The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
April 26, 2012

Waterfront Watch Wins Waterfront War

Breaking News – Waterfront Watch has succeeded in the Environment Court, putting WCC and WWL well and truly back in their bottle, with the turning down of Variation 11.

Congratulations to Pauline Swann and her indefatigable spirit.

Other news media like Stuff and Scoop haven’t posted this story yet, so I can’t confirm, but it sounds like the sensible route of all buildings on the waterfront having to go through a Resource Consent process, will have to be adhered to.

Which, really, is the only sensible way to do it.

More soon !
Some updated links:
Scoop article with link to Environment Court ruling.
Scoop commentary on Council
Scoop commentary on Building heights
Stuff / Dompost front page article
Stuff / Dompost Saturday article

Comments? Feedback?

minimus
26 - 04 - 12

on stuff now:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/wellington-central/6812208/Wellington-City-Council-defeated-over-Waterfront-plans

minimus
26 - 04 - 12

I am in agreement in the spirit – all buildings in the Wellington Waterfront holdings should have to go through a resource consent process. However I am 100% against waterfront watch who only seem to be interested in preserving the view to the water while pumping their fuel at the petrol station. Nothing they say makes any sense. When I first moved here the meridian building hadn’t started construction. The waterfront was a wind swept car park devoid of any public habitation, with the exception of the small area around queen’s wharf. Every project has added vibrancy to the waterfront. The wharewaka has created one of the best used public spaces around the lagoon. I can not listen to anything that group says, they are living in such an alternate reality that it’s best to bring in Mental health services, for their delusions. My only way to understand their opinions is that they want to see the water while they drive down jervois quay in their cars. How is this the opinion of a supposed “environmental group”. Fucking idiots.

Maximus
26 - 04 - 12

Yeah, we bet them by 5 minutes! The vast forces of Fairfax versus a lowly basement dwelling blogger. Much the same as one woman vs the mighty Council PR machine.

minimus
26 - 04 - 12

one woman?… hmmm… based on what can be easily interpreted as a pro-car agenda, I would not be surprised to find out that waterfront watch was funded by shell. Let’s be clear, I’m not accusing them of such, only saying in this age of faux-grass roots politics, it would not surprise me if it were the case…

hmmm
27 - 04 - 12

Why are we so against development in this city

minimus
27 - 04 - 12

@hmmm – I am an architect and directly benefit from development, however I would not consider myself 100% pro development. In fact, I find myself often on the side of anti-development, particularly when it comes to suburban sprawl, motorways, flyovers, shoebox apartments, nondescript office blocs and featureless urban spaces. Development by itself is not anything to be celebrated. There is however a balance to be achieved. What I can’t understand is why we grant a group like Waterfront Watch access to public discussion when their main arguments have no basis in reality. It’s like arguing with people who believe in intelligent design or that humans aren’t affecting the climate. I am 100% against people being able to through up whatever shit they want to make a buck, because it affects all of us, particularly when it’s on council held land. That said, there is an irrational group who see any development as evil. The development of the waterfront has provided a far more vibrant and interesting city than what existed even 6 years ago, but in the crazed minds of Pauline Swann and company it’s cut off people from the water. This is empirically not true. There is more human activity on the waterfront than in the past. So why do we give these people any oxygen to spread their lies. Drown them in a bathtub.

hmmm
27 - 04 - 12

Completely understandable when it comes to crappy shortcut ideas like that nasty flyover and apartments/office blocks that advertise brutalist architecture for the 21st century. Waterfront Watch…yeah they love running to the courts proudly proclamining they speak for us all, which just fucks me off. You can say what ya like about Auckland but at least their waterfront is doing very well with more improvement to come, while we are being held back.

m-d
27 - 04 - 12

“brutalist architecture for the 21st century” – I really like the sound of that, except I don’t think any contemporary work measures up to so lofty a label… Certainly not the nasty flyover and apartments/office blocks that you cite.

Denny
27 - 04 - 12

Max, Min et al – some great passionate thoughts – Reading through the Stuff article it sounded doomed as it seemed neither supported by our Mayor nor was it given the proper legs of a good argument,to stand on (as the planning departments legs were long ago removed). The entire decision flies in the face of many years of well considered planning and only supports a tiny vocal mobocracy… Too often scale is used as an argument against size when any designer who can hold a pencil, understands they are distinct.

There was much to like about some of the schemes already designed for the site and improvements that could’ve been affected by to wipe out any chance of building.

Historically, wasn’t this the busiest part of Wellington’s waterfront industrial area filled with large buildings? – before that, it was water – the deepest part adjacent the city – thus the best for mooring ships. The character of this area of town is a built up commercial one surely?

Due to what could be easily seen as a now unworkable 0m height limit, the WWL/WCC will have to apply for a resource consent to even maintain the existing wharf structures as they are above AMSL.

The focus for hard-to-find development land, will now come on pulling down our red-stickered heritage buildings to make space for growth and vitality. The waterfront will remain a windswept car and camper park… though the flyover is an equally good option if it is anywhere near a certain grandmother…

m-d
27 - 04 - 12

I’m genuinely confused by this one.

To me there is a fundamental problem in the set-up of the whole business – and I do mean ‘business’. The WCC in all its well-meaningness sets up a business arm to develop an asset – charging it to maintain both commercial and ‘public good’ bottom lines. This is a bit like the whole state owned asset conundrum – where commercial imperatives dilute the ‘public good’ deliverables, and the latter impact on the outright viability of the former in a vicious and unproductive cycle. Instead of a creatvie fusion of business and community values, you get something like TVNZ – delivering not the best, but the worst of each.

WWL have a very unenviable task, and one that is, in many ways impossible without variation 11. That is probably a good thing. Good, robust public development takes time. I believe that development should be slow and incremental, and subject to intense public scrutiny – all of which makes it impossible to put forward as a sound business case.

But if there isn’t some kind of public/private partnersip, how the heck to we pay for it? The public cannot carry it on their own (at this time), and nor would they, I suspect, cherish a space without commericial activity anyway.

minimus
27 - 04 - 12

Well M-D I think using TVNZ as an example is a poor one. There are other examples of such arrangements which have produced quite good results. Meridian as a SOE is an innovative company which, at least last time I used the whatsmynumber website produced the cheapest energy for me. So it is competitive and constantly producing new products that exceed what is being produced by privately owned Contact, which having worked with them, I can say I wouldn’t invest a single dollar in, due to poor management.

But your point about the public/private partnership aspect is one thing that people don’t seem to understand (or want to understand). They want to a have a beautifully designed waterfront that somehow is paid for by nothing. It doesn’t work this way, and that is only one part of my issue with Waterfront Watch; a group that is either pathological liars or dangerously ignorant.

minimus
27 - 04 - 12

@Denny- your comments about the working port are quite right. Anyone recall a couple of years ago when the cruise ship was docked at queen’s wharf? That was blocking the visual connection to the sea. Perhaps we just need to fill the harbour up with large cruise ships to remember how open it actually is.
I don’t know, trying to make logical arguments with people who are so devoted to believing nonsense is tiring.

Frank B Redman
27 - 04 - 12

At the meeting of the Inner City Association on Tuesday night, with the Council, one person made a really good comment that hasn’t been picked up by the press yet:
“Why doesn’t the Council issue a moratorium over new buildings on the waterfront for the next 10 years, to allow an incentive for owners of Earthquake Prone Buildings to rebuild?”

Before you all jump down my throat on that – there is a lot of good sense in it. We have a fairly static CBD at present. With the few government departments that have gone down to Centreport, to much protest from Ian Cassells and others, there are now quite a few empty buildings in Wellington – where once we had a full contingent.

Ministry of Health are looking for a new HQ – and are talking to developers about possibly building new, on a number of sites around town. Either that, or retrofitting some existing B grade office space, and upgrading it to A grade Greenstar.

If the site 10 project on the waterfront goes ahead, that pulls another chunk of the population out of the middle of the CBD, and puts it in choice position on the edge. There is no incentive for others to do up their building stock – we could face abandonment of certain buildings, where the renovation costs are too high.

Jan
27 - 04 - 12

Hi,

I’ll start with an apology.
Sorry; I’m not a New Zealander. I’m a Brit, who spent a couple of years in your fine city back in the noughties.

Once your open waterfront is gone; it’s gone. There is no way back. The view that was open to all becomes the domain of the lucky few. I can’t agree with the opinion that this is the result of some NIMBY action by a few old hands. The application was dismissed because the:

“….. district plan change was poorly drafted by council planners. It also breached statutory requirements relating to the protection of heritage, open space and pedestrian access.”

That this sort of edict is in place goes to show that the law exists to protect those who do not have the political or financial clout that companies or councils do. It serves to highlight what is good about Wellington. Over here, in Plymouth, we have absolutely no problem with selling off plots of land to whoever can stump up the fattest wad. With no thought to road or integrated transport planning. We have just spent £40M on a sports centre that even the UK sports body said we shouldn’t build.

Go there. Marvel at the rust and the smell of salt; the twisted remnants of your heritage that escaped the aspic sterility. Turn your back on the phallic constructs of the CBD, and appreciate the fact that you can see the blue hills of Eastbourne. Take a deep breath and celebrate where you are.

maria
27 - 04 - 12

I don’t see what the problem is. The only view that carpark is protecting is the one from that hideous NZ Post office behind it, or perhaps a car driving along the quays. Seems to me if you’re a pedestrian and you want to be next to the water you simply stand in front of the building and voila you’ve got your view back. As long as there is a promenade alongside the water’s edge I have no objection to tall buildings or apartments on the waterfront.

DeepRed
27 - 04 - 12

Neither side is completely spotless.

On the one hand, there are those who want to plonk buildings that are inappropriate for the area and surroundings – and that includes flash-Harry shoebox developers. The Meridian Energy HQ and Wharewaka are just the way to build on the Waterfront, and anything too tall or lumpy sticks out just a little too much. Also, obstructed viewshafts just don’t look right.

On the other hand, there are suburbanists masquerading as environmentalists who believe in BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anybody) – the kind of people who profess to care about the planet, but in practice drop their kids off to school in Range Rovers.

minimus
27 - 04 - 12

@jan-
Have you even been to the waterfront? Your comments demonstrate exactly the idiocy that I’m talking about. Exactly how is the waterfront closed off? There is a promenade along the water that did not exist ten years ago. The water is IN FACT more accessible than it EVER was. Why should anyone bother to listen to people like you when it’s clear you’ve not even visited the site? WHat “domain of the lucky few?” You mean the 100% of the public that can actually access the waters edge, get into kayaks, jump from the pier and swim in the harbour? You mean the 100% public accessible open space that I can take my laptop on to and use free public wifi while I enjoy the sea breeze?

Your comment is absolute garbage along with 100% of what wellington waterfront says. I wish you people would actually acknowledge reality before spouting your ridiculous nonsense. The waterfront is 100% ACCESSIBLE. AND IS MORE SO THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN. It was a a working port – no public access. Now it is a playground for EVERYONE. get this through your damn skulls.

60 MPa
28 - 04 - 12

Red, have you noticed how the 4WD owners are always the fat fuckers?

davidp
28 - 04 - 12

minimus>The waterfront is 100% ACCESSIBLE. AND IS MORE SO THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN.

And it is enormously popular on a sunny day when half the population of the city turns out to rollerblade, cycle, walk dogs, walk children, sip coffee, swim in the harbour, or drive a crocodile bike in a random fashion while ringing their bell pretty much constantly.

I worked on Jervois Quay about 1986 or so. I’d occasionally wander around the waterfront in my lunch hour. There was still some port activity but it was mostly bare and tarsealed. Very uninviting, but pretty much how Waterfront Watch would like it to be now. Funky modern building with cafes and restaurants plus a promenade equals bad. Tarsealed carpark populated by campervans equals good.

lindsay Shelton
28 - 04 - 12

Wellington.Scoop’s coverage
http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=44534
and
http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=44483

lindsay
28 - 04 - 12

The comments on wellington.scoop are a tad more reasonable than most of those above … Do those slagging off at Waterfront Watch have the same opinion of the Environment Court and its ruling? Have they even read the decision?

Jan
29 - 04 - 12

@minumus

Yes… I have walked on the waterfront. If you had even bothered to consider what I wrote instead of jumping straight into anonymous rant boy mode, you would see that what I wrote was:

“Once your open waterfront is gone; it’s gone. There is no way back. The view that was open to all becomes the domain of the lucky few.”

Your open waterfront is not just the domain of pedestrians or cyclists, but to people passing along the road. Putting up more office blocks transfers that view from everyone to the lucky few; the ones that inhabit them and can see it.

And so what if there’s a small campervan park there? Aren’t campervans allowed in Wellington? Sure,that end of the waterfront is a jumble. But is jumble bad? Or more interestingly; WHY is it bad? Because it’s occupying space for more architecture? Buildings that are generally of there time, left in space, to become out of place?

Creating another car-filled office-edged canyon out of Waterloo Quay, and – in my opinion – reduces the unique nature of your city. And calling people idiots just serves to inhibit dialogue and debate. Or is that what you want?

Maximus
29 - 04 - 12

Lindsay – no, I haven’t read the Environment Court decision, but I would like to – it does not appear to have been made available to the public yet. Not posted on the Enviro Court website. Nor on Scoop. Any idea where I can find it?

Maximus
29 - 04 - 12

Jan – and Minimus – it’s good to have your commentary here – I’m quite enjoying the vigorous debate. The waterfront does seem to raise passions more than other areas.

But there are some things that need to be straightened out. It has to be said, truthfully, that the site in question does not really have good views at present, except of the sky. There is a shed on the wharf nearby (Glasgow Wharf? – the former Top Cat terminal) which blocks out most of the view to sea, and even if you are driving by, the camper vans take out the rest. We wrote about that in an earlier post. Obviously, as soon as you get a little higher up, the view becomes stunning – 2-3 floors up on the NZ Post building on the other side of the road, and the sea view must open out like a dream.

So, at present Jan, the view is not really there. Sites 8 & 9 are different. Their sites are oriented a different direction, and they are much smaller, and less viable as a building site. But site 10 is a big expanse, mostly shaded by other buildings in the afternoon, and not well suited for an open space, so in my mind could work well for a building site. Certainly we have a very clear understanding in Wellington that the waterfront promenade needs to be left free for pedestrians and cyclists and there is always 5 or 10 meters or so of walkway.

We also have to remember that the space has only been empty for about – what, 20 years? Before that, it was Harbour Board land, and lined with big sheds. Many of those sheds are still there – shed 11 & 13 look great, shed 21 is a bit of a lump, and other sites -like the Queens Wharf apartments and Museum of City and Sea – are all in former Harbour Board buildings that no one seems to be protesting about. There is room for both view, and buildings. At site 10, if there is no room for view (and I urge you to GO there, and look at – or try to look at – the view) and there is surely room for buildings as well?

minimus
29 - 04 - 12

@jan- I’m not going to apologise for my anger, because you’re comments are either flat out lies or complete lack of knowledge. Waterfront watch and the people on that side have all the intellectual excellence of the tea party in the US.
And your few years in the noughties… hardly qualifies you to make any commentary on the state of the city now.

Maximus
29 - 04 - 12

Aaaaha! Lindsay Shelton has the Scoop on us when it comes to the posting of the actual Environment Court ruling – a very long document – and available there: http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=44483

Some interesting debate going on there as well, although not nearly as interesting as it is here…

Some points on the ruling to consider:
• the Judge was CK Thompson. Craig has been a full time Enviro Court judge since 2003, and so really knows his schtick.
• Legal Counsel for Waterfront Watch was Con Anastasiou. Has anyone EVER lost against him? He makes Denny Crane in Boston Legal look like a nice moderate man…
• The Court refers to Waterfront Watch as being “a key party to the formulation of waterfront policy” (section 140, paragraph [b]). Personally, while I think that the Watchers should have been consulted with, I take exception to them being described as a “key party …to policy”. They are not. They are a 3rd party ginger group, in the way that complete nutters such as “the Political Busker” is, and as such there is no reason why they have to be consulted. The WWL did not consult with the Property Council either, nor the Chamber of Commerce, nor the Arch Centre, nor the Civic Trust, nor the Wadestown Residents Association, nor the Kilbirnie PlayCentre. Nor the Eye of the Fish for that matter. I think that until the day a specific ruling is made law that Waterfront Watch officially have to be consulted under the District Plan, then the answer to that question is: No.

Pauline Swann
29 - 04 - 12

Would just like to correct some of the “negative” comments re Waterfront Watch. First we are not anti buildings and our appeal to the Environment Court was to challenge Variation 11 because (like other organisations) were concerned that V11 would end public participation in the planning process for any future buildings on the waterfront. we are concerned that any new buildings in the Kumutoto area should be of a size and height which is in scale with the heritage buildings. We believe that NQW should not become an extension of the Central business district and should not have a higher proportion of buildings than other areas of the waterfront.

Over the years there have been many seminars and in May 1966 (after the furore over the Retail/Event Centre eyesores) Ann Breen and Dick Rigby of the Waterfront Centre in Washington DC said that Wellington had reached a critical point in deciding what to do and that we had a chance to create a superlative waterfront and made some suggestions….1 Some kind of winter garden so people could enjoy the harbour views. 2 More displays on maritime heritage of the harbour and facilities to house environmental and maritime education programmes. 3. New and expanded play areas.

At the same time the Community Consultative Committee in a report to ouncil said “Public space area should be designed in detail and developed first, with commercial development to follow”

On to May 2008 when American Architect Cathy Simon, agreed with Breen and Rigby what an asset our waterfront is and should be the major green space in Wellington.

Waterfront Watch was formed in 1995, and has a strong membership and incredible support over the years so we must be doing something right and not a bunch of “bananas” as some councillors refer to us and the response from members and friends since the Court decision has been incredible.

Maximus
29 - 04 - 12

Thank you Pauline for your comments. I agree with you that the Variation 11 was a badly thought-out effort by WCC/WWL to resolve the issues of planning buildings on the waterfront. It should have been very clear to them (WCC) that if something gets 49 negative submissions, and not a single positive submission from the public (discounting the WWL submission, because that – really – doesn’t count!), then the Council should have just accepted that they would have to keep going through the existing Resource Consent process.

The RC process is a curious beast – it seems quite straightforward in many ways, and yet some / most developers are totally put off by this process. I’ve never had any issues getting through the RC process, but then perhaps my projects have just been perfectly designed for their context, and therefore not contentious…

However, it does seem likely that with the latest win of Waterfront Watch over Wellington Waterfront, that all developers will collectively have run for the hills, never to return.

Arthur
29 - 04 - 12

Max – your opinion of Pauline Swann seems to be quite high. Do you think you could get Ms Swann set on savaging the ankles of Gerry Brownlee and Stephen Joyce instead? Especially over the blasted proposal for that silly overpass proposed for the Basin? Tell her the Basin is full of water – and that Joyce is about to pull the plug – that should get her going… she might be able to win that battle where Arch Centre did not.

lindsay
29 - 04 - 12

Maximus. The Environment Court decision is published in full on wellington.scoop.co.nz. Go to the report headed “Environment Court rules against council plan for waterfront buildings” and you’ll find a link to the complete document.
http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=44483

Maximus
29 - 04 - 12

Lindsay – yep, got that – refer to my comment about 4 comments up the list from yours. Would you care to comment on my remark about the ‘obligation’ to consult with Waterfront Watch?

Pauline swann
29 - 04 - 12

Arthur, rest assured this “old girl” has made two submissions on this “foolish flyover” and made an oral submission to Fran Wilde’s crowd with little sympathy from the Chair but a few regional councillors were obviously listening to the number of presentations the day I was there….Also have taken part in two “hands around the basin” demonstrations and written to NZLTA and ministers concerned.

As a born and bred Wellingtonian, have lived in Auckland twice and overseas twice, but the hills and harbour of Wellington are my birthright and icons like the Basin Reserve, Mt Victoria, the Town Belt, Trelissick Park, the South Coast, Otari, Botanical Gardens and so many other public spaces are treasures to be kept in public ownership for the generations to come.

Would be nice to just go for a walk or work in my garden but I was born with a conscience!

maria
29 - 04 - 12

From Mr. Shelton’s article in Scoop:

“The UN building is planned for the transition zone next to Te Papa. Yet a council-commissioned survey shows only 6 per cent support for a new building on this site, with 86 per cent of the public wanting nothing more than landscaping. It’s now time for the council to accept the public’s wishes for the transition zone, and to abandon its plan for a new building.”

I’m surprised that only 6% of Wellingtonians are with the paddock people on this one as the UN Studio building here has the potential to be one of NZ’s more architecturally significant buildings. http://www.arcspace.com/architects/un/papa/papa.html

davidp
29 - 04 - 12

>Do those slagging off at Waterfront Watch have the same opinion of the Environment Court and its ruling?

I do. I haven’t read it and won’t read it. But I’m firmly of the opinion that town planning decisions should be made by an elected body rather than a legal body. We’re a democracy, not a lawyerocracy like the US.

davidp
29 - 04 - 12

Oh, and as a born and bred Wellingtonian, I’ve lived overseas a lot. And I mean A LOT! But the car parks and publicly owned buildings of Wellington are my birthright and icons like the camper van park, the Post Office headquarters, the car park between Te Papa and Chaffers Park, the ugly old shack on the Outer T, the turreted car park at Frank Kitts Park, the Beehive, the car park by Freyberg Pool, and the vast concrete walkway between the railway station and the stadium are treasures to be kept in public ownership for the generations to come. How dare the Council turn my rusty OPT birthright in to privately owned apartments! How dare they allow an iconic waterfront car park to be built on by an electricity company and a number of privately owned cafes and restaurants that wouldn’t be tolerated in Cuba. I’d rather the Outer T rot away and fall in to the sea than have the iconic grey shack sullied by commerce.

Maximus
29 - 04 - 12

David P – I’m honestly not sure if you are being serious or not. You could be. You mighty not be. I can’t tell the difference between irony and sarcasm any more. Must be something I ate.

Maximus
30 - 04 - 12

Maria – I think I agree with you that the UN Studio building would be fantastic to see – it is a stunning work of sculpture if nothing else – but I have a feeling that it is a bit in search of a meaning. By that, I mean, it’s use was to be as a possible overflow for Te Papa, for art? And yet Te Papa didn’t commission it, and have no money for a new Art wing anyway. It doesn’t fit much art in it – it might look like art, and provide the valuable service of covering up one of the ugly sides of Te Papa, but that’s like growing ivy to hide your mistakes – and a polished metallic blob is an expensive way to grow ivy.

The building’s visual always troubled me as well – no sign of Te Papa in the background, no sign of context at all, which leads me to think that the Dutchies didnt have a clue what they were designing for, or where it may end up. A stock standard squiggle rushed through their rendering machine, and let’s face it – by the time it is built out of Hardies and pinus radiata, it would leak like a sieve anyway… I think we are better off putting that one to bed.

minimus
30 - 04 - 12

long day… too tired to write about it myself, but what?!
a subway?! and not just the sandwich shop? Is it april fools?
http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/6831260/Subway-proposed-for-central-Wellington

60 MPa
1 - 05 - 12

While the talk of a subway puts me in mind of the Simpsons episode about the monorail, I suspect that the reality of it would end up being a partial cut and cover along the waterfront, much of which has been addressed in these forums previously.

The main thing to remember when anyone says that they want to put a subway into Wgtn is that if it is below the water table then it will cost plenty, to a tune higher than our population density can currently support, methinks.

The only new point of major import I can conceive of is if someone has made another stab at that old chestnut, the airport access route.

Talk is cheap.

maria
1 - 05 - 12

Maximus, I am not sure of the sq meterage of the UN Studio building so therefore cannot comment on this particular design’s fitness for purpose, but the function of the institution in question is unmistakably important and quite distinct from Te Papa. NZ needs and requires a National Art Gallery and Wellington is the right location for it for both political and social reasons. The site is suitably prominent enough that a gallery here could become a national draw and even an international one if the building was of sufficient quality.

I noticed in Mrs. Swann’s list of Wellington spots that she is proud of and will go into battle for only the natural environment rates a mention, which is a pretty low bar to set for a city. I really do think we should strive for more.