The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
August 25, 2010

Andy Foster writes

“There’s been a lot of angst from some people in Johnsonville about Plan Changes 72 and 73.

Let’s look at the big picture first. Wellington City’s population is growing, relatively fast in historical terms. The Council is not, repeat not, promoting population growth. I personally believe that all countries should have a population strategy (ie have half a clue where it’s going) because population affects everything, but that’s another matter for now. Anyway Statistics NZ’s medium projection for Wellington City has population rising from 187,000 in 2006 (last census) to 231,000 in 2031. Of those extra 44,000 people the highest numbers are expected to be accommodated in the Central City (12,200), Greenfields (Northern Growth area – 8,200), and infill/dispersed across the city (10,400). Johnsonville suburban centre and area of change are expected to take 3,000.

The question is how to accommodate growth as sustainably as possible – especially important as awareness of Climate Change, and likely long term increases in energy prices. The approach we’ve take is to build further on the compact city approach which the 1994 District Plan reinforced – flexible use in the CBD and suburban centres – result has been a much more vibrant CBD with a fast growing population – and a ‘green fence’ around the city, most of which we’ve bought as the Outer Green Belt in the period since 1992. Ask anyone what Wellington’s great strengths are and even before events and arts probably the fundamental shape of the city will top the bill. Compact, walkable, hills, harbour. That’s us. The one substantial area of greenfields growth provided for was in the northern growth area, its benefit being it is closer to the Central City than Upper Hutt or Kapiti.

The 2006 Urban Development and Transport Strategies are inextricably linked. They responded to relatively rapid population growth since 2001 (September 11 effect ?). We instituted the concept of a multi centre growth spine, so not all the growth would be concentrated in the CBD. That’s about offering choice. The growth spine focussed on key nodes with excellent facilities or the capability to have excellent facilities along the major road and PT transport corridor Johnsonville – CBD – Adelaide Road – Kilbirnie.

We wanted to refine the urban containment approach and differentiate between those areas which are close to public transport, shops, services, and those more car dependent at the top of hills more distant from those services. We also faced if you remember a lot of well founded concern about poor infill being shoehorned in all round the city. We responded in May 2007 with Plan Change 56 which has effectively dealt with that poor quality out of character infill. At the same time we also began a consultation process which ran until the notification of Plan Changes 72 and 73 in September 2009. In that almost 2 1/2 years there were several rounds of consultation, public meetings, a pre draft of the eventual plan changes, and finally the plan changes notification. The philosophy has remained consistent but refinements were made along the way. One important one was that originally we had 10 proposed suburban ‘areas of change’. In the end, because we wanted to focus on a couple at a time and do them well, we opted just for Johnsonville, Adelaide Road and Kilbirnie. All three have also had focus from place based planning exercises and specific budgets provided for community facilities and infrastructure.

Plan Changes 72 and 73 cover the entire residential and suburban centre areas of the city – that is everything that isn’t Central Area, Rural or Open Space, so they are big and affect all of us.They are the biggest single changes to the City District Plan since 1994.

Plan Change 72?s main features include provision for ‘Areas of Change’ to allow medium density housing (not high) in areas close to major suburban centres. That is currently Johnsonville and Kilbirnie but other smaller centres are likely to follow to a smaller degree. To put in context these areas of change have height limits of 8 metres with discretion of 20% (Johnsonville), and 10 metres (Kilbirnie). Site coverage is 50% and there are front yard etc rules. Essentially the bulk and location are not ;high density’ as some have emotionally described them. They are essentially the same as in the inner residential areas which most people think are pretty special (although I acknowledge that the detailing, materials etc of 100 years ago won’t be replicated these days!) It also includes retrofitting the inner city suburban planning rules (Thorndon, Mt Victoria, Aro Valley) so they are in line with the more recent Newtown, Mt Cook, Berhampore rules. There is also prtoection for the coastal escarpment around the eastern and southern bays. A residential design guide is included.

Plan Change 73?s main feature is splitting suburban centres into (1) Centres (like Johnsonville, Karori, Seatoun, Tawa, etc). These obvious vary in size but they are recongised as the hearts of communities – the places we shop, meet, go to libraries and community facilities etc. The design standards across the board have been lifted particularly in centres (active edges – not blank walls, verandahs, not having carparks fronting the street etc). This is also where we want complex shopping centres and supermarkets because they are such big repeat traffic draws. The idea is that in one trip you are likely to do several things – meaning less traffic, less resource use, stronger communities. (2 and 3) Business zones 1 and 2 – one of the things we’ve recongised is the danger of having cheaper industrial and service activities (engineering, couriers, office services etc) squeezed out by higher value activities – notably residential so there are restrictions on residential in Business 2.
As I said another key feature is lifting the design standards – a lot. A blank box used to be permitted. Thankfully not too many were built but we want to do better, and there is absolutely clear evidence that the rules and their predecessor (Plan Change 52) are having an impact. Instead of all suburban centres having the same 12 metre height limits, some suburban centre heights go up (parts of Adelaide Road and Johnsonville) while a lot of the smaller neighbourhood centres heights go down mostly to 9 metres.

The hearings commissioners endorsed the general direction, making a number of refinements around the edges. They did recommend a more detailed design guide for Johnsonville to address things like site specific topography and sublight orientation. Contrary to submitters fears, their view, and logic would suggest this will be the case, was that property values will increase in areas of change.

The intention is absolutely that we see a quality outcome. Let’s be honest there are areas of existing stand alone, or duplex type housing it would be hard not to improve on, but we want to see a really good job done. That;s why all the design guides and rules. I’m also keen to see some demonstration projects – a ‘this is how things could be done’, probably Council working with the private sector, maybe HNZ. I do agree with the Johnsonville Residents Association that we should not be concentrating large areas of social housing all in one place – just as I have concerns about too many small units all in one place in the CBD. The melting pot as the song goes is better than segmentation !

Finally investment and ongoing focus must follow with population increases. In my view these areas need to be great places to live, possibly work and certainly play. In terms of Council facilities, in Johnsonville the Community Facilities Policy confirms the biggest suburban library in the city will be built, we are planning a signficant extension to Keith Spry Pool to be delivered over the next three years, Alex Moore Park needs parking sorted out but it is an obvious candidate for an artificial turf (we need more of these as soon as possible !). We have $5 million for roading improvements budgeted, and the timing will be adjusted to respond to the Mall development. That ball is in DNZ’s court now they have listed on the stock exchange and are obviously in a better space. Johnsonville also already has the best community centre in the city.

Kilbirnie already has fantastic community facilities. We’ve budgeted an upgrade to the community centre. The indoor sports centre is under construction (yeh wrong place – undermines the walkable objective, wrong model and overriced but ..). We’ve budgeted money for street improvements too, and look forward to working with the private sector to deliver on Kilbirnie’s potential.
Adelaide Road has the Drummond Street beautification and we are working towards the boulevard along Adelaide Road itself. Two supermarkets have been consented at either end. Community facilities need to be further considered but Council is repsonding to the request from Mount Cook Mobilised for a community coordinator.

We’ve also developed a plan for Newlands, which was really well received. The Newlands Town Centre has really struggled in Johnsonville’s shadow. Following on from its new community centre, it will get the anchor it needs soon with a brand new supermarket, and associated beautification and layout improvements. I hope we will use Batchelor St flats as an urban renewal demonstration project. Place based planning is now starting in Miramar, and you’re about to see the next stage of public engagement around planning for the central city (Wellington 2040) which is absolutely crucial.

I know some people will want to preserve the ‘status quo’ (albeit the city has never stopped changing), but that isn’t an option. The city faces challenges. Our responsibility is to look at the big picture, think long term and try to ensure the city develops is as sustainable way as possible, preserving what is important and continuing to make it an even better city to live, work, and play in and to visit.

Warmest regards

Cr Andy Foster
Urban Development Leader
Wellington City Council

60 MPa
25 - 08 - 10

Thanks Andy, that is the most coherent explanation of WCC’s strategy for this town that I have heard yet.

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26 - 08 - 10

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Maximus
26 - 08 - 10

Anyone want to give an update on what was passed or not last night? I was expecting front page news about Johnsonvillians rioting in the Council room – but nothing in the DomPost as far as I can see.

Councillor Helene Ritchie
26 - 08 - 10

JOHNSONVILLE NEGLECTED: A city without structure 26 August 2010

Wellington City Councillor Helene Ritchie said last night that the Council has neglected Johnsonville for far too long. It is the Centre of the Northern Ward, and the fastest growing area in Wellington-already the size of a City, for far too long.

“Last night at Council the Council passed unanimously, a District Plan Change that will see some medium density housing allowed a plan in this part not dissimilar to what exists now. However it should result in improvement-no infill, instead permitted one building instead of two on a site and the same height as previously-8 metres. There is already much infill in Johnsonville. This is not about infill. Johnsonville will not become a ghetto-that is quite inappropriate language.

The Commissioners recommended that Council make commitment to infrastructure improvements. But last night the Council failed to make a real commitment with dollars and dates. The Council is now bound to make progress with this.

Instead, it was clear last night that the mayor and a slim majority of councillors cared more about their political futures than about Johnsonville as they they tried to placate the community with a motion of “weasel words” that does nothing new and had no dollars or dates attached to it-in other words no commitment to real action
The improvement should come about with funds and action for infrastructure improvements and a comprehensive integrated suburban centre and residential area design guide.

The potential for quality integrated quality design her is an exciting and challenging one.

The urgent infrastructure improvements needed are : roading, traffic library, public transport, community services, open space.

Council has promised in various documents and past financial commitment, a new library, traffic and transport improvement including a transport interchange, pedestrian and cycling improvements, open space improvements and an integrated comprehensive urban design guide.

Some of these projects were due to start 2008/2009 . Instead they have never been started and the library is now scheduled ( but not yet funded) to start in 2016/17 and all that was proposed for urgent (let alone urgent but longer term) traffic and transport is that there be more talk after ten years of talk.

Money has clearly been siphoned away to other projects and parts of the City.

.From my analysis of all relevant documents and my knowledge, it is very clear that Johnsonville has been neglected. It took a motion of mine last year to ensure that the long delayed (years) upgrade of Johnsonville Pool went ahead . A further motion of mine last year has ensured that there will be collocation of a new library with the pool and a feasibility study of that.

I will be taking action next week to ensure that Johnsonville and the recommendations of the commissioners are given proper consideration.

Helene Ritchie 4731335 0274488669

Clarke
26 - 08 - 10

I’m sure Helene’s heart is in the right place – and that she’s not just politicking, unlike “the mayor and a slim majority of councillors cared more about their political futures than about Johnsonville” – but that has to be the most incoherent press release I’ve ever read.

Maximus
26 - 08 - 10

Thanks Helene – nice to see you fronting up here. A motion of “weasel words” sounds interesting – although I’m not sure what is meant by that. Want to elaborate?

Maximus
26 - 08 - 10

I’m going to set a benchmark here, just out of interest. The JPA have alleged that if this motion was to be passed, their average house price would go down by $50,000 which I think is silly, and wrong. But we’ll see. Going to the DBH.govt.nz website, and using their latest statistics, we can see that the latest renting prices are averaging in weekly rent:
1 bedroom apartment: $258
2 bedroom apartment: $347
2 bedroom house: $341
3 bedroom house: $406
4 bedroom house: $508
5+ bedroom house: $580
Rents seem to have gone up recently in north Wellington. We’ll check back in a year or so.

Recent Johnsonville house prices I have also looked for, and there is a blog run by a real estate agent – http://unconditional.co.nz/northwellington/ which seems a good repository of info – he has done all the calcs.

The latest graph on his website indicates that the average house price at present is about $485,000 in “North Wellington” by which I think we can infer the J’ville / Newlands / Tawa area? Prices were on a stratospheric rise straight up for the last decade or so, until the end of 2007, where they have been wavering up and down since between $460k and $510k.

The conspiracy theorist inside me wants to say that this is precisely the time that the Coucil started to talk about Areas of Change, but I think that this wavering in house price may have also had something to do with world economic crash etc. Anyway: According to Graeme Sawyer, average prices should plummet at least to $435,000 therefore, in order to wipe off the predicted $200 million in value due to the “blood on the streets” etc.

We’ll be watching with interest.

Maximus
26 - 08 - 10

please note: the information above is posted here in response to recent reports on Scoop, where:
“Spokesman Graeme Sawyer says that if the council votes for the high-density plan, then “house prices will plummet by at least $50,000 (per dwelling, on average) across all of Johnsonville in the next three years.”
http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/2010/08/threat-to-johnsonville-property-values-planning-changes-become-election-issue/

Graeme Sawyer has commented on that post that:
“Just to clarify: estimates of a “drop” in property values are based on the relative values in equivalent Wellington residential suburbs. Of course, none of us would dare make predictions of how property prices are likely to fluctuate in absolute terms over any length of time, but fluctuations in relative values (compared to what they would be without these plan changes) are what is of relevance here.
The impact on Johnsonville land owners will be enormous, and negative. The impact on WCC (increased rates take from more units on the same land, and only ‘token” investment in rectifying the existing infrastructural deficit) ) will be substantial, and positive. This is not an equitable trade-off by anyone’s yardstick ! If DPC is allowed to perpetrate this inequity, the mayor and councillors must be held accountable by the people of Wellington.”

m-d
26 - 08 - 10

Maximus – you need to also index those figures against national (or probably at least Wellington) average house prices, as it is very likely that such falls WILL happen, but are likely to be across the board, due to broader economic conditions outside of this plan change.

i’d also like to point out that if Cr Ritchie’s point of view is accurate, then it seems to me that the good residents of J’ville have just shot themselves in the foot, so to speak, by delaying a great deal of useful spending in their suburb with their ott lobbying of our populist governators in an election year.

Serves them right in a way, but I feel sorry for the all the real residents (other than that tiny pressure group), whose amenities are being sacrificed by this excessively indulgent paranoia…?

Councillor helene ritchie
26 - 08 - 10

Hi Naximus

Can you please tell me how to use this site.

The issue of Johnsonville and the northern suburbs is important. This is our fastest growing area in Wellington and already the size of a City.

I would be pleased to summarise my views and contribute further but only if you can please advise me:

i. How I can put up an article with a headline, such as for Foster’s “article” and others; so that coherent comment can follow from those who wish to make comment.

The discussion is about Johsonville surroundihng areas and matters related to DPC 72, housing and infrstructure, not about Cuba St and all other miscellaneous items jumbled together.

Regards

Councillor Helene Ritchie

Maximus
26 - 08 - 10

Helene,
sure thing. Just email us directly at contact@eyeofthefish.org and we can post it up there.

cheers, Max

grumps
26 - 08 - 10

The general plan of intensifying housing development around existing suburban centres is a positive move for future population growth. Some of these centres could become almost self sufficient with some flexible council planning. Area such as karori, kilbirnie, miramar ,j’ville would become independent little centres. The biggest concern would be Adelaide Rd. This is a main transport link to the Southern suburbs. Intensifying development around this road would cause even more traffic grid lock problems than present.

Alan
26 - 08 - 10

I think you will find that the plans for developing Adelaide Road include an element of road widening as well, to allow for a decent uninterrupted public transport route along the full length of the area between the Basin and Newtown. Of course, the skinny bit of Adelaide where it goes up the hill towards Berhampore will be just as congested as before, and that could bank up right back to the newer widened bit, but the principle makes sense.

I’d be hoping to see 4-6 storey apartment buildings creatively arrayed down the entire length of Adelaide Road, in place of that god-awful never ending 1-2 stories of tat they have their now. Put a bulldozer through the whole lot I say !

grumps
26 - 08 - 10

The widening of Adelaide Rd. has been on the council books for 30+ years.The issue has always been past the intersection at John St leading to Berhampore or Newtown,past the Hospital.Development of multi storey apartments along Adelaide rd. is not going to relieve the grid lock that occurs through Newtown.

Tony Randle
1 - 09 - 10

As a submitter to DPC 72 (and 73) and member of the Johnsonville Progressive Association, I want to comment on Andy Foster’s article outlining the reasoning behind DPC 72 and more especially the need for an Area of Change in Johnsonville. I must start by saying I am NOT the JPA spokesman on this issue (that is Graeme Sawyer). I have done considerable research and have read most of the supporting documentation behind this and various other plans for Johnsonville. I make these comments as a resident to promote understanding of the suburban view of the issues/risks and to supplement Graeme’s commentary on what is likely to happen if they are not addressed.

Firstly, I am disappointed at some of the commentators to EyeoftheFish and Scoop who seemed keen to discredit the real concerns (some of which I outline below) by labeling local residents and our spokesman G Sawyer in particular. Ad hominem attacks from ignorant critics do not help having an open discussion on any important issue between people who hold different views.

As a professional politician, Andy Foster does a good job of outlining the council view and plans for the city including the Area of Change concept. In fact the JPA did not oppose the AoC concept or any of the wider points made by Andy on the need for Wellington to accommodate predicted population growth.

Our concerns are focused on whether Johnsonville is suitable and ready to become a successful Area of Change. We must remember that North Wellington has already been subject to almost continuous residential growth over the past decade (through both Green fields and infill developments) and is now larger than Upper Hutt. It is my view that, contrary to claims to the contrary, North Wellington residents understand the real impact of major population growth having been subject to a greater level than any other Wellington suburb.

Since 2003, the WCC has also recognised the pressures of this growth through the “Northern Growth Management Framework” (NGMF). The forward states:
“It acknowledges the critical contribution of the north to the city’s future, and shows how we can reduce the risks that go with growth. The goal of creating a highly attractive, efficient and accessible urban area – the primary concern for this project – is the core business of a city.” (Kerry Prendergast)

The NGMF also outlines the WCC promises to support this planned growth based on a set of noble values and principles such as “The connections between local communities and with the city will be enhanced.”; “Community values and needs will be recognised and supported in developing a sense of local community.”; “Attractive public open spaces will be planned within neighborhoods and tree planting within the street network will be extended.”; “Local identity, character and history will be recognised and emphasised.”; and “The road networks will be upgraded as appropriate to improve logical connections within the area and to the city and region.”.

It even includes more specific WCC commitments including: “Expanding park and ride facilities at Johnsonville railway station and consolidating land use in the centre.”; “Improve the safety and ease of flow of traffic along Johnsonville Road, Middleton Road, Willowbank Road and Tawa Main Road.” and, most importantly “The Council will work with landowners, COMMUNITIES and other key stakeholders on a set of agreements that spell out clearly the results that we want to achieve, what will happen and when and what role each of the partners will have.”

The Johnsonville Town Centre Plan and other council (WCC & GWRC) planning documents reiterate most of the NGMF principles and investment commitments.

However, during this time North Wellington has actually received relatively little investment in supporting infrastructure (other that from developers in green fields developments). Most obviously is the roads have not been upgraded as promised and the Johnsonville Station Park and Ride parking was lost when the WCC passed the notorious DPC 66 without any public consultation. Other important transport plans included bus lanes down Ngauranga (now scrapped) and moving the on/off ramps to Helston Bridge to get through traffic off our “main road” (also now gone). We were also promised an Open Spaces Plan (the AoC plan does not include any new parks etc to support 3,000 more residents). Johnsonville has actually done really well in catering for the growth to date but is recognised as already being under serious pressure. We often have 1km+ morning car queues to the Ngauranga on-ramp (itself usually another queue :)

Less obvious has been the changes by the WCC to principles like “Community values and needs will be recognised and supported …” and “The Council will work with landowners, communities and other key stakeholders on a set of agreements …”. Johnsonville (and the JPA) do not oppose change (in fact we actively supported expanding our Mall against apparent WCC opposition) and are really only demanding (we’ve given up asking) that previous plan promises by the WCC to consult and invest are kept.

Johnsonville Area of Change is by far the largest of the 10 planned AoCs and North Wellington is expected to accept 1/3 of Wellington’s future population growth so the community and infrastructure pressures continue to increase. That it is being imposed on Johnsonville by the WCC (a majority of DPC72 submissions are from J’ville against it) requires, I believe, a much stronger commitment from the WCC to ensure it succeeds. I am glad that Andy confirms “The intention is absolutely that we see a quality outcome.” but the local track record of residential consent approval and compliance to previous rules is very poor (and lets not forget that the residential building compliance rules inside the AoC are WEAKER than current rules).

I must also ask Andy when he says “investment and ongoing focus must follow with population increases.” . . . how much later ? We are still waiting for the planning documents promised in previous WCC plans, let alone the consultation and actual implementation. And looking at the WCC budget over the next few years I cannot see any real investment funds going into the Johnsonville area until the recession is over so how can we trust the WCC to deliver on the latest set of promises ?

I do want to end on a positive note however. We hope that WCC is starting to understand that this community has a heart and values that should be respected and supported. Although the JPA failed in its efforts to avoid having the WCC impose AoC rules onto Johnsonville, we believe have raised the understanding of these issues in our community and with the council. Through the inherently adversarial DPC process we have also been building our relationships with the council officers and our councilors. We are taking on board the next generation of WCC promises that they will ensure our concerns are addressed and that the urgent investment funding will be found in the near future. The extra recommendations passed by the WCC Councilors in conjunction with DPC72 are another step in the right direction.

We are determined to continue this dialogue with the council and hopefully we can all find a way get a bigger and better community up here in the hills.

m-d
1 - 09 - 10

Thank you for a more lucid point of view Tony – I think you should have a word to your spokesperson about being similarly restrained. The type of language employed as your ‘official’ position was over-the-top and invited the ad-hominem responses that resulted. Sawyer’s statements were not helpful for informed debate.

The points that you make, however, are extremely valid, and worthy of actual discussion beyond the muck that has been raked in this forum and elsewhere.

If I were you/a member of the Prog. Assoc. I would be very disappointed in the way this has unfolded publicly. Your organisation lost a lot of support that it might otherwise have potentially gained.

Maximus
2 - 09 - 10

Bravo indeed – thanks to Tony Randle and to M-D as well, for their lucid and useful comments. My apologies if you think I was one of those ignorant critics, and its great to see some focus back on those real issues.

Tony, I’m interested in your comment “whether Johnsonville is suitable and ready to become a successful Area of Change”. While I’d agree that the areas north of J’ville have been massively increased in population over the last 2 decades, I’m not really sure how much effect that has had on J’ville itself. My surmisal would be that there is extra pressure on some city amenities, but also a commensurate growth in extra business. There are more people in the supermarket, and so more money flowing through the tills, but then there is also more competition for carparks in the supermarket carpark. There are more places to have lunch (some great cafes and bakeries, as well as the usual McDonalds and KFC type outlets).

The big issue comes down to the provision of council owned / run / provided services such as a Library and Pool, and an Open Spaces Plan. We’ve been waiting for that in central Wellington for about 10 years or so as well – no idea what is holding up the Council on that. The J’ville park and ride (or, Kiss and Ride as the Poms call theirs), ommission is a real ‘dropped the ball’ moment from WCC. It would be good to hear the reasons behind that. In my mind, the best thing to do would be to have a combined carpark for commuters and shoppers – lets face it, aren’t the malls empty during the day, when we’re all off at work?