Wellington Scoop

Councillors vote for changes to their draft bill to protect the Town Belt

The Wellington City Council voted tonight by 12 votes to 3 to propose changes to the draft Town Belt Bill.

Opponents say the changes will weaken protection of the Town Belt. Councillor Helene Ritchie, who is “furious,” said the changes contradicted a majority of public submissions. But the Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce said the council had done the right thing.

News from Wellington Employers Chamber of Commerce
“This is a sensible move,” says Chief Executive John Milford. “The Chamber too had concerns around how clauses 6(b) and 23 could affect such vital projects as the Mt Victoria tunnel duplication and parts of the bus rapid transit route.

“Leaving the bill as it was could have been a handbrake on vital work around these transport improvements – by removing the Public Works Act from the process and making parts of the compulsory acquisition process impractical – and that’s the last thing we need.

“We must make sure we don’t hold the city back – but at the same time we need to balance both protection and future proofing connectivity and our infrastructure.

“Agreeing to remove the provision for objections and sending them instead to the Environment Court makes perfect sense. The town belt will still be protected, and that’s vital too.

“It’s disappointing this has not been foreseen earlier in the preparation of the bill. We would prefer that these changes are made prior to first reading, but this is a positive step.”

“It’s good to see the council working constructively with the Government to progress good, sensible legislation.”

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  1. Guy, 20. August 2015, 0:05

    Probably rather predictably, the much crowed about “saving of the Town Belt” has proved to be the opposite, fallen at the first hurdle. In this previous Scoop article, Councillor Helene Ritchie was very pleased that the Belt was now protected. http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=71497

    The obvious question then was – what about Ruahine St widening? And seeing as the notoriously pro-flyover John Milford is happy that the provision for objections has been removed, that should more or less clear the way for NZTA to have its way and take the land it wants, just as ir always planned to. So what was the point of the “special” protection then, if that is already lost?

  2. Councillor Helene Ritchie, 20. August 2015, 13:30

    The council did not vote to change the unanimously supported bill, it voted to amend its submission to the Bill.
    The Bill recognises the compulsory acquisition powers that the Government has through the Public Works Act and does not ignore them. The Government has that power and it is not appropriate nor necessary for the Council through this Bill to enhance that power. That is not the purpose of the Bill.
    The Council has been determined to protect and enhance and manage the Town Belt and that is the key purpose of the Bill. My role as Natural Environment Portfolio Leader has been and is to try to ensure that that happens.
    I have always said that if the Wellington Town Belt Bill remains unaltered then there will be greater protection of the Town Belt. This is not crowing. It is just fact. It is now over to the Parliamentary process to decide or change the Bill and the public can make submissions to the Select Committee once the Bill has passed its First Reading.

  3. Guy, 21. August 2015, 6:10

    OK Councilor Ritchie – we’ll see what happens at Select Committee time, but most of all, we will see what happens when NZTA decides it wants to widen Ruahine St.
    If this proposed bill actually does stop NZTA from widening Ruahine from 2 lanes to 6 lanes, then it will have done a great job of “protecting and enhancing” the Town Belt, and you will deserve a knighthood. But on the other hand, if the bill cannot or does not stop NZTA from committing a vast and ugly land grab for putting their photo-motorway through the Town Belt, then the bill will have failed to protect the belt just as ineffectively as the previous arrangement.
    My guess is that National’s road mania will not allow the bill to pass in a form which denies NZTA the power to do whatever they want. I would be delighted to be proved wrong on this.

  4. Anabel, 21. August 2015, 10:12

    Sending the town belt bill to parliament to change and end the protection of the land (and environment) is an outright abuse of the trustees, beneficiaries and administrator of the town belt trust. It’s an abuse of power by the WCC to act in direct opposition to the will of the trustees and administrator of the Town Belt Trust.
    The WCC in its actions is not the administrator of the trust and has been asked and had notice to stop its actions.
    The purpose of the TB Trust legislation was to protect the town belt land from these type of corporate land grabs.
    Parliament’s “select stealing committee” can stuff off – they are just land grabbing protected land and are in violation of existing Town Belt Trust legislation.

  5. Nora, 22. August 2015, 14:54

    Mr Milford is quoted as saying “we must make sure we don’t hold the city back.” Not sure what he means. A good example of our vibrant city is the choice of events this weekend: NZ Ballet “Midsummer Night’s Dream”at the St James, Chamber Music at the MFC, Orpheus Choir at the Cathedral, Pirates of Penzance with Jonathan Lemalu at Petone and Island Bay, not to forget Circa, and cinemas spread all over the region. Plenty for the sports followers too … and of course soon “Lord of the Dance” and “Touch Dance Company” to mention just a few of the shows to come. Doesn’t look like a “backward city” to me.

  6. helene ritchie, 22. August 2015, 18:25

    And…the wonderful free Lux (light) festival on the waterfront, Opera House Lane and Leeds Street. Night time family fun with sophisticated art and amazing and clever craft and 36 magic, quirky, beautiful light events on our serene waterfront, with the Town Belt backdrop.
    This City is and has something special and unique….

  7. Michael Gibson, 25. August 2015, 16:19

    I see that Helene Ritchie says: “The council did not vote to change the unanimously supported bill, it voted to amend its submission to the Bill.”
    What submission is she talking about? Is she seriously suggesting that the Wellington City Council asks our MP, Grant Robertson, to introduce a Local Bill knowing that the council will turn around at the Select Committee and ask for something else!!? I do not wish to detract from Cr Ritchie’s excellent work on the proposed Bill – but there is something wrong here.