Wellington Scoop

Can town belt land be taken for a road?

Two different approaches to controlling the town belt are being debated by Wellington city councillors at a meeting tonight.

The discussion is about a draft of the proposed Wellington Town Belt Bill, which is to be the subject of public consultation.

The debate will centre on whether or not the council can sell any part of the Town Belt and whether it could agree to part of it being declared to be a road under provisions of the Public Works Act.

One option to be debated would allow the council to do this. The other option is precise: it says that the council cannot allow any land to be removed from the Town Belt under the Public Works Act.

Councillor Helene Ritchie intends to move that the option allowing a sale be deleted from the draft legislation, so that the council can never allow any land to be removed from the Town Belt. Councillor Free is to second her proposal.

“The Council’s intention to protect the Town Belt must be clear and unambiguous,” says Councillor Ritchie.

The proposed legislation has been developed over the last three years, with a background going back to the beginnings of European settlement.

The New Zealand Company’s initial plan for Wellington provided for the original Town Belt, being public reserves of 1,562 acres around the proposed town of Port Nicholson (now Wellington City), that would separate it from the Company’s rural district. The instructions from the Company’s secretary, John Ward, to its surveyor, William Mein Smith, included that this land be “public property on condition that no buildings be ever erected upon it”.

On 16 October 1841, the Governor of New Zealand notified that the reserves provided for in the Company’s plans were “reserved by the Crown for Public Purposes”.

Councillors are being told tonight that the concept of the original Town Belt and having open green space around the central city is important to the people of
Wellington generally. Many Wellingtonians and community groups have cared for the Town Belt, and opposed the removal of land from it.

Because of uncertainty about the legal status of the Town Belt, the extent to
which it is protected for future generations, and the Council’s powers to protect, manage and enhance it, the proposed Act of Parliament will provide certainty by

(a) providing a transparent statutory basis for the Council’s trusteeship and
management of the Wellington Town Belt;
(b) being the principal source of the Council’s powers for protecting, managing
and enhancing the Wellington Town Belt; and
(c) being a mechanism for land to become part of the Wellington Town Belt.

As trustee and manager of the Wellington Town Belt, the Act will require that Council must have particular regard to the following principles:
(a) the Town Belt should be protected and enhanced for future generations:
(b) the Town Belt should be managed in partnership with mana whenua:
(c) the landscape character of the Town Belt should be protected and enhanced:
(d) the Town Belt should support healthy populations of indigenous biodiversity:
(e) the Town Belt should be accessible and for all to enjoy:
(f ) the Town Belt should be used for a wide range of recreation activities:
(g) community participation in the management should be encouraged and supported:
(h) historical and cultural links to the Town Belt should be acknowledged.

There’s general agreement on all these clauses. But there’s likely to be a vigorous debate on whether or not the council should have power to agree to allow land to be taken from the town belt.

The background to tonight’s debate is very clear – the Transport Agency has made it clear that it intends to take some town belt land so that it can widen Ruahine Street. The Agency has published plans showing the widened road being cut into town belt land. Under the Public Works Act, will its intentions be unstoppable?

Councillors vote to protect town belt