Electricity was then supplied in this city by the Wellington MED who not only returned a profit to rate payers, but also looked after the street lighting and trolley bus electrical infrastructure.

    Forty five years on those same workers have seen slightly greater than a twenty fold increase in their wages, but nearly a forty fold increase in electricity prices when including daily supply and other imposts, such as GST, which were not part of the tariff all those years ago.

  13. Kara, 26. October 2021, 11:11

    Well said Keith.