Wellington Scoop

North Kumutoto: not only, but also …

The Wellington City Council is having to listen to more strong public opposition to its plans for big new buildings on North Kumutoto. On Thursday, councillors will be hearing a second day of public submissions about the revised design brief for the waterfront site. At the first day of hearings last week, there seems to have been surprise at the strength of opposition to new buildings.

Documents released under the Local Government Official Information Act show that after the Environment Court’s rejection of Variation 11, council staff intended to have no significant reworking of the design brief, but only “minor tweaks.” Emails in September show that staff were expecting there wouldn’t be any public consultation.

But contrary to such expectations, when councillors were given the draft brief, they voted for consultation. It began on October 10 and closed last week, 25 days later. The consultation has provided a reminder that it’s not only Waterfront Watch which is against the council’s stubborn commitment to two new buildings.

The Civic Trust told councillors last week they are not compelled to allow 100 per cent coverage on the two building sites.

“Adopting the Environment Court decision doggedly … does not give proper consideration to the overall environmental effects in the area, and nor does it permit consideration of viable options. The Design Brief … could include alternative uses for Sites 9 and 10 … (or) low-level buildings which are sympathetic to surrounding architecture … There should be no undue haste in redeveloping the North Kumutoto area.”

Barrister Con Anastasiou, representing property owner Land Lease, also criticised the new brief:

“The footprint for Site 10 appears to remain unchanged from the footprint for the same site in Variation 11 and does not reflect either the spirit or the intend of the court’s decision.

“The massive size of the unbroken and unmodulated footprint is exacerbated by the proposed site coverage of 100 per cent… The prospect of 100 per cent site coverage … will form an unacceptable visual and physical barrier between the CBD and the waterfront and will not relieve the canyon effect between site 10 and the Post Office building…

“In Land Lease’s view, if there is to be a building on Site 10 at all, it is critical for the preservation of important viewshafts and vistas from the city to the sea that the southern end of the site be adjusted to align with an axis no further south than a line along the southwest face of the NZ Post Building.

“However the first question that has to be asked is whether there should be a building on site 10 at all. This question is best addressed by a comprehensive space needs assessment and not by a presumption that there will be a building on site 10 which underpins the design brief…

“The proposition that ‘buildings can help provide more sheltered, comfortable higher quality public spaces that attract people to the area’ overlooks the fact that shelter, comfort and high quality public spaces can be designed in the absence of buildings. There is still too much emphasis in the design brief on built form and active building edges as the defining factors in the design of open spaces.

“There is no reason why open space design should not come first, with built form responding to the design of open spaces… There remains a strong suggestion in the design brief that the architecture of buildings will come first and open space will be designed in the area left over. This was a significant defect in Variation 11 and remains unremedied in the design brief.”

The Historic Places Trust was another organisation which told the council it does not support the proposal for 100 per cent coverage for new buildings on site 10. Its general manager Central Region Ann Neill said:

“A building built to the maximum site coverage and height is likely to have adverse effects on the [historic Eastbourne] ferry building particularly in terms of dominance, shading and scale. The Trust therefore seeks that the footprint of Site 10 should be determined in terms of responding to the Ferry Building, particularly in terms of dominance and protecting views to and from the building.”

Con Anastasiou referred to the Site 10 footprint as “monolithic and unrelenting…” Then he focused on some of the detail: “The 9 metre setback from the wharf edge is totally inadequate. There is no urban design reason why this setback should not be greater than nine metres.”

On this subject, the LGOIMA documents show a surprising exchange between the council and its waterfront company. As the draft design brief was being finalised, a company staff member emailed a council officer on September 24:

“I note you have deftly dodged the Env Court direction for a greater than 9m setback from waters edge by requiring ‘…a setback of at least 9m.’ Cleverly done.”

Dodging a direction from the court – the incriminating email starts to shed some light on why there is continuing public dissatisfaction about the latest design brief. “Minor tweaks” to the plan have not been enough.

Variation 11 – unpopular since it was introduced in 2009


  1. Michael Gibson, 15. November 2012, 7:54

    I wonder if the “company staff member” was the culprit responsible for trying to put people off submitting by saying that the Council was “committed to building on Sites 9 & 10”?
    Why did they say this? What sneaky stuff is going on? Why are they deliberately missing the chance to do something grand & far-sighted?
    How on earth do they think that Wellington can possible be proud of what they are proposing?

  2. Pauline Swann, 15. November 2012, 22:33

    Following on from last Wednesday and Thursday, ten more submitters today spoke very strongly against privatisation of Site 10 Kumutoto with a 4 storey “office”? block plus another building on Site 9.

    There was no shortage of ideas for recreation space, upgrade of the Campervan Park, artisans’ workshops, sports activities, a single storey iconic building to house an I-site resource centre, waterfront to be designated as a reserve not a revenue making space, Martin Jenkins’ vision of a maritime nautical theme park… Kumutoto should have minimal development: trees, landscaping, playground were just some of the suggestions…

    One can only hope that when the Officers’ report on consultation on the Design brief for Kumutoto is on the agenda for the Strategy and Policy next Thursday 22nd November that the concerns of those members of the public who made written and oral submissions are taken into account.

  3. Russell Tregonning, 17. November 2012, 18:04

    The history of Wellingtonians’ response to previous high building plans for the waterfront should have told the Council to back off with Kumutoto. The way to get the Public on-side & get popular plans is to properly consult and then put into action the majority wish. It’s not rocket science.

    The strong response to the new plans should make the Council abandon the current variation plans and start again–this time democratically.

  4. Confused, 18. November 2012, 9:55

    The Design Brief Report shows that the changes are mere tweaks, with any alternative suggestions from submitters deemed “beyond the scope of the consultation”. So it was all a waste of time for the written and the oral submitters, and the direction from the public forum for alternative uses for Sites 9 and 10. Large buildings were always the plan, no matter what. And now we read that commercial proceeds for funding the waterfront and wharf are no longer the prime reason for urban development down there.

  5. Anne Weinbrenner, 18. November 2012, 13:19

    What waterfront? If the waterfront continues to be covered with buildings, it may as well not be there. If the Kumutoto buildings are erected, anyone at street level in the CBD would have to travel all the way around to Oriental Bay to catch a glimpse of water in the harbour unless they are right at the water’s edge .

    I don’t like being “shafted” and I would no longer call Wellington a harbour city. Rather, it will be a viewshaft city. I am ashamed of hiding the harbour.

  6. Pauline Swann, 24. November 2012, 15:28

    Interesting to read (DomPost today) some comments from cruise ship visitors. One couple talked about paying $10 for a bus to the Town Hall Information Centre. Another wanted to take a harbour cruise but had no idea there was a ferry to Eastbourne! This couple also said that Port Chalmers and Picton had done a better job than Wellington in welcoming passengers. Another couple said they felt Wellington lacked strategically positioned places where people could sit down while out walking on the waterfront.

    During the consultation on the draft design plan for North Kumutoto, there were many suggestions that this area should be the Welcome to Wellington for cruise ship and other visitors. One suggestion was for a single storey iconic building to house an i-Site resource centre staffed with enthusiastic and helpful people to advise tourists about what’s going on in the city/places to visit/walks etc. Other points made were that the area needs to be landscaped to make provision for walkers and people who want to sit and enjoy our harbour and hills and shelter from sun and wind.
    The quoted tourists would not have been impressed with yet another office block providing “viewshafts!”. or as a member of TAG team talked about “glimpses” of the harbour and hills.