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

Friday, May 12, 2006

Time to submit

Today's the deadline for public submissions on the Wellington City Council's Draft Long Term Plan. It covers so many aspects of Wellington's future that I could have sent in about half of my posts from the last 10 months (has it been that long?) and called that a submission. But I wouldn't inflict that on the poor sods who have to read it, and besides, the tiny comment boxes on the online submission form wouldn't have handled it. In the end, here is what I sent in (with a few comments and links added):

Urban Development

I support the growth spine concept, though I would prefer to see even more emphasis on infill and CBD development and less greenfield. I want to see the concept plans for urban villages developed before any further "Lincolnshire Farm" type greenfield development occurs. On p73 there are outcome indicators for density and proportion of houses within 100m of public transport, which is positive, but I'd like to see targets for these.

No new greenfield development should be allowed without a comprehensive assessment of public transport needs. At the moment, the "Lincolnshire Farm" proposal doesn't mention public transport at all.

I wholeheartedly support the waterfront development programme [no surprise there!].

I support the upgrading of Cobblestone Park (p64), but I wonder whether that should be the highest priority. The area of Te Aro most devoid of quality public space is south of Courtenay and east of Taranaki, and thought should be given to acquiring some land here to convert an empty lot or carpark to a neighbourhood square or park. Ghuznee St should be one of the few parts of Te Aro to benefit from the bypass, and I'd like to see an improved streetscape (trees, street furniture, traffic calming) to make the most of this.

In relation to heritage protection, I'd like to see an explicit commitment to saving the Futuna Chapel.

Urban planning needs to be more proactive, especially in Te Aro and along the spine, rather than just being a curb on the worst developments. In particular, we have seen some buildings in Taranaki St that exceed the planned height limit, while other sites remain vacant or used for low-rise exurban-style big box retail. I would like to see the council act as a facilitator between various developers and landowners, encouraging co-operative development of mixed-use buildings of a consistent mid-rise (4-6 storeys) height built to the street edge, thus encouraging a more defined streetscape and a better pedestrian experience.

Urban development shouldn't just protect existing character and 'sense of place', but build towards the character of the future. In particular, we should emphasise those aspects that set Wellington apart from other New Zealand cities (density and walkability), thus enhancing and building upon our existing character rather than necessarily preserving the low-density "character" of some suburbs.


Most importantly, a light rail extension through the CBD, and possibly to the hospital and airport, should be very seriously considered. A "seamless passenger transport system along the growth spine" is indeed a must, and light rail would be the ultimate expression of this. Bus lanes don’t carry the same capacity, attract the same ridership or drive the same investment in transit-oriented development.

In addition, the trolley buses must stay and be upgraded! The short-term cost will eventually be seen as a bargain when oil prices continue to rise.
Some upgrading of roads will be desirable, but only when they make things easier for other modes (such as an overbridge at Waterloo Quay or at the Basin Reserve), not when they increase road capacity (such as any widening of Aotea Quay) and hence encourage more traffic into the city.

I would like to see a gradual reduction in the number of parking spaces in the CBD, but this needs to be balanced by making it easier to get around the CBD without a car, such as a free and frequent circulator bus or tram. When surface carparks are removed, they can be reclaimed as public space: the Lambton Quay footpath widening and Courtenay/Taranaki intersection are good starts, but I'd like to see a commitment to more.

Traffic demand management, such as road pricing, is an essential initiative but needs to be combined with increased public transport capacity. It's hard to see the proportion of commuters using a bus (p102) increasing from 31% to 35% without significant investment in public transport, given its existing overcrowding.

Cultural Wellbeing

I applaud the continuing investment in the cultural life of the city, and in particular I support the location of the NZ Portrait Gallery and NZ Centre for Photography at Shed 11.

I support putting as much of the City Archives as possible online. I would also like to see the online heritage building inventory, which used to be on the council website, restored. Wherever possible, these resources should be made open source.

Social and Recreation

I would like to see more investment in community housing, though preferably in a more integrated environment than in 60s-style "housing estates". Alternatively, some regulation that requires a certain proportion of each private development to be affordable housing might enable a greater diversity of people to live close to the CBD.

The homelessness strategy should include provision for a downtown wet shelter [rather than just kicking them out of Glover Park].


At 12:04 pm, May 13, 2006, Blogger David said...

Trolley buses? They seem to be only a very small proportion of all buses, and the wires required to support them are visual pollution that spoil the streets they are hung in. I'd make it a priority to get rid of the things, and return unsullied views of the sky and tall buildings to people.

Does the plan, being a LONG TERM plan, make any reference to global warming? Because if the council believes that global warming is real and will lead to rising see levels, then in the long term they'll be wanting to abandon much of the CBD. Certainly not redeveloping the harbour front.

At 10:17 am, May 15, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

I don't see the wires as serious visual pollution at all. Cities with much more visual beauty to spoil (Rome, Vienna, Amsterdam) all have trams with overhead wires, and that doesn't seem to detract from their appeal.

As for global warming, I'd have thought that the proper long-term approach would have been to do something about greenhouse emissions rather than accepting it as a fait accompli. Things like retaining trolley buses and developing more densely at the heart of the city.


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