Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Update time

Time for a few quick updates.

First of all, as you'll have heard by now, the Marine Education Centre has been granted resource consent. Opponents will continue fighting it (perhaps to save their favourite dogging spot?), but after a painful and long-drawn-out process (my first post about it was nearly a year ago, and the hearing that has just finished has taken over four months) it'll be good to see some concrete plans get underway.


Speaking of delays, the public consultation period for the Wellington Regional Strategy, which was due to close on Monday, has been extended for another two weeks. I'm embarassed to admit that I haven't spent enough time studying the documents to write a post about what could be one of the most important influences on Wellington's future, but I blame that on the media coverage which has seemed to focus on how to fund it and the divisions between the region's mayors (mostly from rural and suburban councils) rather than the content of the strategy itself.

On the other hand, I tend to agree with some complaints that there's not enough detail in the strategy to see how it's going to make any difference. My main interest is in the "investment in good regional form" section, and while there's plenty of nice language here about "encourag[ing] medium and higher density housing close to the Wellington CBD, sub-regional centres and transport links", the commitment to public transport seems half-hearted at best. They're still talking about merely "maintaining the current good balance between private and public transport, walking and cycling" rather than improving it, so if current trends towards increased demand for public transport continue, this will very quickly seem like a timid and short-sighted strategy.


On page 5 of today's Wellingtonian, there's an article about the renovation of the former Mayfair building in Ghuznee St. In contrast to one suggestion that the current owner would prefer to demolish it, the article describes Glen Hooker (former co-owner of Paris in Lambton Quay) as taking seven months to build the new dome according to the original architect's plans while painstakingly stripping paint off the ornate exterior and polishing the pressed tin walls inside - thus explaining the slow progress.

Mr Hooker (an appropriate name, given the building's former use!) gives no clues as to the future use for the building, so there's no confirmation as to whether this will be the next Il Casino. On the other hand, he hints that some sort of café or restaurant is definitely on the way: "With the land at the back of [Glover] Park, the proposal there is to build a temporary glass box, which is in complete contrast to the existing building. That would make it work as an eatery, or something like that." That's good news for Glover Park, though I'm not so keen on his idea of a giant billboard of Havana at night with the slogan "Absolutely Cuba".


At 12:53 PM, October 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the proposed aquarium does finally gets the go ahead, I hope it gets a bus route extension to serve it so its not just for the car dependent. On a nice day the site is a reasonably pleasant walk from the existing bus termini at Houghton Bay or Hungerford Rd, but that quickly becomes unpleasant (to put it mildly) when the weather changes. My suggestion would be to extend route 23 during opening hours. This would put Wellington's wildlife type attractions (Karori Sanctuary, Zoo & proposed aquarium) on one route, which might have some promotional value.

The possibility cafe next to Glover Park sounds promising. Hopefully more interesting things happen to the whole Ghuznee St area once it stops being an extension of the motorway. Be great to see a Garrett St - Vic St connection to end the backwater nature Glover Park and Garrett St.

The Regional Council should get its public transport act together and that includes foward planning. As a regular train commuter I'm getting a bit fed up with the over crowding, signal failures, connecting buses not waiting for trains etc etc, which seem to be the result of a lack of planning and investment.

At 1:21 PM, October 27, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

A previous commenter said:

"Regarding the use of public transport, I understand that Stagecoach are interested in establishing a bus route that could well be a circuit to Houghton Bay.

There is also talk amongst the tourist circuit busses for a combination of city to Marine Centre, Karori Wildlife, Otari, Cable Car Museum, City & Sea Museum, Te Papa."

Without something like that, I'd definitely me much less inclined to support the aquarium.

It used to be possible to walk through from Garrett to Victoria St, under the archway of the union building, but they've recently closed off the hole in the fence. I'd love to see that properly reopened as a pedestrian connection, and the big open carparks between Garrett and Bute St developed with a mixture of low/mid-rise buildings and good public spaces. That would create a great network throughout the big Ghuznee/Cuba/Vivian/Victoria block.

I'm not a regular commuter, but even though most of my travel is off-peak it's easy to see how the services have been unable to cope with increased demand. I think someone put the finger on the problem: the more people use public transport, the more the regional council has to pay, so they've got no incentive to increase ridership. If road traffic increases, Transit bears much of the costs.

It's that sort of anomaly that makes me long for integrated solutions, and while the WRS won't solve that sort of funding problem, an integrated approach to urban form might prevent WCC being scared away from traffic-reduction measures by worrying about the competition from free parking at the suburban megamalls.

At 8:18 PM, October 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re the aquarium, the Dom Post is running a reader's poll. Presumably this response is a piss-take!

Duncan Munro, from Featherston, decided the decision would benefit his own south coast development plans.

"We have plans for a hydroslide theme park to be built on Tapu Te Ranga Island. We'll be careful to say in our resource consent application that our main motivation is to teach kids about hydro dynamics. Thanks to the aquarium crew for paving the way," Mr Munro wrote.


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