Wellington is in an interesting place right now. We are not growing as fast as they are in Auckland, but I don’t hear anyone complaining over that. Auckland’s growth figures in housing cost are frightening in both the short term and the long term, with a property bubble seeming ready to pop. It is a volatile situation, on the verge of being totally out of control, and that doesn’t help anyone. By contrast, Wellington’s housing prices are hovering, with even a slight dip from last year, a situation which indicates stability and longevity, rather than bubbling and bursting. Nevertheless, Wellington does still need to grow.
Or rather: Wellington continues to grow, and we need to plan out where those houses are going to go.Assuming that we don’t have an influx of 50,000 Syrian refugees to cope with overnight, a planned and gradual increase in certain areas is the way we are going to go forward. The inner city is the biggest gainer for urban living, with continual intensification of the CBD and Te Aro through the mechanism of converting old office buildings into housing. Sometimes this is done well, sometimes this is done really poorly. The quality of our future city is being set now.
The suburbs are also set for intensification, with Kilbirnie and Johnsonville already having been identified as natural growth spine areas, even if they are a bit unwilling to really embrace the growth. Kilbirnie still seems resolutely one or two stories high, even though the encouragement is there for them to build upwards, out of their tsunami-vulnerable swamp. The potential is huge: it is on the main route between the airport and the city, it is in a level area bathed all day in sun, and has height limits set for growth to 3-4 stories tall, yet it timidly explores the main street with one storey high shacks for the two dollar shop down Bay Road. Kilbirnie: you can do better!
Johnsonville, on the other hand, is very different. Formerly called the Johnsonville Progressive Association, but proving anything but progressive, the current incarnation of the Royal Loyal Johnsonville Association for Bored Retirees is still a large impediment to progress in J’ville. It’s a very different place to Kilbirnie, both topographically and ethnically, but also has many reasons why it could grow: but housing intensification is being fought every step of the way. The ability for J’ville to complain loudly and vocally is unheard of outside of a Waterfront Watch subcommittee.
So, other growth areas are being addressed now, as well. These include Island Bay and Karori. Island Bay is already a place where Council needs to tread carefully, with some of the population having been traumatised by the prospect of losing a small number of on-street car parks in preference to a small painted green line. The place is a tinder-box, having been set alight by Councillor Eagle, and ready to erupt once more over the slackness of the City Council to actually repair the seawall after 2 years of inaction.
Karori, on the other hand, is a place of which I know nothing about, other than the nice former chapel of Futuna somewhere in the depths of suburbia. Karori is, as far as I know populated by wild unkempt tribes of Borneo apes, or possibly entirely by suit-wearing alpacas chewing qat to relieve the boredom and to stave off anaemia from living high in the mountains. All I know is that the bus goes there, and most days, it also comes back.