Wellington Scoop

Concrete wastelands on the waterfront

Two city councillors showed confused thinking during yesterday’s debate that approved another new building for the waterfront.

Justin Lester:
“If we were of a mind to decline this proposal … it would remain a concrete wasteland for at least the next 10 years.”

Andy Foster:
The bar was high, but you had to set it at a reasonable level, otherwise “you will have a car park there for a very, very long time.”

Their comments are nonsense, of course. If they had decided to reject the new Willis Bond building on North Kumutoto, there would be no reason why the area had to be kept either as a carpark or as a concrete wasteland. There’s nothing to stop councillors deciding to create a new area of well-designed open space for the public to use.

Open space is popular on the waterfront – just consider Waitangi Park, or Frank Kitts Park, or the Taranaki Wharf precinct.

If Andy and Justin are serious in their dislike for concrete wastelands and carparks on the waterfront, they should take a new look at the concrete wasteland which is being used as a carpark east of Te Papa.

The public were surveyed by ACNeilsen in 2001 and asked how this space should be used. The public knew what should have been done. Eightysix per cent wanted landscaping instead of buildings. Councillors ignored the survey (which the council had commissioned), and decided instead that a transition building and a carparking building should be built on the space. The resulting outcry stopped construction of the two buildings. But councillors then fell back to the ideas that are so disliked by Andy and Justin – a concrete wasteland and a carpark, on land which should have been part of the open green Waitangi Park.

Let’s agree with Andy and Justin: concrete wastelands and carparks have no place on the Wellington waterfront. Let’s expect them to come up with a plan to convert the concrete wasteland next to Te Papa into an innovative extension to Waitangi Park. Even if they’re not willing to vote against Willis Bond’s new huilding at the other end of the waterfront.

Here’s the DomPost report of yesterday’s decision by a council committee to approve another new building on the waterfront. With Iona Pannett (“public space should not be commercialised”) the only dissenting vote.